Thangbrand declared that he would use the berserk to test the power of Christianity over that of the old religion. "We shall light three fires," he proposed. "I shall bless the first one, you heathens shall bless the second one, and the third one shall remain without a blessing. If the berserk walks through your fire unharmed, but is afraid of my fire, then you must accept Christianity."In the face of such a conclusive clinical experiment, when the Icelanders gathered at the Althing in 1000 they voted to follow best international practice and adopt the fashionable "White Christ" religion. It remained legal to follow the 'old gods' alternative therapy so long as this remained indoors and no horses were sacrificed in public.
Gest, the leader of the heathens, believing that the fearless berserk would walk through all the fires, accepted this challenge.
When Otrygg the berserk was seen approaching the house, the three fires were lit, and two of them were blessed according to plan. Without hesitating, the berserk walked through the fire blessed by the heathens, but he stopped at the Christian-blessed fire. Agonizing with unknown pain, Otrygg raised his sword to strike out at his foes, but as he swung the sword upward, it caught against one of the crossbeams of the house. Thangbrand struck him on the arm with a crucifix, causing Otrygg's sword to fall to the ground, and then ran a sword into the berserk's chest. Gudleif attacked him as well, cutting off Otrygg's arm. Others entered the fray and helped to kill the heathen berserk.
Having thus seen the power of Christianity, many leading households were now baptized.
Probably this new religion was congenial to the vikings because of its torture-porn aspects -- the whole business of scourging, thorns, nails and lance-wound misericorde -- which fitted with a tradition of attracting injuries among their own gods. As well as Odin and his self-mutilatory tendencies (he was on 24/7 watch after the eyeball incident and the nine-day erotic suspension), there was Baldur, whose idea of a good Friday night out after a hard week in Valhalla was to stand around while the rest of the pantheon pelted him with every weapon they had on hand. Not to my tastes but here at Riddled we do not judge.
This inspired an entire artistic tradition of "Woundgod" images, depicting a Baldur figure incurring as many simultaneous injuries as the artist could fit into the frame.
If you are thinking that this is an excuse to assemble a series of Woundgod images into a montage, then well done!
Initially I had intended to write something directed at Sub McG about a little-known comic-book superhero called Wound-man, saving the world along with his colleagues Vein-man and Zodiac-Man, but it turns out that some bastridge has used the idea already.