Monday, August 30, 2010

Viking Love and Courtship

Viking legend is full of tales of heroes falling in love with beautiful women and of other women abandoning their absent husbands for mightier warriors. It is the stuff that fairy tales are written about.

Ever wonder where Hans Christian Anderson got the idea for "Sleeping beauty?" Brunhilde, who was a Valkyrie, was told by Odin to go down to Midgard, Earth and bring back a specific Warrior to Valhalla. To do this the warrior had to be killed, as this was the job of Valkyries to bring back the slain warriors. Brunhilde fell in love with the warrior and could not face the thought of him being killed. When Odin learned of her failed mission he put her into a permanent sleep. He then surrounded her with vinelike thorns to protect her from prying eyes and a kiss that could awaken her. The thorns are thought to be the Thurisaz Rune which is in the shape of a thorn and symbolizes protection.

For ordinary Norse people courtship and marriage was less dramatic, occaisonally a matter of love, but more often an arranged match. Today the Christian church considers a man and woman living together as a sin. But in the days of the North men, trial marraiges were entered into at Lughnasadh and lasted until the following Beltain, enabling couples to get to know one another during the long dark winter. 

Traditionally, if the relationship was unhappy, it was broken off at Beltain, although this was also the season young  lovers came together. Marriages were common after harvest time, since farmers could assess weather they were able to afford a wife. 

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