Nov 12, 2013

World of the Viking: Adventurers, Trademen, and Explorers

Viking Warriors
   In honor of those Scandinavian descendants that settled, specifically in the northern part of the Door Peninsula, I have put together a history of the famed period of Scandinavia that is known as the Viking Age. Here in the Peninsula, we have a rich historical heritage of cultural history, families that came to the New World for various reasons, and settled in what became known as the Door Peninsula, Door County, Wisconsin. The very first European settlers here in this region, the peninsula, were French explorers, traders, and trappers who mingled and became friends, and sometimes joined, the tribes of Native Americans, incorrectly called Indians by Christopher Columbus, who married women of the local tribes and lived generation after generation here on the Peninsula and Washington Island. Today, those descendants, Native Americans, still have the French surnames of their ancestors. 

Map of Door County with Washington Island
Next came Germanic, Belgian and Celtic people who settled here to become farmers, fisherman, traders, and builders of ships and boats. Wisconsin has, in tradition, been settled by immigrants from Europe – all of which Vikings had contact with through trading, looting or settling in regions that extended quite far from their Scandinavian geographical homeland.

 The familiar climate of northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota must have inspired these people to settle in the this part of the New World with its thick forests, hilly ground and rich soil that rested atop bedrock, remnants of the aftermath of an Ice Age. To Scandinavians, the land on the shores of the Great Lakes was reminiscent of their homeland with the fjords and cold Atlantic shores filled with fish that included salmon and trout was an ideal choice for settlements. Unlike other places that Europeans had settled in the New World, the immigrants generally lived in peace with the indigenous people who had lived here thousands of years before, who had tribal names such as Pottawatomie and Oneida.
Today, these European descendants remain with familiar family names of the original settlers, and some who arrived long afterwards. Thus, because of my interest in the Scandinavian history, I have put together information that you may find interesting and informative.
Ingolf by Raadsig
Vikings or Norsemen have been the subject of novels and screenplays, mostly depicting myths about this group of people in the history of humanity. For example, one particular Hollywood film shows Vikings wearing helmets adorned with horns or wings. False. Their helmets were the style of the period, rounded and made of metal with either a nose bridge or half-enclosed piece to protect the eyes and nose from blows in battle. Some of the styles were much like the Roman or Greek rounded helmets, the styles that became familiar to the Saxons and Normans later. The myth probably started from a mythological character of the Norse religion, a characterization of the god Odin with a rounded helmet, half-mask complete with nose bridge and golden wings on each side of the head.
No wings, no horns on Viking helmets
The Norsemen began to appear as bands of Scandinavian sea raiders, who soon became known as Vikings, from the Old Norse language – Vikmeans a “bay” or “creek”and the word vikingr (which was the origination of the English word Viking),which simply meant “pirate” or “raider”.
After a time, the term to go a-Viking meant to go on an expedition in search of wealth and glory. Vikings were Nords, of which today represents Scandinavia.
Helmet-Jaw Bone, British Museum
The Viking Age extends from the 8th to the 12thcenturies, quite a long period. They were pretty much the last of the people of Europe to convert to Christianity, and it was that religious conversion that their changed their cultural lifestyle.
Archaeological finds have given us a rich knowledge and view of Norsemen life, to include well-preserved clothing that provides us knowledge of Norsemen life in the Viking Age. Just about every year there seems to be a new archaeological find providing a rich source of information and insight. Remains of Viking trading towns, houses and craftsmen's shops, enable a study of their building methods and even the tools they used. 
In Viking culture it was custom to bury people with their personal possessions. Weapons, furniture, jewels and clothing haven been found in these graves, another source of information about their daily lives. Some objects found were from foreign lands which provides an insight as to the routes of Viking travel and where they either raided or traded. The most valuable archaeological finds have provided us information about the famous Viking ships they built and sailed pretty much around the known and unexplored regions of Earth that could be reached by sea, except for the south-eastern hemisphere. The ships have been well-preserved and found in burial mounds of important people within the Viking culture. Five ships were excavated in Denmark, where they had been sunk to block a narrow fjord. i
Viking Village Scene
Another source of information about the Vikings come from written accounts that people recorded who came into contact with them. Some were victims of Viking raids; others were Arabs or Christians, who did not worship the Norseman’s gods. The authors of these accounts were likely biased, especially those that were victims of the Viking raids. The Vikings also told tales of their exploits, called sagas, that have survived history; but once again, they most likely have been embellished, surviving by word of mouth until finally written in the 13th century by Christian scholars and those interested in the Viking culture. Whatever be the case, what stands out foremost is the Viking's sense of adventure and often bravery – whether in battle or the courage to seek out new uncharted lands beyond the seas of their Scandinavian homelands.
But who were the Vikings, exactly?
They were people who lived in Scandinavia between 750 and 1100 and who began as farmers, craftsmen, and merchants. 
By the 9th century, they turned to piracy and plundering, terrorizing the people of Western Europe and later into Eastern Europe and even the Middle East. Scandinavia escaped being invaded by the Romans and barbarian tribes who overran Roman territories in the late period of the Roman Empire. It is because of this, Scandinavians were left in peace to thrive and grow. 
They established a profitable trading link with the Roman Empire and with many of the kingdoms that came to be after the Roman Empire fell. This period of Scandinavian history is known as the Age of Gold. Graves of chieftains of this period have been found with rich treasures.
Denmark Reenactment Viking Village
Historical scholars believe that at the end of the 8th century, Scandinavia had become prosperous and overpopulated and soon the agricultural land was not able to sustain the growing population, so they began raiding nearby lands, returning with their ships loaded with treasure, food, cattle, and slaves. Raiders from Denmark and Norway sailed west. They attacked England and mainland Europe, as well as exploring the Atlantic Ocean for new land to settle. Swedish warriors tended to sail eastward, crossing the Baltic into eastern Europe and beyond.
Contrary to belief, not all Vikings were murderous pirates or merciless explorers, like those that landed in North America after exploring Greenland. Many stayed home living and working in peace. You might say it was the warrior class of Scandinavians that developed the negative reputation of the Scandinavian people who were called Vikings during that period of history.


Viking Exploration - Trade Map, Wikipedia
As aforementioned, the Vikings were made up of Scandinavians from the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and it remains a geographical location that is a place of contrast in terrain and climate.
Geiranger Fjord, Norway
Denmark has the mildest climate of all the Scandinavian countries. The terrain is flat, compared to the rest of Scandinavia, and there are extensive areas of rich farmland along the Danish coast and on its islands. It has dense woods, heaths, and sand dunes. It became prosperous due to its agricultural land and became the center of cultural growth, Copenhagen considered in terms of European history, an example of rich culture. It also was, during the height of the Viking Age, the location of the center of power of the Viking/Norseman kingdom.
