Viking sexual traditions: why an old partner is better than a young one
It is difficult to dispute the fact that the Viking Age left a serious mark on the history of mankind. Without the Scandinavian sagas, we would never have read wonderful fantasy books and seen movies and TV series about heroes, gods and battles. The Vikings also invented the compass, discovered North America, and even invented a comb. It is not surprising that the sexual life of these northern warriors and sailors also holds a lot of interesting things.
In the Scandinavian society, marriage and family were treated very seriously even in pre-Christian times. Divorces were rare among the Vikings, and very serious reasons were needed to break up. Unlike many other peoples, women in the North had many rights and could quite easily initiate the breakup of marriage themselves.
The reason for the divorce could be the failure of the spouse in bed, his indifference to sex and even a mismatch of temperaments. In all these cases, society was completely on the side of the woman, because sexual life was considered an important part of the family and without it, happiness in marriage could not be imagined.
The divorce ritual was complex and took place in three stages. First, the spouse announced her desire to part at the family bed, then spoke about her intentions, standing at the door of the ancestral home, and then the problem was brought to the "ting" – a meeting of the entire community. The husband was given a frank "debriefing", and he could only stand and blush.
From that moment on, his head was covered with indelible shame, since his inability to satisfy his wife deprived him of the status of a full-fledged man. Of course, a disappointed spouse could also express such claims to his faithful on the "ting".
The dawn of the Viking states occurred in the 8-9 centuries. The population of Scandinavia during this period greatly increased, cities and villages grew, and with this there were some problems. It turned out that there are much more men than women and there are not enough brides for everyone.
This problem was solved in the same way as many others. If the Viking did not have something, he went on a military campaign to where there was an abundance of it and took what he wanted by force. Thus, women began to be brought from other countries, where Scandinavian warriors went on their drakkars for gold, prisoners and glory.
Especially many beauties were brought from the British Isles – Celtic women were in great demand among the Vikings. Not all the captives were married – many were simply concubines of jarls and famous warriors. At first, such girls performed only the role of sex toys and were not taken seriously, but over time their role in society became more and more significant. Many have become real keepers of the hearth and full-fledged family members.
Among the Vikings, every woman, if she was not a slave, could decide for herself whom she would marry. At the same time, there were certain standards that all marriageable girls tried to follow. It was believed that an older man was a more promising groom, since he had a lot of life experience and, as a rule, was well provided for financially.
A good example of such a relationship can be seen in the Scandinavian sagas of the early Middle Ages. One of them tells that two cavaliers – the young King Olav and the elderly King Gettrick-were wooed to Queen Ingibjerg. The young lady gave preference to the old man, explaining her decision by saying that Olav is like a young tree that has barely shown its leaves, while Gettrick can be compared to a fruit tree that already gives abundant fruits.
The future with the young and ardent king seemed unclear to the queen, but the thorough and experienced Gettrick could be relied on. Often, the sexual experience of the chosen one played an important role in the choice – older men were considered more experienced and hardy in bed. It also happened that the bride did not see the point in marriage at all and because of the persistence of the grooms, real dramas were played out, as in the case of Sigrid the Proud.
Scandinavians traveled a lot and it was not always possible for a husband to accompany his wife on a long journey. In such cases, the Viking entrusted the care of his beloved woman to his best friend. The latter had to take care of his wife and, in order to protect her from surprises even at night, share a bed with her.
But at the same time, a distance was maintained between the woman and her temporary patron. When they went to sleep in the same bed, they put a sword between them, which reminded the woman of marital fidelity, and the man of the inevitable retribution for violence or seduction. In such matters, the Vikings did not take into account friendly relations and the guilt was redeemed only by blood.
"The Elder Edda" tells the story that Sigurd, who enjoyed great success with women, wanted to marry his close friend to the obstinate Brunhilde and for this purpose took his appearance. He managed to win the girl's favor, but in order to complete his plans and not make an enemy, the hero had to spend eight chaste nights on the same bed with the beauty. Sigurd was helped in this difficult task by a sharp sword, with which he divided the bed into two halves every night.
In later medieval literary works, for example, in the story of Tristan and Isolde, a similar way of protecting oneself from dangerous temptations is also described. This once again proves how firmly the Viking culture has been embedded in European art and everyday life.
Although Viking marriages were concluded on a voluntary basis, parents, as in our days, could influence the decisions made. Therefore, cases when the bride or groom ran away from the crown sometimes happened. This event became a real disaster for the fugitive's family and himself, since a large fine had to be paid for the marriage that was disrupted in this way.
In particularly serious cases, the culprit could even be expelled from the community, and his family lost the respect of neighbors. Such cases were called "escape from the vagina" if the groom ran away, and "escape from the penis" if the bride disappeared before the wedding. An upset marriage threatened not only reputational, but also material losses – they prepared for the ceremony for a long time and thoroughly.
Among the Vikings, a wedding that lasted three days was considered weak. Usually they celebrated for a week or more, and the families of the newlyweds spent a lot of money on the feast at that time. Many guests arrived from far away and did not want to lose face in front of them – they had to go home satisfied with the food and glorify the families of the bride and groom.
The young people were accompanied to the marriage bed by a whole procession with torches, while the married couple of the gods Frey and Freya, as well as the goddess of the hearth Var, were glorified. Ornaments in the form of the hammer of Thor were embroidered on the bride's wedding clothes and violation of the marriage oath was perceived as blasphemy.
It seems that the harsh northern warriors were supposed to call things by their proper names and not be embarrassed when talking about sex. But the Vikings were surprisingly delicate people and preferred to use a variety of love euphemisms. They didn't say "having sex", but "crowding in bed", "traveling together" or "messing around on her stomach". Even more delicate Scandinavians could say "playing cards" or "talking in private".
Even if an unmarried guy and a girl were seen in a love affair, their parents did not give free rein to emotions and did not descend to rude images. In this case, it was customary to talk about"illegal love dates". Our contemporaries have a lot to learn from the Scandinavians who lived a thousand years ago.
In Viking society, the topic of close relationships between women and men was not forbidden, including when communicating with children. At the age of five, kids were told how coitus and conception of children occur, and at the age of ten, adults could teach the most effective ways of masturbation.
At the same time, the Scandinavians never focused the younger generation on physiological aspects and taught that the right relationships in the family are built on mutual respect, love and care. It must be said that these foundations still underlie the family traditions of the peoples inhabiting Scandinavia and largely determine their mentality.
Today, as ten centuries ago, young Danes, Swedes and Norwegians are told about sex in elementary school, and in addition they are told about sexual violence, pedophiles, prostitution and many other things that a child can face.
Keywords: Wedding | History | Family | Vikings | Ceremony | Marriage | Scandinavia | Sex | Warriors