During the recent few years, everything Viking has become more popular than ever. And while I think this is great, some of us are still struggling to get used to what best can be described as that feeling you would get if you’ve anchored in that secred, secluded bay you thought only you knew about, when suddenly a bunch of cabin cruisers full of loud people arrive. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that we are now seeing what I like to call a Second Viking Age. It’s just that sometimes I wish people could consider the fact that some of us have been living the Norse way of life for decades, long before it became fashionable. That said, 99% of you are perfectly understanding and respectful. But there is always that 1% who has a need to “educate” other people and to discredit their efforts. I got a message from one of those trolls the other day, as I was just coming back from a walk among the stone circles near my home, a place I’ve been coming to for many years. I had just published a video on how I blot, and this little troll popped his ugly head up somewhere across the Atlantic and told me I “did it wrong” and that I hadn’t read anything about the matter. And there I was, thinking my 30+ years of studying my ancestors’ way of life counted for something…
I strongly believe that once you mix spirituality with a right/wrong mindset, things start to go wrong. This is in fact how spirituality dies and how religion gets to grab the common man by the balls. I’m often disgusted at the Abrahamic religions for this reason, but to be fair, my heathen ancestors suffered from this too. The Norse belief system was not without dogma, and looking at the geographical and historical variasions it seems like there were two versions: The official version carried out by chieftains, “goder” (there should be a different d there, by the way.) and other people with religious authority. This version often involved blood sacrifice and sometimes even humans were victims of these rituals. And then you had the private version, practiced in the homes, at sea and out in the woods, probably a much more friendly and a lot more spiritual approach.
Since we know very little about the “private version”, modern interpretations of Norse heathen rituals tend to be adaptions of the official versions from the turbulent years when Christianity and heathendom collided. I think that is a bit sad, to be honest. Some people seem to be fascinated more by the rituals themselves than the spirituality that lies behind. But I do get an impression that more and more people are now actually approaching the old faith in a much more personal way, and that gives me hope. The old faith didn’t survive a thousand years of oppression just to be abused by people who like to “play Vikings”.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen