What Happens During a Viking Funeral?

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Viking funerals are characterized by preparation for the afterlife and the desire to elevate the deceased to the heavens through cremation; though there is a popular image of a boat being set aflame that is associated with Viking funerals, this was not a common practice and was mostly reserved for those who held wealth and other forms of power that could enable their surviving family members to afford to burn a boat. Cremation and burial of the cremated remains appear to be the most common practices in Viking funeral rites. Scholars have been able to gather information on Viking funerals through a combination of physical evidence and the written historical records of individuals who witnessed examples of these funerals.

Though flaming boat burials were not necessarily as common as some people may now think they were, Vikings did seem to use boats in burials. Some actual wooden boats have been uncovered, and there are also grave sites that are made with stones arranged in the shape of a boat, indicating that Vikings perhaps saw boats as a way to make passage to the afterlife. In most cases, Vikings were buried or cremated with possessions they would need in the afterlife, including food, tools, weapons and, in some cases, slaves who had been murdered in order to join their masters in the afterlife.