Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prayer: Archangels and Intercessory Beings

This is the research paper I wrote for my philosophy class. It's mostly just meant to be descriptive with a little analysis. It discusses the evidence to support the idea of praying directly to God (who then answers via the angels) and the evidence to support the use of intercessory beings (like the cult of the saints). I quoted mostly from the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the New Testament, and a few secondary sources.

Answers to Prayers – Angels’ and Saints’ place in Heaven

            Opinions on where we go and what our role becomes after death have widely varied since the beginning. Even within the Jewish, Muslim, and classical Christian religions, people differ on the matter of what a deceased saint or an angel can actually do to help you. A Jewish doctor when viewing St. Martin’s tomb once remarked “Martin will do you no good, whom the earth now rests, turning him to earth… A dead man can give no healing to the living.”[1] The opposing opinion also has the attention of many who want to believe that Raphael the archangel, or any of the angels and saints in heaven, will hear their prayers and come to aid them as he did for Tobit and Tobias in the Bible. The division seems to be on whether we can address the saints as intercessory beings or whether we should pray to God directly, as He has angels (some with their own dominions and stewardships) that He can send to answer prayers. The evidence from history and holy writ seems to favor the idea that God, when prayed to directly, sends angels to answer the prayers of the faithful.
            Peter Brown in his book The cult of the saints: its rise and function in Latin Christianity explains that the origin of the cult of the saints can be found in the Hellenistic and Roman practice of honoring fallen heroes. Private cults were often formed in those times to venerate a worthy ancestor or to worship a public hero of the nation. At this time, however, Brown points out that “the forms of cult for heroes and for the immortal gods tended to be kept apart.”[2] The difference seems to be that the fallen heroes were not seen to be capable of intercession on behalf of mortals as they were not thought of as “friends of God.” Many pagans saw the rise of Christianity and the cult of the saints with abhorrence. The Roman emperor Julian the Apostate thought of the cult of the saints as “a novelty for which there was no warrant in the gospels.”[3] Burial practices began to change in the early fifth and sixth centuries that made the tombs and sepulchers of the saints a sharp contrast to what they used to be. They became a place of worship and a place where the deceased saints could address God on behalf of the world.  Gregory of Nyssa said of the martyrs, “those who behold them embrace, as it were, the living body in full flower: they bring eye, mouth, ear, all the senses into play, and then, shedding tears of reverence and passion, they address to the martyr their prayers of intercession as though he were present.”[4] As Christianity spread in the west, the cult of the saints became more and more pronounced in worship.
            Nilsson, in his book Greek Folk Religion, indirectly argues that when Christianity took over the Greek religions, it successfully replaced the major Greek gods with Christianity but he notes a few cases where minor gods were not as easily removed. A good example is the nymph god, Artemis. Nilsson says of Artemis, “the Greek peasant of today still believes in the nymphs, though he gives them all the old name of the sea nymphs, Neraids… it is remarkable that they have a queen… perhaps she is a last remembrance of the great goddess Artemis.”[5] It is possible that the cult of the saints developed, in part, as an attempt to replace these minor deities with something more Christian.
            Nilsson offers another explanation that could explain the origin of the cult of the saints. In the veneration and respect offered to Greek heroes, the foundation for intercessory beings had already been established in Greek culture. When explaining the early “cult of the heroes,” Nilsson says “their cult was bound to their tomb, and their power was bound to their relics, which were buried in the tomb.”[6] The heroes were called on for aid in battle on many occasions as well. “The sense which the word ‘hero’ had in Homer, namely ‘warrior,’ was not forgotten either, and the heroes were particularly well suited to defend the land in which they were buried.”[7] In addition to aiding the Greeks in warfare, the heroes “were often healers of diseases, like the Mohammedan saints, whose tombs are often hung with patches torn from the clothes of the sick.”[8]
            With the way heroes were venerated in ancient Greece and with the powers they supposedly had, Nilsson remarks that “it is not to be wondered at that the people applied to them for help in all their needs.”[9] It is easy to see the direct evolution from the “cult of the heroes” to the “cult of the saints” as they perform similar roles as intercessory beings capable of granting aid and small miracles.
            The idea that praying to God directly is a superior method is evidenced in some early Jewish and Christian works. The Book of Tobit (which is considered apocryphal to some religions but canonical to Catholics and ancient Jews) recounts a story of a righteous Israelite family from the tribe of Naphtali. Tobit had been punished by the ruling elite and eventually went blind as well in persevering in his burial of the dead. Sarah, a young girl, had been deprived on her wedding night of seven husbands by a demon that possessed her. Both prayed for relief.
Raphael the archangel came among them in disguise and eventually corrected all the wrongs that had befallen both Tobit and Sarah. Tobias, Tobit’s son, is able to successfully marry Sarah and the demon is cast out and bound by Raphael. Tobias uses part of a fish to cure his father’s blindness as instructed by Raphael. Raphael, his work done, reveals himself and says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”[10] He also revealed that “I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead.”[11] Clearly Raphael had heard their prayer (which was addressed to God) and was able to perform small miracles to aid them, all this with God’s approval. Raphael had his own stewardship that he oversaw and he presented prayers before the Lord for Tobit and Sarah on at least two occasions, hoping to gain God’s approval in his desire to aid them.
That's all I'm going to give as a free preview, as I expanded this article today and I will be publishing it through Amazon for the Kindle.

