Cattle die, kinsmen die; the self must also die. I know one thing which never dies: the reputation of each dead man.
Mythical Swords, part V Mistilteinn (“Mistletoe”). Also known as Misteltein or Mystletainn, is Hrómundr Gripsson’s sword in Hrómundar saga Gripssonar, a legendary saga from Iceland.
Mistilteinn first belonged to Þráinn, who had been king in Valland before he retired in his burial mound with his wealth.The Danish king Óláfr and his men, among whom Hrómundr Gripsson, learnt about that and found the barrow. Þráinn, who had become a draugr (living dead, will come back later on it) was sitting inside. No one but Hrómundr dared to enter. After a long and fierce fight, he defeated Þráinn and took his treasure, especially his sword, with which Þráinn had killed four hundred and twenty men (and you thought Wolverine was a bad-ass…), including the Swedish king Semingr.
Hrómundr used Mistilteinn during the battle between Óláfr and two Swedish kings both named Haldingr. He killed Helgi inn frækni (the Valiant), who had slain his brothers. He then lost Mistilteinn in the water out of witchcraft. He deeply felt this loss but soon recovered his sword, which was found in the stomach of a pike (which might had suffer from indigestion). But Mistilteinn was of no help when he fought king Haldingr, whom he eventually killed with a club.
In Gesta Danorum, Mistletoe is the weapon used to kill Baldr.

Mythical Swords, part V

Mistilteinn (“Mistletoe”).
Also known as Misteltein or Mystletainn, is Hrómundr Gripsson’s sword in Hrómundar saga Gripssonar, a legendary saga from Iceland.

Mistilteinn first belonged to Þráinn, who had been king in Valland before he retired in his burial mound with his wealth.
The Danish king Óláfr and his men, among whom Hrómundr Gripsson, learnt about that and found the barrow. Þráinn, who had become a draugr (living dead, will come back later on it) was sitting inside. No one but Hrómundr dared to enter. After a long and fierce fight, he defeated Þráinn and took his treasure, especially his sword, with which Þráinn had killed four hundred and twenty men (and you thought Wolverine was a bad-ass…), including the Swedish king Semingr.

Hrómundr used Mistilteinn during the battle between Óláfr and two Swedish kings both named Haldingr. He killed Helgi inn frækni (the Valiant), who had slain his brothers. He then lost Mistilteinn in the water out of witchcraft. He deeply felt this loss but soon recovered his sword, which was found in the stomach of a pike (which might had suffer from indigestion). But Mistilteinn was of no help when he fought king Haldingr, whom he eventually killed with a club.

In Gesta Danorum, Mistletoe is the weapon used to kill Baldr.

Ship burial, direct witness.
Except acheological finds, texts can offer a good description of ship burials, here is one of the oldest.
A 10th-century Arab Muslim writer named Ahmad ibn Fadlan (yes, that’s the guy from the 13th Warrior) produced a description of a funeral of a Scandinavian, probably Swedish, chieftain who was on an expedition on the eastern route. The account is a unique source on the ceremonies surrounding the Viking funeral of a chieftain.

The dead chieftain was put in a temporary grave, which was covered for ten days until they had sewn new clothes for him. One of his thrall women (might be some kind os slave) volunteered to join him in the afterlife and she was guarded day and night, being given a great amount of intoxicating drinks (probably with Amanita Muscaria, as some traces were found for other rituals) while she sang happily. When the time had arrived for cremation, they pulled his longship ashore and put it on a platform of wood, and they made a bed for the dead chieftain on the ship. Thereafter, an old woman referred to as the “Angel of Death” (will come back later of this person with another atricle) put cushions on the bed. She was responsible for the ritual.

Then they disinterred the chieftain and gave him new clothes. In his grave, he received intoxicating drinks, fruits and a stringed instrument (classic offerings). The chieftain was put into his bed with all his weapons and grave offerings around him. Then they had two horses run themselves sweaty, cut them to pieces, and threw the meat into the ship. Finally, they sacrificed a hen and a cock.

