Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Viking Rituals (Traditional customs, such as burial rituals)


Vikings, all of us would have come across this name at least once. I am damn sure, the history classes at school wouldn’t have missed mentioning it. Vikings refer to the people who lived in Scandinavia between the 8th and 11th centuries. These are the people who were notorious for their raids and were also known as ‘pirates of the medieval world.’ They have founded several colonies and cities, and their warriors were risk-takers. By the 1100s, the Vikings got weakened due to disputes and resistance from other countries, but the glory that they once maintained remains.  One of the main reasons for this was the Viking rituals. The Viking customs and Viking traditions are something irreplaceable and a matter of study and research even in this modern era. Even though thousands of years have passed since they have lost their strength, the fact that we are still interested in them proclaims their glory.

Viking Customs and Traditions

  • The Vikings believed in the Norse Pagan religion and were strict followers of the same. The religion itself gave them a lot of local customs and village traditions that they followed with great revere.
  • Religious festivals and ritual sacrifices were the notable public customs that they followed. Several other private custom practices were usually associated with events such as birth, death, and marriages.
  • Birth of a child was something looked upon with great anticipation by the Viking people. They tried to make sure that the child and the mother remained safe during birth, and for that, they used to sing the ritual songs associated with birth.
  • The newborn child was given public acceptance and official status as a member of the clan only after nine days of his/her birth. On a ninth day, a public ceremony was organized where the father of the child had to place the child on his knee and sprinkle water over him/her. Guests were invited for this ceremony, and they used to bring gifts for the child as well as their parents. It was only after this ceremony that the child became a member of the clan and had access to the clan members’ rights.
  • Every newborn child was also named after a deceased ancestor or any of the gods of the religion.
  • Marriage was one another important event for the Vikings. It was something that brought two families together and hence had a set of customs to be followed by both the families to make a socially acceptable marriage. Marriages were held on Fridays to get the blessings of Frigg, the goddess of marriage. The groom, accompanied by his family, had to go to the bride’s family to propose for marriage, and if the proposal was accepted, a date was fixed along with other matters like dowry and rights to the property.
  • Marriages were always huge feasts that could last for three days or even more. It was during the feast that the bride and groom took the marriage vows. Families of both the bride and groom attended the function, and they’re used to be other invited guests too.
  • The groom had to break into the tomb of one of the ancestors and recover a sword from it before the wedding, and this sword was given to the bride along with the wedding ring while the bride would give him a sword from her own family. At the end of the marriage ceremony, there used to be a foot race. The losing family had to serve for the other family during the feast.
  • Unlike modern weddings were the bride gave importance to her full attire, the Viking brides gave importance only to the hair.
  • The dead were either buried or cremated. Cremation was most popular among them because they believed that the smoke of the fire would help the spirit of the dead to reach the after-life.
  • Boats were symbols that symbolized passage to the after-life, and hence they played a major role in burial rituals. Sometimes the graves were made in the shape of ships and were even embellished with stones. For people who belonged to the higher level of the hierarchical system, they were buried with their actual boats.
  • The dead body used to be covered in special clothes prepared specially for the funeral, and the event included songs, chants, food, and alcohol. Gifts called ‘grave goods’ were kept along with the dead according to the value of the deceased’s status and were buried or burned along with the body.  These gifts included weapons, jewelry, and other such things.
  • There are reports which say that during the burial of some clan chieftains there used to be practices were females were made to drink alcohol and were raped by all the men in the village as an attribute to the dead and later was strangled, stabbed and then placed in the boat with her master and burned.
  • Viking customs also included human sacrifice. These sacrifices were conducted at religious festivals or at the burial time of important village men. These sacrifices were to please God and to gain a good harvest or help the dead reach their after-life after life. Slaves were buried along with their master’s boats.
  • Ancestor worship was also an important part of the Viking customs and tradition.  This was because they believed that ancestors could influence the family fortunes. Hence they used to give offerings such as precious objects, drinks, and food so that the family would get a better and brighter future.


Taking an overall look into the customs and traditions of the Viking society proves how organized they were, and it also gives the reason why even after the passage of so many years, they still remain a matter of study and research.

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