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The Vikings' Winter Solstice

From the 1st of December to the winter solstice on the 22nd, we wrote a little story about the Vikings every day. These postings are now gathered here. Use them for a Viking quiz, for teaching or just to learn more about the amazing world of our ancestors.

December hits soon, and the Christmas spirit is starting to really take hold. In this connection, we will, together with you - our followers - count down to the Vikings' winter solstice party. Every day, until December 22, we share a small story containing information from Denmark's heyday - a small Christmas snack filled with goodies from the Viking Age.

Here are the 22 Viking facts:


The winter solstice is an Old Nordic tradition celebrating the return of the sun. It is the time of year when the sun is lowest in the sky and the days thereafter become slower and brighter. The Vikings celebrated the winter solstice with a huge party (just) and many toasts.
The first bowl was brought out in Odin's honor: "For the king and the victory".
Then a toast to Njord and Frej "For good years and peace" and with a desire to ensure good growth.
So a dish with a personal promise of great feats, e.g. in battle.
The last bowl was brought out in memory of the dead who rested in the burial mounds.

[2. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] CHRISTMAS IN THE VIKING AGE

The word "Christmas" can be traced back to the Vikings' expression "drink Christmas" and is associated with the winter solstice party.
The very word "jól" means "turn, turn" and refers to the Vikings' celebration of the winter turning. It was celebrated with a sumptuous feast: one ate, drank and feasted. This is how we still do today, as a central part we eat a big meal and celebrate the end of a year cycle.

[3. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] THE FIRST STORIES

An account of the winter solstice comes from the Arab at-Tartuschi and tells how the Viking town of Hedeby celebrated the winter solstice: Animals were sacrificed to the gods, and the ceremony itself was held by the women. An excerpt from his story: “They celebrate a feast where everyone comes to honor the god and to eat and drink. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal raises poles at the door of his courtyard and places the sacrificial animal on it. It is so that people may know that he is sacrificing to the glory of his God ”.
Ibn Fadlan also describes the animal sacrifices: the animals were slaughtered and some of the meat was given to the poor, others were given to the gods. The heads of the sacrificed animals were put on a stake.

[4. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] VIKING TRAINS

When the Vikings sailed towards foreign shores, they stayed out of sight of the land. Should they attack, they laid down the ship's mast and sail and rowed swiftly towards the shore.
Without sails and masts raised, the narrow ship was almost invisible until it was very close to shore, and with its low keel, the Vikings could dock anywhere and quickly land.

[5. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] DENMARK IN THE VIKING AGE

The name Denmark appears at the earliest in a runic inscription on the small Jelling stone (ca. 930), which is called Gorm's stone. It is derived from the popular name "daner", and the old Nordic word "mark" means "cultivated or uncultivated land" or "wooded land".

[6. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] BATTLE CRYING FROM THE VIKING AGE

The Vikings and other Nordic warriors used battle cries to provide their best. Some of these battle cries have been written down as follows:
"Odin owns you all" (Battle of Fyris ramparts before 985)
"Forward, forward, men of Christ, men of the cross and men of the king" (the battle of Stiklestad in the year 1030)
"Forward, Forward peasants" (the battle of Stiklestad in the year 1030)
“Strike, Strike, the king's men, hard, hard the peasants” (the battle of Stiklestad in the year 1030)
"Out! Out! Out!" (Battle of Hastings, Anglo-Saxon battle cry in 1066)

[7. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] GOLD RINGS IN THE VIKING AGE

In Viking times, it was common to swear allegiance to one's chief through various ceremonies: in the sword-hold the chief holds the sword over his knees, and he who was to serve sat down in front and laid his hand on the sword-hold.
In another ceremony, the official received a gift from his chief, who was now in debt to the giver. The debt was paid through loyal service.
After these ceremonies, a gold ring was most often exchanged, a symbol of the pact between the chief and his official. With the ring, the oath was locked into an eternal circle.

[8. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] VIKING TRAINS

The Vikings' many expeditions and wars also led to many wounded, so it was important to be able to heal these wounds before it was too late. Effective treatment required extensive knowledge of herbs and plants with medicinal properties.
One of the suitable plants was kvan. It contains the substances Angelicin, which stimulates the digestive system, and Furanocoumarin, which has an anti-anxiety effect. Kvanroden is diuretic and can be used against loss of appetite and bloated stomach.
Another was peat moss. Moss is bactericidal and was used by comminuting it and applying it to the wound. Golden rice was used for wraps or crushed for ointment to disinfect wounds, abscesses or other, also chronic skin disorders.

