Pagans, it seems, were really into death. And sex. Especially penises. And also horses. As you might imagine, the whole mix made from some pretty crazy stories, some of which ended up in the Icelandic sagas—historical tales about the height of the Viking age. Like, say, this one, called Völsa þáttr:
One autumn day, a farmer's horse dies. He and his family skin it and eat it, because they're Vikings and that, I guess, is what Vikings do. They're not so interested in eating the penis part, though, and before the farmer throws it away, his son—who recognizes the comedic potential of the dismembered member—saves it so he can use it to freak out his sister. She's inside working with her mom and this woman they keep as a slave. And the son comes in and he's all up in their faces with it and he's given the horse penis a nickname—he's calling it "Volsi"—and he's telling dirty jokes and his sister is freaking out and he thinks the whole thing is hilarious. Which, y'know, it probably was.
But then when he's done, his mom, the farmer's wife, is kinda like, "Ummm, actually, you know what? Why don't I just hang on to that? No reason it should just go to waste!"
So the wife takes Volsi the Viking horse penis and she cleans it up and keeps it wrapped in a cloth with leeks and herbs so it doesn't go bad. And she gets, like, really attached to this thing. I guess there's probably not all that much to do entertainment-wise when you're a Viking, so she comes up with this weird ritual: every night she takes the horse penis out of its cloth and she prays to it like it's a god. And every night at dinner she makes everyone else in the house pass it around and invent a little poem about it.
Now, here's where the story gets a little crazy: one night, the king, King Olaf, just happens to have docked his ship nearby. And he needs somewhere to spend the night. So he goes to the farmer's house in disguise to see if he can stay there. The farmer invites him in and offers him dinner, but just when they're about to eat it, the wife walks in. She, of course, has Volsi with her. And she wants everybody to do the ceremony. So she recites a verse and passes it to her husband and he's all embarrassed in front of the guests but he does a verse, and the son, who's still getting a kick out of teasing his sister with it, comes up with a verse, too, which, ah, probably isn't really appropriate for use around disguised royalty: "May your bridesmaids bring you a cock. They will make the prick wet tonight."
And the sister, still not amused, uses her verse to make it clear she's not into the whole thing: "I swear by Gefjun and the other gods that against my will do I touch this long red nose."
But when it gets to be the slave woman's turn she goes all out; she's stroking it and is all, "Surely I would not be able to overcome the temptation of thrusting you into myself, if we were lying alone, pleasuring one another." And I guess it's probably pretty awkward for everybody.
So eventually it's the king's turn and he's like totally weirded out by the whole situation and he goes all Christian on their asses—King Olaf is actually one of the main guys who converts Norway to Christianity. He throws the horse penis violently to the ground and is like "Oh my god you are such pagans, what is wrong with you people, you're worshiping a freaking horse penis?! I mean, I'm in disguise, but I'm actually king so I've been around and I've seen some shit, but never have I ever seen anyone passing around a horse penis and worshiping it. You should all, like, totally convert. Jesus is way better than a horse penis." And the woman's all upset and she's trying to keep the dog from eating the horse penis off the floor and she's all offended; she doesn't want to be Christian—she just wants to be left alone to worship her dead horse penis. But the farmer, he's actually kind of open to the idea, thinking, you know, "Actually, maybe not worshiping a horse penis is the way to go."
So the way the story ends is eventually they convince her to convert and King Olaf baptizes them all and he saves their souls and the family lives happily ever after and Olaf becomes a saint because he's a hero for saving all the pagans from being equine dick worshipers.
And that is the story of Volsi, the Viking horse penis.
Photo: King Olaf II
Adam Bunch is the Editor-in-Chief of The Little Red Umbrella and the creator of The Toronto Dreams Project. You can read the rest of his posts here or follow him on Twitter here.