Vikings: A Culture of Learning

History has falsely remembered the Vikings as brutish, amoral barbarians with no respect for anyone but themselves. What we know of the vikings comes to us primarily from the works of Christian clerics (the only literate people of the Viking Age in Europe) who happened to be the Vikings’ favorite victims. Thus, monastic orders made…

The Vikings: Divine Retribution Against the Franks?

The Carolingian Empire was the greatest superpower of its day. It was unmatched by its rivals, and its most famous leader, Charlemagne, was revered by the papacy for his efforts to spread Christianity. At its height, the empire stretched from Spain to Denmark, and from Brittany to Austria. Europe would not see another empire of…

What is a Viking, Really?

Vikings are a popular topic these days. From football teams, to TV shows, to massive reenactment festivals, Vikings are quickly becoming the next werewolves, vampires, and zombies of popular culture. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few show up at Comicon…oh wait, they have. But unlike the afore mentioned topics du jour, Vikings were…

The Dangerous Duality of Modern Paganism in America

America is a diverse place. Freedom of religion is taken seriously and has led to the world’s most interesting mix of highly individualized belief systems. This is no surprise considering the first migrants to arrive in North America fled religious persecution in their homeland and wished to build new lives for themselves where they could…

Long or Short: How Did the Vikings Wear Their Hair?

It should be obvious. Vikings were barbarians, fitting of the description of “Noble Savages” who would have sported long, flowing locks of hair and immensely dense beards. Or were they? Recent revisions to Viking history have painted a starkly different picture of what life was like for Scandinavians during the Viking Age. We’ve since learned…

7 Wonders of the Viking World

The Vikings didn’t leave much behind in the way of brick and mortar buildings, but what we do have from them is all tremendously awe-inspiring. They are not the hanging gardens of Babylon, but the following are seven of the most wondrous finds dating back to Viking Age Scandinavia. 1. Gokstad Ship It seems appropriate…

Normandy’s Other Founder Who History Forgot

The first ruler of Normandy, the mighty Viking Rollo, did not accomplish all that he did alone. Described as a tall, powerful man, he made a most surprising transition from sea rover to monarch, and in so doing transformed himself from a pagan marauder into a legitimate Christian ruler. Normandy is an interesting case because…

Santa Claus: Odin in Disguise?

’Tis the season to be jolly, but is the mythical figure of Santa more than meets the eye? The Santa Claus of today is a rosy-cheeked, portly, elderly man donning a red onesie with white trim and a delightful red winter cap–a stark contrast to his alleged inspiration Saint Nicholas. So who is Santa, really?…

Odin? You Mean [insert one of hundreds of name variations]!

You know him as Odin. The marvel universe knows him as Odin, and by extension every 8-18 year old boy in the world knows him as Odin. While today we give him a single name by which to identify him, the deity himself has over the millennia had a tremendous variety of names, most of…

3 Often-Ignored Truths About the Study of the Vikings

When reading online articles about the Vikings, it’s easy to get suspicious about the veracity of an author’s sources. The pressure to publish–and publish frequently–means taking a quantity over quality approach to writing about history. Although not immune to errors, I have personally begun to see a great many articles circulating in social media circles that are…

3 Facts About Viking Saunas to Use at Dinner Parties

If you enjoy having interesting pieces of trivia to share at family gatherings during the holidays, or just to have on hand at dinner parties with friends or colleagues, you will want to hold on to these three facts about the use of saunas during the Viking Age. Sauna Fact #1: Saunas were also dwellings…