Saga Brief 22: Drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders (Part I: What Were They Drinking?)

In this long overdue Saga Brief, we discuss drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders. This first part looks at what they were drinking and how it was perceived culturally. In the second part, coming soon, we’ll look into the culture of drinking as we explore where and how they drank.

Here is a short bibliography of the texts and studies referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this episode:

Etting, Vivian. The Story of the Drinking Horn: Drinking Culture in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. Publications of the National Museum of Denmark v.21, 2013.

Dineley, Graham, and Merryn Dineley. “Where Were the Viking Brew Houses?” EXARC 2013/2 (2013).

Hallgerður Gisladottir, ‘The Use of Whey in Icelandic Households’, in Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research, Ireland. J992, ed. Patricia Lysaght (Canongate Academic, 1994), pp. 123-29.

Mark, Joshua J. “Norse Alcohol and the Mead of Poetry.” World History Encyclopedia. Published January 7, 2019.–the-mead-of-poetry/ .

Riseley, Charles. Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age. MA Thesis. University of Oslo, 2014.

Rodriguez, Jesús Fernando Guerrero. Old Norse Drinking Culture. PhD Dissertation. University of York, 2007.

Rood, Joshua. Drinking with Óðinn: Alcohol and Religion in Heathen Scandinavia. Háskoli Íslands, 2014.

Vuorisalo, Timo, et al. “High Lactose Tolerance in North Europeans: A Result of Migration, not In Situ Milk Consumption.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55:2 (2012), 163-174.

Winroth, Anders. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton UP, 2016.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Poetry music – Midnight Tale by Kevin MacLeod

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Saga Brief 21 – Interpreting the Past (Part 1) – Modern Perceptions of the Viking Age with Verena Höfig and Zachary Melton

Welcome to the first in a series of special Saga Briefs on Interpreting the Past, a series that looks at modern interpretations and perceptions of the medieval. In this episode, John and Andy welcome two scholars, Dr. Verena Höfig (Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Zachary Melton (Ph.D. student at the University of Iceland).

We cover a range of topics, including the appeal of Viking Age culture and mythology to modern religious and political movements; the role of literature, history, and social media in the construction of individual and group identities; and the challenges that we face, both as scholars and as citizens of this world, coming to terms with the many differences of interpretation that divide us. 

As that list suggests, this isn’t the usual light stroll through the sagas. This episode is short on jokes and heavy on substantive discussion of important issues. Whether you’re an expert or an enthusiast, this one’s worth your time. We hope you enjoy and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Here is a bibliography of the texts and studies referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this episode:

American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagan Religious Movement by Jennifer Snook

“Ethnicity as Cognition” by Rogers Brubaker, Mara Loveman, and Peter Stamatov

Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism by Mattias Gardell

Huginn’s Heathen Hof and Declaration 127

Karl Seigfried on Ásatrú, Anti-Racism, and Rescuing the Past – quote taken from “What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion” in The Atlantic

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

“William Cullen Bryant’s American Antiquities: Medievalism, Miscegenation and Race in The Prairies” by Andrew Galloway

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 31d – The Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell (Judgments)

It’s time to put the Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell on trial! Critics and saga enthusiasts are often divided on this one. Where will John and Andy rank Bard’s Saga? Who will win Best Bloodshed? Why is Andy suddenly contributing to Nicknames? And which of the heroic figures in this saga will be honored with the title of Thingman? Listen and find out!

Thanks again to Bryan Foust, our guest illustrator for Bard’s Saga. We look forward to working with him more in the future. You can find his work here:

And, if you enjoy Saga Thing, we think you’ll also enjoy The Maniculum Podcast, which we highlight at the end of this episode. It’s available on your favorite podcast app.

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod

Snati the Wonder Dog Theme – Original composition by John (vocals) and Elsa (keyboard)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod

Episode 31c – The Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell (Chapters 17-22)

In the thrilling conclusion to Bard’s Saga, Gest makes his way to the court of King Olaf Tryggvason in Norway. Despite the king’s best efforts to convert his Icelandic guest, the son of Bard is reluctant to abandon the old gods. Gest’s faith will be tested when he accepts a mission to break into the burial mound of an old Viking called Raknar in Greenland. Along the way, he’ll encounter Odin, argue with a priest, battle against 500 undead oarsmen, and wrestle with Raknar himself. Does Gest have what it takes to defeat the devilish draugr? Will the old gods provide the strength he needs to claim the treasure? Or will Gest discover the true power of the Christian god? Find out on this exciting episode of Saga Thing!

Thanks again to Bryan Foust for illustrating Bard’s Saga for us. Check out his work on Instagram where he is skarphedin_illustrator.

