ABSTRACT

Building on close interaction in the spheres of war and trade between the Scandinavian Rus’ and the inhabitants of the steppe, this chapter turns to the cultural consequences of these contacts. Based on a combination of archaeological finds and mainly contemporary Muslim, Byzantine and Slavic sources, the features of Turkic cultural influence on Scandinavians and Rus’ will be addressed. Descriptions of Rus’ pagan rituals in three basic texts – ibn Faḍlān’s Risāla, Leo the Deacon’s Historia, and the De administrando imperio – are contrasted. Comparing analogous customs in Turkic rituals and religious beliefs from a wide array of sources, it is suggested that Rus’ ritual traditions adopted elements from the steppes. These include practicalities but perhaps also beliefs, especially ideas about kin members re-uniting in the afterlife and service in the afterlife of warriors bound to a human lord through violent death or suicide. In a wider Scandinavian milieu, these rituals also exhibit local variations. The chapter also discusses how similar customs in Eastern pre-Christian religions and Sámi culture might have facilitated the fusion of Scandinavian Rus’ customs with other traditions.