Three Viking Rituals You Won't Believe Actually Exist

Posted by Ms Elly on

Three Viking Rituals You Won't Believe Actually Exist

Every society has a system of rituals. The rituals in modern society must be civilized and generally accepted. If not, they would be severely criticized. The ancient times seem to lack civilization and their rituals were kind of unbelievable to us. Even though the Vikings showed their ideals ahead of the time, some of their rituals still remained brutal and violent, which people can hardly tolerate in this day and age. This blog post is going to list three Viking rituals that many of you won't believe they existed. 


Many of us might know about the human sacrifice to the masters or mistresses. To be specific, when a person of wealth and nobility died, a sacrifice must be made. A slave must go with their masters to serve them in their afterlife. This ritual is famous. But I bet many of us don't know the human sacrifice for Odin. Though the human sacrifice for Odin wasn't a common ritual, it was carried out sometimes. 

Image of Viking ritual Sacrifice to odin

A depiction of sacrifice to Odin (Cre: Vikings TV Series)

In the 11th century, Adam of Bremen a German medieval chronicler wrote about the Vikings. He discussed a ritual practised at the temple of Uppsala, Sweden. Every nine years at the beginning of the spring, the rituals would happen and last for nine days. Each day with a feast and a sacrifice. There were nine sacrifices per day and in total there were 81. 

Each day, they sacrificed a male man and eight male animals. Their bodies were hung from the tree that was near the temple of Uppsala. Although they often sacrificed the slaves or criminals during the rituals, there was a time they sacrifice a king in Uppsala when the famine took over their community. 

The purpose of this human sacrifice was to honor Odin in his discovery of runes and to long for a glory in the following years. 

Image of VIking ritual

In Snorri Sturluson’s saga, he told that the Vikings sacrificed to the Gods a large number of oxen in the seventh century. In the next year, if there was no sight of success and glory, they would sacrifice a group of men. If they still failed to achieve the glory, they would blame it on their king. And accordingly, they were willing to sacrifice the king and cover the temple with his blood. 


In the Viking ancient time, people were believed to have modified their teeth. An excavation of around 600 Viking skeletons dating back to 800 and 1050AD was carefully analyzed. The archaeologists revealed that 24 of them bore deep, horizontal, and carved lines in their upper front teeth. It was the first time that there was a tooth modification reported in Europe. 

Image of VIking rituals Tooth carving

Tooth carving from the Viking skeleton excavated

Since there was no finding upon the tooth modification around Europe and the Vikings also travelled a lot. The archaeologists concluded that they might have learnt this from another place. 

The teeth were carved with horizontal lines and sometimes dyed with red color. The main purpose of this practice still remains a mystery. However, many scholars believe that the Vikings practised this to scare the enemies. Meanwhile, some believe that this was the beauty standard of the Vikings. They reason that the Vikings focused very much on their appearance, so any difference upon their look meant it was the standard. 


Draugr was simply the Viking version of zombie. The Vikings believed that even if one person was dead, their body could still move and harm other people. A draugr would go around and hurt anyone on his way. 

Many precautions were carried out to prevent the draugr from wandering around. Straw would be put under the shroud and a pair of scissors would rest in the chest of the dead. The big toes of the dead were tied together so that he couldn't move.

Image of Viking draugr Viking zombie

When the funeral came to the part of transfering the coffin to the grave yard, the bearers would stop before stepping out of the house. They stopped inside, lowering and raising the coffin in three directions to make a sign of scissors. There were times that the dead were carried through the door for the corpse or the "copse door". It was simply a hole in the wall with the brick covered. Once someone died, the bricks would be removed to make the way. Once the ritual was over, it was rebuilt. Because the Vikings thought that the dead would return through the way that they came out. If the dead were buried in the graveyard, there would be an additional ritual that a powerful man would use the magic words to tie the dead to the coffin. 

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