Who were the Vikings?

In the 8th century, the region of Scandinavia was populated by Nordics or Germans. They lived from agriculture, livestock and fishing. They were very well organized as a community. Living in inhospitable and dangerous regions, they were forced to sail in search of more favorable lands. At first they sailed the seas for peaceful purposes, but over time their raids became fearsome invasions.

In a nutshell, the Vikings were Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, men who generally worked as farmers, merchants, blacksmiths, and craftsmen. For various reasons, they led to raiding cities, churches and monasteries. Many of the places they attacked were on the coasts, since they were easier to reach and allowed them to flee quickly.

With their nimble ships making landing easy, the Vikings could quickly overrun communities, killing and looting, and just as quickly return to their ships and depart. They had disappeared before any defense or counterattack could be made.

Viking ship

Although the Vikings had the runic alphabet, they did not have any written history. So we don’t know exactly why the Vikings started raiding in 793.

Within male-dominated Viking society, women held a certain amount of personal power, depending on their social status. When Viking men were away from home (raiding, fishing, exploring, or on trade missions), women in Viking society took over all of the men’s work, as well as doing their own. Women were valued members of society and it was shameful for a man to hurt a woman.

Ax heads and swords were richly decorated. The Mammen ax dated 971 was even inlaid with gold and silver.

The role of women was domestic, caring for the family, preparing food, washing clothes, milking cows, sheep and goats, making butter and cheese, preserving food for the winter, gardening, cleaning and the longest task of all, making family clothes. Spinning, carding, weaving, cutting and sewing took a long time.

Viking women married young, from the age of 12. By the age of 20, virtually all men and women were married. Life expectancy was around 50 years, but most died long before they reached 50. Only a few lived to be 60. Marriages were arranged by the parents of the young couple.

A marriage was a contract between two families: the groom’s family paid a bride price to the bride’s family when the couple was engaged. Since both families had a financial investment in the new couple, a marriage was as much an affair for the families as it was for the individuals involved.

Children learned the work of men, taught by their fathers, brothers and uncles. The girls worked together with their mothers and aunts learning to cook, garden, take care of pets and make clothes. Women in Viking society had more power than most other European women of the time. They could divorce their husbands, own some property, and sell their own handicrafts.

Some women became wealthy landowners. Others participated in the trade: counterweights used to weigh silver in trade have been found in women’s graves. Some weapons were even found in female graves, giving the idea that some women were fighters alongside their men.

While some Viking symbols remain mysterious, we don’t know exactly what they represent, but others have clear meanings. Many Vikings wore Thor’s hammer around their necks.

Jewelry, runestones, and valuable weapons were often engraved with the symbols that resonated most with the Vikings: the Valknut, the Helm, or Thor’s hammer.

Mjolnir means lightning, and Thor’s hammer indicates the god’s power over thunder and lightning. Mjolnir, a magical weapon, always returned to Thor when he threw it. Using Thor’s hammer as a protection amulet was quite common as this was probably the most popular of all pagan Viking symbols.

Even during Christian times, from 1000 AD, Vikings wore Thor’s Mjolnir as well as a cross on a chain around their necks.

Almost all Viking costumes you’ve seen in movies or video games are lies. These warriors usually went into battle bareheaded. The whole idea of ​​the horned Viking helmet came about in the Victorian era, when Vikings were idealized. Painters began to depict them as glamorous savages in horned helmets; however, nothing that has been found during the Viking Age proves that this image is in the least bit authentic.