The Vikings Sacrificed to the Gods in Rivers and Lakes

A doctoral dissertation from 2009 shows that the Vikings sacrificed valuable and beautiful objects to the Norse gods and their forefathers at bridges and fjords because they believed they were the boundary between the living and the deceased.

The thesis by Julie Lund, Lecturer at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo – offers an insight into sacrificial customs of the Viking Age lasting from year 793 – 1066 AD.

Previously it was believed that this type of sacrifices came to an end in the Migration Period around year 500, but it turns out that the tradition continued into the Viking Age.

Bridges and Fjords

The Vikings used special places in the landscape for these rituals. Bridges and fjords were particularly important because they served as a boundary between the living and the deceased. Viking settlements and burial sites were almost always close to water or connected by a bridge.

Lund examined the findings from about thirty sacrificial sites in Scandinavia, from the River Thames in Southern England and the River Shannon in Ireland. Places that came under Scandinavian influence in the Viking Age. Many of the sacrifices or ritual closures took place at bridges.

Many of the sacrificial sites were named after Norse gods, such as Tissø in Denmark, i.e. Tyr’s lake – the god of war and the one who decided who won battles.

An important discovery is that these special places often are highlighted in Norse sources as central to how people perceived the world.

Keep reading

The Fortification of Asgard

A certain smith arrived at Asgard one day and offered to build the gods a high wall around their home to protect them from any who might wish them ill. The smith (certainly a giant himself) said he could complete his work in a mere three seasons, but demanded a steep compensation: the hand of the goddess Freya in marriage, as well as the sun and moon.

The gods took counsel together. Freya was adamantly against the giant’s terms from the start. But Loki suggested that the builder should obtain that which he desired, although only if he could complete his work in a single winter, with no aid from anyone but his horse. After much deliberation, the gods consented to Loki’s plan. Of course, the gods had no intention of actually giving Freya away, nor the sun or the moon; they thought that the task they demanded was impossible.

The giant smith, however, agreed to their terms, provided that the gods swear oaths to ensure that, if their conditions were met, they would fulfill their end of the bargain, and that he himself would be safe in Asgard while he worked.

The builder set about constructing the wall, and the gods marveled at how quickly the structure was raised. What was even more perplexing to them was that the giant’s stallion, Svadilfari (“Unlucky Traveler”) seemed to be doing almost twice as much work as the smith himself, hauling enormous boulders over considerable distances to add to the edifice. When the end of winter was only three days ahead, the wall was strong enough to be impenetrable by almost any enemy, and – alarmingly – lacking little before it was finished. Only the stones around the gate had yet to be put in place.

The anxious gods seized Loki and rebuked him for giving them such foul advice. They threatened him with death if he couldn’t find a way to prevent the giant from finishing his task and making off with their beloved goddess Freya and the sun and moon, bringing neverending darkness and dreariness to the Nine Worlds. Loki pleaded with the gods to spare his life, and swore an oath that he would do as the gods desired, come what may.

That night, the giant and Svadilfari ventured into the snow-draped forest in search of stones. Along their way, a mare, who was none other than Loki in disguise, whinnied to the stallion from a short distance away. When the stallion saw the mare, his heart wasn’t the only organ that was roused by delight and lust, and he snapped his reins and bounded into the woods after her. The mare ran all night, and all night Svadilfari chased after her. When morning came, the giant’s horse was still missing, and the now-despairing giant knew that there was no way that he could now finish the wall in time.

The Aesir then paid the giant the wages they deemed he deserved: a fatal blow from Thor’s hammer, which shattered his head into pieces no bigger than breadcrumbs.

Meanwhile, deep in the forest, Svadilfari had caught up with Loki, who soon gave birth to a gray, eight-legged horse – Sleipnir, who became the steed of Odin.

(text source)
Artwork for Fate of the Norns, the Illuminated Edda.
Ink, watercolour, PS.

© Nataša Ilinčić, please do not remove credits


Sigi was said to be a son of Odin. One day, he went out hunting together with a slave named Bredi. When Bredi returned with a far greater kill, Sigi angered and in his rage he slew the man.

For this act he was decreed an outlaw and was banished from his home. With the help of Odin, he was guided to some warships and Sigi took up raiding. Through the success of this he managed to become a mighty ruler, ruling over a land known as Hunland.

Was This Woman Beheaded and Sacrificed to Odin?

Archeologists believe that the skull found earlier this week just south of Bergen, may originate from a human sacrifice dating back to the Iron Age.

In Norway, the Iron Age lasted approximately from year 500 BC – 1050 AD, i.e. until the end of the Viking Age.

The skull, that was found by two hikers and sent to the Gade Institute at the University of Bergen for examination, probably belonged to a woman in her 30s.

The researchers believe that she may have been chosen in a prehistoric human sacrifice and beheaded. After the execution, she was lowered into a pond where the corpse has been lying on the bottom preserved by the mud masses.

– We can see that this is a woman from the head shape, size, forehead and eye sockets, says biological anthropologist Stian Suppersberger Hamre at the University of Bergen to NRK.

There are no signs of cavities or dental treatment, which is another indication that the skull probably originates from prehistoric times.

Sacrificed to Odin?

But – was she sacrificed to Odin, Thor or one of the other Norse gods?

Scientists are not sure how or exactly when the belief in the Norse gods arose.

Some believe that we already in the Bronze Age can see Thor fights the Midgard Serpent. Others believe that they can recognize Odin on some very old bracteates – flat, thin, single-sided gold medals worn as jewelry produced in Northern Europe. If they are right, Odin was worshiped already from year 400-450 AD, and maybe even earlier.

Not until the Viking Age – about year 750-800 – there is certain evidence that people worshiped the Norse gods.

Human sacrifice was part of a religious practice, where the person who was chosen had done nothing wrong but was chosen to appease the gods.

Now, the skull will be dated as accurately as possible by the help of radiological investigations. This will hopefully give archaeologists more answers to what actually happened to the woman.

Source: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews


So ready for Krigslive: Valhal, the LARP I’m going to this weekend! I’ll be gone from tomorrow till Sunday, fighting and drinking like the old Gods wanted it!
EDIT: Yes, this is real chainmail and real metal bracers. This costume weights about 15kg/34lbs