Saturday, August 10, 2013

Women, Viking and Others

Women in the Viking world,  how did they do?  Were they just chattels, baggage, or did they have a life of their own?

On the surface, you'd have to say they didn't have much.  Best   I can tell, there is none but the most trivial evidence of women in raiding parties and suchlikw; more, but not a lot, by way of female grave goods.  I don't hear of any important Viking-age queens, though I gather the royal line might descend through the female to her son.

But on closer scrutiny, there's more to the story.  The elephant in the room is that Vikings by nature were voyagers, which is to say "away from home."  Somebody--guess who--had to manage the home place: a job that must necessarily have accumulated some power and discretion.  And not just day-to-day, either: we're in a world of long frozen winters. Somebody had better see to it that the fish get salted, that the hay gets seasoned and stowed away (actually, it blows my mind that people developed an agricultural surplus as well as they did under such hostile conditions).

All that set my mind to wandering (Viking-style?) to other societies where men are absent.  Kerala, for example, famously low in wealth, high in social well-being--a place where men are off at sea most of the time and women run things at home.  Or Switzerland, where the relatively orderly settlement of social conflict may owe something to the fact that the testosterone-poisoned young bucks were off doing mercenary service in somebody else's army.  Contrast WWII Poland and Ukraine, where the Germans shot most of the middle-aged social glue, and left behind bands of youngsters whose skill set did not extend much beyond weaponry.

Which makes you understand why the Viking lands were such a peacef--oh, right,  strike that.  They certainly didn't look peaceful  when they showed up at Lindesfarne or the laid Siege to Paris.  And it seems that when they weren't looting and pillaging, they were whaling the tar out of each other.  Hm.  Well, maybe life on the home place was quiet even so.  Or maybe not.


joel said...

and villages in mexico where all the men are stuck in the usa undocumented but hopefully working

The New York Crank said...

You wrote: "Somebody had better see to it that the fish get salted, that the hay gets seasoned"

Cranky city slicker speaking here: Why does hay have have to be seasoned? And what do you season it with? Salt and paprika? Garlic, onions, and pepper? Vinegar and barbecue sauce?

Will the cattle eat it that way? Or do you then stuff it into a sack and call it a seasoned mattress?

Inquiring urbanites want to know.

Curiously cranky,
The New York Crank

Buce said...

I probably should have said "cured," although I'm pretty sure I heard "seasoned" when I was a kid. Anyway, you've got to do it, and you do it while the sun shines. Cf., "making hey-hey."

The New York Crank said...

Well then, not to put too cranky a point on it, what you really wanted to say was those Viking Women needed to make hay. Period. If you said they needed to make sure they hay got cured, I would have asked, "Cure of what?"

The hay couldn't have been cured before it was hay, because then it wouldn't have been hay.

After you make it, of course, you can cure it with antibiotics or season it with salt and pepper, assuming you're nuts enough.

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank