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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Marriage and Divorce - #TidbitThursday

This week we'll investigate the concept of marriage and divorce in Viking society.

Women enjoyed a freer lifestyle among Vikings than in some other societies during this time. They were almost considered equal to men. They exercised power over almost all aspects of the household, including overseeing the servants and slaves. She had to manage the production of clothing (spinning wool, weaving, stitchery, etc), the preparation of meals, cleaning, brewing, and more. They could inherit and own land and even engage in commerce and trade. Interestingly, a woman could not vote.

One example of a woman exerting her freedoms was Aud the Deep Minded who was the widow of King Olaf the White of Dublin. She sailed to Iceland and purchased land. She then directed the cultivating and farming of that land.

Girls married at young ages starting around 12.

Since betrothals were often treated like business arrangements, for couples to marry, a man or his family had to pay a bride-price of cattle or gold to the girl's father. The girl's father then paid a dowry to the groom's family. The actual marriage ceremony involved several days of celebration and feasting.


Fray or Freyr was the god of marriage, fertility and prosperity.

Divorce was relatively simple. When a couple decided to divorce, they told some witnesses their wish to separate. She could get back her dowwry and a portion of the household goods.

Picture References:
Frey - By Historiska museet - http://historiska.se/upptack-historien/object/109037-statyett-statyett-av-fro-av-brons/#group-3, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72131710

References:

"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military) The Vikings (Journey into civilization)
Vikings, a Dark History Vikings: Warriors, Raiders, and Masters of the Sea (Oxford People)
 
The Vikings  

Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings in the Middle Ages - #TidbitThursday

I picked up a wonderful book titled "The Middle Ages" by M. Bishop (ISBN#0-8281-0487-5) which featured an informative section on the Vikings.

Most people don't realize that the Middle Ages encompasses more than just castles and knights. This period of history actually covers a wide range of dates - from the 400's AD up until the 1400's AD.

Vikings began as Germanic farmers in Scandinavia before spreading out to Iceland (9th century) and then Greenland. In 810, they made it to modern-day France. In 859, they arrived at the Mediterranean, eventually moving down to Italy.

Their shallow-draft ships allowed them to attack along river routes and to come close to shores for quick attacks. Their reputations for ferocity terrorized the citizens into easy surrender.

Over a course of forty years, Paris was attacked four times and burned twice.

Drakken or "dragon ships" were sixty feet long. Their keel was made up of a single, straight tree trunk. The ribs were clinker-built whereby the piece were tied to the framework with thongs. The ship carried a single mast with a sail made from strips of a woolen cloth. A typical crew consisted of thirty-five men who lived and slept on the open, exposed top deck. Oars were only used when the wind was too weak to fill the sail. They didn't have compass or instruments to guide them so they relied on "dead reckoning" and by observing the flight path of migrating birds.

Vikings wore ring mail and red cloaks.

In 911, King Charles the Simple of West Francia formed a pact with the Viking Chief Rollo for peace. Rollo became Duke of the newly-created Normandy.

In Britain, Vikings were called Danes who arrived there in 787. In 853, the Vikings set up the capital of Dublin in Ireland. Their territory in England was called Danelaw. The Danes acted as nobles and demanded tribute of silver coins in exchange for peace. This tribute was known as Danegeld.

Search your local library for this book or you can find it on amazon:


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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Society and Hierarchy - #TidbitThursday

Howdy! I hope you've been enjoying our Viking tidbits as much I enjoy researching them. This week we'll delve into the hierarchical society of Viking peoples.

Viking society was divided by classes (similar to medieval feudalism) but it was possible for people to move up in social class.

At the top of the hierarchy were kings and earls. Traditionally, kingship was passed down through inheritance but not always. Also, their power was bound by laws and customs. After the Viking period ended, earls became subordinate to kings. Icelandic Vikings did not have kings.


Beneath the kings and earls were aristocrats and jarls (regional chiefs). They provided military strength to their kingdoms. And they leased land to the farmers (similar to feudalism).

The karls or karlar made up the middle class which were further subdivided into well-off landowners and merchants and, further down the ladder, craftsmen and tenant farmers. When the kingdom was at war, they joined the army to defend their leaders. There were some men who became professional fighters. Karls who became wealthy could become jarls.


Slaves or thraell were at the bottom of the hierarchical chain. They could not own anything and were not paid to work, but they did keep tiny portions of profit when selling goods and could eventually pay for their freedom. Vikings often took prisoners during raids and either kept them for labor purposes or sold them at slave markets. People who committed crimes or who fell into debt could also be enslaved.

Picture References:
Cnut - History Channel - 6 Viking Leaders You Should Know
Slave Chains - National Museum of Ireland - Nine unmissable objects from Clontarf 1014

References:
National Museum of Ireland
Smithsonian Magazine - The Little-Known Role of Slavery in Viking Society
"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military) The Vikings (Journey into civilization)
Vikings, a Dark History Vikings: Warriors, Raiders, and Masters of the Sea (Oxford People)
 
The Vikings  

Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Houses - #TidbitThursday

Howdy! This week join me as we explore Viking houses.

Viking families settled in villages and established farms. Women and children usually tended the farms while the men were away on raids or trade voyages.

We'll talk about villages another time, but I did want to note that not all villages during this period were identical. Some were large and consisted of many separate farm houses while others were smaller and consisted of several communal longhouses.

   
Norse houses, rectangular in shape, were made of local timber or branches with thatched or turf roofs. Longhouses had timber frames with walls of wattle (woven sticks) and daub (a mud-clay mixture). Some longhouses had curved walls made of split tree trunks with angled posts to help support the roof. Stave houses were built of verticle planks (or staves).

Here you can see the woven wattle that make up the walls of these structures. The daub/mud would be pressed against these frames to seal the cracks (kind of like mortar).

   

In locations where wood was scarce, stone would have been used for the walls.

Longhouses were typically 39 to 49 feet long but some more communal ones measured up to 164 feet long and all seemed to be less than 16 feet wide.

The earlier homes would shelter both goods and animals as well as the extended families. Eventually, Vikings made use of outer buildings to shelter livestock or to store crops. Around 200 BC, fences were being used to contain their animals as well as mark their property.

Homes lacked many windows or had none at all and the family members relied on a central hearth for light as well as heat and cooking. Above the fire a smokehole was cut out to allow smoke to escape outside. During the day, the door would be left open to allow in additional light.

Furnishings were sparse as well. Long benches lined the walls for sitting or sleeping. Actual beds were rare and usually reserved for the wealthy. There may have been a special chair for the man of the house. Tables were uncommon but trestle-like tables that could fold up for storage may have been used. Wooden chests doubled as seats. Living areas may have been separated by skins rather than walls. Weapons, shields, or even cloth were hung on the walls.

Picture References:
Wattle and Daub - Wikipedia
Wattle Building - Fotevikens Museum
Curved longhouse - National Museum of Denmark
Stave House - Fotevikens Museum


References:
National Museum of Denmark
Forbes Magazine - Retracing Ragnar: Scandinavia's Top Viking Sites
Visit Denmark
Visit Norway
Fotevikens Museum
Wikipedia - Wattle and Daub
"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military) The Vikings (Journey into civilization)
Vikings, a Dark History Vikings: Warriors, Raiders, and Masters of the Sea (Oxford People)
 
The Vikings