There were some pretty weird Viking rituals practiced from the late eighth century into the late 11th century. It’s no secret that Vikings were savage warriors with a reputation for raiding nations and brutalizing their inhabitants. These fierce, seafaring Scandinavians would slaughter dozens and perform ritualistic executions that would give even Clive Barker nightmares. What’s known as the Viking age is littered with some scary rituals from the Norse religion but also a few oddball traditions that Vikings practiced exclusively.
These ruthless pirates had a softer side and a superstitious side as well. They believed in omens and used good luck charms. The same Norse Paganism that instilled their sacrificial practices also taught them to respect the land. They were great farmers and enjoyed activities such as skiing and crafting. Surprisingly enough, they also gave their women an abundance of respect and power within their society, which was rare for the time. They lived in a well-ordered democratic society that just happened to partake in terrifying Norse rituals from time to time.
The Blood Eagle Was a Gruesome Execution Method
In Norse literature, the Blood Eagle is described as a ritualized form of execution, a sacrifice to the god Odin. While it’s extremely disturbing to imagine this happening, historians have come to the conclusion that it did.
First, they would restrain the victim, which was usually a nobleman, face down and carve the shape of an eagle with its wings extended into his back. Then, they’d hack his ribs at until they detached from his spine. The ribs would be pulled out to create the illusion of protruding wings. While still alive and in agony, the victim’s lungs would be pulled from the gaping hole and set over his “wings.” This would cause his wings to “flutter” as he took his final breaths and died.
The Viking Chief Cremation Ceremony Involved an Orgy and a Sacrifice
After the death of a chief, one of his “slave girls” would volunteer to join him in the afterlife. In order for her to do that, a very disturbing ritual had to take place first. The girl was looked after and kept intoxicated (probably so she wouldn't come to her senses and back out), while the cremation ceremony preparations were being made. The girl would partake in “sexual rites,” where she would have sex with every man in the village before being strangled. The village matriarch would stab her and her body would be cremated with the chief on a wooden ship.
Every Nine Years, 81 People Were Sacrificed During Yule
Every ninth year, during Yule, it was customary for Swedish Kings to sacrifice men at the Temple at Uppsala. Nine heads would be offered to the gods, with the bodies hanging out in the temple’s sacred grove. This would go on for nine days, totaling 81 sacrifices that would be accompanied by feasts and Yule festivities.
Warding Off the Draugr Involved Scissors, Twigs, and Needles
A draugr is basically the Norse mythology version of a zombie. But not just any zombie: a big, brutal, Viking zombie with fabulously lye-dyed locks and a horrendous stench. There are several practices to prevent this being from rising. Hiding twigs in the clothing of the recently deceased is said to work. Placing an open pair of scissors on their chest or driving needles through the bottom of their feet ward off draugrs as well. There’s also a slightly “Three Stooges” approach, which is to disorient the creature by lifting and lowering the coffin in three different directions and making sure the body’s big toes are tied together.