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viking shipFootball season is upon us – admittedly, my favorite time of year. I’m a die-hard, third-generation Washington Redskins fan (something few folk will admit to this season), and I have to wonder – without football, what did the poor Vikings do back in the day? How did they pass their time? Keep in mind I’m talking about real Vikings, not the Minnesota Vikings.

I had to research this for a scene in Odin’s End. It’s Julfest – the pagan celebration that was later engineered to coincide with Christmas.

Rorik has captured Adele and her monk buddies. Adele must pretend to be a volva – a seeress. She must now deliver Rorik’s war strategies disguised as prophecies. She does this for the first time in front of Sverre, the would-be king of Norway.

But it’s a festival, and there’s all kind of partying going on….

  • In one game, warriors passed a drinking horn around. Each warrior took a draught, and any warrior deemed to be drinking too “cautiously” was penalised and forced to drink more.
  • In other drinking games, warriors well into their cups competed to see who would take the most solemn oath, or who delivered the best toast, or who could perform best in a “comparison of men.” (Basically, who could brag about themselves the best or, alternately, who could insult someone else the best.)
  • The warriors played a form of hockey, where they pushed around a ball on ice. Both the infirm and the overly aggressive were prevented from playing.
  • Board games. Games such as tafl and skaktafl (chess) were immensely popular.
  • Storytelling was a big one, too. Chieftains employed skalds to entertain their guests with tales of the king’s victories, or with stories and legends of the gods, or with songs.

There are tons more, of course – and keep in mind that I’ve only covered games that Adele comments on during Julfest. She hasn’t been to a Viking wedding (yet) and she hasn’t seen the Easter and summer festivals. So she has a few surprises to witness….!

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Yes, but did they SPEND as much on their weddings as we do on ours?

Yes, but did they SPEND as much on their weddings as we do on ours?

OK, peeps –

As you know, in Odin’s End, our Viking hero Rorik captures Adele’s ship, killing the crew and taking her and her monk buddies captive. Obviously, not the most successful of blind dates.

Needless to say, these actions present some serious challenges to Rorik’s and Adele’s later romantic relationship. But there’s also another big challenge. OOPS – Rorik is betrothed. (He must have forgotten to mention it.)

So in researching betrothals, weddings, etc., I came across more wicked cool factoids about marriage in Viking society. Here you go:

  • The potential suitor had to start the negotiations; the father of the girl could never initiate his daughter’s marriage.
  • The woman was totally absent from the negotiations; in fact, frequently marriages were negotiated without the woman’s knowledge. Rarely did the couple meet before the wedding. And as for her approval? Irrelevant.
  • There were two levels of engagement, where the woman was either an “engaged woman” (festarkona) or a “promised woman” (heitkona). The promised woman had to wait for the suitor for 3 years, but after that she’d be available for other suitors.
  • A father couldn’t force his daughter to marry if she wanted to become a nun (OK – so if she can’t stand the guy, she can either marry him or become a nun. That’s one helluva choice!)
  • The marriage was considered legal if 6 witnesses saw the husband go to bed with the wife. (Think of all the weddings you’ve been to – is this something you’d REALLY want to see?)
  • However, this was preceded (thankfully) by a lavish banquet, and the partying lasted for days.
  • Divorce was easy to obtain, and this, combined with men being killed at sea or in battle, and women dying in childbirth, meant that a whole lot of weddings took place. (Wow – the Lifetime Channel could have a whole lot of those “Platinum Wedding” shows.)
  • Another little bit of trivia? The last Catholic bishop in Iceland, Jon Arason, had 6 known children with his acknowledge mistress. (I won’t bother to comment on this one.)

So yeah, Rorik has a problem. He’s betrothed. There are some real consequences if he breaks the engagement. (My, my. He’s offended a family’s honor. And what’re the consequences for that, in Viking culture?) And he’s considering it because of Adele, our heroine who really can’t stand him.

Hmmm….. what’s your average Viking guy going to do?

