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SONS OF THE BATTLE SCREAMER
by Everette Bell
Christians believed their arrival heralded the end of the world (Jeremiah 1:14). Known for murder, rape, pillaging, and desecration, they were feared by noble, by monk, and by peasant. The harshness and sparse living of their northern homelands bred an awesome spirit of survival within these savage warriors. For 273 years they spilled the blood of anyone who stood between them and their plunder. The Viking had come to take ... and Europe was helpless.
A single cryptic sentence on the weathered pages of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle ushers in the Age of the Viking. "In this year there were immense flashes of lightening, and fiery dragons in the air, and a little after that the raiding of heathen men destroyed God's church in Lindisfarne." The actual sacking of the monastery took place on June 7, A.D. 793. Everything of value was stripped from the holy place, treasures were taken and alters were dug up. Religious relics had no value to them other than precious metal. Monks were murdered or led away in fetters. Others were drowned in the sea.
Our information about the first encounter with the Vikings comes from an unreliable source--their victims. Many scholars believe the raids began earlier, but were never recorded for one simple reason. There were no survivors.
The brutal reputation of the heathen horde was carved by cold iron on the battlefield and sung from the lips or skalds. It is the blend of fact and legend that has left the world with the archetype of the Viking Warrior, battle-lusting bearded killer wielding axe and shield. Those that raided for sport and wealth primarilyworshipped Odin, the Allfather. Viking poems reveal the War God went by over a hundred names emphasizing his triple nature of wizard, poet, and ... savage warrior. He was the Blazing Eye, The Wanderer, and to those his followers mercilessly slaughtered, he was the Battle Screamer.
Worship of Odin was bloody and brutal and often involved human sacrifice. Men were hung. They were burned alive. And they were impaled with spears in honor of Odin's chosen weapon. Battles began with a Viking warrior hurling a spear over the heads of the enemy. This claimed the soon to be dead for Odin himself.
These battle beasts of the north were not known for their technical skill in battle. Essentially they used one formation which they called the Boar's Head. A group of two or three dozen warriors assumed a "V" formation and charged an enemy. A ram of muscle and iron would break the ranks, and from there the objective was painfully simple. Kill. First they went for the leader to slaughter him outright or capture him for a slower death. Viking were known for vicious leg hacking. Many of their swords were named for the successful battle tactic. If a hamstring was cut, walking was no longer possible, and a victim could be hacked to death with axe or sword.
One of the most gruesome legends of Viking brutality is that of Blood Eagle. It was both torture and grizzly display of power. The ribs were hacked away from the spine and the kidneys were laid across the victim's back like the spread wings of an eagle. Another favorite form of Viking torture was to cut open a man's stomach, pulling out his intestines. Driving him to walk would painfully pull out his entrails.
The most feared followers of Odin were his Berserkers. Accounts differ on the details, but agreement is complete in that these warriors were the most blood-thirsty, vicious killers from the north. Some modern scholars believe they were sociopaths that found their calling. The legends say Berserkers whipped themselves into battle frenzies before going into battles. Some chewed their shields to aid in riling their aggression. These warriors were believed to have been blessed by Odin with the gift of bloodlust.
Battle, death, and glory drove Viking warriors, Berserker or not. Giving one's life in service to Odin gained one admission into his Mead Hall, Valhalla. For his chosen warriors, the Einheriar, the afterlife was filled with the greatest earthly pleasures. All day they would battle under pleasant skies until each man died from his wounds. Evening would restore them all to life, so they could drink mead and eat boar until dawn. All the while, carnal pleasures of eternal virgins could be taken by the bold.
Not all the Norsemen were hardened warriors, but those we remember were. Those we celebrate for defiance, for unwavering spirit, and for fierce individuality were the ones that live on. Those who bowed to the Christ God or farmed their patches of dirt get token lines in history books. But the pages are filled with the warriors.
The horde was defeated in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. Many of these great warriors had once believed in the Ragnarok, the battle that would end the Viking world. What they had not known was that it came when they put down the axe and began carrying the cross of the Christ God. The Viking ways fell to history and lore, but the aggression in these warriors was very real. European leaders still feared their might. This time it was God not Odin that sent Viking, now Christian, to the Crusades to continue the slaughter.
Join us now for bloody and thrilling adventures starring these Warriors from the North ... Featuring stories by Everette Bell, Kevin P. Breen, Robert Morganbesser, and Barry Reese.