Vikings and esotericism

Vikings are among the main cultural icons in Scandinavia and the museums dedicated to them are very popular tourist destinations especially in Oslo. But who really were the Vikings?

The Viking era in Scandinavia lasted from around 800 to 1050 (A.D.).

The attack of the Vikings on the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 is often associated with the beginning of the Viking era.

Viking raids became famous throughout Europe. More than 1000 years should have passed before someone outside Scandinavia spoke of the Vikings in other words than the convention that portrayed them exclusively as barbarians. Over the past two centuries, a different conception has formed: this warrior civilization was also characterized by technological competence and surprising knowledge with changes within its society throughout its history.

Behind the maritime enterprises of the Vikings there is a deep and unique knowledge of the construction of ships and the art of navigation. They built fast ships suitable for the type of sea to be tackled. This technique, combined with a spirit of unique adventure, and a special knowledge of the sea, brought the Vikings east to the interior of today’s Russia, down to Byzantium and to America in the west, 500 years before Christopher Columbus. They were also among the first to reach Greenland.

The Vikings founded numerous cities and colonies, including Dublin in Ireland and the Normandy region in France. In the years between 879 and 920 they colonized Iceland, which in turn became the starting point for the colonization of Greenland.

The Vikings were characterized by their courageous and fatalistic attitude, which naturally made them lovers of risk. The raiding groups seem to have had a fantastic ability to minimize losses, due either to battles on land or to dangerous sea expeditions.

Circa 800 AD, A representation of a Viking longship, similar to those that raided England and the European mainland which were richly ornamented with painting, gilding, and prows carved with mythical creatures. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

At the same time many of them lived peacefully as merchants and peasants and many expeditions were due to business and exchanges. Those who stayed away from sea raids and worked from home supported their families with simple agricultural activities. Their daily lives may have been hard and demanding, but it was not without joy. The most famous Viking drink was mead (“mjød” in Norwegian), a fermented alcoholic preparation similar to beer sweetened with honey.

Women were said to have a stronger position in Viking society than in most other places in Europe. They usually had the right to divorce and, if their husband died, they could inherit and keep her property. They were partially protected by law against sexual harassment and a woman was respected as head of the farm when her husband was away, which could have been a long time. The current growing interest in Viking culture is based not only on their image of relentless navigators and warriors, but also on the way they lived and developed a new and more modern society.

Around 1100 the Vikings weakened due to internal disputes and resistance from other European countries.

As for the most popular Viking myths created through erroneous perceptions, the following forgeries are clearly demonstrated according to historical data:

-The Vikings wore horned helmets
The Vikings traditionally went bare-headed or wore simple leather helmets and metal frames with the occasional face protection. The idea behind the horned helmets was born from the Viking awakening during the reign of Victoria.

-They were dirty and disheveled
Archaeologists regularly find evidence of combs, spoons and other personal care utensils that indicate that the Vikings were keen to maintain personal hygiene.

We now come to some esoteric and spiritual sides of the Viking people…

Childbirth has always been extremely dangerous for the mother and infant. Therefore, birth rites were common in many pre-modern societies. In the Viking era, people prayed to the goddesses Frigg and Freyja and sang ritual songs to protect the mother and child. Fate played a huge role in Norse culture and was determined at the time of birth by the Norns (in Norse mythology they are female beings who rule the fate of gods and men. They roughly correspond to other controllers of human destiny). Nine nights after birth, the baby was to be recognized by the father of the house. He would put the boy on his knees while sitting in the high chair. The water was sprayed on the child, then named and then admitted to the family. There are reports of guests invited to bring gifts and wish the child well. Children were often named as deceased ancestors and the names of the deities could be part of the name. People thought that certain traits were connected to certain names and that these traits were carried forward when the names were reused by the new generations. This was part of the ancestor cult. Putting the child on the father’s lap confirmed his clan status by conferring the rights related to this state. The child could no longer be killed or exposed by his parents without being considered a murder. Exposing children was a socially accepted way of limiting the population. The belief that divinities were present during childbirth suggests that people did not consider women and children excluded from normal society as in the case of Christian times, and apparently there were no ideas about impure female biological functions.

Childbirth has always been extremely dangerous for the mother and infant. Therefore, birth rites were common in many pre-modern societies. In the Viking era, people prayed to the goddesses Frigg and Freyja and sang ritual songs to protect the mother and child. Fate played a huge role in Norse culture and was determined at the time of birth by the Norns (in Norse mythology they are female beings who rule the fate of gods and men. They roughly correspond to other controllers of human destiny). Nine nights after birth, the baby was to be recognized by the father of the house. He would put the boy on his knees while sitting in the high chair. The water was sprayed on the child, then named and then admitted to the family. There are reports of guests invited to bring gifts and wish the child well. Children were often named as deceased ancestors and the names of the deities could be part of the name. People thought that certain traits were connected to certain names and that these traits were carried forward when the names were reused by the new generations. This was part of the ancestor cult. Putting the child on the father’s lap confirmed his clan status by conferring the rights related to this state. The child could no longer be killed or exposed by his parents without being considered a murder. Exposing children was a socially accepted way of limiting the population. The belief that divinities were present during childbirth suggests that people did not consider women and children excluded from normal society as in the case of Christian times, and apparently there were no ideas about impure female biological functions.

Seiðr

In the academic world, Seiðr has traditionally been written in a degrading way and considered magic rather than religion. This is related to the general contempt for magic in medieval Christian sources. Seid was an element of a larger religious / spiritual complex and was linked to important mythological stories. The goddess Freyja is said to have taught it to the god Odin. So Seid is now considered an important element of the Norse religion. It is difficult to determine from sources what the term meant in the Viking era, but it is known that it was used for divination and interpretation of omens for both positive and destructive purposes.
The practice of seiðr is believed to be a form of magic related to both the storytelling and the shaping of the future. Seiðr’s reports later turned it into sagas and other literary sources, while further evidence was brought to light by archaeologists. Various scholars have discussed the nature of the seiðr, some claiming that it was shamanic in context, involving the visionary journeys of its practitioners.
Seiðr practitioners were of both sexes, although females are more widely attested, with such sorceresses being variously known as vǫlur, seiðkonur and vísendakona. There were also reports of male practitioners, known as seiðmenn, but in the practice of magic they carried a social taboo, known as ergi, and were sometimes persecuted accordingly. In many cases these magical practitioners had assistants to assist them in their rituals.
In the 20th century, followers of various new modern pagan religious movements adopted forms of magical-religious practice that include seiðr. The practices of these contemporary six-worker-workers have since been investigated by various academic researchers working in the field of pagan studies.

Rune

The sources mention the runes as powerful symbols related to Odin, which have been used in various ritual circumstances.

They are powerful symbols of energy, as well as for divination it is possible to use them as effective talismans.

They have their origins in the Germanic-Viking tradition and were also used by the mysterious Celtic people as a divinatory and magical instrument associated with the traditional druid divinatory form expressed through the reading of the Ogham; the pieces of wood carved with the symbols representing their cryptic alphabet.

These practices were passed down orally and for this reason, when reading a text on the Runes, it is possible to find differences in content if the texts are compared with each other. This is due to the fact that the sources handed down refer to the memory of the individual people who collected the mystery. What matters, however, is their effectiveness and whatever source you use, what they say always responds to reality. They are in fact an inexhaustible source of power, possibilities, suggestions; a very valid divination method also used today.

In Europe, especially the northern one and during the Middle Ages, the runes were the protagonists of various magical rituals and for this purpose they are still used today mainly by tracing the symbols for talismanic use. The symbols of the runes speak to us of everyday life and are engraved on wooden tablets or on pebbles and shells.

In total there are 24 Runes plus an unnamed rune.

In fact, the ancient Norse have never used it, so it can be defined more as a modern rather than traditional rune.

The ancient Norse, in fact, had many white runes in their bag of runes, and their only purpose was to replace the canonical runes when one of them was lost.

The oldest runic system is called Futhark:
it divides the 24 runes into 3 groups (Aettir) each formed by a series of 8 runes and takes its name from the initials of the first 6 runes of the first group, called the Fehu group.

