The Viking Way

Magic and Mind in late iron age Scandinavia
Second edition, fully revised and expanded

Neil Price

398 Blz., ISBN 978-1-84217-260-5     
Uitgeverij Oxbow Books, 2019     

Sex and sorcery, shamanism and shape-changing
- the face of war in Viking-Age Scandinavia?

An embattled king´s shield-wall breaks under a barrage of spells, raining down like artillery fire...

The audience in the hall look expectantly at the actors who will relive the sacred drama, singing the ancient tales. Odin, the war-god, sits between the fires. ´I am called Mask´, he begins...

A slain warrior returns to his valkyrie lover, who makes up a bed for them both in his grave...

A couple die and are buried in a boat, with a corpse under the keel. It is filled with dismembered animals and the tiller sits a dead woman with a staff. A mound covers them all...

Magic, sorcery and witchcraft are among the most common themes of the great medieval Icelandic sagas and poems, the problematic yet vital sources that provide our primary textual evidence for the Viking Age that they claim to describe. yet despite the consistency of this picture, surprisingly little archaeological or historical research has been done to explore what this may really have meant to the men and women of the time.

This book examines the evidence for Old Norse sorcery, looking at its meaning and function, practice and practitioners, and the complicated constructions of gender and sexual identity with which these were underpinned. Combining strong elements of eroticism and aggression, sorcery appears as a fundamental domain of women´s power, linking them with the gods, the dead and the future. Their battle spells and combat rituals complement the men´s physical acts of fighting, in a supernatural empowerment of the Viking way of life.

In this fully revised and expanded second edition, Neil Price takes us with him on a tour through the sights and sounds of this undiscovered country, meeting its human and otherworldly inhabitants, including the Sámi with whom the Norse partly shared this mental landscape. On the way we explore Viking notions of the mind and soul, the fluidity of the boundaries that they drew between humans and animals, and the immense variety of their spiritual beliefs. We find magic in the Vikings´ bedrooms and on their battlefields, and we meet the sorcerers themselves through their remarkable burials and the tools of their trade. Combining archeology, history and literary scholarship with extensive studies of Germanic and circumpolar religion, this multi-awardwinning book shows us the Vikings as we have never seen them before.

Neil Price is Distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, and formerly held the Sixth Century Chair in Archaeology at Aberdeen. A leading specialist in the Viking Age and the pre-Christian religions of the North, with additional interests in the historical archaeology of the Asia-Pacific region, his researches have taken him to more than 40 countries. From 2016-2025, Neil is directing a major Swedish Research Counsil project on The Viking Phenomenon, leading an international team to explore the origins of this critical period in world history.

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