Norse of Eydraumr

The fair-skinned traders from beyond

The Norse were the precursors to the modern Scandinavian peoples of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Norse classification applies to the North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages (400-900 CE) specifically but has also been more broadly applied to their descendants - including those of modern-day. The Norse are perhaps most famously known for their settlement, trade, warfare, and expansions during the Viking Era (793-1066 CE). The Viking Era ended with the Christianization of Scandinavia, which took place from 700-1100 CE, and involved Harald Bluetooth of Denmark declaring his country Christian with the raising of the Jelling Stones in 975 CE. While the countries were nominally Christian, it took much longer for Scandinavians to adopt any Christian beliefs or practices into their daily lives; the oldest still-standing church built in stone was only constructed in 1040 CE in Scania.   The Norse of Eydraumr are notable settlers to the island. It is widely believed that the settlers were seeking to escape Christianization efforts in Iceland. As such, they came to Eydraumr inspired by tales of Leif Erikson's tales of his settlement of Vinland.

Lands:

Norse settlements included Iceland, Greenland, and most of Northern Europe. The Norse inhabited large swathes of land, but primarily made settlements along the coast. While modern-day Scandinavia is heavily populated with the descendants of the Norse, the Northern Scandinavian Peninsula (with a notable exception for the Norweigan coast) was primarily occupied by Sami tribes. Modern archaeologists and historians have placed the Norse lands as any land North of the Danevirke, a series of fortifications in modern Schleswig-Holstein Germany 50 kilometers south of the modern Danish-German border. The southernmost settlement in Britain was the modern city of Newcastle upon Tyne.  

Economy and Trade:

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Worlds largest reconstruction of a Viking Age warship by Custom House Quay in central Dublin
The Norse, due to their widespread lands and naval dominance, had a vast economic network that shaped economic development throughout Europe. Outside of major trading centers, such as Ribe or Hedeby in modern-day Denmark, the Norse were largely unfamiliar with coinage. Rather, they used precious metals by weight, with silver being the most commonly used.   Organized trade covered every product imaginable. Spices from China and Persia, silk from Byzantium, glass from Africa, and wines from regions belonging to modern day Germany and France were all prized by Norse trade. The Norse provided elaborate craftwork to trade their glass creations, clothing, and artworks in addition to more mundane cloth, down, fur, and amber. There was almost nothing that was out of reach for Norse traders, and many of these goods were available to any citizen that could purchase them.   The Norse did take slaves, concubines, and paid passengers. The slaves would serve as Thralls, while those who were either brought on as free individuals or paid their passage would simply be assimilated into Norse society. Thralls that lived and worked in Norse lands could potentially earn their freedom, but it was not uncommon for slaves to be sold to Arab traders in exchange for large amounts of silver.   The Norse would utilize armor and weapons specifically crafted for combat. Most karls would fight with a spear and shield, and most everyone carried some form of utility knife that could act as a side-arm. Bows and arrows were used by those who were skilled with their use, but were considered less "honorable" than melee weapons. Axes were a main battle weapon, but both longsword and greatswords were not unusual. A wealthy Norse fighter would have a full set of mail, a helmet, a shield, and either a sword or an axe. Axes were favored for their ability to split armor or shields with ease. There are limited records of berserkers, fighters who would use copious amounts of hallucinogens or alcohol to enter a frenetic, crazed fighting state known as berserkergang, but almost all Norse fighters were fueled by their belief in their warrior gods.
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Recreation of a Viking Battle in Demark, August 2005

Language:

Old Norse is most closely related to modern-day Icelandic, with modern Icelanders able to read the Eddas and other Old Norse texts with only moderate difficulty. A large portion of the Norse were literate. The first writing system consisted of runes, though they did adopt a latin-style alphabet with the introduction of Christianity between 1000-1100 CE. The last daily usage of runestones occurred in 1920s Älvdalen, located within the Swedish province of Dalarna. The village spoke its own dialect of Swedish, Elfdalian, which is considered to be a separate language as it evolved much more closely with Old Norse and is mutually unintelligible with modern Swedish.  

Daily Life:

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Reconstruction of a Guildhall by Herdis Hølleland
Games and sports, especially those involving weapons or combat skills, were very popular among the Norse. Stone-lifting, fight fighting, wrestling, and spear-tossing were popular pastimes in all areas, mountaineering was popular in mountainous areas, and swimming was popular anywhere there was water. Agility and endurance were commonly tested with sports and games, with one game described as having to jump from oar to oar on a longship as it was being rowed. In Iceland, Knattleikr was popular among all ages. The sport was played on ice, similarly to ice-hockey, but the rules and play were much more similar to the Irish sport of Hurling. Board games, most commonly tafl, were common; chess became popular after its introduction in the 1000s CE. Dice games, particularly betting games, were popular.   Social gatherings and festive occasions were beloved by the Norse. Life was frequently planned around games, social occasions, or festivals. Music, storytelling, poetry, and alcohol were free-flowing in Nordic society. The ability to play music, in particular, was seen as a requirement to be a cultured, well-rounded member of society. The customs and holidays of Norse Spirituality flavored most ritualistic behaviors, beliefs, and hierarchies.    The Norse had varied diets, though locally sourced. Spices could come from far and wide to flavor dishes, even if the local produce was bland. Milk and dairy products were popular, though not always available in remote regions. Seafood, bread, and porridge were staples, as were smoked and cured meats. As the Norse relied on hunting, fishing, and agrarian pursuits, settlement structures were typically produced of durable materials such as hardwoods or stone with clay to seal them. Homes typically had a kitchen with a midden and hearth.   Pets were a large part of Norse life, with both dogs and cats having particular places of honor in a Norse home. Many of the Icelandic Sagas make reference to dogs following their humans into Valhalla after death, as guardians, and as guides. More dogs have been given honor burials through Norse Spirituality than in any other culture. Cats were considered to be lucky animals, with it being bad luck to kill a cat. Cats were also considered to be spirit guides, and connected with the world of spirits. Aside from dogs and cats many other animals were kept as pets, such as bears, hawks, and falcons.  

