The Viking Berserker is a legend: warriors so fierce, so insanse, that they would howl as they rode into battle – with laughter.
This was very effective, for two reasons, and the first is simple: hollywood aside, battle is not something to cherish. It is a gritty, shit-in-your-pants, horrifying, friends-dying-around-you, gruesome, “try not to die” experience. In addition, it’s also extremely high pressure: compare the anxiety of “if I screw up this presentation I may not get promoted this month” to the pressure of “I will no longer be alive on this earth depending on my every split second move” – and turn that into a dull, throbbing ache that you live with until it’s over. (and, thanks to PTSD, for years after.)
Clearly, this is not supposed to be a fun time.
So when you see someone charging in smiling, and laughing, as you search with frantic efficiency for an opening from behind your shield, your brain will subconciously jump to one of two conclusions: (1) this guy is nuts. (2) this guy is so good, he doesn’t feel the immense pressure and fear I feel right now. Either way – not someone you want to face on a battlefield – lending the Berserker a distinct advantage.
But funny enough – this intimidation factor is almost, I think, a side benefit. The Berserker’s advantage comes from something more subtle: the defeat of their own worst enemy – ourselves. We’ll get into that in a coupla paragraphs. Firstly and foremostly:
How did they do this?
(Possibly via Goat-Piss. Yes, I’m Serious.)
You know the ones in Super Mario – red or orange, with white dots, they make you big or small.
Well, Nintendo they did their research: the Amanita Muscaria (or Fly Agaric) does get you quite high – in a way that messes with the thing in your hypothalamus that tells you how big or small stuff is, and messes with your perception on size.
But Super Mario left something out: the active ingredient, the halucinogen (supposedly a cocktail with the main ingredient of Muscanol), also represses this ancient part of our brains, deep in the hypothalamus, that makes us feel Fear.
So one theory (that I read about on a mushroom-promoting website) is that Vikings would
use these Fly Agaric mushrooms – which are common in the boreal forests of Canada and Nordic countries – to get high, and suddenly be fighting giant creatures – with zero fear.
There is ofcourse a catch: Fly Agaric is not only halucinogenic. Its also deadly poisonous. (So next time you are camping in Algonquin and you see one, please don’t eat it unless you wish to die as well as get crazy baked.)
But these are Vikings. This is the culture that gave us Hakarl: dried-rotten-poisonous-basking shark. The basking shark is poisonous to humans: but, after presumably a long and uncomfortable period of trial-and-error (one can only guess how many casualties they were – but Damn they just didn’t give up did they?) the Icelandic people figured out that if you take this shark, bury it in the sand and let it rot – which concentrates the poison – and then hang the meat to dry – which causes the poison to ooze out so you can scrape it off – you can then consume this delicacy.
( more on that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgfvJoareCQ )
Well Done, Vikings of Iceland. … not a lot to eat over there?
So for these guys, a poisonous mushroom that got you high was not even a stumbling block. After what can only be presumed to be yet another casualty-rich experimentation process, the Swedish figured it out: let the Goat (or the Reindeer) eat the magic poisonous mushrooms. The goat will metabolize the toxins – as they do with literally anything else, I swear – and after getting extremely high, will then pee out all them beautiful little halucinogens. (1)
You drink the goat pee (Hey, this was back when we used All the animal) and Boom – poison free size-distorting Fearless High.
There are websites – a lot of them – that suggest that the practice of drinking the pee of Reindeer that have eaten Fly Agaric mushrooms as being linked to the origin of Santa Claus and his “magical reindeer” – even including the Red and White colouring. (1),(2)
As stated by a website on Amanita Muscaria, “Muscamol appears to be the primary intoxicant. When amanitas enter the bloodstream, a small amount of ibotenic acid decarboxylates into muscamol, which produces the effect. This is why there is a curious history of Amanitas and urine.” (1)
More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amz3phrwH8U
It is fact that the Swedish did do this to get high: but not all Vikings are Swedish. There was another factor – one even stronger then Amanita Muscaria. And this is what we now call “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy,” or what I like to call “Mind over Mind.” (catchy, right? lol)
2. Using Your Fear
Stress is a side effect of adrenaline – and adrenaline is your body being like, “Here – let me help you get shit done.” Like caffeine, it changes your body’s processing to up the energy consumption and put more into the moment – your awareness and your reaction time.
Michael’s Theory on Time.
Actually – and I’m separating this because I think its cool – I personally see “time” as a human construct to explain the rate at which we process energy – which is also therefore the rate we process stimulus, think, feel, live, and all physical matter interacts.
