FREE Course on Indigenous European Paganism!

So, I’ve got some potentially exciting news coming from the MNH (Modern Norse Heathen) camp today!

I’ve been doing some research for a while now, and I’ve discovered that there are no completely free online distance learning courses which cover ALL indigenous European pagan religions.

I have found a website which would allow me to build a course, and share it so that people could complete it. There will be no qualification gained at this stage, but it will be absolutely free, and full of interesting material/learning resources!

Obviously, a half-decent course will take a long time to build. But I plan to have it up and running in the next 6 months or so!

Is there anybody here who would be interested in this? And is there anything in particular you’d like to see covered in the course?


Vinland: In Search of the Truth

Norse legends tell the tale of Leif Eriksson’s voyage to a vast continent far to the west of Greenland (his place of residence). This previously unknown land was named Vinland, but exactly how much of the story is fact, and how much of it is fiction?

Here, I will attempt to separate the truth from the myths, using evidence compiled from the Icelandic sagas, as well as more recent scientific and archaeological discoveries.

The Naming of Vinland

According to the sagas (the only written records of these events), ‘Vinland’ was so named because of the large quantities of fresh grapes which supposedly grew there. However, in modern times, many attempts have been made to retrace the vikings’ route from Greenland to this mythical land of vineyards, using the directions and descriptions described in the sagas; no grapes have been found anywhere near the location of Leif Eriksson’s settlement.


1. The viking explorers could have traded with the Skraelings (native people) and, through them, learned about and sampled the grapes.

2. ‘Vin’ could also translate to ‘meadow’ in the Old Norse language – so perhaps ‘Vinland’ is actually ‘meadow-land’.

3. It is possible that they travelled further south than originally thought.


From the descriptions of voyages attested to in the sagas, Vinland’s most likely location would be Labrador in Newfoundland (Canada). Many archaeological excavations have also unearthed viking remains and items in that area. However, considering that even the most hardy of vessels during that period struggled even when sailing the relatively short distance from Iceland to Greenland, it does seem far-fetched that the adventuring vikings would have made it that far.


1. Maybe they just stuck lucky with favourable weather and ocean currents.

2. Perhaps the vessels were suitably modified to withstand the potentially perilous journey ahead of them.

3. It is possible that a traveller who had already been to Vinland told the vikings how to get there.

4. Maybe Vinland wasn’t Canada (as is now generally assumed) – it is possible that they could have mistaken their location after losing their bearings on the open ocean, which could account for the lengthy journey (around 3 weeks) despite potentially not travelling such a large distance.

Leif Eriksson was the first westerner to set foot in Vinland

It is said that no western white person had ever been to Vinland prior to Leif and his crew, but there are rumours to suggest that when they went ashore and began exploring, there was evidence of a potential western settlement which had since been abandoned.


1. It is possible that Leif and his crew lied to accrue more fame and fortune, and take full credit for the discovery – after all, there is evidence to suggest that a small community of Irish monks already lived in Iceland before Leif’s father, Erik the Red, claimed the supposedly uninhabited island.

2. Perhaps the idea of Leif not being the first westerner in Vinland was propagated by the church, to cast doubt upon his credibility – Christians wrote the sagas hundreds of years after these events, by which time paganism had been all but eradicated, so there could be a certain amount of ‘twisting the truth’ involved here!

The vikings successfully conquered Vinland

The legends state that the vikings successfully settled in Vinland, but it depends on how you define ‘successful’, as some stories claim that the Northmen were only living there for a few years before being defeated by the indigenous population. After a few years had passed with no word from the remote Vinland outpost, a search party was sent out from Greenland/Iceland. When the party arrived, they discovered that the settlement had been abandoned, and no one ever heard from the absent settlers again.


1. Perhaps the viking settlers travelled further afield and settled somewhere else, or lost their way and perished in the process.

2. Maybe the Skraelings enslaved or murdered them all.


Its hard to know what to think regarding the subject of Vinland, as the only written accounts we have were created hundreds of years later, by Christians. However, I’m inclined to believe the following:

• Leif Eriksson wasn’t the first westerner in Vinland, but he was the first to truly leave his mark.

