Having lived amongst the descendants of the Scandinavian Vikings in Norway and Sweden for 22 years, I have come to know them quite well. And as a minister of the Gospel, having met and known Christian Scandinavians and non-Christian Scandinavians alike, I have made a number of observations which I want to share with you today.
One thing I have noticed is that when once Christian nations turn away from Yahweh and Yah'shua the Messiah, they seem to revert back (to one degree of another) to the spirits (demonic powers and principalities) that controlled their ancestors before they became Christian, though tempered and shaped by modern ideas, attitudes and trends. This seems to be imprinted somehow in their flesh nature and is something they have to fight even when as believers because they had not overcome it. This is true not only of Scandinavians, of course, but of all races and cultures with a pagan past. The Danes, whom I know (though not so well) as the other Scandinavians, made their mark on my own country of England and left their influence in the north of the country.
What was the pagan Scandinavian like? What were his character traits, attitudes and views of the cosmos? They were pretty xenophobic and were totally wrapped up in their tribalistic warrior code. Their theology lacked absolute concepts of good or evil, the boundaries between them being completely blurred. Their gods, like Thor, were fallible. Their highest virtues were honour and battlefield valour, and lusty maidens called Valkyries swept dead heroes to Valhalla. Pillage of other communities was a way of life and free of moral qualms. Their name - Vikings - literally means 'Pirates'.
Some modern Scandinavians look back at their past and consider it socially enlightened because women Vikings were free to divorce and often held great power in the homelands while their men were abroad pillaging. However, the Vikings were also into slavery and revelled in bloodlust. If I were to summarise their attitude in one sentence I would describe them as free men acting on their own authority. Thus when the Prince of the Franks sent an envoy to question the chief of a band of Viking marauders approaching Paris, the envoy returned perplexed, saying: "I found no one to walk with, They said they were all chiefs" (Priit J. Vesilind, In Search of Vikings, in National Geographic Magazine, Vol.197, No.5, May 2000, p.9).
The pagan Scandinavian spirit may be said to be restless and constantly in search of revenge and booty. Only when they accepted Christianity and found peace in Christ did they start settling down and lose this restlessness. I have noticed the same restlessness emerge as Christianity is rejected as they once again turn to the modern fallible gods of socialistic humanistic philosophy (when serious) and to alcohol and women when they are being oafish. Sweden in particular has frequently been enamoured by totalitarianism, flirting with it rather than becoming totally immersed, though there are worrying trends that it is they are going beyond their usual retraints. True, ancient Europeans were generally pretty brutish but the Vikings were simply better brutes. It's as though your modern Swede senses something dangerous but finds this irresistable attraction to bullying. There is what I would call a "casual brutishness" which occasionally surfaces as we see in the recent horrific abduction of seven year-old Domenic Johansson from his parents by the social services in Gotland. It's something that has to be controlled or it can run amok.
There was, of course, more to the pagan Viking than brutishness. They were craftsmen, shoemakers, poets and aesthetes who designed magnificent ships of noble proportions. Surprisingly, perhaps, there were a very artistic people and you see that even today. The huge Saab Aviation and Motor Car industrial giant is testimony of their superb craftsmanship. As an aviation enthusiast, I am a great admirer of their planes. My own country came strongly under their influence. When a huge Danish-Viking army landed in the northeast of England long ago, they commandeered the city of York which they called Jorvik. The city prospered for a century and became a centre of international trade. The Vikings laid out city streets, minted silver coins and mass produced the necessities of life from combs (made from deer antlers) to leather shoes, ice-skates made of bone, and knives which one and half millennia on can still be sharpened and used. However, you mustn't think the last ruler was a goodie-goodie with children. It wasn't for nothing he was called Erik Bloodaxe. My own ancestors were Vikings, Normans, in fact, from William the Conqueror.
There is frightening fatalism in the Swedish Viking mindset which believed that everything should end in flame. The dead were ferried to either Asgard or Valhalla where they would enjoy an eternity of feasting and brawling. The early Svea engaged in human sacrifice to appease their gods and some modern Swedes still visit the old sites to build bonfires and tap into the old primal enegies, Gotland being one of their settlements where Domenic Johansson was ripped away from the loving arms of his parents. Sad to say, this brutal and evil spirit still seems to exist among some. Your modern Vikling likes to see himself as 'tough' - and not just the men, but the women too. We even had a Thor-worshipper visit our Oslo congregation once.
The pagan spirit remains strong in Iceland. Even road-repair crews consult mediums to make sure their work won't disturb elves under the rocks. They like to view themselves as pragmatic people who don't easily suffer fools. They love to tell tales, the Icelandic Sagas being mostly fictional. And Erik Thorvaldsson was perfectly prepared to lie about the treeless fjords of a new country, calling it 'Greenland' to entice settlers.
Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, who lived in Iceland a thousand years ago and visited the Americas (her son Snorri being the first Scandinavian to be born in Vinland, America), has become a kind of symbol of the vigour and independence of Scandinavian womanhood today. She later became a Christian pilgrim and nun.
We must all watch out for the generational sins of our ancestors and make sure they are cut out from us so that they don't trip up our Christian walk. Knowing something about what we are dealing with is useful so that we can be on the alert. Having ministered to Scandnavians now for nearly 30 years I quickly see the old ancestral traits when they surface. And when they apostatise, turning away from Yah'shua, the ancestral weaknesses seize them with a vengeance.
In Yah'shua the Messiah all of these demonic traits are eliminated and we assume a new identity in Yah'shua and in the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The old has to be washed away in baptism. This is true for all of us whether we are Scandinavians, Americans, Asians, Africans, Europeans or anyone else. Yahweh is no respector of persons and He hates lawlessness. Free men and women acting on their own authority are simply imitating Satan and skiing into hell.