Sweden during the Viking Age was mostly settlements that were in the southern part of the country, mostly on the shores of lakes and near the Baltic coastline, where the soil was more fertile. The land in the northern part of Sweden is mountainous and forested, and weather can be harsh. Parts of Sweden and Norway lie with the region called the Arctic Circle, where in winter it is dark during the day or night periods.
Norway is a very mountainous country. It's 2,000 mile long coastline has thousands of long, narrow inlets, called fjords, which are bordered by rocky terrain and mountains. The majority of Viking settlements in Norway were at the rich soil areas located on the edges of the fjords and along the country's river valleys. The Norwegian Vikings would sail out of these tributaries into the open sea and towards their targeted places to plunder. 
Nordic Reenactment Village
Most Vikings lived by farming, especially in areas where the soil was good. Small farming communities were common and produced a variety of crops and raised animals, preparing for the long winters ahead by preserving and storing food.
Viking farms had to be self-sufficient, producing food, cloth, leather goods, and tools. Most farmers owned their farms and operated them with the help of their families. Others paid those who had no land to perform some of the skilled tasks required, like planting crops, or working as a carpenter, blacksmith, a cooper, making barrels for storage. Wealthy landowners had slaves to perform tasks like spreading manure on the fields, chopping wood, and digging up peat that was used for fuel.
During the spring, farmers began preparing the land for planting. In summer, there was less to do on the farm, so the men would often go on hunting or raiding expeditions. When the fall approached, farmers would harvest crops and store food for the winter. In winter, some farmers went hunting to bring home fresh meat and furs.
Diorama, Viking Village-Port - Wikipedia
The most common food eaten was fish, porridge made from oats and barley mixed with milk or water, and barley bread. Herbs and spices were used to season food, and sea salt was processed to be used for preserving meat and fish for storage.
The Vikings enjoyed drinking beer that was made from barley and hops they grew, and mead being the favorite – made from honey, water and yeast – fermented to achieve its alcohol and flavor content.
Wealthy people could afford to eat wheat bread, considered a luxury because it was imported. They drank wine made from grapes that were imported from France and Italy. The Vikings became proficient traders.
As mentioned, Vikings ate a lot of fish, being a sea people. There were many varieties of fish available, not only in the sea, but in the rivers and lakes that included herring, salmon, and cod.
Fish were caught with traps, nets, and spears. In coastal areas, people hunted seals and walruses with spears. Whales were also hunted, driving them into shallow creeks or on to beaches, where they were killed with spears by men in small boats. Hunting was a good source of food, as well as providing furs and hides that kept them warm in the winter. Groups of men would go on hunting trips during the winter to supplement or replenish food stocks that had been depleted. They killed animals with spears, bows and arrows, or caught them with traps. Men would climb down cliffs on a rope to catch sea birds and collect their feathers to be used as padding in quilts and cloaks for warmth. Cow and goat milk was used to make cheese and butter. Meat and fish were grilled on spits and forks. To preserve meat and fish, they were salted and then smoked. Grain was ground into flour by hand between two stones. They made bowls from wood and used horns from animals for drinking mugs, as well as pitchers and mugs made from clay and fired in kiln ovens. Most cooking and eating utensils were made of wood, except for knives. If a farmer raised chickens, ducks and geese, they had eggs to add to fruits and nuts gathered.
Wattle-Daub Construction
Most Viking houses were rectangular in shape that consisted of one long room, called a hall, where everyone ate, slept and worked together. In winter, many people had to share a section of the house with farm animals, kept in an enclosure at one end of the hall to protect them from the harsh winter weather. Houses were mainly constructed with stone and wood, wooden frames covered with planks. Poor people, or those who were on islands with little forest, made their houses with stone, wattle and daub. ii
Viking Longhouse [Archaeology Hebrides]
Viking houses were between 15 and 30 meters long (50-100 feet). In the middle of the hall was a stone-lined hearth. A fire was kept for cooking and heating and the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. The hall was often smoky and smelly. The Vikings had no glass or used it. Some houses had small openings in the wall that were covered with shutters, used to shut up the house at night. The hall was usually quite dark. Oil lamps and candles provided an additional light source other than the fire hearth. The floor of the hall was made of hard-packed earth, covered with reeds or straw. There were long, wooden platforms along each side of the hall against the walls where people slept at night, using pillows and quilts filled with feathers or down, and blanket and furs to keep them warm.
Clothes and weapons were hung from pegs, or propped up against the walls. Valuables and personal clothing, as well as personal bedding, were kept in large chests.
Viking Longhouse
A wealthy man's hall were highly decorated. The wooden posts that supported the frame of the house were ornately carved. Tapestries made of wool hung from the walls as a decoration, as well as to keep out drafts. The tapestry hangings were also used to string between rafters to provide an area of privacy.
Vikings has little use for furniture, mostly because space was limited in the Great Halls. Every household had a loom for making cloth. People sat on stools or on the platforms along the edge of the hall. Tables were used as a place to eat as well as working surfaces. The master of the house might have had a chair and a bed to sleep in – both ornately decorated.
Viking Tools
Leisure time for Vikings were spent engaging in their popular sport – wrestling. Warriors spent their free time perfecting their fighting techniques, repairing broken weapons, or decorating new ones. Inside, during long winter evenings, some people carved ornaments out of ivory or wood.
Others made objects such as pieces for a game board from wood or clay.
Burial sites and pictures carved on stone and wood provide us with an idea of how Vikings dressed.
Chest found in 1936 with tools inside
Clothing fashions changed very little during the Viking Age. Most people wore clothes made of wool and linen, woven at home and dyed with vegetables and minerals. The quality and design of a person's clothing and jewelry depended upon the person's wealth and/or status. For feasts and special occasions they had outfits decorated with silk from China and gold and silver threads. Poor people wore clothing made of coarse, undyed cloth.
Viking women wore long dresses, which they fastened around the neck with a drawstring or a brooch that were either short or long-sleeved. Over the dresses they wore tunics made of wool or linen, that were often decorated with woven bands of material, the early tunics being two square pieces of cloth fastened together with a brooch made of bone ivory, bronze, silver or gold – depending upon the wealth of the person wearing it. The wealthier the person was, the finer the cloth of his/her clothing.
Viking-Style Beard/Hair
Women and men had long hair. The women when in public and doing their chores wore their hair put in a bun at the back of their head, held in place with a cloth or leather thong or wore it pulled back tightly against the head in a ponytail. Viking men let their hair grow long and almost always wore beards. They too would wear cloth or leather straps to keep their hair from getting in their eyes when working, hunting, or fighting. Some men braided their hair in a strand on each side of their face. Beards, if grown, became long and they also were braided for the same reason. Sometimes Viking men would braid their beards on each side shaped like a fork.