Meanwhile, the thrall girl went from one tent to the other and had sexual intercourse with the men. Every man told her: “Tell your master that I did this because of my love to him”. In the afternoon, they moved the thrall girl to something that looked like a door frame, where she was lifted on the palms of the men three times. Every time, the girl told of what she saw. The first time, she saw her father and mother, the second time, she saw all her relatives, and the third time she saw her master in the afterworld. There, it was green and beautiful and together with him, she saw men and young boys. She saw that her master beckoned for her. By using intoxicating drinks, they thought to put the thrall girl in an ecstatic trance that made her psychic and through the symbolic action with the door frame, she would then see into the realm of the dead. (The same ritual also appears in the Icelandic short story “Völsa þáttr”, where two pagan Norwegian men lift the lady of the household over a door frame to help her look into the otherworld.)

Thereafter, the thrall girl was taken away to the ship. She removed her bracelets and gave them to the old woman. Thereafter she removed her finger rings and gave them to the old woman’s daughters, who had guarded her. Then they took her aboard the ship, but they did not allow her to enter the tent where the dead chieftain lay. The girl received several vessels of intoxicating drinks and she sang and bade her friends farewell.

Then the girl was pulled into the tent and the men started to beat on the shields so her screams could not be heard. Six men entered the tent to rape the girl, after which they forced her onto her master’s bed. Two men grabbed her hands, and two men her wrists. The angel of death put a rope around her neck and while two men pulled the rope, the old woman stabbed the girl between her ribs with a knife. Thereafter, the relatives of the dead chieftain arrived with a burning torch and set the ship aflame. It is said that the fire facilitates the voyage to the realm of the dead.

Afterwards, a round barrow was built over the ashes, and in the centre of the mound they erected a staff of birch wood, where they carved the names of the dead chieftain and his king.

The Viking Longhouse

Life inside a Viking Longhouse would have been a noisy, dirty experience, many would be living together in the same house.

Viking homes were long rectangular buildings. Often one end of the longhouse was used as a barn. The barn end of a longhouse would have crops stored, and it would usually be divided into stalls for cattle and horses. By living under the same roof as their animals the Vikings were able to secure a constant source of heat (a rather noisy one). It also ensured that the animals were kept safely away from cattle thieves. A cow was a valuable form of income.

A fireplace would be somewhere in the middle of the floor. The fireplace would be used for heat, light and as cooking facilities. There would not have been a chimney, so the entire building would have been quite smoky. The smoke from the fireplace would only be able to escape from gaps in the roof; whether the roof was made of thatch, peat or wood shingles, depending on the local materials.

Benches would have run along the walls. These benches were usually an integral part of the structure of the entire building. They would help reinforced the base of the walls. There would not have been much else for furniture other than the benches. The benches would function as both bed and as sitting accommodations during the day. Simple forms of craftsmanship such as spinning, weaving and basketry could be performed on the benches. Some farms had separate buildings for different activities. Several forges have been found in some farms throughout Denmark, and the majority of the forges are not located in the main building.

Viking homes within towns did not have the need for as much space for the storage of crops or for cattle, so they were shorter than country homes. The best evidence we have for Viking town houses comes from the Viking Age town of Hedeby, Germany. The houses in Hedeby were rectangular, and they were about 12m long by 5m wide. Country homes throughout the Viking World range from 30-60m long by 5m wide. The longest known longhouse was found near Lofoten, Norway and it had a length of no less than 83 meters. One of the homes found in Hedeby had an oven for cooking food. However, this was most certainly not the norm during the Viking Age, and the presence of a separate kitchen is actually quite odd.

Hrisbru longhouse :
The viking longhouse (Scandinavian langhus) come from the Germanic cattle farmer longhouses, emerged along the southwestern North Sea coast in the third or fourth century BC and might be the ancestors of several others medieval house types such as, the English, Welsh and Scottish longhouse variants and the German and Dutch Fachhallenhaus. The longhouse is a traditional way of shelter.
Many were built from timber and often represent the earliest form of permanent structure in many cultures.

