Written by Dyami Millarson
The striking similarities between Viking (Germanic) and Kalash (Indo-Aryan) religions are a fascinating subject of study. Both religions share many common beliefs and practices, despite their distinct cultural and geographical contexts. The Kalash people, residing primarily in the Chitral District of Pakistan, practise an ancient Indo-Aryan religion that bears strong resemblances to the Vedic Aryans.
The Germanic religion, on the other hand, is traditionqlly practised by the Germanic population, including the Vikings although one could extend the term Viking to include all Germanic warriors and all Germanic peoples due to their traditionally warlike, heroic culture which also values peace, since war yields a deeper appreciation of peace among those who have experienced it.
In this article, we will explore the remarkable similarities between the two ancient traditional religions of the Kalash and the Germanians.
Thorism and Thunder Worship
Both the Viking and Kalash religions place great importance on the worship of thunder gods. In the Viking tradition, Thor is the well-known god of thunder, while the Kalash revere a thunder god called Indr or Varendr. Thunder gods hold significant influence over the psyches of their respective believers and often appear in various forms and disguises in the religious narratives.
Æsir-Vanir Duality and Æsir-Jötnar Duality
In both religions, the Gods are divided into two groups. In Viking religion, there are the Æsir and the Vanir (compare Æsir-Tívar duality) and there are the Æsir and Jötnar, while the Kalash have different types of Devalog Gods that are originally of Giant or non-Giant descent, and there is a Gods-Fairies duality in Kalash religion (see ‘Worship of Matres et Matronae’ and ‘Æsir and Álfar, Devalog and Varoti’), which resembles the Æsir-Vanir duality. These divisions play an essential role in rituals and festivals.
Worship of Matres et Matronae
The archeological record shows that there was an extensive tradition of worshipping female Goddesses of various kinds, i.e. Dísir (including *Mardísir Water Goddesses and Landdísir Earth Goddesses), Ásynjur and Valkyrjur, among the southernmost Germanic tribes living on the Northern borders of the Roman Empire. The Kalash also have female nature spirits called Ja(t)ch, Suchi, or Peri, which parallel the Viking Dísir, Ásynjur and Valkyrjur.
Lake Worship and Connection to Souls
The Germanic and Kalash religions both associate bodies of water with souls. The Germanic word for sea, for instance, is derived from the word for soul. This connection between water and souls is evident in the religious practices of the Kalash people as well as in the Germanic archeological record and in both the earlier and later Germanic lore.
The alliterating Goddesses: Frigg and Freyja, Ja(t)ch and Jestak
The Viking and Kalash religions both feature central Goddesses who embody similar roles and characteristics and their names alliterate. In the Viking tradition, Frigg and Freyja are two such Goddesses, while the Kalash have Ja(t)ch and Jestak. These Goddesses tend to be associated with domestic life, family, and marriage.
Epithets or Guises
Divine poetry in religions uses epithets to describe their Gods and Goddesses. For example, Indr, the Kalash Thunder God, appears in various forms or (dis)guises, such as Sajigor, Shura Verin, and Balumain.
Æsir and Álfar, Devalog and Varoti
The Viking and Kalash religions both feature a hierarchy of gods and nature spirits. In the Viking tradition, there are the Æsir and the Álfar, while the Kalash have Devalog and Varoti.
Vanic Sibling Pairs, brother Dezau and suster Dezalik
Brother-sister relationships among Deities are also present in both religions. The Vikings have brother Freyr and sister Freyja, which is a parallel to the brother Njörđr and sister Njörđr/Njörun, while the Kalash have Dezau and Dezalik. These sibling deities often embody similar attributes and roles in their respective pantheons.
Tree and Stone Worship
Both the Viking and Kalash peoples hold trees and stones in high reverence, believing them to be inhabited by spirits. The oak tree, in particular, is sacred to both cultures, and stone worship is evident in the practices surrounding cairns, mountain faults, and Huldufólk.
Mountains play essential roles in both religions. The Vikings and the Kalash both venerate mountains, as they are considered sacred spaces. In Kalash culture, the higher part of a village is seen as more sacred. Similarly, the Norse people held sacred mountains like Helgafęll in high regard.
Horses are venerated in both religious traditions due to their association with the Gods. In Viking religion, the Æsir are closely linked with horses, such as Othin’s famous steed Sleipnir. The Kalash also connect their Gods with horses and often depict their invisible deities with drawings of horses. Horse sacrifices were practiced in both cultures, emphasising the divine importance of horses.
Both the Norse and Kalash religious practices involve blood-sprinkling rituals. This act serves as a way to connect with the Gods and seek their blessings. The Norse traditionally sprinkle blood on people as part of blót rites. In one Kalash rite, blood from a sacrificed goat is sprinkled on the forehead of a patient seeking healing.
Fire is an essential element in both the Viking and Kalash religions. It is closely associated with sacrifices and rituals in both cultures. The veneration of fire and hearth is believed to have existed in Germanic religion, particularly in the context of domestic religion. Similarly, the Kalash people place great importance on fire in their religious practices.
Both the Viking and Kalash people believe in offering blood tributes, or blóts, to the Gods. Blood-consuming or vampiric Gods require sacrifices as a sign of devotion and worship.
Divine Poetry and Eddaic Poems
Both religions have a rich tradition of divine poetry, often called chants in the Kalash culture
Sacred Space Marked by Taboos
Both the Viking and Kalash religious traditions involve purity-based taboos and a strong concern for maintaining sacred spaces. These taboos serve to protect the sanctity of religious spaces where ancient rituals may be performed.
Sky/daylight worship and sun/light worship
The worship of the sky and daylight can be seen in both religious traditions. In Viking religion, Týr, Tívi and Tívar are connected with an Indogermanic root for sky and daylight. Similarly, Devalog, the Kalash equivalent of Tívar, is cognate with the Kalash word di sky, heaven.
Trémęnn (Wooden Idol) Veneration
Both the Vikings traditionally venerate trémęnn (wooden idols) as explained in this article. The Kalash depict their Gods in the form of horse heads. These idols serve as a focal point for worship and represent the presence of the divine.
Both the Germanic and Kalash peoples place great importance on the practice of hospitality. This custom is deeply ingrained in their respective cultures and reflects their shared values of generosity and community.
Supernatural Human Intermediaries
The Germanic and Kalash peoples both traditionally believe in supernatural shamans. The Hermanic peoples believe, for example, in supernatural seeresses, whilst the Kalash believe that the betans, i.e. shamans, are supernatural.
Whilst the Kalash people venerate wheat, the Germanic peoples had dough idols, as evidenced by the concept of matblót as discussed here. Later Germanic folklore also preserves a tradition of Grain Spirits, who may be called Korngeister or Korndämonen in German.
From the Germanic ancestral perspective, which I have explained here, Kalash polytheism is underlyingly the same as Germanic religion; following this tradition, the Kalash and Germanic peoples are using different names for the same Deities, and the Kalash and Germanic peoples have developed similar notions of appropriateness for how to honour the Gods. Likewise, it is the ancestral view of the Romans, Greeks, Celts and Slavs that the Germanic peoples traditionally worship the same Gods as they do.