Viking Home Scene
Both men and women wore cloaks with hoods to protect them from rain and cold. Men wore trousers made of cloth, soft sheep/goatskin and sometimes out of suede deer hide – usually fastened around the waist with a drawstring. The trouser legs were either left straight or tied with pieces of cloth. Shirts were usually made of linen, while trousers were usually wool or suede leather. When men wore cloaks, they would be tied up on the shoulder or pinned with a brooch on the side they wore their sheathed or unsheathed sword so it would not interfere when they fought.
Both men and women wore jewelry, Vikings being fond of the decoration sometimes wore many pieces of jewelry. Those that could afford it, their jewelry was made of silver and gold. Those that could not wear jewelry made of bronze, copper, and iron created by the casting process. The most popular ornaments worn by women were tunic brooches that were usually oval in shape and patterned with animals or spiral geometric designs. Some were gilded or decorated with silver wire. Women also wore bead necklaces that sometimes were hung between their tunic brooches. Both men and women wore rings made of gold, silver, and copper; often several on each hand. Rings of copper, gold or silver were worn as bracelets on their wrists or arms. Instead of necklaces, men wore heavy rings called torques, much in the fashion of the Celts.
Clothing - British Museum
Fur was used to make warm clothing against the cold of winter by both men and women; and both wore leather shoes and boots that fastened around their ankles warmed with fur for winter months.
Viking women, like Celtic women, received more respect and had more independence than other women in other countries did at the time. There are places in Scandinavia that are named after famous women and unlike other cultures, women were allowed to own land and property. Daughters would sometimes inherit a share of their parents' estate along with their brothers. However, as in most societies, women had different levels of status according to her position and parentage. The wife of a chieftain had more authority and freedom than the wife of a farm worker.
Parents usually chose wives and husbands for their children, mostly for financial or political reasons. Before a wedding, a bridegroom offered a gift of property of an agreed value to his bride's father. This gift was called the bridesprice. The bride's father provided his daughter with a dowry of goods and money. The bridesprice and the dowry remained the wife's property after marriage. A viking wedding ceremony was followed by a large feast where many guests would attend. In one saga, a wedding feast lasted for one month with guests from all over.
Nordic wives were keepers of the keys
A Viking housewife had many duties to perform – cooking, baking, brewing beer and mead for the members of her family and when they had guests. Women were preoccupied with spinning and weaving to produce clothing for her family. She also made blankets and tapestry to decorate their home. A farmer's wife, along with house chores, also milked cows and goats as well as making butter and cheese. She had to care for the geese and chickens and sometimes helped in the fields at harvest time. The housewife was often involved in financial arrangements and supervised her husband's slaves, if they could afford to have them.
Women took care of the children when they were young and nursed family members when they were ill or injured. They had to know how to make remedies using herbs and minerals. As a sign of status and her responsibility, the housewife could always be seen carrying the household keys that were kept on a chain attached to her tunic brooch. The keys were for doors to the house, her husband's strong box, and containers containing valuables such as jewels, silks, or precious spices from the East.
Before Christianity came to Scandinavia, any man who was not a slave was allowed to live with several women. He had one proper wife who was head of the household and usually came from the same social class as himself. The other women were regarded as household slaves.
Holy Nation of Odin
Vikings were hospitable people and considered it a disgrace to turn a visitor away. It was the housewife who provided food and comforts for her husband's guests. At a formal feast, the housewife would serve the finest food and drink that she could find and prepare. During a feast, a wife was expected to present gifts to reward her husband's warriors for their loyalty.
She might also reward a skald, a Norse bard, for composing a song or poem which flattered her husband's courage in battle and his generosity as a host.
When a wife's husband was off trading or fighting, she was responsible for the farm and his business while he was away. She made decisions on her husband's behalf and bargained with visiting merchants. A noblewoman was expected to organize the protection of her home, many women being as fierce a warrior as their husband, much like the Celtic women.
Old Norse Rune Alphabet
If a woman wanted to divorce her husband, she simply announced it publicly in front of a group of witnesses. After the separation, she was allowed to keep her dowry and any property owned before marriage. A man could divorce his wife in the same way.
Archaeological evidence has provided us with cultural knowledge of the Vikings and shows that Viking women had professions other than housewife and business organization in the absence of the husband. Some written texts mention female skalds and a female who could carve runes, the Norse writing form. In one woman's grave possessions there were scales, weights and measures that suggested that she was a merchant or worked in some capacity at a market. Some women took leading roles in religious ceremonies and rituals held to worship the Nordic gods. Certain women played the role of prophetess, able to foretell the future and provide advice to people concerning their daily lives.
One famous saga/story tells of a famous Viking woman by the name of Freydis, daughter of Eric the Red. She was a member of the exploring expedition of North America. One morning a party of native Americans attacked the settlement. Freydis frightened them off by charging them, beating her chest with a sword. Later, when a quarrel broke out in the camp between Freydis and two brothers, she persuaded her husband to kill the brothers and their men. She took an axe and killed their wives herself.
Codex Runicus, Wikipedia
Viking children had to be strong and hardy, often dying in childbirth or dying young from disease or injury. Babies were sometimes left outside in the elements to die if they were handicapped or if their parents were too poor to raise them. Children were taught skills they must perform when they got older. Boys were taught to hunt and handle weapons and learned farming or a craft. Some men took their sons on voyages to teach them about sailing. Girls learned to cook, make cloth and take care of their family.
Erickson Expedition Viking Ships
Vikings were skilled seamen and produced the finest ships of the time and proudly provided them names such as Long Serpent, Sea Bird, Wave Walker, and Raven of the Wind. Poems were written about them and their likeness was carved upon stone and wood. Ships were important in Viking culture and they built vessels of different shapes and sizes according to their use. Most people are familiar with their warships with the ornate bow and stern prows sticking in the air usually with a dragon head as a figure rising into the air. The warships were used to transport Vikings to their locations of plunder, and merchant ships would join the warship fleet to carry the loot home as well as on trading excursions as well as carrying settlers and explorers with their equipment, furnishings and livestock in search of new land to settle in. In Scandinavia, fishing boats, ferries and canoes were used. Mountains, dense forests, bogs and deep snow slowed progress of traveling by land, so more often than not, Vikings used their boats and ships to travel via river and lakes inland, as well as by sea.

When an image of a Viking ship comes to one's mind, immediately the image of a longship appears. These well-constructed longships or dragon ships were swift, strong and light enough to row and carry if necessary. They could be sailed in shallow waters inland and beached when the Vikings chose to go ashore. Merchant ships were wider, deeper and slower than longships, carrying 30 to 40 people. Goods and livestock were kept in the middle of the ship – a sunken space from the deck to the bottom of the ship that would be called the cargo hold today.
