How the Vikings Changed How We Think About Death
The Vikings were among the greatest warriors of all the times. Their physical strength was not enough for the awesome achievement. It must have included their mental power which primarily empowered by the Norse Gods. From their birth to their last day, the Vikings were taught to accept the death with both of their hands as their long-established tradition.
BUT WHY THE VIKINGS WELCOMED DEATH
In Viking belief, their death was not the end. Rather, it was the end of the beginning that would befall any of the Norsemen. This concept happened in the Ragnarok for example, because Ragnarok wasn't the destruction of everything. It was just the end of the Norse gods' glory. Ragnarok ended the glorious time of Norse Pantheon but created a new world that promised new happiness and new journey to the living.
So the end of the beginning meant there was a long way ahead awaiting. The journey after the death was what the Vikings wished for. As we know it today, it is called the afterlife. There were many places for the Viking afterlife but these 3 are the most famous:
Valhalla was the Hall of the Slain. It was located up in Asgard and Odin presided over Valhalla. Because it was the hall of Odin and only the brave warriors could come and dwell with the Viking Supreme God so every living Viking warrior was willing to sacrifice their life honourably to gain a room up in Valhalla. The warriors in Valhalla would fight during the day and when the evenings came, they would feast inside Valhalla and got their wounds healed. Life in Valhalla was what other people envied.
Viking warrior to Valhalla
Folkvangr was the field for the brave human warriors who couldn't survive their battles. Freya goddess of war presided over Folkvangr. Odin and Freya shared the fallen warriors: half to Valhalla, the rest to Folkvangr. The standard of whom would come to which place remained a mystery.
Helheim was the place that the Vikings least wanted to go to. It was ruled by Hel the Queen of Death. Anyone that went to Helheim after their death no longer could have a happy moment of their life.
REMEMBER THE VIKINGS DIED HONORABLY, NOT DEVOTING THEIR LIFE TO NONSENSE
Anyway, because the Vikings so much admired and desired to live among their gods, they tried their best to live an honourable life to gain a seat up in Valhalla or Folkvangr. But only the ones that died in an honourable way could stay with Gods.
However, the definition of the honourable death of the Vikings was quite different from what we know these days. To the Vikings, actions like lootings and raidings were of great honour so bravely fighting and died in the battles was the most honourable way of death. Anyone that died with laziness, for example, was obviously not honourable. There was a time when a group of Viking warriors stayed in a farmer's house and stole a treasure in their house without their knowing. They escaped the house but felt ashamed for acting like cowards. So that group of Vikings turned back and burnt the house (including the farmer's family).
What I am trying to convey was that the Vikings didn't choose to die as a coward. They wanted to die on their feet rather live on their knees. Before the death, they would live their life to the fullest without any second of wasting it. They knew that ever since their death, their death began its walk. It walked towards all of them without any hurrying. The Vikings didn't surrender their fate: they prepared everything to welcome death. They trained, they worshipped, they did live.
This article is not trying to encourage you to build a boat and go on raiding. Rather, do what is meaningful to your life. In the Viking age, raiding and wars were meaningful to them but they aren't in our time. Exercise, love more, be nice, be kind, etc. are the ways to make our life become more meaningful than ever. Lead your life with the wisdom of Odin, the love of Freya, the fairness of Tyr, and the strength of Thor. That is the way we should worship Norse gods and welcome them into our them. As long as we accept them into our hearts, they would welcome us when our final judgement takes place.
The living relatives can no longer be with you when your new journey begins. But keep a Viking warrior spirit: fear not death and worship gods. This will carry you to the place you belong to after all.
Bear in mind that death isn't the drawing together of two worlds, not an end. It is the bridge. Fear not death and live your life to the fullest potential and fight for your dreams.