[1] Peter Brown, The cult of the saints: its rise and function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981), 4.
[2] Ibid., 5.
[3] Peter Brown, The cult of the saints: its rise and function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981), 7.
[4] Ibid., 11.
[5] Martin P. Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1940), 16-17.
[6] Martin P. Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1940), 19.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 20.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Tobit 12:15
[11] Tobit 12:12
[12] David Cook, trans., Joseph and Aseneth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 1:6.
[13] Ibid., 1:8.
[14] Ibid., 4:12-13.
[15] David Cook, trans., Joseph and Aseneth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 6:2-3.
[16] Ibid., 12:6.
[17] Ibid., 10:13-14.
[18] Ibid., 14:7.
[19] David Cook, trans., Joseph and Aseneth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 15:2-5.
[20] Ibid., 19:2.
[21] Luke 1:13.
[22] See Luke 1:26.
[23] Luke 1:31.
[24] Daniel 8:16.
[25] Daniel 9:21.
[26] Daniel 9:22-23.
[27] 2 Enoch 6:3
[28] 2 Enoch 6:4
[29] John 14:6.
[30] Willis Barnstone, The Other Bible (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco), The Acts of John 422.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Jehovah and Hades: Chapter 5 Complete

I finished Chapter 5 of Jehovah and Hades last night. It's a little shorter than the first four but it put me over 10,000 words which means that as soon as I conclude my book (which is still a ways away) I can publish to the Kindle. I think I'll shoot for a 20,000 word book for the first Jehovah and Hades.

I can't wait for finals to be over. I have two twelve page papers due within the next week plus in class presentations for both papers and then finals after that. Writing Chapter 5 last night was my way of getting away from writing history papers for a while. :(

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jehovah and Hades: Chapter 4 Complete

Yes, I have finally completed Chapter 4 of Jehovah and Hades. I won't be posting a preview here. I'm eventually going to put the book up for sale on the Kindle so I can't give away the whole story here on my blog. :-P

Other than that, I just have one thought for the coming weeks. Be nice to the retail employees on Black Friday. Realize that most of them are working (in the case of Best Buy starting at midnight) for ridiculously long hours and everyone in the store is going to act like a jerk. They were also taken away from their families early on Thanksgiving to go to a store and serve pushy people who want to buy products that generally have no margin. Also realize that if you threaten to not buy something, they could literally yell back into the line, "Who wants this?" and have twenty people respond. Your couple hundred dollars with an overall five dollars of margin isn't worth it.

