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Vikings were one of the most advanced civilizations in Europe, and there are quite a few things you don’t know about them. First of all, they were not just hairy, dirty pillagers with horns on their helmets. Read on to find out what else you may think you know about Vikings is actually wrong!
You've probably seen every Viking warrior wearing a helmet with horns, but that's not actually true to history. An authentic Viking helmet is horn-free, but painters embellished them with horns during the 19th century inspired by ancient Greek history.
As part of Norse mythology, the Vikings have their own gods and goddesses. Some are quite familiar like the god of thunder, Thor, as well as the trickster Loki. Also, there is the most enigmatic Norse god, Odin, who embodies wisdom. Their complex stories are as intriguing as Greek mythology.
You may not realize that many days of the week in English come from Viking words and mythology. For instance, Thursday sounds like Thor's day, and it is no coincidence as the day is named after the god of storms. The only day that had nothing to do with Norse mythology is Saturday, which came from Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.
Viking weddings may be one of the most extravagant events in all cultures. After a few years of engagement, the couple held a wedding that lasted for a week. It meant a lot of food, drink and all kinds of activities for all the guests. What a party!
Although men and women weren't completely treated as equals, Viking women still had more rights than those in most cultures. Despite the duties of being wives and mothers, they could request divorces, inherit properties, and reclaim dowries, which gave them more freedom in certain aspects of life.
For the Vikings, boats were not only for travelers but also for the dead. They would put the dead in a boat with their personal belongings, and burn the boat. It would make sure they go to Valhalla with everything they needed. Sometimes, stones would resemble real boats to mark graves on land.
The earliest evidence of skiing dates back around 6,000 years in the Scandinavian Peninsula. As for Vikings, skiing was a kind of transportation in winter, and sometimes a recreation too.
Believe it or not, most Vikings were not pirates but farmers. They grew barley, cabbage, oats, rye, and raised pigs, cattle, goats, and sheep. When men went for raids and fishing, they would leave the farms to their women, which gave females more power than elsewhere.
Many believed that Christopher Columbus was the first who stepped on North American soil, but that's not actually true. Before him, a Viking named Leif Erikson, the son of a famous traveler Erik the Red, had already discovered the place around 1000 AD.
It is only an incorrect assumption that Vikings were all dirty pirates with long hair. In fact, they bathed once a week, which was quite often compared to other people back then. There were tweezers, combs, and razors made from animal bones that proved a thing or two as well.
It appears that Viking mythology inspired J.R.R. Tolkien with the iconic The Lord of Rings trilogy. One of the mythological stories is about Andvari's ring, where a Norse legend of a ring cursed anyone who wears it. Not to mention that the legend happened in Midgard, "Middle-Earth."
The Vikings started fires differently in that they collected tinder fungus, a wild mushroom, and boiled them in the urine. With the sodium nitrate in the urine, the mushrooms would stay ignited without flames for days, which saved them the trouble of starting fires again and again.
Since the Vikings raided England and Ireland many times, some places still have the names that came from the Vikings until this day. Suffixes like "-garth" (enclosure), "-wick" (harbor), and "-thorpe" (settlement) originated from the Norse. The first Viking settlement usually ended in "-by," like Whitby. In England, Yorkshire has most of the former Viking settlements.
You may not believe that the Vikings actually had an established justice system to solve disputes or crimes. It was known as "Althing" in Norse culture, which meant "The Thing." There would be a law speaker who heard the disputes when holding an "Althing." Most of the time, things would be solved with a third party peacefully.
Despite having so many Viking settlements, the Vikings were still not one unified group because many who lived in the area didn't consider themselves to be Vikings. The word Viking referred to all Scandinavians who were involved in overseas expeditions, but there were in fact several tribes that were far from united.
Sagas were Viking epics, including adventures, battles, and voyages of heroic Norsemen. They were told to preserve the history in prose stanzas. In some of the stories, they told stories about kings, bishops, and saints.
Vikings enjoyed playing board games when they were not farming, skiing, or raiding. The most popular game was Hnefetafl, where players chose the role of king or attacker. Just like reality, "the king" would use "defender" pieces to protect his place and himself, while the "attacker" would try to overthrow the king.
In Norse Mythology, Valhalla was the hall in the world of Asgard with Odin ruling the place. When a glorious warrior died, he'd be put into the majestic hall, but according to the myths, only half of the dead warriors ended up there. The other half went to Fólkvangr, where the goddess of war Freyja ruled.
Some said that wounded Vikings who returned from battles with abdominal wounds would have a potent onion soup along with some other spices. After a while, if they could smell the onions from inside of the wound, it meant that he had severe injuries, which basically meant inevitable death.
Although many people nowadays may show their Viking heritage by having "traditional" Viking tattoos, there was no proper evidence about real Vikings having tattoos themselves. It's hard to prove if those tattoos are just some ancient Norse symbols or actual Viking tattoos.
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