The original Vikings hailed from Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden and Denmark and thrived between 8th – 11th centuries.
The word Viking derived from the word “Vick” in old Norse which meant “small bay”.
In the 9th century Scandinavians used the word to refer to their maritime expeditions.
As they brought panic to Europe they became known as Viking.
Vikings relied heavily on boats in battle and life, travelling to distant lands to trade, raid, conquer, settle and establish trade routes.
Sailing around mixing in with local communities and sometimes settling in Europe, Asia as far as North America, Greenland, France, England, Ireland and east as far as Russia, Turkey and Canada.
The bloodlines can be found in many countries in the world.
Vikings were fierce warriors and respected for their bravery. Their men and women willing to risk their own lives to protect what is theirs and achieve their ambitions, this applies to all the challenges in their life however big or small.
Norse women also joined their men for Viking migration to England, the Shetland and Orkney Islands,Iceland, Greenland to establish new settlements.
Marriage was a very important part of a Viking’s life.
By the age of 20 virtually all the men and women were married as life expectancy was about 50years of age.
It did not just mean gaining a partner, it meant gaining the possibility of true-born children, uniting two families through blood and establishing a homestead.
Marriage was essentially a business contract between two families or alliances and was arranged in two stages, the betrothal and the wedding.
The Betrothal is your engagement period, the Wedding is the whole period of celebration.
The Marriage is the legal formalised union of two people as partners in a personal relationship. (The Betrothal and Wedding and legal union of Marriage still applies today).
Vikings had very particular rituals that went along with their weddings.
The potential groom or his father would make the proposal of marriage to the potential brides father or guardian and negotiations would begin.
Once all was agreed the courtship would begin.
Vikings had very particular rituals that went along with their weddings.
Courtship was not always necessary but Norse men liked to court their ladies and make a special effort to impress with their appearance as good personal hygiene was a must for both Norse men and women. Making a good impression and taking pride in their appearance was important to them.( Norse graves are packed with grooming essentials for the afterlife demonstrating the Norse liked to be tidy and clean, probably the cleanest people of their time).
The Norse liked to wear brightly coloured garments adorned with jewellery, cloak pins and arm rings all to show status.
To impress with your appearance, wealth and prospect in life.
Customs of love ,sex and marriage, set a high standard in their time, some even survive to this day.
The rituals to invoke the mighty passion “inn makti munr”
Meeting and talking was one.
If a girl wanted to show her man she liked him, she would make him a shirt.
Viking men would go out and handpick their lady a bunch of purple flowers then slap her around the face with them (gently of course).
It is believed to impress their love interest Viking men would quote poetry A Love poem – A favourite of the Norse Gods.
Though Icelandic law did not allow skalds to compose mannsong, (maiden songs) for women who were not married as it was believed that the poems could act as spells to seduce and bind women or that he knew the lady more intimately than he should.
(Skald in Icelandic is a term meaning poet, a term generally used for poets who composed at courts. Skalds used their knowledge to recite poetry, convey stories and history to people, passed from generation to generation playing an important role. Skalds were both honoured and feared).
While courting before the wedding and after the wedding, husbands would sit their wives next to them if they wanted to show affection, they would also share their drinking horn.
If husbands were feeling affectionate for a kiss and a cuddle “kyssir hana” his wife would sit on his lap or he would put his head on her lap
And she would stroke his hair.
The Wedding Day
Viking weddings were always on a Friday
The day of Frigg or Frigga, the wife of the All-father Odin was the goddess of marriage, love, and fertility , if you wanted to bestow Friggs blessing on your nuptials, you needed to marry your beloved on a Friday.
Friggs day was Friday. Which is where the word Friday comes from!
A little extra trivia
Each of the big Norse gods had their own day of the week, during which you would do things to honour them.
The inspiration for naming the days of the week after the gods may have come from the Romans in the time around 300AD.
A time when the Nordic countries had close contact with the Roman empire.
