Get off my Boat! Jarl Haakon resists Conversion

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Harald Bluetooth tried to force covert Jarl Haakon, but he and his men weren’t having anything to do with that.

Most of the early Christian conversion attempts on the Norse people were done by means of entire communities converting as a whole rather than individual conversions.  Mass conversions were usually carried out by methods such as demanding conversions through subjugation.

The subjects of a leader would be forced to convert. 

Typically, the Norse leader or King would convert to Christianity themselves and as an opportunity to solidify their power, they would force all their subjects to convert as well.  Peace treaties formed with other Christian monarchs were often only achieved if the Viking leader converted to Christianity and had their men do so as well.  Even when at the Norse’s mercy and being demanded silver payments to release cities conquered by Norse raiders (Vikings). They managed to buy the Norse off with caches of silver and an agreement of Christian conversion.

So instead of trying to convert individuals to become Christians, the community would be ordered to convert by their leader.  This made the clergy’s job easy as entire regions would become converted by order of their King.

However, not all agreements went as planned for Christian monarchs and clergy when they ordered their followers to convert.

There were instances, such as when Jarl Haakon was in Denmark. Harald Bluetooth forced him to accept being baptized as a Christian and to take clergymen with him to Norway in order to spread Christianity in Norway.  Haakon had no choice by to accept, but when favorable winds allowed Haakon to set sail and leave, he commanded the clergymen off his boats to return ashore as he and his men left.

haakon
Haakon ordering the clergymen off his boats.

Once an area was ordered by their leader to convert, missionaries, priests, and monks would then come in to finish the process. Once the people were converted, the old gods and practices would be outlawed. Entire communities would be baptized and swear oaths to forsake the old gods and take in Christ as their only god.

Further subjugation took place through instruction and discipleship training by christian missionaries that would be set up. Even still, foreign missionaries did get resistance, often for no other reason than distrust of them simply because they were foreigners.

Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona.

The English missionaries were more successful in their attempts at spreading Christianity because most of them came from England. It was as simple as that. English missionaries were more trusted because they were from conquered areas that were under subjugation by the Norse. The Norse had already gotten used to the English people and their customs. The Norse weren’t as suspicious of the English missionaries, militarily or politically, as they were the missionaries from other Norse lands, such as the Germanic Kingdoms or Francia.

Read more in The Vikings by Njord Kane 


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by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing


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Njord Kane is an infantry and cavalry veteran who also served in law enforcement just prior to entering into the world of academia where he pursued the disciplines of military science, social psychology, and anthropology. Having left his profession, he now takes care of his adult autistic sons at home while passionately writing about early Norse and Mesoamerican culture and history at spangenhelm.com and readicon.com. Kane is also the author of numerous books including, The Vikings, The Maya, and The Viking Hero Series.

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