I also hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving and pleasant holiday season.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Attack of the Mailer Daemon

Disclaimer: This story has nothing to do with Geek Squad. I was helping an old lady that I know with her computer problems.

So earlier today I went to help an old lady with some computer issues she told me she has been having. I try to be a good neighbor when I get opportunities to do stuff like that. She's in her mid-80s and has figured out a lot on her own.

When I got there, she had a list of ten things she wanted fixed on her computer. They were things like "when I type emails, for some reason they delete lines of text or close themselves." I had her type up an email and figured out that her wrists keep brushing the touchpad of her laptop when she types. She has a wireless mouse so I disabled the touchpad for her.

One of her problems towards the end of the list was that this guy kept harassing her via email and blocked her emails from going through. We looked in her inbox and she showed me a few messages from the mailer-daemon. I was about to explain what was going on but she wasn't done explaining the problem and how much of a jerk this guy was so I continued to listen.

Apparently this mailer-daemon guy blocked her emails any time she wanted to send something out to her daughter. She was very frustrated and had sent him six emails in response begging him to let her emails through. She let me read them. I really wish I had a copy of all six. Basically she called the mailer-daemon out for being a jerk, for not delivering her email, for taking advantage of a poor, old lady, and for depriving her daughter of the autobiography she was trying to send as an attachment. (She was also very worried that the mailer-daemon jerk had a copy of her autobiography now and could potentially publish it before she did). The last email she sent even threatened the mailer-daemon with the wrath of a just god who always protected old ladies.

At this point I had to stop her. I was able to keep a straight face somehow. I explained that the mailer-daemon wasn't a person. The mailer-daemon is just an automated response tool that sends you an email when it can't reach the email address you were trying to send to. I asked her if she was 100% certain that her daughter's email address was correct. She was. I then sent a test email from her email account to mine. It went through fine with no mailer-daemon response. At this point I asked her if she would call her daughter and ask her for her email address. After a while, I finally convinced her that the only possible option left was that the email address we were sending to was wrong. She called her daughter and found out that her daughter did have a different email address and had never even had one through comcast (where we were trying to send to). We finally got her autobiography through to her daughter, who confirmed over the phone that she had received it.

So after a good laugh, (I know... I'm a bad person) I decided to look up the origin of mailer-daemons. Apparently daemon comes from demon when its defined as "a useful and helpful spirit." You can look into the full origin of the term here

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jehovah and Hades: Chapter 3 Preview

Chapter 3 is finally finished. I'll give the first three paragraphs here on my blog (keep in mind that I am going to sell this on the Kindle when it's finished, so this is probably the last giveaway). I'll begin work on Chapter 4 some time next week as I have a paper and two mid terms to get through this week.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Randall J. Morris
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or book reviews.


       Hades felt outmatched. There were 12 attack robots surrounding the room that powered on and started moving towards the brothers when Jehovah powered on the lights. “You better shut most of those off soon; I doubt this knife is gonna do much here.” “You scared Hades?” Jehovah asked, not looking up from the computer but allowing a grin to spread across his face. “I need a while and talking to me is distracting. Go smash some stuff like you said you wanted to.” Hades again scanned the room for anything he had missed before. He realized that his salvation was lying on the floor not far from Jehovah: his axe.
            Hades’ axe was one of a kind. For his tenth birthday, his father had tracked down the bearded axe of Erik the Red which was used in his conquest of Greenland and then by Leif Erikson in his voyages to North America. Jacob had experts confirm its authenticity discreetly using the Icelandic sagas and other records before attending the auction. He then spent a small fortune to acquire the axe. It would have cost him even more if anyone bidding had known that the axe was a famous piece of Viking history. It was another two years before Hades could fully lift and use the axe in combat, but he had practiced with it every day since then. It was the one weapon Hades refused to let Jehovah modify in any way.
            Hades tucked the machete into his belt and picked up his axe. An axe this perfect needed both hands for perfect utilization. Hades could think of only one effective strategy for this situation. He was going to find the weakest attack robot, take it down, and then use its carcass as a shield to protect Jehovah long enough for him to shut the others down.

So that's all you get. Let me know what you think and I will keep everyone posted on the progress of the book and when I finally release it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Geek Love

So I was on my way to Provo today for class and I got bored. I started thinking up geeky words and stuff that rhymed with them. It kind of turned into a love poem and I just polished it up in a word document. I got a good laugh from it (I laugh at myself a lot actually...) so I figured I'd share it here. Feel free to let me know what you think, but I'm still gonna think it's pretty funny regardless. Also, if you come up with anymore geeky little two line pairs... let me know.

Geek Love

I really didn’t care for this lovesick condition
So I locked up my heart with WPA encryption
Then one day you said that I was a cute guy
And it sent a spike to my power supply
Now I have no need for DHCP
Cuz I’m stuck to you like a static IP
I’m glad I have someone cool to hold hands with
And what makes it better; we’re on the same bandwidth
When I tell a good joke you give me a high five
And my pulse races faster than a solid state drive
I’ve been alone but now I want more
So let’s get together and take life dual-core

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Palamas and Philosophy

I have a couple of updates. First off, I finally started working on Chapter 3 of Jehovah and Hades. I'm only a few paragraphs in but I have the whole chapter outlined. I'll be working on it a little more later this evening. Second, I published my blog and it's available for 99 cents a month on the Kindle (and only the Kindle, Amazon won't let it go to anything else when it comes to blogs). I don't really expect anyone to subscribe to it that way (since it's available for free on the internet) but here's the link History and Technology. The cover art is finished and I'll post it but not until the book's completion.

So I felt like posting a paper I had to write for my Byzantine History class. It was a short paper (only five pages) that had to do with Gregory Palamas's book The Triads and his thoughts on God. I compared it to other philosophical approaches (mostly using wikipedia, this paper wasn't worth a ton of points and I got an A). Almost none of my history papers were this easy to write but the topic is fairly interesting.

“Palamas and Philosophy”

