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Warrior Culture and Viking Religion

Discussion in 'European Mythology' started by Domi333, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Domi333

    Domi333 Member

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    Did the Vikings really have a strong warrior cult meaning that people who die in battle go to Valhalla?
    Or has it been exaggerated?
     
  2. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    Unfortunately, the answer isn´t a simple one.

    The idea of the battle-slain going to Valhalla, the Warrior´s Paradise, is found in a 13´th century text called the Edda, nowadays called the Prose Edda, written by one Snorri Sturlson. He was an Icelandic Skald who was the author of a few works, including the Heimskringla (Chronicles of the Kings of Norway), which contains the pseudo-historical-mythic Yngling Saga. The Prose Edda was a collection of various stories from what we now call Norse Mythology, alongside instructions for how to write poetry. He was also, however, a Christian, and by many accounts, a real nasty piece of rat-work, who seemed to play a significant role in Iceland losing independence and becoming part of the Norwegian Kingdom.

    Outside of Sturlson´s work, Valhalla does get mentioned, even in the more authoritative works compiled into what´s called the Poetic Edda, which contains poetry that might actually have been written by Viking-age pre-Christian Icelanders... and keep in mind that those vikings weren´t raiding a whole lot. They were explorers, not pirates. In these contexts, it´s difficult to say exactly what Valhalla is; could easily be just another word for Hel or Niflheim, that is, the place you go when you die. The word "val" in "Valhalla" translates to "wæl" in Old English (æ is pronounced as in modern English father), and roughly means "slain/slaughtered masses". Valhalla could easily have been a reference to any place where a mass slaughter took place, whether in a battle-context or not, and I tend to think of a wælhall as akin to a mosoleum or memorial hall.

    And these works we do have weren´t being written by viking raiders, who, far as I know, left us no written records beyond a few rune-carvings on stones and tools here and there. So, when it comes to what the raiders believed, whether they had such a strong warrior cult and believed in the Warrior´s Paradise, I don´t think we really know for sure at this point. Seeing as the raiders were typically going after monasteries, and thus weren´t really risking life and limb for a good fight but actually slaughtering, raping, and pillaging people who didn´t have much means of fighting back, I kinda doubt that dying in "battle" would have been much of a concern.
     
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  3. Domi333

    Domi333 Member

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    I always took ae as the vowel in rat or cat.
     
  4. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    ...well, we gotta allow for regional accents, don´t we? :p

    Besides, father in Old English is fæder.
     
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  5. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    I wouldn't say exaggerated. There were socio-economic reasons for their warrior culture. It makes sense. There was a population boom, and this meant there were sons & daughters of modestly-wealthy family who didn't have enough inheritance to go around. So, if you've got a sea-faring culture with an advanced knowledge of iron/steel working and just generally good at beating the **** out of everything they see, what do you do?

    You funnel that to conquering your neighbours. A human reservoir broke in the North, and from that came the flood of Norsemen with their dragon-ships, swords, axes and conqueror's spirit. This separates them from the continental & Anglo-Saxon Germanic believers. Tyr remained the King of Asgard for the Continental Saxons, the Germans, and so on. Even in the Anglo-Saxon areas of Britain, Odin/Wotan was more Tyr-like than the Odin you found in Scandinavia.

    The Odin of Scandinavia was very much the God of Death, the God of Battle. The God of War. Not single-combat, War. Tyr was the God of Single-Combat, two men against one another. This can be seen in their weapons of choice. Tyr carried a sword, a weapon of equal use in battle & in duels of honour. But Odin carries a spear, a weapon nigh-useless unless one is in formation. The Macedonians, Spartans & Romans exploited this to great success. This is true regardless of where you hail from, however.

    This shows how differently they began to view their world & faiths, and they changed to suit them.

    I personally follow that strain of the faith, the Norse. But I acknowledge I'm a violent son of a *****, and I don't have a problem with it.
     
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  6. Nietzsche

    Nietzsche The Last Prussian
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    Fee, fie-foe-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman..

    The "fee, fie" stuff is interesting because, to my knowledge, the 'Giant' is basically just going through accents.
     
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  7. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    Huh. Never thought of it that way. I´ll have to look into it. Thanks for pointing it out.
     
  8. vaguelyhumanoid

    vaguelyhumanoid Active Member

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    Yes, there are many warrior gods (and goddesses!) in the Norse pantheon. And yes, it is an honor to go to Valhalla. However, Heathenry often gets presented as this hypermasculine constantly warlike religion and that's really misleading. Freyr is a god of peace, sexuality and the harvest who was one of the most popular Norse gods in pre-Christian times, perhaps rivaled only by Þor. And while Valhalla is a noble place, the hall of Oðinn, that doesn't mean that those claimed by Hel have somehow failed. Only a certain area of Helheim (Nastrond) is described as a punishment and that's a small subset of the larger underworld. Of course, there's also debate over how much of the afterlife structure in the lore is pre-Christian and how much of it is later literary invention and syncretism.
     
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