Unlike the losers from yesterday, the Norsemen (called Vikings when they were away on their marauding voyages) who died at home or in battle were buried with rituals that are gruesome by today’s standards. Burials were either in mounds or ships. The dead, men and women, were buried with their possessions (clothing, weapons, and jewelry) and food for their journey. Wealthy Norsemen could be buried in ships that were either buried or set on fire. Sometimes, their dogs, horses, and servants were killed and sent on the voyage with the deceased. Some Norsemen were buried in ship-shaped graves.
The Vikings believed that those who displayed bravery on the battlefield would receive the greatest reward after death. Odin sent the Valkyries, his female warriors, to the battlefields where they gathered the fallen heroes and them to Asgard to the gods Odin and Freyja were they fought and feasted until Ragnarokk, the twilight of the Gods. Worthy peasants and thralls (slaves) who died were taken to serve in Thor’s hall, Bilskirnir. Some fate to look forward to for all eternity, if you were a peasant or thrall.
Tomorrow, Story Time. Rita Bay
In 793 AD the Norsemen first attacked the coast of Britain at Lindisfarne, an island off the coast of Northumbria and home to the wealthy Lindisfarne Abbey. Viking raiders carried away plunder and monks to be sold as slaves. Simeon of Durham in his Historia Regnum describes the attack:
“In the same year the pagans from the northern regions came with a naval force to Britain like stinging hornets and spread on all sides like fearful wolves, robbed, tore and slaughtered not only beasts of burden, sheep and oxen, but even priests and deacons, and companies of monks and nuns. And they came to the church of Lindisfarne, laid everything waste with grievous plundering, trampled the holy places with polluted steps, dug up the altars and seized all the treasures of the holy church. They killed some of the brothers, took some away with them in fetters, many they drove out, naked and loaded with insults, some they drowned in the sea…”
The Norse and Danish raids became annual terrors and spread to the western coast of Scotland, England and Ireland. Like the Saxons in southern England, the Vikings decided to stay and set up kingdoms in Viking York and Dublin in Ireland. The area in England that was conquered by the Vikings was called the Danelaw.
Their mythology was very complicated with nine worlds inhabited by dwarves, elves, giants, gods, human. Their universe had evolved from a world of fire and ice. The branches of an ash tree named Yggdrasil covered the known world and supported the universe. Ygdrasil had three roots going to each of the 3 levels of the world. Three springs supplied it with water. One root went into Asgard, the home of the gods, another went into the land of the giants, Jotunheim, and a third went to that primeval world of ice, darkness, and the dead, known as Niflheim. Everything considered, their world was not a happy place. Valhalla will be featured in a couple of days.
Tomorrow, Skalds & Saga Rita Bay