            There have been many different approaches from theologians, writers, and philosophers that have moved toward a similar goal: proving God exists. For many, faith and logic seem to be diametrically opposed to one another. There have been some attempts by various holy men to prove the existence of God through logic from many different angles. Palamas took a different approach that deserves consideration as it contrasts with the philosopher’s views of the time but aims at the same ultimate goal. He makes a distinction between the essence and the energy of God and claims that the energy of God can be sensed and felt but the essence of God is something unapproachable. The energy of God could be felt through spiritual experiences and the light emanating from God also proves that His essence exists. In the argument between experience and logic, the two are rarely combined as a proof for God. Philosophers have agreed in many cases through logical proofs that there must be a God because if there were no God, it would lead to a logical contradiction or they lead you to a point that would logically assume a God’s existence, but most philosophers of this type discount experience of God’s energy as any type of proof for his existence.
            Palamas introduces his argument for God’s energy proving His essence by using the sun as a prime example. His argument starts with a basic fact of life, “for each visible thing is visible, not in its inner being, but according to what surrounds it: It is not the essence of the sun which the eye perceives, but that which surrounds the essence.”[1] We don’t separate the object from its attributes or the things that surround it. In the case of the sun, the light rays are not a different sun, but the medium through which we can see and feel the sun.[2] Palamas explains that the way to comprehend God’s essence is to prepare the mind and body to conquer passions and physical desires. “The human mind also, and not only the angelic, transcends itself, and by victory over the passions acquires an angelic form. It, too, will attain to that light and will become worthy of a supernatural vision of God, not seeing the divine essence, but seeing God by a revelation appropriate and analogous to Him.”[3] According to Palamas, the ultimate goal of worship is not a vision in which one sees God, but a vision in which one understands God through the light emanating from Him. In that way, worshippers could truly become one with God as multiple apostles and prophets explained in the scriptures.
            The light of God actually is comprehended within when a person becomes a follower of Christ and “contemplates His glory.”[4] Though the mind is involved, all intellectual activity is supposed to cease before a union of God is attainable. “This is why every believer has to separate off God from all His creatures, for the cessation of all intellectual activity and the resulting union with the light from on high is an experience and a divinising end, granted solely to those who have purified their hearts and received grace.”[5] I like the idea that in order to understand God, you have to focus on the things taught by the prophets and apostles and you can’t obtain that state through analysis, logic, or reason. It’s a state you arrive at without immense stress trying to comprehend something that you can’t comprehend fully.
            The end result of the method Palamas describes deserves attention as well. Since you can’t get there through intellectual means or through use of your physical senses, what exactly is one experiencing when drawing close to God’s energy? Palamas agrees that all have an inherent intellect, but also explains “that our mind possesses both an intellectual power which permits it to see intelligible things, and also a capacity for that union which surpasses the nature of the intellect and allies it to that which transcends it.”[6] So built into us is the potential to surpass our intellect through union with a Being that surpasses and transcends our understanding (at least through use of our intellectual mind). Following the chain set up by Palamas actually leads to a belief that seems logical and reasonable but that can’t be approached by either logic or reason.
            Most philosophers tend to separate religion and belief from emotional experience in order to prove their existence through logic alone. Many different logical proofs exist developed to prove through deductive logic that God exists, but I’ve found most of them to be lacking. In the battle between experience and reason, philosophers have crossed over in to pure logic in an attempt to eradicate non-believers on their own battleground. It opens them up for attacks from many people who have the same or more experience using logic as a weapon. It is interesting, however, to see how some have separated emotion and experience from God and have stood behind their arguments with some degree of proof for a very long time.
            One of the first proofs of God goes all the way back to the time of the ancient Greeks. Plato and Aristotle were among the first to develop a cosmological argument as proof of a God (and it was later used by others such as St. Thomas Aquinas). Both argued, though in somewhat different ways, that everything in existence had to come from some “First Cause.” Plato’s argument was based on motion, he claimed that all motion “was ‘imparted motion’ that required some kind of ‘self-originated motion’ to set it in motion and to maintain that motion.”[7] The “self-originated motion” from which all motion borrows is God. This could be extended into the realm of Palamas if one considers motion and wisdom (Aristotle’s basis for the cosmological argument) as being energies of God. God put the laws of motion into place and must have all wisdom so, in a way, both of these can be considered evidence of his essence. In fact, Palamas uses basis for a similar idea on the statement from St. Basil who said “He who has been set in motion by the Spirit has become an eternal movement, a holy creature.”[8] He basically meant that those who move with the Holy Spirit can be seen as unified with God and, in a way, as His energy.
            The argument I found to be most similar to Palamas was Descartes’ ontological argument.[9] He argued that:
  1. Whatever I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.
  2. I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.
  3. Therefore, God exists.[10]
This seems like a rational explanation of something Palamas said couldn’t be expressed rationally, though some key differences exist. Descartes’ idea is limited to God’s existence being contained within His energies while Palamas’ argument assumes God exists based on the idea that He can be felt when you unify with His energies. Both arguments, however, go back to a part giving evidence of a greater whole. Palamas, however, wanted people to experience God’s energy to believe in His essence. Descartes used a logical train of thought to say that God’s existence is inherent in the idea of God. This is the closest philosophical argument I could find that comes close to agreeing with Palamas, though they approach the conclusion from very opposite angles.
            Thomas Aquinas used humans, in a roundabout way, as the starting point for his proof of God. He argued that all things possess what they do to some degree. For example, a stove possesses heat but things both colder and hotter exist. He then moved to speculating that for every attribute or characteristic, something possesses it to the fullest extent (so continuing with the previous example, the hottest thing in existence). From there he explained that there should exist some Being or entity that possesses all attributes to the maximum possible degree and this is God.[11] Palamas actually made an argument similar to Aquinas in this respect. He said “But since God is entirely present in each of the divine energies, we name Him from each of them, although it is clear that He transcends all of them.”[12] Palamas is arguing that God does possess all knowledge so all-knowing can be an appropriate title for God but it doesn’t describe all of what God is. The possession of all knowledge is one of the energies that emanates from God, but one can’t feel His essence simply through God’s all-knowingness. To experience the essence, one must unite with all of God’s perfected energies.
            It seems that Palamas found a comfortable position between the rational and the emotional in his search for proof of God. He claimed that God couldn’t be fully understood by one or the other and we can never truly approach His essence but through His energy. His argument has taken its place with that of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Aquinas as something worth considering when searching for God and His nature. Whether or not he was right seems irrelevant when one considers that pondering God’s attributes and teachings in an attempt to unite with Him can only lead to good.

