Tuesday, 5 August 2014


Reconstructed Viking longship, the Sea Stallion

I'm on holiday in Denmark at the moment, so naturally thoughts turn to the Vikings (their 'age' being late 8th to late 11th centuries). Before coming here, I enjoyed watching season 1 of the Amazon exclusive Vikings drama, which uses the story to explore facets of those communities and that culture. Over the last year or so I've also read my way through the Northlanders comic series by Brian Wood (7 novels in total, all highly recommended). Frustratingly, the longest Viking ship discovered so far, the Roskilde 6 (37m), is on a tour having just been to the British Museum, so I won't get to see it!

That said, visiting the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde has been very interesting to see - the quality of the old ships and imagine the bravery of their men and women to explore the seas, ranging as far as they did (North Africa and Central Asia, not just around Europe). The cross-culture pollination this sea-faring, raiding and trading brought is also intriguing; their rich pantheistic belief system slowly changing into the Christianity of those they subdued and enslaved. Misconceptions of the last few centuries have twisted the Viking legacy (e.g. they didn't wear horned helmets in battle), but there seems to be a slow correction underway, as historians reveal more based on archaeological findings.

Heavy metal bands have loved to explore the mythology and history of this age and rediscover the old gods - bands such as Manowar, Bathory, Enslaved, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and many more. Some of these groups justify a shift of focus away from traditional heavy metal satanic themes as not wanting to use any form of Christian construct, positive or negative. Others, just want to rediscover the old legends and stories. Viking metal tends to have harsh black metal roots, softened with folk influences.

It's an interesting time to see more revealed of Viking culture, their craftwork and hear more of their sagas.

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