I am actually quite grateful for the show Vikings, it is well made, funny and can make young people of Nordic and Germanic descent to become more interested in their own history and heritage. However there are still many blatant lies in the show about my ancestors that is easily refuted by studying real history books, anthropology and the writings from that time.
In the show the Vikings seem to be drunk most of the time, but real Vikings actually despised people who couldn’t control their drinking. In the show the Vikings are extremely promiscuous, bisexual and degenerates, there is no basis for saying that they behaved this way, but we know that infidelity among women were punished by death and that they valued blood ties above anything. But I will touch more on this later.
First I will say that I never identified as Viking since this is just one short period of my peoples history, I think very few Christians identify as crusaders and very few Japanese people identify as Samurai. But still I believe there are many great lessons we as Norsemen can extract from this period of our history that is more relevant for our people today than ever before.
1. Be a trader
The Vikings were great conquerors and warriors, but their greatest accomplishments to gain territory and power were actually in trade. At centers of Viking trade in the north they have found artifacts like spices, art and tools from the middle-east, Greece and even from the furthest parts of Asia. Of course it didn’t Hurt that they could back up their trade-deals with the most feared and fearless warriors of their time, but they had an even greater advantage with their amazing boats that could travel further than any other people at that time. So maybe Donald Trump is so great at making deals because of his German blood and that if you wish to be Viking you should start by reading his book “The art of the deal”.
2. Eat and drink in moderation.
If you read the old poetic Edda as well as ancient Nordic sagas it becomes very clear that no one respected people who were fat or who drank to much. The collection of wisdom from the Vikings “The Havamal” talks more about the importance of not drinking to much than about almost anything else. The old tales and sayings makes fun of people who eat and drink excessively and warns anyone to trust or make deals with them.
3. Be generous.
The most common theme in the writings on the rune stones that were raised in memory of the dead doesn’t talk about wealth, how much land they owned or about how many people they slept with (things we seem to value today). The one thing they seemed to have wanted to be remembered by was their generosity. I want to clarify that generosity here doesn’t refer to paying taxes or sending money abroad, but about giving food and shelter to travelers who happened to come by their house while traveling.
4. Keep your word.
The second most common theme on the rune stones is keeping your word. In the television show Vikings people are lying left and right about everything. If someone couldn’t be trusted in the tribe they were a liability for their whole community and when winter came and everyone had to share their resources they had to be able to trust each other. To make an oath was not like making a new years resolution today. Making an oath was seen as something as serious as life and death, to brake an oath could be punished by death and even worse – by the gods.
5. Value art and poetry
When the tv-show Vikings showed the Nordic warriors with elaborate haircuts and tattoos many screamed that this was inaccurate, but this is actually one of the aspects of the show that point more to the truth than any many other details in their depictions. The Vikings did use pretty advanced tools for cutting and trimming their hairs and beards which have been shown in findings of old Viking villages. And the Vikings did sometimes have tattoos which have been shown by remnants from old Viking burial site. The Vikings also created astonishing art and handcraft.
Most of what we know from our Nordic ancestors culture and worldview come from poetic depictions like in the older Edda. One of their highest aspirations were to be remembered, like it says in the Edda “the fame of a dead mans deeds”, and the way they were remembered was in stories and poetry. So the bard and the poet was valued very high in the tribe, and like people today gather around the television to be fed mostly bullshit, in the past we used to gather around the fire to listen to the poets and storytellers to hear tales of our ancestors and the gods.
6. Be a free man, a Karl.
The Vikings had their own cast system that had divine origin (read Rigstula) the lowest were the thrall, they were the one who works for others on a farm or as servants, todays equivalent would be the wage slave. They were not like the untouchables in the Indian cast-system but they were not considered free men either. The cast above the thrall were the Karl. The Karl were someone who owned their own land and or their own enterprise. You at least had to be a Karl to go Viking, that is to go on raids or trade abroad. Above the Karls were the Jarl, they were similar to the nobles and could be vassals of the King. The King or Könge is ofcourse the highest cast.
7. Be courageous, go to paradise.
The gods of the Vikings the Aesir and Vanir were not like the God of the Abrahamitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They were not necessarily fair, omnipotent or even good, and they rarely if ever intervened in the life of humans. Of course the Vikings sacrificed to the gods but they didn’t expect them to reciprocate. The gods are like nature, like the daring sea, like wind, thunder and earthquakes, they could be gentle or ruthless and they rarely knew why.
The biggest hope for the Vikings to reach paradise – Valhalla, was to die in battle and be recognized by the gods so that a Valkyrie would come and lead them to the realm of the gods. When being brave is your highest virtue its easy to see why the Vikings were so successful in most of their endeavors. If you stand in front of a choice in business, love or war, and you knew that the only way to reach paradise and be remembered by your kin is by being brave, to decide the right action becomes much easier – what is the bravest thing to do!
8. Put family first.
In movies and television they like to portray the Vikings as frivolous and degenerates who spends most of their free time screwing around with anyone and everyone, that they would share their women with eachother and even with men from other continents. They also stab their own relatives and brothers in the back on a consistent basis. None of this is or was typical for our Nordic ancestors. Women who were found guilty of infidelity were punished by death, and men who betrayed their own blood were considered the lowest of all criminals and would most certainly be entitled Varg I Veum that is to be outlawed and could therefor legally be killed by anyone without repercussions.
They also believed that their ancestors could be reborn within their linage and therefor they used to give newborns the name of deceased relatives. Just like we can today (if we stay true to our blood that is) see the faces, characteristics, colors and abilities of our passed away relatives and of ourselves in our children, so could they.
There are theories that the earliest humans couldn’t understand the connection between sex and children, but the Vikings definitely did and they also to a certain extent could understand the concept of evolution which again is reflected in the sacred Rigstula were its described how Heimdall created the different casts by visiting the humans every new generation and had sex with their women to make every new generation more able, noble and refined. That Vikings then should have risked to have a bastard offspring by letting their women sleep around is a ridiculous idea.
9. Build a legacy.
In lesson number five I mention a verse in the poem Havamal that stood out among the others, it goes like this;
Cattle die, | and kinsmen die, And so one dies one’s self; One thing now | that never dies, The fame of a dead man’s deeds
Our ancestors believed like many other peoples that the life we live here on earth reflects the life in the next, that is why most Vikings were buried with weapons and riches and in some cases even with their wife or wives that sacrificed themselves so that they could join their men in afterlife.
But if even if you didn’t know for sure that the stories about the gods or Valhalla were true, you could be certain that people would remember you if you lived a noble and courageous life. Maybe you who reads this don’t believe in the gods and stories of your ancestors, but you can be certain that you will live on through your children and by the stories about you if you lived a life worth remembering.