Loki, Villainous Trickster God of Medieval Norse Mythology

Loki is referred to in 13th-century Scandinavian poems and folklore. Introduction Loki is a god in Norse mythology. Loki is in some sources the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By[…]

Fyrd: Militia in Early Medieval England

The fyrd consisted of a nucleus of experienced soldiers that would be supplemented by ordinary villagers and farmers from the shires. A fyrd was a type of early Anglo-Saxon army that was mobilized from freemen to defend their shire, or from selected representatives to join a royal expedition. Service in the fyrd was usually of[…]

Art of the Viking Age

Interacting with many cultures and settling in many regions, the Norse were more cosmopolitan than they receive credit for. Introduction Modern representations of the Vikings can be fun, but are often limited to sensationalized depictions of violent, raiding warriors. In reality, Vikings were a small group of a larger community of people called the Norse[…]

The Little-Known Role of Slavery in Medieval Viking Society

The institution of slavery had long antecedents in Scandinavia, probably going back thousands of years before the time of the Vikings. One of the most enduring components of the Viking image is the notion of freedom—the adventure of a far horizon and all that went with it. But for many, this was an unattainable hope.[…]

The Rus’ Khaganate in the Early Medieval Era

The Annals of St. Bertin refer to a group of Vikings, who called themselves Rhos (qi se, id est gentem suam, Rhos vocari dicebant). Introduction The Rus’ Khaganate was a polity that flourished during a poorly documented period in the history of Eastern Europe (roughly the late eighth and early to mid-ninth centuries C.E.).[1] A[…]

‘Eirik’s Saga’ and the Beginning of Globalization in the Early Middle Ages

The allure of novel goods was so strong that it triggered 1,000 years of trade and interactions among people from different places. Introduction Viking ships touched down on the Canadian island of Newfoundland around the year 1000, at what is now the archaeological site known as L’Anse aux Meadows. For the first time, the two[…]

Yggdrasil: The Sacred Ash Tree of Norse Mythology

Yggdrasil stands at the absolute center of the Norse cosmos. This article, Yggdrasil: The Sacred Ash Tree of Norse Mythology, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ With its branches in the heavens and its roots in the underworld, the Cosmic[…]

Varangians: Vikings in Medieval Russia

The Varyags are first mentioned by the Primary Chronicle as having exacted tribute from the Slavic and Finnic tribes in 859. Introduction The Varangians or Varyags, sometimes referred to as Variagians, were Vikings, or Norsemen who went eastwards and southwards through what is now Russia, Belarus and Ukraine mainly in the ninth and tenth centuries.[…]

Alfred the Great: Vikings, Vengeance, Victory

Alfred’s impressive military and administrative skills stabilized Britain after almost a century of Viking raids and warfare. Introduction Alfred the Great (r. 871-899 CE) was the king of Wessex in Britain but came to be known as King of the Anglo-Saxons after his military victories over Viking adversaries and later successful negotiations with them. He[…]

Vikings: Jewelry, Weapons and Social Change, at The VIKINGR Exhibition

The artifacts exhibited can tell us about the Vikings’ lives and values in a time of transition and change. Introduction In April 2019 The Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway opened its doors to the new exhibition VÍKINGR containing rich treasures and unique archaeological finds from the Viking Age (c. 750 – 1050 CE). The Viking[…]

The Medieval Political Federation of Kievan Rus

The Rus are first mentioned in the Annals of Saint-Bertin. Introduction Kievan Rus (862-1242 CE) was a medieval political federation located in modern-day Belarus, Ukraine, and part of Russia (the latter named for the Rus, a Scandinavian people). The name Kievan Rus is a modern-day (19th century CE) designation but has the same meaning as[…]

Viking Raiding and Warfare

Viking warfare connected with the expansion of Scandinavian influence along the North Atlantic and into the Mediterranean. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction Viking warfare, along with its key component of raiding, is inextricably connected with the expansion of Scandinavian influence along the North Atlantic and into the Mediterranean in the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE), where the Vikings’ heavy use of[…]

Women in the Viking Age

Even in a male-dominated society, Viking women were far from powerless. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction Although women in the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE) lived in a male-dominated society, far from being powerless, they ran farms and households, were responsible for textile production, moved away from Scandinavia to help settle Viking territories abroad stretching from Greenland, Iceland, and the[…]

The Art of the Viking Age

Viking Age Scandinavians almost exclusively made applied art – aesthetically appealing and useful. By Emma GroeneveldHistorian Introduction Art made by Scandinavians during the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE) mostly encompassed the decoration of functional objects made of wood, metal, stone, textile and other materials with relief carvings, engravings of animal shapes and abstract patterns. The motif of the[…]

Following the Paths of Viking Raiders from Norway to North America

Some wanted to explore and plunder, but others simply wanted to discover more fertile lands to farm and settle peacefully. By Jennifer Billock Introduction From 793 to 1066 CE, hearing the words “Viking” or “Norsemen” would put just about anyone on edge. The group was notorious for sailing their longboats into harbors and viciously attacking the people there—stealing all[…]

Viking Raids in England

Although the Vikings may have begun as little more than pirates in Britain, they would eventually arrive as great armies under skilled military leaders. Introduction The Viking raids and subsequent settlements define the period known as the Viking Age in Britain which had profound consequences on the development of the culture and language. The raids[…]