Who Owns the Vikings?

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Amid a boom in Viking-related TV shows and films — and a corresponding surge in Viking-inspired tourism and advertising campaigns — there is increasing political tension and social unease over the use of various runes, gods and rituals from the Viking era.

Viking symbols are often used in mainstream branding initiatives for everything from barber shops to chocolate bars to Norway’s downhill ski team. One longstanding pagan group, Forn Sed, has encouraged the use of Viking symbols like a wooden Thor’s hammer as an icon for gay pride.

But some use of the symbols reflects an extremist side of the Viking cultural renaissance taking hold across the Nordic region and beyond.

Avowed neo-Nazi groups like the small but violent Nordic Resistance Movement say they draw inspiration from the Viking era and have adopted elements of the region’s Viking past. The group’s symbol is a Viking rune on a green background.

Vikings “symbolize everything about Northern Europeans,” said Haakon Forwald, a spokesman for the Norwegian chapter of the group. “We are adventurous, we take risks and settle where no man would dare to settle.”

Read entire article at NYT

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