• Vinland was so named because of its meadows (this would correlate with the original theory, that Vinland was actually Newfoundland). Although I guess the settlers could have explored further afield and found vineyards, but this seems far-fetched to me as no evidence has been found any further south (where grapes actually grow).

• The viking settlers were either captured or murdered by the Skraelings.

• I believe that some vikings must have mated with Skraeling women (although whether consensual or forced, I’m not sure!) as when Christopher Columbus ‘officially’ discovered America a few centuries later, he reported seeing white and half cast natives.

Norse Mythology VS Christianity

There are many telltale similarities between Christian and Norse Pagan beliefs. I have detailed some of them below, for the purpose of comparison:

1. Afterlife

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the idea of an afterlife was rejected. However, in the New Testament, the notion was gradually introduced. The most logical explanation for this was to make Christianity more appealing to the pagans they were trying to convert. Also, both Valhalla and Heaven/Helheim and Hell are extremely similar.

2. Syncretism

In the church’s desperation to convert as many people as possible, they actually allowed pagans to continue worshipping their own gods – as long as they accepted that Jesus Christ was supreme. The church encouraged pagans to view their gods as ‘saints’ or ‘angels’ rather than actual deities. When Christianity first entered pagan Europe, they encouraged the local populations to worship the pagan gods as intermediaries to the Holy Trinity – Jesus, Jehovah (God) and the Holy Ghost. Ironically, this tactic only serves to prove that the Christians who vehemently claim to be monotheistic are actually closet polytheists!

3. Resurrection

In both Norse mythology and Christianity, a deity dies and is reborn (Norse = Baldr, Christian = Jesus).

4. Helheim (Hel/Hell)

In Norse mythology, if a person does not die in battle, they will most likely end up in Helheim (Hel), ruled by the goddess Hel, from which the place takes its name. In Christianity, a person goes to Hell if they’ve lived a bad life. The metaphors behind versions of Hel are virtually the same (i.e. if you lead a bad/unsuccessful life, you will end up in a common grave, without honour or respect; if you lead a good/successful life, you will end up in Valhalla (Heaven), where you’ll be honoured and mourned after you die). Interestingly, the Christian description of Hell may also stem from the vikings – in Iceland, the land of ice and fire, there are great fissures into the centre of the earth, due to the fact that the country is located on top of an ocean fault line (caused by the grinding of two tectonic plates). When the vikings first travelled to Iceland, they actually thought that they were seeing Helheim whenever they witnessed geysers or other volcanic activity.

5. The All-Powerful God

In primitive religions, the most powerful god was the one who gave the most to their followers, and of course possessed the most force/strength. According to the Bible, God destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah, as well as the walls of Jericho. He allowed his people to be prosecuted when they turned against him, and rewarded those who remained loyal. But he made up for all of this by gifting his son to the world. This immensely powerful deity must have greatly impressed the pagans, but of course this was yet another ploy to help aid conversion.

6. Promises of Wealth & Land

The Christian god promised land and prosperity – two things which must have sounded very appealing to the vikings, who were constantly raiding! They also believed that wealth and status could would help them earn a place in Valhalla when they died… Another conversion tactic!

7. Sacrifice for the Greater Good

In Norse mythology, Odin sacrificed his left eye to acquire knowledge; in Christianity, Jesus sacrificed himself to save mankind from eternal damnation and suffering.

8. The Consequences of Greed

In the Bible, Eve (the first female human) cannot resist stealing an apple from a magical tree which grew in the Garden of Eden; in Norse mythology, the goddess Idun grows fruit which allows the other gods to retain their youthfulness, but the gods greedily devour fruits grown beyond the walls of Asgard. In the end, old age catches up with the gods. Also, in the beginning of the Idun story, the god Thjazi (disguised as an eagle) offers the gods his magic, but at a price. The two stories contain striking metaphoric similarities.

8. Sacrifice of a Deity

In Norse mythology, Odin hung from Yggdrasil, pierced by his own spear, for nine days; this story bears a curious resemblance to Jesus’ crucifixion.

