The Vikings ruled Scandinavia from 700 to 1100 AD. And while today, you might be more familiar with the football team or the TV show, the OG Vikings did some bad ass stuff. Their actions were the stuff of legends, except it's real life!
2. Vikings Wore Bears And Other Furs (But Not Horns)
Vikings are traditionally depicted as wearing funky helmets with horns, but this couldn't be further from what they actually wore - although their real outfits were just as equally fierce. Viking warriors would wear bear and wolf furs into battle. Must have been pretty scary!
Christopher Columbus gets all the credit for discovering America, but the Vikings set foot on our soil waaay before Columbus was born. In 985, Bjarni Herjolfsson was attempting to sail from Iceland to Greenland, but was blown just a little bit off course and spotted North America. This territory was later explored by Lief Erikson, son of Erik the Red.
Patience is a virtue, but in Viking culture, so was bragging. Ancient rune-stones provide evidence of how much Vikings loved to talk themselves up. People would have stones carved just so they could let the world know how great they were. Who needs humility?
Vikings were pretty into their hygiene and would bathe at least once a week, which was a lot more than the other Europeans of the day were taking. They'd also take dips in natural hot springs. Additionally, Vikings were fond of manscaping, and ancient tweezers, razors, combs and even ear cleaners have been found.
6. Vikings Had A Very Special Way Of Starting Fires
Vikings didn't have gasoline, so they had to be more creative when coming up with a liquid to start fires. Vikings would take a fungus from tree bark called touchwood and boil it in urine for several days. Yup. Urine. Then they'd pound it into a felt-like state. This allowed them to have a portable material that would smolder instead of burn. It's kind of like always carrying a lighter, but a lighter that has been soaked in pee pee.
Some Vikings dabbled in human trafficking as an extra form of income. They would capture Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Slavic "thralls" during their travels, then sell these people into slavery throughout Europe and the Middle East. That's probably the worst way to earn extra cash in your spare time!
Sure, Viking women were made to marry at 12, but they weren't stuck in those marriages! Viking women had a considerable amount of rights compared to other women of their time period. Viking women could divorce, reclaim their dowries in the event of divorce and they could inherit property. Fierce!
Skiing isn't just one of the funnest winter past times, it's also one of the oldest. Vikings started skiing for fun almost 6,000 years ago. Skiing was so prevalent in Viking culture that they even worshiped Ullr, the god of skiing. Ullr is not the god of snowboarding, too, so don't make that mistake the next time you're on the slopes!
The Vikings firmly believed that blonds have more fun, so much so that brunet Viking men would use strong soap with high lye content to bleach their hair blond. In some places, Viking men would bleach their beards as well. No word on whether or not they'd make the carpet match the drapes.
When we think of Vikings, we often think of Erik the Red brandishing a sword in battle, conquering everything in sight. But the reality is much more mundane. Most Vikings tilled the land - not conquered the land. For most of the year, Vikings were farmers who would grow crops like barley and rye or raise cattle and sheep on their small farms.
Bears weren't just a fashion statement, they were pets too! Not only did Vikings wear bears, but they domesticated them as well and even imported them into Iceland for use as pets. They were known as "house bears," which sounds pretty cute, provided it doesn't eat your entire family.
The gory details of the blood-eagle form of torture has been described in Nordic sagas, and it's something so gross you can't unknow it. Vikings would cut their victim's ribs near the spine, then break them open. You know, so that they'd resemble wings. The Vikings would then pull out the victim's lungs through these wounds. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they'd sprinkle the wounds with salt. Ouch!
You've never been to a funeral until you've been to a Viking funeral! Vikings loved their boats so much, that they would even burry their dead in them. The greatest honor one could receive in the afterlife was to be mummified, placed on a boat, and set out to sea. Vikings believed that the boat would help the dead reach their afterlife. Which begs the question; if they loved their boats so much, why didn't they marry them?