The Children of Ash: Cosmology and the Viking Universe
Lecture by Neils Price
Given at Cornell University, on September 25, 2012
Professor Neil Price (Archaeology, University of Aberdeen) delivers three lectures focusing on the fundamental role that narrative, storytelling and dramatisation played in the mindset of the Viking Age (8th-11th centuries), occupying a crucial place not only in the cycles of life but particularly in the ritual responses to dying and the dead.
Early medieval Scandinavians’ attitudes to death provide a window on the Viking mind, and they were monumentalised in some of the most spectacular burials known to archaeology. A study of these complex and spectacular funeral rituals is not only fascinating in its own right, but is inevitably also a meditation on this particular culture’s responses to the human condition. The Vikings’ unique view of the world can provide genuinely deep perspectives on the fundamentals of life, on the fears of mortality that confronted them as they still confront us.
Excerpt: Thirty years ago, the focus was very much was on the material world of the early north, whereas I am going to be talking about the intangible life of the Vikings: the life of the mind, the human condition. What I am really going to be talking about throughout these lectures is stories, the power of stories, and the role that narrative played in the life of the Vikings, its influence on their perception of the world in which they understood themselves to move.