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Gamla Uppsala ca. 1934
Photo by Oscar Bladh
Ok, first I must admit something to you all.  I have been obsessed with History Channel’s Vikings series since it first aired.  Like most shows that come from Hollywood, it has many historical inaccuracies and uses creative license with both the characters and story of Ragnar Lodbrok. Yet it is finally a show about Vikings that includes information about their lives, religion, and warfare that is not low budget, or completely laughable.   I have written a couple of diaries on history here for Daily Kos, and history has long been my passion.  So, I have decided to start this weekly diary series, discussing the history of the Norse people, and all aspects of their society.  The topic for this first installment will be Uppsala.  

Uppsala, or more properly Gamla Uppsala in modern times, is an enigmatic place with a long history as being sacred among the Norse.  It is thought to be the site of an ancient Norse Temple to the Aesir.  Though, no archaeological evidence exists to back up historical texts regarding the temple.  One of the challenges for Archaeologists in excavating Gamla Uppsala is that much of the area was heavily farmed and the repeated plowing of land likely destroyed quite a bit of the archaeological record. Yet, many treasures have been found there.  

Much of the knowledge regarding Uppsala comes from the writings of Adam of Bremen, a Christian author of the 11th century who recorded accounts of people he had talked to that had been there.  Though his writings are steeped in religious bias and seek to portray the Norse as barbarians who sacrificed constantly to appease their bloodthirsty gods, they are one of the only records that exist that mention the Temple at uppsala.   This is often a problem when studying pagan peoples and their religions, as most of these societies did not keep historical records, but relied on oral histories to preserve the words of their gods and ancestors.  But, this is a topic for a future diary when we can more thoroughly explore the Norse religion.  

 In this temple, entirely decked out in gold, the people worship the statues of three gods in such wise that the mightiest of them, Thor, occupies a throne in the middle of the chamber; Odin and Freyr have places on either side. The significance of these gods is as follows: Thor, they say, presides over the air, which governs the thunder and lightning, the winds and rains, fair weather crops. The other, Odin-that is, the Furious-carries on war and imparts to man strength against his enemies. The third is Freyr, who bestows peace and pleasure on mortals. His likeness, too, they fashion with an immense phallus. But Odin they chisel armed, as our people are wont to represent Mars. Thor with his scepter apparently resembles Jove. The people also worship heroes made gods, whom they endow with immortality because of their remarkable exploits, as one reads in the Vita of Saint Ansgar they did in the case of King Eric.

A golden chain goes round the temple. It hangs over the gable of the building and sends its glitter far off to those who approach, because the shrine stands on level ground with mountains all about it like a theater solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted.

The sacrifice is of this nature: of every living thing that is male, they offer nine heads,4 with the blood of which it is customary to placate gods of this sort. The bodies they hang in the sacred grove that adjoins the temple. Mow this grove is so sacred in the eyes of the heathen that each and every tree in it is believed divine because of the death or putrefaction of the victims. Even dogs and horses hang there with men. A Christian seventy-two years old told me that he had seen their bodies suspended promiscuously. Furthermore, the incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly; therefore, it is better to keep silence about them.

Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum

* Please note that I have changed the names from the German names of the deities used by Adam of Bremen to the Norse names to make them more familiar for readers.

Olaus Magnus Historia om de nordiska folken. Bok 3 - Kapitel 6 - Om ett härligt tempel helgadt åt de nordiska gudarna. - Utgivningsår 1555.
Olaus Magnus Woodcarving of Uppsala Temple ca. 1555

This gives us a bit of understanding visually of what a temple in Gamla Uppsala may have looked like. It is also the basis for the History Channel’s representation of Uppsala in Season 1 Episode 8.  While no archaeological evidence has been unearthed to support Adam’s account, the Ynglinga Saga has the following to say of Uppsala:
Frey took the kingdom after Njord, and was called drot by the
Swedes, and they paid taxes to him.  He was, like his father,
fortunate in friends and in good seasons.  Frey built a great
temple at Upsal, made it his chief seat, and gave it all his
taxes, his land, and goods.  Then began the Upsal domains, which
have remained ever since....

