Saturday, September 22, 2012

Inside the Viking Mind: Cosmology, the After-life, and the Self

Here are excerpts of a lecture given by Prof. Neil Price of the department of archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Price’s research focuses on Viking culture and is notable for using material evidence to draw conclusions about the Viking state of mind.

“For nearly 200 years now,” wrote Price, “scholars have tried to find reasons why the Viking raids began, looking for an explanation as to why Scandinavians started to leave their homelands in significant numbers around the end of the eighth century. Over-population and climate change have been suggested, as have restrictive inheritance laws that left large numbers of young men landless and without prospects. Some scholars think that developments in Viking ship design, the creation of the perfect fast raiding vessel, made such activity inevitable; others argue that the Vikings’ alleged pagan mindset of aggressive violence was a contributory factor. It is obvious that there was no single cause, but simple opportunism played a part, and over time the rewards became ever more attractive in relation to the relatively minimal risks.”
The Norse believed in predetermination; one’s path through life toward any one of several after-life destinations could not be changed. Their emphasis was on meeting that end with dignity. It is one of the few cultures with no idea of an eternal afterlife. Everything – the living, the dead, the gods and all matter – will vanish into a void in the fire and ice of Ragnarök, the final battle.
Written records make it clear that shamanic practice of communicating with the spirit world, so central to pagan Norse religion, was primarily the realm of women.

“Foremost among these sorceresses,” wrote Price, were the völur, which means ‘staff-bearers’, who used their skills mainly to see the future. It has proved possible to tentatively identify many graves of such women in the archaeological record, buried with their metal staffs, unusual clothes and a variety of charms, amulets and even hallucinogenic drugs.”


And as always, "May the Norse be with you."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


My alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, puts out an amazing, award-winning alumni magazine entitled Notre Dame Magazine. And appearing in the current Spring 2011 issue is a nice story about our RuneWarriors trilogy of books and how they got to be published. We'd like to give a tip o' the Irish tam-o-shanter to Carol Schaal of N. D. Magazine for the nice piece she wrote and encourage you to check it out. She did a great job of helping us to share out thoughts on our roller-coaster ride as screenwriters in the movie business and the creative satisfactions of writing fiction!

In fact, bookmark the online edition of the magazine and check it out regularly. There are some really thought-provoking pieces of cutting edge journalism there -- on everything from politics to ethics to art and culture -- and interesting pieces on things that are happening on campus that will keep you current with all things Irish. A big hello to all our friends in the Notre Dame community and we hope things in South Bend are warming up for you at last this April spring day.


Thursday, March 17, 2011


A fascinating piece in reveals that ten centuries later there is much evidence to prove that the Viking invaders that conquered and settled various parts of Northern Scotland, especially the Orkney Islands and other Western Isles, still live on in the DNA of modern day Scotsmen. And, interestingly, the Scottish clan -- or family -- names of today are visible relics reminding us of the Viking men and women of yore who once populated the Scottish lands, bringing their language, culture and customs to that foreign shore. For instance, the popular clan name of MacIvor originally meant "the sons of Ivor," the name MacSween "the sons of Swein," the name Macaulay "the sons of Olaf," and MacAskill "the sons of Asgeir" and so on.  In any reading of Old Norse texts, be it the Eddas or the Viking Sagas written in the Twelfth Century, the names Ivor, Swein, Asgeir and especially Olaf are found to be extremely common.

Just another small example of how pieces of the past still cling to us today in ways both trivial and profound.

To read the whole article, CLICK HERE:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


International Women's Day marks the publication of Warrior Women: 3,000 Years of Courage and Heroism, a guide to history's heroines, from Joan of Arc to Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally. 

Take a look at some of the brightest, bloodiest and best women the world has ever known (and, no, we're not talking Mother Teresa).....


Friday, February 25, 2011


The U.K.-based newspaper, The Guardian, just published a great piece on authors writing historical ficton for young readers. In addition to books on Bronze Age and 15th Century Britain, there is this stellar comment on another classic Viking saga.....

"Another perennial childhood favourite is Henry Treece, whose Viking Saga trilogy, grim, sanguinary and poignant, follows Harald Sigurdson from his first voyage as a boy in a longship under the command of the magnificent Thorkell Fairhair to his last as a seasoned warrior, this time himself the master of the ship. From the sun-fevered romance of The Road to Miklagard – the Norse word for present-day Istanbul – to the freezing blades of Viking's Dawn and an early transatlantic voyage in Viking's Sunset, the books are characterised by violence, easy death and the close bonds forged between warriors who brave the whim of the wild sea and the hostility of the peoples they meet only to despoil. The terror and glamour of the Berserker fighters who tear off their clothing and run naked and blood-streaming into battle unites the books, which still boast a mythic grandeur in keeping with their subject matter."

To read the entire Guardian article, CLIKC HERE:

Kevin Crossley-Holland
Kevin Crossley-Holland 'rewrites Arthurian legend commandingly' in his historical fiction for children. Photograph: Eamonn Mccabe/Guardia

Special tip o' the war helmet to the blog author Imogen Russell Williams and to The Guardian for permission to reprint this piece.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vikings Revered Stone Age Objects. . . . .

From the "Viking Archaeology Blog:"

     New archaeological findings suggest that the Vikings considered Stone Age objects to have magical qualities, and that such “antiques” were more important in Viking culture than previously understood.
      The Vikings buried this ship, the "Oseberg," in a grave south of Oslo. New discoveries indicate they also buried other items, with a purpose. 
     Examinations of around 10 Viking graves found in Rogaland, southwest Norway, revealed Stone Age items, such as weapons, amulets and tools. Olle Hemdorff of the Archaelogical Museum in Stavanger told newspaper Aftenposten that he believes the items were buried so that “they would protect and bring luck to the dead in the after-life.”


Thanks to the Viking Archaeology Blog for permission to reprint this article.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


University of Leicester geneticists are involved in a truly epic research project
A new Norse saga! DNA detectives in the Viking North West
‘Viking DNA: The Wirral and West Lancashire Project’, published by Nottingham University Press.
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 24 January 2011
The Vikings are alive and well and living in the North West of England!  That’s the revelation in a new book on an epic research project into the genetic footprint of the Scandinavian invaders.
‘Viking DNA: The Wirral and West Lancashire Project’ is the culmination of several years of research by biochemists and geneticists, by Wirral-raised Professor Steve Harding from The University of Nottingham and Professor Mark Jobling and Dr Turi King from the University of Leicester. It shows the power of modern DNA methods to probe ancestry using the North West of England as an example.

To read the entire article from the University of Leicester website, click on: