The lovers of Archaeology and of Northern European History, surely have heard about the Oseberg Longboat found by the norwegian archaeologists at Oseberg south of Oslo. The great archaeological treasure is a real master piece of northern european design, culture and art, beautifully carved with images of animals, skillful knotworks, entirely made of oak. Inside the Longboat, there were two dead bodies of women, there were also dogs, horses and an ox. A four wheeled cart was at the far end of the Longboat, the first viking cart to be discovered and there were also four sledges there, also beautifully carved. But what makes this finding so spectacular is the possible identity of the two women. Both of these women were considered elderly for the time, on was 70 and the other 50 more or less between these ages, analysis showed that their diet was very rich, meaning that these women were of an higher status in their viking society. At first archaeologists thought that these two women, buried in a burial mound far from the sea, they could be the wives of local farmers, but a treasure like this one, these couldn’t be mere farmer’s wives, with the help of the knowledge about traditional burial rituals and spiritual paths of the northern european peoples and with the finding of a small leather purse, these women would reveal their secrets. The small leather purse contained cannabis seeds, which induce trance when burnt, and there was also a rattle, a musical instrument also very much used for the same purpose. There were also tapestries with the women, which may have illustrated the shamanic rituals held in these times.
In the Norse society, shamanism or seiðr was the work of women, as i have written in an other post about the northern magic workers The practitioners of seiðr, known as seiðkona or völva, entered in trance using drugs, chanting or rythmic sounds with musical instruments. In the case of the Oseberg women, the cannabis seeds and the rattle may have helped them entering in trance.
The images carved or painted in stone in prehistoric times and even in more recent historical times and in folklore show us that in many cases the boat was the vessel which helped shamans reaching the other world in their shamanic journeys and helped the dead to reach the afterlife, we see this many times in Norse burial rituals when the dead were placed in a long boat with many gifts and then it was burnt, or burial mounds in a shape of a boat made out of stones. To the far north, there are thousands of images of shamans beating their drums while sailing in ships into the otherworld.
In the case of the Oseberg women, they were clearly practitioners of seiðr – Norse Shamanism – and the Longboat was obviously designed to stay on land and not with the purpose of sailing, at least not sailing in this world.
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