Sunday – For Sol Goddess of the sun – Sun’s day
Monday – For Mani Goddess of the moon -Mani’s day
Tuesday – For Tyr God of war – Tyr’s day
Wednesday – For Odin the Raven god, sometimes known as Woden – Woden’s day
Thursday – For Thor God of strength and storm – Thor’s day
Friday – For frigg Goddess of marriage and fertility – Frigg’s day
Saturday did not come from the Vikings it came from the ancient Romans – Saturn’s day
Vikings took YEARS to plan their weddings
Viking wedding rituals stated that you need to wed at a very specific time of the year late summer or autumn (between the end of the harvest and before the snowfall)as weddings happen in open fields with sacred groves. It was a time of abundance for a good supply of meat, fruit and grain needed to accumulate enough food and shelter to ensure everyone is provided for at the wedding feast, as these were important social events where friends and relatives from all over would join the celebrations which would last seven days.
The Bridal Ale was an important part of the wedding
A mead type brew would be used to seal their union with a toast to Odin and Freya. The bridal ale would be brewed with lots of honey to ensure the fertility of the newly weds.
The couple would have to have enough bride-ale (sweet beer) to drink for the first moon cycle of their wedding ( to last them a month).
(A custom that gives us the modern term honeymoon).
With a lot of planning the date for the wedding could be years after the engagement.
As the wedding day approaches any outstanding dowry payments would be paid.
The Wedding Day
The groom would first go to the grave of his ancestors and retrieve a sword to present to his bride then prepare for his ritual steambath to wash away his boyhood to become a man.
The bride would prepare for her ritual steambath to wash away her maiden status.
The bride and groom did not wear special clothes for their wedding but wore specific tokens
For the bride It’s all about the hair
Viking women were known to have long flowing hair
The focus was not on the dress but in fact on the bride’s hair on the wedding day. Intricate braids, the more intricate the better were favoured, with a floral wreath upon her head.
For the groom it would be the ancestral sword
To be presented to his bride.
The bride would be escorted down to the groom by a young man who will carry a sword on behalf of the brides family that will be presented to the groom.
The ceremony begins, with an offering to the gods of fertility Thor , Freya and Freyr and a blessing to the couple and the attendants.
Next the couple will exchange swords, men hand over the sword from the grooms ancestors grave to the bride and is made the custodian of the sword representing the continuity of the grooms family bloodline and for safekeeping to be passed over to their son.
Women hand over the sword carried by the young man to the groom, representing the hand over of guardianship and protector from her father to the husband .
The bride and groom exchange rings and arm rings and say their vows.
( The exchange of rings and saying vows are just as relevant today).
They would place the rings on the swords tip and exchange rings to each other putting the ring on themselves.
At weddings- rings were a seal of a contract between two families and were highly revered, also indicates that the bride and groom are ready for any instance that may arise if the vows are broken.
Viking rings stood out as they were unique in design, drawings of charms, geometric designs, symbols and animal totems. Most rings were made of silver and bronze as gold was mostly reserved for the rich and royalty in society.
Regardless of political and social standing all vikings wore rings made from bronze, silver, glass and amber, gold was more for the elite.
(Today you can find rings made from all kinds of metals with symbols and runes from nordic times).
The “Brud Hlaup” The Bride running
Once the ceremony was complete the “Brud Hlaup” would take place.
This was a race run by both the wedding parties to the feasting hall whoever arrived last served the ale to the other family for the rest of the wedding , some cultures it is expected that the bride would be the winner of the race. Where she would wait for the groom to arrive to carry her over the threshold.
Before the bride could enter she would be escorted over the threshold by the groom. (Another tradition still used today of carrying the bride over the threshold).
The Norse, like many pagans, believe thresholds were dangerous places when in transition to a new stage in their life.
The groom thrusts the sword gifted to him from his wife into the ceiling, the central pillar in the house, the depth of the cut was to determine the success and prosperity of the marriage.
Then a mead toast to Odin and Freya to ensure the fertility of the newlyweds consumed from a Loving Cup.
(The Loving cup or Quaich is a ceremonial drinking vessel with two handles usually made of silver, represents the cup of life used in marriage rituals).
Wine, mead and champagne rituals are still popular and used in ceremonies today and not just for weddings.
Thor’s Hammer sat on the brides’ lap
It was the brides’ duty to ask Thor for his blessing (even though it wasn’t Thursday/Thorsday!). She would place an imitation Mjolnir (hammer) on her lap. It was a symbol of her asking Thor to give her strong children, and also a crude joke (the warrior gods’ manhood sat atop her womb).
After all the offerings, blessings and traditions the celebrations and feast begin.
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