For long, the Vikings have been well-known for their physical strength and recklessness in battle. Legends had it that the Vikings had a troop of elite called the Berserkers. In the surviving texts that we have now, the Viking berserkers showed up to be the fiercest warriors. But what made Viking berserkers that powerful, actually?
Mysteries have been surrounding this Viking elite troop. Scholars have always debating about their historical existence and power as well. While many believe that Berserkers were mythological, others claim their true existence in history. Regarding their extra-ordinary power, many sources pointed to different methods about what made the Viking berserkers that powerful.
Berserkers worshipped bear?
I do not know why every time I mention berserkers, the first thing that comes up in my mind is a huge bear showing his jaws trying to kill someone. This might be because I read a source saying that the berserkers worshipped bear as the totem animal.
In the Viking Age, bear was a powerful animal that could attack them from out of nowhere. A bear could suddenly appear in the front path or he could hit someone from behind. Although a bear was wild and untamed, he was also a symbol of physical strength, resilience, and great independence.
Some theories claim that the berserkers made sacrifice to bear. And in return, they would get the power they wished for battle. Even some historians about Viking Age agreed that there was cult of bear in the Viking community. This cements the point that the berserkers could have drawn their power from bear.
Raised by bear and wolf?
This theory, although it is quite unrealistic, is quite famous. Many people believe that there was a group of Viking children abandoned in the woods. And the bear and wolves inside the woods found them. Instead of killing the boys, they kept them alive and raised the children up.
When the boys finally became the men, they still lived among the bear, walking, eating, etc. like a bear.
But if this theory were true, how could the berserkers learnt of Odin while their lives revolved around bear and animals. Because the berserkers were famous for their firm belief in Odin, the theory of “raised by bear” is not persuasive enough to me.
Consumed hallucination mushroom?
One of the most famous theory and probably widely accepted is that the Viking berserkers consumed hallucination mushrooms. This has recently adapted into TV series where a Viking warrior consumed a kind of hallucination mushrooms. He turned himself into a kind of frenzy trance. He knew nothing but shattering others with his axe.
A type of mushroom that the Vikings consumed was Amanita muscaria according to some historians.
Some archaeological evidence suggested that the Vikings had other types of drugs in their age. For example, a grave of a woman in Fyrkat, Denmark consisted of a bag full of Henbane seeds. This kind of seed could make people become another person with rudeness and savage deeds.