[Domald, son of Visbur] As in his time there was great famine and distress,
the Swedes made great offerings of sacrifice at Upsal.  The first
autumn they sacrificed oxen, but the succeeding season was not
improved thereby.  The following autumn they sacrificed men, but
the succeeding year was rather worse.  The third autumn, when the
offer of sacrifices should begin, a great multitude of Swedes
came to Upsal; and now the chiefs held consultations with each
other, and all agreed that the times of scarcity were on account
of their king Domald, and they resolved to offer him for good
seasons, and to assault and kill him, and sprinkle the stalle of
the gods with his blood.  And they did so.  Thjodolf tells of
this: --

     "It has happened oft ere now,
     That foeman's weapon has laid low
     The crowned head, where battle plain,
     Was miry red with the blood-rain.
     But Domald dies by bloody arms,
     Raised not by foes in war's alarms --
     Raised by his Swedish liegemen's hand
     To bring good seasons to the land." .

The Ynglinga Saga

A brief word about the sagas:  The sagas are the written accounts of skald Snorri Sturluson, and were recorded around 1225 C.E. in Iceland.  These are the oral traditions passed down for generations, and as such the validity of them has been questioned.    In his introduction to the Prose Edda, Arthur Brodeur writes:
"The materials at Snorri's disposal…were: oral tradition; written genealogical records; old songs or narrative lays such as Thiodolf's Tale of the Ynglings and Eyvind's Haloga Tale; poems of court poets, i.e., historic songs, which people knew by heart all from the days of Hairfair down to Snorri's own time. 'And most store,… set by that which said in such songs as were sung before the chiefs themselves or the sons of them; and we hold all that true which is found in these songs concerning their wayfarings and their battles.' Of the written prose sources he drew upon he only mentions Ari the Learned's 'book,' . . . probably, as it seems to us, because in the statements of that work he had as implicit a faith as in the other sources he mentions, and found reason to alter nothing therein, while the sources he does not mention he silently criticises throughout, rejecting or altering them according as his critical faculty dictated.

The Prose Edda - Introduction

Gamla Uppsala - Ca. 2000
Photo by OlofE

Yet what Archaeologists have discovered is that Uppsala was far more than just a temple. Burial mounds scatter the countryside around Gamla Uppsala.  It is estimated that thousands are buried within these mounds, but three central mounds, known as the “Royal Mounds” are most prominent of all.   These mounds are of particular interest because three of the kings in The Ynglinga Saga: Aun, Egil and Adilsv, are said to be buried in Uppsala.  Excavated in the 1840s, these mounds provided a wealth of information about the lives of the Norse buried there, but little about who they were.  The bones are not possible to study, because like many of the remains found in Gamla Uppsala, the bodies were cremated before interment.  This is one of the problems when studying the Norse through archaeological records as cremation was a common practice, so much of the material remains are lost.  There were however many gold items in these mounds, which lends credibility to the idea that the remains within these three giant mounds were of wealthier individuals.

Excavation of the Royal Mounds in 1874.
Photo by Henri Osti

Swedish archaeologists excavating the ruins describe Gamla Uppsala as a central place--place of prominence where people gathered from all over for religious, political and economic purposes. Last year, archaeologists excavated a large portion of the grounds and unearthed evidence that Gamla Uppsala held many permanent residents as well as temporary visitors. They discovered artifacts of everyday life in this important location, which helps piece together a picture of a Viking central place, with hundreds of buildings. They unearthed remains from all walks of life which help to provide clarity to how the ancient Norse people lived and played. The archaeologists have this to say of the Ancient cult:

Gamla Uppsala is often linked to a golden pagan temple, consecrated to the gods Odin, Thor and Freyr, with worship involving animals and humans sacrificed to the gods. This is according the German church historian Adam of Bremen, who described the cult in the 1070s.
Now archaeologists have found traces of a more everyday cult, including animal bones deposited, or sacrificed underground.

