Viking Berserker Warriors
We all know that Vikings were fierce, courageous warriors who pillaged for a variety of reasons, but there’s a special group of these warriors who were far more threatening and fought in a trance-like fury. They were called “Berserkers”, “Wolfskins”, or “Heathen Wolves”.
Viking Berserkers were part of a sinister brotherhood in Scandinavia and possessed uncontrollable rage unlike any other. They were dangerous, fuelled by war and capable of so much destruction. They were also known to have wolves and bears as totem animals, and used their skin as clothing.
These skilled, evildoing warriors fought in wars and basically were chaotic in nature. They were usually the fighters that were put in front of the battlefield and were strategically placed there to help launch and resist attacks. However, there were also disadvantages of having them around.
Since the aggression of these berserkers were out of this world, they were hard to tame and control during formations. They didn’t prefer to fight alongside their non-berseker brothers but preferred to independently attack in smaller groups while howling like mad wolves or dogs, or viciously growling like there’s no tomorrow.
There were instances that their stubborness and unlikely behavior didn’t turn out well. An example is King Olav Haraldsson’s decision to place them in front of the pack. The bersekers that were involved during the battle of Stiklestad were supposed to hold the line for their troops but decided to just attack without considering and following their game plan. Instead of becoming victorious, what they did backfired and contributed to their king’s downfall.
It’s interesting because it was said that they were as strong as bears and oxen and didn’t know pain. Neither fire nor iron could injure them and they were thought to go “berserk” by eating fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita muscaria). These savagely violent warriors felt powerless after putting their game face on because it was obviously physically and psychologically exhausting to be like them.
Due to their animalistic behavior, it’s not surprising that a lot of people were afraid of them. It was said that they had this tendency to bite their shields until they experienced a self-induced hypnotic trance. They even attacked boulders and ferociously destroyed unsuspecting trees. They were capable of killing anybody, but also didn’t seem to mind if they killed their own kind out of rage while waiting for battles.
These berserkers were often mentioned in different written texts but it was said that the earliest evidence could be found in Tacitus first century AD Roman book named “Germania.” In addition to this, a 9th-century skaldic poem called “Haraldskvadet” (intention was to honor King Harald) was the oldest known written source about them.