[9. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] THE WOMAN IN THE VIKING AGE

The view of the Christians of the time about the woman was that she was lower than the man and belonged to him.
This was certainly not the case in Viking society. Here the woman was valued and respected, and there was almost equality between the sexes. The woman could raise cases in the court herself, she was entitled to legal protection and had to be responsible for the same law. She could even own land and inherit on an equal footing with the man.
It is clear that woman was a fully integrated part of society.

[10. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] THE WOMAN'S HONOR IN THE VIKING AGE

The husband's honor spread to his wife, therefore she was active in all conflicts. Her personal honor was reflected by her actions, and unlike in other societies, she had some control over it. She could divorce if the man did not respect her honor; she could even take over roles that were otherwise reserved for the man. She could, for example, decide on her own fortune and make the decision on marriage herself.
The woman's independence was closely linked to her role as the financial manager. In her daily work she was indispensable and in charge of housekeeping, and as a symbol of her dignity she carried the door and coffin key of the house in her belt.

[11. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] THE THING IN THE VIKING SOCIETY

In Viking times, a popular thing existed in every small village. Here they met to resolve conflicts and disagreements and discussed defense and other Community decisions.
The function of the parliament is only roughly known, but many different cases have been discussed and settled: military decisions, religious powers and judicial matters. Disputes were presented to the parliament, which handed down rulings based on the parliament's statutes so far drawn up.
The content of the articles of association is not known, it is only known that the social position of the parties involved must have had an impact on the decision and the decision-making process itself.

[12. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] RUNS FROM THE VIKINGS

The rune stones are the only written sources we have from the Viking Age, and are thus the safest accounts from this time. Saxo's and Edda's poems were written in the late Viking Age and are retellings.
Approx. 200 rune stones in Denmark, 50 in Norway and over 2000 in Sweden. In addition, there are a small number with Nordic inscriptions from the rest of Europe as well as several thousand, quite short runic inscriptions in objects such as combs, jewelery, beams. beer.

[13. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] RUNER ENTRIES

The runic inscriptions have helped us a lot to create a clear picture of the Viking Age. They tell about the most characteristic phenomena, events and people of historical Vikings, e.g. the change of faith, expeditions to foreign lands, the community in the Viking villages and not least the Vikings' thoughts about their world.

[14. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] RUNS FROM THE VIKING AGE

Many of the runic inscriptions are short and precise, e.g. it says on the Rønning stone: "Sote put this stone after his brother, Elev, son of Asgot with the sweet shield".
However, there are exceptions. The Glavendrup stone, which has over 210 characters and is Denmark's longest runic inscription, carries the following message: “Ragnhild put this stone after All saulua good, uial (i) ps honorable thegn. Everyone's sons made these cumbles after their father and his wife after her husband, but Sote carved these runes after her drot. Thor dedicates these runes.
To a raft be he who ailti this stone or drag it after another (*). "
(*) removes it and puts it in memory of another

[15. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] TVEKAMP IN THE VIKING AGE

In Viking times, a thoughtlessly thrown out remark, gossip, slander or a swear word could trigger a duel. If a man felt offended, wronged, or was otherwise involved in disagreements, he could demand that the case be settled in a duel.
There were two types: Holmgang, where many rules had to be observed, did not necessarily mean the death of the losing party. Envig meant looser rules, but a fight to the death.
In the 1000s, dueling was banned, and the parliament was to decide the disputes instead.

[16. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] FARMERS

Most Vikings were farmers, predominantly they bred sheep, cows, goats, horses and poultry. They lived on the meat, but also used the milk from cows, goats and sheep or processed it into butter, cheese or sour milk.
A man's wealth was often measured in animals, and on the large, rich farms there were stables that could house hundreds of domestic animals. Othar, a grocer from Norway, told i.a. King Alfred of England that he had 20 cows, 20 sheep, 20 pigs and a herd of 600 reindeer and earned the most by selling their skins.

