Archeology Culture Spirituality X-Files

The Buddhist Connection To Viking Culture

If we look into Iron Age history in Scandinavia we might find a forceful explanation of why it took so long to Christianise parts of the population in the Nordic areas. Who are the Vikings and what is their origin? With all the caricatures and stereotypes out there, there’s probably a lot you’ve never heard about the seafaring Scandinavians who raided and settled coastal sites in the British Isles and beyond.

This 6th century Buddha statuette from North India was found in an old Viking trading town on Helgö Island in Lake Mälaren, Sweden. During the excavation of the Oseberg ship one so-called “Buddha bucket” was found. The findings illustrate that the Vikings traded over vast distances and had to deal with many different cultures and religions. Or maybe there is another explanation?  Some research suggests it may reflects the remains of Buddhism in Scandinavia.

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureThe Helgö Island Buddha (Photo: Swedish History Museum, Stockholm)


Worshipping of the God Thor in Scandinavia

Thor was described as the God of the Goths or Geats (ref. “Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus” by Olaus Magnus, 1555). The Goths mixed with the people of origin here, that is known from the Norse Mythologies. The mix of European and Asian people likely resulted in and is reflected in the Vikings culture of Scandinavia. It seems like the Saami people are mix of the old peoples of Scandinavia, Europeans and Asians as well as with newer people migrating to these areas.

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureThis is an illustration of a pre-Christian Deity (Picart 1725). A God carved in stone photo by Worm-Petersen (1914), this was likely Thor. (Image Source)

The Goths were far back in history more likely of South Asian origin, however they might have been a 50:50 mix of southern and eastern Asian if they for instance had Khotan / Kushan origins. If the Goths mixed with the Scandinavian indigenous people and these later became the Vikings, then the Goths must have been the ones that came with Buddha and Buddhist ornaments. Was Thor part of Buddhism or did he belong to the first people of Scandinavia?

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureLeft: Thor’s hammer / Right: Indra’s Vajra

Explored the World

In the period 8th to 11th century the Vikings traveled throughout the known and unknown world where they trough trade and warfare met new cultures and religions: From Greenland and Vinland (North America) in the west, Miklagard (Constantinople) and India in the East, to Blåland (English: “Blue Land”, meaning Africa) in the south.

With the battle axe in one hand, they had to deal with people who had a different culture, language, and color and that believed in other gods than themselves: Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and tribes that followed natural religions.

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureThe Oseberg ship “Buddha bucket”. (Photo: Saamiblog/ Wikimedia Commons)


Mystery of Vikings origin

It is well documented that the Vikings ran extensive slave trade and it is very likely that some of these “exotic commodities” were brought back home and sold in Scandinavia. The youngest of the women found in the Oseberg ship is, according To Per Holck of Oslo University, mitochondrial haplogroup U7: Her ancestors came from the Black Sea area, possibly Iran.

Did the Vikings get knowledge from the slaves about other cultures and languages ​​that were helpful to them? Did they bring slaves as interpreters on their travels? And – how did these slaves affect the Vikings’ view of religion?

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureConnection between the Norwegian stavkirke and the Thai temple? (Image Source)

A paradox is that Norway and Sweden were the last countries in Europe to introduce Christianity as the official religion. Could one reason be that the Vikings had seen and learned about other cultures and religions that they considered unfamiliar, including Christianity, and thus stayed loyal to the Norse religion that had provided security, structure and success?

However, Christianisatity triumphed early as a religion at least for the power elites in some Nordic areas, however the Christian religion does not seem to have affected the kings and queens buried in Oseberg or Gokstad in Norway during the 800eds CE. Clearly a religion with Buddhist symbolism have been present in Sweden and Norway at least from 400 CE or earlier and until about 900 – 1000 CE . We know that Asians were present in the Nordic as early somewhere between c. 300 – 50 BCE, referring to the finding of a bog man called Grauballeman / Grauballemanden in Denmark, it indicates they likely have come here well before 400 CE.

The Buddhist Connection To Viking CultureTollund Man or bog man is a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterised in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age

Most Scandinavian Viking graves are not yet excavated and are preserved for posterity. Hopefully, many of the answers lie hidden along with the remains of the most adventurous people in history.

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  • The history of our (im swedish) ancestry is barely scratched upon the surface.
    They lived like the iron age vikings as early as bronze age, up here.
    At least.
    The mystery of the battle at Tollense have unraveled that there were organized armies, kings and such from the north even then.

    Then – Take a really good look at the Tocharian people !
    Even more interesting…
    As old as it gets, and clearly the same people. Down in asia !

    The northern people is mixed with neanderthals and are probably the oldest and most diverse mix of people there is.
    And it seems there are traces or clues that point to some sort of close relations to the travelling riverpaths from mid-sweden to what became kievan-rus (rus means swede, and the word kiev-rus meaning “great-sweden” the land) and those people founded what became russia from ukraine. Ruriks kin.

    Scythians or varangians, or proto-iranians (see the Tocharians) points to a early path between the northern world and the black sea, persian region.
    But what if it is even older than that?

    The Goths or Geats or Svear (later word, several tribes) is not of asian ancestry, but the Saami might very well be!
    They stretch through the northern parts from west all the way to the russian or siberian east, even today.

    Why i came here is because Tocharians were buddhists (!), and clearly of northern origin.
    And i have a memory of reading that early indian goods, buddhists or not, were fair haired and blue eyed – i could be wrong – i looked for a connection.
    And that might be a really old one. If you look at the linguistics of the Tocharians !

    Another thing – they have found neanderthal (i believe historians got them all twisted up) hybrids in europe, and down to the most western parts of middle east, but no such more south than that. Fair skin, blonde, red hair, blue eyes come from them or the hybrids.
    Africans are completely another part.
    Ancestors or not. Less mixed?
    Who knows – interesting nonetheless.

    BTW i live in “Sundsvall”, about 100m from 2 of the greatest burial mounds of mid-northern sweden, and it literally is hundreds of them smaller ones scattered allover up here.
    I even know where lots of excavated or untouched is located. Hundreds of them – as this place “Sundsvall” is clearly of a long lost importance.
    Then this region/land was called “Hälsingland” -another big land, not Sweden then, not goths, geats or svear – but there seems there is no interest at all in it.
    Look up some/all of the viking maps, and look up where Sundsvall is located today.
    Nothing. No dots on the maps, it all seems to have taking place south of Stockholm – but findings and important archeological findings en masse indicate something else !
    Why no interest? Hmmm…
    Some believe the great halls of “Uppsala” – the great halls of up-sala (the great halls, up north) could be up here, cause Stockholm is a long stretch further south. 400km down south.
    Nortbound, the Saami people lived. And they were a whole other sort of people.
    And this WAS a place of importance. Mid-Sweden, but then the most northern populated parts.
    They even killed the Svea kings tax-collectors before being implemented under the flag of “Sweden”.
    As they did not accept his rule or claims on their land.
    Not much is known. Sadly.

    So much more to research, but a total lack of interest – we barely get to know our own history here, it is looked upon as something ugly. Strangely enough.