Longships were usually made of oak and generally 61 feet long (18 meters) and 8.5 feet wide (2.6 meters). The largest vessel excavated was 95 feet long and 15 feet wide. Longships had from 26 to 70 oars, paired on each side of the vessel. A large oar on the stern side of the ship was used for steering. Today, in English, the nautical term for the right side of a boat or ship is starboard that is from the Norse word styra, which means “to steer”.

Vikings could navigate well without the use of navigational instruments by using the sun, the moon, and the stars to steer. Sometimes they would just follow the shoreline when going to foreign lands to trade or plunder. The depth and temperature also aided the Viking in determining where their position was. Viking also knew the habits of sea birds and mammals and used the knowledge to navigate. On a journey from Norway to Greenland, for example, Vikings would keep in sight shoals of herring, cod, or haddock to guide them. Sagas describe how sailors could calculate their position by the number of days at sea, their speed, the tides, currents and weather conditions. 
Viking Swords, British Museum-Archaeology Magazine
Viking warriors were famous/infamous fighters. Famed for their savage attacks, they were the most feared during the Viking Age. They were courageous and used quick and precise attacks upon their enemies. Those that could afford it wore a chain-mail shirt called the byrnie that was either knee or hip-length and made of thousands of interlocking iron rings. Chain mail was expensive and valuable, often being passed down from one generation to another. Those warriors that could not afford chain mail wore padded leather jackets for protection.
Warriors carried round wooden shields that averaged 3 feet in diameter that covered their bodies from chin to knee. Shields were often reinforced with a metal rim. The shield carrier's hand holding it was protected by a metal cap called a boss affixed in the middle of the shield. Some men painted scenes and patterns on their shields. Most warriors wore helmets made of leather or metal or both. Some had rounded tops while others were conical in shape that had an eye and nose guard. The conical helmets usually had just a straight nose piece. As aforementioned, Vikings did not adorn their helmets with horns or golden wings.
Vikings' choice of weapons was the ax that often had shafts that were three feet long and huge blades. They also carried long swords and short swords or daggers. Some who were professional warriors, or expected to be involved in combat, carried all three weapons.
Replica Viking Weaponry
Some who were excellent marksmen carried wooden bows and metal-tipped arrows. Others carried lightweight javelins for throwing or heavier and longer spears for thrusting in hand-to-hand combat. Almost all Vikings carried a long knife about the size of an American Bowie knife along with the weapon of their choice. Viking swords were one-handed with double edges for slashing. The blades averaged three feet long and were made of rods of iron twisted and then flattened to produce a blade that was then sharpened with a stone. The Viking blade was made to be flexible and hard to break. Swordsmen were proud of their weapons and were richly adorned, and as their longships, were named, such as Mailbiter, Legbiter, and Adder. The sword was kept in a scabbard made of wood or leather and was suspended from a belt around the waist or hung across one shoulder using a support called a baldric.
Double-Head Axe
After the Vikings had begun to become professional raiders, chieftains began, in the 9thcentury, to gather and command large forces of several hundred men to venture on expeditions to seek new lands or plunder foreign lands. These armies would be carried by a large fleet of hundreds of longships. One of these fleets was known as the Great Army. In battle, a chosen warrior would carry a banner that was decorated with an emblem that represented the chieftain or tribe that the Viking warriors belonged to. Emblems included images of a serpent, raven, or dragon. Some Vikings believed that the banners had magical powers that would help them in battle, but it was their fierceness as warriors that truly instilled fear in people of foreign lands.
When Vikings were surrounded in battle, they immediately formed a bodyguard around the chieftain and often used their shields as a protective wall against attack and arrows. If the chieftain was killed, his warriors were expected to fight to the death along their chieftain's body. Berserks [Berserker]  were the most feared of all the Viking warriors. Before a battle they would make speeches to insult the enemy and boasted their prowess as warriors. A similar practice was also performed by the Celts of Britannia. The Berserks demonstrated their bravery by fighting without wearing protective clothing, which also lightened them in order to fight more fiercely.
Some people, among their enemies, believed the Berserks possessed magical powers that prevented weapons from piercing their skin. One saga describes how some berserks advanced without mail shirts and were frenzied like dogs and wolves, they bit their shields in their fury.
Viking Stone Axehead
While many Vikings were part-time warriors and part-time farmers, some were professional warriors that formed fellowships and communities, living by strict codes of conduct and duty. Kings and chieftains would hire these professional warriors as their bodyguards, and merchants would hire them to protect their valuable cargoes. As Vikings spread out into foreign lands and made a name for themselves, sometimes foreign kings would hire them for such purposes.
Most Viking settlements were small farming communities in fertile lands. There were a few towns that grew from the prosperity of trade. The most famous were Hedeby in Denmark and Birka in Sweden. Archaeologists have excavated Viking towns and settlements at York in England and Dublin in Ireland.
Viking towns were crowded and dirty with smoke polluting the air from many household fires. Craftsmen lived in towns to be near their customers as well as for protection. Merchants of many nationalities came to buy goods from Vikings such as slaves, furs, walrus ivory, and falcons. They also bought items that Viking merchants had brought from the East such as silks, spices, and wine.
At the beginning of the Viking Age, people bartered goods and paid for goods with weighted quantities of silver. The silver was usually foreign coins or jewelry that traders or plunderers had brought back from foreign lands. By the 10th century, coins began to be produced throughout Scandinavia. A craftsman called a moneyer stamped out coins from a strip of silver using a die.
In the early period of the Viking Age, Scandinavia was divided into several kingdoms, but the kings were not powerful because most of the community was more loyal to their chieftains than the king. The king would conduct religious rituals and lead in battle. He was expected to keep a large force of warriors and ships to protect the people and the lands. When a king died, his oldest son did not automatically succeed him. A new king was chosen from the members of the royal family. The candidate's age, reputation, health and popularity would be considered before making the choice.
Apart from the royal class of kings, there were three main groups within Viking society – jarls, karls, and thralls.
The wealthiest and powerful people of Viking culture, the Jarls were the chieftains and aristocracy that owned and ruled large areas of land. A Jarl usually had a small band of warriors that would fight for him and with him if needed. If he decided to go a-Viking, many men from his community would join the expedition.
This was the largest group in Viking society who were free men and women – you might say they were the middle class. Many karls owned farmsteads; while others rented land from rich landowners. In the Viking Age, a man's land was usually inherited by his eldest son. Younger sons had to make their own fortunes, so they joined raiding parties to seek wealth or became professional warriors or merchants. Others became hunters, fishermen, or craftsmen. Poorer karls without land would be servants or farm workers.
