Viking Funeral Tradition

Image of viking funeral viking ship burial

Viking was not only famous for their wonderful skills and violence in battles but also for their long-established traditions. Of all their famous traditions, the practice of Viking funeral was the most interesting and somehow awkward.

The Viking funeral might happen in two ways: cremation or inhumation. When the fire burnt the whole body to ash, we call it cremation. And if the living kept the body of the dead in its own status, that is the inhumation. The Viking chose one of two ways to treat their dead. The cremation would require a pyre with a large structure made of wood.

Due to the belief which deeply ingrained in their mindset, the Vikings had some ways to bury the body of the dead. It might take place either on land or sea.

Land Burial

As the name indicated, the Vikings would bury the dead on land. There were many graves in the land and it formed the graveyard. People found many Viking graveyards with the construction of rune stones. The dead might be buried with their own belongings. For example, the Viking would bury a warrior with his weapon and armor, a craftsman with his tools, a Viking woman with her household things, etc.

Image of Viking graveyards as a practice of Viking funeral
Viking graveyards

Ship Burial

In Viking funeral, the practice of ship burial was more common among the upper class. It meant that only the noble and wealthy Vikings could afford this type of burial. Because ship burial would require a real ship and what they did to the ship was only to push it to the ocean and set it on fire. While it took months or even years to build a ship, it was only used once and destroyed to ash. Was this worth time, effort, and money to the normal Vikings?

Image of Viking funeral Viking ship burial
Viking ship burial

Thereby, only big Viking figures utilized the ship burial. This was also a way to present their power and wealth. The burning fire would swallow the body or ash (which had experienced the cremation) with the ship and many things that people place on it.  Sometimes, the Viking slaves would accompany their deceased masters on the ship and go into the fire with their masters. Because the Viking believed that those slaves would continue to serve their masters in the land of the afterlife.

Viking Afterlife

Image of Viking funeral viking ship burial
Viking Ship Burial Viking Funeral

Due to the deep-rooted belief in Gods and Nine Worlds, the Vikings chose their funerals to be Norse-myth-oriented. Specifically, they believed in the afterlife in Nine Worlds.  The dead could go to a better or worse place after passing away. For instance, Valhalla was the best place for the deceased. Because Odin the Allfather presided over Valhalla and the souls dwelling in Valhalla died with honor. Simultaneously, Helheim was the worst place as it hosted the people died of sickness, sloth, or old age. There were other places of the afterlife, namely Folkvangr – Palace of Goddess Freya, Helgafjell the Holy Mountain.



  1. Pingback: Archaeologists Detected Viking Ship Burial in Norway - History of Vikings

Leave a Reply