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About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!
If you’ve read my last article you’ll know that Viking religion is very diverse. There are many gods and they each have a distinct role in aspects of society and life on earth. This is reflected in the way the Vikings worshipped their gods. Unlike in many religions there weren’t grand temples or places of worship for the Vikings to come together in; largely because the Vikings might pray to different gods at different times dependent on what they were doing at that time. A farmer, for example, might pray to Thor for thunder and storms if the crops were dry whilst a warrior going into battle might pray to Tyr for honour in the battle to come. As a result Norse faith lay with the village, family and even the individual, although there were some larger religious festivals that involved whole communities, even nations. In fact the Vikings didn’t have a word for religion, instead the term sidr translates as custom; indeed Viking religion was more a series of customs than a joint religious practise.
Just how did the Vikings practise their religion though? Well given that there weren’t set rules of practise as such it varied but common themes including sacrifice, both of animals and humans, feasting, meat, bread and lots of ale, or mead which is a particular Viking drink consisting of ale with honey. Such lavish feasts were reserved for the most important ceremonies though and meats were replaced with cheaper foods and crops like grain for much of the year. The reasons for the sacrifices and festivities varied because, as we have mentioned, they could be for the community or simply tied to one individual or family. Typical reasons for feasting might include births, weddings, burials, or even festivities prior to a raid. It is unfortunate that we don’t know more given the Vikings didn’t leave written sources prior to their conversion to Christianity but it is thought their worship was somewhat similar to the druidic rituals practised in England by the Britannic tribes prior to the settling by Rome; crude, shamanistic and superstitious.
The Vikings lived a very hard life in a very harsh landscape and that is reflected through their rituals. Even asking Freya for protection over their land they may slaughter a cow which, of course, would have been of much greater value than some crops. In all Viking ritual and society there seems to be a custom of giving to receive, and it gives some insight into the nature of the gods too. Whilst the Viking gods were powerful they were not necessarily all pure or good and had to be persuaded to lend their aid to the mortals hence sacrifices. Such willingness to work hard and not accepting anything being given for free might explain how the Vikings were so successful in conquering other nations!
The other possible reason for Viking battle prowess which is associated with their rituals is through the funghi of the forest. The Vikings were said to have eaten mushrooms and funghi (potentially poisonous) that they adapted too and which sent them into a drugged frenzy making them fearless and seemingly unstoppable in battle (I wouldn’t recommend it!). All in all the Viking rituals were fairly barbaric, but you can’t knock their work ethic!
IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.medievalists.net/2014/07/viking-human-sacrifices-hollywood-vs-reality/