According to historians, the Viking Age started in 790 A.D. and continued up until 1066 A.D., when the Normans finally conquered England. Warriors, explorers and traders, these fearless women and men originated in Scandinavia and eventually spread throughout Europe, venturing as far as China, the Middle East, Russia and even America. They had their own distinct religion, culture and art, and when they weren’t raiding monasteries and villages along the European coastline for loot and slaves, they were setting up colonies in places like Greenland and venturing as far as China.
The Oseburg burial mound was excavated by an archaeologist from Norway named Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist named Gabriel Gustafson in 1904 A.D. After a farmer near Tønsberg in Vestfold, Norway discovered evidence of a large gravesite and contacted local authorities, workers dug up the graves of several women, dozens of horses and animals, several sleighs, a chariot and a large Viking ship, probably buried around the year 834 A.D.
Amongst the everyday items and artifacts could be found bed posts, wooden chests, figurines, tools, woolen garments, silk, tapestries and leather pouches containing cannabis. The site was well preserved, mostly because of the large mass of clay surrounding the objects. Baskets of fruit and even bread dough were discovered. Historians have determined that the women were probably rulers, since normal individuals would not have been buried with so much treasure.
The cannabis in question was probably given to the older women to treat cancer, since DNA evidence shows that she probably died from the disease. The Vikings were very proficient in herbalism, and knew that various plants could cure illnesses, treat pain and induce psychoactive effects. This isn’t the first time Vikings have been found growing cannabis. Another find, the Sosteli farmsted, was dug up in the south side of Norway in Vest-Adger County back in 2012 A.D. Archaeologists also found evidence of cannabis amongst the remains.
Regardless of whether it was for religious purposes or recreation, did Vikings use cannabis for its psychoactive properties? Although science isn’t certain, according to historians on the subject Vikings would often eat hallucinogenic Amanita Muscaria mushrooms washed down with healthy amounts of reindeer urine to get themselves high before battle so that they would be numb to fear and pain. If they were willing to do all that for a buzz, smoking cannabis to wind down must have certainly been an option, and it would have been a lot easier than hanging out with pissing reindeer.
Vikings were not the only people who used cannabis in ancient Europe. Other people grew the plant and used it for textiles and religious purposes. German pagans used cannabis in connection with the worship of the Norse goddess of love, Freya. They even smoked cannabis during fertility rituals. The Celtic people also made use of cannabis, since evidence of the plant have been found throughout Ireland and Scotland. Scientists also know the Sythians, a warlike, red-haired race that also ended up exploring regions as far as China, used cannabis in shamanist rituals or for the purposes of engineering textiles.
Although scientists haven’t found solid evidence to indicate that Vikings grew cannabis specifically for the purposes of mental intoxication (it is widely believed they just grew hemp for textile purposes), it wouldn’t be a stretch if they did since we know for certain that the tribes in Germany that worshiped the same gods as Vikings used cannabis for their religious ceremonies. Many other cultures at the time did the same thing, and the seafaring raiders film and television has made so famous came into contact with all of them. For example, Sikh warriors in the Middle East who used cannabis to deal with wounds they got from fighting. The Chinese used cannabis for medicinal properties, too. The Vikings met all of these people, so it would not be impossible to believe they learned about the power of the plant from the cultures they fought and traded with.