Vikings were the ones who took the role of the first pilgrims in America. In addition to this, Vikings also managed to set foot on the soils of the New World 500 years before Columbus.
How Could Vikings be Pilgrims and Spread Christianity?
To answer the question of how could Vikings, widely known for their heathen religion with Odin, Thor and Valhalla as the heaven for fighters, spread Christianity, it is necessary to explain what does word Viking really mean.
What is Viking?
Viking is not a term made to describe a single race or nationality but a word which referred to sea-faring warriors originating from Norway, Sweeden, Jutland peninsula and probably Estonia. With the highly developed legal system, featured even by women rights, Vikings were far from barbarians for whom they were considered by their enemies due to their brutality and desecration of religious objects during raids.
When did Vikings Start Their Ventures?
Vikings started their trading and conquering conquests in the 8th century A.D. Some say that this was caused by the overpopulation of Scandinavian countries but the fact is that first Vikings sought nothing but riches. Scandinavian skins were highly valued and respected across Europe which was one of the reasons for Norsemen to sail across the North Sea. Another one was the acknowledgment of conflicts between European countries which allowed them to plunder. The raid considered as the cradle of Viking age took place in 793 A.D. They attacked the Lindisfarne monastery off the coast of Northumberland in northeastern England. Desecration of religious objects that took place made them being observed as barbarians by most of the Christian world. However, it was more than two centuries later that Lief Eriksson, leader of the sailing expedition, made it to Canada and became the first European to set his foot on the soils of the New World.
What made Vikings Go to America?
Everything starts with Leif Eriksson’s grandfather who was exiled from his home country of Norway after committing a murder. He went to Iceland where his son, Eriksson’s father Erik Red repeated the crime by killing his neighbor. This happened in around 985 A.D. After being exiled from the island, Erik took his family and sailed to Greenland where he established a colony and began his rule. Around 1000 A.D. Leif went back to Norway. This is the point where the exploration venture which by pure fluke became a pilgrimage started.
Christianity Spreading – How Vikings Became the first Pilgrims in America?
As heathens, Vikings had many Gods. To them, adding Jesus Christ to the collection of deities was not a big deal. The conversion started even before Viking age and their merging with Europeans. In 725 A.D. a group of Anglo-Saxon led by St Willibrord went on a mission to Denmark. Willibrord’s goal was to spread Christianity amongst heathen people. He was granted an audience with a king but his efforts had little to no effect. However, by the mid-11th century, Christianity was well established in Denmark and most of Norway. When Leif Eriksson traveled back to Norway, Christianity already gained strong support from many people. King Olaf greeted him and offered to convert him which Eriksson accepted. Together with a new creed son of Erik the Red received an assignment. His new duty was to spread the word of Jesus Christ to the heathen tribes living in Greenland. It is how Eriksson became a pilgrim.
How Did Eriksson Get To America?
Many believe that it was pure luck that led Eriksson to America saying that he lost his course on his way to Greenland’s colony. However, there is a theory that he heard of a trader who sailed over Greenland and saw shores of unknown lands without setting a foot on it. According to this version of the story, he found the merchant, bought his ship, hired 35 men and went to the expedition. He reached Baffin Island in Canada and was the first known European to set foot on the shores of the new world. Since in the moment of disembarkation, he was on a mission of converting heathen tribes into Christians, Leif Eriksson was the one who became the first pilgrim in America.
Formal History – Pilgrims From Plymouth
Formal history can be very misleading and contradictory. The year of 1621 is remembered as the time of the first Thanksgiving observed on the shores of the new world in the Plymouth colony on the territories of today’s Massachusetts. Those people were passengers from Mayflower ship that set to sea from England and were supposed to reach Virginia. However, after losing their sailing course, they came to shores a couple of hundreds of kilometers north and formed the Plymouth colony. These passengers are used to answer the question of who were the first pilgrims in America. However, this is hardly the truth. Approximately half of those passengers had nothing to do with the religion as they were merchants, smiths, businessmen, etc… Another fact is that Spainards came before. Spain was the first country to colonize America and celebrate Thanksgiving. Still, they were not the first pilgrims in the New World as Vikings came, as it was explained, 500 years earlier. Another important note is that Thanksgiving was not yet evolved into that name but was present in a form of the harvest festival celebrated differently in all cultures on the world. Vikings were also the first to celebrate it. Mabon was their name for the harvest festival.
Real Discovery of America And the First Pilgrims
When we speak of discovering America Europeans are the ones we have in mind. The same applies to the topic of the first pilgrims. When related to America, the pilgrimage is mostly considered as a phenomenon of Christians sailing over the ocean, establishing religious communities, nurturing their traditions and spreading Christianity amongst native Americans. However, according to a definition, a pilgrim is an individual traveling to a sacred place for religious reasons. In the spiritual literature of Christianity pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude. These sentences allow very broad interpretation as a place could be considered for a secret for various reasons as well as the inner journeys. Therefore, the identity of the first pilgrims goes deep in the past, dozens of thousands of years before Jesus Christ.
Who Were Really the First Pilgrims in America? Not a Nation but a Specie
Ethiopia is considered to be the cradle of humanity as it was the place where the 200 000 years old remains of modern humans were discovered in the second half of the 20th century. Discovery took place near the Omo River and was achieved by explorers from Kenya. It is from this place that people migrated to the rest of the world. 50 000 years ago, people developed languages that allowed them to make plans. Assuming that inhabitants of Africa were confronted with depletion of resources, searching for new places to live was the only remaining option. Since scientists studying landmasses and climate believe that the Pleistocene Ice Age created a land bridge that connected Asia and North America over 13,000 years ago, our old ancestors were the first to reach America by foot.
Does That Make Them Pilgrims?
Religion is old as humankind itself. When it comes to pilgrimage, as already stated, it is defined as traveling to a holy place for religious purposes. Old heathen creeds are known for numerous deities with very descriptive nature and functions. It is certain that by most of our ancestors, going through the hardships of migrations was considered as a test conducted by their deities which were going to extract the worthy one and allow them ascending to the lands of plenty. While the data regarding their religion is obscure, the fact of their beliefs remains and gives us the full right to call them pilgrims.