oxford big ideas geography | history 8:
Viking beliefs and mythology
In Viking mythology there were ‘nine worlds’ eachconnected by a world tree know as
Compared with many other civilisations, we know verylittle about the traditional beliefs and religious practicesof Vikings. We do know that the Vikings had their ownreligion, and worshipped many different gods early intheir history, but these old beliefs died out once theystarted to convert to Christianity.The traditional stories Vikings told about gods, giantsand monsters are known as Viking mythology. Many of these stories tell of the creation of the world, and wererecorded in a collection of stories known as the Viking
. In traditional Viking mythology, there were ‘nineworlds’. Each was connected to the other by the branches of the ‘world tree’ known as
6.19).When people died, their bodies were cremated(burned) and the remains were buried along with a fewitems that were important to them during their life. Itwas believed that they could take these items into the
Home to Odin and the Aesir, the Norse warriorgods. The most splendid hall in
, the hall of slain battle heroes. They weretaken there by beautiful women on horseback known as
, who were Odin’s messengers.
Home of the Light Elves,where the god Freyr lived
Home of the
, the Norsenature and fertility gods whobattled the gods of
The Middle Earth, the worldof humans; a rainbow‘bridge’ linked it to
Home of the Dark Elves, wholive underground
Home of the Dwarfs, whoalso live underground, andwere talented craftspeople
Home of the Rock Giants,who threatened both humansand the
gods; theirking was Thrym, a Frost Giant
Home of the Fire Giants. Itsruler, Sutr, will set
The home of Hel, daughter of Loki, this cold,misty underworld was where everyone exceptheroes went after death. For people who brokelaws, it was a place of punishment.
next world. Some Viking chieftains were given ship-burials, with treasure and weapons. Often, their favouritedogs and horses were killed and buried with them.Sometimes, chieftains were even buried with humansacri
ces.Like the ancient Greeks, the Vikings did not really havea positive or negative view of the afterlife. Many believedthat the dead travelled to a place called
was ruled by the goddess Hel – half beautiful woman and half rotting corpse. Hel
is the originof the modern word ‘hell’.
was thought of as a coldand damp place where the spirits of the dead continued tolive in a dreamlike form, a kind of eternal sleep.Vikings who were killed in battle were believed totravel to
, a splendid hall in
, after they died.
(‘Hall of the Slain’) was where warriors wouldspend the afterlife feasting and living in large halls.
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