9. The Creation of the First Humans/World

In Norse mythology the first humans (Askr and Embla) are created by Vili, Ve and Odin, who bestow upon them the gifts of intelligence, movement, speech, the breath of life, hearing and sight, etc. They also gave them their names, and a home within Midgard (the Human world); in Christianity, Adam and Eve are the first humans (their names alone sound very similar to Askr and Embla!), and god gifts them the very same things!

10. The End of the World

Both Ragnarök and the Christian End Times are very alike.

I’m sure there are many more similarities, but I hope that the above had given you some food for thought!

Edit: It is hard to know whether Christianity deliberately stole its stories from paganism, or if the two were simply entwined (as many different religions are very similar), because Norse mythology was mostly written down by Christians. However, some archaeological evidence (such as picture stones) seem to depict scenes from the stories, and the stones predate Christianity!

The ‘Nine Charges’

I’ve just been reading up on the ‘Nine Charges’ (written by the Odinic Rites group formed in the 70s). I can’t help but think that these are a more Christianized rip-off of the Aetherian Code of Nine/Nine Noble Virtues/Odinist Values… Although of course I know that all of these different sets of heathen morals are reconstructive and thoroughly modern, this seems to have had much more Christian influence. What do you guys think? Which of the moral codes do you follow (if any)? I personally try to observe the Nine Noble Virtues/Aetherian Code of Nine, mainly because they are full of good old fashioned common sense even if they aren’t exactly authentic.

Followers of the Ancient Path (FOTAP)

Around a year ago, I created a group on Facebook for anyone who practises/is interested in paganism, history, mythology etc. It was originally intended to just be for me and a group of my friends, but we now have almost 8000 members (and counting!)

We welcome people from all backgrounds, and our aim is to help people to learn more, meet like minded friends, and so on. 

If you’re interested, please check out our group:

You can also like & follow our official Facebook page:

And follow us on Instagram: 

Viking Mysteries 

As a naturally inquisitive person, there’s nothing I love more than a good mystery! I find it fascinating to study such things, and attempt to form my own conclusions.

So, with that in mind, here are just a few of my favourite viking mysteries:

1. The Ulfberht Swords

The Ulfberht Swords are a collection of medieval swords, unearthed in various places around Europe. The roughly 170 swords in the collection that have been discovered so far are all connected, despite varying in both locations and time periods (they range from the 9th to 11th centuries). They were all inlaid with the same inscription on the blades – ‘Ulfberht’, hence the name given to this particular group of weapons. 

One of the most interesting swords in the collection is one found in Germany, believed to date back to the latter end of the 11th century. It is the only specimen which combines both the ‘Ulfberht’ inscription, and the Christian phrase ‘in nomine domini’.

Ulfberht swords have most commonly been found in Northern Europe (especially Norway and Finland), but most likely originated in the Rhineland region of Germany. 

Interestingly, the majority of the swords found in Scandinavia had been placed in warrior’s graves, whereas the rest (found further afield) were mostly found as stray finds, in riverbeds or buried alone.

These swords are classed as mysterious because they seem to be halfway between a viking sword and a high medieval knightly sword. The reverse side of the blades were adorned with geometric patterns, which were traditionally pagan.

The swords also showed evidence of craftsmanship and forging methods which were previously deemed by experts to have been too advanced for that time period (or at least, they were made differently to and with far more skill than other similar weapons from that era). 

One sword appears to have been made from high quality steel which was probably imported from central Asia – this is yet further proof to corroborate the theory that medieval folk moved around a lot more than was previously thought possible! 

Sadly, no one knows who Ulfberht actually was… But I intend to explore that further in a future article, so watch this space!

2. The Mississippi Viking Ship

A few years ago, a group of volunteers supposedly discovered the remains of a viking longship whilst cleaning the shores of the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee (USA).

This ground-breaking discovery was later labelled as an elaborate hoax, despite a number of respected archaeologists arriving at the site and reportedly confirming that it was indeed a genuine viking vessel.