Hrisbru longhouse :
The viking longhouse (Scandinavian langhus) come from the Germanic cattle farmer longhouses, emerged along the southwestern North Sea coast in the third or fourth century BC and might be the ancestors of several others medieval house types such as, the English, Welsh and Scottish longhouse variants and the German and Dutch Fachhallenhaus. The longhouse is a traditional way of shelter.
Many were built from timber and often represent the earliest form of permanent structure in many cultures.

Egill Skallagrímsson.

He was a Viking Age poet, warrior and farmer, he is also the protagonist of the eponymous Egil’s Saga. Egil’s Saga historically narrates a period from approximately 850-1000, being written somewhere between 1220 and 1240.


“My mother wants a price paid
To purchase my proud-oared ship
Standing high in the stern
I’ll scour for plunder.
The stout Viking steersman
Of this shining vessel:
Then home to harbour
After hewing down a man or two.”

Egill Skallagrímsson.

He was a Viking Age poet, warrior and farmer, he is also the protagonist of the eponymous Egil’s Saga. Egil’s Saga historically narrates a period from approximately 850-1000, being written somewhere between 1220 and 1240.


“My mother wants a price paid
To purchase my proud-oared ship
Standing high in the stern
I’ll scour for plunder.
The stout Viking steersman
Of this shining vessel:
Then home to harbour
After hewing down a man or two.”

If Christmas went wrong with someone, challenge him the viking’s way !Holmgang (hólmganga in Old Norse and modern Icelandic, holmgång in Swedish).
Is a duel practiced by early medieval Scandinavians. It was a recognized way to settle disputes. Holmgang can be translated as “to go to (or walk on) a small island” or simply “island walk”, perhaps a reference to the duels taking place upon a small piece of hide or cloak placed on the ground. The name may also derive from the combatants dueling on a small island or islet, as they do in the saga of Egill Skallagrimsson. At least in theory, anyone offended could challenge the other party to holmgang regardless of their differences in social status. This could be a matter of honor, ownership or property, demand of restitution or debt, legal disagreement or intention to help a wife or relative or avenge a friend. Holmgangs were fought 3–7 days after the challenge. If the person challenged did not turn up for the holmgang, the other man was considered just in his challenge. If the offended party does not turn up for the holmgang, they are deemed niðingr, and could have been sentenced to outlawry. In effect, if they were unwilling or able to defend their claim, they had no honor. Sometimes a capable warrior could volunteer to fight in the place of a clearly outclassed friend.

Exact rules varied from place to place and changed over time, but before each challenge the duelists agreed to the rules they used. The duel was fought either on a pre-specified plot or on a traditional place which was regularly used for this purpose. The challenger recited the rules, traditional or those agreed upon, before the duel. Rules determined the allowed weapons, who was eligible to strike first, what constituted a defeat or forfeiture and what the winner received; in Norway, the winner could claim everything the loser owned. How many times the challenged actually gave in beforehand, is unrecorded.First holmgangs probably ended on the death or incapacitation of one combatant. Killing an opponent did not constitute a murder and therefore did not lead to outlawry or payment of weregeld. Later rules turned holmgang into a more ritualistic direction.Kormakssaga states that the holmgang was fought on an ox hide or cloak with sides that were three meters long. It was staked on the ground with stakes used just for that purpose and placed in a specific manner now unknown. After that the area was marked by drawing three borders around the square hide, each about one foot from the previous one. Corners of the outermost border were marked with hazel staves. Combatants had to fight inside these borders. Stepping out of borders meant forfeiture, running away meant cowardice.There is one reference in Kormakssaga about a sacrifice of a bull before the holmgang but there are many references about the sacrifice the winner made after the victory. Combatants were permitted a specific number of shields (usually three) they could use - the opponent’s strikes could break a shield. The challenged would strike first and then the combatants would hit each other in turn. The combat would normally end on the first blood and the winner would receive three marks of silver.This represents mainly the later Icelandic version of holmgang, which was intended to avoid unnecessary loss of life and excessive profiteering; unless the dispute was about a specific property, the most the winner could receive was the three marks of silver.Professional duelists used holmgangs as a form of legalized robbery; they could claim rights to land, women, or property, and then prove their claims in the duel at the expense of the legitimate owner. Many sagas describe berserks who abused holmgang in this way. In large part due to such practices, holmgangs were outlawed in Iceland in 1006, as a result of the duel between Gunnlaugr Ormstunga and Hrafn Önundarson, and in Norway in 1014.

