‘From the fury of the northmen, Oh Lord, deliver us.’ The vikings (aka northmen) burst on the scene in Britain in the late 8th century. In 793 the ‘heathen destroyed God's church on Lindisfarne by rapine and slaughter’. In that year ‘immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air.’
Terrified clergy feared their raids on monasteries, repositories of jewelled books, crosiers, and chalices, very attractive booty. In 806 they massacred 68 monks and in 825 the saintly Blathmac and his monks were also martyred in a viking raid. The petrified monks prayed to God for relief.
The vikings got around—wherever they could sail—for three hundred years. Their longships, the cutting edge of medieval technology, allowed them to raid, trade and settle in various parts of Europe from Britain and France to Ukraine. Unfortunately for their reputation, their best-selling commodities were slaves. For example, the Norse ran a highly profitable slavery business in Dublin, a city they established.
But the Norse had laws, lots of them. They gathered at assemblies called Things, which acted as parliaments and law courts. Every year one-third of the laws were recited. Freemen could attend the Thing but had to attend unarmed. Does that sound like the vikings you’ve heard about? Many clans in Scotland and Ireland are descended from viking settlers.
Were they a people of the Middle Ages not so different from others or an evil people only interested in slaves and profit? Are they worthy of respect in your books? Read the history and decide for yourself.
Sheila Currie lives in a world of thousands of books, fiction and non-fiction. Visiting friends worry about avalanches.
She was born on the east coast of Canada where there are many other people whose families came from Scotland and Ireland. Her love of those countries led her to study in Nova Scotia, Canada and then in Scotland where she obtained an M.A. in Scottish History and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow. She was fortunate enough to have a summer job selling Gaelic books door-to-door in the West Highlands and Islands. She went from one cup of tea to the next–a wonderful opportunity to talk to local people and hear their stories.
She has taught history and Gaelic at university and for Hearts Through History Romance Writers. At long last she has published The Banshee of Castle Muirn, the first book of a trilogy–set in magic and historical Scotland.
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