There are a number of conspiracy theories regarding this, including one claiming that the American government didn’t want anyone to think that the country’s history would need to be rewritten – and so they apparently silenced everyone involved in the discovery.

Of course, it could have been just a well executed practical joke. But if so, why is the original post no longer available to find online? In fact, there’s hardly any information about the Mississippi Ship on the internet, other than what is written by nay-sayers and conspiracy theorists.

Plenty of bullshit goes viral on social media every day, and even after its been proven to be untrue, it still remains in cyberspace… So why is this supposed hoax so hushed up? 

Rather intriguing, if you ask me…

3. The Discovery of Olaf Guthfrithsson

Archaeologists believed that they had discovered the remains of the legendary viking king, Olaf Guthfrithsson, a few years ago. 

According to legend, Olaf settled in Ireland and regularly battled against his fellow Northmen. He also pursued his family’s claim to the throne of York, and married the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland.

In 2005, remains were excavated from a grave in Auldhame. They belonged to a young adult male who was buried with a number of items which indicated that he was of a high rank.

One of the items appeared to be an Irish belt, of a style popular amongst resident vikings at the time. The find has led experts to speculate that they could be the bones of King Olaf, or one of his entourage/family members, as it is believed that they would have been present at the Battle of Auldhame, which occurred at around the same time of the burial.

4. The Uunartoq Disc

For centuries, there have been rumours and speculations regarding how the vikings were able to navigate so accurately all around the known world. 

In the sagas, the ‘sun stone’ is mentioned more than once. But the discovery in Uunartoq (Greenland) may shed some more light on the methods of navigation the vikings might have used.

Don’t forget – maps were incredibly rare and massively inaccurate, and magnetic compasses did not yet exist!

The artifact found at Uunartoq was around 7cm in diameter, and was at first dismissed as a purely decorative object.

However, upon further study, experts concluded that it may well have been an ancient navigational device! 

Although its well known that the vikings used primitive sun compasses in order to sail along chosen latitudes (a method which has been proven in its accuracy in many experiments), the Uunartoq disc was most likely used in conjunction with other tools, such as crystals, to help the vikings find their way even when the sun was low in the sky.

This particular object is mysterious because its the only item of its exact type to have ever been found, and it could prove that the Northmen were far more advanced in such things as experts previously assumed!

Just some of the Ulfberht Swords that have been discovered around Europe.

A picture of the possibly fake Mississippi Viking Ship.

Part of the skeleton discovered near Auldhame, believed to be the remains of Olaf Guthfrithsson.

The fragment of the Uunartoq Disc which was discovered in Greenland.

Why We Need To Stop Taking Heathenry So Literally 

As followers of Ásatrú we are, by definition, attempting to reconstruct an ancient religion and way of life.

Most of what we know about the beliefs and lifestyle of the people we try so hard to emulate, comes from Christian sources. The rest is predominantly guesswork, based on rare archaeological finds and scarce snippets of insight into their lives.

Despite this, many in our community are guilty of taking what we think we know far too literally.

For example, I’ve seen dozens of arguments on social media regarding the true meanings of runes. Everyone involved in this seemingly eternal debate wholeheartedly believes that he or she is correct – but how can any of them be?

Debates of this nature are purely speculation, because nobody truly knows what the runes actually stood for! 

Of course, its pretty safe to assume that they were a type of alphabet used for writing purposes, but as for true magical meanings, who really knows? Perhaps the meanings we know are actually Christianized, as people in Scandinavia continued using them even after they converted from paganism. There are very little ‘authentic’ evidences of runes that have survived until the present day. So who’s to say that the meanings haven’t changed over the centuries? After all, it happens all the time in the evolution of other languages.

The same can be said about the vikings in general – much of what we know comes from somewhat dubious sources. How can we really know, without a doubt, that what was written about them was 100% true?

I could go on and on about this, but hopefully I’ve made my point. As modern-day heathens, all we can do is this:

• study a lot

• review the evidence 

• make up our own minds 

Its all open to individual interpretation!