Barbarian Hotness - But (Oh Darn) Not Reality

Barbarian Hotness - But (Oh Darn) Not Reality

 OK, peeps – in my online wanderings, I came across this “oldie” article from National Geographic News.

Y’all know I’m all about Barbarian Hotness (aka “Hunky Viking Men”). So I was more surprised than anybody to find that Viking men filed their teeth (yep, you read it right!) as part of their grooming to render them attractive. Here’s the scoop:

  • Viking men filed their teeth into deep, horizontal grooves
  • These grooves were likely used to recognize some sort of achievement, like participation in a specific battle, or going on a specific journey
  • Sometimes these grooves might have been filled with pigment. (Imagine Barbarian Hotness with some scary-looking jack-o-lantern teeth)

You can read the entire article here at National Geographic News. And there are some cool pics, too. I’m wondering if Viking women really found this hot…. if the men were more marriageable…

So maybe my earlier picture of Flava Flav with his Viking hat and teeth grillz wasn’t so far off….

Barbarian Hotness - Really?

Barbarian Hotness - Really?

 

 

 

The Corvette of the XXX
Bad Asses of the North

OK – as most of you know by now, I’ve been involved in heavy nerdism as I research Odin’s End. I know that (technically) the brain can’t feel pain, but mine now challenges that dearly-held notion.

 Our heroine, Adele, and our hero, Rorik, meet at sea in what might be considered unfortunate circumstances. Adele is fleeing Fontevraud Abbey, because, sadly, the new abbess considers her a witch – not to mention a political threat – and wants to roast her at the stake.

 Then  Rorik and his band of Viking bad asses happen upon her ship (which is a medieval cog, by the way), kill all the crew, and take Adele and her monk buddies captive. Ah – how to win friends and influence people.

So I had to look up info on Adele’s and Rorik’s ships, since my only experience with boats of any kind is Celebrity Cruises, or the ones in Amsterdam that take you on a 2-hour all-you-can-drink winefest . Oh yeah, there’s a tour of Amsterdam included in that, not that I ever noticed.

So anyway, what about Adele’s cog and Rorik’s longship? Well, since this is my blog and party, and I LUV  Barbarian Hotness, we’ll start with Rorik’s longship and navigation. Some basics:

  • Vikings may have used a magnetized needle (which was a needle floating freely in a bowl). This wasn’t a compass, though – the floating needle only indicated direction. With a floating needle sailors of the time (before the 13th century) still had to follow the coast and try to stay in port during the winter to avoid cloudy skies. So, Rorik (the Barbarian Hotness in Odin’s End) attacks Adele’s ship at dusk, and in the winter.  Hmmmm – think he might need or want something REALLY badly?
  • Longships – what Rorik and his band of not-so-merry men are sailing – were 15 “rooms” or more long. Above 30 rooms, then the ship was called a dragonship. Let’s clarify, though – a “room” wasn’t a room like you’re thinking. It was the space between the ribs of the ship where the oarsmen would sit. A longship could carry about 8 warriors per room. So, a longship would have 15 spaces on each side (so, maybe 120 warriors??), whereas a dragonship would have 30. Truly wicked cool, but
  • Only 16 dragonships were reported in Norway between 995 and 1263. Dragonships were expensive and not very seaworthy. Used by kings primarily to show off their wealth.
  • Function of the ship? To use the sail to get warriors to the scene of the action, use the oars and careful steering to get into position near their target, and then kick ass. Let me know if further explanation is needed here.

Now – there’s a LOT more that I had to research to help out Rorik. Because, and clearly you weren’t paying attention, he really doesn’t have a whole lot of warriors left by the time he attacks Adele’s ship. We don’t know it yet, but Rorik is a Viking guy with some problems.

So anyway – more on our medieval boats over the next several days. I had no idea when I started this scene that it would be SO MUCH WORK (otherwise, I would have put them in a Starbuck’s). But still, Rorik’s world is incredibly interesting, even if his ships don’t have the little niceties of Celebrity Cruises – like 24-hour room service and unending supplies of drinks with paper umbrellas.

