Yes, White Supremacists, some Vikings were Muslims & Thor was Brown

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The archeological identification of stylized Arabic text for God (Allah) and Ali (the prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law) in burial garments of the Vikings in Sweden has thrown white supremacists into a tizzy. While the garments could just be the result of trade with the Middle East, it can’t be ruled out that there were some converts to Islam. This possibility drove the Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, the Breitbart staff, and other losers bonkers, since Vikings for them are the ur-Whites.

There was a similar controversy over Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 movie “Thor” from Marvel Studios, inasmuch as it cast Idris Elba as a Black guardian of the Bifrost bridge between earth and Asgard. As usual, the white nationalists were just being brain dead. First of all, they might have noticed that this version of Norse mythology is the brainchild of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, two Jewish American giants of story-telling.

The biggest problem with white supremacy is how hateful it is. But its second biggest problem is how stupid it is. That is not to say that intelligent people cannot be members (Steve Bannon, e.g.). It is that they are captive of moronic premises. If you buy a stupid premise (global heating is not caused by humans, e.g.), then all your further statements will be false because they are built on a rotten foundation.

So genetic testing of those buried in Viking grave sites have turned up some with Iranian origins, and Iran may be the origin of a significant number of Vikings.

And, Vikings ruled a maritime empire during the medieval warming period when Scandinavia could support a fair population, roughly 800-1200 CE (AD). For instance, Vikings briefly conquered Sicily in 860. But during the whole period 827-902 the island was gradually coming under Arab Muslim rule from North Africa. Their troops were Arab, Berber and Black African. If you don’t think Vikings mingled with people of color in Sicily before returning north, including having some children by local women, you don’t know much about medieval society. And that some of them converted to Islam is entirely plausible. In fact the 827 invasion was provoked by a Byzantine official who felt badly used and so converted to Islam and became an agent of the Aghlabid emirs of North Africa. A Viking woman buried with a Muslim ring has been found by archeologists. Vikings also traded with the Abbasid Empire and raided Muslim Spain (al-Andalus). Vikings were not racists, and wouldn’t have know what a race is. As for their “tribes,” tribes in medieval society were like our political parties. People joined successful ones and suddenly found an ancestor in common with the clan they joined.

The populations of empires are always mongrels, and the Vikings were just not all of one ethnic origin or religious belief.

Moreover, Norse mythology is just a version of Indo-European mythology which is shared by Iran and India. In ancient Iran, as well, there was a bridge to the next word, called Chinwat, similar to the Norse Bifrost. Thor is clearly the same as the Vedic Indra and the Midgaard Serpent is Vritra. In ancient Iran, Thor was Faridun who fought the serpentine Zohak. That is, the closest you can get to Norse mythology today is Indian religion. Yes, supremacists, there are brown Aryans.

Worst of all for the supremacists, there are no races as popularly conceived. Our outward appearance is dictated by only 2% of our genes, and no, has nothing to do with intelligence or character attributes. Irish and Chinese are genetically almost identical despite representing the easternmost and westernmost extent of homo sapiens sapiens. Skin color is an adaptation to UV rays. When a woman is pregnant, she needs enough UV rays from the sun to produce vitamin D in the embryo, but not so much that they will cause genetic damage. So in very sunny places like the Congo, nature selects for black skin. In Sweden, nature over time (13,000 years) selects for white skin. The people in Sweden came from places to the south and began by being dark.

So give us a break. Vikings were all kinds of people. And so are genuine Americans.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Researchers Find ‘Allah’ Embroidered On Viking Burial Textiles

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39 Responses

  1. The easternmost extent, i.e., spread, of Homo sapiens are the Inuit living in Ittoqqortoormiit, Eastern Greenland, 21°58’00″W.

    The westernmost spread prior to modern times from the origins in Africa is to Iceland.

    Anthropologists no longer use the term Homo sapiens sapiens.

  2. Depending on whom we want to include under the label of “Vikings,” ibn-Fadlan records the conversion to Islam of some of the Volga Bulgars, as a result of contacts with the Abbasid Caliphate. I assume that the Volga was the main conduit for Islamic influences into Scandanavia, including these shrouds.

  3. I’m still not sold on the idea of latitude being the only condition for lighter skin. Unless I’m greatly mistaken the Inuit aren’t that much lighter than the Navajo.

    Also, the mutation that led to white skin colour is only 8000 years old, according to the source I found. :)

    link to sciencemag.org

    That said, I couldn’t agree with your post more. Humans are human, no matter their colour or beliefs.

  4. Racism overlooks heritage. Take for instance you have four grandparents, then eight great grandparents, and as you go in reverse generational order you double your grandparents, until you reach into the thousandths to continue on into the millionths. See what I mean, your related to all kinds of bloodlines, and societal classes.