Also, I think its worth pointing out that Christian sources (in my opinion) shouldn’t be dismissed entirely; despite their obvious bias and frequent inaccuracies, by reading between the lines, we can at least discover more plausable theories.

A friend of mine once said: “history and mystery walk hand in hand”. I couldn’t agree more! In fact, the mystery and room for individual interpretation are partly why I love heathenry so much! 

Creatures in Norse Mythology 

• Audhumbla: a magical cow who nursed the giant, Ymir. 

• Brunnmigi: a large fox-like creature who defiles wells. 

• Draugr: Norse zombies. 

• Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr & Durapror: stags who eat amongst the branches of Yggdrasil. 

• Eikpyrnir: a stag which stands upon Valhalla. 

• Fafnir: son of the Dwarf king, Hreidmar. After being cursed by Andvari’s ring and gold, he was transformed into a dragon, and later slain by Sigurd. 

• Fylgja: a spirit who accompanies a person in connection to their fate or fortune. In some instances, the Fylgja can take on the form of an animal that shows itself when babies are born, and eats the afterbirth.

• Garmr: a wolf or dog associated with both Hel and Ragnarök. Described as a “blood-stained guardian of Hel’s gate”.

• Gullinbursti: a boar which had glow in the dark fur, created by Eitri and Brokkr. 

• Hafgufa: a massive sea monster reported to have lived in the Greenland Sea. It was said to disguise itself as an island to lure ships to their doom.

• Half-elves: creatures which were half elf and half human, said to be far more beautiful than ordinary people.

• Hamingja: a kind of female guardian angel who accompanied a person, and decided their fate and happiness. 

• Heidrún: a goat which consumes the foliage of the tree Laeradr, and produces mead for the Einherjar. 

• Hildísvini: Freya’s boar.

• Jörmungandr: the Midgard serpent, also the middle child of the giantess Angrboda and the god Loki. 

• Landvaettir: spirits of the land who protect and promote the flourishing of the specific places they live in.

• Lindworm: a wingless serpentine monster with two clawed arms on its upper body.

• Lyngbakr: a massive whale-like sea monster, similar to Hafgufa. 

• Marmennill: merman with the ability to prophecise the future. It’s female counterpart was the Margygur. 

• Nidhöggr: a dragon who gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, and chews on the corpses of the inhabitants of Náströnd (those guilty of the most heinous crimes in Norse society, such as murder, adultery and oath-breaking).

• Ratatoskr: a squirrel who runs up and down Yggdrasil, carrying messages between the eagle and hawk perched atop Yggdrasil, and the dragon Nidhöggr who dwells beneath the roots.

• Tanngrisnir & Tanngrijóstr: the goats that pull Thor’s chariot.

• Saehrímnir: the creature killed and eaten every night by the Aesir and Einherjar. 

• Trolls: creatures which dwelled in isolated mountains and caves, and preyed on human beings.

• Vaettir: nature spirits such as Álfar (elves), Dvergar (Dwarves), Jötnar (giants) and certain gods/goddesses.

• Vördr: warden spirits who follow the soul of every person from birth until death.

• Warg: a term used to describe the wolf, Fenrir, and his sons Sköll and Hati. 

England’s Viking Heritage 

I was born and raised in England, but I also have Scandinavian/European ancestry; as a result, I often feel very uncomfortable living here. 

Religiously, my allegiance lies firmly with my Norse ancestors. But morally, I find myself feeling rather guilty about the devastating impact they obviously had on my English and Irish ancestors. 

However, as an English woman, I am acutely aware that the country I call home would be very different if it weren’t for the invasion of the Northmen. 

In around 793, the viking invasions officially began. Scandinavians crossed the North Sea, and came upon our shores. Norse people had already been trading with folk in the far north of England, as well as Scotland and Ireland, for a few years previously… but it wasn’t until then that they showed the British Isles what they were truly capable of.

It was during 793 that the vikings sacked a series of Christian monasteries, beginning with perhaps the most famous raid of their time – on the monastery at Lindisfarne. 

