The Vikings usually worshipped their gods in open-air forums located at ancient sites, sacred grounds or on Islands which they inhabited. Occasionally people congregated in wooden temples as well, which contained carved images of their various deities. The Viking culture was known to have practiced sacrificial offerings. Sacrifices of animals, crops and even sometimes humans were regularly made to their gods, and no matter of importance would ever be undertaken without first petitioning the relevant gods for guidance.
From their religious beliefs, the Norseman viewed their world as a flat disc, surrounded by a vast ocean and here to them, coiled around the earth, was the Midgard Serpent. Supporting the earth was a giant ash tree, known as Yggdrasill, whose roots stretched from the freezing depths of Hel (the world of the dead) to Jötunheimr (the home of the giants), which lay on the far side of the ocean at the world's end. In Viking mythology, it was said that beneath the roots of Yggdrasill that lay the great Well of Fates and Wisdom, which was tended by the Norns, who were three spirits that wove the threads of destiny for all life. Also, the Vikings believed that chained to a rock at the centre of the earth was the ravenous wolf known as Fenrir, whose jaws stretched across the entire universe.
According to their ancient religion, humankind dwelt in a realm known as Midgard and lived under the protection of many deities, the most important of which were the Aesir who lived in Asgard, the stronghold of the gods. First and foremost in this pantheon was Odin, the 'All-Father', the god of kings, knowledge, understanding, magic and poetry. He was also known as 'the helmeted one', the god of war. The worldly creatures associated with him were the wolf and the raven, battlefield carrion the feasted on the corpses of slain warriors. It was every Viking warriors wish to die a hero's death on the battlefield and be chosen by the fierce spirits known as Valkyries, who would carry the bravest of them to Odin's great 'Hall of the Slain' called Valhalla, a majestic and enormous hall located in Asgard.
Viking art refers to the art and decorative style produced by the Vikings during the Viking Age, which lasted from the 8th century to the 11th century CE. Viking art was characterized by its intricate designs, bold shapes, and use of natural materials such as wood, bone, and metal.
One of the most distinctive features of Viking art is its use of intricate knotwork, interlacing patterns, and animal motifs. These designs were often used to decorate weapons, jewelry, and other personal items, and were intended to demonstrate the wealth and status of their owners.
Viking art also featured distinctive styles of metalwork, such as the use of filigree and repoussé techniques to create intricate designs in gold and silver. Viking metalwork was often highly detailed, with intricate patterns and designs that were both beautiful and functional.
In addition to metalwork and decorative arts, Viking art also included distinctive styles of carving, particularly in wood and stone. Viking carvings often depicted scenes from Norse mythology, as well as everyday life and nature.
Overall, Viking art is significant because it reflects the cultural and artistic achievements of the Viking people, and represents a unique and influential artistic tradition that continues to inspire artists and scholars today. Viking art also played an important role in the development of European art and design, particularly during the medieval period, and helped to shape the artistic and cultural heritage of Northern Europe.
Tabetha McHugh & Randy H. Sooknanan
November 4, 2020
Swedish History Museum, CC BY 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons
Norse mythology stitching. This part of the 12th-century Swedish Skog tapestry has, possibly erroneously, been interpreted to show, from left to right, the one-eyed Odin, the hammer-wielding Thor and Freyr holding up wheat. Terje Leiren believes this grouping corresponds closely to the trifunctional division. Photographer unknown, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Tony Marino Museum, University of Oslo https://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/viking-age/when-was-the-viking-age.html
Photo: The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland https://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/professions/education/the-viking-age-geography/the-vikings-in-the-west/scotland/the-lewis-chessmen
Gilded bronze phallic figure from Lunda http://viking.archeurope.info/index.php?page=gilded-bronze-phallic-figure-from-lunda
The Oseberg Ship
Tabetha McHugh & Randy H. Sooknanan
December 15, 2021