Faith, war, and everything in between helps us realize the current state of religion in our century is nothing new. The Vikings, too, did have organized religion that also brought both conflict and the uptake of new gods. Let’s explore further.
What is the Viking religion?
When the Viking people settled in the Scandinavian region between the late 8th century and 11th century, there were many religious changes taking place. For the most part, the Vikings remain pagan, practicing Old Norse religion, and only making a change to a significant world religion later. The prevailing belief was the Vikings had a fierce hatred for Christians, given how many churches and monasteries they attacked. Historians are mostly looking at the raiding and looting nature of the Viking people. These institutions were wealthy, but also primarily defenseless, making them easy prey.
After conquering and later living among Christian populations, the Vikings quickly took up this new religion. There is archeological evidence of the same in the British Isles, Ireland, and Normandy from burial sites. The lack of personal items in the grave was typical of Christians, while the Vikings, the opposite was the same, allowing archeologists to form this conclusion. Soon, Christianity was dominant all over Europe, bringing to an end Norse religion.
Is the Norse religion still practiced?
The Norse religion did not live on past the introduction of Christianity, and nothing about the Norse religious practices remain. Whatever remained was instead passed down as Norse myths and folklore, and even that barely survived. However, in the 19th century, worshiping Norse gods restarted, calling itself “Asatro.”
Currently, Denmark has the largest society of Nordic religion that goes by the name Forn Sidr, which means “the old way,” established in 1997. They, as with other Nordic faiths around the world, use the Elder and Younger Edda to draw their practices from. Those practicing Asatro also worship giants, dwarfs, and other entities. Since there is no singular way of understanding the Nordic poetry, the belief leans toward personal interpretations and mostly individual.
Who is the Viking god?
There were many gods in Norse mythology, but the god that Vikings chiefly associated themselves to was Odin, the god of war, power, and wealth. It is reasonable, given that the Viking were a warring people. They believed that when their men died during any battle, they would get taken to Odin’s hall of Valhalla in Realm of the Aesir, Asgard. Other notable gods in the realm being Thor, Loki, and Baldr.
Even so, in death, it was clear that not every Viking be accorded a happy afterlife in Valhall. There was the understanding of the Nine Realms, Aesir being one of them, where others would go. That included Hel, Fólkvangr, Hel, Vidblain, Brimir, and other realms. While Odin was the god they looked to, the Vikings did believe in other gods.
While no text can entirely give us all the aspects of the Norse religion, it’s interesting to see interpretation those bringing back these old ways have. If you feel a connection to the Viking era, religion is one way to go about it.
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