Viking slaves were called thralls. They had no rights and were bought and sold like any piece of property. Many of the thralls were captured in raids or wars. Some were karls who had lost their freedom after going bankrupt or committing a crime. Children of thralls remained in the same class as their parents. Most thralls were household servants or farm workers. A few who were gifted worked as craftsmen who actually earned a wage. Those who worked hard and save enough money could purchase their freedom for themselves and their family.
BBC: Viking Family Life
Family was important in the Viking Age, loyalty was important. People would fight to the death to defend the honor of their family. An insult or injury done to one person might lead the whole family to seek revenge, leading to a feud. Family feuds could last for years.
A Viking's honor and reputation was the most highly prized possession – male or female. A warrior's worth was judged by his courage, fighting skills, how many adventures had been undertaken, how far adventures had taken him, and how successful his expeditions were. All freemen and free women were expected to be loyal to their friends, followers, and chieftains.
βing - Vikingsgraad

The Vikings has a government organized by open meetings called Things, where problems were discussed that affected the community, settled disputes, and tried/punished criminals. Things were held generally every two or three years. All freemen were allowed to attend the meetings and voice an opinion on any issue. In the early Viking Age, decisions on cases brought before a Thing was made by all those present. Later, judges were appointed by the king or chosen by the people. In Iceland, a national Thing, called an Althing, was held every year. At this meeting all laws were passed which affected everyone on the island. The Althing was held during the summer, when people could travel more easily long distances overland.
Anyone suspected of a crime were brought to a trial. If the evidence against him/her was inconclusive, other methods of determining guilt were used. For example, people could be tried by ordeal. Women had to pick stones out of boiling water and men had to carry red-hot iron pieces a few paces. If they dropped the stones or the hot iron, they were considered guilty. Those who succeeded were given medical treatment. After a week they were examined and if the wounds had shown progress in healing, the person was declared innocent. Some men chose to undergo trial by combat to settle a dispute. They fought until one was killed or surrendered. A criminal's punishment was decided by the Thing. He or she could be fined, reduced to slavery or exiled. An exiled person had no protection of the law and anyone could kill him, if he or she did not depart quickly. Vikings believed that everyone was worth a certain sum of money, called their wergeld. For example, a warrior's wergeld was worth more than a fisherman's wergeld. A murderer had to pay a wergeld to his victim's parents.
Obviously, in a warrior-caste society, the Vikings honored the dead and believed in an afterlife. They thought, much like the ancient Egyptians, that anything buried with the deceased went with him/her in the afterlife. So people were buried with their possessions. This has been advantageous for archaeologists who have had to piece together what has not been found in Nordic rune writing or pictorial accounts in regards to the culture of a Viking. Some wealthy people even had their slaves buried with them to serve their masters in the afterlife. Of course, the size of a Viking grave/tomb, type of monument to mark the site, reflected the deceased's wealth and social status. The poor were buried in simple holes in the ground. The body was placed in a hollowed-out tree trunk or wooden box. A low mound of earth was piled on top of the grave site. Wealthy Vikings could afford more lavish burials. Their graves/tombs were lined with wood. Merchants were buried with their weights and scales and their silver. Some people had their horses or dogs buried with them.
The most spectacular burials were those of royal family. The body and grave goods were put in a ship which was either buried or burned. The Vikings believed that the ship and its occupant sailed off to Asgard, the land of the Norse gods. 
In 921, an Arab diplomat called Ibn Fadlan was journeying through Russia and met a band of Viking warrior merchants, known as the Rus. Fadlan witnessed a chieftain's body being cremated on a ship and wrote an account of what he had seen. The dead chieftain was laid in a tent on the deck of a longship. Around him, family and friends placed many treasures and other possessions. A slave girl volunteered to accompany her master into the next life and was given a pain-killing drink. Then an Angel of Death, an old woman, strangled the girl and her body was placed on the ship within the shelter her master laid in. The ship was set on fire and later a mound of earth was piled over the ashes. Ibn Fadlan revealed much about Nordic vulture. and his memoir was what the film The 13th Warrior was loosely based upon.
Some people stacked stones or placed large rock in memory of their dead relatives, particularly those Vikings who had died abroad and whose bodies never returned home. Memorial stones had inscriptions or pictures on them. Some people who could not afford a ship burial had graves outlined with stones in the shape of a boat.
In 1888, a Viking burial ship was uncovered in Gokstad, Norway. It had been built around 850 and used 50 years later as a royal funeral ship. The blue clay that was around the ship kept it well-preserved. Inside was a small wooden chamber on deck that contained the body of a king. His huge cargo of burial goods included six dogs, 12 horses, and a peacock. A Viking ship built 50 years earlier than the Gokstad ship was excavated at Oseberg, Norway, in 1903. The bodies of the queen and her maids were also aboard. Packed into the hold of the ship was a collection of decorated wooden furniture that included four sledges, three beds and many kitchen utensils. It is finds like these that provide us with so much information about the Vikings.
VIKING RELIGION: Gods, Goddesses and Supernatural Beings
The Vikings told many stories about the Next World. They believed that after death people who had led a good and honest life were taken to Asgard, where they lived in the hall of the god or goddess they worshiped. The souls of less worthy people were taken to the land of the dead, which was ruled by the goddess Hel. iii The goddess was a beautiful woman, but from the waist down she was a skeleton. Her hall was called Eljundir and its entrance was guarded by a ferocious dog who ensured that anyone who entered never escaped.
The Vikings believed that some souls came back to haunt the living, and they named these creatures – Dead Walkers. The could be vicious and have supernatural strength.
Viking Warrior Reenactment, Irish Archaeology
The greatest honor for a Viking warrior was to die fighting. According to legend, the Viking god Odin had a group of female attendants called Valkyries, who flew over battlefields and snatched up the souls of brave warriors who lay dead there. These souls would be taken to Valhalla, Odin's hall, which had rafters made of spears and walls made of shields. The warriors who lived in Valhalla practiced their fighting skills during the day and feasted all night. It is said that they are practicing in order to aid the Norse gods when they are finally forced to fight the forces of evil at Ragnarok.
Odin on horseback with his Ravens flying overhead
In regards to Viking religion, they worshipped many different gods and goddesses, as many pagan religions did. They had a god or goddess that affected various aspects of their lives and the world they lived in, much like the ancient Egyptians. They believed that for the most part, the gods and goddesses didn't interfere with their lives on Earth, but controlled what happened after they died.
The Norse universe had three levels. On the highest level there was a heavenly place called Asgard. This is where the gods lived in beautiful halls with their servants and followers.
On the middle level was the world where humans lived, called Midgard. Asgard and Midgard were connected by a flaming rainbow bridge called Bifrost. Surrounding Midgard was an ocean inhabited by a serpent called Jormungard.
