Who were the Vikings?
Vikings were warrior men from the Scandinavia region of the world including specifically Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Viking is linked to naval expeditions or naval raids. A member of such a trip is called a Viking. Typically it is thought that the Viking period began as early as 700 A.D. and ended somewhere in 1100 A.D. Women warriors were known as Valkyries. At the peak of their influence Vikings reached as far east as the Byzantine Empire and as far west as Iceland and Greenland.
Warring or to ‘Go a Viking:’
Viking expeditions were one of two things. Firstly, Viking could be referring to a mercantile seafarer dealing in commerce and trade. Secondly and most commonly referred to today when brought up, Viking relates to warriors seeking vengeance or urged into the act by need/greed to find slaves and other worldly goods. The term to ‘go a Viking’ specifically relates to warring or act of raiding and pillaging.
Longships, or dragon ships, are the warring vessel. They had sails and room for oarsmen so they could battle and move without interference from the wind. Longships are shallow and narrow, and this design aids in Viking expeditions by making it easy to land and deploy troops.
A knarr vessel was roomier and could hold far more cargo than a longship. It did not have room for oarsmen. This ship was specifically used in trade and commerce.
Horned helmets were never a part of Viking apparel. Sorry to say, the idea of a horned helmet being Viking is merely a myth. It was dreamt up as part of the romanticism revival to associate them with Classical antiquity. A horned helmet would be too unmanageable in battle because of the ungainly weight of the horns.
Steam-houses (saunas), dips into geothermic pools, and regular bathing occurred in Viking culture. It is thought they bathed every Saturday as it is referred to as the washing day still in Scandinavian countries. As part of their ablutions Vikings washed hands and faces every morning. They also had a wide diversity in grooming items including soap. The soap was used to clean their hair as well as strip it of color to make it blond. Vikings are not the unclean barbarians we imagine them to be, perhaps however they were blonder.
There were three classes of men in Viking civilization.
- The Thrall – an unfree servant whose status was marked by a collar around the neck and short hair
- The Jarl – a member of the aristocracy or nobility, was a man of high birth and includes kings
- The Bondi - included farmers, craftsmen, landowners, and other freeborn people
A girl or woman had no right to choose her husband. However, if she was under her brother’s protection and rule she could declare rights to marry the third suitor to seek for her hand.
A free woman in Viking culture owned her children and could divorce without stigmatism associated with other cultures of the time a man who was a bad husband. All she had to do was declare herself so at the door to their home and at their martial bed.
The gravest insult for a woman is a slap to the face done in public. The insult goes beyond her and impugns on the family’s honor.
Viking Weddings and Romance:
Vikings would marry on Friday or Frigg Day. Frigg was the name of their goddess for marriage, thus explaining the tradition.
Courtship was frowned upon and poetry expressly forbidden as it was thought that the wording could enthrall a woman. Only the goddess Freyja could be given poetry.
Women were expected to be unsullied or virginal before marriage and after display fidelity within her marriage.
The ring a man gave to a woman was highly important as it was indicative of the respect and esteem he held for her.
Weddings were rarely conducted for lovers. Typically a marriage was arranged between the groom and her family or between both families. Occasionally a marriage was served as a ‘peace-pledge,’ which means the marriage is a sign of cease fire between feuding families.
The wedding ritual consisted of exchanging swords between man and wife. The groom gave his sword to his bride as a legacy to be passed down to their first born son. The bride then gave a sword that represented their union and future family to the groom. It was then his duty to take care of the sword as he would take care of her and their children. Vows were then said over the groom’s new sword to cement the union.
The Wedding Night and Morning:
The bride wore a bridal crown and it was in their bedroom chamber that this crown was removed by her husband as a symbol of their sexual union. After this symbolic removal the wedding witnesses would leave the couple alone to consummate the vows.
The morning after, once again before witnesses, the groom gave his wife a gift. This gift marked that the marriage was complete. He then would give her the keys to his home and all the buildings he owned. The keys represented her dominion over his holdings and declared her as his lady.
Vikings in Romance Novels:
Nearly always Viking romance novels contain references to the mythology and religion of the time period. They take place in the Scandinavian region, sometimes including the regions within the wide reach of the Vikings. Without fail Viking romance novels include a Viking warrior. He is strong, robust, and very masculine. You could say he is the epitome of alpha males. Standard themes of Viking romance include bride stealing, kidnapping, slavery to freedom archetypes, enemies to lovers, and strong women. Rape also comes up in Viking romances whether or not it actually occurs due to the nature and background of the culture. Viking romances are easily recognizable by their titles which usually include the word Viking.