Ofcourse mechanical things have much less variation in the rate at which they process energy (interacting with energy as in motion, like a pendulum, or turning chemical energy into electromagnetic energy, such as the radioactive half-life of carbon, or even just chemical energy to chemical energy, like rust. Factors will vary, but much less – hence the pendelums of clocks, or the workings of a digital clock, provide us with a uniform standard with which to coordinate our activities, including hours and minutes. A day is decided by our spinning relative to the sun – which is a huge factor in the processing of energy in biological and even chemical systems. (Ie. we sleep at night, and its warmer during the day lol). But 24 hours are what humans have sort of cumulatively decided on, and fit relatively well into the real physical world – give or take Daylight Savings Time, or the occasional leap-year.
But notice how a second can take hours, if you are in an intense situation, while a relaxed few hours can fly by in seconds. This is because time is – according to me – simply the rate at which we process energy and stimulus, a measure of change or matter/process of energy. A dream can take hours in the space of a 10 minute nap: this used to blow my mind – but it now makes sense. Your body is so relaxed, you are processing energy so slow, that time slows down, and your brain can dream for hours during that ten minute nap.
Currently this would fall under ‘Pseudo Science’, and/or ‘another one of Mike’s crazy theories – but I think its got some weight 😛 haha
Right, so, anyway – by speeding up the rate at which we process energy, essentially adrenaline is speeding up what time is to you – slowing down the time of what is around you. Adrenaline speeds you up, slows time down.
This is why adrenaline pills make you essentially a super hero: while on the intense adrenaline kick, you are able to react way faster than any human, and mobilize your strength and processing power with ridiculous efficiency, turning you into essentially Spider-Man.
(minus the web and wall crawling, and spandex.)
Sometimes, when biking towards an engagement I am late for, the adrenaline will slow things down for me – and this combined with a negative mindset, will make everything drag on into hell. Like waiting in line, or being stuck in traffic, while running late – its awful. The adrenaline slows down time so you can feel every painful second of your lateness, and muse on every decision you could have done better.
However there are times when, biking while late, I have managed to keep my mindset positive – and found myself telling my brain I could “bend space-time” to get me to go faster, or that I am a warrior riding his horse into battle. Same adrenaline – only with a positive mindset, suddenly I could use it to my advantage.
This is the Key to the Viking Berserker: training to use the rush of adrenaline, the intense pressure of fighting for your life, dying for your liege, and – by staying (insanely) positive, channel that adrenaline from “sheer terror” to “I am a Freaking God.” That paralysing fear that roots us into the ground during our worst nightmares, lights our every nerve on fire. Like the Spartans, they turn our worst enemy – our own fears – into their greatest ally.
Channel The Power of the Viking
So what’s it to us? How often does a millennial in a first-world-country have to fight for our lives?
Hopefully, not often. But we face pressure – and stress – every day. When doing a presentation in front of your co-workers: when running late for something: when on stage, when trying to close an important sale, when about to catch your favourite pokemon – we feel nerves.
People that hear I do comedy say “Oh man, I could never do that, I’d get so nervous.” Haha ofcourse – every comic gets nervous. Those nerves are your body saying “Oh, is the pressure on? Its Go Time.” The natural tendency is to be freaked out by them, to let them pull ourselves into our own heads, and listen to our insecurities mouth off at us at a mile a minute.But instead of falling into that trap, if you can Use those nerves – then you can be firing at your optimal number of cylinders.
It’s easier said then done, but the way I do it (when I remember and am on my game) is to tell myself, before I walk in to the situation, that I am a Mother F***ing Warrior. That I am a Viking Riding into Battle. That I am invincible. That I am Michael Mother F***ing Masurkevitch and I Refuse to Not be on my A-Game.
That’s all for today, My Fellow Vikings. Go Forth and Bring it.
Before I go, I’m going to throw this in here, because it happens to be a youtube video I uploaded yesterday. It is completely unrelated, being actually about gender norms, the concept of masculinity, and buying tampons – but what the hey, feel free to give ‘er a look.
Cover Photo (Mel Gibson to direct new Viking Movie): http://www.cinemasoldier.com/articles/2010/3/15/mel-gibsons-upcoming-viking-film-may-be-his-last.html
(1) Amanita Muscaria: http://amanitashop.com/
Super Mario: http://www.gbfans.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=28203
Viking Shrooms: http://news.4399.com/gonglue/wjmg/zixun/m/537102.html
Reindeer Pee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amz3phrwH8U
(2) Santa with Shrooms: http://inhabitat.com/santa-and-the-shrooms-the-real-story-behind-the-design-of-christmas/
Spartan Cosplay: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_army
Viking Red-Eye: http://mihawq.deviantart.com/art/Viking-warrior-189099534
Viking Guy With Shield In Office (possibly intoxicated) : Dennis Rusinko “invades” Fergus, ON with presentation on Viking culture