The Vikings are nicely-identified for preventing and exploring, but faith and ritual practices had been an enormous a part of their tradition and on a regular basis life. Their non secular beliefs included many various gods and goddesses, a lot in order that it’s thought-about a “non-doctrinal neighborhood faith.” Which means their beliefs and rituals diversified amongst folks.

Though all of them had the identical gods and beliefs, there have been no set practices that needed to be adopted and folks worshiped solely the gods that had been related to their lives. Vikings additionally worshiped their useless ancestors, communicated with spirits, practiced divination and sorcery, and had all kinds of burial practices. This resulted in a wide range of formality practices, each inside and between communities.

The Vikings handed on data by oral historical past fairly than writing issues down. Thus, accounts from the Viking period had been both written by outsiders, who might not have totally understood what they had been witnessing or being instructed, or written lengthy after the Viking interval had handed.

Descriptions of rituals are typically conflicting, doubtlessly inaccurate, or made up, both to color Vikings in a foul gentle or to inform a extra tantalizing story. But listed below are 10 rituals which are usually thought-about to have been practiced by the Vikings.

10 Blot Sacrifice

The blot was a sacrifice practiced to realize the goodwill of the gods. These rituals had been carried out in massive teams on the property of the native chief who functioned as a priest in the course of the ceremony. They had been each a method for folks to honor the gods and for the chiefs to indicate off their wealth.

A blot supposedly occurred at 4 fastened occasions a yr, near winter solstice, spring equinox, summer season solstice, and autumn equinox. They’d even have extra ones in the event that they had been having issues, like a foul harvest.

Within the thirteenth century, Snorri Sturluson wrote an in depth description of a blot carried out by Sigurd Hakonsson. He mentioned that each one the native farmers gathered on the temple. There, they sacrificed many animals, largely horses, and cooked the meat. Twigs had been used to spray blood from the animals across the temple and on the individuals.[1]

The cooked meat and glasses of beer had been blessed by the chief. Whereas ingesting the beer, they toasted to Odin and different gods. Lastly, they toasted to their useless ancestors.

A special story was instructed by the Arab al-Tartuchi who visited Hedeby, Germany, throughout winter solstice. He mentioned that folks from across the space got here collectively to feast and anybody who sacrificed an animal caught it on stakes in entrance of their farm.

9 Human Sacrifice

Although not a standard a part of Viking life, human sacrifice was practiced at occasions. As acknowledged, tales from the Viking interval are usually not all the time dependable, however archaeological stays point out that human sacrifice did occur sometimes.

Within the eleventh century, Adam of Bremen wrote concerning the Vikings primarily based on secondhand accounts. He talked a couple of custom practiced at Uppsala, Sweden, each 9 years initially of spring. This ritual lasted 9 days, with a feast and sacrifice on daily basis. There have been 9 sacrifices every day for a complete of 81 sacrifices.

Every day, they sacrificed a male human and eight male animals. The our bodies had been hung from timber in a sacred grove that was subsequent to the temple wherein the ritual was carried out. This custom was practiced to honor Odin and safe victory within the coming yr. Though they usually sacrificed criminals or slaves, they as soon as sacrificed a king at Uppsala throughout a time of maximum famine.[2]

In Snorri Sturluson’s saga, he says that they appeased the gods by sacrificing numerous oxen one fall within the seventh century. When that didn’t work, they sacrificed a gaggle of males the subsequent yr. The next yr, they blamed the king for the continued famine and sacrificed him, protecting the altar in his blood.

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8 Yuletide Celebrations


Yuletide, spelled “Jol” in Previous Norse, was the title for the interval between the winter solstice and the blot related to it, which is purported to have occurred on January 12. It’s unsure precisely why Yuletide was celebrated, although it might have been to honor the useless, to obtain good luck within the new yr, to rejoice the Solar and light-weight as the times had been getting longer, or to honor Thor as he was the god who protected the world from the darkness.

The precise rituals adopted are additionally unclear, however texts check with it as “ingesting Jol.” Thus, ingesting alcohol was in all probability a big a part of the celebration. There was additionally a feast that lasted for 3 days and nights with video games and singing.

