Horses play a huge role in the lifestyle and culture of the Norsemen as well as in their Myths and Sagas often playing the role of the prized possession. Horses were first introduced around the 9th century stretching from Denmark and Norway right the way to, and as far as, Iceland, wherever the Vikings settled. They instantly became greatly celebrated and of considerable importance partly due to the horses role in the Myths, often being acquaintances and confidants of the gods especially Odin, the all father.
As for the north peoples themselves, they saw horses as a symbol of fertility and as great sacrificial gifts, the most prized being white horses. Vikings and Norsemen used them in warfare, rituals, sacrifices, horse fighting, burials, farming and even as meat. Many of the graves found throughout Iceland contain the remains of horses signifying that horse and master were often buried together.
A horse slaughter itself whether for burial or otherwise was a very dramatic event. A famous Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan witnessed this practice on his travels.
“Then they disinterred the chieftain and gave him new clothes. In his grave, he received intoxicating drinks, fruits, and a stringed instrument. The chieftain was put into his bed with all his weapons and grave offerings around him. Then they had two horses run themselves sweaty, cut them to pieces, and threw the meat into the ship. Finally, they sacrificed a hen and a cock.”- Wikipedia extract.
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