Many of us think we know what a ‘Berserker’ is. Isn’t it a person who goes into a trance induced rage, running into battle naked, with a giant axe at the ready, slaughtering 20 men a piece?
I’m very sorry to disappoint you, but apparently that was not a thing….at least not for ‘berserkers.’ There is no evidence that berserkers ran into battle naked, in fact it is more likely that they wore bear fur or bear skin (not bare skin). From what we do know of the term, it referred to someone who was a sort of champion for a hire, someone who would fight your battles for you.
Odin himself was said to have some berserkers or ‘Úlfhéðnar’ fighting for him.
The other main fact is that berserkers, for the most part, were exclusively Norse. There are many cultural and video game references where you might have some Celtic berserker, but this is historically inaccurate.
Check out Lindy Beige’s video above as he humorously divides fact from fiction.
Also, a new book has been released which may help answer more of these questions: The Viking Experience