The most striking feature comprised the large number of iron amulet rings found on the settlement as well as adjacent to the graves. Some of these amulets are in the form of strike alights, on which pendants were attached, for example miniature sickles.
Amulet rings, usually iron, are quite common on settlements in The Mälaren region, but usually only two or three on the same site. In Gamla Uppsala, about 80 have been found, complete or fragmented.

Arkeologi Gamla Uppsala

I highly recommend that archaeological site for a thorough explanation of the material records found at this amazing site.  They also have pictures linked within their text of all the artifacts which is a great resource for anyone interested in the lives of the ancient Vikings. There has been a great deal more found at this site than I could mention in this article, and the site lists even more interesting discoveries, such as ship graves and an extensive list of items recovered.  

 As for the History Channel’s portrayal of Uppsala, it is an interesting episode.  I thought the most powerful episode of the first season.  As interesting as I found their portrayal of the temple to be, I find the historical and archaeological records far more fascinating.  

Royal Mounds at Gamla Uppsala on a cloudy day.
Photo by Wiglaf - Unknown date

* All images have been accessed from Wikimedia commons.  All images in this diary are either in the public domain, or licensed for free use.

Originally posted to Jorybu on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Headwaters, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very interesting! (18+ / 0-)

    I am looking forward to future installments.  Thank you, Jorybu.

    •  Thanks! (15+ / 0-)

      I'm  not sure how much of an audience there is for this, but I enjoyed doing it.  Thank you for reading it.

      •  I don't know either... (10+ / 0-)

        But since I have ancestors from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and from places in England and Ireland where the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings settled (plus Celts who lived there before the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, & Viking invasions) - oh, and three other locations of ancestors, seven total - I have an extensive library and every bit of info about these people fascinates me, even if I've read about it before.

        As long as your info is well-researched and documented, I'm a fan, so I've added you to people I'm following...!

        I noted three things about the History Channel's Vikings Series that were wrong right off the bat.  The hair, the dirty faces & hands, and the horses.  There was an Arab scholar visiting one of the portage sites in Europe inhabited by Vikings who wrote about the Vikings' fetish for cleanliness.  In a day and age when everyone was dirty, this practice of daily face washing and weekly baths, plus carrying a change of clothing was odd enough to be remarked upon.  So, while they might have been dirty at times, it wouldn't have been all the time as the makeup has them in the TV series.

        The hair being clean, combed and braided by the same and different writers was noted because it led to saying the Vikings were vain (each person carried a comb - and combs have been dug up all over the areas where Vikings and Celts lived), so the original peoples would have had neater hair than the modern bedhead look on both males and females (which is abhorrent to me, both as a modern fetish and as the wrong image for ancient Vikings - ugh!).

        The horses should not have been the modern taller and thin-legged versions seen nowadays (perhaps in England if they used horses left by Roman soldiers, but not in the scenes in what was allegedly supposed to be Norway).  Instead, they should have looked like the Icelandic horses (some of which have two extra gaits - watch the tölt and flying pace toward the end of this video for Icelandic horses and you can see where the legend of Sleipnir's eight legs comes from) or the Norwegian Fjord horses who have stockier bodies and thicker legs since they are multiple-use animals.

        This article was published last week (click on the link for added info; I think I'm only allowed three paragraphs without copyright infringement?):

        Pre-Viking Age monuments uncovered in Sweden by AP, Malin Rising 17 Oct 2013

        STOCKHOLM (AP) — Archaeologists in Sweden said Thursday they have unearthed the remains of unusually large wooden monuments near a pre-Viking Age burial ground.

        As archaeologists dug in preparation for a new railway line, they found traces of two rows of wooden pillars in Old Uppsala, an ancient pagan religious center. One stretched about 1,000 yards (1 kilometer) and the other was half as long.

