Viking yogi? Viking Buddhist?

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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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About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes has traveled the world as a meditation teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner, author, and is currently the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center teaching yoga, meditation, and juice rejuvenation. He studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurvedic Medicine at California College of Ayurveda, and naturopathic detox therapy at the AM Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He is the author of four books, and he lives with his wife Radhika and Juno, a sweet, gentle Great Pyrenees, in the mountains near Asheville, North Carlina. Connect with him via his website: and


7 Responses to “Viking yogi? Viking Buddhist?”

  1. Well, I'll be a…What next. First the Vikings trump Columbus. Now this.

    Very interesting! Thanks.

  2. vakibs says:

    Buddhist missionaries were present all over central Asia and in Asia minor. The Greeks knew about them, and so did the Egyptians. There was a port in the red sea with which south Indians were trading extensively, in spices etc.. All this is recorded history..

    It is also known that Vikings were working as traders and soldiers in the Byzantium. In fact, the Varangian guard was the most feared and respected of all soldiers. It then becomes very likely that some of these soldiers have encountered a Buddhist / Yogic immigrants in Egypt or Asia minor. And they could have carried this flame further up north to Norway, where there could have been a small camp for meditation hippies. 🙂

    • Ramesh says:

      Very good points, Vakibs. Similarly, there were yogis living among the Greeks, and there were Greeks living in India even before Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE. Moreover, Alain Danielou, the French author and indologist claims that Shaivism or Tantra had wide influence in Asia and Europe earlier than that. I will write another piece about all this soon.

  3. PENNY says:


  4. Mikke says:

    I was raised in Savo-Karjalan tradition in the New World. My fathers taught me that the ancient "Finns" and ancient Tibetans had common histories, though it was lost exactly what those were. But they taught me various things about those traditions, and about self-command and mental discipline…which I've come to conclude aligned or meshed with a root set of cultural practices that predated all agricultural civilizations and came from Forest/boreal and steppe people.

    It becomes harder to imagine or explore these things as we are trapped in our language categories, as well as the critical/interpretive categories of "scholars" and the assertions of people out to make a buck.

    However the nature of these pre-agricultural and pre-monotheistic beliefs (and the first monotheism was female, remember, and led to agriculture/bipolar gender disorder) can easily be seen in various traditions variously called "buddhism," "shamanism," "meditation," and even a-viking.

    My fathers also suggested that there were strands of this old way of Knowing that was at its roots the same religion that the birds have. A direct connection to the river of life as it flows out of the North, and the tree of life rooted in the underworld. We humans owe our evolution to the sea, the sea cliffs, and the trees and plains, as the birds do, and the first myth in the Finno-Ugrian storycycles relates this (windwoman and seabird).

    To go a-viking would be to continue a lifestyle that balanced rooted settlement with wandering. And eastern adepts got around, just as vikings did. Remember the "long hunt" of the "Finns," in which individuals would venture out hundreds of miles, alone, to hunt, fish, and trap. This way of being is much older than the hive that female monotheism inflicted on society, and the priestly/kingly/merchant tripartite war state that came later.

  5. robin says:

    i wonder if ivar the boneless was called boneless because he practiced different asanas?? maybe boneless = his flexibility??

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