Wit, wisdom and philosophy from literary works of the Viking Age:
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum; / Si þin nama gehalgod / to becume þin rice / gewurþe ðin willa / on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. / urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg / and forgyf us ure gyltas / swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum / and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge / ac alys us of yfele soþlice
The Lords Prayer in Old English
“The temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God …. And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be exchanged for them on this account…. but kill cattle to the praise of God…. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface everything at once from their obdurate minds; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place, rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps.”
Pope Gregory in a Letter to Mellitis, quoted in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (tr. Holder)
Sense is needed / for the one who travels widely; / everything is easy at home. / He who knows nothing / and sits with wise men / becomes a mockery.
Verse 6 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)
Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground. Gizur looked at him and said, “Well, is Gunnar at home?”
“Find that out for yourselves,” said Thorgrim; “but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home,” and with that he fell down dead.
From Chapter 76 of The Saga of Burn Njal (tr. DaSent)
Verily you must know that to be called a king’s housecarle is not to be despised as a title of derision ; but it is a name of great honor to everyone who bears it. For neither^ landedmen nor hirdmen, though because of some infirmity or because they are tired of warfare they prefer to cultivate an estate in the country, are willing to surrender the housecarle name because of its honor and security.
from page 175 of The King’s Mirror (tr. Larson)
We are concerned about the way we speak, as we want to speak correctly and with meaning, and not with meaningless base words. Would you beat us and make us learn? For it is better for us to be beaten to learn than to remain ignorant. However, we know that you are a kind-hearted man who would not wish to inflict blows on us unless we ask for them.
Ælric, Colloquy (tr. Watkins)
Ale is not as good / as it is said to be good / for the sons of men; / because the man knows less / —he who drinks more— / of his disposition.
Verse 12 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)
(With thanks from Regia mates: Hrolf Douglasson, Gary Golding, Rich Price, Kim Siddorn, Ali Vikingr and Paula Lofting Wilcox
…and even Mike Everest 🙂 )
Continuing my review of True Myth: Black Vikings of The Middle Ages by Nashid Al-Amin
It is Al-Amin’s theory that Northern Europe was settled by a black race and that the black races were still in dominance in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. He backs up that assertion by factual, but his theory is frustratingly both very thought-provoking and highly jingoistic.
This is not a perfect book. Al-Amin reiterates many theories that are out of the mainstream that are close to my own. I do not agree with all his theories, but my agreement with many disposes me to give unknown or new ones a fairer chance.
The facts cited are not generally mentioned or noted, but which were to me fairly familiar. After all, in high school, I had scandalized a teacher in biology by stating that black people were probably predecessor to the whiter races that developed later. References to Grimaldis and other physical proofs, along with some very convincing illustrations, literary accounts and ver ambiguous academic observations are very convincing and provide a suitable foundation for the entire subject.
Although the book has some very persuasive illustrations—a photo of Otzi the Iceman clearly showing African features that are usually ignored—a lot of the is largely contrary to what the reader might think. Still, an impartial reader will find it easy to give credence to more controversial assertions and interpretations.
The book has awakened an interest in the matter. And I have seen now a lot more references to dark-skinned people of the area and time. The book contains many radical, inspirational and legitimate reinterpretations.
I’ll be frank. After reading the book, I don’t know what to believe.. On the one hand, I cannot unthinkingly and enthusiastically embrace the concept, but on the other hand, Al-Amin has painted a scenario which cannot be unthinkably denied or ignored. In the end, I have to file Al-Amin with John Bosworth, a revisionist—and I know that some revisionist history a little below camphor stew—who can look at what has been generally said and believed an see a new interpretation.
In the end, I readily see how some Norse were dark complectioned—though they seemed to have valued light skin and blond hair if we look at how they attempted to artificially promote this—though I cannot believe without reservation that they all had black African features. The end result was probably somewhere in between. As adamantly Afro-centric as many authors are Euro-centric, Al-Amin and the book are not without their faults. And the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I agreed already with much of what he says. And I cannot agree with is the notion that all Norse were pure, white Aryan images! But this is another reason I want to fund a frozen Norse Otzi from the Viking era!
For purchasing a copy of the book—both physically printed and an e-book—see this site.
Continuing my review of True Myth: Black Vikings of The Middle Ages by Nashid Al-Amin
It is Al-Amin’s theory that Northern Europe was settled by a black race and that the black races were still in dominance in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. He backs up that assertion by factual, but his theory is frustratingly both very thought-provoking and highly jingoistic. The book cannot be accepted as unvarnished truth. Whether these points has any influence upon the validity of Al-Amin’s interpretation is another matter, but they must be stated.
His constant (justified) attacks on Christianity followed by his protests that he is not being antiChristian reminded me of all those racists who will make statements about the watermelon-eating commnyist tearing apart the Constitution and then piously assert “But Ah ain’t no racist…” Not racism here but an obvious prejudice against faith.
The title and supposed theme are to a great deal simply come ons. However, for Al-Amin, it is more of a hook upon which to hang his racial theories. Whites can do no right. Blacks can do no wrong. Although he condemns Christian imperialism, he either ignores or praises Muslim.