        Archaeologist Lena Beronius-Jorpeland said the colonnades were likely from the 5th century but their purpose is unclear. She called it Sweden's largest Iron Age construction and said the geometrical structure is unique.

        BTW, on YouTube there are some nice BBC videos about Vikings in England, archaeological sites where they lived, some videos show the narrator traveling to the Scandinavian countries and Iceland.  Iceland and the Faroe Islands each speak a dialect of Old Norse to this day, and they still use the patronymic naming system.  The three Scandinavian countries went to modern surnames or family names by the late 19th-early 20th century.  I do genealogy research in all three countries.  The records go back to the 1600s in some cases..., but, alas!  No records to tie modern people to the famous ancient Vikings mentioned in the Sagas.  However, Iceland has a documented database connecting modern people to their ancient Viking ancestors mentioned in Sagas.  People have access to it so they can avoid dating people they're related to...!

        In any case, as I said, keep the Viking info accurate and documented and you have a fan "girl" in me (well, okay - I'm of an age to be called a crone...).  :-)

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 07:43:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My mother was fascinated... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, mayim

          when we went horse riding a few days ago, by the paces.  When the horse was trotting, it was of course smooth.  When we were going faster, the horse would pick one of two gaits, and she was always hoping it'd be the tölt because it was so much more comfortable, like a trot, than the canter/gallop.  The difference is very noticeable.

          Já þýðir já. Nei þýðir nei. Hvað er svona erfitt við það?

          by Rei on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 11:34:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Out of curiosity, (15+ / 0-)

    what subjects about the Vikings would you be interested in seeing in future installments.  Here are some examples of options: politics, religion, women in society, burial practices, eating, discovery of the new world, interactions with native peoples, warfare, and navigation.  

  •  A beautiful place (12+ / 0-)

    Visited Gamla Uppsala this summer. Sweden may not be on everyone's bucket list, but it is well worth a visit, if only to see what the world might look like with effective recycling, public transportation, supportive social programs, and a society focused on living rather than barely surviving. It isn't perfect, but it is so far ahead of life in the US it looks like heaven. Gamla Uppsala treats its visitors as adults, giving us the freedom to explore and assuming we will behave appropriately.

    the success of all of us is built on the success of each of us

    by mortje on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:55:48 AM PDT

  •  if only Mel Brooks had been a Viking, (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom, mayim, KenBee, Wee Mama, ER Doc

    he could have conquered Monty Python.
    but that's ok: Boston's going TO THE WORLD SERIES !!

    (couldn't help myself... it's so crazy around my town.)

    Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

    by greenbird on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 08:00:30 AM PDT

  •  I trust Snorri (9+ / 0-)

    Snorri has a pro-Iceland agenda, but not an anti-tradition or anti-pagan one. His Euhemerist thesis allows him to politely and completely side-step any blame for paganism, just as Adam of Bremen had done with "us." (Adam's "us" would have included all the religion of the Norse in the end, had he known.)

    Furthermore, if Snorri is messing with stuff, we're practically helpless against him. Continental sources have their own issues. For example, multiple Icelandic sagas seem to indicate that Adam's story of the temple in Uppsala was of a crisis. I.e. catching the Olmec in their last years, one would have seen distorted practice, and Adam catches a story right from a time of famine. He just happens to be the only story anyone has, and so stupid archeologists conclude that the practice of 2-3 years was normal.

    Snorri does lead us to believe that horrific, and perhaps human, sacrifice might have been regular, but the kind of bodies like Christmas ornaments thing, no. After all, it's from the Elder Edda that we get the story of Odin learning of Ragnarrok by hanging from the tree for nine days.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 08:42:59 AM PDT

    •  I agree, Snorri's pride in his ability to (8+ / 0-)

      relay the oral tradition accurately would lend credibility to the sagas. It is the difficult part of studying cultures that left few written records, as much of what was written comes from the Christian scholars and those like Snorri's that do survive get written off as inaccurate or of less importance, when they are at least of equal validity or perhaps more than what was written by the monks.  