Vikings would make a big solar wheel (a round image with a cross within the center), set it on fireplace, and roll it down a hill to get the Solar to return. They made Yuletide logs from massive items of oak, adorned them with yew, holly, or fir, and carved runes into them. This was their method of asking the gods for cover, and a small piece was stored till the subsequent Yuletide to guard the household and begin the primary fireplace of the brand new yr.

They adorned evergreen timber with meals, garments, and carvings of runes and gods to get the tree spirits to return in spring. Younger folks would gown up in goat skins to characterize the goats that pulled the wagon that Thor rode by the sky. Then they might go from home to accommodate to sing and carry out performs in change for meals and drinks.[3]

7 Berserkers And Ulfhednar

Vikings are nicely-identified for his or her battle fury, and there was nothing extra terrifying than their berserkers and ulfhednar. Each had been the results of shamanistic battle rituals, however they took on completely different totem animals. Berserkers (“bear-shirts”) had been those that turned bear-males and ulfhednar (“wolf-hides”) turned wolf-males.

Generally sporting nothing however animal furs and heads, these males would go to battle, utilizing their naked palms and tooth to battle as an alternative of weapons and shields. Others would get so labored up that they might begin biting down on their very own shields. In keeping with legends, in addition they felt no ache and stored preventing regardless of being badly injured.

To achieve this state in battle, they first needed to be a part of the ranks of their fellow fighters. To do that, they might dwell within the wild like their totem animal. This may strip them of their humanity and permit them to tackle their animal’s energy.

There have been possible many methods used to succeed in the frenzied state for which they had been well-known on the battlefield, together with publicity to excessive warmth, ritual weapon dances, and fasting. This might trigger a self-induced hypnotic trance, leading to them dropping their sense of ache and aware management of their actions.[4]

It has additionally been theorized that they used psychedelic mushrooms or a toxic fungus to succeed in a state of delirium earlier than battle. Nevertheless, these have by no means been talked about in sagas and several other of the strains proposed would both have been too toxic or would have resulted in apathy and melancholy, the alternative of a battle frenzy.

6 Tooth Modification

Vikings put nice effort into their look with practices corresponding to bleaching their hair with lye, combing it usually, and ironing their garments with scorching rocks. Nevertheless, archaeologists have pretty just lately found that Vikings additionally modified their tooth.

Skeletons present indicators of intentional modifications within the type of horizontal strains carved into the higher entrance tooth. The researchers imagine that the grooves had been stuffed in with dye, most probably pink. This apply was not seen anyplace else in Europe on the time.

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This may occasionally have been a ritual carried out by warriors to incite concern in these they had been about to assault or as an emblem of an achievement. Nevertheless, there aren’t any written information about this apply. Consequently, additional details about this ritual and any related traditions are nonetheless unknown.[5]

5 Cremation Rituals

The Vikings had many various methods of disposing of the useless, which included cremation. The ashes could possibly be buried in graves, beneath piles of rocks, or typically with grave items. The ashes may be burned with a ship, although this was reserved for top-rating members of society as ships had been costly.

An outline of a Viking ship cremation was written by the Arab Ahmad Ibn Fadlan within the tenth century. He instructed of the therapy of a chief from the Rus Vikings.

After his dying, the chief’s physique was left in a grave for 10 days whereas they made new garments for him. A slave lady was chosen to be sacrificed with him and was then stored drunk and wearing fantastic clothes.

On the tenth day, the chief’s ship was pulled as much as land and crammed with costly furnishings, drinks, meals, weapons, and animals. The slave lady needed to go to every tent of their settlement and have intercourse with the person in cost. Afterward, he instructed her, “Inform your lord I’ve accomplished this out of affection for him.”[6]

When the lady was able to get on the ship, the boys who had slept along with her held their palms collectively, forming a type of walkway for her to stroll throughout. The chief was already on the ship.

She went into his room, the place six of the boys adopted and had intercourse along with her once more. Afterward, they laid her down subsequent to her grasp and a lady got here in, giving the boys a rope with which to strangle the lady. In the meantime, the lady repeatedly stabbed the lady within the ribs. The ship was then set on fireplace.

4 Warding Off Draugr

Draugr (aka aptrgangr) and haugbui had been the Vikings’ variations of recent-day zombies. As soon as an individual was buried, it was believed that his corpse could be animated once more. The haugbui would dwell innocently in its barrow, defending its grave items from grave robbers. Nevertheless, a draugr would wander out of its barrow and hurt any people it might.

