Viking Shieldmaidens

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Blanc Sanglier
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Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Blanc Sanglier » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:18 pm

Hello all!

I am interested in learning more about Viking Shieldmaidens. I know there is dispute between historians and archaeologists as to whether or not they existed.

Can anyone provide links to any of the digs of graves containing supposed shieldmaidens (women buried with amour and weapons)? What sort of weapons did they have? Other grave goods indicating they were warriors? What sort of clothing would they have worn - would it be similar to that of a male warrior or of a totally different style?

I am paticularly interested if there is any evidence of findings from the Rus viking peoples of shieldmaidens.

And also your own personal thoughts or feelings on this topic would be of interest

Many thanks :D


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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:37 pm

A good place to start would be any female grave that says itcontains a metal 'weaving sword' Nine time out of ten, these look more like proper metal weapons - swords, spearheads or long seaxes - rather than the normal wodden weaving batton used with a warp weighted loom. Then look for the graves of men dressed as women. Some are, indeed, men dressed as women but some are only said to be thatbecausewomen did not have weapons buried with them......... Then there are the graves that are assumed to be male because their are traces of weapons yet no traces of gender (due to poor preservation). You can also check the stories........ http://www.vikingsonline.org.uk/resourc ... riors.html


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Redbullgivesuwind
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Redbullgivesuwind » Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:34 pm

In regards to the graves that have been found with weapons and armour. Repton Wood is a good one with three female "warriors". However, I am not sure they were wielding these about the battlefield. More that these were status symbols for wealthy and powerful women. By having their husbands armour and (this is a big leap) perhaps keeping either a set or having a version they were able to say look at me I am now the matriarch of the family or to an extent the tribe. Or it may even be a case that they had them made as a display of how wealthy they are or were given them as captured gifts.

Personally I am slightly sceptical of any reference to shield maidens. This isn't because I don't think women are capable of doing it (all for getting kicked over a battlefield by anyone better than me i.e. everyone). But because of the such rigid social structures that people lived in even among the non-Romanesque societies. Further more the failure of any historical sources to mention this fact suggests otherwise. While you can argue the point that they may have been so horrified that this was happening that they do not wish to mention it; Like the Romans the Saxons and Carolingians were up for betraying their enemies as blood filled savages so to not mention it in a horrified way seems strange to me.



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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:52 pm

Redbullgivesyouwind wrote 'Further more the failure of any historical sources to mention this fact' -
http://www.vikingsonline.org.uk/resourc ... riors.html
Have you read these sources?


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Redbullgivesuwind
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Redbullgivesuwind » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:51 pm

Hi Neil

Yes I am aware of them, all excellent reading. However, sagas are never the most reliable source for any information. While sometimes they can have references that we can collaborate with other sources and therefore are true. Most of the time they have been exaggerated or are influenced by the writer who wrote them down, who then often changed what they felt to be incorrect. So I, personally, take them with a pinch of salt.

I have no doubt that Celtic women did possibly fight alongside men or at least would be able to fight as we have numerous descriptions from horrified Roman writers. Who gleefully used this as an opportunity to show how "barbaric" their opponents were. However, we do not see the same in the opponents of the Vikings, such as Asser, or as far as I am aware (and I not great on Carolingian history) from the Carolingian sources either. This makes me feel that the graves with armour etc were more power statements than evidence of female warriors.



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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:17 pm

Your point of view is valid and, if I may say so, very male orientated. It is my belief that there are so many obviously female graves with weapons - even if it is just a spear (often called a weaving sword...... :? by the archaeologists) that there were some women who lived as warriors. Not many, by comparison with the male warrior population, but enough for it to be not unheard of in the general populace. Added to this the English law codes (I can't remember offhand whose at the moment) that ban women women from the battlefield twice within not very many years - why legislate (TWICE) if it's not happening? (Do we have laws preventing alien abduction?)


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Medicus Matt
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Medicus Matt » Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:41 pm

I think you might be getting mixed up there Neil. I can't think of any of the laws of the early English kings which reference women fighting. The only one I can think of from any sort of British context is the Cáin Adomnáin (The Law of The Innocents) of 697, which was renewed in 727.
That was enforced by the Christian kings of Ireland, Dal Riada and Pictish territory but it's unclear whether it's intention was to protect innocents (women and children) from the horrors of battle as non-combatants or to prevent women from taking an active part in battle as warriors. This ambiguity means that it's used people on both sides of the argument to support their cases.
Useful.



