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Remembering Not to Forget

The Viking Age past and its lessons for the present
Artist: Rim Baudey. Instagram @rimbaudey

If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll remember our fascinating chat last year with Mathias Nordvig. He’s an expert in Norse mythology, folklore, and the Nordic Story World.

Some people may think that those myths are just cool, fanciful stories about the exploits of gods like Odin and Thor or creatures like dwarfs and giants meant simply to entertain and pass the time on those long Scandinavian winter’s nights. But in this new episode, we dove deep into Mathias’ research about why that wasn’t the case for Viking Age people and why it shouldn’t be for us moderns either.

Our conversation stemmed from his new translations of Danish and Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish rune poems and also arguably the most widely read and studied poem from the Viking Age, Völuspá: The Vision of the Witch, which contains some deeply embedded themes about survival in a harsh yet magical Northern world.

It also recounts some pretty dark stuff about the Nordic world’s view of the cataclysmic end times event known as Ragnarök. Why did they believe in such a thing? Was it really THE END, or did something come after? Was there a way to forestall it?

The poem’s themes of social discord, the breaking of bonds in families, climate change, environmental disaster, and nervous anticipation of an unknown and yet inevitable future seem eerily similar to where we are in the world today. Are we headed for our own Ragnarök? Can the way they viewed it tell us something about how to cope in a turbulent modern world? Yeah, we went there.

This episode will make you think about the connection between us and the Viking Age in ways you’ve probably never thought of before. As Mathias warns, we forget our past and traditions at our peril.

Click the images to order
Artist: Jacqui Alberts. Instagram

In checking out Mathias’ new translations, you’ll also be supporting small, independent publishing and the artists who helped him bring these works to life. At Vikingology we have no affiliate relationship and do not profit from any sales. We just believe interesting people doing cool important things should be supported :)

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Terri and C.J. are first and foremost educators passionate about the Viking Age and Viking history. Theirs was a meeting foretold in the myths of old. Both are historians of Viking history, both live in Oregon in the U.S., and both share the same birthday. It seemed only natural they team up for something epic. The Norns have woven this fate.