If Christmas went wrong with someone, challenge him the viking’s way !

Holmgang (hólmganga in Old Norse and modern Icelandic, holmgång in Swedish).

Is a duel practiced by early medieval Scandinavians. It was a recognized way to settle disputes. Holmgang can be translated as “to go to (or walk on) a small island” or simply “island walk”, perhaps a reference to the duels taking place upon a small piece of hide or cloak placed on the ground. The name may also derive from the combatants dueling on a small island or islet, as they do in the saga of Egill Skallagrimsson. At least in theory, anyone offended could challenge the other party to holmgang regardless of their differences in social status. This could be a matter of honor, ownership or property, demand of restitution or debt, legal disagreement or intention to help a wife or relative or avenge a friend. Holmgangs were fought 3–7 days after the challenge. If the person challenged did not turn up for the holmgang, the other man was considered just in his challenge. If the offended party does not turn up for the holmgang, they are deemed niðingr, and could have been sentenced to outlawry. In effect, if they were unwilling or able to defend their claim, they had no honor. Sometimes a capable warrior could volunteer to fight in the place of a clearly outclassed friend.

Exact rules varied from place to place and changed over time, but before each challenge the duelists agreed to the rules they used. The duel was fought either on a pre-specified plot or on a traditional place which was regularly used for this purpose. The challenger recited the rules, traditional or those agreed upon, before the duel. Rules determined the allowed weapons, who was eligible to strike first, what constituted a defeat or forfeiture and what the winner received; in Norway, the winner could claim everything the loser owned. How many times the challenged actually gave in beforehand, is unrecorded.

First holmgangs probably ended on the death or incapacitation of one combatant. Killing an opponent did not constitute a murder and therefore did not lead to outlawry or payment of weregeld. Later rules turned holmgang into a more ritualistic direction.

Kormakssaga states that the holmgang was fought on an ox hide or cloak with sides that were three meters long. It was staked on the ground with stakes used just for that purpose and placed in a specific manner now unknown. After that the area was marked by drawing three borders around the square hide, each about one foot from the previous one. Corners of the outermost border were marked with hazel staves. Combatants had to fight inside these borders. Stepping out of borders meant forfeiture, running away meant cowardice.

There is one reference in Kormakssaga about a sacrifice of a bull before the holmgang but there are many references about the sacrifice the winner made after the victory. Combatants were permitted a specific number of shields (usually three) they could use - the opponent’s strikes could break a shield. The challenged would strike first and then the combatants would hit each other in turn. The combat would normally end on the first blood and the winner would receive three marks of silver.

This represents mainly the later Icelandic version of holmgang, which was intended to avoid unnecessary loss of life and excessive profiteering; unless the dispute was about a specific property, the most the winner could receive was the three marks of silver.

Professional duelists used holmgangs as a form of legalized robbery; they could claim rights to land, women, or property, and then prove their claims in the duel at the expense of the legitimate owner. Many sagas describe berserks who abused holmgang in this way. In large part due to such practices, holmgangs were outlawed in Iceland in 1006, as a result of the duel between Gunnlaugr Ormstunga and Hrafn Önundarson, and in Norway in 1014.

