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Southern Magic - History Tidbits

Let's Go A-Viking

By Carla Swafford

Northmen came from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. These Scandinavians were also called Norsemen and Danes. The name Viking was not used until after the 1100's. The term to go a-viking was used among the Scandinavians that meant to fight as a pirate or warrior.

In Scandinavia nations, a public assembly of every freeman was called the Thing. The Thing met periodically and served as a parliament for making of laws and as a court for judging offenders.

No written codes of law existed in Scandinavia until about 1100.

Next to death, permanent outlawry was the most severe punishment. The criminal gave up all of his rights and goods. He could be murdered without risk of a penalty.

Longhouses or hall houses could be as long as 100 feet. They were built from timber, stone wattle and daub or even sod.

Religious practices varied, but animal sacrifices were common, and on occasion, human sacrifices.

A major source of trade was slaves. Norsemen also traded with furs, cattle, swords, amber, and walrus ivory.

Fifty warriors would take turns rowing an 80-foot Viking longboat on rivers, but used large woolen sails and the wind at sea.

By the late 900's, Vikings used three methods to navigate. One was a measuring stick with a table of the sun's midday height for each week of the year. Another was landmarks, and the third, ravens. Ravens were known for their ability to find land. A Viking would release a raven and follow the direction the bird flew.

Wealthy Viking men were allowed two or more wives at the same time.

Luckier than their European counterpart, Viking women could own land or other property. Viking law permitted a married woman to get a divorce whenever she wished.

Taken from Magic Moments - November 2000 Volume 3/Issue 11