He often thinks with a modern ideals and suppositions and tastes.
The persistent use of phrases such as “the thirteenth century (i.e., the 1200s)” and a tendency in many cases to say “perhaps more conjectural than factual” aside, Al-Amin writes often with a witty and ironic voice—not to say understated since he is often screaming his message. A strange excursion into films that seems more concerned with racial politics than with the history depicted in the film. For example, he is concerned with “The Norseman” and ” The Long Ships” but more so with racial portrayals in “King Kong” and “Star Wars.”
Some of the worst writing—simple errors about the culture and not mentioning possible items—is jarring. Al-Amin ignores items that go against his theories. The Bayeux Embroider, which theoretically shows the faces of character and is all white. Is not mentioned ( on the other hand the embroidery can be used to justify purple horses). He loves to cite art when it supports his theories but is just as likely to ignore them if they contradict them. He has a tendency to state interpretations as if they were cold facts, so you have to read this with a skepticism and not just accept things. But in many instances, this becomes a matter of over-preaching and spreading the concept a bit too thick.
The book is a bit labyrinthian and erratic, and Al-Amin states and restates many of the same points over and over again, as if repeating something many times will make it true. One gets the feeling that this book contains enough information for a decent-sized paper but has been padded and repeated into a book size.
Al-Amin slings around phrases cavalierly, an indication of certainty that many reader will immediately employ as a barricade between their minds and Al-Amin’s ideas. After a while, Al-Amin ceases his polemics, and for a time the volume becomes yet another standard overview of Norse exploration, trade, raiding and creation of an empire. Still he prefers to deal with matters from an anti-Christian manner that will infuriate them as easily as the theme of the book will offend racists. He especially likes the phrase “Eurocentric” (a claim which many Eurocentric scholars will immediately deny or ignore). And he also has a preference toward popular and secondary sources, which to me is worse than using a popular phrase or stark revisionism. But he also uses primary sources, both graphic and literary, that are eye opening and provocative. To a good extent his veracity seems to be the fodder for another questionable History Channel documentary, and it does duplicate any of the methods, but it seems to have more detail and proof at its core! The book deals more with polemic ranting and logical constructs. And some of the arguments come awfully close to the specious conspiracy arguments that attempt to connect the Egyptian and the Mayan pyramid builders!
At times, the book becomes a simple recitation of facts—mostly adequate but riddled in places with errors and misinterpretations but certainly not as vivid and passionate as parts of the book that Al-Amin really cares about. Does this mean that his other interpretations are suspect? Probably. But next week, we look at some of the more positive—and convincing—points in the book.
BOOK REVIEW: True Myth: Black Vikings of The Middle Ages by Nashid Al-Amin
There are many who will refuse to regard this book seriously because it does not adhere to what they have been told all their lives by accepted views or because it was written—as one reenactor complained, by a communist Muslim. However, it is to a great extent a stagnation of inquiry and a blind acceptance of the conventional and a rejection of any new idea.
It is not merely the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists and the Klansmen who will hate this book. So will anyone who hates to have their stereotypes challenged. They would be as disgusted and antagonistic if you said that George Washington didn’t admit to chopping down a cherry tree, that Abraham Lincoln did not free every slave with his Emancipation Proclamation or that Christopher Columbus was not the first white man to set foot on America and not the first man in Europe to proclaim that the earth was round
Let’s face it. Even folk who do not follow Nazi thought thinks that the Norsemen of the Viking Age were all blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans. Look at the stereotypical graphic portrayals in popular literature, popular illustrations and film! Now that popular concept must be right. After all, just look at their presentations of fine horned helmets!
When I ordered this book, I thought it would deal with slaves and others from Africa but it deals with that almost not at all. Let’s forget for a moment that the Norse were probably of many different races, introduced by slavery and more. They traveled everywhere, interbred with the local population and, if accounts written before the modern racist age are not ignored, cared little about skin color except as a descriptive. I have long believed that there were white Vikings, black Vikings and—going by meetings in Russia and Asia—probably yellow Vikings, just as there were heathen, Christian and probably Jewish Vikings (made trade easier). This was predominant in my mind when I picked up this book…
Whoa. Reassessment time!
It is Al-Amin’s theory that Northern Europe was settled by a black race—which is supported by illustrations and by descriptions—and that the black races were still in dominance in Scandinavia during the Viking Age. In my opinion, but not Al-Amin’s, the theory is still inadequately supported. He backs up that assertion by notes that the black infidels, by the original meaning of Den and by other matters that are generally ignored or interpreted in a different manner that has nothing to do with skin coloring but also with literary and graphic sources. His theory is frustratingly both very thought-provoking and highly jingoistic.
The title and theme of the book seems to often take a back seat to Al-Amin’s Afrocentric—at least antiEurocentric—views. As such many Aryan traditionalists will discard the book immediately and not consider his many cogent—if radical and revisionist—observations. And to be fair, there are some very convincing points for rejecting the book.
Next week, I will deal with several points for rejecting the book and, by extension, its thesis.