What an adorable, yet wise and sophisticated -looking dog! <3 One got to love old northern breeds. They became like that more through nature's selection than purposeful human interference. Very healthy breeds all of them. *sage nod* Makes me sad to see that nowadays, for example the carelian bear-dog has become a label name, and humans have started to breed them to better match their own purposes and their own understanding of a carelian beardog. And so it happens, that the breed is slowly loosing its original shape and characteristics and overall health. :/ Anyways, more old Viking breeds here: www.vikinganswerlady.com/vik_pets.shtml#Dogs
The people at Medievalists.net are legit. They are journalists/scholars who actually know the Middle Ages. What they were responding to was a whirling saraband of blog/twitter posts regarding a paper published in 2011 about the excavation of some Danelaw graves.
That paper required a small payment to read the full thing. No need for that. Bloggers and twittiots just made up stuff to fill in what they couldn't/wouldn't read (otherwise, it might ruin everything). Next thing you know, the legend of the "Danelaw Valkyrie Army" was born. "Circular journalism" at its best. Despite the fact that nowhere, from Limerick to Constantinople, is there any record of women making up a significant portion of any offensive Viking force, the blogosphere went wild asserting that here was "hidden history" revealed.
Without a doubt, "shieldmaidens" are occasionally mentioned in Norse sagas (as they are in Celtic legends and laws). Nowhere are they shown as being any sort of major component of any raiding/invading Viking unit. Why would they be? Barbaric societies lived on a knife's edge. Infant/child mortality was high. Adult mortality was also high. Any woman killed in front-line combat was a woman not keeping the tribe going.
"But, Deuce," you say, "are you trying to assert that Viking women never fought?" Absolutely not. In fact, fighting women were a defensive asset to Viking society. It would seem that Indo-European women in general who had military training are attested all through Indo-European history except for those societies based around the Mediterranean/Middle East. You see it in the Brehon laws of Ireland, the Cimbri women (REH wrote an epic poem about them) and in the accounts of Sarmatian women. What we don't see are accounts of Indo-European women (including those in Viking Age Scandinavia) going out and picking fights/raiding/invading/conquering en masse. That was left to the more expendable (and effective) males. Yeah, those Y-chromosone bastards were the ones taking the real estate from other males. As usual.
McLeod makes it pretty obvious in his paper that the graves he excavated showed Viking women came in the first wave from Denmark, but that there is nothing to indicate that they were doing more than holding down the fort (if that). They were no more "conquering" land than the steadfast pioneer woman of Texas REH wrote about who fought off Comanche raiders.
I won't seek to unravel the strange (and naive) mindset that led to the whole misguided kerfuffle, but I do have a few links that should point out just how wrong-headed the whole idea is (irrespective of ethnicity):
The Israeli Defense Force is the most gender-integrated (and pragmatic) military on the planet. They don't have women doing front-line work:
Certainly women fought too - and did alot of "men's work". That because men were not always there to do the work for them. They had wars and raids and hunts to go to. The northern societies were often so small and so demanding to live in, that everyone had to be able to do what there was to do. Even slaves were an important and generally more valued as part of the society than in other places, because they were people, and everyone was needed because people were few and rare in the north. I believe that is the base of equality which we have in scandinavian countries. The only practical thing separating women from men was that they were pregnant all the time. Thats why they stayed home.
I always found Ibn Fadlans travels in 921 amongst the Khazars, Bulgars and Viking Rus fascinating - here is Fadlan's account of a Rus funeral.
Funeral of a Rus' nobleman (1883) by Henryk Siemiradzki
When their chieftain dies, his family ask his slave-girls and slave-boys, “Who among you will die with him?” and some of them reply, “I shall.” Having said this, it becomes incumbent upon the person and it is impossible ever to turn back. Should that person try to, he is not permitted to do so. It is usually slave-girls who make this offer.
When that man whom I mentioned earlier died, they said to his slave-girls, “Who will die with him?” and one of them said, “I shall.” So they placed two slave-girls in charge of her to take care of her and accompany her wherever she went, even to the point of occasionally washing her feet with their own hands. They set about attending to the dead man, preparing his clothes for him and setting right all he needed. Every day the slave-girl would drink (alcohol) and would sing merrily and cheerfully.
On the day when he and the slave-girl were to be burned I arrived at the river where his ship was. To my surprise I discovered that it had been beached and that four planks of birch and other types of wood had been erected for it. Around them wood had been placed in such a way as to resemble scaffolding. Then the ship was hauled and placed on top of this wood. They advanced, going to and fro (around the boat) uttering words which I did not understand, while he was still in his grave and had not been exhumed.
Then they produced a couch and placed it on the ship, covering it with quilts (made of) Byzantine silk brocade and cushions (made of) Byzantine silk brocade. Then a crone arrived whom they called the “Angel of Death” and she spread on the couch the coverings we have mentioned. She is responsible for having his (garments) sewn up and putting him in order and it is she who kills the slave-girls. I myself saw her: a gloomy, corpulent woman, neither young nor old.
