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Norsevember

Norsevember: A Northern Culture

Today I am absolutely delighted to be sharing an article about Nordic Culture for Norsevember hosted by the wonderful Alex @ BlogSpells.

Scandinavia is a group of three countries; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.  They share similar cultures and historical significance.  They are known as some of the happiest places to live on earth, but why?  What makes their culture supremely enriched compared to others?  How exactly did The Vikings contribute to this viewpoint?  Is it due to their economic stability?  High standard of living or is it something far more ancient? 

Who Were the Vikings?

The Vikings were traditionally farmers, blacksmiths, and craftsmen.  They weren’t men that immediately started raiding and killing.  There were many other reasons regarding that decision.  They were first and foremost men and women that worked the land or had a trade of some kind.  Something that would benefit their community.  They began to raid churches and monasteries because they usually were close to the waterfront and were at an easy advantage to raids.  This was all done over and above their responsibilities to the land, however.  They were extremely passionate about providing for their families and their communities, this is partly what lead them to raid abroad.  Lack of fertile farming land was a big negative point in living in the Scandinavian Isles.  It soon became apparent that raiding and pirating would be a very profitable endeavor so the Vikings made it a full-time pursuit. 

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The Viking Ships

The Viking Ship is most arguably the greatest piece of ingenuity to come out of the European Dark Ages.  They were fast and swift and their architecture allowed them to cross vast and violent oceans whilst also being able to tread shallow waters also.  The Viking Ships were a huge part of their culture.  The pride and honor that came from being a warrior travelling in one but the prestige of going into battle upon one.  Just imagine coming face to face with these monstrous vessels and not knowing what to expect, except maybe violence and blood.  There are two different kinds of vessels; Warships (longboats) and Merchant Vessels.

Warships:

  • Long, narrow, and flat bottomed.
  • Contained around 20-25 sections
  • Room for up to 18 pairs of oarsmen.
  • These ships were built for speed and maneuverability.

Merchant Vessels:

  • Known as a Knarr
  • Used as a cargo ship
  • The hull was deeper, wider, and shorter.
  • Capable of carrying up to 24 tons.
  • It was used to carry tradable goods including slaves and weapons.
  • They often carried goods across the Atlantic, Baltic, and Meditterenan seas to other Norse-settled areas.
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Viking Society: Men, Women and Children

Like most ancient societies, it was a male-dominated world.  The men worked the land, whilst the women tended to the cooking, cleaning, and rearing of children.  However, when The Vikings began raiding in England and later other European lands, women took over the work of their menfolk. Alongside doing their work too.  They became valued members of society, it was also viewed as a shameful thing to lay a hand on a woman. 

It has been studied that women gained equal opportunities in their community, they were viewed as independent and possessing rights.  in Norse Mythology, the Valkyries, these female emblems decided who made it into Valhalla and who did not. 

Being a child in ancient Scandinavia would have been a lesson.  The children were constantly learning.  Learning either their father’s craft, how to tend to the farmland, or how to take care of their siblings and look after the home.  Childhood would have been an extremely different experience in contrast to how children are both brought up and their personal experiences.  They would have been expected to help out from a very early age, I imagine a Norse child to have had very little time for play and would have had a much more routined life, taking their share of responsibilities very early on.  Gender roles were pretty much set in stone and as such, they were being prepared for their future roles, with some teachings from their community elders being commonplace. 

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Norse Mythology

The centrepiece of Norse Mythology is Yggdrasil, essentially the tree of life.  It unified the 9 worlds – Asgard, Álfheimr/Ljósálfheimr, Niðavellir/Svartálfaheimr, Midgard (Earth), Jötunheimr/Útgarðr, Vanaheim, Niflheim, Muspelheim & Hel. 

  • Asgard is home to the deities of the likes of  Odin, Frigg, and Thor.  Everything is fertile in Asgard.  It is also the location of Valhalla’s Hall of the Slain. 
  • Álfheim/Ljósálfheimr – Land of the Elves.  Imagined as a supremely beautiful land.
  • Niðavellir/Svartálfaheimr – the realm of the Dwarves, that are purposed to be master craftsmen.
  • Midgard (Earth)- inhabited by humans, situated between Asgard and Hel. 
  • Jötunheimr/Útgarðr – ötunheimr is the homeland of the Jötnar, the giants.  Envisioned as a land of dark forests and mountainous peaks.  It was here Odin lost his eye.
  • Vanaheim- home of the Vanir, a group of gods associated with fertility, and wisdom. 
  • Niflheim – Mist world.  A realm of pure ice.
  • Muspelheim- a realm of fire.  A world ruled by Surtr, a jötunn giant that plays a massive role in Ragnarok.
  • Hel – Underworld of the dead.  Not to be confused with the Christian idea of Hell.  Hel is a realm that is more a continuation of everyday life. 
norse gods mythology image - Norsevember: A Northern Culture
credit:Life in Norway.
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credit:Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange.

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