Who are the Norse people (History/Culture post)
The Norse/Germanic people : A brief history:
The history of the Nordic people begins in Central Asia and the Russian steppe when the Indo-Europeans start migrating west into modern-day Europe. During the great migration a branch of the IE moved into present day Scandinavia and became isolated most likely due to climate disruptions. Human beings have occupied Scandinavia for at least 7000 years. It is in the forest and frozen mountains that the Nordic people get the distinct cultural/linguistic identity known as Germanic. After developing a unique culture the Germanic people begin moving south for less turbulent weather and cross the Baltic and North seas into Germany, Poland and Jutland. The migration age tribes founded the modern Nordic countries we know today like Scandinavia (Norway-Sweden-Denmark), Germany and England to name a few.
The culture of the Norse was actually already 1000 years or older when the Viking age began and a new wave of Germanic people again started crossing into Europe and Britain carrying largely the same migration age culture, legal systems, Runic codex and religious beliefs as the previous migrating tribes. Some of the identifying markers of Nordic culture is complicated knot work, exceptional metal/wood work, seafaring/boat building and design, metaphoric poetry and spoken word, grand feasting halls, ancestral worship and equal rights for women. A fact reviled by Roman authors when facing the Teutons in the Alpine regions during the migration age. I use the term Norse as a general description of the larger Germanic culture from its Dutch origin “Noors” “People from the north” because Germanic culture originates in Scandinavia/Denmark.
We Norsemen have an indigenous alphabet called Runes or the Elder Futhark, The header of my blog is in Anglo-Saxon Futhorc set and many variations exist as the system evolved out of the Elder Futhark. Runes were typically used for marking ownership such as Hermeric owns this knife or Olaf is buried here but many large inscriptions do exist. Each sign also has a divine meaning with immense power behind it. I have often called the Runes the language of the universe. I personally believe in the power behind the Runes. The origin of the Futhark is a mystery, theories exist but none satisfy in explaining the origin. It was largely accepted that a Mediterranean origin like Etruscan might explain it but no early finds exist near the Mediterranean, they all exist in Denmark , Northern Germany and Scandinavia. Now it is theorized that Western Germany/Denmark may be the original zone of expansion and Scandinavia being less explored has some very old inscriptions and “could” be the originator of the Runic script. Some have linked the Runes with the Hallristningar symbols carved in Neolithic Sweden/Norway which adds a new layer of age and interest to the story. The divine description in the Norse Lore is that Allfather Odin pulls them from Ginnungagap as he is hanging from Yggdrasil. A full article on Runic origins and theory will be presented in an upcoming post.
Sites of Elder Futhark discovery in Europe. Common Germanic would be the language. All German languages were mutually intelligible at this time.
Nordic Bronze Age. 1700-500 BC
Pre-Roman Iron Age in Germania/Scandinavia 5th/4th – 1st century BC
Germanic Migration 750BC-1AD.
Red= Before 750 BC
Orange= New settlement by 500 BC
Yellow= New settlement by 250 BC
Green= New settlement by 1AD.
Stone Age Connection to Germanic Culture:
Complex Nordic Bronze age carving of obvious similar creation as the design above.
Rock carving form Norway (Over 6000 years old) Showing unique artistic elements.
Many images on these stones dating from 6000 years ago tothe Iron age depict many traditions found in Germanic and later Viking age culture such as waging war on boats, farming/herding, fishing, ship design, beings in Germanic religion and symbols found throughout Nordic culture prehistoric to modern. When looking at these images one could understand how the Runes may have evolved out of it stylistically. The exact culture responsible is unknown in some cases but elements can be traced to later Nordic customs.
STONE CARVING PHOTO’S ARE FROM WIKIPEDIA. Copyright to respective owners.
A small gallery of images and symbols. Art of my own creation is marked.
Irminsul: Ancient German totem most likely of Yggdrasil (World tree) Symbol is associated with The Saxons and a Deity called Irmin who is most likely Odin under one of his alias/regional names. (Not my art)
Thor-Thunor: Nordic Thunder God. Viking age bronze statue.
Helmet replica from the Sutton-Hoo find. Adorned with glorious plates referencing Nordic customs, legendary figures and amazing detailed metal work. (Not my photo)
Stone carving designs from Gotland Sweden. Copyright Call Of Steel 2012.
Gotland Sweden Stone Carving: Pre Viking. Copyright COS 2012.
Viking age stone carving from Gotland Sweden:Viking age. Copyright COS 2012.
Anglo Saxon decoration. Copyright COS 2012.
In summary I hope this post gave at least some idea of Norse culture. It is near and dear to my heart as I descend from these mighty folk and try as an artist to keep some element of the old ways alive and well into the future.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more Blacksmith and historical posts.