The Vikings, also called Norsemen or Northmen, were members of the Scandinavian seafaring warriors who raided and colonized vast areas of Europe from the 9th to the 11th century and whose influence profoundly affected European history. These Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish warriors comprised landowning chieftains and clan heads, their retainers, freemen, and young clan members who sought adventure and booty overseas. These Scandinavians were independent farmers at home, but at sea, they were raiders and pillagers. The Scandinavian bands sailed the seas in their longships during the Viking period. They raided cities and towns along the coasts of Europe—earning them the name Viking, meaning “pirate” in the early Scandinavian languages.
The Norsemen believed the gods created the runes and given to men through Odin, their primary God. They are described in Håvamål, a famous poem that contains references to their power:
All will prove true that thou askest of runes —
those that come from the gods,
Which the high Powers wrought and which Odin painted:
Then silence is undoubtedly best.