Viking Warriors were feared by their enemy; right across Europe.
The Berserkers (Norse Warriors) were the most feared of all. They were described as ‘Odin’s special warriors’.
They are known as ‘Berserkers’ due to their bloodlust and frenzied attacks in battle. It is said they attacked in a trance-like state and were unable to control their behaviour when fighting.
A Skaldic poem by Thorbiorn Hornklofi written in the 9th century mentions Berserkers as such;
‘I’ll ask of the berserks, you tasters of blood,
Those intrepid heroes, how are they treated,
Those who wade out into battle?
Wolf-skinned they are called, In battle,
They bear bloody shields.
Red with blood are their spears when they come to fight.
They form a closed group.
The prince in his wisdom puts trusts in such men,
Who hack through enemy shields’.
‘Berserkers’ means ‘bear coat’ in Old Norse and they would wear bear and wolf skins when fighting to intimidate the enemy. Due to their frenzied behaviour it is thought that they could not tell friend from foe so everybody fighting was in danger, regardless of what side they were fighting for.
Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson wrote;
‘His (Odin’s) men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them.
This was called Berserkergang’.