    The name Tedesky in America in most cases were changed at Ellison Island. Tedesky, Tedeski, are derived from the Italian speaking Tedeschi. Tedeschi, and Tedesco, both considered Italian names mean like the Italian name Tedesco translates to ‘One From Germany’. This makes sense since around1180 Frederick I Barbarossa conquered Parma Italy, and then fill in the blanks for the rest.

    The chi is pronounced Ski, just so you understand the reason for the change, it was due to the sound, and how you pronounced it. Yeah, we are all cut from the same cloth, whatever that is suppose to mean, but under an x-ray board we are all just simply human.

  5. It’s had to prove whether Bannon or any intelligent schemer believes the dogma or merely finds it useful for supposedly justifiable ends. But then the same can be said for Cecil Rhodes or Albert Speer.

    Which is why our understanding of the word “racist” lacks subtlety. We need to make it clear that anyone who helps actual White Supremacists come to power because they think they can profit deserve a term of opprobium whether they actually believe in White Supremacy or not.

    Years ago, right-wing columnist Cal Thomas inadvertently spilled the truth while writing about why we must tolerate our systemic injustices. He said that we have a successful social order, that it’s too disruptive to replace our old prejudices with political correctness, that the benefits of tolerating intolerance were a net utilitarian plus over ending White dominance, implicitly even if it’s based on false premises.

  6. Contacts between the Islamic World and the Viking World are relatively well documented if you take into consideration Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s account of his travels in Rus, the area of the Volga where the Varangians (Swedish Vikings) lived and traded. He traveled there in the early 10th century and his manuscript is still extant (and popularized by Michael Crichton’s historical novel Eaters of the Dead). This discussion reminds me of the recent dust up with Mary Beard, perhaps our greatest living Roman historian and Classicist, who had the temerity to point out that yes, there were black Africans in Roman Britain. The outrage directed at her over pointing out this simple fact – one that is not in the least controversial among ancient historians – was absurd and ignorant. Romans moved auxiliaries around – often as far from their home country as possible, hence British auxiliaries in Syria and Syrian auxiliaries in Britain. So why not black Africans? I suppose it would upset people still more to know that Rome had emperors, likely of Punic or Berber origin, from North Africa for quite some time in the 3rd century AD, and later that century came Philip the Arabian to the throne. Worse still, one of Rome’s greatest and earliest writers, who profoundly influenced Shakespeare, was no less than Publius Terentius Afer, the Afer likely reflecting his Punic (i.e., African) background.

    Since most bigots don’t think of southern Europeans as “white”, they will perhaps be even more offended to know that a Greek, Pytheas of Massilia, traveled perhaps as far as Iceland in the last quarter of the 4th century BC. Still worse, with the Middle Ages and the rise of Portugal as a world power, extensive trading (in salt cod) and piracy took place along the coast of Norway on the part of the Portugese (who, recall, had been occupied by Romans and later conquered by Arabs). My family is from there, and my mother, when people would try to guess her ethnicity, got taken for someone of Hispanic descent – her features were very dark. Most members of my family have green eyes and black hair – we are scarcely models of Nordi Ubermensch! But given that most of these 2% distinctions (to borrow from Juan) are so recent (we are only talking about these distinctions as emerging between the past 50-80 thousand years), distinctions based of “race” (however we define that!) seem to me ridiculous.

    And a few Muslim Vikings seem to me not at all surprising. Thanks for the post!

    • And I was remiss not to mention the familial connections between the African emperors and an important Syrian one – the notorious Elagabalus was from Syria (ancient Emesa, modern Homs) and related by blood to the house of the Severi who originated from Leptis Magna in Libya.

        • No, your assertions are in error. The Rus was the name given by Greeks and Slavs who traded with Swedish Vikings, also called Varangians, on the Volga trade routs in the 10th century.

    • The British, certainly, conquered much of the world in Victorian times while believing in all sorts of falsehoods. Ditto the Spaniards before them. All the Master Races are eventually discredited, but only after they exercised their ability to destroy anyone who got in their way, leaving the hunger for revenge that gets built into the next conquering behemoth.

      Apparently, the evolutionary rewards for understanding the truth are swamped by the evolutionary rewards for coming up with a lie that unites people into an unstoppable army. A significant faction of White Americans understand that, and they want it back by any means necessary.

  7. I studied Latin language from the time I was 14 years old ‘til I was 20, the year before I married. Three classes each week for the four years of high school and eighteen credits in college where if I’d taken some classes in Greek, I’d have a second major (to my BA – English Lit), that being in Classical Languages. Race was never the issue. This was fascinating.

  8. White European racism is an ideology quite cynically developed to justify making slaves of Africans, and waging genocidal war against the native Americans, let’s be honest. Sadly, xenophobia is a world-wide phenomenon. Look at the attitude the Japanese had toward the Chinese, for God’s sake.

  9. The BBC4 podcast “In Our Time” has a 2010 episode “The Volga Vikings.” Very enlightening, accessible, and perfect commuter fare at 45 min.

