Written by: Mathias Vidas Olsen
This is a pretty long rant about the TV-series Vikings. But I feel it is important, as “Vikings” is in of itself a way for the creators of the show to communicate their own perceived notion of the Viking age. They are communicating a very poorly understood culture to an audience that is known for not being the best fact checkers. Thus, the TV-series is viewed as a legitimate source of information for many people both in and outside of the heathen community. And as such, I feel it is important to comment on the show’s depictions and development as of late. Anyway, here goes:
The völkish branches of heathenism are reaaaally getting a hard-on for the new characters on Vikings. I didn’t understand what the sudden spike of interests was about, because I have had a break from the show, but now that I’ve gone back to check out the newest episodes I surely do understand the increased attention.
For starters, there has been a shift in the show in regards to how the characters see themselves as a people. In the earlier seasons, the Scandinavian people were addressed as “Norsemen” or “Danes” according to their land of origin, whereas now they are being addressed simply as “heathens” or “Vikings”. (Yes the entire lot is now more or less talked about and understood as the Viking people, you know from Viking-land.)
Anyway, another notable change comes with this season sudden use of the word “race”. The characters have suddenly begun talking about how Ragnar Lothbrok was the greatest hero of the Viking race (sigh), and also how Rollo has betrayed his “race” by assisting Paris in guarding the city against the heathen attacks. There is a clear indication of the characters being one united race, separate from other people in the show. And of course, this idea of a homogenous Viking race plays perfectly into the right wing notions of heathenism being a “whites-only” thing.
At the same time, the role and uses of the gods have also undergone a shift. The new generation in the show (AKA the sons of Lothbrok) have started using Odin in the way that most right wing groups use him. As a simple war god. He’s almost exclusively seen as somebody you make a blood eagle sacrifice too, or as someone you call upon when you go into battle. This is a much more active role for the god than in the previous seasons. In the first couple of seasons, Odin was a much more passive figure. Odin was a god Ragnar spoke to, but never really expected any connection to or answer from.
The Odin of the old series was much more a background sorta god, a figure of mystery, knowledge, and exploration. Conversely, Odin in the current season is much more Christianized; one dimensional, a god you pray to and get an immediate response from, a god you are connected to. Again, this plays directly into the hands of most Völkish-heathens and into the hands of many modern heathen groups, because many of those groups seem to be using the old gods just as Christians use Yahweh, just with a vaguely Norse veneer.
It seems to me that the old gods are being presented as if they were just the Christian god but with many more names. Many of these völkish groups are just as Christian as your average Southern Baptist. They use a prayer to get in direct contact with Frey, Thor, Odin or what have you. They ask for something and say that they will develop a specific characteristic if their wish is granted. They dress up in old clothes when they act as a “goði” just like the Christian priest does, to the point where some even wear a Catholic “Stole” (the clerical scarf priests wear) with runes on it, and cross themselves with Mjölnir in something called the ‘Hammer Right’. They baptize their children into the Norse faith as a Christian would baptize the child into the Christian faith. They use ring ceremonies and weddings just as the Christian does, and so on.
The new season incorporation of a Christian mentality of what a god is is very much in keeping with völkish practices, and is thus much more recognizable and relatable for the un-reflected völkish person, than the previous representations of a more pre-Christian theology.
Then there are all the ritual sacrifices, which have gone from being some kind of strange, sacred beauty, where you almost understand the people, to being estranged spectacles straight out of a gory heavy metal music video. Something you watch for the gory details and the shock value. It’s become more about some pervy curiosity than for any wish of understanding or respectful representation. But again, this speaks to the proud völkish person who openly estranges himself to society in an act of identity creation. It speaks to the uber-macho interpretation of Odinism, with its militaristic attitudes and power metal themes of horned, burly gods with bloody axes in hand.
My finally note is that the change in the series overall feel could be a clever way of showing how later generations in the 10th century got detached from the original idea of gods, and their way of life as it used to be. It could showcase how fragmented and loosely intertwined the faith slowly got when Christian ideas started to influence the Norse peoples. It could also be a way of showing how all-out war changes the society and morphs the perceptions of the gods. In times of peace, Thor is mainly used as a fertility god for crops. In times of unrest, he is used as a protecting god, guarding Midgard against the dark forces. Or the change in the series overall feel could simply be new management, less time and energy put into historical accurate touches, and an overall idea that they need to please the heathen/Viking-enthusiast audience of America by giving them the burly metal Viking dude they want.
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