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April 14, 2010

Viking yogi? Viking Buddhist?

Is this lotus sitting fellow below with a chest full of tantric-looking swastikas a Viking yogi, a Viking Buddhist, or is he just high on mushrooms?

Years ago, during the hippie age, in my native Norway, I met the author Eivind Reinertsen, who claimed there were secret societies of yogis in Norway during the Viking era. After the hashish smoke had cleared, and I had replaced it with yoga asanas and meditation, I never gave his wild claim much thought. That is, until I discovered the so-called Buddha Bucket at the Viking museum in Oslo.

The bucket stems from the Oseberg ship, a large burial mound discovered in 1904 near Oseberg farm, Vestfold county, Norway. It is believed to be one of the best preserved and most exciting Viking ship finds.

One of the most interesting Oseberg discoveries is the so-called Buddha-bøtte or Buddha bucket. It is a pail with two identical figures forming the joints of the pail handle. Both figures represent a person seated in the lotus position.

With closed eyes the face has a meditative expression. The man’s breast is ornamented with red and yellow swastikas shaped in a fashion I have seen on temples in India.

A sixth century Buddha statue was found on an Island in Sweden, identified as an import from Asia. But the interesting thing about this Viking introvert is that he was made either in Ireland or Norway. He was not an import. He was a native. The composition of the metals, the metallurgy, reveals these curious clues.

So, was the late author Eivind Reinertsen right? Did medieval yogis roam the fjords of Norway? Or, like the Vikings often did, had he just taken one mushroom too many?

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