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Vikings loved psychoactive substances
Much of history is extremely enchanting to ponder. Not only is learning about history entertaining but it is also helpful in gaining a clearer perspective on our place in the World. However, some areas of history are far more fascinating than others. One of the most shocking and interesting parts of history is the Vikings. While they were advanced people with their own complex calendars and helpful inventions, such as the potter wheel, they were also cold-blooded killing machines.
While Vikings had many other accomplishments, they were best known for their ruthless acts and widespread terror. And for good reason, too! These Viking tribes were merciless and ultimately impossible to fight off.
But how did they come to dominate every battlefield? How did they become so tough and numb to the pain inflicted on them? What was their secret weapon?
Before we get into the Viking’s love for getting high, let’s briefly go over where they originated and how they dominated such faraway lands with such efficiency.
Vikings were groups of individuals who originally lived in modern-day Denmark, Sweden and Norway. These tribes were primarily active between the 8th-11th century.
Something important to note here is that you were not a Viking if you simply lived in these areas during this time period. Vikings were individuals who grouped together and broke away from recently formed societies to live by their own rules. Essentially, they broke away to do what the f*ck they wanted. And that is exactly what they did.
Like much of history, there is much darkness in the reality of these people. The word ‘Viking’ could be used as a label for a warrior who travelled long distances, raiding and colonising vast areas without a care for others. The Vikings were master raiders, raping and pillaging entire towns.
Everyone feared the Vikings for their animalistic behaviour and lack of empathy. The word about large scary individuals raiding towns with ease in a fit of rage can travel to faraway ears. Many individuals knew of the Vikings from the spread of word and everyone was absolutely terrified of them.
One location they left their mark on forever is the UK. Raids across the British Isles were common to the point where they even established some of the biggest cities in Ireland. Cork, Dublin and Limerick were all founded by Viking settlers!
At that point in time, most of Scotland and several other Northern territories of England also belonged to the Vikings. Eventually, they spread and made their way to other countries in Europe and even crossed the sea and made it to North America. But why did they do this? The answer is very simple… Their main motive was to conquer, rule and gain wealth/power. They were essentially untouchable.
Okay, I think that is enough of the basics. Let’s move on to the real reason why you clicked on this article!
Vikings loved getting high
If you think the history of Vikings that I shared above is interesting, then you are in for a real treat! The method behind the emotionless and rageful state they entered is due to psychoactive substances. In fact, a few Viking tribes in particular are well-known for their love of drugs. Back in the day, there were of course no synthesized drugs available, so the Vikings gained knowledge over time of psychoactive plants. And, as you may have guessed, absolutely loved getting drunk as f*ck, too.
Let’s meet one tribe that utilised hallucinogenic substances to complete their sinful missions. Meet: The Berserkers!
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘to go berserk’? It essentially means to go crazy and act animalistic and downright insane! This saying comes from the Viking tribe, the Berserkers, due to the trance-like state they would enter before battle. To their victims, they strived to appear as actual animals. No, I mean literally! They would kill bears and keep their heads to wear as headdresses while they ran toward their enemies in a rage. Not only did they want to act like animals, but they also wanted to look like animals, too.
Little did their innocent victims know, they had a psychedelic secret up their sleeves!
While there is speculation of the Berserkers using a wide variety of psychoactive substances, there are three that we are most certain of. Psychedelic tea, magic mushrooms and alcohol.
The Berserkers and their use of psychedelic tea
The Vikings, being as inventive and clever as they were, turned an otherwise poisonous plant called stinking henbane into a battle booster. Stinking henbane, also known as Hyoscyamus niger, contains two hallucinogens. Both hyoscyamine and scopolamine can be found in this trippy herb. While scopolamine proved to have more potent properties than hyoscyamine, both worked synergistically, offering an intense psychedelic effect.
We are not entirely certain of how exactly the Vikings consumed the herb but we estimate that they either made a tea out of it or they infused it in their alcohol. These warriors were known for infusing herbs into their beverages. The possibility of them rubbing it into their skin using goose fat is also up for debate… Pretty gross, right? Well, if you are a Viking, nothing is too extreme!
Symptoms of this particular herb are high aggression, unpredictability, heightened energy, increased focus and fearlessness.
The Berserkers and their use of magic mushrooms
Not only did the Vikings love their psychedelic tea and alcoholic beverages, but they also loved magic mushrooms! However, the magic mushrooms they used to get high are not the ones that are typically used in modern-day psychedelic use.
If you look up ‘magic mushrooms’ on Google, you will likely find a lot of information revolving around mushrooms that contain a famous compound called psilocybin. A handful of naturally occurring mushrooms contain psilocybin, which is the compound that most mushroom users are familiar with. However, these were not the mushrooms that the Vikings were munching on. They were consuming another famously known mushroom called Amanita muscaria.
Amanita muscaria, or, Fly Agaric, offers completely different effects than your average magic mushroom. While the active compound in typical magic mushrooms is psilocybin, the active compound in Amanita muscaria is called muscimol. This compound is a Gaba receptor agonist. The effects of this compound can be described as sleepy, dreamy and hypnotic.
The brain is highly affected by this compound as we have GABA receptors all across the brain, meaning it will affect neurons in many regions of the brain. The power of these mushrooms reaches the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum and the hippocampus. All of these regions dictate emotions and the brain’s decision-making functions/processes. Additionally, this mushroom’s effects can last anywhere from 12-24 hours! Unlike typical magic mushrooms that last anywhere between 4-9 hours.
Psychedelic substances also heighten the 5 senses, which is a huge advantage during battle. Speed, agility, energy, visual sight and enhanced hearing are all great advantages that these psychedelic substances give the Vikings over their enemies.
Conclusion: The Vikings loved to get high before battle
What was the goal of a Viking? To be fearless. To be confident. To be rageful. To be numb to pain. To be fast, precise and two steps ahead. All of these goals were much more easily obtained with psychoactive substances running through their blood.
How disturbing is it to think that psychedelics, which are modernly viewed as tools for love and healing, can be used for such heinous acts? In many other cultures throughout history, psychedelic plants were present during sacred ceremonies to induce spiritual enhancements. The Vikings really display how these substances can be used for both good and evil.
What do you think about the Vikings and their usage of drugs? Let us know in the comments below!