We here at Cracked are no strangers to pillage and frightening the religious, but here's a culture that nailed both. Sometimes to each other.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. A laudable ideal, but the Vikings took it three steps further, then pissed on it and set it on fire.
See, surprisingly enough, Scandinavia is pretty shit if you want to grow food, settle down or y'know, not have to crack the piss-icicles off your dong every morning.
I thought about Google Imaging 'piss-icicles', then decided against it. Here's Scandinavia instead.
Faced with the prospect of chipping a lifestyle off the bare rocks and rabid wolves that make up most of their homeland, the Vikings sat down together and worked out a carefully-constructed plan to improve their lot. In short, they'd just take shit from everyone else.
There are many opinions about why they decided to go a-looting, but the main one seems to be that there simply wasn't enough food in Viking-land (I'm sick of typing Scandinavia) without major tree-clearing and cultivation work, and axeing some guy in the face and taking his potatoes was easier. They're responsible for the many round towers that dot the Irish landscape, remnants of when monks knew that at any moment there might be a massively-bearded Norse guy kicking down their door and asking for their women, callously adding irony to robe-staining terror.
It's also been suggested that their raids were a way of taking advantage of the instability and infighting in the surrounding cultures, which is the modern-day equivalent of waiting until two guys get into a fight and then punching them both in the face.
It wasn't just Ireland, either. These fuckers went everywhere, hopping aboard their characteristic longships to plunder, pillage and rape their way from Ireland to Eastern Europe to Newfoundland. There's even archeological evidence to prove that they reached Baghdad, where they presumably melted.
According to custom, all Norsemen were required to own weapons and a man's equipment was proof whether they were rich or not, as a wealthy Viking would have the whole ensemble of helmet, chainmail and comedy Acme rocket launcher. They considered bows and arrows to be 'lacking in honour', the old-school phrase for 'stop being a pussy.'
Their religion was hopelessly inexplicable yet completely badass, with gods and goddesses fighting, fucking and drinking themselves insensible amid a background of rainbow bridges, giant wolves and dark elves. Most of their legends ended up with either dismemberment or a drinking competition, usually in that order.
Viking warriors believed that if they died in battle, a beautiful warrior-angel would come down from Heaven and bring him to Valhalla, an afterlife consisting solely of drinking too much and puking on wenches. I don't know about you, but I'm signing up right now.
Viking Sunday School teachers.
Their end of the world myth, known as Ragnarok, is so over-the-fucking-top that it would make an animÃ�Â© fan blush. Basically everything explodes, giant snakes rise up and eat the gods and undead pirates ride around in ships made from dead men's fingernails. It's like a Meatloaf album cover.
When they weren't praying to the gods of butchery or drinking so much, the Vikings were busy influencing everything from rock music to Hitler.
The Nazis, (always quick to pillage history to make themselves look... well... less like dickheads) used a combination of Viking runes to make up the SS logo and other fascist symbols. I'm not exactly sure what the point of that was, as if the rest of the world would be so impressed by their graphic design department that they'd somehow forget the genocide.
In July 2007, a group of reenactors sailed a replica Viking ship from Denmark to Ireland using only Viking methods and tools, proving once again that anything is possible when you've given up hope on ever having sex.
Your loss, ladies. I've got a boat.
There's a huge threat of Viking symbolism in black metal groups like Dimmu Borga and Hellhammer, who use Norse myths as song inspirations the same way emo bands use bad hair days. I'd put a youtube link to some of their songs, such as the wonderfully titled Fuck Me Jesus, but I'm afriad if I do they'll show up at my house and eat my pets.