[1] Palamas, Gregory, The Triads, ed. Nicholas Gendle, pg. 73. (I’m using the page numbers provided by the document that’s posted on Blackboard.)
[2] Palamas, Gregory, The Triads, ed. Nicholas Gendle, pg. 73.
[3] Ibid., pg. 24.
[4] Ibid., pg. 25.
[5] Ibid., pg. 26.
[6] Palamas, Gregory, The Triads, ed. Nicholas Gendle, pg. 27.
[8] Palamas, Gregory, The Triads, ed. Nicholas Gendle, pg. 62.
[10] Descartes, René. "Meditation V: On the Essence of Material Objects and More on God's Existence."
[12] Palamas, Gregory, The Triads, ed. Nicholas Gendle, pg. 64.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bull God and The Devil

The Bull God and the Devil
So that's what my buddy Doug has come up with so far after me and him chatted for a few days about what I wanted on the cover. Initially we were just going to go with drawings of Jehovah all geeked out and Hades smashing something, but I really like where this cover is going. The idea for a half bull and half skull was mine, but Doug pulled it off pretty good with his crazy drawing skills. He's currently working on it with his graphics editing software too. So why a bull for Jehovah?

Jehovah as a bull
Jehovah was actually traditionally viewed as a bull god even back in the times of the Israelites. This article  -Worship of Yahweh as a Bull- goes into the reasons of why the Isrealites saw Jehovah as a bull and what evidence in the Bible supports it. I'll paraphrase in case you don't feel like reading that article:

-The Caananite god Baal was a bull god and the Israelites lived next to them for a long time. The Israelites kind of took the idea of a bull god from them but declared Yahweh to be their superior version. (That's just one theory)

-Numbers 24:8 says that god "has the strength of a unicorn" in the KJV. Other versions render this as "the horns of a wild ox."

-1 Kings 12:28-29 The Isrealites set up two "calves of gold" in Beth-el and Dan. They call them the gods that brought them out of Egypt (making the idols a representation of Jehovah). Jeroboam actually did this to represent Jehovah because he didn't want the ten tribes returning to Jerusalem for worship, as the kingdoms had just split and he wanted them to have no unnecessary interaction with Judah.

-Exodus 32:3-4 Aaron makes the Isrealites a molten calf to worship and the people said "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." (again a reference to the molten calf representing Jehovah's role)

-Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians (who conquered the Israelites), is known as the young sun bull.

I think Hades being represented by a skull is pretty obvious as he's the lord of Sheol / Hell. People go there when they die. Hence the skull. I don't have an article for that because it's more in the realm of common knowledge. Feel free to let me know what you think of the cover so far or comment on anything else relevant to the topic.

