[ExI] Viking toxicology (Was: atheists on the elevator)

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Fri Nov 30 18:29:29 UTC 2012

On 30 November 2012 00:48, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> The Vikings did know about poisons - there are lots of references to
> venomous dragons, poisoned wells and suchlike, but the poisons seemed to be
> mostly described as snake venom ("etter"). The berserkers getting crazy on
> fly agaric is likely a myth. But no agricultural society will be ignorant
> about the toxicity of some of the apparently edible berries and plants they
> find around them.
> From my understanding of their culture, poisons belonged to the area of
> dark, creepy magic, "sejd". Proper runic magic was fine: that was all about
> poetry and learning, even if it was used to curse enemies. But sejd was
> underhanded, foreign, shamanic and associated with witches from Finland or
> further east - not the kind of thing a proper man or woman ought to deal
> with (Sure, the gods Odin and Loki knew and used it, but they were always a
> bit suspect... yup, the chief of the gods had a few skeletons in the
> wardrobe)
> Generally, Spike is right about the Viking disdain about magic. It might be
> dangerous and worth fearing, but since a proper Viking warrior ignores fear,
> you should charge in anyway. As one of the heroes said, a good sword beats
> most magic.

I do not have Anders's insider perspective :-), but as an enthusiastic
amateur in Nordic studies I must say that this reflect very accurately
my own views on the subject.

Stefano Vaj

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