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Viking Beliefs     List of Categories

  • What are some Viking myths or legends?

    The Vikings had many myths, about their idea of creation, about the deeds of their gods such as Odin, Thor, Freya and others, and about the deeds of ancient Vikings. These stories were meant to be told around the fire to teach the young about the realm of the Vikings, and were handed down from generation to generation over many centuries. In about 1200-1300, some of these legends began to be written down. The written ones were called Sagas, and were mostly written down by Vikings in Iceland. These have been incorporated into later books and stories about Vikings. Other sources are the Eddas, or ancient folk tales. One important myth is the Viking story of creation, or how the world was made. In brief, the earth, named Midgard was formed from nothing. From nothing sprang the mists of Niflheim in the North. In the south there formed a realm of fire called Muspellsheim. When these realms met, water drops from the melting frost formed the first being, or frost giant named Ymir. Other giants then formed under his left arm, a man and a woman. From the offspring of these other giants were born three gods, Odin, Vili, and Ve. These three killed the giant Ymir and from his body they made the earth, or Midgard, between Niflheim and Muspellsheim. In Midgard, the gods set to work to build their palace, or Asgard, where they were joined by other gods. Later, dwarfs appeared, and the first two human beings, Ask and Embla, man and woman, were made by Odin from two trees. The three worlds of creation were held together at their axis by the great ash tree, Yggdrasil, with roots in Niflheim and branches spreading above Asgard. The myth goes on from there to describe the acts of the gods, their battles with giants and dwarfs, and the gigantic hall, Valhalla, where slain warriors were carried by the Valkyries to spend their days in bloody battles and be restored to health each night with laughing, drinking, and feasting. The chief god was Odin, who ruled over all others. He gave up one eye to receive all wisdom, and is always depicted with only one eye. Many myths describe the exploits of Odin and the other gods. There may be books in your local library about the Vikings and their gods and others are for sale in bookstores and on Search on the Internet for "Viking Myths and Legends" and find much additional information. The Viking Age gods slowly gave way to the spread of Christianity in Scandinavia beginning about 950 A.D. By the 13th century, nearly all of the people of Scandinavia had become Christian. This greatly altered the world view of the people and was a factor in bringing about the end of the Viking Age. Vestiges of the Viking age remain in our modern culture, however, such as some days of the week, (Tyr's Day, Odin's Day, Thor's Day, and Freya's Day, or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday), in midsummer and winter solstice festivals, and other cultural events.

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  • What religion or beliefs did the Vikings have?

    The Vikings lived during the ending days of paganism and had multiple gods to worship. The term "evil" gods is always relative to the time they lived in, as a warrior's best death would be in battle with a sword in his hand! Many of their gods suited their way of life, looking over abundant crops, health, family and other things besides war, but, of course you only hear of the "active ones" Odin, Thor and others. Several of our weekdays are named after Viking gods. Wednesday was named after Wodin (Odin), Thursday: Thor; Friday: Freya (god of fertility).

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  • What were the Viking’s beliefs about the afterlife?

    Much like the ancient Greeks, the Vikings had neither a positive or negative view of the afterlife. They believed for the most part, the dead, if they had lived an unexceptional life, would travel to a place called "Hel" (which is where the modern word "hell" comes from) which lies far to the north and under ground. It was a thought of as being a cold and damp place where the spirits of the dead continued in a dreamlike form of existence. It was not particularly happy, but it was not torturous and was viewed as a long sleep. There were other ideas of an afterlife that were believed as well. There was another realm beneath Hel, where people who had lived bad lives were gnawed upon by a serpent called "Nidhoggr". They slept in a hall that was made of snakes and dripped poison. This place, called "Nastrond", was located on the shore of an ice cold subterranean sea. Those who lived exceptional lives in a positive way could expect to travel to "Asgard", the home of the Gods. They would spend the afterlife in happiness. The exact dwelling that was given to these people depended upon their lives. For example: hero's who died in battle would go to "Vahalla" the "Hall of the slain", and live with Odin the king of the Gods. Here they spent all day fighting each other, only to rise from the battlefield in the evening healed of their wounds and then spent the rest of the night feasting. The main theme of the afterlife seems to have been repetition. It was not however, believed to be eternal. They believed that the world of both the living and dead, gods and monsters would one day be destroyed and the universe would begin anew.

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  • Who were the Viking gods?

    If you want to remember the main Viking gods, just think of the days of the week. Tuesday was once Tyr's Day after the god Tyr. Wednesday was once Odin's Day, after the god Odin. And Thursday was Thor's Day, after Thor. Friday was Freya's Day, after Freyr, or Freyja. These names came down from early English, which was strongly influenced by Norse names and other words dating to the times of these gods. The Vikings believed in these and other lesser gods, as did other people in northern Europe at the time. In Germany, for example, Odin was Wotan or Wodan, as known in the myths and gods of the Wagnerian Operas. Odin was the god of death or battle, ruling over Valhalla where warriors went after heroic death. Tyr was the god of the sky, bringing daylight and dark. Thor, or thunder god, was the god of war, the storm god, and a mighty warrior whose weapon was Thor's Hammer. Njord was god of the sea, bringing luck to sailors. He was the father of Freyr and Freyja. Freyr and his sister Freyja were the gods of harvest and fertility. Other lesser gods & heroes included Loki, god of mischief and trickery, Heimdal, guardian of the rainbow bridge into Asgard, dwelling place of the gods, Aegir, Ran, Hoenir, and others. There were also giants, dwarfs and monsters. Most of these gods were known to have evolved well before the Viking age which was mainly the ninth and tenth centuries. Some say they are roughly equivalent to and derived from the ancient Greek gods known in southern Europe. These gods all existed in a world known to the Vikings, mainly as great heroes of an earlier time. Vikings would often choose from these gods one of special appeal to them, to honor and to ask for good luck, victory in battle, bountiful harvests, and the like. Many wore a miniature Thor's hammer on their necks as a good luck charm. By the eleventh century, Christianity had spread into most of Scandinavia and was replacing these older beliefs. In some remote areas, however, older practices and superstitions continued among the people for several hundred years, often alongside Christianity.

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  • Did Vikings live in the Christian age?

    Toward the end of the Viking Age, from about 1000 to 1066, the Christian Church became more of an influence on the Vikings and they became less warlike. Even Leif Ericson, the first European to set foot on the North American Continent, was an emissary of the church, converting his mother (his father staunchly remained a pagan) and others around him in Greenland.

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