The Ancient Scribe

Examining ancient culture's status in the modern era

Norse Religion: Of Asgard and Valhalla

Posted By on April 9, 2010

In early medieval history, some of the best known historic episodes revolved around the Viking raids during the 9th and the 10th centuries. We come across very few scripts or written records about the religion of the Vikings before they took to Christianity. In the beginning of the era of the Vikings, the Scandinavian people adhered to a polytheistic religion. They believed in numerous gods and practiced paganism to some extent. However, by the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century, there was a major transformation among the Norse peoples as they shifted to Christianity.

The previous religious beliefs of the Vikings was somewhat similar to that of the Greeks and the Romans as they believed in the fact that the gods resided in Asgard and if they pleased the gods then they would be safe from the evil forces. They also made sacrifices, which were known as the Blot. They primarily sacrificed animals, though there exist stories of human sacrifices. They considered the Yuletide as their darkest time when the old year passed away, and they begged their gods for a better new year. They also made sacrifices in the spring time to ensure good crops. Their sacrifices primarily took place on an altar that was built by piling up stones. Usually, the Vikings preferred to pray in open air surroundings and wild landscapes. They didn’t make any idols or statues of their gods for any of their rituals.

They could also pray in the fields of crops, as they believed that by praying over there, the crops would be blessed by the gods. Many Vikings took to Christianity even during their visits to Byzantium. For instance, in the Viking city named Hedeby, the pagans and the Christians used to stay together and finally by 1030, all the Vikings transformed to Christianity.

Though the Vikings transformed to Christianity, they didn’t discard their original rites and rituals. Their ritual of Yuletide was now known as Christmas. The religious beliefs of the early Vikings of Scandinavia were strongly influenced by Norse mythology. Some of their popular gods were Odin, Thor and Freya. Freya was known to be the god of fertility. Surprisingly enough, the Vikings followed a different point of view regarding the afterlife. They believed that after death, most people went to a place known as the Hel. In fact, the term hell has emerged from their interpretation of Hel. They believed that the Hel was some cold and damp place where the spirits lived in a form of trance. According to them, the heroes that died in war went to Vahalla, where they lived with Odin, the king of gods.


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