Most of us are familiar with the word “Viking”. Pop culture has offered a special place to these Scandinavian warriors. But a lot of what we know seems to be more myth than truth. We have seen depictions of Norse gods Thor, Loki, and Odin in Marvel movies. But we have seen very different angles to Nordic life thanks to the hit TV show Vikings starring Travis Fimmel. The show is one of the History Channel’s most-watched series, something that will motivate you to spend more time with your Cox TV Starter package.
7 Things About Vikings You Probably Didn’t Know
Archeologists and historians are constantly discovering new information about Vikings and Nordic life in general. We do know that they were primarily farmers who relied on primitive tools and domesticated animals to grow food. Of course, the harsh, cold Scandanavian terrain was often inhospitable. So Vikings supplemented their income by raiding villages across the European coast. They were one of the earliest sailors, using longboats to sail further west, reaching and raiding what is now Great Britain. The Norman-Saxon clashes that followed form a big part of British history. They were known to be fierce warriors and confident sailors, who welcomed the chance to die in battle.
However, the more we learn about the Viking way of life, the more we become aware of just how many commonly accepted truths are just fables. The Viking life doesn’t exist anymore per se, although most Scandanavian people are descended from the ancient Nords. Information about their religion, their rituals, and even their language has barely made it to the modern-day world. However, based on what we know so far, here are a few interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about these brave and hardy warriors:
- Viking Women Had High Social Standing
- Norse Warriors Never Wore Horned Helms
- Dying Peacefully Was A Sure Way To Hell
- Norse People Paid A Lot Of Attention to Appearance
- Certain Common English Words Have Nordic Roots
- Vikings Would Bleach Their Hair Blonde
- 9 Human Sacrifices Occurred Once Every 9 Years
Let’s examine these in more detail below.
Viking Women Had High Social Standing
Vikings were often portrayed as mindless barbarians with a lust for war and no social structure. However, a lot of this is propaganda from the Saxons who had to face their raiding parties. Vikings, in reality, had a very solid social structure, and unlike many contemporary European cultures, they accorded a higher social standing to women. Women could take part in battles alongside men as Sheild Maidens. They could also divorce their husbands, and were even entitled to alimony afterward. Most importantly, women had the right to own their property long before the rest of Europe began thinking along those lines.
Norse Warriors Never Wore Horned Helms
What do you imagine when you hear “Viking?”. A tall, blonde, muscular person with blonde hair, an ax, and a helmet with horns is usually the most common image. This pop-culture rendering has become so widely accepted that we believe it to be accurate. However, based on years of archeological research, it is obvious that Vikings never actually wore helmets with horns. This image is likely the result of Saxon exaggeration, as a reaction to the fearsomeness of these strange Nordic people.
Dying Peacefully Was a Sure Way to Hell
Most of what we have heard about Vikings tells us they were eager and fierce warriors. For once, modern pop culture got something right. Vikings were a breed of humans for whom violence and skirmishing was a way of life. They were known to be ever-ready for a battle, even coming across as bloodthirsty. But when you look at the Viking belief system, the reason behind this becomes clear. Vikings believed that the only way to enter Valhalla, the Hall of the Gods in Asgard, was to die gloriously in battle. The Valkyries would come to guide the bravest warriors to Valhalla to feast, fight, hunt, and revel with the gods forever. Unfortunately, this also meant that if you died without violence, such as through sickness or disease or old age, you would be doomed to Hel, the underworld.
Norse People Paid a Lot of Attention to Appearance
Another unfortunate byproduct of the belief that Vikings were uncultured barbarians is that they were also less than hygienic. However, compared to the personal hygiene habits of most other cultures, Vikings took far better care of themselves and their appearance. From intricate tattoos to complex braids to rudimentary razors and even tweezers, Vikings seem to have given a lot of thought to how they looked.
Certain Common English Words Have Nordic Roots
The English language is perhaps the most widely understood language in the world today. One of the reasons behind this is that it often borrows and adapts loan words from other languages and dialects, such as French or Latin. But did you know several exceedingly common English words have Norse origin? The word berserk comes from the Norse berserker, a breed of warrior fierce even by Norse standards. Berserkers often wore bear hides, which earned them their name. Similarly, the word ransack comes from the Norse word rannsaka, which literally means to look through a house.
Vikings Would Bleach Their Hair Blonde
Most of what we know about Vikings on screen seems to indicate they were all beach-blondes. There is now a growing acceptance that this may have been the case in real life as well. Vikings seemed to have valued golden hair above others. Of course, not all Vikings were born naturally blonde. Many dark-haired individuals seem to have used primitive lye soap to bleach their hair light enough to look blonde.
9 Human Sacrifices Occurred Once Every 9 Years
This may be one reason why we don’t see too many Vikings around today. It would be impossible in the modern world to casually offer a human sacrifice every few years, even if the sacrificial person was willing. But that’s exactly what Vikings used to do hundreds of years ago. Every 9 years, Vikings would meet at the Gammel Uppsala temple in Sweden. Here they would sacrifice a number of animals, as well as 9 willing human males to earn the goodwill and favor of the gods. The History Channel show Vikings actually addressed this ritual in Season 1 Episode 8. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can probably order it on-demand. However, this may add to your Cox bill pay efforts.
If you’re ready to get into Viking culture, however, there are very few better shows available.