      •  Snorri had a political battle (8+ / 0-)

        For people who don't know about euhemerism (or Euhemerism), it sounds brand new. It sounds modern. In fact, it dates to Hellenic thought and, well, Euhemerus (hence the divergence on capitalization), who suggested that Zeus (he was a Greek) might have been a tribal war leader who died. Euhemerus noted that villagers have a tendency to visit and speak to the dead at graves, so it would follow that the whole village would come out to talk to the dead war leader. Instead of flowers, they would leave a thing Chief Zeus liked when he was alive and kicking butt -- like a big hung of beef.

        Thus it is that the Greek pagans, before Christianity, had theorized that their own gods had arisen from tribal veneration of the dead. The other contribution to the theory of cults -- cthonian cults (the earth smokes, or a geyser happens) -- they also speculated on. Regardless, Classically educated Christian writers approached their own past paganism as easily explicable without resort to the devil and demons.

        Thus, Adam of Bremen can say, "We used to think Mars," and Snorri, in his preface to the Prose Edda, can explain that Odin was probably a butt kicking king. I.e. they have no religious need to distort this.

        Snorri, though, has a huge need to distort Iceland-for-Icelanders, because Norway was in the midst of taking it over. Consequently, it was important to get the sagas written, to get the sagas of Icelanders being independent (and better) written. Snorri was not merely smart, but educated, and he was a politician.

        Everyone's innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:42:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Geogre, mayim, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

          Was Odin really just a refugee from Troy?

          •  Evvvvveryone was (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mayim, Wee Mama, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

            That's the whole giggle of medieval "save the pagan literature" mania, isn't it?

            Homer was seemingly logorrhetic about the Greeks, so any Pagan you needed to clean up became a Trojan -- whether it's going to be Romulus or the Brut or Abraham Lincoln(us).

            Everyone's innocent of some crime.

            by The Geogre on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:08:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's rather a giggle that the medieval Christians (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              The Geogre, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

              for the most part had a good deal more knowledge of and respect for the classical authors than the typical American today.

              Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

              by Wee Mama on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 03:49:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And since I know some on the site may not be (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jorybu, The Geogre, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

                familiar with this, here's a bit on the Carolingian miniscule and the preservation of the classics:

                Role in cultural transmission
                Scholars during the Carolingian Renaissance sought out and copied in the new legible standardized hand many Roman texts that had been wholly forgotten. Most of our knowledge of classical literature now derives from copies made in the scriptoria of Charlemagne. Over 7000 manuscripts written in Carolingian script survive from the 8th and 9th centuries alone.

                Though the Carolingian minuscule was superseded by Gothic blackletter hands, it later seemed so thoroughly 'classic' to the humanists of the early Renaissance that they took these old Carolingian manuscripts to be ancient Roman originals and modelled their Renaissance hand on the Carolingian one. From there the script passed to the 15th- and 16th-century printers of books, such as Aldus Manutius of Venice. In this way it forms the basis of our modern lowercase typefaces. Indeed 'Carolingian minuscule' is a style of typeface, which approximates this historical hand, eliminating the nuances of size of capitals, long descenders, etc..

                Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

                by Wee Mama on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:22:51 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Oh, now I'm tempted to rant (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Matthias, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest, Jay C

                See, back when the college I'm at had a president who was trying to protect it from charges of "liberalism," we were all supposed to come up with definitions of "Christian education" and prove that we were doing it. Most of the believing faculty of the denomination that owns the place responded by "witnessing." More thought that "Christian education" was notable for what one did not teach.

                My view was that Western literary teaching is already Christian education. Part of Christian education is honoring the voices that are not Christian, after all. Furthermore, the whole shebang, from what to how, comes out of a completely whole cloth church and gown tradition. For my anti-establishment colleagues, that was enough. They wanted to not play along at all and scream defiance.