After the sacking of Lindisfarne, Archbishop Alcuin of York wrote the following:

“Lo, it is nearly 350 years that we and our fathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never before has such a terror appeared as we have now suffered from the pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold the church of St Cuthbert, splattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments.”

During the next decade, the vikings sacked many more churches, abbeys and monasteries throughout England and Scotland. 

But why did they mainly attack Christian establishments during this time? Many Christians believe that the pagans deliberately targeted such places in an attempt to eradicate all traces of the Christian God, and those who followed him. In reality though, it most likely had more to do with convenience rather than religion… 

• Firstly, monasteries were left unarmed and unguarded, and the priests who lived there did not possess weapons (nor could they wield them). 

• Secondly, these places of Christian worship were full to the brim with treasures of high value.

• Thirdly, the majority of the places they ransacked were positioned on small islands or remote coastal areas.

All of these factors meant that such locations were extremely easy pickings for the vikings – like taking candy from babies!

The very first account of a viking raid taking place in Anglo-Saxon England comes from the year 789, when three ships from Hordaland (part of what is now Norway) landed on the Isle of Portland on the southern coast of Wessex. Upon being approached by the Royal Reeve of Dorchester (whose job it was to identify all foreign merchants entering the kingdom), the vikings promptly executed him.

Although most records from that time have since been lost, it is fair to assume that more raids followed soon after, as in 792 King Offa of Mercia made arrangements for the coast of Kent to be protected from the ‘pagan peoples’.

One of the places most devastated by the vikings was Iona Abbey, on Scotland’s West coast. First attacked in 795, the abbey suffered two more massive raids in 802 and 806, during which 68 of those who dwelled there were slaughtered. Those who survived abandoned the site, and fled to Kells (Ireland).

In the first decade of the 9th century, the vikings began to attack coastal districts in Ireland.

Many hoards of treasure have been found by archaeologists across the length and breadth of the British Isles, most of which was deposited by the vikings. Some may also have been buried by Anglo-Saxons in attempt to hide their wealth from the Norse invaders.

One substantial hoard, unearthed by archaeologists in Croydon in 1862, contained 250 coins who’s origins varied from the kingdoms of England, to France, and to Mediterranean and Arab countries. Experts believe that the coins were buried in 872, when the vikings wintered in London. 

From the year 865, the Norse peoples decided that the British Isles were no longer just suitable for raiding – their thoughts and ambitions now turned to colonisation!

As a result, larger armies began to invade, with the intention of conquering lands and constructing settlements.

In 866, the vikings captured York (one of the two major cities in Anglo-Saxon England). When King Aethelred of Wessex, who had been leading England’s resistance against the Northmen, died, his younger brother Alfred succeeded to the throne. Elsewhere in the British Isles, other kings were slowly succumbing to the heathen armies. More than once, confronted by the prospects of enslavement or death at the hands of the pagans, Anglo-Saxon kings handed over their lands, wealth and subjects to the vikings without even bothering to put up a fight.

King Alfred of Wessex (who later became known as ‘Alfred the Great’) nobly continued his late brothers’ conflict with the invaders, but was driven back to the south west of his Kingdom in 878. He was then forced to take refuge in the marshes of Athelney. 

A few months later, Alfred managed to regroup his military forces, who successfully defeated the Norse king of East Anglia – Guthrum – at the Battle of Edington. 

Following Guthrum’s defeat, in 886 the governments of East Anglia and Wessex signed the Treaty of Wedmore, which established a boundary between the two kingdoms. Everywhere (and everyone) north of the boundary became subject to the Danelaw (basically, the vikings were in charge!). Anyone who disobeyed the Danelaw was put to death or forced to endure horrific punishments.

In addition to seizing total control of northern England, the vikings still intimidated the English kings and governments to such an extent that they were still able to influence them, resulting in the gain of yet more money and lands. Pretty soon, even the southernmost parts of England were subject to the Danelaw, although unofficially.

Meanwhile, King Alfred of Wessex was busy constructing a series of both coastal and inland defences. He also constructed a very primitive version of the modern Navy, and made sure that at least half of his peasant army was on duty at any one time. 

