The Vikings are trending, in TV-series, in tourism, in commercials, in popular culture in general. The Vikings represents both Scandinavian and European memories, history, art and heritage.
In what way is the Norse heritage influencing Norwegian and Scandinavian cultural identity? How does the Neo-Nazis and White supremacists use of Viking symbolism and esthetics affect Scandinavians view on themselves? What can the Vikings migration patterns and reasons for searching for new land tell us about humans inherent and justified search for a better life? The summer of 2017 Johnsbråten went on a voyage that followed the Viking routes from Eiriksfjord in Greenland via Labrador to Newfoundland in Canada, exploring these questions as part of an ongoing story on the Viking age and identity.
“Eirik made his home at Brattahlid (meaning steep-slope) in Eiriksfjord. It is said by learned men that twenty-five ships sailed from Broadfjord and Borgfjord in Iceland during the summer that Eric settled in Greenland. But only fourteen of these ever reached Greenland, for some were driven back, and others were wrecked.” – from Iceland’s book of settlement.
Eirik the Red left Iceland for Greenland convincing the people to go with him, telling them it was fertile and green.
“They fitted out the ship and sailed away. The first country they found was the one that Bjarni had seen last. Here they sailed to shore and dropped anchor, put out a boat and went on land. They saw no grass, the mountain tops were covered with glaciers, and from sea to mountain the country was like one slab of rock.” – The Greenland Saga
Two short sagas deal with the legendary discovery of America by Vikings – the Saga of the Greenlanders (Grœnlendinga saga) and the Saga of Eirik the Red (Eiríks saga rauða).
“After two days’ sail they sighted another shore and landed on an island to the north of the mainland. It was a fine, bright day, and as they looked around, they discovered dew on the grass. It so happened that they picked up some of the dew in their hands and tasted of it, and it seemed to them that they had never tasted anything so sweet.” – From the Greenland Saga.
Sunstones, perhaps a type of Iceland spar, are thought to have been used by the Vikings to navigate across the North Atlantic. By holding it up the stone could be used to locate the sun in overcast and even snowy sky.
A round reflection of the sun on the evening sky in the North Atlantic sea going west.
In 1960 Anne-Stine and Helge Ingstad found Viking settlements in L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland in Canada. The logs of the old settlement were barely visible underneath the grass in the landscape. A spindle whorl that later was found was conclusive evidence that the site was indeed Norse.
DARC is a group of experienced and enthusiastic historic interpreters that seeks to authentically re-create the Viking Age. They have their time period focused on 800 – 1000 AD and their characterizations are primarily Norse, but can include Saxon, Celt, Britain, – people in regular contact with the Norse.
In 2017, 12 members of DARC spent 10 days demonstrating several activities at various stations at L’Anse aux Meadows to help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. The presentation included hundreds of detailed replicas of period objects: domestic goods, cooking equipment, simple textile tools, woodworking tools, basic blacksmithing equipment, weapons, storage, and more.
In Norse Mythology Midgardsormen, or The World Serpent will come out of the ocean and poison the sky at Ragnarok or “The Doom of the Gods”. The protector of mankind, Thor will kill the world serpent and then he’ll die having been poisoned by the serpent’s venom. After Ragnarok the flooded world will emerge fertile with two human survivors to repopulate the land. Ragnarok takes place after three freezing winters with no summers in between.
Climate change also played a part in the history of the Greenlandic Vikings. The Little Ice Age may have been the reason for the vanishing of the Viking settlements in the north vest.