Arngrim.He was a berserker, who figures in Hervarar saga, Gesta Danorum, Lay of Hyndla, a number of Faroese ballads and Orvar-Odd’s saga in Norse mythology.Arngrim went pillaging to Gardariki and met its king Svafrlami, who was in possession of Tyrfing at the moment. Tyrfing cut through Arngrim’s shield and down into the soil, whereupon Arngrim cut off Svafrlami’s hand, grabbed the sword and slew him with his own weapon. Then Arngrim captured Svafrlami’s daughter Eyfura and forced her to marry him.Another version however relates that Arngrim became Sigrlami’s war-chief and won many battles and conquered land and subjects for the old king. In recompense, Arngrim was given a high position in the realm, Eyfura and Tyrfing.In all versions of the saga, Arngrim returned to Bolmsö with Eyfura. They had twelve sons who all followed in their father’s footsteps and became berserkers. They were called Angantyr, Hjörvard, Hervard, Hrani, Barri, Tyrfing, Tind, two Haddings, Bui, Bild and Toki.

Arngrim.
He was a berserker, who figures in Hervarar saga, Gesta Danorum, Lay of Hyndla, a number of Faroese ballads and Orvar-Odd’s saga in Norse mythology.

Arngrim went pillaging to Gardariki and met its king Svafrlami, who was in possession of Tyrfing at the moment. Tyrfing cut through Arngrim’s shield and down into the soil, whereupon Arngrim cut off Svafrlami’s hand, grabbed the sword and slew him with his own weapon. Then Arngrim captured Svafrlami’s daughter Eyfura and forced her to marry him.

Another version however relates that Arngrim became Sigrlami’s war-chief and won many battles and conquered land and subjects for the old king. In recompense, Arngrim was given a high position in the realm, Eyfura and Tyrfing.

In all versions of the saga, Arngrim returned to Bolmsö with Eyfura. They had twelve sons who all followed in their father’s footsteps and became berserkers. They were called Angantyr, Hjörvard, Hervard, Hrani, Barri, Tyrfing, Tind, two Haddings, Bui, Bild and Toki.

Svafrlami was the son of Sigrlami, who was the son of Odin. Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki and the first owner of the magic sword Tyrfing.One day, he was hunting on his horse and discovered two dwarves near a large stone. He bound them by swinging his sword above them so they could not disappear. The dwarves, who were named Dvalinn and Durin, asked if they could buy themselves free and undertook to make a magic sword. The sword would neither break nor rust and it would cut through iron and stone as easily as through cloth and would always give victory.When Svafrlami acquired the sword, he saw that it was an exquisite and beautiful weapon and it was named Tyrfing. However, before disappearing into the rock, the dwarves cursed the weapon so that it would never be unsheathed without killing a man, would be the undoing of Svafrlami and cause three evil deeds.One day, Svafrlami met the Berserker Arngrim, they started to fight. Tyrfing cut through Arngrim’s shield and down into the soil, whereupon Arngrim cut off Svafrlami’s hand, took Tyrfing and slew him. Arngrim then forced Svafrlami’s daughter Eyfura to marry him. According an alternative version, Arngrim became the war-chief of the aged king and was given both Tyrfing and Eyfura as rewards.

Svafrlami was the son of Sigrlami, who was the son of Odin. Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki and the first owner of the magic sword Tyrfing.

One day, he was hunting on his horse and discovered two dwarves near a large stone. He bound them by swinging his sword above them so they could not disappear. The dwarves, who were named Dvalinn and Durin, asked if they could buy themselves free and undertook to make a magic sword. The sword would neither break nor rust and it would cut through iron and stone as easily as through cloth and would always give victory.

When Svafrlami acquired the sword, he saw that it was an exquisite and beautiful weapon and it was named Tyrfing. However, before disappearing into the rock, the dwarves cursed the weapon so that it would never be unsheathed without killing a man, would be the undoing of Svafrlami and cause three evil deeds.

One day, Svafrlami met the Berserker Arngrim, they started to fight. Tyrfing cut through Arngrim’s shield and down into the soil, whereupon Arngrim cut off Svafrlami’s hand, took Tyrfing and slew him. Arngrim then forced Svafrlami’s daughter Eyfura to marry him. According an alternative version, Arngrim became the war-chief of the aged king and was given both Tyrfing and Eyfura as rewards.