Three Viking Rituals That Will Shock You

There’s no denying that rituals differ from one society to another and not every society has the same set of rituals. This is what makes each and every society unique in their own way. However, not every ritual is civilized and generally accepted, especially those rituals from the past. Well, this is something we can’t blame the past generations because their beliefs and traditions back in the day were different. So, what was okay, acceptable and tolerable for them (ritual wise) would be severely criticized or make people shocked and angry if done in this modern age.                                   

In today’s blog post, we’ll talk about three surprising and unbelievable Viking rituals that will shock you.      

Shocking Viking Rituals            

1. Human sacrifices                                          

Human sacrifices don’t happen anymore in this day and age. However, it was something that the Vikings did as part of their sacrifice rituals to different dead Viking masters. To make it clearer for you, the Vikings were said to have sacrificed slaves when a noble and wealthy Viking died. But keep in mind that these slaves were not just random slaves, the ones that would be buried were specifically the slaves who served their respective death masters while they were still alive.         

Aside from sacrificing slaves in order to serve their masters (if male) or become their wives (if female) in the afterlife, the Vikings also sacrificed humans to Odin the allfather in honor of discovering runes and to long for glory in the following years to come after the ritual was conducted.  However, this type of ritual wasn’t as common and only carried out sometimes as written by a German medieval chronicler from Bremen named Adam.          

According to Adam, the Vikings did this ritual in Sweden (specifically at the Temple of Uppsala) for nine days at the beginning of spring every nine years. During those nine days, nine sacrifices were made each day (not all humans) so that’s a total of 81 sacrifices. To make it easier for you to understand, we’ll break it down below:       

1 human (male) a day x 9 days = 9 male humans were sacrificed    

8 male animals a day x 9 days = 72 animals were sacrificed

So that’s 9 humans + 72 animals = 81 sacrifices in 9 days          

These 81 sacrifices were said to be hanged from trees near the temple and keep in mind that the 8 male animals that were sacrificed each day were not of the same kind. They preferred 8 male animals of different kinds.                 

Another information worth sharing was that slaves and criminals weren’t the only ones that could be sacrificed. There were actually instances that the Vikings had to sacrifice someone in a high position like a King. They only did this during the unfortunate event when their community was under famine.      

Apart from Adam, Icelandinc historian and poet Snorri Sturluson in his saga stated that the Vikings first sacrificed and initially settled with oxens. However, if they didn’t see any sight of glory and success in their rituals, they would then sacrifice a group of men the following year. After that, if their attempts to get what they wanted failed again, they had no choice but to blame it on whoever was their King at that time. They would then sacrifice him and cover the Uppsala temple with his blood.                 

2. Tooth modification       

During the Viking age, the Vikings were said to have modified their teeth based on the excavations of  600 skeletal remains dating back to 800 and 1050 AD. Out of all these remains that were analyzed, 24 bore deep, horizontal, and carved lines in the upper front teeth part. Some reports even said that they might have dyed their teeth red.    

There were no reports about tooth modification in Europe around that time though. And since Vikings were known to travel to different places, the archaeologists who discovered the said remains concluded that they might have learnt this practice from somewhere else during their travels. But take note that they couldn't do it by themselves, so they probably asked help from someone skillful to do teeth filing and modification for them.               

Even up to this day, the main reason why they did this still remains a mystery. However, it was believed that the Vikings probably modified their teeth to scare off their enemies.

3. Ward off Draugr

If you like watching zombie movies or you’re fascinated with zombies then there’s a chance you’d be thrilled rather than shocked by this final ritual on our list. 

So the Vikings were said to have their own version of zombies. They called them Draugr and they believed that the dead could still move and hurt other people. And in order to stop these Draugr from wandering around and instilling harm, the Vikings had to carry out many precautions such as:

  • They placed straws under the shroud (enveloping garment or cloth used to wrap a deceased person for burial)       
  • They placed a pair of scissors in their chest area
  • They tied the toes (specifically the ones with big ones) of those who passed away so that they couldn’t move 
  • During the transferring of the coffin to the graveyard part of the funeral, the bearers would stop for a moment to lower and raise the coffin in three different directions to make a sign of scissors or cross
  • The dead were sometimes carried through this “corpse door hole” in the wall and they were able to do that once they had removed the bricks that were covering it
  • A powerful man (believed to be a magician of some sort) would perform another ritual that would tie the dead to the coffin    

There you have it. These are just some shocking Viking rituals that were acceptable in the past but something that will freak people out and make them feel different emotions if done in the 21st century.    


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