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod

Review Music “The Royal Vagabond Medley” by Jocker’s Dance Orchestra

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod

Saga Short 7 – The Tale of the Volsi

Warning: This episode may not be suitable for young children

It’s winter in Norway, a time when most people huddle together with family and friends to share warmth, tell stories, and await the coming of spring. But the Christian king Olaf the Stout has heard word about strange goings-on at a farm in the north, where the lady of the house has found a new way to pass the time—she’s starting her own religious cult. So the king and his friends must travel through the winter weather in disguise to learn just what this household is worshiping in the woods—and what they find is something altogether more ridiculous than they could have imagined.

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This one’s unlike anything else we’ve read on the podcast so far—it’s got a well-endowed horse, a boy who’s given to shouting dirty poetry, an open-mike of verse-making at the farmhouse, three men who all choose the same disguise, and a dog who’s hungry for a good time. And what on earth is the farmer’s wife keeping in that long box that smells of leeks and herbs? Enjoy the strange world of Völsa þáttr!

Music Credits:

Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka

Episode 20k – Njal’s Saga (Part 11)



Kari Solmundarson


The epic journey through Njal’s Saga finally comes to an end.  In this episode, we follow Kari Solmundarson on his quest to avenge the deaths of everyone he was forced to leave behind in the burning house.  His targets are Flosi and the Burners.  With so many against him, the odds aren’t in his favor.  But Kari is known throughout Iceland for his unmatched bravery and fearlessness.  His pursuit of the burners carries him from Iceland to the British Isles and then on to Rome.  Along the way, we’ll take a brief detour to Ireland for a glimpse at the historic Battle of Clontarf. 1200px-'Battle_of_Clontarf',_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Hugh_Frazer,_1826 Though this may be the end for our little summer saga, there’s plenty here for everyone to enjoy.  In addition to the revenge, the battles, and the blood, you’ll want to keep listening for the world’s strangest mathematics word problem and a brief discussion on Entish naming practices.  Enjoy!

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Promised References from this episode:

The Icelandic Saga Map

The Irish History Podcast – Episode 11: Brian Boru, The Battle of Clontarf, and the Aftermath

William Ian Miller’s Why Is Your Axe Bloody?

Miller Axe Bloody

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (

Previous Episode Review – “Whispering” by Paul Whiteman

Episode Summary – “Satiate – Percussion” by Kevin MacLeod (

Hrafn’s Clontarf Report Poem – “Teller of Tales” by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Saga Brief 6 – The Conversion of Iceland (Part 1)


In this first part of our Saga Brief, we look at the story behind the conversion of Iceland.

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Opening:Rúnatal” by An Danzza with selections from History Channel’s Vikings.
Saga Brief Intro: from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur
Outro:  Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 20g – Njal’s Saga (Part 7)


In this episode of Saga Thing, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in Iceland’s history as the fierce Thangbrand arrives on a mission from King Olaf Tryggvason to convert Iceland once and for all.  It turns out John and Andy aren’t the only ones who love a good digression.  This section of the saga is book-ended by action and violence brought on by the slaying of Thrain Sigfusson, but it’s mostly about Thangbrand’s visit to Iceland and the resulting divide between the growing number of Christians and those who remain loyal to Odin.  This episode features its usual share of bloodshed and wit, but we’ve also got some blasphemous poetry for you, a bit of history, a miracle, and an important test for a berserk.  There’s something for everyone!

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Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (
Previous Episode Review – “Moten Swing” by Harry James and his Orchestra
Episode Summary“Crusade” by Kevin MacLeod ( and Deum Verum performed by Psallentes
Poems – “Hell edar asar” by Leiungr
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Episode 16c – Grettir’s Saga (Part 3)

GrettirandThorirRed-Beard The Saga of Grettir the Strong continues.  In this episode, Grettir arrives home in Iceland only to discover that his father has passed away, his brother has been slain by Thorbjorn Oxen-might, and that he himself has been outlawed for the accidental burning of Thorir of Gard’s sons in Norway.  That’s a lot to take in all at once.  As an outlaw, Grettir is forced to lurk in the wilds, hide in caves, and rely on the kindness of others for food.  Since Grettir’s not terribly kind himself, he usually just steals what he needs.  Join us as we discuss the last of Grettir’s adventures, including amazing feats of strength, battles with a troll-hag and a giant, and a rocky encounter with a witch.  Will Grettir get stumped by the witch’s black magic? Will he go out in a blaze of glory? And will he ever recover from the embarrassment of his exposed manhood?  Find out in this episode of Saga Thing.

Drangey Island in Skagafjörður fjord, where Grettir and Illugi spent their final years.

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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover what we left out!

Grettir's Saga

Episode 16b – Grettir’s Saga (Part 2)

Grettir and Kar the Old

In this episode we follow Grettir through three of his most famous battles against an undead Kar the Old, a giant Norwegian bear, and Iceland’s most famous draugr, Glam.  We also catch Grettir stumbling in a clumsy fight for fire that will eventually seal his fate as an outlaw forever.  This one runs a little longer than the average episode of Saga Thing, but with so much excellent material to cover, we just couldn’t resist.

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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover all that we left out!

Grettir's Saga