Leadership and Divisions:

Norse society was divided into three classes: Thrall (slaves), Karls (freemen), and Jarls (nobles). Roughly 25 percent of the population were Thralls, as this role was vital to the massive construction and production efforts that the Norse economy relied on. Thralls were generally looked down upon, but did have protections and rights under the law. The vast majority of the Norse population, Karls were free peasants and had greater rights of property ownership. Jarls were much fewer in number, but had a greater extended influence through the numbers of Karls that were sworn to the Jarl's service or lands. A Jarl's daily chores would typically be performed entirely by their Thralls, allowing the Jarl to focus entirely on administration, politics, hunting, sports, expeditions, or diplomacy. In some areas, a Jarl's Thralls would be sacrificially killed after a Jarl's death, so that they might accompany the Jarl to the next life. Despite the strict stratification, there was a higher degree of social mobility in Norse society. A Thrall could purchase or be granted their freedom. A Karl could purchase lands or be appointed into the position of Jarl. There were also cooperative communities, called félag, in which members (félagi) would oblige themselves to the group in exchange for shared rights to sea vessels, large tracts of land, or other such expensive and difficult to obtain resources. Some félag were based on service to a specific military group and leader; members of military félag were called drenge.   Despite men being considered the heads of household, women were given many more rights to independence than in many other contemporary societies. At the age of 20, any unmarried woman (maer), had the right to determine where she lived and was considered an independent individual in the law. Marriage was typically decided by the family unit as a whole, but elopement was not unheard of. A woman would bring a dowry, and her husband would pay a bride-price (mundr) to the bride's family. A married woman could independently seek divorce and remarry without stigma or shame. A woman could choose to live with a man as his wife without marriage, as a concubine (frilla). If the man had a wife, the frilla would be expected to be subservient to his lawful wife (húsfreyja). A widowed woman would inherit from her husband, and held all the rights of an unmarried woman.   Women could hold jobs; women were most commonly seen in religious or spiritual roles such as that of a Völva, were involved in the Skaldic arts, or were entrepreneurs. Women could also serve in martial duties, though they were less common than men. While women traditionally handled finances, domestic decisions, farming, and childrearing, a man was also expected to take part in these duties in equal measure. If a woman had no male relatives, she could be appointed head of her clan (Baugrygr), though her rights would typically transfer to her husband.   Children had the right to inherit property from both of their parents, as men and women could hold property separately. There was no such thing as a "bastard" or "illegitimate" child in Norse culture, though children born to married parents had somewhat greater rights of inheritance and appeal. The close female relatives (aunt, niece, sister, mother) of a man's family were expected to receive an inheritance from a deceased male relative, even if only a token.  

Clothing:

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Norse Viking Era Clothing by Archaeological Museum in Stavanger, Norway
  Linen was the most commonly used material, followed by wool and silk. Cleanliness was important to the Norse of all class levels, and it was not unusual to have several sets of clothing to ensure one was wearing clean clothes. Jarls had the most expensive tastes, wearing brightly-colored clothes, imported silks, and fine jewelry. Karls had similar tastes, though less expensive. Jewelry was common, though rings - especially earrings - were not typically worn as they were seen as a Slavic practice. Any jewelry worn, such as arm-rings, bangles, necklaces, brooches, or belt buckles, was done in elaborate, specific designs that held cultural significance. Combs and grooming accessories were typically crafted from antlers or bone.   Most men had shoulder-length hear and beards, with Thralls typically the only men with shaved or closely-shorn hair. Length varied based on occupation and personal preference more than any specific custom. Women typically had slightly longer hair than men, with unmarried women wearing braids and married women more typically wearing a bun. Men and women might shave their body hair, bleach their hair with wood ash or lye, or color their hair using pigments. Both men and women would use cosmetics, particularly eye makeup; the exact extent to which the Norse would paint their faces is not very well understood, but it was enough to be commented on in most records from foreign encouters.   The Norse did not use horned helmets, despite portrayals in popular media. The idea of horned helmets originates from ritual helmets, many of which may be stylized to resemble ravens, snakes, or horned creatures. As Norse fought in close-quarters, a horned helmet in combat would have been counterproductive or dangerous. Nor did they drink out of the skulls of the slain - this notion was actually due to a mistranslation of the Skaldic poem Krákumál.  

Eydraumr:

  The Norse of Eydraumr are the most numerous settlers on the island, and have been by far the most welcoming residents to outsiders. Almost all outside trade passes through the Norse port of Gáttarhlið. They have a steady relationship with the Abenaki and Mi'kmaq residents of the island, with agreements and trade relationships that have lasted a millennia. It was the Norse of Eydraumr that facilitated the acceptance of the island formally into the United States of America, though even the Norse regard Eydraumr as an entirely separate entity and recognize the authority of the United States Government in name only. The United States has historically taken punitive measures against the island, but currently seems content to ignore its presence.


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Overseas Guests by Nicholas Roerich

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