Berserkers. Axe and mushroom

Superheroes. All the peoples, at all times they occupied a special niche in folklore. They are revered, worshiped and waited unprecedented feats. But today we are not talking about some mystical lore characters, and about the very real soldiers over Scandinavia — Berserker.

For several centuries, the most terrible nightmare of Europe were the Vikings. When on the horizon appeared zmeeglavye rook brutal alien population of the surrounding land, covered by a chilling horror sought refuge in the forests. The scope of devastating campaigns Norman is striking even today, almost a thousand years. In the east, they paved the famous route "from the Varangians to the Greeks" gave rise to the prince Rurik dynasty and more than two centuries took an active part in the life of Kievan Rus and Byzantium. In the west, the Vikings, since the VIII century, having occupied the south of Greenland and Iceland, kept in constant fear of Irish and Scottish coast. And with the IX. moved the boundaries of their attacks are not only far to the south — to the Mediterranean, but also in the interior of European lands ravaged London (787) Bordeaux (840), Paris (885) and Orleans (895) .

Red-bearded strangers captured the whole demesne, sometimes not as big as the possessions of many monarchs in the north-west of France, they founded the Duchy of Normandy, and in Italy — Kingdom of Sicily, where the hike to Palestine long before the Crusaders. Terrorizing the population of European cities, warlike Scandinavians even had the honor to be mentioned in the prayer, "God, deliver us from the Normans!". But among the northern barbarians were warriors, to whom the Vikings themselves have experienced a mystical awe. They knew that to get a hot hand tribesman Berserker was like death, and therefore always tried to stay away from these brothers-in-arms away.

With one in the field warriors

It is believed that for the first time mentioned in the berserkers drape (long poem) skald Torbjorn Hornklovi — Norse literary monument. It there is a victory of King Harald Fairhair, the founder of the Kingdom of Norway, in the Battle of Havrsforde, allegedly occurred in 872 "Berserkers, dressed in bear skins, growled, shook swords, gnawed at the edge of his shield rage and threw themselves on their enemies. They were obsessed with and did not feel pain, even if they are struck by a spear. When the battle was won, the soldiers fell, exhausted, and sank into a deep sleep "- as witness and participant in the events described joining the battle legendary warriors.

Who were these men? Berserkers or berserkers called Vikings, from the early years have dedicated themselves to the service of Odin — Nordic supreme deity, the lord of the wonderful palace of Valhalla, where the death of an eternal feast allegedly sent souls of soldiers who died heroically in battle and earn the favor of heaven.

Before the battle, the berserkers were injected himself into a special kind of battle trance, allowing different tremendous strength, endurance, fast response, insensitivity to pain, and increased aggressiveness. By the way, the etymology of the word "berserk" is still causing controversy in the scientific community. Rather, it is derived from the Norse «berserkr, which translates as either" bearskin ", or" shirtless "(root ber can mean both" bear "and" bare "and serkr -« skin "," shirt " ). Supporters of the first interpretations point to a direct link berserkers who wore clothes made of bear skins, with the cult etoge totem animal. "Golo rubashechniki" also put emphasis on the fact that the battle went berserk without coats of mail, naked to the waist.

Fragmentary information about the Berserker can also be gleaned from the "Younger Edda" — a collection of Old Norse mythological tales penned by Snorri Sturluson. In "Saga Ynglinga" reads as follows: "Men of Odin threw themselves into battle without armor, and yarilis like mad dogs or wolves. In anticipation of the fight against impatience and rage bubbling in them, gnawing teeth, their shields and arms to the blood. They were strong, like the bears or bulls. With an animal roar, they expressed their enemy, and neither fire nor iron will not hurt them … ". The Norse poet asserted that "One could do so, that in the battle of his enemies were going blind or glohli, or cover fear, or their swords became little sharper than a stick."

Contact berserk with the cult of the chief god of Norse pantheon has other confirmation. Even the translation of the many names of Odin shows him insane and violent nature: Wotan ("possessed"), Ygg ("terrible"), Heryan ("militant"), Hnikar ("sower of discord") Belverk ("Villain"). By becoming its patron saint and nicknames were berserkers who gave "the ruler of rage" vow of fearlessness. For example, Harold ruthless, get involved in a fight before the other, or broken in 1171 by Dublin Chief John Norman, who had the nickname Wode, meaning "madman."

