You went berserk … you’ll probably be liable to fits of it all your life.Rudyard KiplingTo be berserk is to be on the edge of control. The term came into American headlines with the massacre of civilians in the Vietnam War and the rash of workplace and school rampages in the 1980s, but the idea is venerable. Dictionaries define the berserk state as frenzied, violent, or deranged. The original berserker was “A wild Norse warrior of great strength and ferocious courage, who fought on the battlefield with a frenzied fury known as ‘the berserker rage’; often a lawless bravo or freebooter.” The term may refer to a Norse hero who “never fought in armor but in his ber sark, which means ‘bearskin’ in the Nordic languages. Thus the term berserk became synonymous with reckless courage. During the Saga time in Iceland and in the Scandinavian countries (AD 870–1030) … the Berserks, apparently bearing the same name as the legendary warrior, arose as a predatory group of brawlers and killers who disrupted the peace of the Viking community repeatedly.”1 Some sources suggest that the Viking fury was a temporary psychosis induced by eating the mushroom Amanita muscaria (Fabing, 239).
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