The lowest level is where the land of the dead called Niflheim, an icy place of eternal darkness and another area called Muspellheim, the land of fire.
There were two main types of Norse gods and goddesses – the Vanir and the Aesir. The Vanir were the fertility deities who made crops grow and were worshipped by farmers. Fighting men worshipped the Aesir, who were warrior gods. The following are the key deities of Viking pagan religion –

Odin and Frigg

Odin Symbol
Odin was the king of the gods, like Zeus was to the Greeks – ruler of all things. He was feared/respected by gods and humans alike. As the god of battle, it is said that he caused wars in Midgard (Middle Earth) by throwing his magic spear towards Earth. He was also the god of poetry, inspiring storytellers and poets. Odin had only one eye, sacrificed to gain knowledge and understanding. His horse had eight legs and was called Sleipnir. Two ravens were perched on his shoulders one called Thought and the other called Memory. Every day these birds would fly around the world and when returning would tell Odin what they had seen. Odin's wife was Frigg, known for her kindness and beauty. She looked after the health and welfare of humans, especially children. She had a strong character and could outwit Odin if she so desired.
Thor was the son of Odin and the Earth. He was known for his love of feasts, excessive drinking and ferocious fighting. He had a flaming red beard and long red hair to match his fiery temper. Thor was the god of law and order, he controlled his enemies with his super strength and with his magic hammer called Mjollnir. Thor raced through the skies in a chariot drawn by two giant goats. People thought the sound of thunder was the sound of Thor's chariot wheels.
Frey was the god of fertility. He made the sun shine, the rain fall, and the crops grow. In Sweden, at harvest time, a statue of Frey was pulled around the countryside in a cart. People thought that this would ensure health and their harvests be fruitful. Frey's twin sister, Freya, was the goddess of love and death. Two great cats pulled her chariot through the sky. She had magic powers that allowed her to predict the future and transform herself into many different shapes and disguises.
Loki was the son of two giants, but he was also said to be Odin's blood brother. He could change his shape and become any animal he chose. Loki was handsome and clever, but increasingly became cunning and dishonest. His practical jokes often had terrible consequences.
Giants and Dwarfs
Giants and dwarfs lived in two separate worlds that lay across the ocean from Midgard. Giants were evil and lived in mountains. They often played tricks upon mortals with their magic. Dwarfs lived in caves under the mountains. They were misshapen ugly creatures who were greedy for power, gold and beautiful women. They were skilled goldsmiths.
Nordic Architecture
Not much is known about how the Vikings worshiped their gods and goddesses because any surviving accounts of rituals were not written by Nordic writers, but foreigners like Arab visitors who were Muslim or by Christians who were negative toward pagan religions in general. Christian monks and priests were writing about the Vikings centuries after the Viking religion had died out.
What we do know is mostly from archaeological evidence and that Vikings conducted their religious ceremonies in the open countryside among trees, on hillsides and near springs – places they considered to be holy. Vikings also built temples to worship in. One written account describes a highly decorated building with elaborately carved pillars, golden ornaments and statues of Norse deities. Another document describes a temple which contains a life-size statue of Thor sitting in a chariot pulled by rams. These sites were destroyed by Christians when they converted Scandinavia to Christianity, leaving little evidence to back up the written accounts.
Normally, religious rituals were conducted by the local leader, such as a chieftain or wealthy landlord. They performed sacrifices and rituals on behalf of the people of the community, offering weapons and jewels by throwing them into bogs or rivers. At Uppsala, Sweden and Lejre, Denmark, a huge festival was held every ninth year. Adam, a Christian monk from Bremen, Germany, wrote an account of what took place at the Uppsala festival which lasted nine days and nights. Every day a man and a variety of male animals were sacrificed and their bodies hung on trees in a grove near the temple. At Lejre, 99 men and 99 horses, dogs, and cocks were sacrificed and hung in a sacred grove. Food was also offered to the gods in these places and amulets were hung in the trees along with the sacrificed animals and humans. The center of the ceremony was a stone altar, where the chieftain would perform the prescribed ceremony. The feasts would usually be in a large hall, where guest warriors would hang their weapons and shields on the walls as a sign of peace and goodwill. Guests were entertained by storytellers and by poets called skald who recited poems, sometimes singing them as ballads. Acrobats and other performers would also entertain the host and guests. Wine was a luxury because it was imported, usually from France or Germany – available for the special occasion. A lot of food and ale, including honey mead was available as well.
Vikings prayed to their gods and goddesses in their daily lives, reciting spells, and asking for protection from evil. They believed witches used clippings from a victim's hair or nails to control them. Many people wore charms called amulets to bring them good fortune and counter any evil spell being made against them.
Viking Prophetess Freya
The Vikings also believed in fortune-telling, the art of prophecy, their goddess, Freya, having prophetic powers. Some women who followed/worshipped Freya claimed that they had the gift of prophecy given to them by the goddess as well as the ability to interpret dreams. They journeyed about the countryside often staying at the halls of local leaders. During a religious ceremony, the chief prophetess sat on a platform or a special chair. Her companions chanted sacred songs and spells, so that she could fall into a trance. People believed her soul left her body and flew over the world, giving her insight and wisdom. After the trance session was completed, she would foretell future events and advise how to find happiness and health.
Of course, when it comes to written accounts, it is the sagas of the Vikings that provides us with tales of adventures and battles, as well as something about the gods and goddesses they worshiped. The first sagas to be written were recorded by Christian monks in Iceland in the 12thcentury. Writing performed by the Vikings were written in runes, marks and letters that made up the Nordic written language. The angular shape of runes made it easier to carve or scratch into stones, bones, or wood. The actual Viking alphabet was known as futhark, named so after the sounds of the first six runes. It contained 16 runes, which was not enough for every sound in their language. This made the formation of words difficult.
Viking Cross found in Sweden
The followers of Jesus the Nazarene, called Jesus the Christ, and his disciples that became the apostles after their master's crucifixion, and who established the Christian church, began in Palestine somewhere between 5 BC and AD 29. In the centuries that followed the death of Jesus Christ, Christianity spread rapidly within the Roman Empire that spread over much of the known world. Christianity was almost wiped out in some places beginning in the 4thcentury by migrating tribes and the armies of Islam iv who conquered former lands of the failing Roman Empire. Those Christians who survived persecution traveled about spreading the words of Jesus the Christ and the apostles who were his disciples. They were the first missionaries, and the first churches were established by the apostles and their assistants all over the ancient world.
Missionaries, as they were later called, were sent by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, the first organized church of Christianity, to convert people in the new kingdoms of western Europe. During the 9thand 10thcenturies, missionaries from Rome and Constantinople began spreading the word to the people of central and eastern Europe. Their teachings and evangelism led to converts among people like the Magyrs (Hungary) and the Slaves of eastern Europe and Russia.