Berserk is no accident were privileged part of the military class, a kind of "special forces" Vikings. And as such they did not riot or act of sacrifice extravagance in a race. Simply, they are always open battle, spending a show, and in most cases, winning a duel in front of the whole army. In one of the chapters of "Germany" Roman writer Tacitus wrote about the Berserkers: "As soon as they reached adulthood, they were allowed to grow their hair and beards, and only after the assassination of the first enemy they could lay their briefs and other … go with her hair. In addition, the most daring wore an iron ring, and only the death of the enemy freed them from wearing it. Their mission was to precede every battle, they always formed the front line. "

Berserkers squad one of its kind made enemies tremble. Storming the city as the militant vanguard, they left behind only piles of corpses of defeated enemies. And after berserk advancing well armed, protected by armor, infantry, complete the rout. If you believe the literary monuments, the Norse kings often used berserkers as personal protection, which once again confirms their military elite. In one of the sagas say that the Danish king Hrolfa Krakow bodyguards immediately passed around 12 berserkers.

"Berserk — a mechanism that blasted a fierce passion, adrenaline, ideological setting, breathing techniques, and mechanical vibrations zvukokolebatelnymi program of action. He does not fight for something, but only in order to win. Berserker does not have to prove that to survive. He is obliged to pay back my life many times. Berserk is not only going to die, he is getting fierce pleasure in this process. By the way, that's why he often stays alive. "

"There is a thrill in battle …"

Every single witness portrayed as fierce berserker warriors who fought with wild, downright magical passion. So what is the secret of Berserker Rage, and their insensitivity to injury and pain: whether it was the result of drug intoxication, hereditary diseases or special psychophysical training?

At present there are several versions explaining this phenomenon. The first — an obsession with "the spirit of an animal." Ethnographers suggest that something like this has been reported in many nations. In the moments when the "spirit" of a man possessed, he does not feel any pain or fatigue. But only this state ends, like a man possessed almost instantly falls asleep, as if it is turned off. Generally, lycanthropy as a military practice was widespread in antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Traces of "turning into a beast," of course, not literally, but in the ritual and psihopovedencheskom sense, can be found in modern military lexicons and heraldic symbols. The custom of assigning special forces names of prey animals in order to emphasize their elitism, also originates in the deep past. The ancient Germans imitated beast, he played the role of a mentor in the initiation, when the young man, entering the ranks of adult warriors showed their fighting skills, agility, courage and bravery. The victory of man over the totem animal, it is considered the ancestor and protector of the tribe, means the transfer of the soldier's most valuable qualities of the animal.

It was believed that in the end the beast did not die, and was embodied in the hero who defeated him. Modern psychology has long been identified mechanisms through which people "get used" to the image of the creature, whose role he plays at the moment. Berserkers, growling and puts on a bear-skin, as it were, in fact, became the Bears. Of course, the animal does not masquerade had the know-how of the Normans. Munich's famous anthropologist Professor Hans-Joachim Paprot sure that the cult of the bear appeared much earlier and was distributed more widely. "Already in the figures the Stone Age, for example in a cave Trois Frere in the South of France, we find images of dancers in bear skins.

A Swedish and Norwegian Lapps bear festival is celebrated every year up to the last century "- he says. Austrian German studies professor Otto Hefler believes that the animal disguise was a deep meaning. "It was understood as the transformation of not only the audience, but also by changing her clothes. If a dancer or a soldier wore a bearskin, the strength of a wild animal, of course, in a figurative sense, the transition into it. He acted and felt like a bear. Echoes of this cult can be seen today, such as the bearskin hats of British Royal Guards guarding the Tower of London, "- he says. In Danish folklore, there still exists an assurance that anyone who wears an iron collar, can turn into a bear-werewolf.

