|Funerals in Scandinavia
Viking Funerals and Burials
Most Viking funerals did not involve a ship set ablaze and launched at sea, instead
they usually involved ship shaped burial plots marked by stones. These tumuli, or
burial mounds, can be found in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. However, the
burning of the body, usually did take place and was important spiritually. The
Norseman believed the hotter the flames and the higher the smoke, the closer their
loved one came to Valhalla. It was important for Vikings to send their dead into the
afterlife correctly. Vikings also believed that if the dead were buried in a manner that
reflected their social status on Earth, they would enter Asgard with the same social
status. They were also known to offer a sacrificed a spouse or close relative with the
|European Funeral History
Viking believed that funerals had to be handled properly to ensure that the dead were
at peace in the afterlife. Great warriors and members of the aristocracy were often
set to rest in their longships. Sometimes these longships were buried and sometimes
they were set on fire and sent off to sea. Vikings were buried with the belongings
they may need in the afterlife, such as weapons or even animals. Sometimes a thrall
(slave) was also sacrificed at the burial. The thrall was believed to go with the master
into the afterlife to serve him there. Knowledge of the details of a thane funeral come
from 10th century writer Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who wrote about the ritual sacrifice of a
thrall during a chieftain’s burial. Offerings were also placed into longships or at burial
sites. Different offerings were given to people according to their social status.
The Oseberg Longship
One of the wealthiest Viking longships ever discovered was the Oseberg longship.
Archaeologists believe it was built between 815 and 820. The longboat was thought
to hold the body of a queen and her thrall, and was filled with items for the afterlife.
Belongings found in the longship included beds, an ornate cart, wooden chests, riding
equipment, sledges, and twelve horses. The longship was buried under layers of peat
and stones when it was found by the Norwegian farmer. It was excavated in 1904.
|Burials without a Longship
Not all Vikings received an expensive longship burial. Some warriors were cremated
inside stone ships, or stones that had been laid on the ground in the shape of ship.
Other warriors were burned on the pyre, which was a bundle of sticks that was set
on fire. Women were often buried in wagons or carts, and thralls were often simply
buried in a hole without a gravestone.
Viking burial sites, can still be found in many of the European countries colonized by
(Source: Ancient and Medieval People- The Scandinavian Vikings (Louise Park and Timothy Love- 2009)
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