Weapons in a grave do not prove that the deceased was a warrior, regardless of culture.
Lack of weapons in a grave do not prove the opposite.

That women of importance could and did take on the leadership of military forces in a few notable cases is only to be expected from societies in which women could and did have the opportunity to hold land and titles.
That ordinary women fought as ordinary warriors, whether openly as women or disguised as men in pagan Scando-Germanic societies is not so clear and there is no conclusive evidence that is sufficiently robust to persuade those on either side of the argument.


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Redbullgivesuwind
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Redbullgivesuwind » Sat Sep 20, 2014 8:42 am

Hi Niel

I can certainly see that my arguement does come across as that view point. However, I feel your arguement risks imposing 21st century views on to a society that was undoubtably a patriarchy.

While I do not disagree that the items found in the graves are weapons. We simple have no overtly reliable sources or collaboration of female warriors. Unlike say the Roman period where we have numerous sources which talk about the ferocity of the female celts.

I think that like all burials in this period is that these are statements on the person. By placing armour in to some graves and not others the Vikings are making a power statement. They are saying here was a strong leader who was the head of her tribe/family. Not that they actually fought. In the same way I believe male burials with femal items suggest perhaps an unpopular leader or one who may have been seen as cowardly or weak.



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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:06 am

Medicus Mat - Those were the laws I was thinking of, thanks.

As to the lack of hard, coroborated, evidence that you and Redbullgivesyouwind site as ruling out female warriors, I would ask you if you are happy with viking period tents?

The hard evidence forthe A-frame Oseburg tents is exactly that. One high status example found in Norway, none here (unless they have found others I am unaware of.....) and the allegedly Anglo-Saxon Getelt style tents are based on a couple of illustrations from Carolingian and Frankish manuscripts. I know of no 'hard' evidence for the 'sail' awnings used bysomany groups either.

Are we going to use the same logic on them as you wouldlike to use against female warriors? :wink:


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Medicus Matt
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Medicus Matt » Sun Sep 21, 2014 5:50 pm

Neil of Ormsheim wrote:
Are we going to use the same logic on them as you wouldlike to use against female warriors? :wink:


You're not using logic.

Manuscripts depict tents from the period in the North Western Scando-Germanic sphere, therefore we know
a) That they existed and
b) What some of them looked like.

The same can't be said for female warriors in the rank and file. The references in contemporary literature are either to cultures outside of the North Western Scando-Germanic world or are pertinent only to women in positions of power.

However, you misrepresent what I've said.
I don't say that the lack of evidence rules them out, I say that (given the way that I chose to use evidence as the basis for what I do in reenactment) it doesn't rule them in.
There's a difference.

As for this:-
Neil of Ormsheim wrote: I know of no 'hard' evidence for the 'sail' awnings used bysomany groups either.


Then they should probably be encouraged to get rid of them.
Along with their brightly painted, "knot-work" covered scabbards.

However, as the Poles say, "nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpy."


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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Sun Sep 21, 2014 7:06 pm

:D


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Redbullgivesuwind
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Redbullgivesuwind » Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:02 am

Hi Neil

I have exactly the same problem with sail awnings used by groups because there is no evidence.

As Medicus MAtt has pointed out the fact that we have illustrations in manuscripts is exactly the hard evidence I would want or numerous references from a historical authority. Because there is none then we cannot state with any assertion that there were female warriors. It isn't that I don't want there to be female warriors it is just that there isn't any evidence to show they existed and thus I can't say that they do.

But I want to be proved wrong.....



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Neil of Ormsheim
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:23 pm

My, somewhat not-too-serious, point about tents was that we have a few bits of evidence that a few people had them but that makes it OK for everyone to have them, but a few bits of evidence for a few female warriors does not 'rule them in'. Just contrasting evidence levels being used to to argue in two separate directions.........


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Redbullgivesuwind
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Re: Viking Shieldmaidens

Postby Redbullgivesuwind » Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:36 pm

But there is a massive difference in the quality of the evidence. The sources we have for the tent are actual pictures showing their use by people from that period.

However, for female warriors we have weapons and armour in graves. But that doesn't confirm if they were worn by that person, put in separate for some reason, were put in with meaning etc. All we can say is that they are in there and that must be for a purpose. Nor are there any reliable primary that say there were female warriors who fought or were present at the battles. So it cannot be said these are categorically female warriors. And without further proof such as pictures or writers from the time then it would be foolish to assert there were.




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