Window with portrait of Harald in a cathedral
The twilight of the berserkers
The berserkers, like all paganism, ended up falling into decay. At a given moment, probably with the advent of Christianity, the esoteric religious leadership of Scandinavia received the coup de grace: it disappeared and submerged itself in the dominant culture (see footnote of pic above). All the Germanic religiosity and its external traditions fell without impulse or direction, divided and weak, functioning only by inertia.
Since then, we have tried to distinguish between two types of berserkers: the heroic berserker, brave and loyal elite warrior in the service of a great king; and the decadent berserker, a wandering bandit given to theft, pillage, indiscriminate killings and rapes. This later figure corresponds to gangs of criminals in Scandinavia, and its signs denote what happens when male impulses—which originate on the dark side and tend, in principle, to destruction—fall outside the control granted by discipline, asceticism and will.
This type of ‘berserkers’ was described as terribly ugly, with deformed features, with only one eyebrow, dark eyes and black hair, having manic and psychopathic tendencies. Such criminals, coming from the lowest social strata of Scandinavia, wandered through the villages challenging little men to a duel.
Since by rejecting the duel they would be considered cowards, the peasants accepted for honour and self-love, and generally fell dead under the arms of the bandit. He, who was not a combatant of honour or a soldier was left with the lands of the unfortunate, his possessions, his house and his wife. In the sagas, often a noble warrior ended up killing the impostor, freeing the woman and marrying her.
In the 11th century, duels and berserkers were placed outside the law. In 1015, King Erik I ‘Bloody Axe’ of Norway made them illegal. Gragas, the medieval code of Icelandic laws, also condemned them to ostracism. In the 12th century these decadent berserkers disappeared. Henceforth, the Church cultivated the belief that they were possessed by the Devil.
A case worthy of study: King Harald Hardrada of Norway (the one who appears above in St. Magnus Cathedral at Kirkwall) as an example of the Viking world and the importance of berserkers in battles
Unfairly, Harald Hardrada usually appears in history only as a Norwegian king who failed to conquer England. Harald, a blond giant over 2.10 m., lived at a time when the Scandinavian kings were polishing the political and court arts to match their European counterparts, but he was still more in tune with the free Viking warriors of previous centuries. To this day, it seems a mystery to me why nobody has made a film about this man.
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Editor’s interpolated note: No white has made a film about this Norwegian king because the Weirwood trees were cut down long ago, so to speak. The Aryans have been worshiping a Semitic god.
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Harald Sigurdson was born in Norway in 1015. With fifteen years he participated in favour of King Olaf II in the battle of Stiklestad, against King Canute of Denmark (later also king of England and Norway). In this battle, which coincided with a solar eclipse, Olaf’s army lost. Wounded, Harald managed to escape from Norway with warriors loyal to his lineage and, in exile, formed a gang of loyalists who had escaped from Norway after Olaf’s death. A year later, having Harald sixteen years old, he and his Norwegians crossed Finland and entered Russia, where they served the great Prince Yaroslav I the Wise as stormtroopers, where Harald was made general of Yaroslav’s armies.
Two years later, the young Viking general was maintaining a loving relationship with Elisif (Isabel), the daughter of Yaroslav. When the prince, enraged, surprised the couple, Harald was forced to escape from Russia with his loyal gang, according to gossips, even raising his pants on the road.
Harald crossed with his men the Ukraine and the Black Sea and arrived at Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, where he enlisted in the Varangian Guard—the elite mercenary unit composed exclusively of Scandinavians. He became famous throughout the Mediterranean, earned the nickname Bolgara brennir (‘Bulgar-burner’); triumphed in North Africa, Syria, Palestine, Jerusalem and Sicily, and amassed an immense personal fortune from looted booty.
Over time, Harald was made head of the Varangian Guard, admiral of the Byzantine fleet (the most powerful of the Mediterranean) and was given great autonomy to independently carry out attacks against the enemies of Byzantium. Far from his native Norway, Harald and his men had become the spoiled children of a great Mediterranean empire. In his day, the Byzantine chronicles referred to Harald as ‘son of a Varangian emperor’. He was in the service of the Byzantines until 1042, that is, until his of twenty-seven years.
Harald left the Byzantine Empire with the promptness that had been usual in his travels. Crossing the Black Sea and the Ukraine, he again passed through the Kiev court and took away his old love, the daughter of Yaroslav, with whom he married as they travelled north through Russia.
In 1045, having thirty years, Harald, supported by his experienced warriors and as a military-political veteran with impressive wealth and extensive network of contacts, re-conquered the Norwegian throne as Harald III Sigurdson, reigning it for twenty years and earning the nickname of Hardrada (‘tough sovereign’). However, it seems that all this life of great deeds had not satisfied the Viking.
In 1066, Harald set his sights on England, the land that had been the fate of numerous Nordic migrations since the 5th century. He claimed the English throne, taking advantage of the fact that a Danish-English-Norwegian kingdom had existed in the past, and brought together 300 longships to face the Anglo-Saxon troops of King Harold. It was in this framework that the battle of the Stamford Bridge, in the north of England, took place.
Harald died with his throat pierced by an arrow. When one of his men asked him if he was seriously injured, he replied, ‘It’s just a small arrow, but it’s doing its job’. He was fifty-one years old. Only ten percent of Norwegian soldiers survived the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The Anglo-Saxons allowed the last Vikings to set sail in their longships and return to Norway.
The year of Harald’s death in 1066 coincides with the advent of Christianity in the North, and is considered the end date of the Viking Age.