Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Vikings.

My book, Fire & Ice is both a contemporary romance and timeslip love story set in Viking times, so I have been researching the Vikings for a while. Currently, I am trying my hand at another Viking romance.

Viking doll and books
Viking doll and books at the book launch

What we know about them is from the writing of their enemies, so it is hardly an unbiased picture. These churchmen who were often the victims of the raids wrote in their chronicles about them. They disliked and distrusted everything about these pagans.

 

stone castle wall surrounded with green grass
Churches were easy to raid

A bit like asking your ex-partner for a character reference.

The Viking had an oral culture, so they left little in the way of writing. Most of what we know is from the monks or Arab sources.

Viking did employ skalds who told stores and recited poems.

Here are some things you may not know about them

Firstly, they did not call themselves ‘ Vikings’, that happened centuries later. They called themselves .’ Norse’ or ‘North men.’ They came from Scandinavia. Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Viking means raider and many were peaceful farmers or craftsmen.

Viking potter

They didn’t wear horned helmets, sorry ‘Hagar the Horrible.’ The horned helmet was a costume designers’ idea for the staging of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle of operas. If a Viking had a helmet, it was just a domed metal one, but many simply wore a leather cap and often leather armour too.

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Similar to the helmets the Normans wore

Vikings were dirty and smelly. No, they were very hygienic compare to most other people, they bathed at least once a week. Many washed each morning. Most possessed a comb and were scrupulous about grooming. This made them attractive to women and might have inspired some home-grown jealousy. Both men and women wore jewellery, rings, arm rings, necklaces, charms.

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Thor’s hammer amulet

Viking women were not equal as sexual double standards did apply. Pre-marital sex was allowed for both sexes, provided they were discreet, and it did not end in pregnancy. Men could keep more than one woman as concubines called frilles as well as bed slaves. The children of concubines could be recognised as legitimate. Illegitimate children ruined a woman’s chance of marriage and were a burden to her family.

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A few women were fighters, most were busy with a myriad of domestic tasks.

Divorces were mostly instigated by the women.  Reasons could be lack of attention – he was consistently absent-three years was considered desertion, or he was cruel, struck her, he was inclined towards men, or he didn’t satisfy her in bed.

antique bills business cash
She kept her dowry or bride price

However, Viking women had their own money and could own land.

Vikings gave us names for some of the days of the week, Wednesday ( Woden’s/Odin’s Day )Thursday ( Thor’s Day) Friday ( Frigg ‘s or Freya’s Day.)

A Viking carried his bride over the threshold of their new home and into their new life.  She wore a circlet of flowers on her head. Each presented the other with a sword, his from grave goods, the sword of his ancestors. He was entrusting his lineage to her and she to him. The term honeymoon has evolved from the Viking custom of giving the bride and groom a month’s worth of sweet ale. That is the ale which is sweetened with honey.viking-ship-in-the-water