Modern science knows that the human nervous system can produce the substance, its composition and effects similar to drugs. They act directly on the "pleasure centers" of the brain. It can be assumed that the berserkers were like hostages of their own rage. They were forced to look for dangerous situations, allowing to join the fight, if not to provoke them. In one of the Scandinavian sagas, speaks of a man, which had 12 sons. All were berserk, "They have become customary in the midst of their own and feeling fit of rage, to go from ship to shore and throwing big stones there, turn out from the root, or in his rage would they wounded or killed relatives and friends." The phrase "there is rapture in the battle" regained a literal sense. Later, most of the Vikings still managed to control such attacks. Sometimes they were in the state, which in the East is called "enlightened consciousness." Those who have mastered this art became truly phenomenal warriors.

Muhomornoe madness

Other attempts an explanation inhuman berserker rage. In 1784, C. Edman, referring to some of the customs of the East Siberian tribes, surmised that the berserkers and drugged himself infusion of toadstools. The peoples of the Far North — Tunguses Lamuts or Kamchadals — until recently, the practice of rites (divination) used a powder of the dried fly agaric, which from licking the palm of your hand, shamans fall into a trance. Behavior berserk in battle really looks like a drunken state muscarine — poison mushroom: woozy, outbursts of anger, insensitivity to pain and cold, and then the incredible fatigue and deep sleep, which wrote that "the Vikings fall to the ground from exhaustion, not from wounds" .

It was a picture dispassionately recorded the saga of the battle of the Norwegian city of Stavanger in 872, when berserk after the victory fell to the shore, and more than a day slept like the dead. Muscarinic action, like any other hallucinogen, is based on the change in pulse rate of nerve endings, which causes a feeling of euphoria. And his over-dosage may result in death. But here something more interesting: a condition caused by the poison of one individual, soon extended to all others. Some historians believe that berserkers were aware of this procedure and therefore muhomorny doping leaders used the only units or Favorites. However, reliable evidence "mushroom" theory still does not exist. Some anthropologists still believe that berserkers belonged to certain sacred unions or families in which knowledge about the mysterious properties of plants handed down from generation to generation. But in the Norse sagas, there are no mentions of Psychotropic Drugs. That is why a discussion on "berserkers and toadstools" — a waste of time, no matter how attractive it may seem version.

Now yet another mythical property Berserkers — invulnerability. A variety of sources in one voice say that the warrior-beast actually could not be struck down in battle. From missile strike weapons and berserkers treasured kind of "wisdom of madness." Disinhibited consciousness include extreme reaction time, peripheral vision sharpened and probably provided some psychic skills. Berserk seen, and even foresaw any attack, managing to discourage him or bounce off the line of attack. Faith in the invincibility experienced berserkers-heroic age, and has been reflected in Scandinavian folklore. Berserkers XI and XII centuries. skillfully used the image that we have inherited from our ancestors. And themselves as the forces and opportunities have modified their way. For example, in every way fueling rumors that one can look dull any sword. Saga, with their love for all the supernatural, easily absorbed so colorful details.

Doctors also have to answer to the mystery of violent warriors its own contribution. "The legendary power of the berserkers had nothing to do with spirits, neither drug nor a magic rituals, but was only a disease that is transmitted by inheritance," — said Professor Jesse L. Bayok. They — the usual psychopaths out of control at the slightest attempt to thwart them. Over time, learned to play the berserkers well rehearsed performance, one element of which was the biting board. It is well known that the exhaustion sets in after a fit of rage, typical for people with mental disabilities. Tantrums easily cross the line separating reality from make-believe, and learned techniques is a symptom of this disease. Moreover, psychosis, covers medieval society often wore epidemic: it is enough to recall the St. Vitus's dance or movement flagellants.

As a vivid example of Jesse L. Bayok leads to unbridled anger, cruel and greedy Viking and part-famous Icelandic poet Egill, who lived in the X century. So, if you believe the "Egils saga," he had all the features of the Berserker, to adopt its wild character of their ancestors. And his head was so massive that it even after death can not be split with an ax. Analysis of the text of the Old Norse literary monument Bayoka also allowed to conclude that the family Egil suffered from Paget's syndrome — a hereditary disease, in which there is an uncontrolled increase in bone.

