ber-serkr (-s, -ir), m.


Berserkir are depicted in many sagas as thugs, bullies and members of the royal bodyguard. For example, in Heimskringla, Snorri Sturluson mentions Haraldr hárfagri’s berserkir, who occupied the most dangerous part of his ship at the battle of Hafrsfjord and spearheaded his troops in battle. These royal bodyguards also tested newcomers to the king’s hall , as is shown in several sagas. In this initiation ritual, the hero must stand up to the berserkir to earn his place. Snorri mentions that they were Odin’s men. Grágas, the Icelandic law code, includes a law against going berserk in a section on Christian laws. This suggests that going berserk was a heathen act. So berserkir may have been cultic warriors connected to Odin.

Berserkjablogg by Dr Roderick Dale

‘bear-sark’, berserker, a wild warrior of the heathen age. (Geir T. Zoëga, A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic)

Berserker: Hell's Warrior
Berserker: Hell’s Warrior

This chap is the subject of my thesis and will probably consititute the bulk of the posts on this blog, although anything Viking-ish is fair game. So, let’s begin by taking a quick peek at the berserkr, who he probably was and what he probably did.

The definition from Zoëga is fairly clear. ‘Bear-sark’, it’s archaic, but still clear to modern English readers; a chap that wears a bear shirt. It could be a bear’s pelt and mask or it could just be a bear’s pelt worn as clothing or armour. Presumably he killed the bear first and thus has proven that he is rather tough. I certainly believe that this meaning is the most likely one within a Viking Age Norse context, but it is not…

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Your ‘Family Rights’ believing in the best interest of children. The issues which are important to me are, children and their families, the injustices to parents, which may occur, because of inadequate information, mistakes or corruption. This is happening every day. every minute and every second.
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