The Way Viking Marriage Oughta Be, or, When Fantasy Doesn't Mesh With Reality

The Way Viking Marriage Oughta Be, or, When Fantasy Doesn't Mesh With Reality But We Love It Anyway!

In the course of researching Odin’s End, I’ve had to review countless texts on Viking (read “pagan”) marriage.

Now, lots of romance novelists have dealt with this, in scenes of heaving bosoms and manly “battle” equipment. And I just LUV them all.

But, in Odin’s End, I can’t deal with Rorik and Adele this way – their circumstances require a heavier dose of reality. So while these reads are a tremendous source of entertainment for me (not to mention my healthy dose of Barbarian Hotness), I had to look elsewhere to help out Rorik and Adele – especially since each of them comes with a unique set of personal challenges. And since (not to give away the ending) they don’t end up exactly married….

So, the real skinny on Viking marriages? Here’s the low-down:

 

  • Marriage wasn’t necessarily monogamous (though I fail to see how this differs from the 21st century), and kings and other powerful men were allowed multiple wives (and this differs from the Playboy Mansion or Stringfellows how?)
  • The primary function of pagan marriage was to ensure the orderly passage of property from one generation to the next. (Barbarian Hotness notwithstanding, it seems.)
  • In the north, and especially in Iceland, property belonged to the individual only for the duration of his or her lifetime. After this, it reverted back to the clan. (Kind of like a leasehold?)
  • Marriage was prohibited for poor people, since their offspring would be a burden on the community. (Whew! I’m not touching this one!)
  • If a young girl with physical flaws became engaged, no decision was made until she turned 16, giving her a chance to outgrow the impediments (Today, women with “flaws” can use makeup; men with flaws can use Corvettes.)
  • There was no minimum age for either bride or groom (Kind of like the whack-jobs in the religious compounds of sleepy Texas towns.) and finally,
  • Permission was given to castrate beggars. People undertaking this task were not punished, even if they seriously wounded or even killed the victim in the process. (Now how would they handle this in all the courtroom reality shows???)

So yep, Rorik and Adele have some problems. He’s betrothed (though she doesn’t know it) and she’s assumed to have the gift of prophecy (though, in a mild misunderstanding, the Christians label her a witch and trick her to a pyre in front of Nidaros Cathedral).

But they’ve got the marriage thing sorted, at least – and on some days, I prefer the romance fantasy and versions containing Barbarian Hotness!

 

Tiivistelma - Click the book to go to Amazon.co.uk

Tiivistelma - Click the cover to go to Amazon.co.uk

For my British, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish and yes, American Viking peeps, time for a long-overdue review of a book recommended to me by my pal Paul James McDaid – who’s perhaps better known as “Rogann” of the Dahrg de Belne Viking reenactment group and the United Viking Federation.

The book is Tiivistelma: A Compendium of Viking Stories, Myths and Legends. And in this powerful little compendium, John Halsted and Paul James McDaid team up to provide an engaging escape into the realm of the Vikings.

Halsted notes in the introduction that, while he sought the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian translations of the word “compendium” – the only word he thought that captured the richness of the book’s subject – that these three all resulted in the disappointing word kompendium. The Finnish translation returned as the much more lyrical Tiivistelma, and so we have our title.

Fittingly, Tiivistelma opens with a retelling of the creation myth in the Norse tradition of clashing fire and ice, and the murder of the jotunn Ymir. Likewise we learn that this existence itself is doomed; that the earth will end and emerge anew with the battle of Ragnarok.

But before all this, of course, Odin must leave Asgard. And so we journey through the wild imagery of Baldur’s Dream, the twelve Valkyries clutching their shreds of fortune in the Song of Darradar, and Fenrir’s ultimate treachery. We learn how Freya gained the necklace Brisangamen (a fave tale of mine on several levels!), marvel at the cadence of Old Norse prayers (fortunately provided with their English translations), and finish with a modern day Viking version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I leave out so many – but all the greater the surprise when you explore them for yourself.