Jehovah and Hades is available on Amazon. Check it out here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Vikings and North America: L'Anse aux Meadows

To give you an update on Jehovah and Hades, I just barely started chapter 3. Work and school leave little time to do much else. I also don't yet have an update as far as the cover art goes EDIT: Cover Art has been completed. Thanks for everyone's interest in Jehovah and Hades 1/27/12


What I feel like talking about today doesn't relate to Jehovah and Hades. Well it kind of relates to Hades. Something mentioned in my European Expansion class got me thinking about Vikings again. I took a Scandinavian History class a few years back and had to write a paper on... well maybe a little backstory first. In my European Expansion class, we were talking about Norse explorers and the effect Viking explorations, pillages, and settlements had on the world before the time period we generally discuss in the class. He brought up the one Viking settlement found in North America back in the 1960s called L'Anse aux Meadows. That's what I wrote a paper on back in Scandinavian history. He went over a brief explanation of the Viking sagas (Erik's saga and I forget what the other one is called) and I was surprised how little most of the people in the class knew about the Vikings. I know... that's not really fair. I took a class on Viking history and most of them probably hadn't. So before I launch into L'Anse aux Meadows, here's some cool Viking stuff off the top of my head gathered from various history classes I've taken at BYU:

Areas Vikings raided / pillaged / settled / influenced:

-England (way early in its history there was a king over England named Canute or Knud)
-Russia (the name Russia derives from the word Rus which means red, or the color of the Viking's hair)
-Byzantine Empire (the Varangians (a Viking tribe) were actually the Byzantine emperor's personal bodyguard)
-Greenland (settled by Erik the Red who had to flee after killing a fellow Norseman after a dispute about a borrowed item)
-L'Anse aux Meadows (a confirmed Viking settlement in Canada)
-some parts of North America (which follows from their settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows, but I don't know of any other confirmed Viking sites in North America - generally thought to be associated with Leif Erikson)

So there you go. They had a pretty big effect on the world. I'm pretty sure I even missed a couple places. Anyways, I found the old paper on L'Anse aux Meadows I wrote. I'll go ahead and post it for fun:

Copyright © 2011 by Randall J. Morris
All rights reserved. This essay or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or book reviews.

“L’Anse aux Meadows – is it the gate to the Viking Vinland settlements?”

