We head back to the Middle Ages, and this week we will resume a conversation we have had before; Myths about the Middle Ages.
Now it is the time I plug my book. As most of the readers of my blog know I am the author of "Legend of the Mystic Knights" , and is currently on SALE . In terms of living history, I try to be as accurate as I can be in describing medieval life in my novels.
We must always keep in mind when we look back onto an era, that it spans generations. Defining a special time is also difficult. Many historians consider the middle ages from the 5th to the 15th century; this may vary a few centuries earlier or later.
Now imagine our society post World War II, during the 1950’s, and then compare the morals of society during that time, to that of today only 60 years later. Consider how our lives look today, compared to those of 100 years ago. Then examine today’s culture per region, examine New York City compared to rural Texas. Now consider the difficulty you would have doing that same examination over a span of 1,000 years and over numerous countries.
Another issue we face when we research history, we must consider the political influence on our perception of history. Frank Harte once said “Those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs.” I believe this to be true, so we must always examine the entire culture, not just those who are writing about one specific portion of it. Remember for any time period; it was not a bad living when you are wealthy and much harder when you are poor.
First on our list are the Vikings. We perceive them are these blood thirsty warriors who are pillagers and marauders and have no regard to art or civilization.
During the period of 790’s until the Norman conquest of England in 1066 A.D. is commonly referred to as the Viking Age. This was an era when what we refer to as Scandinavian countries, spread their influence across Europe and as far south as the Mediterranean. This influence included many “raids” on numerous countries.
I will admit these raids were brutal. The Vikings did have a culture that rewarded those who were brave in battle, and these raids did reflect that attitude. But, we must also look at how brutal the rest of Europeans were at the time during battles. This was not a time for chivalry, and civilians were casualties and pillaging, no matter who attacked who.
Although they did perform in raids, they also established trade with these countries after their raids. This enhanced and furthered trade routes throughout Europe. With trade comes the exchanging of ideas, which laid the foundation for the coming of the Renaissance.
There are many misconceptions about the Vikings and the truth about them has been hidden from us by the passage of time.
Woman Rights- Unlike many parts of Europe, woman were respected in the Viking culture and enjoyed rights. Woman managed the family’s finances and the farm in their husband’s absent. If widowed, they could own land, and could become wealthy by themselves.
Also, unlike in European countries, a woman could divorce her husband if he did not treat her or her children with respect. The divorce could be easily accomplished, she merely had to gather witnesses and declare that she was divorced from her husband.
Being blond was a good thing; for a man. We imagine Vikings having blond hair, this was more than genetics. It was common for MEN to wash their hair with a special type of Lye that would bleach their hair white. Also, this was done more for vanity, as they had other options for washing their hair.
One major misconception about Vikings is they had Horns on their helmets. This never happened; the Vikings did not wear horns on their helmets in battle. This misconception may have arisen with some drawings of Loki, the Norse god of mischief and lies that is depicted as having horns on his helmet also this may have popularized from the operas of Wagner which always depicted Valkyries singing with horned helmets. The Valkyries would carry the slain in Norse Mythology to Valhalla and Fólkvangr in Asgard upon their winged horses.
There is one issue I would like to mention about the Vikings. Although they were brave and fearless in battle, they lacked skills in metallurgy. Their weapons were not up to the quality of those in other European countries. In fact, some raids by the Vikings were not after gold or riches, but to obtain weapons of good construction.
This weekend I will be attending Fantacon in Albany, NY. So next week we will take a break from medieval times and talk about that event.
Thank you for reading, and as always leave a comment if you want.