Tattoo

The Vikings themselves published few literary works, so we are forced to rely on external accounts. Many come from Arab statesmen, who in the 9th and 10th centuries carried out commercial and cultural exchanges with them.

An Arab traveler, Baghdad scholar Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, was sent on diplomatic mission by the Bulgarians to the Middle Volga area in Russia. He met the Norse warriors for the first time as he crossed the vast steppes of Russia, meeting them while sailing along the Volga River.

Ibn Fadlan describes the Rus in his travel diary. He called them “Rusiyyah”, now commonly known as the Vikings.

“I’ve never seen perfect bodies like them,” he wrote. “Tall as palms, blond and with a reddish complexion, they wear neither tunics nor kaftans. Each man wears a cloak with which he covers half of his body, so that one arm is uncovered. They carry axes, swords, daggers and always have them on hand. They use frank swords with large, wavy blades.”

At one point he writes that all men are tattooed from the fingertips to the neck. The tattoos were dark green figures of trees and symbols. However, it is likely that the tattoos were probably dark blue, a color that derives from the use of wood ash to dye the skin.

YGGDRASIL

Yggrdrasil is the cosmic tree; majestic ash that crosses the nine worlds (called Nio Heimar in Norse cosmology, the set of manifestations of being that make up the universe). Yggdrasill is the most beautiful tree in the universe that supports the entire cosmos, its trunk is very robust and slender, its crown reaches and exceeds the highest of the heavens and it is impossible to see its end.

The name means “Yggr steed” and probably refers to Odin’s self-hanging to one of its branches. (Yggr, or the “terrible”; the name of Odin).

Its branches extend all over the world and cover the sky. From them they fall on the earth, like drops of dew, honey stalks with which bees feed. Three roots hold the tree and branch out in three different directions.

The first root descends into the deepest abysses; some say it arrives in Helheimr, the kingdom of the dead, others that stretches instead in Niflheimr, from which it would eventually reach the source of Hvergelmir (the source, according to Norse mythology, from which the rivers Élivágar flow and also acts as a source for one of the three roots of the Yggdrasill ash and is constantly fed by the drops of water falling from the horns of the Eikþyrnir deer). Below this root is the snake Níðhǫggr and with it there are so many snakes that no language can count them.

The second root goes instead towards Jǫtunheimr, the land where the giants live, and reaches the source of Mímisbrunnr. Here are hidden wisdom and knowledge and the one who owns the well is called Mímir. He is full of wisdom as he draws on the spring with the Gjallarhorn horn. Óðinn went to that source and asked to drink a sip of water taken from the well, but he had to leave his eye in pledge.

The third root goes to Miðgarðr, the world entrusted to human beings, and reaches the sacred source of Urðarbrunnr, in the place where the Æsir (class of divinities linked to heaven, wisdom and war) hold advice every day. Under the ash tree, in front of that source, there is a magnificent dwelling and in it live the Nornir, the three girls who establish the fate of men: they have the name Urðr, Verðandi and Skulld. Furthermore, two swans live in that source: from them came the whole race of these birds.

Much is still to be said about the Yggdrasill ash. An eagle is perched on the branches of the tree and has a lot of wisdom: in the middle of the eyes there is a hawk called Veðrfǫlnir. Under the root of the ash that extends into Niflheimr there are horrible snakes, more than fools imagine: Góinn and Móinn (sons of Grafvitnir), Grábakr and Grafvǫlluðr, Ófnir and Sváfnir. But the most fearsome is Níðhǫggr. All these monsters constantly gnaw the root of the ash tree.

A squirrel called Ratatoskr runs up and down the trunk of the ash tree and dutifully reports the insults that the eagle and the snake exchange among themselves.

Four deer jump among the branches of the ash tree and bite its sharp leaves. They are called Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.

Because of all these creatures that live among the roots and branches of the ash, Yggdrasill would dry out and rot, if the Nornir who live near Urðarbrunnr did not draw water from the source every day and poured that clay on the ash and spread it on the trunk and on the branches of the tree.

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