Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A-Z: Vikings.

As some people might have figured out by now I am from Denmark which by most people is mainly known for Bacon, Carlsberg and Vikings... (And as the capital of Ikea by most of the Americans I have met)
Alright so here goes:
Bacon! First off it seems that we export all our good bacon to England and keep all the shite stuff for ourselves. When we go on holiday to visit my loving mother-in-law she enjoys making bacon-butties for me with loads of nice crispy meatful bacon and although she buys one of the cheapest brands she can find, it still tastes loads better than the crap we can get at home and get this... it is all danish bacon.
Carlsberg: So every other nation in the world seems to enjoy this liquid, I on the other hand do not. Carlsberg is for me what Stella Antois is for brits, something moderately cheap that I associate with terrible family parties and have friends that still insist on buying because it is cheap enough to get drunk on, but not quite as bad as the stuff you buy in Lidl or Aldi.
Vikings: Now I don't know why it is generally believed that all danish men are 6.2 tall and blond (Maybe watching too many movies) but that is really not the case. I guess every country has that one thing that everyone always associates them with and which can drive you absolutely mental when you go abroad. Vikings are that thing for me. Now I feel the need to educate some of those people reading this who might be lead to think that me and my family are all big burly people who eat mushrooms and go berserk at any given time. (although it would make the family parties that much more fun)
I am 5.5, my sister is 5.3... My brother might be 6 foot but he is as skinny as a stick and is as likely to be able to survive a battle situation as I am to ever buy a Bacardi breezer. Here are some more misconceptions taken from Wiki that should set some thing straight for you.

Common misconceptions concerning the Vikings

Horned helmets

Apart from two or three representations of (ritual) helmets – with protrusions that may be either stylised ravens, snakes or horns – no depiction of Viking Age warriors' helmets, and no preserved helmet, has horns. In fact, the formal close-quarters style of Viking combat (either in shield walls or aboard "ship islands") would have made horned helmets cumbersome and hazardous to the warrior's own side.
Therefore historians believe that Viking warriors did not use horned helmets, but whether or not such helmets were used in Scandinavian culture for other, ritual purposes remains unproven. The general misconception that Viking warriors wore horned helmets was partly promulgated by the 19th century enthusiasts of Götiska Förbundet, founded in 1811 in Stockholm, Sweden. They promoted the use of Norse mythology as the subject of high art and other ethnological and moral aims.
The Vikings were often depicted with winged helmets and in other clothing taken from Classical antiquity, especially in depictions of Norse gods. This was done in order to legitimise the Vikings and their mythology by associating it with the Classical world which had long been idealised in European culture.
The latter-day mythos created by national romantic ideas blended the Viking Age with aspects of the Nordic Bronze Age some 2,000 years earlier. Horned helmets from the Bronze Age were shown in petroglyphs and appeared in archaeological finds (see Bohuslän and Vikso helmets). They were probably used for ceremonial purposes.[52]
Cartoons like Hägar the Horrible and Vicky the Viking, and sports uniforms such as those of the Minnesota Vikings and Canberra Raiders football teams have perpetuated the mythic cliché of the horned helmet.
Viking helmets were conical, made from hard leather with wood and metallic reinforcement for regular troops. The iron helmet with mask and chain mail was for the chieftains, based on the previous Vendel-age helmets from central Sweden. The only true Viking helmet found is that fromGjermundbu in Norway. This helmet is made of iron and has been dated to the 10th century.

Use of skulls as drinking vessels

The use of human skulls as drinking vessels—another common motif in popular pictorial representations of the Vikings—is also ahistorical. The rise of this legend can be traced to Ole Worm's Runer seu Danica literatura antiquissima (1636), in which Danish warriors drinking ór bjúgviðum hausa[from the curved branches of skulls, i.e. from horns] were rendered as drinking ex craniis eorum quos ceciderunt [from the skulls of those whom they had slain]. The skull-cup allegation may also have some history in relation with other Germanic tribes and Eurasian nomads, such as the Scythiansand Pechenegs, and the vivid example of the Lombard Alboin, made notorious by Paul the Deacon's History.
There may also be some confusion between "skull" and the Norse/Icelandic word for a drinking cup, skál. This is a common toast in Scandinavian countries.


The image of wild-haired, dirty savages sometimes associated with the Vikings in popular culture[clarification needed] is a distorted picture of reality.[1] Non-Scandinavian Christians are responsible for most surviving accounts of the Vikings and, consequently, a strong possibility for bias exists. This attitude is likely attributed to Christian misunderstandings regarding paganism. Viking tendencies were often misreported and the work of Adam of Bremen, among others, told largely disputable tales of Viking savagery and uncleanliness.[53]
The Anglo-Danes were considered excessively clean by their Anglo-Saxon neighbours, due to their custom of bathing every Saturday and combing their hair often. To this day, Saturday is referred to as laugardagur / laurdag / lørdag / lördag, "washing day" in the Scandinavian languages. Icelanders were known to use natural hot springs as baths, and there is a strong sauna/bathing culture in Scandinavia to this day.
As for the Vikings in the east, Ibn Rustah notes their cleanliness in carrying clean clothes, whereas Ibn Fadlan is disgusted by all of the men sharing the same, used vessel to wash their faces and blow their noses in the morning. Ibn Fadlan's disgust is possibly because of the contrast to thepersonal hygiene particular to the Muslim world at the time, such as running water and clean vessels. While the example intended to convey his disgust about certain customs of the Rus', at the same time it recorded that they did wash every morning.


  1. Skulls as drinking vessels!? You got to love vikings and their horned helms, fur wraps and ragged beards.

    1. That is another falsehood that vikings wore those helmets with the horns upright. It is very unlikely that any one else but the chieftan of the klan would have worn it as horns were far too valuable to be used for stuff like that.

  2. I love Viking mythology (the stuff not tainted by Christian bias as you say). I have also heard that they were one of the very few cultures that let women inherit land in their own right rather than it passing the their closet male relative.

    1. Trueism indeed. Vikings felt that the woman was usually the better carer for the home and valuables. I love Norse Myths because they are so brutal!