In AD 922, a historical account was written of the ceremony surrounding the cremation of a Viking chieftain. The ritual described reads like the goriest of horror tales, an unbelievable series of events that just keep getting worse. It all begins with a supposedly obvious question posed to the male and female slaves of the dead chieftain: "Which among you wish to die with him?" It's impossible to say whether the slaves were coerced or brainwashed or if they truly saw this act as an honor worthy of their lives. Either way, one of this particular chieftain's female slaves eagerly replied "I will." From that point on, she was under guard lest she have second thoughts. Her only human contacts were the servants assigned to wash her feet. On the day of the ritual, the party gathered at the rivers edge where the body was moored in a boat. A woman known as the Angel of Death took charge of the ceremony, removing the chieftain's clothes and redressing him in a full set of formal dress. Fruit, herbs and meat were thrown into the boat alongside the body, followed by the chieftain's weapons. And then things took a turn for the macabre.
A dog was taken and cut in two; its remains were thrown into the boat. Next, two horses were driven until they sweat and then hacked into pieces with swords and thrown in after the dog. The same was done with two cows, a cock and finally a hen. Considering the trend, you may be very worried about the fate of the slave girl by now. But she wouldn't get off so easy.
First, she visited every tent in the campground and had sexual intercourse with each household master. Then she was strapped to a frame and lifted up and down several times in order that she could report back on the pleasant state of the forthcoming Paradise. She was then carried to the ship, where she was given two beakers of funeral beer to drink before the Angel of Death "helped" her onto the boat and into the tent within which the chieftain's body lay. As the gathered audience beat their shields to cover the sounds of protest that may discourage future volunteers, six men followed the slave girl into the chieftain's tomb in order to have one last orgy. When they'd finished, the Angel of Death placed a noose around the slave girl's neck and instructed two of the men to pull it tight. During the strangulation, the Angel of Death repeatedly plunged a broad-bladed dagger repeatedly into the girl's body for good measure. The party then abandoned ship, and the chieftain's closet relative had the honor of lighting it on fire and setting it to sail.
Whether or not the slave girl regretted her decision or savored her fifteen minutes of fame will never be known. It speaks a great deal to the power of propaganda that the dozens of slaves who watched the flaming boat drift downriver may have all been jealously wondering when they'd have their turn.