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Viking Mythology through the Ages: Oskoreia

Oskorei is the Norwegian version of The Wild Hunt, an ancient folk myth prevalent across Central, Northern and Western Europe.

By M. Michael Brady

The genealogy of the myth is unclear, but the aftermath of an event described in an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 793 suggests a Viking origin:

‘In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the people. They consisted of immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine immediately followed those signs, and a little after that in the same year, on 8 June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter.’

The ‘heathen men’ were Vikings; ‘God’s church’ was a monastery that was the principal centre of Celtic Christianity; and Lindisfarne was and still is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. The raid shook Christendom and triggered the Viking Age. For 300 years, the Vikings were influential in Europe and beyond, taking their beliefs and customs wherever they went. It was the Viking Age poets who forged the earliest myths that have come down to us in folklore.

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