How Did Dragons & Volcanoes start the Viking Age?
Viking is actually a profession and the name comes from the Old Norse word "vik" (bay or creek) which formed the root of "vikingr" (pirate).
The most cited reason we usually think of for the raids is Greed! There was a perceived imbalance between the Pagan Nordic countries and the ‘wealthier’ Christians, they had it the Vikings took it.
The Norse people were already great sea goers and had been trading goods for decades throughout Europe. This trading also meant they knew where the wealth was and where the garrisons were. An undefended, wealthy monastery sat on an island such as Lindisfarne is very tempting 😇
Throw in population increases, poor farmland, and too many ‘spare’ Yarl’s sons who are 6’ tall muscular fighting machines each capable of taking on a dozen weak pathetic Saxons and the outcome is inevitable!
Well, that’s what our favorite Viking Programs would have us believe. Maybe we can look at that Myth next time! Anyway, what about those Volcanoes and Dragons?
In my last blog, I referenced a Volcanic event leading to the raids. What I didn’t mention is that this event was a series of massive Volcanic eruptions in the 6th Century! Over 240 years before the Viking age.
This led to a Volcanic Winter, a mini ice age, which caused famine, disease, and a decrease in the global population.
“Um, so how is this relevant?
After a large decrease in population, people tend to overcompensate, they get horny! Which contributes to the population exploding!
More important to our tale though is seismic pressures take time to build up and release. The global phenomenon in the 500s led to a relatively calm period of very little Volcanic activity for the next few hundred years.
Yaaay good news right 🗞️ unfortunately not for Europe! As next came Dragons.
“This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine.”
The picture left is an unaltered photo of the Northern Lights, these are caused by Solar Radiation. You can actually see a 'Dragon' in this image. Northern Lights are extremely rare as low down as Britain so these mystical signs would give great concern to the local population.
An increase in solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic eruptions created a La Niña-like event that changed the weather patterns. Stronger trade winds pushed more warm water towards Asia creating wetter conditions in Australasia and droughts in the Northern Hemisphere. These effects lasted around 25 years!
So what caused the Viking Age? I believe it was a mixture of several things, overpopulation, very little farmland, and the need to expand. The drought brought by the Dragons & Volcanoes was the tipping point. They had two options, either stay at home and fight over the dwindling resources or go visit your rich wealthy neighbours. Plus as we all know the Vikings were giant warriors who were much better at fighting than their Saxon counterparts right? Well actually No, but let’s save that for next time 🕰️
Drought is mentioned in the Royal Frankish Annals in 772, and famine is recorded in 779 in the Annales Mosellani.