Although Viking raiders and warriors certainly earned their reputation for brutality, most of the Old Norse people lived rather mundane domestic lives. They were largely subsistence farmers who traded for what they could not produce, and when prospects seemed better elsewhere, they moved to new areas. Sometimes they created new settlements in previously uninhabited lands, such as Iceland, but most of the time, they were the new kids on the block. You might be surprised at how well they got along with their new neighbours.
Forgetfulness is as dangerous as hate. When we forget the past, we look back only to find a trail of empty boots.
In Link Roundup #3.1, we took a look at the everyday roles of Viking women. This time, we’re going to consider some of the less ordinary roles that women may—or may not—have played in Viking societies.
There is a lot of curiosity, fantasy, and misinformation about the roles of Viking women and whether or not there really were female warriors in Old Norse societies. In this two-part link roundup, I will try to give you a broader view of the lives of Viking women, starting with everyday activities and expectations.
The first duty of a Viking household was to show hospitality to any and all who came to their door. That white nationalists try to use the Old Norse religion to justify hatred against Muslims, immigrants, and refugees is an affront to the pagan heritage they claim to be protecting.
Trying to understand the Vikings takes some patience and careful research. They built homes of wood and turf, and their clothes were mostly wool and linen, so much of the physical evidence of their travels and lifestyle has been ravaged by natural processes. Viking societies depended heavily on oral communication, and many of the texts we have today were written down a century or more after the Viking Age. Determining how the information may have changed over that time is tricky business, and we can only guess how many stories were completely lost over the years. One story that has survived is the Christianization of Iceland. But did the Icelanders turn to Christianity out of fear of volcanic eruptions, as some researchers have suggested?
Life in Viking Age Scandinavia was harsh and unforgiving. To survive in a region with a long, cold winter and a relatively short growing season, you have to be savvy and tough, and sometimes you had to make hard decisions. You had to work from morning until night to get all your work done, and when winter came, you hoped you had done enough. As you can imagine, this had significant effects on the lifecycles of the Viking peoples.