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Where does the word Berserk come from and what is a Berserker?

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The berserker lived happily in the Hall of Slain Warriors, which is a shield-covered palace called Valhalla, under the rule of the god Odin. Berserkers feast on the flesh of a slaughtered boar every day. They drank liquor that flowed from the udders of a goat, and their sport consisted of fighting every day, thus training for the ultimate fight, that against the giants.


The English word berserk is derived from the Old Norse ber-serkr meaning "bear's shirt", i.e. a wild warrior or champion of the Viking Age,

Berserkers (or "berserks") were Norse champions, that is, wild warriors or Viking Age champions used in Icelandic sagas and who fought with a trance-like fury, a characteristic which gave rise to the English word "berserk".

During the battle, the berserkers would go into fits of frenzy. They howled like wild beasts, foaming at the mouth and chewing the iron edges of their shields. They were as strong as bears or wild oxen and killed people with a single blow.

During these crises, they were immune to steel and fire, causing damage to the enemy's ranks. It is believed that berserkers could dull the blades of their enemies with spells or a glance from their evil eyes. Once the rage subsided, they were weak and subdued.

To become a berserk is "hamask", which means "to change form", "to enter a state of wild fury". Some have interpreted people capable of transforming into a berserker as "hamrammr" or "shapestrong ", literally capable of changing shape to that of a bear.

Norse kings used berserkers as part of their army of henchmen and sometimes considered them the equivalent of a royal bodyguard.

A berserker's rage was called berserkergang or "fit of madness."

This phenomenon occurred not only in the heat of battle, but also during heavy work. Men then accomplished things that seemed impossible to man. The attack of madness began with shivering, chattering teeth and cooling of the whole body, then the face swelled and changed color. Finally, they flew into a great rage, under the effect of which they howled like wild animals, attacking everything in front of them without distinguishing between friend and foe. When this state ceased, they suffered from great stupefaction and weakening which could last several days.

When Viking villages went to war in unison, berserkers were often required to wear special clothing, such as wolf or bear fur, to indicate that this person was a berserker, thereby warning others that the person was a berserker. She was unable to tell friend from foe when angry, with other allies knowing to keep their distance.

Today, psychiatrists have established explicit links between the berserker rage of our soldiers at war and the hyperarousal linked to post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Psychiatrists who work with Vietnam veterans have stated the following:

"If a soldier survives the berserk state, it confers emotional helplessness and vulnerability to explosive rage on a psychological level and permanent hyperarousal on a physiological level - characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans . My clinical experience with Vietnam veterans encourages me to place the berserk state at the heart of their most serious psychological and psychophysiological wounds.

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