The Nordic culture and traditions are derivative of the Nordic countries in the geographical region of Northern Europe and the North Atlantic. The Nordic or the Nordens, meaning the North is the cultural, social structure, and history-sharing countries of Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Norway along with the smaller autonomous island and regions of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Aland.
Historically the Nordic people or Norsemen have followed the religion of Norse Paganism, a polytheism religion of myths, legend, and lore. Little is known about the Norden culture before the Vikings, but their advancement in tools, jewelry and carving techniques in the ice age are a feat to marvel at. Their language and script though lost to time are still well preserved in many museums – their ability to be one of the oldest scripts in the form of runes and symbols is studied by academic and research fields even today.
With runes and symbols engraved and having survived centuries on stones, altars, and buildings researchers are still trying to piece the different styles of these runes, their meaning, and their meaning in present-day language. Traces of Nordic culture even lead back to a few of Europe’s oldest clans of the Goths and Visigoths and the Roman invasions. Nordic mythology or Norse mythology has found itself in popular mainstream media’s movies, comic books, novels, and TV shows.
But Norse mythology and Nordic religion are vast with multiple layers and can find overlapping parallels to Slavic mythology, Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, and even Hinduism – with the personification and worship of Nature a common theme.
Norse, Nordic or Scandinavian mythology is a series of old Germanic myths of the Old Norse religion to the proto-Germanic folklore. This polytheist religion has various artifacts, manuscripts, art forms, and folklore about gods, heroes, and deities that have influenced architecture in various ways. The Vikings and the Norse people used elaborate interior designs in their architecture to express their faith and beliefs – every building from Viking longhouses and church alters has some sort of significance to ‘the way of the old’.
It took a lot of time for the catholic roman empires to invade against the Nordic people and their skilled armies and hence took a long time for the influence of roman architecture and neo-classic architecture to influence Northern Europe’s Nordens.
The traditional records of Nordic architecture lean more towards the Vikings and their settlements – from military houses, churches, and the distinctive Viking longhouse – each piece is carefully and artistically crafted with master skills. The Viking boathouses built along the coastline were usually built upwards from the shoreline but slightly away from the waterline. These boathouses were usually built during winters when the ships could not sail and were then dismantled until the next year as the process repeated. These houses “Longhouses” had to be longer than most houses as the Viking ships were 25 meters or longer.
Stones were piled out proportionally at the base and the walls were made of wood. Each of the longhouses held only one ship, but many longhouses were constructed next to each other and in close proximity if more than one Viking ship had to be held in place.
Ritualistic houses in Nordic cultures were built in every settlement uniquely crafted to the tribe and clan they belonged to. These ritualistic houses were used as a place of worship before the Christians came to Scandinavia and made churches the norm. Early ritualistic houses started off as simple wooden structures not much different from the other houses in the vicinity. But as time passed, more elaborate and detailed structures were added and modified in their place.
Often used as a place to display the weapons of their fallen enemies, the ritualistic houses had decorated peaks and multiple leveled roofs. The entrances were ornamented and had heavily decorated columns.
Stave churches then became more popular as Christianity rose and found its way into Nordic cultures and though these churches took inspiration from traditional ritualistic houses in construction, most of the ritualistic practices now moved outside along with their decorations. Now stones, altars, etc. saw engraved runes and symbols for their faith. While on the surface level, these churches seemed to be a mimicked interpretation of the traditional ritual houses with external decorations the interiors were a whole other story. T
he churches, like the houses, were still made of wood but with an intricate level of detailing and ornamentation now focusing on crosses and Jesus instead of fallen enemies.
Most Nordic houses used flat stones as the base for the foundation and segregated their living quatres for food storage as one unit, animals and cattle as one, and the living quarters as another. The living quarters varied from place to place and the size depended on the wealth. The country-style houses are built in log cabin style and even today a highly modified modernized version of this seems to be popular in Scandinavian countries.
But before the turn of centuries, these log cabins had sloped dirt-covered roofs to keep the inside warm and most of the time grass was planted on these roofs to prevent it from eroding away. This concept has lately seen a rise in architecture in the concept of ‘Green Roofs’ and ‘green architecture’ though not many know the source and origin was from an age-old Nordic tradition.
There are tribes and affiliations of the Old Norse people even today, some who live in these communities and some who live in modern society and still follow the way of the old. There seems to be a spiking interest in Norse myth and cultures lately and the practices and inspiration in mainstem media are fascinating since the Nordic culture is so vast and filled with multiple deep layers.
As the world grows larger people seem to be going back to their original roots step by step and little by little, their impacts having ripple effects. The Nordic people’s celebration, love, and respect for nature and the earth have never been more relevant than it is today