Nordic Law Book
The end of the Viking Age came about when Christianity replaced their pagan religion. The first Vikings that came in contact with Christians were probably raiders and traders, who were impressed by the Christian churches and their ceremonies in western Europe. Scandinavians who settled in countries that had been Christianized, like England, Ireland, and France; soon converted to Christianity. Viking merchants found it useful to convert to Christianity because it made them more acceptable by their customers.
It took almost two centuries to convert Scandinavia to Christianity. The first Christians to go there were probably slaves captured on raids, or European merchants who visited towns like Birka and Hedeby. Later missionaries were sent by the Church to all Scandinavian countries on a specific mission to fully convert the populace. Their mission was clear – they could not only preach and teach what Jesus the Christ had taught, but also stop the raids that terrorized the people all over Europe through the Scandinavian conversion to Christianity. Vikings made monasteries and churches their main target on raids because they held relics of gold and other valuables within.
The first missionaries arrived in Denmark in the 8thcentury, their success was, at first, limited. Most were ignored, but the unlucky one were forced into slavery or killed.
In 965, Harald Blue-Tooth, the King of Denmark, became a Christian. Only a few of his subjects followed his example wholeheartedly, but he claimed, as was written on the Jelling Stone in a runic inscription to have made the Danes Christians. The stone included an image of Jesus the Christ. During the reign of Harald's grandson, Cnut (pronounced ka-noot), king of Denmark and England, English missionaries worked steadily to convert the Danes. Eventually the Danish people fully accepted Christianity and, in 1104, a Danish man was made an archbishop, one of the highest ranking clergymen in the Catholic Church.
The Norwegians were persuaded to adopt Christianity by two of their kings, Olaf Tryggvason and Olaf Haraldson. Both kings used threats and violence to force some of their subjects to be baptized. Olaf Haraldson was made the first patron saint of Scandinavia. After his death, people claimed to see miracles at his grave site.
Olaf Tryggvason also used force to persuade settlers in Iceland to become Christians. For example, he threatened to kill any Icelanders living in or visiting Norway unless the islanders converted. Finally after a long debate at the Althing, Christianity became the official religion of the Norwegian state. However, for years after the decision, people on the island secretly worshiped Norse gods.
Sweden was the last country to adopt Christianity. Missionaries were sent by the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to work among the Swedes. King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden was baptized in 1008, and Christianity became the country's official religion. However, just as in Norway, many Swedes continued to secretly worship the traditional Norse deities, keeping the old religion almost 100 years after Christianity became an official religion. Olof caused a public uprising when he ordered his men to cut down the sacred groves where Vikings worshiped. Statues of the Norse gods were taken down and dragged through the streets.
When Christianity first arrived in Scandinavia, the new religion and old religion existed together. Some people just added the Christian god to their list of Norse deities they already worshiped. Viking customs, such as sacrificing humans, killing weak children and burying grave goods with people were soon forbidden. Gradually, Christian churches could be seen all over Scandinavia. It was the beginning of the end of the Viking Age and the Vikings as well.
During the Viking Age, Norway, Sweden and Denmark developed into separate kingdoms, each united under one monarch. People began to see the advantage of this when trade flourished and foreign relations grew, as well as stability.
Denmark was ruled by one king as early as the 9thcentury, but little is known about Harald Blue-Tooth except what has been previously mentioned. It is thought that during his reign, Harald built royal fortresses, using them to reinforce his personal and military power following his defeat by the German emperor in 974 at Danevirke on the southern border of Denmark. Sweyn Forkbeard, Harald's son, grew impatient to inherit the throne, so in 987, he overthrew his father and seized the crown. Harald died soon afterward in exile. Sweyn was a ruthless military leader. He maintained Danish control over Norway and conquered England in 1013. He died a year later.
Sweyn's son, Cnut, inherited the Danish empire from his father in 1014. He was the most powerful king to rule during the Viking Age. He seized part of Sweden and enlarged his kingdom. But when he died in 1035 his empire soon collapsed. Stability returned when Sweyn Estridsson, Cnut's nephew, came to power in 1047.
Norway was united under a single monarch in 880, when Harald Finehair became King of Norway. He was a popular king, celebrated in poems and sagas. Harald's son,Eric Bloodaxe, inherited the throne in 930. Eric was harsh and cruel, and he was soon overthrown and the throne went to his brother, Hakon. But Hakon was killed in 940 in a battle waged by the sons of Eric Bloodaxe, led by one of the sons, Harald Grey-cloak. The victors divided Norway with King Harald acting as overall ruler.
In 995, Harald Finehair's grandson, Olaf Tryggvason, returned to Norway after on raiding expeditions. He drove out Jarl Hakon and seized the throne. Olaf ruled for five years, until he was deposed by Sweyn Forkbeard, King Olof of Sweden and Jarl Hakon's son, Eric Hakon. The battle that followed was fought at sea in longships. When Olaf Tryggvason realized his men were outnumbered and facing defeat, he dove overboard, preferring to drown rather than be captured and humiliated by the enemy. Some stories claim he survived and became a monk in Syria.
After the battle, Norway was shared by the victors. But in 1015 the throne was seized by Olaf Haraldsson. He forced his subjects to convert to Christianity and strengthened his control of the Orkney and Shetland Islands. He also reformed Norway's laws.
In 1028, Olaf and the King of Sweden waged war on Cnut of Denmark. They were defeated by Cnut's army and Olaf was exiled to Russia. He returned to attempt to regain his throne in 1030, but was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad.
In 1035, Olaf Haraldsson's son, Magnus the Good, returned from exile in Russia. The people of Norway chose him to be their king in preference to the Danish king, Cnut. When Magnus died in 1047 without an heir, his uncle, Harald Hardrada (meaning “the ruthless”) became King of Norway. At the age of fifteen, Harald was wounded at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. He escaped to Kiev, where he served in the army of King Yaroslav before joining the Varangian Guardin Constantinople. Harald was a powerful king, but his reign was plagued by conflict within Norway and a war against Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. He was eventually forced to give up the Danish throne, although the Norwegian throne remained in his family for many generations.
Sweden was divided between two people at the beginning of the Viking Age – the Svear and the Gautes. By the 8thcentury, the Svear had become more dominant. The first powerful Swedish king, according to sagas and legend, was Eric the Victorious. He ruled Sweden at the end of the 10thcentury.
Eric's son, Olof Skötkonung, became the ruler in 995 and converted to Christianity in 1008. He tried to make Christianity the official state religion, but most of his subjects still worshiped the Norse deities. His reign was plagued by uprisings. When Olof destroyed the temple at Uppsala, the people rebelled violently.
