Article ID: CBB816628342

Wearing the wolf skin: psychiatry and the phenomenon of the berserker in medieval Scandinavia (2021)

unapi

This paper examines the berserker, a frenzied warrior attested to in both the written and material sources of medieval Scandinavia, and elucidates the characteristics that define him. It critiques explanations for the phenomenon offered in the existing historiography and whether this can be explained as a psychiatric diagnosis. It concludes that the berserker cannot be simply defined as a culturally bound or other psychiatric syndrome, or accounted for by psychogenic drugs alone. Instead, it proposes that berserk frenzy constituted a transitory dissociative state shared among a small warband steeped in religious/spiritual ideology. In entering this state, the psyche of the berserker was reconstituted in an almost archetypal pattern. Further research is required into this phenomenon in other contexts, including modern conflicts.

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Authors & Contributors
Waller, John C.
Kraemer, Sebastian
Houston, R. A.
Deutsch, Yaacov
Cho, Philip S.
Kressing, Frank
Journals
History of Psychiatry
History of the Human Sciences
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Historical Journal
East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Medizin, Gesellschaft, und Geschichte
Publishers
Editions EHESS
Oxford University Press
Columbia University
Concepts
Medicine and religion
Psychiatry
Rituals
Violence
Medicine and culture
Medicine and the military; medicine in war
People
Foucault, Michel
Morselli, Enrico
Yap, Pow Meng
Time Periods
19th century
16th century
20th century
20th century, early
17th century
18th century
Places
China
Italy
Great Britain
Japan
France
Europe
Institutions
Tavistock Clinic
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