10 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Thursday is actually Thor’s day after the Viking god of thunder, while window comes from the Viking term wind’s eye. Did you know that if you didn’t die in Combat as a Viking, you wouldn’t make it to Valhalla to dine with the gods? The Vikings or Norse men, as people called them, are one of history’s most interesting ancestors. They have been mystified in films and TV creating the image of violent people that didn’t seem to enjoy civility as much as their Mediterranean counterparts. However, a closer look at the Vikings brings out a group of very strong people forged through hard times and a tough climate.


 

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Their Heaven Was Not as Peaceful as You May Think

The Viking heaven was also called Valhalla, and it was a very different version of heaven from what Abrahamic religions have. All Viking warriors believed themselves to be the soldiers of Odin, who would dine with him in Valhalla or the hall of Asgard.

Valhalla was believed to be a physical place where the warriors would continue fighting alongside the gods, just as they did on earth. When a warrior wounded in battle entered Valhalla, he/she would have all wounds healed by Odin. Those who didn’t die in battle, such as the sick, the drowned, and the disgraced, would all go to a hell known as Nifleheim to be eaten by beasts.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Not All Vikings Were Blonde

This is one of the most widely peddled Myths about Vikings. However, just like the modern Scandinavian communities, not all Vikings were blonde. However, having pitch-black hair or red hair wasn’t considered appealing to most communities, which is why most of them ended up dying their hair. Their culture of dying their hair blonde may make them one of the few people in those times to have such advanced hair dying technology.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Their Fiercest Warriors were Drug Addicts

The English term for a person out of control is Berserk, which actually originated from a group of ferocious Viking fighters called Berserkers. The Berserkers were first seen on the English shores in the year 900, fighting alongside King Harald Fair Hair. They fought in a trance-driven state, killing everyone in their way and seemingly unaware of the enemy’s weapons.

The Berserkers didn’t even seem to give in to their own wounds as they entered into battle with no shields believing that Odin would protect them. The first assumption was that they were drunk, but recent research has proved that they may have been high on a special kind of mushroom that grew in Norway, which gave them hallucinogenic symptoms.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Onion Soup Was A Powerful Medicine For Them

Onions are one of the most popular spices in the world today, although no one uses them to diagnose wounds anymore. However, when you were a Viking, getting wounded was not a strange occurrence. The Vikings fought and hunted a lot and also had very brutal sports, which is why knowing the severity of wounds was important for them.

Onion soup mixed with other strong-smelling herbs would be given to a wounded person. The physician would then smell the wound, if it smelled of onions, the patient’s fate was sealed, and they wouldn’t waste medicine on them. They believed that onions would only smell out of a wound if a vital organ was injured, and the victim didn’t have a chance of living.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

They Had The Best Early Version Of The Compass

Vikings are still the best voyagers in history, and their navigation skills remain a mystery over 1000 years later. One thing is obvious, though; they carried with them some of the best versions of the compass at the time. Unlike other sailors who relied on stars and the sun to sail, Vikings used a compass to map out their direction at sea and so they could sail in the right direction both day and night.

Their compass was called Uurnatoq, made of a wooden disk, a short upright pin, and a set of glassy stones. They used it to map the position of the sun during the day then track the length of the pin’s shadow, which would guide then to set sail in a straight line. The crystals would help them track the same line even in the dark.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Disabled Children Would Be Abandoned At Birth

The famous Viking king Ivar The Boneless is believed to have been a powerful ruler and warrior, but he may also have been very lucky to have lived to maturity. The Vikings lived in tough times where survival for the fittest was the order of the day and being born a cripple was nearly a death sentence. The sick, the old, and the disabled were considered a burden in the Viking society, and their death wasn’t considered much of a loss. That is why parents didn’t have a problem killing or abandoning their disabled children.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

They Were In America Before Columbus

Christopher Columbus, the famous founder of the new world, landed on American shores in the 16th century while the famous Viking Leif Erikson made his landing over 500 years before that. The Vikings named America Vinland after wine because they found more grapes than anything they had seen in Scandinavia.

They, however, found it hard to coexist with the native Indians who had already lived there for thousands of years. The hostilities forced the outnumbered Vikings to leave the land of wine before making much of an impact. It is unclear why they never came back; maybe the wine wasn’t good enough.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

They Used Pee To Make Fire Starters

Yes! Vikings had a rather gross version of lighters, which would make you prefer firestones. The Viking life involved lots of travelling, sometimes over water, which is why a fire source that could withstand water and glow for long without sparking was vital. The fire starter was made by boiling the famous flaming fungus (tinder fungus), which sparks easily.

The fungus was charred then boiled in urine, which has sodium nitrate. The chemistry meant that sodium nitrate allowed the fungus to glow for a long time without sparking into flames, and it could also be lit easily. It could be called the world’s first quick lighter.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Women Had More Freedom Than Most Mediterranean Societies

Most films and TV shows that portray Vikings in battle tend to display shield maidens fighting alongside the men. It is actually the truth about Vikings, who considered men and women to be equal, and all of them had the right to own property. Viking women also had more freedom in marriage as they were allowed to leave one man for another if one marriage didn’t work out, and they could go with their property into the new marriage.

This level of freedom given to Viking women was vital in the survival of the whole Viking society whose violent lifestyles gave them a short life expectancy of around 40 years. It was also a good lesson for European and Asian cultures on the need to include women in society’s development.

Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

They Were Also Active Slave Traders

Most historical books limit the boundaries of slave trading to European, Asian, and African communities, but that is not entirely true. Vikings were active traders across the globe, and they bought and sold slaves just like any other community. Viking Merchants traded in slaves in Russia, Byzantium, The Middle East, and maybe even China.

Viking slaves could be sacrificed to the gods or be used to provide labour just like other communities. However, unlike the slightly more humane treatment of slaves in other communities, Viking slaves received a less than human treatment as most of them were forced to live in harsh conditions with the animals. Chances of surviving as a Viking slave were also very low as you could be beheaded at any moment.

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