We've seen some of this before in other setting on Vikings, but it was front and foremost last night. The gist of the plot was that Ragnar wanted to sacrifice the priest - I guessed that early on - but his continuing belief in Christianity, regardless of what he might say, makes the priest unsuitable to go to the gods. So someone else in Ragnar's group steps up.
Sacrifice was practiced by many pre-Judeo-Christian religions, including the ancient Aztecs on our side of the world as well the Vikings. The roots come from people wanting to have some control over who dies in their midst. In the hope that the gods require a given number of human deaths, deliberate human sacrifice may give the gods this number, and therein keep beloved members of the family and community safe. Whatever else more progressive religions may have going for and against them, their disavowal of this harrowing practice was a big step forward in civilized human evolution.
I give Vikings credit for putting up this disturbing episode. It's easy to romanticize primitive cultures of the past, and certainly Norse culture had a lot to commend it. But, in addition to being savagely lethal raiders, raping and plundering and killing, the Vikings also killed their own.
And, tragically, that impulse is still not completely gone. Whether kamikazi bombers in World War II or suicide bombers today, the urge to make the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of national or religious causes is still with us. In fact, the current examples are far worse than what the Vikings did, since they by and large took only themselves in these sacrifices.
Vikings continues to provide thoughtful, powerful television. The season 1 finale will be on next week. I feel like saying, "Vikings, we hardly knew ye," but I'm glad to see the series will be back for a second helping.
See also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4: Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash