Did you know that the Vikings’ cultural beliefs led to their fearlessness in war? For them, there were only two outcomes to a battle: they lived or they died. If they lived, they would go on to fight another day. If they died, they hoped to go to Valhalla where they would fight all day and feast all night until Ragnarok took even the gods themselves.
Things were much the same either way. Their future lay in the hands of the Norns, three goddesses who were similar to the Fates. At the birth of all people, the Norns decreed the moment of each person’s death. No one, not even the gods, could change it. So the outcome in battle was already decided. The Vikings figured they might as well put on a good show for the gods and earn their way into their presence in the afterlife.
All they could hope to leave behind were their good name and honor. To step one foot from battle was the mark of a nithingr, or coward. This would ruin their reputation and destroy their chances to reach Valhalla. Since death was already set, there was no reason to shrink back in a fight. It wouldn’t save them. So they plunged into battle with no fear and no hesitation, hoping to win the grace of the gods either here on Midgard or in Valhalla
Next time: Why the Vikings didn’t have a religion as we know it.