The raiding Viking doesn’t exist anymore. So…is it possible to be a modern day Viking? Opinions differ of course. In the end it all comes down to whether or not you're stuck in the past, and what you choose to identify with.
In our book it is vital for a culture to adapt, develop and find a contemporary footing - or it will be dead, or in a best case scenario just an echo from the past. This begs the question if the "Viking sub-culture" can be considered real and legitimate enough to earn a place in today's world. Well, we consider it a real and legitimate sub-culture of the 21st Century with all the ingredients to label it as such.
Our heritage is very much alive to us - it's not something that just exists in the past, or that requires dressing up in traditional clothes for reenactment gatherings. Our aim has always been to build a bridge between now and then, and bring relevant parts of the culture into today's world. There is wisdom to be learned from, achievements to be inspired by and an entire cultural treasure to embrace. That is the way to become a modern Viking, a Viking at heart.
In order to sort things out we’re going to look at what it meant to be a Viking during the Viking Age – and then see if anything of that can be transferred to the 21st Century.
Who were the Vikings? Vikings were part of a Scandinavian sub-culture consisting of bold and ambitious people who led a life of raiding, trading and exploring. They could live abroad for decades as professional soldiers, merchants and colonizers - even relocating permanently. Vikings defined late Iron Age Scandinavia, propelling forth the region through their conquests, trading expeditions and foreign influences brought back to their northern lands. Fittingly that period is known as the "Viking Age".
Did nationality define a Viking? Even though Vikings originated from Scandinavia, the phenomenon was never about nationality. Not all Scandinavians were Vikings, and not all Vikings were Scandinavians. A large portion of the Swedes, Danes and Norwegians, or Norse as they are collectively known, were farmers. Then you had your share of people who for different reasons chose to seek their fortune through exploring, trading and raiding. As time passed you probably saw other nationalities joining the Viking bands. They didn’t become Scandinavians, but they would have become Vikings through choosing that particular way of life.
Did religion define a Viking? Being a Viking wasn’t about confession to a certain religion, or religion in the first place. You had Christian Vikings, Heathen Vikings and most likely the odd Viking who doubted the existence of gods, or who included Allah into his prayers (Vikings spent a lot of time in the middle east and were quick to pick up cultural traits). There were naturally individuals and groups who were stalwart worshipers of a certain religion, but you also had the opposite. It is known that many chose to worship both their Heathen gods and Christ.
Did race define a Viking? Being a Viking wasn’t about race or racial supremacy. Vikings were extremely tolerant toward other races and cultures, quickly picking up features they liked and incorporating them into their own culture. Sure, they ravaged other countries, took slaves and behaved as they’d be lords of this world…but that was just business. It wasn’t about race or religion. They didn't only raid though. Vikings lived and traded with Arabs, North Africans and Slavic tribes. They would have married those people with all certainty. One good example is the Icelandic DNA which reveals that Vikings brought home Native American wives from North America.
What did define a Viking? Having established that being a Viking wasn’t primarily about one’s origin, faith or race, we need to ask ourselves what defined a Viking besides the activities they partook in. This is where the Norse culture would have kicked in and it wasn't all about looks. Values held high among the Norse were naturally also held high among those who set out on Viking expeditions. Vikings were after all sprung out of the conditions that reigned in Scandinavia of that day and age. Defining values would have been integrity, honor, loyalty, courage and appreciation of wisdom. Something that also needs to be added to the list is ambition, which the Vikings must have been full of.
What is a modern Viking? Opinions might differ, but in our book it’s fully possible to identify with the Viking culture today…even when scaling off the most obvious part – raiding. However, it’s not all about being a reenactor, Scandinavian, or a person who believes in Odin and Thor. We consider anyone, regardless of nationality, religion or race, who lives life to the fullest a solid candidate. One who appreciates the aesthetics and stories of the Vikings. One who approaches the unknown with curiosity and strives to face hardships with courage. One who displays loyalty and honesty, and who values integrity and honor. Those traits would have been a good start to gain respect among Vikings and make you one of them.
Join us in building a bridge between now and then!