100 Days of Halloween: Berskers and Ulfhednar – Viking Ninja Shapeshifters
Vikings were terror of their age, more than mere pirates, they were seen as wild and barbaric, yet elite in their fighting prowess.
But…what were Vikings afraid of?
Several days ago, we shared with you about werewolves, promising we would visit some of their lycanthropic cousins soon.
In Indonesia, this is called mengamuk, which is where we get the term run amok. For Indonesians, this was a medical condition where people would just go all out bonkers and destroy things.
For the Norse, it was the mark of an elite fighter. These were called berserkers.
A berserker (roughly, “bear shirt”) was highly valued by Viking communities. They were also feared, if you got on their bad side. The whole chop-through-friend-and-foe-even-if-there-is-a-sword-in-my-neck thing aside, berserkers were pretty weird.
They were sometimes described as naked, wearing nothing but the pelt of a bear, covered in black mud as a natural camouflage, raiding villages screaming at the top of their lungs in bloodlust. They played a game of mental warfare that didn’t border on insanity, it took a running jump from insanity to belly flop bellow. Kinda reminds us of ninja, actually.
And this insane approach to battle did the trick. In fact, it frightened people so much, they believed that these “bear shirts” would actually transform into an actual bear in the midst of battle rage.
Seriously though, Vikings feared these guys. Such was their legend.
But @TheMonsterGuys, you may ask, what does any of that have to do with the werewolves from the other day? Hang on, we’re getting there…
Ulfhednar were men who wore not bear shirts, but wolf skins and furs. These warriors carried a spear, and were hired out to be bodyguards for Jarls.
In fact, it was believed that ulfhednar were part of a special cult associated with Odin, the god of warriors, artists, lunatics, and hanged men. And just like his bearskin cohorts, the ulfhedinn were sometimes rumored to shift into a vicious wolf in battle.
While not as spooky as the nelapsi or as weirdly disturbing as the manananggal, the ulfedinn and berserker are two of our favorite legends, not only because they are shapeshifting warriors of ancient Viking ninja doom, they are documented.
Legendary and exaggerated perhaps, but well-documented throughout Norse history. And, let’s face it, running up against these guys at night would be enough to scare the living bejeezers out of us, shapeshifters or not.
And that’s enough to earn them a spot in our #100DaysofHalloween countdown.
Stay tuned for more, as we continue to countdown to Halloween 2014!