When you search for the Viking prayer online, you probably don’t get many relevant results. In fact, most people only find the prayer in the movie “13th Warrior.”
If you’re interested in Norse mythology, you may wonder what happens when the warriors die. While the beginning of the movie focuses on excitement and death, the goal is to “take my place among Asgard in the halls of Valhalla”.
The brave make history, and the traditions of the Viking Age are preserved. Generally, no, the Viking prayer isn’t real and was created for the movie. That’s not to say that the Vikings didn’t use prayers, speaking for the dead and those who were sacrificed for a better life.
Whether it was real or not, it is a beautiful piece of work. Continue reading to learn more and see the poem/prayer in its entirety.
Who Is Ibn Fadlan?
When Michael Crichton wrote a book about Ibn Fadlan’s account of Varangian Rus, he described the Scandinavian traders back in 900’s Russia. Though Eaters of the Dead and “13th Warrior” are great fictional pieces, they are not based on the history of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan.
Crichton’s novel is complete fiction and mixes Ibn with Beowulf and some Morlocks for flavoring. Though Crichton used the text of Ibn to build the chapters of his book, he can’t even remember which parts are real or fictitious. After the first couple of chapters, nothing is from the real Fadlan.
The prayer is actually part of the ritual that Fadlan described. A slave girl or concubine of the deceased Rus chief must be sacrificed to go with her master to their grave. It’s not used by the Rus warriors. However, the movie does use it two times (once at the funeral and once at the end of the movie.
Who is he, though? Fadlan is often described as Arab, but no one knows his ethnicity, origin, education, or birth/death dates. Historical texts claim that he was a faqih or an expert in the Islamic faith.
In 921, Ibn was sent from Baghdad to serve as the ambassador’s secretary of the Volga Bulgaria, Almis. The purpose of the mission was to explain the Islamic laws to the Bulgar people living near the Volga River (now Russia.) With that, the embassy was supposed to help the Volga Bulgars defeat the Khazars. Ibn was the religious advisor for the group.
It took over a year to arrive, and Ibn read a letter to the Bulgar Khan from the caliph, presenting him with various gifts. However, he was criticized because he didn’t bring the money promised from the caliph so that the people could build a fortress to protect their people from the Bulgars.
However, Fadlan’s focus was actually on a strange blue-eyed, blond-haired race called the Varangians. They had also settled in the area and traded with the Bulgars. He described them as being filthy, with no modesty in using the bathroom. Then, he wrote that they were perfect physical specimens because they were blond, ruddy, and tall.
The ways of these Varangians filled Ibn with a weird fascination. Their practices for hygiene, sex, and religion shocked this highly-educated man. He described the ritual that surrounded the burial of the Viking chief. This man’s belongings were divided for the wife and daughters, one part to purchase clothing for the deceased, and one part to buy tons of alcohol for the men who took part in the funeral, which lasted 10 days!
In general, Ibn probably exaggerated a few points in his account. However, he often had that cool-headedness he needed to be a good travel writer. He tended to adopt a skeptical tone when talking about sightings of Magog and Gog.
Overall, the final portion of the account has been lost. The version you see comes from C.M. Fraehn, who translated the text in 1823 from Arabic to German.
The Prayer – Starting with See My Father Lo and Including All My Dead Relatives or All My Deceased Relatives
The Viking prayer is actually quite beautiful, though no one knows for sure if it was used by the Vikings. Most people heard it through the movie “13th Warrior” and feel that it offers wisdom and culture to the people. Regardless, here is the prayer from “13th Warrior:”
“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother, my brothers, and my sisters.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the begining.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among Asgard in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever after a glorious death.”
In Eaters of the Dead, the prayer looks like this:
“Lo, I see here my father and mother.
Lo, now I see all my deceased relatives sitting.
Lo, there is my master, seated in Paradise.
Paradise is so beautiful, so green.
With him are his men and boy servants.
He calls to me, so bring me to him.”
Some versions include other words, such as “thine enemies” or “dead relatives seated,” but they are pretty much all the same.
In a sense, the Viking people go to battle, living the life of a warrior. It’s not an easy life to live, but they have the promise of a beautiful afterlife after dying. Generally, boys and men went into battle. You see “lo, they do call” in the first prayer, which indicates that the spirits of the past are bringing the brave warriors home.
It’s also important to understand that most of the movie showed inaccuracies about the Viking lifestyle. This wasn’t meant to be a historical piece. In fact, it was designed to be a fantasy option with kick-butt theater and not history.
The most glaring errors include not wearing period-appropriate clothing and having bad armor. Most of the men depicted in the movie were wearing tights, and that’s not something the Viking people wore. While they did wear tight-fitting clothes to make it easier to run and fight, the depiction in the movie was not spot-on at all.
Another issue with the movie was bad armor. The Peascod Breastplate wasn’t developed until 1580, so it wasn’t part of the attire for that period. With that, the Morion Helmet was used in various countries in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most people don’t know much about Viking attire, so they think that this is legitimate and real when it isn’t.
Is the Viking Prayer Real as Shown in the “13th Warrior”?
The Viking Prayer depicted in “13th Warrior” was based on the account from Ibn Fadlan’s encounters with the Rus from Northern Russia. They were an ethnic group with a relationship to Scandinavia, and it’s all highly complex. While the Rus people came from Scandinavia and adopted many traditions, they had ongoing contact with the people, creating a cultural exchange.
No one is sure if he spoke to the Rus people or another ethnic group, but Norse Mythology indicates that it was the Rus. Overall, the movie showed Viking ships that had fantasy sternposts and prows. Actual dragon prows were more stylized. One good element in the film was that sailors removed the heads when approaching a shore, and this is accurate. It was done to avoid angering the land wights.
Generally, the goal for the Viking people was to enjoy a glorious death, and most people feel that they only considered dying as a good thing. Living meant that you didn’t go into battle with the right thoughts in mind.
In a sense, no. The Viking prayer isn’t real from the film. However, there are similar prayers out there, so there could be some truth to it.
Are There Different Prayers for Various Norse Tribes?
Yes, there are different prayers in the Viking Age. The overall goal was for the Vikings to live forever by going into battle and killing as many people as they could. From there, the Vikings wanted to pillage and get as many “things” as they could, which could be used by the troops or traded for other necessities.
However, the Norse people didn’t necessarily pray. Their religion was a folk religion, so the main purpose was to regenerate and survive in society. Overall, the faith was decentralized, primarily tied to the family and village, though evidence shows that they had national religious festivals periodically.
Typically, the Norse people called it a custom because they had no words for religion at the time. Paganism was called the ancient custom, while Christianity was the new custom.
What Religion Are the Vikings?
Overall, the Vikings learned of Christianity because of their many raids. Therefore, whenever they settled in lands that held a Christian population, they often adopted Christianity quickly. This was true in Ireland, Normandy, and throughout the British Isles.
It’s exciting for many to learn about the Norse rituals and Vikings. Whether you’re a descendant of those tribes or just want to understand what they did, you may find that various movies get it wrong. For example, “13th Warrior” was a popular film, but it didn’t get things right for the most part.
Overall, there is no specific Viking prayer out there like the one spoken in the film. While it’s beautiful and depicts death in a new and different way, it wasn’t likely spoken at chieftain funerals in Norse country.
Hopefully, you’ve gotten more information that you can use in your journey of learning about Norse rituals and the Vikings. The most relevant results help you understand more about that time period.