Back to Life and Death

The majority of our sources for the pre-christian years of the Vikings come not from the Scandinavians themselves, because they had an oral as opposed to a scriptive language. It was not until the conversion to Christianity that we first received Scandinavian documentation. Still,
these sources are what have aided us in our understanding of what happened during the Viking's most important time of his/her life.

Danish Viking




The majority of the male population in Scandinavia were farmers. There were a few chiefs (Jarls) who ruled over a small territory, but no major kings for a few centuries. If the Jarl wanted to go viking, he would call upon members of his Lid and they would then leave from the vic they were stationed at, and raided the prospected countryside. If the warriors survived from raiding, they would then return home with the wealth they had obtained.

If the men died in combat, they would be sent off to one of two locations: Valhalla (Hall of the Slain), which is over the watch of Odin, or Folkvagnar (Warriors Fields), which is over the watch of Freyja.[1] The burial process was a burning of the warrior, followed by the construction of a mound to protect his body from the elements.
Viking Burial Mound

Crafts Persons

Ships and other important items to Viking Raiders do not build themselves. That is where crafts persons come into play. The knowledge of ship building, metallurgy, etc. was passed down through a process called apprenticeship. If a Viking child survived and had a good family background, they were often able to go into a skilled trade.

When a craftsman died, he was burned and then buried with his possessions to show his trade. If he ever went viking and procured a wealth, he would be buried with a symbol of that trip, such as an ax.

Viking Woman Costume



All women who were brought back from the raids were slaves. The slave population is what helped the Vikings repopulate in certain regions that they colonized. This made up the female population of Iceland, where women could range from just a simple house servant to a concubine. It was possible for them to become free of their master's control but the journey up was difficult.


The female population was not allowed to go to war, but most of the women who came back from war were slaves and had an ethnic background relating to some recently conquered persons. The girls that were native to Scandinavia would end up being married off by their fathers to make alliances with other kin groups. The females did most of the child rearing. They also had power through the Danelaw, granting them permission on a legitimate basis to divorce their husbands on the premise that he was flamboyant

Depending upon the woman's status in life, she may or may not have been burned with the body of her master. Most women of Noble birth received a Viking funeral much like the men. With the exception of axes and swords in the tomb, it would be common to discover a dagger or another small easily concealable weapon.[2]

Post Conversion


Scandinavian Crosses


After the conversion of Scandinavia, the raiding ceased to be as much of a major part of Scandinavian life as it had before. The hierarchy now consists of Kings who ruled over the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. These kings would wage war with neighboring powers to gain control of wealth and territory. The process as to how a war party was assembled did not differ greatly with the way it had before the conversion experience. The battles and the cause had changed.

Death for a Christian Viking was not as glorious as it had been in the past. The newly converted Scandinavians had to follow the ideals of the Church, which meant that a funeral mass was now necessary. Instead of mounds, the new converts would most likely be put into a tomb with their possessions.



The life of the woman did not change except for the loss of the right to Divorce her husband through the Danelaw. It remained to be her duty to raise the children of the household. The burial process differed greatly too since she lost rights with the conversion to Christianity they no longer had the rights to a funeral pire or the that the males were granted.
Christian Cemetery

  1. ^ Snorri, Sturluson, The Prose Edda. ed. Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.
  2. ^ Sawyer, Peter. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997: