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Viking warriors

October 21, 2023 7 min read

VIKING WARRIORS | THE SCANDINAVIAN POWER IN COMBAT!

Viking Warriors | The Scandinavian Power in Combat!

The Vikings are the most powerful warriors Europe has ever known. Fighters renowned for their courage, bravery, and ferocity, but above all, for their violence. Nothing and no one could stop them, to the point that the mere mention of them was enough to make their enemies tremble.

The power of the Viking warriors has inspired countless legends over the ages. It is irrefutable that wherever the Vikings went, nothing could resist them. Sometimes compared to bloodthirsty beasts, sometimes to valiant warriors, or even to gods of war, only the vastness of their victories is universally acknowledged.

In this article, you will experience the legends of the origin of the Viking warriors, and the history hidden behind the strength of Europe's most valiant soldiers. Get ready to dive into the greatest Viking sagas that have marked the history of this civilization!

The Origin of a Civilization



The Vikings are a legendary civilization that has left its mark on the history of Europe and the entire world. Their ancestors mingled and fought with the warriors of the Greek and Roman empires, eventually settling in northern Europe. This region came to be known as Scandinavia, or Normandy.

Scandinavia consists of three major dynasties: Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. The people of this legendary region are known as Norman or Scandinavian, both of which mean “the people of the north” or “the men who live in the north of the world.” It is this very people who, later on, proudly adopted the title of Viking.

The Birth of the Viking Warrior Legend

Viking warriors store

 

The glorious Viking Age began around the end of the 700s, a time coinciding with the Scandinavian peoples' expansion across Europe. Historians agree that the year 793 marks the beginning of this era, highlighted by the first Viking raids and pillages in England.

The Vikings' reputation began to spread throughout Europe. Their name took on various meanings:

  • In Old Norse, it means “sea explorer” or “men who row alternately.” This term designated these explorers as eminent warriors and masters of the seas;
  • In Old Icelandic, it comes from the expression “i vikingu,” meaning “going on a raid.” The masculine nominal form of this expression, “vikingr,” means “one who plunders treasures” or “pirate”;
  • A more modern sense defines a Viking as “a warrior or sailor from Scandinavia.”

The Vikings fought fearlessly, with a ferocity that struck terror into the hearts of their opponents' troops. It is from this that the legend of the mighty warriors was born!

The Vikings and Norse Religion


 

Supernatural strength, invulnerable courage, and ultimate bravery even in the face of death are qualities that distinguish Viking warriors from their opponents, making them unbeatable in battle.

The long, cold winters, infertile lands, and harsh climate of the Scandinavian countries helped shape the Vikings' indomitable character. However, the real secret behind the hearts of Viking warriors is their unwavering faith in their religion and Norse deities.

Indeed, the Vikings were a religious people, deeply connected to certain deities. The most notable is Odin, the most powerful Viking god, and the father of all Norse people. He is the god of strength, wisdom, and death, accompanying the Viking warrior throughout their life and protecting them against their foes.

In Norse mythology, Odin is a benevolent god who fights against evil forces and watches over the Vikings through his symbols:

  • The Valknut: the ultimate protection symbol, it frees from fear and enables the Viking to face all challenges;
  • Odin’s horns: provide clarity of vision and the ability to predict opponents' strategies. This way, Viking warriors could counter the enemies' tricks in battle;
  • Magical symbols: the “Aegishjalmur,” also known as “The Helm of Awe,” is an Icelandic magical symbol synonymous with invincibility and invulnerability. Viking warriors customarily drew it on their forehead before each battle. Some even tattooed it on their bodies;
  • The Viking runes or “futhark”: the Viking alphabet. According to Norse mythology, each rune conceals a mystical power that only Odin was able to understand. It is indeed he who gifted the runes to the Vikings.

Viking warriors, in addition to getting tattoos, had the custom of wearing rings, bracelets, or necklaces with symbols of Odin in battle, aiming to acquire his powers.

Another widespread symbol was that of Thor's Mjöllnir hammer, which provides strength and courage to the warrior who wears it.

Artisans with ancestral know-how

Viking Bracelet Found during an archaeological dig

With the strength of the gods by their side, it goes without saying that the Vikings became masters of war. However, the Viking warriors did not just stop there; they had more than one hidden talent to exploit. Most of them were unparalleled artisans mastering numerous skills:

  • Agriculture : The Scandinavian lands are harsh and barren, with winters that can last many long months. Facing these conditions, the Vikings became masters in agriculture, being able to grow any crop in the Nordic cold. This allowed them to cultivate “Flax,” a flower which provides highly useful textile fibers.
  • Carpentry and construction : Viking warships are masterpieces showcasing a unique craftsmanship. Besides wood carving, the Vikings managed to build houses that withstand the cold. Viking shields are also made of wood, but are completely covered in leather to make them more resistant.
  • Forging : With incredible robustness, Scandinavian blacksmiths are known for shaping the best war weapons. Whether it's swords, spears, or axes, only the Vikings mastered this art which is said to be divine in origin.
  • Jewelry making : Scandinavia is a region rich in precious metals (gold, silver, and bronze). The Vikings have become masters in making jewelry, which served a dual purpose for them: to be traded for food and as decorative jewels.

