Before the Vikings became Christians they believed in the Nordic gods such as Odin, Thor and Freja. Sacrifices were made to the gods when people wanted good fortune in battle or a good wind in their sails for an expedition etc. The Vikings worshipped their gods outside in nature or in the farmstead’s great hall, a large building with an assembly hall. The gods, or their symbols, are often seen depicted on Viking jewellery. The use of a Thor’s hammer as an amulet is seen in many different guises.
-Find out more about the gods. What happened to the dead if they did not die in battle? Did people really believe that Ragnarok was the end of the world – or was there something else afterwards?
-The Vikings believed that it was Thor who made thunder when he flew across the sky in his chariot. Today we know that a thunderstorm is created when hot and cold air meet. Why do you think people invented this kind of superstitious explanation back then?
-Investigate the sources of our knowledge on Nordic mythology. For example, read the text on sources here on this website and discuss how certain we can be of our knowledge.
-Are there still people who believe in the old gods?
-Which heathen festivals or rituals do we know today?
-Make a Thor’s hammer out of bone.
The Norse gods
This exercise contains problems and suggestions for a practical activity as well as the worksheet The Hammer of Thor made of bone.
It deals with topics such as:
- The Norse gods
- Heathen parties and rituals
The following places may help in solving the exercise:
- The Nordic gods
- Christinaity and foreign politics
- Skriftlige kilder til vikingetiden
- Brough of Birsay
Let the pupils use the library and the Internet for inspiration and to find extra information. There are some good children's books about the Norse gods by Lars Henrik Olsen.
This exercise is intended for the ages 10-13 but some parts are appropriate for the ages 16-20 when combined with other exercises from the Sea Stallion's website.
The exercise can, for example, be combined with the following from the Sea Stallion's website: When the Danes became Christians and The heathen barbarians.
Subjects: Religious studies, English, History.
Suitable for age: 10-13 & 16-20 years.