Human bones renew themselves gradually and it usually occurs in 8 years. However, the disease is so increases the rate of bone destruction and tumor, they become much bigger and uglier than before. Especially noticeable effects Paget's syndrome on the head where the bones become thicker. According to statistics in the UK today are subject to this illness of 3 to 5 percent of men older than 40 years. To confirm or refute the hypothesis of an exotic view of the historical remoteness very difficult.

Heroes or villains?

Since childhood, we have learned the immutable law of fairy tales and myths all acting in their characters are divided into "good" and "bad." Halftone here, with few exceptions, did not happen — this is the specificity of the genre. To what category can be attributed berserk?

As strange as it may sound, violent warriors were likely to anti-heroes of his contemporaries. If in the early sagas berserkers were portrayed as the choicest warriors, bodyguards of the king, then in the later tribal legends are — looters and rapists. In "Circle the Earth", a collection of stories compiled by Snorri Sturluson in the XIII century., There are many such testimonies. Most episodes of stereotyped in content and composition. Shortly before Christmas, one of tremendous growth and endowed with extraordinary strength, often accompanied by eleven people claimed an intruder on the farm with the intention of taking everything of value and force women to cohabit. If a farmer at home, he was either sick or infirm and can not fight back the villains. But more often it is many miles from home, in the remote province of Norway.

The leader of the aliens — berserker, ready to fight to prove their right to dispose of someone else's farm. Those wishing to compete with a very strong man, podnatorevshie in these fights (and all of his previous opponents of the dead) is not. But it was at this time on the farm happens to be courageous Icelander, which either accepts the call, or wins Likhodeev cunning. The result is always the same: the berserkers killed, including those who had hoped to escape. When troubles behind, returned to the owner and generously bestows a savior, and he composes a memory of what had happened visu — scaldic poem of eight lines — by which his feat of becoming widely known.

It is natural that for such "actions" berserkers, to put it mildly, did not like. Preserved reliable historical evidence that in 1012 the Earl Eirik Hakonarson announced berserkers in Norway outside the law, and they apparently have to seek his fortune in other lands, including in Iceland. Most likely berserk looters — is a gang of homeless left out in the cold warriors. They were born for battle: great possessed weapons psychologically prepared, know how to intimidate the enemy growling, aggressive behavior and protect themselves from the chopping blows thick bearskin. But when the berserkers were not needed, they suffered the fate of all the forgotten army — the moral degradation.

The end of the era of the Norman campaigns, Christianization and the formation of the early feudal state in the Nordic lands eventually led to a complete rethink of the image berserk. Already in the XI century. this word is of extreme negative connotation. And Berserk under the influence of the church is credited with pronounced demonic NERTA. In "saga Vatisdole" tells that, in connection with the arrival of the Bishop of Iceland Fried River announced the war there "obsessed." Their description is given completely in the traditional spirit: berserkers spread violence and tyranny, their anger knows no bounds, they are barking and growling, biting into the edge of your board, walk on hot coals with bare feet and did not even try to control their behavior. On the advice of the newly arrived priest possessed by evil spirits scared off by fire, beaten to death with wooden sticks, because it was believed that "the iron will not harm the berserkers", and their bodies dumped in a ravine without burial.

In other texts, it was noted that christened berserk forever lost its ability to transform. Pursued and etched on all sides find themselves in new social conditions, dangerous outlaws and criminals who are accustomed to live only raids and banditry, berserkers were a real disaster. They broke into the settlement, killing locals, ambushed travelers. And the right to put the ancient Scandinavia bloodthirsty madmen outside the law, charged with the duty of every citizen to destroy the berserkers. Published in Iceland Act 1123 read: "Seen in berserker rage will be punished by three years of exile." Since then, the soldiers in bearskin disappeared, and with them, banish gray pagan antiquity.

No one knows where and when the latter was killed Berserker: history jealously guards the secret. About the glory days of furious Vikings today except that resemble heroic legends yes mossy rune stones scattered on the slopes of the hills of the Scandinavian …

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