Modern Day Viking

Odin, grant me the wisdom so I might stoke the heathen flames.

I’m past certain I’m not the only person with a passion for all things Viking. And no, I’m not talking about the football team here. The Viking I mean treads more along the lines of mead halls, Drakkars, Valkyries and Asgard. I don’t want to alienate anybody so I’ll do my best to explain any terms which are not well known. The Drakkar is your traditional Viking long ship with models being used even to this day as a reliable means of maritime travel, and a mead hall is basically a heathen’s bar. Valkyries are winged women that would collect the dead from the fields of battle and Asgard is the home of the Norse gods. I’m just getting started people so fill those drinking horns and get comfy.

Asatru, Heathenism or Odinism, each refer to the contemporary revival of Germanic paganism. For further consideration, I’ll choose to refer to them simply as “the Viking religion”. Basically, people have taken to the old myths, choosing to see them as metaphors for life and not necessarily the worship of the gods. Following the nine noble virtues, a Viking would adhere to courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, self-reliance, industriousness, and finally perseverance. It’s an easy enough value system to follow and can be applied practically in our day-to-day, if you ask me. Furthermore, there exists a modern, more liberal, interpretation so it’s not like you’ll get excommunicated if you don’t follow the rules and orthodoxies. You can follow it as closely as you care to, meaning you may take what you want out of it without prescribing to the dress code or pursuing any Sunday sermons. Insofar as I’ve adopted these beliefs, I try to always be strong rather than let weakness prevail, show courage when they expect the coward, and seek joy instead of wallowing in guilt. I’m not one for group rituals. I’m a very solitary practitioner of my heathen ways.

For a visual, your modern day Viking would not stand idly by if they were to bear witness to bullying or harassment. When we see somebody else in pain or hurt we are quick to imagine it as our own and act accordingly, with or without a battleaxe. Another aspect I enjoy about this religion is that women are treated as equals. We hold them in high respect. In a Viking shield wall there was often spear maidens mingled in among the warriors. Be forewarned(!), the females are just as ferocious, if not more so than the men.

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Just so you don’t think that modern day Vikings are too otherworldly, Have you ever seen Game of Thrones, the popular HBO fantasy series? Yes? Well, among the cast, there’s an Icelander. Cast accurately as “the Mountain”, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (don’t ask me how that’s pronounced), was able to recently dispose of an ancient record reportedly set over 1,000 years ago. This man stands 6’9, weighs in over the 400lbs mark and in the World’s strongest Viking competition managed to take 5 steps with a 30 foot log that was a crushing 1,433lbs. According to legend the previous record holder died from injuries sustained in undertaking the challenge. ‘Don’t know about you guys but that is an absurd amount of weight to lug around. Hafþór’s native Iceland is also the setting for the first major temple since the Viking ages. Though most tended to Christianity several hundred years ago, the neo-paganists of Iceland are a population on the rise, soon to have their own place of worship.

I don’t need a church or leader of any kind to tell me how to honor my roots; I have enough symbols pertaining to it. From some of my ink to the pendant that rarely leaves my neck I have a strong passion for the Norse culture. The pendant is Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, and is wrapped by Jormundgandr, the world serpent. I ordered it online courtesy of a blacksmith from Finland, fashioned from a single piece of iron with an elk leather strap. The reason why I wear it is because the hammer represents strength, honor and courage while the serpent is a tribute to the awesome and terrible powers of nature. It also appeals to me aesthetically in its simplicity. Fenrir, is a giant and powerful wolf that is expected to devour the sun and moon as well as kill Odin during Ragnarok. This would count as the Nordic mythology’s equivalent of the Mayan calendar year of 2012, it’s the Viking apocalypse. He howls on my right arm but carries a different meaning for me than most. His story is an interesting one but my interpretation is personal; I accepted a darker side of myself but also have the mark as a reminder. Animals, as with people, are not meant to be caged or chained. We shouldn’t be confined to societal cookie-cutter constraints.

Huginn and Muninn are Odin’s ravens that each day would fly out to explore the world and they would return with the news of all they witnessed. I perched them on my right forearm with a Valknut moon between them. The Valknut marks its bearers as sons and daughters of Odin, the symbol itself is three interlocking triangles. It is rumoured that where you place it is where Odin will place his spear so that you may fight alongside him during Ragnarok. Huginn, loosely translates as ‘thought’, while Muninn is indicative of ‘mind’ or ‘memory’. I take life in by a simple means: I will judge the book by its cover and then follow my instincts with whatever ‘thought’ comes to mind. Even if first impressions aren’t favorable I will still operate this cosmic calculus. Once used to this method, I can proceed by using past experience or memories to make decisions or judgments accordingly.

Huginn and Muninn
Huginn and Muninn

By Odin’s grace, I hope this piece was interesting and gave you something to think about. Not sure how to close it out so I’m leaving it open-ended for possible future ranting and Viking propaganda! If this is a hot topic I have a Viking epic I’ve been working on that could use some insight or commentary.

-Ryan Largan