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Cries from the North: Norse Battle Cries

By Norman Descendants August 15, 2017 0 comments

As long as humans have been fighting, battle cries have been used to intimidate the enemy and create more cohesion amongst the troops. The battle cries of the Norseman have changed and adapted accordingly throughout history.

The early Vikings tell a story of the first ever battle. Odin was present and before the battle had started, Odin showed off with a display of strength by throwing his spear way over the enemy and past the King of the enemy. This became a traditional practice at the start of every battle.

It was considered common practice to have a designated soldier throw a spear at the enemy as a sign the fight was about to begin. Before the spear was thrown, the other troops would be yelling their traditional battle cries.

Northlanders Vol 1 46

One common cry used by the original Norsemen (Obviously not chanted in English) Was “Odin Owns You All!” This was used to rally the troops and instill fear in the hearts of the enemies. Imagine a group of battle-hungry, mead filled Berserkers who are fearless of death, all chanting that their God is going to end your life shortly!

This was just one of the cries they would bring into battle. Depending on which God they favoured on that day. Certain cries were made to the God Thor, but Tyr was also a favourite. The runic symbol of Tyr was known to be commonly etched into the weapons of many Vikings and was believed to give their weapon God-Like power.

Battle cries are obviously not exclusive to the Norse, every powerful military group has had various chants and marching songs to announce their arrival and brutal intentions. Modern studies that examined the Battle Cry Phenomena showed that as a unit, these chants would generally increase the overall performance of the troops up to 11% during the fight. This would also help explain the ferocity and prowess the Norsemen were known to possess in battle.

After the Norsemen converted to Christianity, their chants changed. though many still practiced “Pagan” rituals, and more secretly as time went on.. During battle there are records of certain troops chanting old norse cries, but predominantly the Norse were known for shouting “Forward, forward Christmen, crossmen, kingsmen!” – Battle of Stiklestad (Stiklastaðir) July 29th 1030AD.

As you can see, a battle cry does seem somewhat benign on face value, but upon further investigation it shows how the rallying of troops that are chanting in unison and can be heard from a great distance now suddenly is a terrifying concept. Add to this the fact these were big Norseman, Berserker warriors who believed the ultimate death is to go down whilst taking as many lives as possible before they met their end.

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