The Vikings are known for many things, from their savage battles to their surprising physique, the Vikings have captured the minds of millions. Viking customs remain of particular interest. Some of them were cruel, remind us of the bloodthirsty images that Hollywood portrays. Others are sweet, showing us a softer side to the Vikings.
The Vikings leaving their newborn babies to die was obviously not one of their sweeter moments. In Viking culture, both men and women were expected to work from a very early age. Women as young as twelve years old might have to manage a household, and men as young as six were expected to contribute to the community via physical labor. Deformed or sickly infants were presumed to be a burden and were left outside to die. Often, females were left to die more often than males.
Raids May Have Been Because of Infanticide
Because of so many female newborns being left to die, there was a drastic imbalance in the Viking community. There were significantly more males than females. It is believed that this is what started the raids. Scientists have discovered that there was both British and Viking lineage in Viking settlements, which leads many to believe that the Vikings were originally looking for a bride when they began to steal from other towns.
When a woman gave birth, they would surround her, singing beautiful songs to soothe her through the labor pains. This was a common birth ritual that was done every time a woman in the community gave birth.
Women did not have rights in many areas during this time period, but Viking women had significantly more rights than other women did. One of those rights was that they could request a divorce. If the relationship was not going well, or they simply could no longer tolerate the marriage, women could request a divorce. After divorce, the husband was expected to return the dowry to the bride’s family, or the bride herself.
Although many women did stay home with the children and do household chores, this was not one of the Viking customs. Viking women could also become warriors. Writings tell of the Vikings committing raids with female warriors fighting alongside the men, and having fighting skills that were as savage as the opposite sex. Viking customs was to let people be as they would, even if women wanted to be warriors.
Human Sacrifice Was A Viking Custom
Human sacrifices seem to be one of the few things that Hollywood got right when portraying the Vikings. These were not always as an act of savage war, though. The Vikings believed in many gods and goddesses, including Odin. It was believed that Odin demanded human sacrifices, and the Vikings took this seriously. There were rituals performed during specific times of the year to appease the gods and/or goddesses, including human sacrifices. This was not simply to drink their blood, it was an important Viking customs.
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The Blood Eagle Viking Custom
This is one of the Viking customs that will make you raise your eyebrows. The blood Eagle was either sacrifice to the gods or a method of execution. There are texts that state both of these, so either one could be true.
The Blood Eagle method of dying involved a person laying face down while restrained. Then, the image of an Eagle was carved into their bag. The cuts were so deep that one could reach in to pull out each rib, and that is what happened next. Every rib was broken and bent outwards to give the illusion of bloody wings. Then, in the Blood Eagle method, the lungs were pulled out next. This is what killed the victim/sacrifice.
The Grooms Family Paid A Bride Price
Most people know that the bride’s family offered a dowry when the couple was married, but it’s also true that the groom’s family paid a bride price. This was given to the family of the bride when the two became engaged.
Marriage Was A Family Affair
Because both families were invested in the relationship, marriage was considered a family affair. Often, the groom would ask for the woman’s hand in marriage in front of her parents. Then, the family as a whole would agree to accept. If the bride’s parents did not agree to the marriage, the union would not take place. The groom might also discuss this with his own parents before proposing. There were no romantic dinners for two in Viking customs.
Adulthood Started Early
Because the Vikings had a life expectance of approximately 45, they became adults much sooner. By the time that children were 12 years old, they were often capable of running an entire house, from taking care of the farm to making clothing and cooking. They were also married by the age of 15, sometimes sooner. It was very common for women as young as 16 to give birth to babies and begin their own families.
Women Were Always Taken to New Settlements
Women were not always taken to war, and only women warriors went on raids, but new settlements involved families. When the Vikings would expand to a new settlement, such as the one in Iceland, they would take plenty of people, including women and children, as well as supplies to start their new settlement. This was not necessarily a Viking customs, but it was something that they did regularly.
The Vikings were interesting people. Although they are portrayed to be savages with bad hygiene, they were not. The Viking people lived somewhat ordinary lives when compared to other people in the same time period. (They also had good hygiene.) Some of their customs were considered cruel, such as leaving infants to die. Others were considered normal, such as a human sacrifice to Odin. Many other cultures held sacrifices as a part of a ritual to appease the gods and goddesses even though they were not always human sacrifices. The Vikings were a fascinating culture, and still are today even though there are no Vikings left.