Vestiges of the Vikings: Magic Buried in a Viking Woman's Grave
To nominate someone else as a Quality Contributor, message the mods. Is it true that Vikings let women handle their finances because they thought it was witchcraft? I keep seeing this statement "Vikings made their women take care of their finances because they thought math was witchcraft" and can't find any proof to back it up. Does any one know about this? We think women controlled the material wealth of Viking-Age households because many wealthy women were buried with a key.
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We assume that within the longhouse, there would have been a locked pantry, and only the matriarch of the household had access to it. Presumably this included food, possibly alcohol, and I would guess textiles as well. Silk or sails were both extremely valuable. In contrast, textile production became a male industry in the later middle ages.
Coins might also have been kept in these cupboards, although some hoards seem to have been buried in farmhouse floors. I suspect this would have been the safer option, since anyone with an axe could break through the pantry door, but you'd need to convince someone to tell you where the family purse was buried before you could get at the money. If a household were attacked, you could abandon the house, and even if it were burnt down, you'd still be able to dig any buried coins back up. So women were probably in charge of managing food and textiles—which were the major material wealth of a Viking-Age farm—but there's less evidence that they were responsible for coins.
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Of course, much of the stuff that got moved around during the Viking Age was probably traded or gifted, rather than bought for cash. So although there was no such thing as a household 'budget' and even 'finances' seems like an ill-fitting word for Viking-Age households, women seem to have been in charge of the bulk of a farm or family's wealth. The rest of the statement you're interested in seems much more dubious.
Admittedly, 'magic' isn't quite the right word since 'magic' often suggests superstition or illusion. I've seen no reason to assume that math was considered magic or a particularly feminine form of magic.
Instead, scales and weights for measuring silver are often found in apparently male graves. The magic of the Vikings, however, is somewhat a secondary field of interest. Though intricately linked with the pagan beliefs of the Norse, it is in many ways more undefined due to the ritual sacrifice of magical items.
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In , a curved metal rod was discovered in a 9 th th century female grave in Romsdal, Norway. Scholars have debated its intention for years, shuffling between theories that it was a "fishing hook or a spit for roasting meat", before realizing in that it was likely a form of a magic wand. The bend toward the top of the wand was seemingly made just before the wand was laid to rest with the woman, as if to stem its magical properties.
It is long at 90cm , made of iron consistent with the materials circulating of the Norse Iron Age with "knobs attached to them" for the benefit of the wielder. The Viking metal rod that is believed to have been a magic wand. Credit: Trustees of the British Museum. It is important to note that it was very common in Viking funerary traditions for weapons or items to be ceremoniously broken or bent before burial.
Though the exact reasons for these actions are uncertain, it is believed by scholars such as Thomas DuBois and Neil Price that such alterations were part of the funeral itself. The weapons of a warrior, for instance, or the wand of a witch, in this case, were forcibly made impotent or non-functional just as the warrior could no longer fight, and the witch could no longer perform magic. Though again, one must remember that these sagas were written by Christians, not the practitioners themselves.
The ritual appeals to some sort of spirit helpers, either for divinatory information or help in controlling the mins and wills of others". This practice was most closely associated with the god Odin, in his guise as a war god, as well as Freyja, the goddess of fertility. It should be noted here that this is not the first time that Odin and Freyja are paired together; they also divide the souls of the warriors rescued by the Valkyries between their two realms.
The finding of this Viking wand in , and its subsequent interpretation by scholars does not necessarily add further insight to the field of pre-Christian Norse religion. However, what its finding does indicate is further proof that magic was likely a predominately female position, and considered important enough that the wand was worthy of being ritually destroyed before placed with its owner.
While an article written by "The Daily Mail" indicates that this break was due to a fear that the witch's magic would rise again, according to archaeological data and the vast research of scholar Neil Price, it is more likely that the wand was broken in respectful ceremony. Top image: A reconstruction of how Viking witches could have looked as they wielded their fearsome staffs DailyMail.
DuBois, Thomas. Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gye, Howard. Price, Neil. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Read More. Ancient Origins has been quoted by:. By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings.
Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. Skip to main content. References DuBois, Thomas. The Archaeology of Shamanism. London: Routledge. Login or Register in order to comment.
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