The viking armies continued to attack Wessex with a relentless ferocity, but the kingdom’s new defences proved to be successful. In 896 the vikings dispersed, most choosing to settle in East Anglia or Northumbria instead, and some settling in Normandy.

After King Alfred died, his daughter Aethelflaed and her husband (an elderman of Mercia) continued to resist the Northmen. 

In 937, the Battle of Brunanburh led to the collapse of Norse power in northern Britain. In 954, Erik Bloodaxe (the last Norse king of York) was expelled from the city.

Despite ultimately losing the power they once held over England, Scandinavian folk were still living all over the country. In fact, by the end of the 900s, there were actually more Norse people in England than there were Anglo-Saxons! 

By the latter end of that century, King Edgar the Peaceful of Wessex had successfully unified England, and was now recognised as the sole leader of the countries by both Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians.

However, during the reigns of both Edgar’s son Edward the Martyr and his successor Aethelred the Unready, the political strength of a unified England had waned. Taking advantage of this temporary lapse in adequate leadership and defences, the viking raiders returned and began once again to carry out merciless attacks all over the British Isles.

The English government decided that the best course of action was to pay off the Northmen. In 991 they gave the vikings £10,000 – a substantial sum in those days! This fee did not satisfy the vikings however, and for the next decade the English government was forced to pay them increasingly large amounts of money.

The English people were outraged, and were beginning to lose faith in their leaders. In desperation, King Aethelred proclaimed on St Brice’s Day 1002 that all Danes living in England would henceforth be executed. That day came to be known as ‘The St Brice’s Day Massacre’.

When news of the massacre reached the Danish King, Sweyn Forkbeard, he was furious. His rage grew even more when he learned that his sister Gunhilde was among the victims.

Fuelled by rage, Sweyn launched a series of attacks on England the following year, during which Exeter was razed to the ground. Hampshire, Wiltshire, Wilton and Salisbury also suffered Sweyn’s wrath.

Sweyn’s armies also returned to British shores in 1004, whereby they looted East Anglia, plundered Thetford and sacked Norwich before returning to Denmark.

Further raids took place in 1006 and 1007, and from 1009 to 1012 Thorkell the Tall also led a viking invasion to England. 

Having not yet quenched his vengeful thirst, Sweyn Forkbeard returned to England with a large army. King Aethelred abandoned his throne to flee to Normandy, allowing Sweyn to take his place. However, within a year Sweyn was dead, so Aethelred returned. But in 1016 another large viking army invaded, this time under the control of Sweyn’s son, Cnut. 

After defeating Anglo-Saxon forces at the Battle of Assandun, Cnut became king of both England and Denmark. Following Cnut’s death in 1035, apart from a brief period in which his son Harthacnut ruled, England and Denmark once again became independent nations.

Finally, the Battle of Fulford took place near York on 20th September 1066. An invading Norwegian force, led by King Harald Hardrada and his English ally Tostig Godwinson, fought and defeated the northern Earls Edwin and Morcar. 

When the then King of England, Harold the Second, heard of this defeat he marched his army from the south coast to meet the Norse army at Stamford Bridge. 

The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place near the village of Stamford in Yorkshire on 25th September 1066. The Norwegians were defeated, but before the English army had the chance to fully recover, the Normans (led by William the Conqueror – himself a direct descendant of the viking king Rollo) invaded England. William and his army were triumphant, and King Harold was killed during the Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066.

After this, the viking raids ceased, and England was no longer plagued by the constant threat of the Northmen.

It has now been over 1000 years since the vikings were defeated, yet our modern nation has been undeniably shaped by their relatively brief presence. 

From our DNA, to our place names, to out political system, the legacy of the Northmen lingers on, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

Despite my initial inner turmoil, I am now at peace with both the Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon parts of myself – after all, one day in the deepest recesses of my ancestral past, both Briton and Viking saw fit to mate. Their coupling ultimately led to my existence, and I am now proud to practise the ways of one, and live in the homeland of the other. 