                The thing is, there is a legitimate category known as moral criticism, and it should be possible to think of an affirmative pedagogy that does not concentrate on rejection or on reiteration (neither of which are education), and none of the actors in the affair even think about trying it. (Nor do I want to be on an island; it's just that, without anyone voicing the positive terms, all we get are reactionary positions.) There really has been a paradigmatic shift in moral criticism.

                Once medieval scholars had to pretend that the poems they liked were allegories about Christ and the devil to justify keeping them. Now, scholars read everything from Paradise Lost to Piers Plowman and either bracket the religious beliefs of the authors or speak of them as vague symbol codes without relevance. In other words, to save the poems they like they have to remove God-talk. The dishonesty of the monks and the post-moderns is dismaying.

                Everyone's innocent of some crime.

                by The Geogre on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 06:20:55 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  The Viking culture was most interesting, a mix (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SuWho, Jorybu, miscanthus, ER Doc

    of the civilized and the savage.

    Capitalism is the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds. ~ John Maynard Keynes

    by 4Freedom on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 08:47:14 AM PDT

  •  For all the Euro centricity of history taught in (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, mayim, Dvalkure, chimene, ER Doc, techno

    schools, very little deals with the Norse in all their diversity. Thanks for this peek into a fascinating culture. Considering the reach of Norse influence, Russia to Turkey to North America, I think we could include more Viking info, in all it's gory glory.

    I had a hard time taking "Vikings" seriously after the first few anachronisms/inaccuracies so I stopped watching it. I figure it was as historically accurate as "The Tudors". I was making too many comments for my family to enjoy, lol.

    The road to excess leads to the palace of Wisdom, I must not have excessed enough

    by JenS on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:11:17 AM PDT

    •  sounds familiar, 8-) the "making too many comments (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, JenS, RiveroftheWest, Jay C


      I have the series stashed but haven't been able to find husband-less time to watch it -- teh DH would go ballistic in the first 5 minutes, if he lasted that long!

      he has been studying teh Norse for about 40 years.

      almost all of what we know about the "Viking" period (793, raid on Lindisfarne monastery, to 1066, Battle of Stamford Bridge) came from the Icelandic Sagas, which were written on a very isolated, small population island, a couple of hundred years AFTER 1066, by recently but thoroughly Christianized populace. and we don't have all of THAT, and don't know how small the surviving sample even is! relative to all that was written!

      Then you have the effects of Scandinavian nationalism -- Norway, Sweden & Denmark have played cultural domination, and one-up-manship with this material practically SINCE 1066, not to mention the Icelanders who consider themselves and their language the "purest" remnants, in their own opinion....

      PS. 793 was JUST after the 2d major attack on the German  holy grove site of Irminsul, by proselytizing Franks (Charlemagne's Saxon Wars)... in Himself's opinion, just enough time for the word to be carried north and the raid to be planned & carried out... who said the Christians never brought the fire down on their own heads...

      also just about 800, suddenly Danish runes became condensed (changed to shorter Younger Futhark) and suddenly the Danes could communicate with their German refugees through runes that had a lot more in common than they had had just a few years earlier... also, coincidentally, around 800, Norse ships adopted the use of sails which had hardly been used before. Sails were needed for raiding....

      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

      by chimene on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:30:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just a note... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, chimene, mayim

        But I think you'll find most Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians also will say that Icelandic is the most true to Old Norse.  Icelandic looks old-fashioned to most speakers of other Norse languages, while they look "degenerate" to Icelandic speakers.

        (Full disclosure: I'm an Icelandic speaker)

        Já þýðir já. Nei þýðir nei. Hvað er svona erfitt við það?

        by Rei on Mon Oct 21, 2013 at 11:29:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary. nt (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, mayim, Dvalkure, ER Doc

    * Move Sooner ~ Not Faster *

    by ArthurPoet on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:25:35 AM PDT

  •  Want to know more? (6+ / 0-)

    You can learn a great deal by watching the lectures from the history course on the Vikings by Prof Sally Vaughn, University of Houston.

