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Cultures > Viking

:: 793 AD- 1050 AD

Cultural Background | Surviving | Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

Finding Meaning in the Cosmos

The Vikings created and believed many myths about the images they observed in the sky.

Sun: The Vikings worshipped Freyr as the lord of the sun, rain and harvests. He was a shining god who brought fertility and prosperity to all.

They believed that gods named Odin, Vili and Vie had brought order to the cosmos. They had determined the place of the sun in the sky, the rotation of the Earth and the turning of the seasons.

Aurora Borealis: When the sun throws tiny parts of itself off into the sky, a stream of solar winds containing tiny particles called electrons and protons travels toward the north and south poles. When that stream enters the atmosphere, it reacts with the gases oxygen and nitrogen to produce a display of green, pink and blood red in the sky. This phenomenon is known as the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.

The Vikings observed the display of colors visible in the sky during the Northern Lights. Some believed that those streaming lights were signs of doom to come. Others interpreted the phenomenon as a battle among the celestial beings that the Vikings did not understand.

Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: Ursa Major is the saucepan-shaped constellation that points to the North Star. Vikings across Scandinavia called this constellation Wain, and believed myths related the group of stars to the gods Odin, Irmin or Thor.

In the myth about Thor, the constellation is known as Karl Wagen. Karl was a title given to the god Thor in Scandinavia; it means "the Old Man." The term Wagen means the constellation was his chariot, or wagon.

Thor is often described as racing across the sky, so the stars are very appropriate symbols for him and for his wagon.

According to the same myth, the Ursa Minor constellation was believed to be Thor's hammer.

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