Norwegian and Danish raiders first appeared off English shores in the early 790s. The inhabitants of England at the time were primarily Anglo-Saxon descendents who adopted Christianity, and were farmers, scholars and craftsmen. This attracted the Norsemen as a place of choice to raid and the rumors of golden loot in monasteries.
In 793, a band of warriors attacked St. Culbert's church on the island of Lindisfarne on the northeast coast of England. Many monks were slaughtered and the church was looted and destroyed. Soon after, similar raids took place at Iona and Jarrow. Most Viking raids took place in the summer months when the weather was good for sailing. The raiders usually attacked in the night or when it was foggy for an element of surprise. They sailed or rowed their longships far inland via rivers and estuaries. Then the ships were beached and the warriors disembarked to began their looting, raping and killing spree. Some captives were taken to be kept or sold as slaves. Raids lasted only a few days, so Vikings were gone by the time reinforcements arrived or a rescue party could be gathered. Raids on England became more frequent, but starting in 851, the tactics of Viking attacks changed. Raiding parties began to stay for the winter and built camps instead of sailing back home after the raid.
In 865, a huge Danish fleet set out to conquer England, the force known as the Great Army, led by the three sons of Ragnar Lodbrok to avenge their father's death. The Great Army landed and began slaughtering the people of East Anglia. The following year they captured York. By 869, they had seized land all over Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. Ragner's sons caught their father's killer, the King of Northumbria, and tortured him to death.
In 870, part of the Great Army, led by a Dane called Guthrum, marched on Wessex, the most powerful kingdom in England at the time. But Alfred, King of Wessex, resisted with his army. After several setbacks, Alfred, after almost being captured by the Vikings, he hid in the Somerset marshes. After that, Alfred reorganized his army and started building fortified positions in towns and a navy of his own. He finally defeated the Danes at the Battle of Edington in 878. After his victory, Alfred was able to force the Danes to accept him as their overlord. He also forced them to become Christians. An area was set aside and established for the Danes to live in accordance with their customs and laws, the place being named Danelaw. It was an area that ran from Chester to London. However, the peace didn't last long and soon Alfred's descendants wanted the Danes off English soil forever. In 926, Alfred's grandson, Athelstan, defeated the Danes at the Battle of Brunanburgh, seized the Danelaw and became the first King of England.
Anglo-Saxon kings ruled England until the reign of Ethelred (978-1016), when a new wave of Viking raids took place. Ethelred was a weak leader and even bribed the Danes with silver to go away. This money was known as Danegold and was raised by taxes. Ethelred soon became desperate and ordered all Danes living on English soil to be killed. Many of them were murdered and this event became known as the Massacre of St. Brice's Day.
Angered by the murder of so many of his countrymen, King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark invaded England in 1013. The Anglo-Saxons offered him the English throne to stop the destruction caused by Viking armies, but Sweyn ruled England for only one year when he died.
Sweyn's son, Cnut of Denmark, became King of England in 1016. He married Ethelred's widow and tried to act like an Anglo-Saxon king. He sent home part of the Danish fleet, kept a bodyguard of only 2,000 men, and used English advisers to help him rule wisely. When Cnut died in 1035, his sons fought each other for the English throne. Harald ruled until 1040, then Harathacnut. But when he died in 1042, Ethelred's son, Edward, became king.
In the late 8thcentury, Norwegian raiding parties sailed west, across the North Sea, looking for new, poorly defended land to raid and plunder. First they reached the Shetland Islands, which were only a one-day voyage from Norway with a good wind in their sail. From there they sailed to other islands, including the Orkneys, the Faroes and the Hebrides. Some raiding parties continued to Scotland, while others ventured south to Wales and Ireland.
Some of the islands in the Atlantic Ocean had originally been discovered and settled by Irish monks in the 6thcentury. But many of these monks fled when the Vikings arrived. The Vikings used those islands for bases from which they would attack Ireland and Scotland. Eventually Norwegians settled in these places they had plundered and lived in peace. They found good agricultural land and prospered there.
Viking Ship
The Faroes became a useful stopping point for Viking explorers and raiders who sailed further west to Iceland, Greenland, and as far as North America.
Raiding parties sailed toward Scotland, plundering islands called Skye and Iona on their way. The monastery of Iona was attacked in 795, 802, and 806 – so the monks finally abandoned it, fleeing to Ireland. Some Viking crews who reached Scotland decided to settle there and started farming the land. Some sent for their families to join them, while others married into the local Pict people, as well as the Scots, an Irish tribe that settled in Scotland in the 6thcentury. In time, people forgot their original origins and considered themselves to be Scots. Later in history, royal families of Scotland and Norway were joined in marriage. Either way, the Viking heritage can be traced not only in Scandinavia, but in Ireland and Scotland as well among the Celtic descendants. It might be why the Scots and Irish became famous (or notorious) for their feisty nature.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is in the Irish Sea and it became a valuable Viking base of operations. On the island, archaeologists have found the grave of a chieftain buried in a boat with his weapons. One legend describes a Norwegian chieftain called Godred Crovan who arrived in 1066, after retreating from the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He became the ruler of the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and other islands, on behalf of the King Norway.
While times changed, and Vikings settled into a more quieter life among the people they had conquered or subdued, it was Christianity, the new religion that changed the pagan world drastically and its traditions becoming extinct, along with the Vikings who now became Danes, Swedes, et cetera. The Vikings who had been converted to Christianity no longer longed for the combative and rowdy ways of the pagan Viking, whose polytheism changed to monotheism and they developed into a more cultured society, unifying under one monarchy. No longer would the feared arrival of Viking ships on the shores of Europe and the Near East occur, while inhabitants sought escape and refuge from a horrible death or slavery, burying their treasures to prevent the Vikings looting it – later to be found by archaeologists in the modern era providing an insight upon the culture and daily life of people in that point in history.
The following Viking Proverb describes the mindset of the average Norseman:
Praise not the day until evening has come; a woman until she is burnt; va sword until it is tried; a maiden until she is married; ice until it has been crossed; beer until it has been drunk.
 Secrets of the Viking Sword

NOTE: Since this article was written, Viking reenactment and Live-Action Role Playing (LARP) where groups can be found in United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and in Scandinavia where the Viking culture began.

i Fjord – A long, narrow inlet of the sea which runs inland between high cliffs. The coastline of Scandinavia has many fjords.
ii Wattle and daub – A type of wall which is made by weaving long, flexible twigs together to form a framework. This framework is then covered with a mixture of straw and mud, which dries into a hard plaster-like covering.
iii If you wondered where the term for the darkest place of purgatory came from, now you know.
iv Beginning in the 7th century after the death of Mohammad the prophet, founder of Islam.
v  “Burnt” meaning the practice of cremation of the dead.

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