To forestall this, many precautions had been taken when burying a physique. Items of straw could be positioned in crosses beneath the shroud whereas a pair of open scissors was positioned throughout the chest. The deceased’s huge toes had been tied collectively in order that it couldn’t stroll, and nails had been pressed into the foot soles.

When the coffin was carried out of the home, the bearers would cease earlier than strolling out the door to decrease and lift the coffin thrice in several instructions, creating the form of a cross. Generally, the useless particular person was carried out of a home by a particular “corpse-door,” a gap within the wall coated in bricks. It might be torn open to take away the deceased after which put again collectively.[7]

Vikings thought that the useless might solely return the identical method that they got here. Consequently, the deceased wouldn’t have the ability to enter the home. The physique would even be carried out toes first in order that it couldn’t correctly see which route they took to the burial mound.

When the coffin was out of the home, all of the jars, saucepans, and any chairs and stools beforehand utilized by the deceased had been turned the wrong way up. If the useless had been buried in a churchyard, the parson was meant to bind the useless to their graves with magic phrases.

3 Marriage ceremony Ceremonies

Earlier than a marriage, the bride would take away her kransen, a gilt circlet worn by unwed girls with their hair unfastened. She would possible exchange this with a marriage crown, and her kransen could be saved for her future daughter.

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The groom must purchase a sword from one among his ancestors. It’s unsure whether or not this was accomplished by breaking into the grave of a useless ancestor and taking the sword, breaking right into a pretend grave ready for this event, or asking a residing relative for his sword. Throughout the ceremony, the groom would carry his sword and probably a hammer or axe to represent Thor. Neither the bride nor groom wore particular wedding ceremony garments.

The marriage could be held on a Friday because it was Frigg’s day. (Frigg was a goddess of fertility.) The ceremony would begin by getting the gods’ consideration, probably by sacrificing or dedicating an animal to one of many gods.

Throughout the ceremony, the groom would give the sword from his ancestor to the bride in order that she might hold it for his or her future son. In flip, she would give the groom a sword. They’d then change rings and vows.[8]

After the ceremony, they might head to a corridor to feast. Right here, the groom would assist his bride over the brink earlier than he plunged his sword right into a pillar. The deeper it went in, the extra luck and youngsters they might have. The couple needed to share some bridal ale (normally mead) that night time and for the subsequent month.

On the finish of the feast, the couple could be accompanied to mattress in order that witnesses might testify that their union had been consummated. The following morning, the bride’s hair could be tied up and coated with a material to indicate her standing as a spouse. The groom would then give her the keys to his home.

2 Toddler Rituals

When a child was born, a few rituals had been wanted for the toddler to be thought-about an actual particular person. Earlier than this, the infant was not thought-about a human but, in all probability as a method for folks to guard themselves emotionally as toddler mortality was so excessive.

When the infant was born, he was positioned on the bottom till the daddy picked up the kid and positioned him inside the daddy’s coat. This symbolized that the daddy accepted that the infant was his baby.

He would then examine the kid. If the infant had any issues, he could be left uncovered to die. If he was wholesome, they might carry out a ceremony referred to as ausa vatni wherein they sprinkled water over the infant.

At this level, the kid could be named in a ceremony referred to as nafnfesti. For this, the daddy would state the kid’s title and provides him a present. The items normally consisted of issues corresponding to a hoop, weapon, or a farm or land deed. After this, the kid might now not be topic to publicity as it could then be thought-about homicide.[9]

1 The Blood Eagle

Popularized by the TV present Vikings, this gory technique of execution was probably dedicated in actual life, too. The blood eagle consisted of the sufferer being positioned facedown and restrained. An eagle was carved into his again, after which the ribs had been severed from the backbone with an axe.

The ribs and the pores and skin round them had been pulled outward to characterize the wings of the eagle. Subsequent, salt was rubbed into the wound. (The sufferer was nonetheless alive at this level.) Then the lungs had been pulled out of the physique and stretched throughout the ribs.

Because the sufferer died, the lungs had been fluttering within the wind, harking back to a chicken’s wings. That is purportedly the tactic used to kill King Aella of Northumbria in AD 867.[10]


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