Weird History

Unusual Viking Rituals That Might Surprise You 

Lyra Radford
Updated December 27, 2019 12.5k votes 3.6k voters 514.7k views 10 items

List Rules Vote up the truly weird rituals the Vikings actually did - those you can't believe were really a thing.

There were some pretty unusual Viking rituals practiced from the late 8th century into the late 11th century. It’s no secret that Vikings were fierce warriors with a reputation for raiding nations and brutalizing their inhabitants. These intense, seafaring Scandinavians would slaughter dozens and perform some pretty severe ritualistic executions. What’s known is that the Viking age is littered with some extreme 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 productive farmers and enjoyed activities such as skiing and crafting. Women were highly respected and wielded a great deal of 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. 

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Berserkers Raided Towns Like Beasts
Berserkers Raided Towns ... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Unusual Viking Rituals That Might Surprise You
Photo: RICpaint/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0

Berserkers were warrior shamans, but they had to undergo a symbolic death and rebirth to unlock their powers. To achieve this, they were put in dangerous situations in the wild and were expected to live as their totem animal would in the wilderness. Whether bear or wolf, they’d have to hunt and raid nearby towns as a beast would.

They purposely stripped themselves of all humanity and morale to become savages on a physical and emotional level. They went berserk as beasts did on the battlefield with no fear nor armor.

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The Blót Was A Huge Sacrifice Meant To Show Gratitude To The Gods
The Blót Was A Hu... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Unusual Viking Rituals That Might Surprise You
Photo: August Malmström/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Blót was a blood sacrifice to the gods to show gratitude, which is why it was performed publicly multiple times per year.

Typically, animals were sliced over an altar of stones. The blood was collected in a bowl and then passed around and sipped while chanting ensued. Next, they’d pass around the carcass for more chanting, before dousing it with its own blood. The level of gratitude correlated with the size of the kill. 

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Vikings Painted Their Teeth
Vikings Painted Their Te... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Unusual Viking Rituals That Might Surprise You
Photo: Monro S. Orr/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Findings suggest Vikings practiced decorative tooth modification.

About two dozen skeletal remains from the Viking era have been discovered with horizontal grooves purposely filed into the surfaces of the front teeth. It’s believed they used various dyes to color in the grooves. 

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Vikings Repurposed Their Urine
Vikings Repurposed Their... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Unusual Viking Rituals That Might Surprise You
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Vikings discovered a way to turn their urine into fire. This was done by boiling a tree bark fungus, called touchwood, in a pot of urine for days. It was then pounded into a strip of “felt-like” material.

Because of the sodium nitrate in urine, these "fungus bombs" smoldered rather than burned, enabling Vikings to take fire with them wherever they went. 

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