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Viking Lore: A Quick Intro to Norse Eddas and Sagas

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Consider how the bible, a collection of 66 different "books" (ancient written documents) offers a deeper understanding of the history relating to early Jews and Christians, those of us who are Scandinavian descendants or even anyone interested in Vikings and Norse mythology have asked, "What kind of ancient written documents do WE have?"The answer is the Icelandic writings known as the Sagas and Eddas. While some have turned portions of these documents into "scripture" (to support the worship of ancient Germanic spirits and gods), most people see these 12th and 13th century writings as the closest thing we have to ancient written accounts of Norse mythology and Viking history. Edda / ed-uh /nounEither of two 13th-century Icelandic books, the older 'Poetic Edda'...

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Freya and Aphrodite

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The following is our winning 2020 Student Scholarship submission from Grace Traina.   Freya and Aphrodite: comparing the Norse and Greek Goddesses of Love Freya, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, fertility and sexuality, bears a striking physical and mythological resemblance to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of the same domain. I wanted to research Freya to examine the similarities and differences between the Norse and Greek depictions of the most traditionally “beautiful” goddess. The relationship between Freya and Frigg (the wife of head god Odin) in Norse mythology is similar to the relationship between Aphrodite and Hera (the wife of head god Zeus) in Greek mythology. Freya and Frigg, like Aphrodite and Hera, are considered the two most beautiful goddesses in...

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Viking Art Styles

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A Brief Introduction to the six styles of Viking Art The Norse of the Viking Age (circa 793-1066) were very artistic people.  Unlike Classical artists who sculpted or painted as an end unto itself, though, the Vikings used art to beautify everyday things. They would chisel the prows of their ships into dragon heads, and carve spiraling designs on the gunwales. They would engrave bone combs and drinking horns, or carve walrus tusks into ivory game pieces. They used sophisticated metallurgic techniques to decorate weapons and make cunningly-designed jewelry. Sometimes their art would serve as an eternal memorial to the deeds of mighty ancestors, such as the many rune stones that dot the Scandinavian countryside. Other times, it would grace...

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Continued Viking Activity in America

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The Vikings in Greenland and America (part 4 of 4) The previous articles in this short series described the Viking expeditions to North America recorded in the sagas.  We can say with some confidence, though, that there were more of these adventures.  There are hints in the historical record of journeys to Vinland and Markland for lumber or raw materials.  There is also the possibility that some small numbers of people may have attempted colonies there as conditions in Greenland deteriorated.   Archaeologists are finding artifacts spread over various parts of Newfoundland and beyond.  However, finding definitive proof of lasting contact can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Experts caution against over-reaching or accepting evidence uncritically, and more than once...

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Vikings in America after Leif Erikson

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The Vikings in Greenland and America (part 3 of 4) Part 1 (Erik the Red) is available here. The Greenland Vikings mounted several more expeditions to America.  These ranged in size and success.  But each showed the new world was a place of both potential and peril.  The scions of Erik the Red took the lead in most of these early adventures.   Thorvald’s Ill-fated Expedition (1002) The year after Leif’s return and Thorstein’s unsuccessful expedition, their brother Thorvald set out with one ship.  He found Vinland and chose a spot for a settlement. Thorvald and his men had not been there long when they caught three Native Americans spying on them.  When attempts at communication failed, Thorvald simply murdered the strangers.  The...

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What Did Vikings Wear? Realism vs Creative Interpretation

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There are many different interpretations of what Vikings looked like. While some may be more verifiable than others, no single image matches the vast diversity of the Viking Age that spanned more than 250 years and inhabited more than a dozen geopolitical areas with a wide variety of different cultures and influences.  While there have been substantial archaeological finds and active scholarship, much of that world is lost to time.  It is a shame, then, that sometimes people let quarrels about what may or may not be “accurate” get in the way of their shared interests and appreciation.

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Leif Erikson

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The Vikings in Greenland and America, Part 2 (of 4)

...they explored the coast and several islands (most experts agree that these coastal finds were most likely Newfoundland, Nantucket, and/or the Labrador Coast of Canada).  Winter was coming, so the party built a longhouse from the abundant timber. 

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Erik the Red

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The Vikings in Greenland and America, Part 1 (of 4)
Most assume that Erik was called "the Red" for his hair or for his ruddy complexion (the sagas do not explicitly say).  He may have been more aptly called "the Red" for his charisma, his fiery temper, or his bad habit of killing people.

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Viking Falconry

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Some graves in Norway and Sweden from the Vendel period and Viking Age contained the bones of falcons along with the high-status warriors interred there.  Archaeologists have found other graves and treasure hordes that contained small iron or copper bells that may be associated with falconry.  In addition to this material evidence, there are runestones that depict hunters with dogs and falcons, including those at Alstad, Toten (Norway), and Böksta, Uppland (Sweden).

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Viking Poetry

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Skalds were the poets of the Vikings, and poetry and storytelling were the most-prized art forms in Norse culture. Poetry was considered a gift of Odin, the Allfather chief god of the Vikings, and just being a skald made a person part of the jarl upper class in their society.

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