The Viking Buddha

This entry is part 18 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories

Ornament from a bucket found in the Oseberg mound grave in the county of Vestfold, Norway.
brass ornament found with the Oseberg ship burial

Four hammers of Thor,
nested just so, form
a Buddhist swastika with feet.
Steering by the sun,
we run in circles.

A gaze trained to focus
on a pitching horizon
turns to an inward shore.
Breathe like a rower,
in time with the waves.

Legs fold into a knot:
braided serpents.
The fierce brow unknits.
Only the scowl still hints
at the strength of his vow.
The truest viking leaves
everything behind.


Image from Saamiblog, via the Wikipedia Commons. Cf. the Helgö Buddha.

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3 Comments


  1. A more serious guess about this artifact (actually two figurines, one on either side of a bucket handle) is that it may well have been modeled on actual Buddhist figurines from the Silk Road such as the one uncovered at Helgo, Sweden, but that such statues served a talismanic or apotropaic purpose — or were admired purely for their aesthetic qualities and exotic appeal. Swastikas of course have deep roots in Germanic tradition (as do crosses). There are, naturally, some credulous folks out there who imagine Buddhist missionaries in Viking-age Scandinavia and/or a native tradition of meditation, but so far there’s no evidence for that and I’m an Occam’s razor kinda guy.

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  2. Hard to picture Buddhist missionaries making much headway with those folk, even if they showed up!

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    1. Well, you never know. They made great headway with wild and unruly Tibetans and Mongols.

      Reply

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