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10 Facts Most People Do Not Know About the Vikings

The entrance of ancient Scandinavians in Europe and Asia, violent and bloody as most were, marked a turning point in human history. Their interaction with medieval Europe started a culture clash that mostly changed both Scandinavia and Europe. Through the 300 years of their Southern Surge, Vikings reached more places in the world than any explorers before them. The very sound of their approach was enough to cause fear and turmoil in great nations, but no one really liked or understood them. Their culture and power are shrouded in mystery are these are the ten most exciting facts many people don’t know about them.

They Used Onion Soup to Diagnose Wounds

Viking fought a lot and soldiers getting injured in battle, or their many brutal sports was not strange. As a result, they devised some of the most advanced open wound treatment mechanisms at the time. However, unlike other places where all wounds were at least given a chance to heal, Vikings did not waste medicine on fatal injuries. They had one of the simplest but kind of cruel methods of sealing the fate of a wounded man. They would give onion soup mixed with leeks and other potent herbs to the patient then observe the smell of the wound. If the smell of onion soup came from the wound, it would prove that vital organs had been hit and the injury was fatal.[1]

Thursday Is Named After Thor, the Viking God of Thunder

It is hard to understand how the important 4th day of the week is named after this hammer-wielding comic character for many English speakers. Angels and Saxons, or Anglo-Saxons as we know them today were the first Germanic tribes to colonize the British Isles, but other invaders entirely shaped their language and culture. The Vikings were the first group that changed England permanently and renaming days of the week was just the least of what they did. Although most of their influence was wiped out during the Norman invasion, their language and culture was deeply rooted and later absorbed into the English Language. Thōrsdagr was the world in Old Norse for Thor’s day which later became Thursday. Other words include kaka, which became came and wind’s eye which became a window.[2]

They Had One of the Earliest Versions of a Compass

Vikings navigated the largest span of the sea than any other group of sailors before them, and the sun was not enough if you needed to retain your track of direction across the vast sea. They had to invent a method of traveling in a nearly straight line, and they did. Although the Chinese are believed to have had a compass as early as 206BC, they did not put it to as much use as the Vikings. The Viking compass called the Uurnatoq disc was a wooden disc used in conjunction with a short pin and a set of crystals called sunstones. With these tools, Vikings could pinpoint the position of the sun even when it was beyond the horizon and use the shadow on the disc to travel in almost a straight line determined to have just four degrees of error. This genius method was used to navigate to Greenland long before the Vikings even came to Europe. It later helped them conquer the seas traveling to Europe, Asia and even North Africa and always find their way back home.[3]

You Had to Die in Combat to Go to Heaven

The Viking heaven was called Valhalla or the hall of Asgard where all the faithful warriors of Odin that died in battle and received a great burial could congregate, drink ever flowing Meade and fight alongside Odin. There was no place for the weak among the Vikings and their strong belief in the existence of Valhalla encouraged their brutal lifestyle that led to deaths at an average age of 40. This was a type of heaven that many would not want to go to today because you still had to fight even after death and you could still be killed. They, however, believed that Odin would heal all their wounds in Valhalla. Everyone that did not die a violent death including the old, the drowned, oath breakers and the sick all went to Niflheim, a horrific hell cold and full of flesh-eating beasts.[4]

They Were Active in the Atlantic Slave Trade

Viking raids were mostly conducted in a bid to gain silver and gold, but they were also great merchants and slaves were part of their most valued possessions. It was normal for a nobleman to own slaves some of whom could be used as a sacrifice to Odin after a battle. Viking slaves were also buried alongside their masters when they died. Their treatment of slaves was one of the worst in the world at the time. Many historians agree that the Vikings resorted to slavery mainly because of a shortage of women and workers although some records show that Vikings were just slave merchants that bought and sold slaves across Russia, Byzantium, and the Middle East. Slaves were mostly treated like animals and forced to live with animals, beheaded at will and not given an honorable burial when they died.[5][6]

Viking Women Enjoyed Almost Equal Rights as Men

This was an aspect of Viking culture that stood out among the other societies of medieval Europe and Asia. Although the term Viking was initially used to refer to men only, Recent researches have disproved these facts and established these women as a significant part of Viking success. Christian Europe had a culture of demeaning women giving them a lower position in the Society, but Viking women were free and eligible to enjoy the same rights as any man. A Viking woman could sleep with men before marriage and marry a man of their choice. There was no idea of illegitimate children as was common in Europe and Asia; all children were allowed to live with their parent of choice and inherit their wealth. The woman could also remarry or divorce her husband and inherit wealth just like any man, oh, and a woman could reclaim all her bride price back if the marriage did not work out.[7]

Weak or Deformed Children Were Abandoned at Birth

The life of a Viking was hard; only people with the ability to fight had a chance of beating the odds which is why parents did not give the weak a chance. The harsh climate and a lifetime of fighting, hunting, and farming could not accommodate a vulnerable child. Children were expected to start helping out with family chores as young as five. Training for agriculture, fighting, sailing, and hunting was induced at a very early age that could not be handled by weak or slow children. It was literally a survival for the fittest kind of environment for everyone from birth. Historians agree that only 80% of Viking children reached the age of five which is why most parents opted to stay with the strongest of their children. If a baby showed signs of being sick or signs of being handicapped, the parents would consider them a curse and abandon them or drown them in the sea.[8][9]

They Discovered North America 500 Years Before Columbus

Native Americans are believed to have Inhabited North America over 35,000 years ago, but the question of the first foreigners to land on the continent has never been clearly answered. While the arrival of western civilization in America can be largely traced to Christopher Columbus’s landing in 1942, The curious Vikings had long arrived and left their mark. The famous Viking discovery was made by Leif Erikson who named America Vinland, (wine land) because he found grapes for making wine and timber for his tents, something Greenland didn’t have in such plentiful supply. They had interactions with Indians, and as the Vikings liked it, they attacked the first group of Indians they met. This created hostilities which later forced the outnumbered Vikings to go back home.[10]

Their Most Fearsome Warriors Relied on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms

Berserk, the English term for being out of control came from the name Berserkers, a group of Viking soldiers that entered the battlefield only in wolfskins or bear skins without a shield. While other warriors wore chin mail or used round wooden shields for protection in battle, these soldiers believed that Odin had given them superpowers and so they attacked ferociously in a trancelike state, seemingly unaware of their enemies’ weapons or their own wounds. They killed everything in their way, and many people thought they were very drunk, but this could not fully explain their ferocity. The main reason for this condition was a mystery for many years, but scientists later confirmed that these soldiers were in fact high on a special kind of mushroom. Scientists had proved that Fly Agaric mushrooms were growing in Norway around the year 900 when the first Berserkers appeared fighting for King Harald Fairhair.[11][12]

They Had Special Firestarters Made From Urine

To be a real Viking, You had to stay in long voyages, brave rough seas and be ready to fight with any enemy you met whether at sea or on land. To meet these requirements, Vikings had to invent a method of starting a fire as quickly as they needed and their Firestarter, though convenient, had a rather gross manufacturing process. The main ingredient was Tinder Fungus which is known to spark naturally when dried. They cut and charred the fungus to felt before boiling it in the urine. The simple explanation is that urine has sodium nitrate which allowed the fungus cloth to smoke for a long time without turning to flames allowing them to carry it comfortably at sea. This method allowed them to light up arrowheads for onshore fights and also set a campfire running immediately after reaching land.[13]

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