    She includes references to sources for further reading on many subjects.

    The history of music is mortal, but the idiocy of the guitar is eternal. ― Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

    by James Earl on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:51:07 AM PDT

  •  A common misperception is that "Viking" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, mayim, Dvalkure, ER Doc

    was an ethnic designation, like "Norse." Actually it was a term for a certain group of occupations that came into greater demand when the Franks and Frisians assembled a Baltic network of vik trading posts.

  •  Sorry, But All of This Seems Wrong (8+ / 0-)

    The narrative that the Vikings were primitive blood-thirsty heathens of Hollywood legend is completely at odds with the reality of their history and technology.

    The History Channel's account - I was only able to make it part way through one episode - seems ridiculous compared with PBS' NOVA presentation of Secrets of the Viking Sword which is the story of the Ulfberht.

    The bottom line is that Viking metallurgy was 1000 years ahead of the rest of Europe and that they took great pains to make swords that were superior to every other weapon.  Likewise, Viking ship building was vastly superior to others which enabled them to sail further  than anyone else.  Thus, they sailed to North America 500 years before Columbus.

    Clearly the Vikings were highly advanced technologically compared to their peers which enabled them to conquer foreign lands easily, while nobody ever invaded their land.  

    Sociologically they also seem much more modern as women had significantly higher status and responsibilities in their culture.  They seem to have been far from the "top-down" societies of other Europeans which were extremely hierarchical as opposed to the "democratic" Vikings.

    We all need to reject the Hollywood version of the Vikings and see them as a unique people who embraced the most technology and learned how to employ it centuries ahead of other Europeans.

  •  I was in Gamla Uppsala two years ago... (6+ / 0-)

    and may return this spring.

    I do medieval reenacting and have taken on a Viking age persona. It's cool to actually wander around these type of places.

  •  LOVE the Vikings on History Channel (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, ER Doc, RiveroftheWest

    Great acting / plots / dialogue, high quality sets & costumes, it just rocks all the way around. High anticipation for season 2!

    Thanks for the diary - I love learning about history. Ahhh, input!

    "Watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal..."-7.75, -5.54

    by solesse413 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:10:22 AM PDT

  •  This is great! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, mayim, RiveroftheWest

    If the genealogies and histories are correct, I am supposed to be a direct descendant of King Olof Bjornsson of Sweden.  His apparent granddaughter Gunnora had 4 children that I descend from along different lines.  So as much as one can be certain about anything going that far back.

    But it's fun, and I find it a great way to teach history to my nephews.  And this diary gives wonderful information about where Olof comes from!  I am definitely going to link to it.


  •  Outstanding (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jorybu, mayim, KenBee, RiveroftheWest, Jay C

    A long time ago I did a lot of research on the Norse for something I wa writing. Back then that wasn't as easy as it sounds btw. But instead of the usual portrayal of bloodthirsty plunderers, I found a deeply spiritual people who were primarily explorers, and without whom our modern world would look very different.

    I'd like to see a diary on the Kievan Rus and the House of Rurik, as well as why most placenames in Ireland are actually Norse words.

    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

    by Pariah Dog on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 11:56:27 AM PDT

    •  The norse in Ireland will (6+ / 0-)

      Certainly be a future essay.  There are a lot of archaeological excavations in Ireland which paint a picture of the way of life of the norse.   It is one that I will need to do more research on for sure, but plan to in the future.  

    •  Viking Spirituality Was Based on Nature (7+ / 0-)

      The Christians who wrote about them, e.g., Adam of Bremen, regarded the Vikings as heathens because their religion was based on nature which dominated their lives so much.  Thus, the wind, lightening, thunder, waves, fog, moon (tides), sun, etc. which controlled their existence were vastly more meaningful to them than some abstract mono-theistic deity who determined right and wrong.

