Tag Archives: denmark’s history

Viking Ribe. A horse sacrifice

Viking Sacrifice of horse to Norse Gods at Ribe VikingeCenter, Denmark

The Vikings in Ribe in Denmark have sacrificed a horse
The Vikings in Ribe have sacrificed a horse  . Denmark

A sacrificed horse and lamb was the shocking sight that met one of Danhostel Ribe’s visiting groups at Ribe VikingeCenter. The völva, the wise woman of the Vikings, had slaughtered the horse, skinned it and placed the hide on a long pole, so that everybody could see her big sacrifice. The blood she sprinkled on a sacred stone filled with other gifts to the gods.
Why did the völva slaughter and sacrifice the horse, and should the hostel’s guests be afraid of being the next in line?
Listen to the völva’s own explanation in this video.

Blot – a pagan rite in the Viking Era

The völva  was in the Norse Mythology supposed to have a special connection with the old gods and goddesses, the Aesir. Therefore it was also often her who carried out the pagan rites like the offerings to the gods. The “Blot” was a main rite celebrated in Heathenry. In this video the blot is a ritual sacrifice of a horse to honour the gods, followed afterwards of a feast at which the meat was eaten by the participants.

Horse sacrifice at Ribe VikingeCenter in Denmark
The völva has sacrificed a horse at Ribe VikingeCenter in Denmark

Horse and human sacrifices

To sacrifice a horse to the gods demonstrated you had great wealth, but also slaves were sacrificed, as you can see in the exhibition “The Christian Vikings” at Ribe Viking Museum  (2014 and 2015)

Master with beheaded slave. Ribe Viking Museum
Master with his beheaded and sacrificed slave. Ribe Viking Museum

Real Viking Era Horse sacrifices in Ribe

A pit with a horse sacrifice is found in the middle of a graveyard from the 700s in Ribe (next to the railroad). This indicates that this burial place was founded with a sacrifice to the Norse gods (see  link number 10).
In the summer 2014 an archaeological excavation in Ribe revealed a fully equipped warhorse from around 700 .  The archaeologists can’t say if this is a horse sacrifice, but it is unique  to find a grave with a war horse  from the Early Medieval Era  in Denmark. In the article “Viking Ribe in Viking Denmark“, you can hear the archaeologists tell about the find in the video “The discovery of a dark age horse burial in Ribe, Denmark” .

The Viling völva reading the runes at Ribe VikingeCenter in Denmark
The Viking wise woman, the völva, reads the runes at Ribe VikingeCenter in Denmark

The völva could also tell you your fortune

The völva was also a seer and a fortune-teller.  At Ribe Viking  Centre she might throw and read the runes for you, and tell you her prophecy. That was what  she did for the hostel’s photographer, listen to the völva’s prophecy for the photographer in the video in this article: The Viking wise woman was the late Middle Ages witch

Viking Places in Ribe

  • Ribe Viking Museum (Museet Ribes Vikinger).  Here you can see many of the archaeological findings from Ribe town and different special exhibitions, The Viking Museum is 0,5 km. (0,3 American miles) away from Danhostel Ribe
  • Ribe Viking Centre (Ribe VikingeCenter)  is a ‘living village’ reconstructed according to archaeological findings in Ribe town and with lots of hands-on experiences. Ribe Viking Centre is 3,2 km (2 American miles) away from the hostel
  • Ribe Viking Market takes place at Ribe VikingeCenter one week around 1st of May. See photos
  • Book a guide for a Viking Walk at the Viking Museum or walk the hostel’s self guided walking tour in Ribe
Facts about the horsehide
Facts about the horsehide
Find Danhostel Ribe på facebook
Danhostel Ribe’s facebook

Photos and video: Gudrun Rishede, Danhostel Ribe

Denmark’s probably first Christian burials are found

Medievial child buried with necklace of pearls
Medievial child buried with necklace of pearls in Ribe

Ribe is Denmark’s and Scandinavia’s oldest town with findings from the start of the 8th Century (before the Vikings). Ribe celebrates its 1300 years birthday in 2010.
A new medieval archaeological excavation during 2008 and 2009 reveals news about Ribe again. This time news from when Christianity came to Denmark in the 9th century.
From written sources we already knew that the catholic monk Ansgar arrived in Denmark around year 826, at a time when the Danes still worshipped the Nordic gods Thor and Odin. Ansgar’s purpose was to convert the Danes to Christianity and about 855 he obtained some land from the Danish King Horik (Horich) to build the first Christian Church in Denmark in Ribe. This church was never found and therefore we didn’t know where it was located and the archaeologists thought they had to look for it in the part of town where the Ribe Vikings lived traded and had their burials north of Ribe River. Also no reliable written source has told us about the activities of Christianity in Ribe the next 100 years, until 948 when the first bishop of Ribe, Leofdag, is mentioned. This was shortly before Denmark was officially converted to Christianity.

It is probably a part of the first Danish church’s cemetery that is now found south of Ribe River and just south of where the beautiful Ribe Cathedral now piles up 52 meters (170 feet) (though it is situated far below the street level because of the accumulation of hundreds of years of debris and disintegrated building materials around the church). The excavation was made at Lindegaarden that burned to the ground a few years ago.
In more than 4 meters depth (13 feet) underneath man-made cultural stratums and in an excavation area of only 127 m² (417 feet²) the archaeologists found what is probably the oldest Christian burials in Denmark. One of the reasons you can tell it is Christian burials is the way they buried people east-west, with the head at the western end of the grave and with arms and legs straight, so that the person would look towards the sun and the coming of Christ on Judgment day after arising from the dead. The bodies also were lying on their back in different kind of coffins like a dugout coffin, a trough, the body of a wagon, etc. Only one little girl brought grave goods, she wore a necklace around her neck. Radiocarbon dating tells that the skeletons belong to the time between 9th and the start of the 11th century. In other words it tells us that Christian burials were made in the 9th century in Ribe and that make them contemporary with Ansgar’s building of the first church in Denmark in Ribe.
Some people might say that the first Christian church in Denmark was built in Hedeby (Haithabu) by Ansgar. I don’t know which one was first. But anyway Hedeby is now a part of Germany.
Many other very important findings were made. I will only mention what is probably Denmark’s oldest brick wall. It was a part of a dining room that belonged to the Cathedral’s canon (= priest) monastery from the middle of the 12th century to the middle of the 13th century.
During the next years the findings have to be examined and the citizens of Ribe have to rewrite Ribe’s history once again.
The archaeological excavation at Lindegården has it’s own blog, it is only in Danish but it has a lot of photos of the findings: Lindegaarden