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A map over the Eastern Route
Items found in a Viking grave
The Vikings themselves did not write down their historical events. Historians have had to use other, more indirect means of reconstructing what Viking life was like.
The Eastern Route
A thousand years ago the Vikings traveled the Eastern Route, to the huge market places in Russia. The route passed the outer archipelago and the narrow strait between Hitis and Rosala, which was called Örsund and was an important port and market place at the Eastern Route.
There is an old Danish document from the 13th century that shows a boat route from Denmark along the Swedish coast to Ĺland, and via Hitis and Hangö to Reval, i.e. Tallinn. The Vikings also used this route, but their destination was a bit further away.
The Viking ships
The Viking ships were ca 15 meters long, and they had a mast and textile sails. There was a lot of room below deck, where all selling goods was kept, along with food and drink for several weeks. The water was kept in wooden barrels or sacks of animal skin. When there was little or no wind, the ship was rowed with 4 m long ores.
Read more about the Viking ships
Funeral ceremonies varied. A deceased Viking could be either buried or cremated. Of those people who chose burial, most were buried with all the things they thought they would need in the afterlife. Grave goods might include beer and food, clothing, jewelry, weapons and even animals.
Viking mythology includes an elaborate creation myth, as well as a graphic description of the future ending of the world, at Ragnarok.
An infinite number of winters before the earth was created there was only the Great Abyss, a gorge of unfathomable depth. The abyss of emptiness was called Ginnungagap. From the North, from the land of frost and cold, ice and snow fell into the Abyss. From the South, from the land of fire and heat, burning rivers flowed into the deep. After an eternity of time the ice and the fire came within of each other, and when Surt struck sparks against the ice, the primordial cow came into being. Then also Ymer, the first ice-giant, was born. From his armpit, without the aid of a woman, Ymer gave birth to a giant and a giantess. Foot was coupled with foot, and a son with many heads was born. Out of the salty ice the primordial cow licked a man with beautiful features. His name was Bore, the born one. It is from him that all the Gods are descended. There was no earth nor sky, but under the soil the World Tree, Yggdrasil, pushed forth its roots.
Yggdrasil, the World Tree
Over time the Gods grew weary of living with the giants in Ginnungagap. Odin and his brothers decided to build a better world. Building material was needed for this new world and so Ymer was slain and ground between two great millstones. The earth was fashioned from his flesh, from his blood the sea and the crags from his bones. The vault of heaven from his skull and from his brains were all harsh storm clouds created. Four dwarves were set to bear the vault of heaven, one in each direction of the wind. Earth was given a place at the center of the World Tree and is called Midgard, Middle Earth. The golden woods of the gods were set in the crown of the ash and to ward off the giants all of Asgard was surrounded by a high wall. Upon Yggdrasil's three roots lies the netherworld with its springs. Each day the Gods ride over the colorful bridge Bifrost to rule over the rights and wrongs of the world. The land of the dead, Hel, is covered in mist. Last the Gods created two humans, Ask and Embla, and gave them Midgard to dwell in. Those giants who had survived the flood of Ymer's blood were forced to live in Utgard at the edge of the world.
Viking mythology also encompassed what was going to happen at some unspecified time in the future, when the gods themselves would die. Here there is a definite parallel with the Christian account, in Revelation, of the forthcoming Apocalypse, for Ragnarok too is a final battle between the forces of good and evil.
When Heimdall, the guardian of the Gods blows his horn will the warriors of Valhall know that the battle has begun. The World Serpent twists itself in giant hate, raises waves, sneezes fire and spits poison. Thor, the god of Thunder, kills the serpent with his hammer, but only nine steps does the son of gods take before the serpent's poison brings him down. The ship Nagelfar sails off, led by the wolf, the crew of cast-offs draw nigh. Odin charges, the battle field thunders, Bifrost breaks. Great is the sorrow in the land of the gods when the father of time is swallowed by the wolf.
The sun grows dark, the earth sinks to the sea. All the bright stars fall from the sky. Afterwards silence, darkness.
Read more about the Viking gods.
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