      The Vikings were of nature, not simply in nature, and their spirituality derived from their interaction with natural elements in procuring food by fishing and hunting.  Even today, descendants of the Vikings revere nature and seek to preserve it as a matter of belief in its importance to living.

  •  Lecture resource to learn more about Vikings (6+ / 0-)

    There is a terrific course from the Teaching Company, by Kenneth Harl:
    It's pricey but frequently goes on sale.

    If you have library or interloan service, here's the audio version of same course listed by Denver Public Library (volume 1 of 3):

    Most important thing about the Vikings -- they were !NOT! Christians during the period 800 - 1100 CE, when they moved, raided and settled at will across virtually all of western Europe, and their threat is what put together the feudal system in Europe. Extremely important for the history of the world!!

  •  the rhunestone (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, RiveroftheWest

    Long dismissed as a farmer's prank, you would have to know how humorless this particular farmer was. Plus he would have to have knowledge of a long dead language to pull it off

    It puts the lotion on its skin

    by Nada Lemming on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 01:21:32 PM PDT

  •  History Channel's Viking series (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, Jay C, RiveroftheWest

    is fun to watch, but I keep wondering, amid all the fighting and killing and sacrificing, when do they have time to make more Vikings?

    "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

    by Subterranean on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 02:04:37 PM PDT

  •  mostly you need to read LOTS of sources, and make (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, RiveroftheWest

    up your own mind!

    there have been many theories over the years (as in any area), and you have to understand what they were and what their chronology was, in order to understand what's been de-bunked by now, and what the biases of various writers are!

    For example, there's a major book out by a really big name ... in ANGLO SAXON studies! He apparently thinks he's just as big an expert on the Norse, but you might not agree with him if you've read some of his contemporaries who actually studied the NORSE!

    I'll be real interested to see how the current spate of research and books on Viking women shakes out in a couple of decades!

    It is wonderful to see the increased understanding of archaeological methods that appears to be spreading among the general populace, as when it leads to better reporting of new finds!

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 04:44:51 PM PDT

  •  Wait a minute. What about one of my favorite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, RiveroftheWest

    movies: The Vikings! With Kirk Douglas, and Ernest Borgnine as Ragnar, the definitive Hollywood Viking. In the dvd extra it says they went to considerable effort for accuracy (although isn't that the 11th Century Bayeaux Tapestry in the intro?

  •  Extremely interesting to me. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mayim, RiveroftheWest

    I had heard, growing up, that we were direct descendants of Eric the Red, that having been discovered by a wealthy great uncle who had his lineage traced.  At about the same time the movie, The Vikings, came out.  We have all been terrifically enthused ever since.  More and more I meet sons and daughters of the True Blood of Vikings.  I suspect they have taken a bad rap over the centuries.  Hoping for more on this subject.

    GOP Wars against: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Immigrants, Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, Women, Unions, Workers, Unemployed, Voters, Elderly, Kids, Poor, Sick, Disabled, Dying, Lovers, Kindness, Rationalism, Science, Sanity, Reality.

    by SGWM on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 08:57:56 PM PDT

  •  Very nice pictures and an interesting story but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, mayim, RiveroftheWest

    I still think they need a much better quarterback.

    The sun's not yellow, it's chicken. B. Dylan

    by bgblcklab1 on Sun Oct 20, 2013 at 09:17:43 PM PDT

    •  I thought they grabbed Freeman, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, bgblcklab1, mayim

      But who knows if he is going to be better.  

      •  He can't stink worse than the last two. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bgblcklab1, mayim, RiveroftheWest

        Guess we'll find out tonight.

        As you extend the diary series you might want to pay a little attention to the Isle of Man in one of them. One thing the Celts and the Norse have long been famous for is beating the living daylights out of each other. That small island in the middle of the Irish Sea was one of the few places they didnt, where they cooperated and the cultures merged. On the Island you can see an old carved stone from a distance and while walking up to it for a closer look, flip a mental coin for whether the carvings will turn out to be knotwork or runes.

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