History: Scandinavian legends, mythology, history, as well as pre-medieval and medieval Germanic folklore tell us about unruly bands of warriors that attached themselves to royal and noble courts as bodyguards. It seems that these men used to go semi naked into battle wearing only the hides of wolves or bears. During the fight the berserkers (literally bear-shirt) were characterized by behaviour that populations of Latin culture simply defined as Fury. These ferocious warriors in the thick of the fight demonstrated an inhuman physical power, they did not seem to have any threshold of pain while suffering wounds, they would massacre anybody in front of them with no distinction between allies or enemies. Since the berserkers never retreated from battle, very often they were chosen as body guards of the Viking kings. They were always kept under control and sometimes they were killed due to their mental instability as constantly on the edge of the above-said Fury. The Ulfedhnar (wolf-men) and the Halfhundingas (dog-men) were the German counterpart of the Berserkers. Several sagas describe the Berserkers, Ulfdhenars and Halfhundingas in a way that the distinction between man and beast is not possible, thus contributing, in Europe, to popular beliefs in the existence of werewolves. The historical truth about these warriors and their behaviour finds its roots in the eating of a toxic mushroom which was very common in Scandinavia and other countries in Northern Europe. The mushroom was distributed to the berserkers and eaten before any battle. The effects of this drug while totally inhibiting any sense of pain or fear were also devastating for the nervous system. A berserker could not be stopped in his fury, unless beheaded or mutilated of all four limbs. In the year 1015 Norway declared them outlaws and by the year 1100 they were no longer heard of in Europe .
Painting: The painter is free to choose whatever colours he prefers. The berserkers had no rules regarding clans and uniforms.
Sculptor: G. La Rocca
Painter: F. Sapienza
Research and translation: R.Carrabino