Being sent away from the comforts of your civilian life and then placed in the extreme conditions of the battlefield is a drastic change and can take a toll on you. Most of the time, history talks about how the soldiers were nourished with nutrient-packed chocolates and biscuits in their rations, providing them with coffee or cigarettes or maybe booze. Or how they were prepared for the grueling conditions through training before they were deployed. However, the use of mind-altering drugs or substances in warfare to help increase the soldiers’ performance was a detail usually left out.

Viking’s Berserkers

The Viking berserker could be traced back as far as the ninth century. These fierce Norse Warriors would fight in a trance-like fury that made them seem indestructible from any weapon that their enemies would use against them. They would growl like beasts, froth at the mouth, and attack the enemies with their humanly impossible strength that could maim and kill anyone and anything in their path.

Viking Berserker. (KaOokamiCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As the Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson wrote in his Ynglinga saga,

His (Odin’s) men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them.