  10. Can someone please point out where the link claims the Vikings were of Iranian origin? I can’t seem to find it.

  11. The Danes are actually Swedes and the real Danes now live in Sweden. The Jutes from the north of Jutland went to Italy where they were harshly treated by the Roman Migra. Those from Southern Jutland went to England and those from the Island Bornholm came to Normandy.
    The Icelanders are mostly Irish.
    Well mixed cocktails.

      • That is hard to say – it’s now generally accepted that the Irish were traveling in skin skiffs (!) for centuries before the Norwegians to Iceland. See Barry Cunliffe’s book (he’s an outstanding archaeologist), The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, that reconstructs Pytheas’ journey from ancient Massilia (modern Marseilles) to (very likely) Iceland in the 320s BC.

  12. I’m glad to have been here for the
    last eighty-four years and counting!
    John L Hansen
    (Former Nordic God/Polish
    Peasant Cave Dweller)

  13. All this from what is most likely just copied designs, with it being unlikely they even knew it was writing. The same happened with a coin minted by Mercian King Offa, which had his head on one side and the entire shahada on the reverse, mimicking (imperfectly) the writing on a Dinar coin from the Islamic caliphate.

    I can see that the author soooo wanted this to be a near negation of the ridiculously well-known fact that Scandinavians were Danes, Norse, Swedes, Geats and others of similar ilk (whether or not they went on Viking missions). Sad.

  14. It’s silk.
    Silk comes from China.
    The only way from China to Europe is through Islam.

    The article has no information where the garment came from. The Northmen were on the Black Sea in one direction and the Mediterranean in another. This is evidence the Silk Road was functioning, but we already knew that. It is not, as presented, evidence of Muslim Vikings.

  15. A potential factual quibble: darker skin is actually starting to look like it may be a more derived trait:

    [I want to link to a recent Atlantic article, “A Brief History of the Genes that Color Our Skin,” but that trips your spam blocker.]

    In general, skin color seems to be way more complicated than the pop science account I grew up with had left me thinking.

    • Skin color is created by the *window* between embro need for vitamin D via UV rays and genetic damage done to embryo by UV rays. Other factors can be in play but this window is a major one.

  16. Vikings collected pretty things from all over the known world by raiding or trading including fabrics, jewellery and slaves. There is at least one case of a grave of a viking chieftain wearing silk cuffs from a Christian bishops robes. Was he a Christian? Probably not. He almost certainly just liked nice things and took the robe during a raid on a monastery in Britain. To draw other conclusions is foolhardy and purely speculative.

    • Reality in this regard gets complex. E.g., paleo-Christian tombs often have the symbol of the vine leaf or a wine barrel, or what is known as an “orans” figure – someone who looks a lot like a young orator with his hands raised up in supplication – and next to these you will see the abbreviation DM which in Latin means Dis Manibus – “to the gods of the dead”. So are they pagan, Christian, or just covering their bases? Plenty of pagan Greeks were attracted to Judaism and supported and patronized synagogues throughout the Greek East. None of this needs to be hard and fast, and plenty of beliefs often live side by side. If we can’t figure it out, perhaps it’s because they didn’t themselves.

      By way of contemporary analogy, I have plenty of friends and relatives who consider themselves Christian or Jewish but at the same time embrace astrology, reincarnation, and shamanism. I also have plenty of friends who are atheists but attend church for its communal and social aspects, and also because they embrace the Judeo-Christian ethos.

      So yes, we need to be cautious, but also aware that religious affiliation can be very amorphous.

  17. The Vikings were raiders. They killed people and took their stuff – or extorted it in exchange for not killing them. When you find foreign stuff in a Viking hoard, it’s a pretty good guess that it was stolen.
    As for not knowing what “race” was, they knew who was a Viking and who was a potential slave. Irish – slave. Sicilian – slave. Slav – slave. Arab – slave. And “mingling” with Maltese and other women is an interesting euphemism for raping them.

  18. Andrew Richardson

    When I was in my 20’s I named my band after the Vikings because I was profoundly moved by the revelations concerning ‘Vineland’ – that they had discovered North America first among Europeans, had peacefully traded and interacted with the inhabitants, and then left them alone. What a difference from what came after!
    Only later did I come to understand how the far right appropriated Viking mythology in a completely different way.

  19. OMG this article is a hoot. I hope everyone sends it to their local racist rag, racist organization, etc. its sort of like when some American racist/white nationalist finds out one of their grandparents was a person of colour.

  20. Under the Nazi Lebensborn Program approx. 8,000 children were born in Germany and near 12,000 in Viking Norway as part of the selective breeding effort formed by Heinrich Himmler to encourage women of “pure blood” to only bear blonde, blue-eyed offspring.

    link to spiegel.de

    Here is where white-supremacists get their bull•••• myth.

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