The Mystery of the Brísingamen 

Most heathens know the myth of the Brísingamen, or at least know what it was. But, surprisingly, only a rare few people actually know the full story and it’s origins.

For those of you who don’t already know, Brísingamen was a necklace supposedly worn by the goddess, Freya. It’s name, roughly translated from Old Norse, means ‘necklace of amber/fire’. It’s name could also be a reference to to the mythical Dwarven tribe known as the Brísings. 

According to the legend, Freya obtained the necklace from four dwarves (named Dvalinn, Grer, Berling and Alfrik). They refused to sell it to her unless she had sex with each of them; she agreed to their terms. 

Loki, the trickster, somehow found out and told Odin (who was keeping Freya as one of his concubines at the time). Odin commanded Loki to steal necklace, which he did by turning himself into a fly and sneaking into Freya’s private quarters. 

When Freya discovered that it was missing, she went to Odin.  In exchange for the necklace, Odin ordered her to make two kings, and curse them to fight forever unless some Christened men would dare to enter the battle and slay them. Freya agreed, and so she got the necklace back. Under the spell, King Högni and King Hedinn battled for 143 years. As soon as they fell, they’d have to get back up and continue fighting. 

In the end, the Christian Lord Olaf Tryggvason arrived with his Christened army, who finally killed the two kings. Thus, the pagan curse was dissolved by the arrival of Christianity. 

The story above was first told in ‘The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason’, from a manuscript titled ‘Flateyjarbok’. It was written by two Christian monks in the 1300s. 

As a result, their version of events is heavily Christianized, and I can’t help but wonder if the monks fabricated the ending of the story to pay tribute to King Olaf – after all, he successfully converted Norway from paganism to Christianity, and even built the first ever church there in the year 995. He would no doubt have been considered a hero in the monks’ eyes.

Another reason that I think the story is warped, is because it has a rather lame ending compared to the other Norse myths and sagas. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it just seems very suspicious to me, and as a result I’m highly sceptical of its authenticity.

However, the interesting thing to note is that the name Brísingamen was not even mentioned once! So how do we know of it?

Well, it’s mentioned in the following:

• ‘Húsdrápa’ – Prose Edda – Loki steals Freya’s necklace, and Heimdall retrieves it for her. 

• ‘Prymskvida’ – Poetic Edda – Thor and Loki attempt to trade Freya to a Jotun in exchange for Mjölnir, and she becomes so enraged that her throat swells, causing the necklace to burst from her neck. Later on, Thor wears Brísingamen in an attempt to pass himself off as Freya. 

• ‘Beowulf’ – there is a potential reference to the necklace in the Anglo-Saxon epic, ‘Beowulf’. 

As a modern-day heathen, it is really difficult to interpret the true meaning behind the necklace. Some view it as a symbol representative of Freya herself; others see it as a dire reminder of the downfall of their ancestors, who were defeated by Christianity. 

I, however, am reserving my judgement until more substantial evidence comes to light – but of course, there’s an extremely high probability that that will never happen!

It is really sad to think that almost everything we know about our pagan past comes from the very people who set out to destroy it! As a result, I generally try to read between the lines. In the case of the Brísingamen, my theory is that the monks either read older versions of the story (which perhaps did not survive until the present day, and after they were done reading them they gathered them up and destroyed them), or more likely, they heard the tale as it was passed down orally through the generations. Upon becoming men of the cloth, the monks simply scrapped the original ending, and substituted it for one more befitting of their cause – the part about the ‘pagan curse being dissolved by the arrival of Christianity’ reeks of Christian propaganda from where I’m sitting! 

In an interesting turn of events, a few years ago Swedish archaeologists unearthed the skeleton of a high-status female. The woman was estimated to have been buried sometime around the year 1000. Buried with her were many treasures; among them, a silver pendant depicting Freya. Experts believe that the pendant (now housed at the Swedish Museum of Antiquities in Stockholm) may be representative of Brísingamen. 

Whatever the truth, I think that all of us heathens will continue to enjoy it’s mystery for many generations to come. It’s just a shame that we will forever wonder how the original, PAGAN version of the story ended!