August 30, 2011

Current research areas: Norse culture

Apart from my primary 14th century English persona, I have also adopted a secondary persona.  This is the persona that I use while fighting in the SCA.  Norse/Viking culture has always fascinated me, and I've discovered that I'm a complete sponge when it comes to learning about it.  I'd say a good third of my book collection is about Norse culture right now.

As an aside, I also find it completely useful that I enjoy fighting with my axe so much.  Works out well.  ;-)

Naturally I'm throwing myself in head first to developing a persona basis for my fighting self the same way I'm tackling writing a back-story for my English persona.  Based on readings to date, what I've gravitated towards is Hiberno-Norse culture around the second invasion of Dublin in the 10th century.  In other words, Irish-Norse culture and the history of how Scandinavian territorial movement happened across the Irish sea near the end of the Viking age in Europe. 

I really wanted to find a new twist to the usual Danelaw-type Norse culture in the British Isles, and stretch beyond typical Norse personas.  I think it's kind of neat to study a time when the lines between all the various cultural roots of the region were really blurry:  Celtic, English/Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Frank, Welsh...I could go on.

Anyway, simply to say that this aspect is probably my second area of research at the moment.  Along the same lines, I'm also really keen to explore new finds demonstrating the possible existence of women warriors in East England.  I'm trying to get my hands on the paper.  How neat would that be if they could definitively say that Norse culture, which often eschewed cross-gender behaviour, would actually have accepted female warriors (beyond those necessarily defending home)?  I have seen in various sources a large difference of opinion as to whether or not women could have existed in such a role at the time.  Doubt of course cast by such strong figures as the Valkyries for one.  The fact that some sagas showing women taking on very active roles in domestic conflict for another.  And the fact that the sagas show a role of women to be spurring/guilt-tripping their menfolk into violence for revenge and for the sake of honour.  

Yet, there seems to be little sourced information demonstrating that the warrior was an acceptable and common profession for women...if profession is the right word?  Running the family household would surely take the cake as the primary profession for women of course.  How many women would have actually had the opportunity to consider alternative paths?  Mind you, besides the Valkyrie there is at least one other Norse goddess who chose to walk a non-traditional path (Skaði: Prose Edda).   Perhaps it's not as foreign a concept as previously thought?  Hmmm...

I'm rambling...  :-)