A slave girl being raped, strangled and butchered with a ritual blade and then burnt is not a noble act worth celebrating in our entertainment world’s fascination with Viking culture.
It was a dark religious ritual that ended when the Vikings converted to Christ. I celebrate that chapter ending and it’s a testimony to the way the gospel of Jesus satisfies the truth longing in every heart and mind no matter the person, culture or time.
Mass numbers of Vikings converted to Christ, the reasons are varied, some sincere and others political, but to discount the epic religious shift, is to be disingenuous or biased against Christianity. To ignore the historical realities of sword conversions and other means of conversion is also a reflection of purposefully choosing to ignore history as well. But the facts stand for themselves as this map of flags reflect.
It’s hard to get to the roots of the reasons of the conversations If you sift through the countless articles and books that are obviously working hard to discredit Christianity and its impact on the old world. But when I read accounts like this human sacrifice ritual below, I can see how the gospel resonates and rescues a culture that is awash in blood and sacrifice ritual. The gospel message that all religious sacrifice was swallowed up and ended in the crucifixion of the Son of God is a release from the the horrors of human sacrifice that are internally abhorrent to the awakened human conscience.
It’s unfortunate that the horrific ritual is ripped from its historical context and made into a folky prayer for tapestries or pinterest or championed as some affinity to ancestral connectivity and respect instead of the fact that it was a ritual of human sacrifice.
The Viking prayer as recounted in the movie, 13th Warrior:
“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother, my sisters and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place on Asgard in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever”
The actual historical story comes from: “Risala: Ibn Fadlan’s Account of the Rus” a recounting of a traveling muslim who records a human sacrifice burial ritual. The slave girl of the chieftain being cremated is described below, starting with the slave girls ritual words spoken as she is lifted up and down on the joined hands of the warriors lining up provide her with a walkway to her death:
- “’Behold, I see my father and mother.’
‘I see all my dead relatives seated.’
‘I see my master seated in Paradise
and Paradise is beautiful and green;
with him are men and boy servants.
He calls me. Take me to him.’
- The men came with shields and sticks. She was given a cup of intoxicating drink; she sang at taking it and drank. The interpreter told me that she in this fashion bade farewell to all her girl companions. Then she was given another cup; she took it and sang for a long time while the old woman incited her to drink up and go into the pavilion where her master lay. I saw that she was distracted; she wanted to enter the pavilion but put her head between it and the boat. Then the old woman seized her head and made her enter the pavilion and entered with her. Thereupon the men began to strike with the sticks on the shields so that her cries could not be heard and the other slave girls would not seek to escape death with their masters. Then six men went into the pavilion and each had intercourse with the girl. Then they laid her at the side of her master; two held her feet and two her hands; the old woman known as the Angel of Death re-entered and looped a cord around her neck and gave the crossed ends to the two men for them to pull. Then she approached her with a broad-bladed dagger, which she plunged between her ribs repeatedly, and the men strangled her with the cord until she was dead.
- Then the closest relative of the dead man, after they had placed the girl whom they have killed beside her master, came, took a piece of wood which he lighted at a fire, and walked backwards with the back of his head toward the boat and his face turned toward the people, with one hand holding the kindled stick and the other covering his anus, being completely naked, for the purpose of setting fire to the wood that had been made ready beneath the ship. Then the people came up with tinder and other fire wood, each holding a piece of wood of which he had set fire to an end and which he put into the pile of wood beneath the ship. Thereupon the flames engulfed the wood, then the ship, the pavilion, the man, the girl, and everything in the ship. A powerful, fearful wind began to blow so that the flames became fiercer and more intense.
When I read historical accounts like this, I can see how the gospel of Jesus as preached by the Apostles, who were rooted in a bloody ritual culture, was a message of religious life that eclipsed the age of religious death. Christ was executed by religious and political power and the scriptures state that in his death, he swallowed up death and triumphed over it. His blood cried out from the ground as a cry of mercy, ending the human tale of bloodshed from the garden of eden onward. His death on the cross by human hands, ended the demands of sin leading to death and opened up the promise of life through faith not blood. On that roman cross, Christ stood in the place of all humanity and ended the tales and rituals of torture, punishment, superstition, rites of replacement or fatalistic associations. When Christ said it was “Finished”…that meant all such narratives and allusions were ened at Golgotha, the hill of the skull. The resurrection became the preeminent religious message of hope and prophetic promise that reconciliation is complete and freely offered by faith not fate, fear or blood.
Hebrews 10:8-9 “When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.”
This gospel is good news to any culture but particularly one soaked in sacrifice and death. The apostle Paul’s message to the Athenians, is a perfect example of the clear message that the gospel brings to people longing to worship but in need of greater truth and light.
Acts 17:22-31 “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for:
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
There are many noble and virtuous things to celebrate about our ancestors, the old world and the challenges and achievements the stories left behind tell. But returning to the dark and deadly ritualistic paganism with its bloody demands is not progress or progressive enlightenment, but a return to vicious sexual conquest, archaic horrors and ugly victimization that can be seen even today in the ideology and acts of groups like ISIS across the globe.
Don’t be hooked by the deification of ritual, blood and violence resurging in pop culture…darkness does not lead to light and life, no matter how poetic it may be presented.