Make no mistake, many of these pieces are available in weightier translations (and I do mean “weightier”). But coming in at just under 100 pages, Tiivistelma packs a wallop of myth, storytelling and legend into one slim text – in which lies its very strength. For no other volume is as portable, as accessible, or as good for a quick Nordic fix as Tiivestelma. Proof that big things really do come in little packages – in this instance, anyway!

Read, enjoy – and escape into this Viking world!

Trunk Handpainted by Marsha's Dad

Trunk Handpainted by Marsha's Dad

Greetings, Viking lovers near and far –

A Longship - Model Not to Scale!!!

A Longship - Model Not to Scale!!!

OK – I’ve been busy getting the crap kicked out of me lately, with contests entries, critiques, book reviews, getting chapters written, and now slaving away in the salt mines, too. So I’m WAY behind on some of my goodies (including new pics of Barbarian Hotness).

However, can’t let the opportunity go by without mentioning the celebration of Santansaften a few weeks back with my vatos at the Norwegian Society of Texas. Truly, they’re the nicest people on the planet. So what are you waiting for???? Take a liking to a Viking!

Anyhoos, the nice folks at the Norwegian Society gathered at the lovely home of Norwood and Marsha Band. Here’s some pics (sorry that I didn’t capture any of the chow). You need to know two things:

  1. Norwegian hospitality is surreal. Marsha is the perfect hostess, which only confirmed my suspicion that if I tried something similar, it would end in absolute disaster.
  2. Norwegians can eat. This requires no explanation. But it’s probably the reason they didn’t actually take over the world – they couldn’t maintain their food supply.
Norwegian Hospitality (If I tried to make this, it would look like crap.)

Norwegian Hospitality

I also owe a shout out to my vato, Steve Ogden, one of our loyal Viking dudes. Steve’s a die-hard, and he sent me some pics of him in his Viking attire. Steve, you’re da MAN!!!! See his pics below – or else.
 
Capital One should hire him for their commercials!
And my friend Hayward McMurray got us all singing “Home, Home in Norway” (to the tune of “Home on the Range”. Here are the lyrics:
O give me a home/ Where the Viking men roam/Where the trolls and the reindeer all play/ Where the midnight sun beams/ Over mountains and streams/ And the people are friendly all day.
Home, home in Norway/ Where the trolls and the reindeer all play/ Where the midnight sun beams/ Over mountains and streams/ And the people are friendly all day.
Note: I like this – particularly the part about “roaming Viking men.” Thanks, Hayward!
 
 Last – just one little plug:
 I’m now on Facebook (yes, I’ve gone to the Dark Side). So don’t be haters – send me invites!
 
Steve "What's in your wallet?" Ogden on His Viking Best Behavior - Victim Unknown

Steve "What's in your wallet?" Ogden on His Viking Best Behavior - Victim is Auntie Liz, Matriarch of the Hawaiian Dance Group "Hula Halau Ohana Elikapeka" (Because Vikings beat up on Hawaiian dancers most commonly.)

Steve Demonstrates Proper Pillaging Technique

Steve Demonstrates Proper Pillaging Technique (On Auntie Liz and her granddaughter, Bella.)

 

OK – for the uninitiated…

My WIP, Odin’s End, is set in Norway during their civil war era. As part of my research I got in touch with a great group of folks, the Norwegian Society of Texas, who really celebrate their Norwegian heritage – all Norway, all the time!

 Their Dallas chapter (called the Viking chapter, of course) is having a Syttende Mai celebration to commemorate the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814.

I’ve gotta see this! So I contacted the chapter’s president, a very nice lady named Suzanne Juliussen, and the Hubby and I are headed out to meet this great group of people and help them celebrate Syttende Mai.

Suzanne has promised that they will have their longship on hand – I promise to take lots of pictures and generally help our Norwegian friends celebrate!

OK, Suzanne – I’m all worked up! I’m ready to see some Vikings!

Here are some general pictures of Syttende Mai – just to get us in party mood!

Vikings on Parade

Vikings on Parade

 

Sea Serpent Float

Sea Serpent Float - click to go to the Seattle Daily Photo

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