In the TV series Vikings (History Channel/Netflix) we see several human sacrifice.
“Messengers to the Æsir”.
And I totally get it! It ads flavour and spice to the experience.
But did the late Iron Age/Early mediaeval Vikings really sacrifice humans?
Obviously the absence of proof is not proof of absence, but when we take a long hard look af the contemporary sources the answer is “rarely”.
The monks and envoys that has written about the Vikings were not exactly fans, so if they could report human sacrifice, they would have done so in a heartbeat.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle doesn’t mention it with a single word, and neither does any of the other chronicles.
But Adam of Bremen hints it happens in Uppsala.
It’s very unlikely he has visited Uppsala himself, though.
That brings us to Ibn Fadlan, who witnessed a Viking funeral in the Volga area.
Here a female slave is gangraped and killed, in order to follow her master in the afterlife.
The remains of a well has been discovered in Denmark, were a number of small children apparently has been thrown into. The skeletons show signs of violence, but it’s hard to determine if the violence killed them, or were performed after their deaths. So we don’t know if they were victims of a disease or just randomly chosen to be sacrificed.
The woman in the Oseberg ship burial is not alone, and something suggests taht the other person is “co-buried”, to put it diplomatically.
The forn siðr faith had a great emphasis on offerings, as you would bribe the Æsir to assist you, and a thousand years prior to the historic Viking Age (300-1350) offering slaves in the local bog was more or less commonplace.
So I believe it’s safe to say it happened, but trust me when I say that it wasn’t widespread.
If English or Frankian monks had known about this, I find it very hard to imagine why they wouldn’t mention it in their verbose writings against the Vikings. Imagine you are doing a smear campaign against some people, to the extent where you curse them for being to vain and clean, but forget to mention they are sacrificing humans…