[17. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] JEWELERY FROM THE VIKING AGE

In Viking times, both men and women wore jewelry in the form of bracelets, necklaces and buckles. Some were used only for decoration and to show one's wealth, others had practical purposes, i.a. buckles were used to hold the clothes together. Others had symbolic value, such as figures of Thor's hammer Mjølner, Odin etc. And was used as amulets.
The jewelry was made in many different materials such as wood, glass, amber, bronze, silver and gold, often decorated with geometric shapes, braided ribbons, animal heads and predators. The Vikings also imitated jewelry from other countries, but gave them their own stamp.
Thanks to archeological finds, we can today adorn ourselves with faithful copies of the Vikings' jewelry.

[18. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] DENMARK IN THE VIKING TIME

Denmark in the Viking Age consisted of present-day Denmark, the now German South Schleswig and the now Swedish lands Scania and Halland.
Possibly Denmark was already a united kingdom as early as the ninth century. During Harald Bluetooth's time in the 10th century, it was at least a united kingdom with one king, which indicates that there has been some form of association before.
Dannevirke is a perfect example of this, as parts of the work were built in the year 737 - a proof that at that time there was a well-functioning military and an organizational government.

[19. dec. in the countdown to winter solstice] THE VIKINGS WERE TRADERS

The Vikings were skilled traders who traveled far, also outside Scandinavia, to buy and sell goods, often timber for shipbuilding, iron for tools and weapons, furs for clothing, sealskin for ship ropes, and slaves who had been captured on previous expeditions. These "goods" were shipped far and wide and / or exchanged for local goods such as wheat, silver and woven fabrics from England, wine, salt, pottery and gold from the Mediterranean.
They sailed across the Baltic Sea up the rivers to Russia and continued to the Black Sea, to Constantinople, Jerusalem and all the way to Baghdad. On the journeys they bought glass, exotic spices, silk and slaves.
In Scandinavia, more trading places grew. The largest became known in large parts of Europe, among others. a. Birka in Sweden, Kaupang in Norway and Hedeby and Ribe in Denmark.

[20. dec. in the countdown to the winter solstice] THE VIKINGS USED WAR LIST

There are several accounts of the Vikings' war list. For if they could deceive the opponent and thus win a war, cunning was certainly preferable.
The Vikings used several different methods, but in most cases they dug traps and simulated escape, so the opponents followed and fell into the traps.
There are i.a. reports that Rolle dug deep ditches in around the 900s at the conquest of Rouen.
The same method was used to defeat Count Henry of Neustria in Paris in 886. The count and all his riders went into the trap and were killed by the Vikings while still lying in the ditches.
It is written that birds were used to set fire to enemy cities - by tying the burning mushrooms or twigs to them and sending them over the walls.
Perhaps the most famous trick was that the Viking Hastein faked his death outside the Italian city of Luna in 860 and was carried into the city, after which he ‘resurrected’ and massacred all the inhabitants.
Vikings who used war lists most often had their status increased.

[21. dec. - Winter Solstice] VIKING CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

Many of the Vikings' traditions, which were celebrated at Christmas, still have an impact on our Christmas up here in the north. One of them is that we decorate our homes with Christmas goats of straw. This made the Vikings honor the god Thor and his two goats Tooth Piglets and Tooth Gnostic, who pull Thor's chariot across the sky.
Until the 19th century, it was actually goats that came with Christmas presents for the children, and in Finland Santa Claus is called “joulupukki” which directly translated actually means Christmas goat.
Another tradition from the Viking Age is the Christmas ham. It symbolizes Særimner, which is eaten every night in Valhalla and which reappears after dinner, or Frej's pig - Frej is one of the gods that the Vikings toast to at Christmas alone.
For the Vikings, Jól was strongly associated with Odin, who was also called Jól father or Father Christmas, if you will. It was at this time of year that one could see Odin riding his eight-legged horse Slejpner across the sky and visiting people in their homes. He is very reminiscent of the Santa Claus we know today. Today, the pig is enjoyed both as pork roast, Christmas ham, marzipan pig and more.

[22. dec. - The day after the winter solstice] WINTER SOLSTICE

Thank you very much for following our countdown to the winter solstice which this year fell on the 21st of December. We enjoy that the day is now 0.01 hours longer.
"Eat good Christmas food and drink as our ancestors duly celebrated Christmas." We hope you celebrate by lighting a candle as a symbol that we are waiting for brighter times… ate a proper Christmas ham… decorated your home with Christmas goats for Thor… and brought out a toast to Odin Jól's father. One bowl for Njord and one for Frej. And a toast to a coming good year of peace…

Odin bring you much joy and happiness. We at Odins Klinge wish you a very Merry Christmas.

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