          L’Anse aux Meadows is the only known Viking settlement in North America. It was discovered in 1960 by a Norwegian explorer, Helge Ingstad, and his wife Anne. They were led there by George Decker who was the first to notice “overgrown bumps and ridges that looked as if they might be building remains.”[i] Helge and Anne excavated the site from 1960 to 1968 and found many artifacts believed to be closely related to Iceland and Greenland, the home of the Vikings.[ii] Among their findings were large iron boat nails or rivets, stone oil lamps, ring-headed pins used to fasten Norse cloaks, small spindle whorls from a handheld spindle, a small whetstone, and scissors. The site is dated to approximately 1,000 years ago, about the time Leif Ericson is said to have established settlements in “Vinland” or North America. The Ingstads were able to excavate a total of eight buildings, some of which were used for dwellings and others for daily work. The artifacts found in each building were able to identify whether the structure was a house or a workshop. The group of buildings included “an iron smithy containing a forge and iron slag, a carpentry workshop which generated wood debris, and a specialized boat repair area containing worn rivets.”[iii] Did they discover the missing port to Vinland or simply a Norse settlement that is totally detached from the Vikings and the Vinland founded in the Icelandic sagas?
Evidence shows that L’Anse aux Meadows shared many elements with Norse villages in Greenland and Iceland from around the same time period and it is speculated that it could have been a part of Ericson’s Vinland because of the time period that Leif Ericson was said to have been in America (according to the sagas). Some archaeologists believe, however, that L’Anse aux Meadows isn’t the Vinland from the sagas, but “an exploration base and winter camp for expeditions heading farther south to the real Vinland, which may have extended to the St. Lawrence River and New Brunswick.”[iv] Food plays a large role in this speculation. For instance, Vinland was so named because of the prevalence of wild grapes that supposedly grew there and wild grapes are not found in the vicinity of L’Anse aux Meadows. Food remains uncovered at the excavation site included butternuts which “do not grow naturally north of New Brunswick and their presence probably indicates that the Norse inhabitants travelled farther south where they obtained the nuts.”[v]
Although L’Anse aux Meadows doesn’t contain the wild grapes for which Vinland was named, it can be argued that “Vinland was a country, not a place - this site would have marked the entrance to Vinland, which probably extended to the St. Lawrence River and New Brunswick.”[vi] The latest research in L’Anse aux Meadows shows that it was primarily a boat repair facility where boats could be mended and made ready for the journey back to Greenland. As such, it played a vital role for the Vinland settlement because it provided the only possible link back to the Viking homeland. L’Anse aux Meadows seems to be a site inhabited mostly during the winter. Enough people stayed there to gather food to last throughout the winter which allowed more time to explore Vinland and made a return trip to Greenland to gather supplies unnecessary.
The largest problem with identifying the exact location of Vinland is that the only documents that describe it are the “sagas” which were passed down orally until copied by scribes. Of those written copies, none of the originals remain so we are left with copies of copies of orally handed down stories. Since the sagas have been filtered over and over through retelling and recopying, it is hard to know exact details from the original recounting of a voyage. Who knows how many details were added or subtracted to the account to make it more interesting, sound better, flow more fluidly, or simply by mistake? To add to the confusion, all the sagas basically are derived from two Icelandic sagas (the oldest remaining copies) which “contradict each other on basic issues and internally are vague and contain nonhistorical passages.”[vii] Due to this fact, many Vinland locations have been proposed but none have been validated by Norse artifacts, with the exception of L’Anse aux Meadows. Even though the Icelandic sagas may not be the most reliable of sources, it is still admitted by most scholars that the artifacts found at L’Anse aux Meadows prove that Norsemen did come to America and establish settlements, even if those settlements were only used for a brief time.

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[i] Parks Canada, “Discovery of the Site and Initial Excavations (1960-1968)”, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada, 9 December 2008, Available from Accessed 19 March 2009.
[ii] “L’Anse aux Meadows: Ancient Viking settlement”, 2002 , Available from, Accessed 19 March 2009.
[iii] “L’Anse aux Meadows”, 26 March 2009, Available from'Anse_Aux_Meadows, Accessed 19 March 2009.
[iv] Ibid., Accessed 20 March 2009.
[v] Ibid., Accessed 20 March 2009.
[vi] Parks Canada, “Is L’Anse Aux Meadows Vinland?”, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada, 9 December 2008, Available from Accessed 23 March 2009.
[vii] Douglas R. McManis, “The Traditions of Vinland,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (December 1969): pp. 797-814.
[viii] M.L. Fernald, “The Natural History of Ancient Vinland and its Geographical Significance,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society 47 (1915): No. 9 pp. 686-687.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Robert McGhee, “Contact between Native North Americans and the Medieval Norse: A Review of the Evidence,” American Antiquity 49 (January 1984): No. 1 pp. 4-26.
[xv] E.A. Williamsen, “Boundaries of Differences in the Vinland Sagas,” Scandinavian Studies 77 (2005): Iss. 4 pp. 451-478.
[xvi] Ibid.
[xvii] Ibid.
[xviii] Ibid.
[xix] Ibid.
[xx] Ibid.
[xxi] Ibid.
[xxii] Iver A. Langmowen, “The Norse Discovery of America,” Neurosurgery online 57 (2005): Iss. 6 pp. 1076-1086.
[xxiii] M.L. Fernald, “The Natural History of Ancient Vinland and its Geographical Significance,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society 47 (1915): No. 9 pp. 686-687.
[xxiv] “Viking”, 25 March 2009, Available from, Accessed 1 April 2009.