The Vikings, also called Norsemen or Northmen, were members of the Scandinavian seafaring warriors who raided and colonized wide areas of Europe from the 9th to the 11th century and whose influence profoundly affected European history. These Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish warriors were made up of landowning chieftains and clan heads, their retainers, freemen, and young clan members who sought adventure and booty overseas. At home these Scandinavians were independent farmers, but at sea they were raiders and pillagers. During the Viking period the Scandinavian bands sailed the seas in their longships and raided cities and towns along the coasts of Europe—earning them the name vikingr, meaning “pirate” in the early Scandinavian languages.
The Norsemen believed the runes were created by the Gods and given to men through Odin, their main 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 are come from the gods,
which the high Powers wrought, and which Odin painted:
then silence is surely best.