Readers no doubt saw the debacle that UCP leader Jason Kenney had to deal with this week: candidates in a nomination race posing for photos with members of the so-called Soldiers of Odin, a knee-jerk reactionary group formed in Europe as a response to the immigrant crisis stemming from, among other things, the never-ending Syrian civil war. Odin, if you’re not aware, is the chief Viking god of the skies.
The Soldiers claim they’re not racist or bigoted, but their well-publicized anti-immigration views are by definition intolerant and tend to make a lot of people uncomfortable. As Kenney kicked all of the aforementioned UCP nominees out of the party, he obviously understood how bad cozying up to the Soldiers made his party look.
As someone of Scandinavian descent, the fact that Norse mythology is being exploited for narrow-minded political goals sort of annoys me. People of Scandinavian descent, from the nations of Denmark, Norway and Sweden have much to be proud of. The accomplishments of these northerners are striking, and the way in which the Vikings touch our modern would can be surprising.
The Viking Age in Europe took place between 793–1066 Common Era and was characterized by migration of conquerors out of Norway, Denmark and Sweden into other areas of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Evidence such as financial records in Baghdad prove the Vikings were mostly motivated by profit, but many archaeologists also feel overpopulation in Scandinavia and massacres of non-Christians by Charlemagne in northern Europe played roles.
The Vikings were the first Europeans to land in the New World.
In the 1960s a husband and wife team of Norwegian archaeologists named Helge Ingstad and Anna Steena Ingstad scoured the east coast of North America for evidence of Viking settlement. In a series of Middle Age stories called the Icelandic Sagas, it was stated a Viking prince named Leif Erikson landed in a place far to the west of Iceland called Vinland (Land of Grapes). The Ingstads eventually discovered ruins about 1,000 years old in northern Newfoundland, and in the ruins they found proof the ruins dated to the Viking Age and that they were built by Vikings (iron nails and other smelted materials that aboriginal people could not have made). It took Columbus almost 500 years to catch up to the Vikings.
The Vikings often got the drop on their enemies through advanced technology. The Viking longship, developed over hundreds of years, had a brilliantly designed keel and hull that minimized drag, and the design is still used today in Norway (it’s called the snekke).
Certain Viking swords were also prized. The elite Viking blacksmiths used a technology called “crucible steel,” a method that saw the weapon forged with pig iron to create a blade sharp and adaptable enough to cut right through armour.
The Vikings founded the state of Russia. Russia, translated, means “Land of the Rus.” Rus is a name used in eastern Europe for Swedish Vikings. The Swedish Viking princes seized the city of Kiev in the mid-9th century, most likely as a hub for trade to Arab lands (furs for silver). Vikings were very well known around Baghdad as shrewd merchants who weren’t afraid to use violence to protect their markets. After Kiev was up and running, Novgorod and other cities followed.
Modern England has been very heavily influenced by the Viking Age. In 1066 England was conquered by the Normans. The name “Normans” means “North Men.” Vikings, in other words.
Some days of the week are still referred to in Norse nomenclature: Wednesday (“Woden or Odin’s Day), Thursday (“Thor’s Day) and Friday (“Frigg’s Day, the wife of Odin”).
Ever wondered where technology companies got the term “bluetooth?” You guessed it, Viking history. It’s borrowed from 10th Century Viking chieftain Harald Bluetooth (so named for the deplorable state of tooth decay he endured), who united the Vikings in Denmark under one ruler. Apparently, the wireless technology would hearken back to Harald’s unification prowess.
One annoying note to wrap things up. The Soldiers of Odin originally formed in Finland, which is not part of Scandinavia…so how the Finns developed a close kinship with Odin and Viking mythology is unclear.
Stu Salkeld gøra meira af sér ætlun of Vikings af því at yð(v) arr una illa. (Stu Salkeld makes a story of his opinions of Vikings for your enjoyment).