In addition to this, the Vikings were excellent explorers and merchants. Sailing to distant lands, they traded textiles, jewelry, and valuable objects (in gold and silver) of their creation, in exchange for food and supplies for their tribes.

The Jomsvikings: the elite of the Viking warriors

The Jomsvikings: the elite of the Viking warriors

The Jomsvikings are described by numerous sagas as the most powerful Viking warriors. They are a brotherhood of independent mercenaries, not belonging to any Viking kingdom. Their headquarters is located at Jomsborg : a fortress whose exact location remains unknown to this day.

The Jomsvikings exclusively worship the gods Odin and Thor. According to legends, these gods are the source of their unparalleled strength, described as incomparable and inhuman. Such power led many to be skeptical, considering the Jomsvikings nothing more than a legend.

However, numerous historical sagas recount their existence:

  • The Jomsviking Saga : This tells the story of the creation of the Jomsvikings by Palnatóki, a Viking hero of legendary power.
  • The Saga of King Olaf 1st : He was an ancient king of Norway. He is said to have encountered the Jomsvikings during his many adventures and to have enlisted their services.
  • The Flateyjarbók : This is a collection of history and royal sagas written in the year 1300, the richest of the Icelandic manuscripts. It contains numerous sagas that trace the history of the Jomsvikings.

Despite the fact that the Jomsvikings were just a band of mercenaries, they had a code of honor dictating a strict line of conduct. It is this code that made these Viking warriors so formidable in battle:

    • Only Viking men over the age of 18 could join. The only exception to this rule was Palnatóki's grandson, “VagnÅkesson”. At the age of 12, he already surpassed many warriors;
  • The Jomsvikings must show no fear and must not retreat from any enemy;
  • They are obliged to help and protect each other in battle;
  • A member of the Jomsvikings cannot desert the brotherhood under any circumstances.
  • The Jomsvikings fought in many battles under various banners, but the most glorious of their victories was the war against King Harald 1st of Denmark. A dictatorial king who was defeated by the Jomsvikings' leader, Styrbjörn the Strong, who brought peace to Scandinavia.

    The Berserkers: The Incarnation of Divine Power

    Viking Berserker, The fierce warriors

    In Norse mythology, there is a special class of Viking warriors who can invoke a portion of the destructive power of the god Odin. These wild warriors enter a state of sacred fury. Their strength can be multiplied to the point of destroying an army with their bare hands. These warriors are called Berserkers.

    “Berserker” means “bear coat” or “bare-chested” in Old Norse. Thus, the berserkers are Viking warriors who are over 2 meters tall, wearing nothing but a bear skin in battle.

    The berserker embodies the animal spirit of the bear. There are two other classes of these Viking warriors: the “ulfhednars”, who have the spirit of the wolf, and the “svinfylkingars”, who are boar warriors.

    The Berserkers are warriors of Odin. They invoke his power to reach this altered state where their animal spirit takes control. In this state, they become nearly invincible:

    • They are animated by an animal fury: they emit beastly roars and wish to tear everything in their path;
    • Weapons can no longer harm them: the animal skin they wear, combined with their trance state, provides them resistance against ordinary weapons;
    • They destroy everything in their path: in this state they no longer differentiate between allies and enemies;
    • They have superhuman strength.

    This murderous frenzy is called berserkergangr: the fury of Odin. Some recent studies suggest that the Berserkers ingested a special preparation to unleash their rage, made from rare psychotropic plants.

    Many sagas and historical sources mention the berserkers, including “The Battle of Hafrsfjord” in Hornklofi, and “The Saga of Saint Olaf” in the Heimskringla.

    Women Warriors: The Warrior of Birka

    Women Warriors: The Warrior of Birka

    In Viking culture, the greatest honor for a warrior is to die in battle. Then, they can have the honor of being welcomed by Odin in Valhalla, the Viking paradise.

    That’s why the Scandinavian civilization customarily buried Viking warriors with their weapons, jewelry, and all their trophies: so they could take them to Odin’s dwelling.

    The Birka Tomb, discovered in 1878, is a 10th-century funerary chamber housing a great Viking warrior. At least, that’s what was believed until 2017. A genetic test determined that the DNA from the bones in this tomb belongs to a woman.

    The Birka tomb was therefore dedicated to a Viking woman, a woman who was buried with the regalia of a Viking war chief, a distinction only given to very high-ranking Viking warriors. This discovery has overturned historians' perceptions of Viking civilization and the role that women played in their wars.

    Many literary sagas attest that Viking women were great warriors. This is evident in the Laxdæla Saga, and especially in the Saga of Hervor and King Heidrekr. This discovery only confirms these myths.

    Viking women have always played a central role in Viking culture, as well as in wars, embodying the "Völva": a female magician with divinatory powers. This gift, bestowed by the goddess Freya, allowed them to predict their enemies' strategies.


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