When they came to his grave, they removed the soil from the wood and then removed the wood, exhuming him (still dressed) in the izar in which he had died. I could see that he had turned black because of the coldness of the ground. They had also placed alcohol, fruit and a pandora beside him in the grave, all of which they took out. Surprisingly, he had not begun to stink and only his colour had deteriorated. They clothed him in trousers, leggings, boots, a qurtaq, and a silk caftan with golden buttons, and placed a silk qalansuwwah (fringed) with sable on his head.
They carried him inside the pavilion on the ship and laid him to rest on the quilt, propping him with cushions. Then they brought alcohol, fruit and herbs and placed them beside him. Next they brought bread, meat and onions, which they cast in front of him, a dog, which they cut in two and which they threw onto the ship, and all of his weaponry, which they placed beside him. They then brought two mounts, made them gallop until they began to sweat, cut them up into pieces and threw the flesh onto the ship. They next fetched two cows, which they also cut up into pieces and threw on board, and a cock and a hen, which they slaughtered and cast onto it.
Meanwhile, the slave-girl who wished to be killed was coming and going, entering one pavilion after another. The owner of the pavilion would have intercourse with her and say to her, “Tell your master that I have done this purely out of love for you.”
At the time of the evening prayer on Friday they brought the slave-girl to a thing that they had constructed, like a door-frame. She placed her feet on the hands of the men and was raised above that door-frame. She said something and they brought her down. Then they lifted her up a second time and she did what she had done the first time. They brought her down and then lifted her up a third time and she did what she had done on the first two oc- casions. They next handed her a hen. She cut off its head and threw it away. They took the hen and threw it on board the ship.
I quizzed the interpreter about her actions and he said, “The first time they lifted her, she said, ‘Behold, I see my father and my mother.’ The second time she said, ‘Behold, I see all of my dead kindred, seated.’ The third time she said, ‘Behold, I see my master, seated in Paradise. Paradise is beautiful and verdant. He is accompanied by his men and his male- slaves. He summons me, so bring me to him.’” So they brought her to the ship and she removed two bracelets that she was wearing, handing them to the woman called the “Angel of Death,” the one who was to kill her. She also removed two anklets that she was wearing, handing them to the two slave-girls who had waited upon her: they were the daughters of the crone known as the “Angel of Death.” Then they lifted her onto the ship but did not bring her into the pavilion. The men came with their shields and sticks and handed her a cup of alcohol over which she chanted and then drank. The interpreter said to me, “Thereby she bids her female companions farewell.” She was handed another cup, which she took and chanted for a long time, while the crone urged her to drink it and to enter the pavilion in which her master lay. I saw that she was befuddled and wanted to enter the pavilion but she had (only) put her head into the pavilion (while her body remained outside it). The crone grabbed hold of her head and dragged her into the pavilion, entering it at the same time. The men began to bang their shields with the sticks so that her screams could not be heard and so terrify the other slave-girls, who would not, then, seek to die with their masters.
Six men entered the pavilion and all had intercourse with the slave- girl. They laid her down beside her master and two of them took hold of her feet, two her hands. The crone called the “Angel of Death” placed a rope around her neck in such a way that the ends crossed one another and handed it to two (of the men) to pull on it. She advanced with a broad-bladed dagger and began to thrust it in and out between her ribs, now here, now there, while the two men throttled her with the rope until she died.
Then the deceased’s next of kin approached and took hold of a piece of wood and set fire to it. He walked backwards, with the back of his neck to the ship, his face to the people, with the lighted piece of wood in one hand and the other hand on his anus, being completely naked. He ignited the wood that had been set up under the ship after they had placed the slave-girl whom they had killed beside her master. Then the people came forward with sticks and firewood. Each one carried a stick the end of which he had set fire to and which he threw on top of the wood. The wood caught fire, and then the ship, the pavilion, the man, the slave-girl and all it contained. A dreadful wind arose and the flames leapt higher and blazed fiercely.
One of the Rusiyyah stood beside me and I heard him speaking to my interpreter. I quizzed him about what he had said, and he replied, “He said, ‘You Arabs are a foolish lot!’” So I said, “Why is that?” and he replied, “Because you purposely take those who are dearest to you and whom you hold in highest esteem and throw them under the earth, where they are eaten by the earth, by vermin and by worms, whereas we burn them in the fire there and then, so that they enter Paradise immediately.” Then he laughed loud and long. I quizzed him about that (i.e., the entry into Paradise) and he said, “Because of the love which my Lord feels for him. He has sent the wind to take him away within an hour.”
A very interesting video about the strongmen of Iceland.
Despite its tiny population, Iceland has a reputation in the World's Strongest Man competition that stands higher than perhaps any other country's. This small, black rock in the middle of the ocean has produced a lineage of strongmen dating back to the Vikings.
VICE went out there to investigate why this tiny island produces such strong people. Hanging out at Jakabol—a gym run by ex-champion Magnus Ver Magnusson—we met a whole host of Icelandic strongmen, which includes Hafthor "Thor" Bjornsson, the 6'9" star of Game of Thrones.
Since there doesn't appear to be complete DNA evidence for the lands between Bulgaria/Turkey and Scandinavia, I'd speculate that these "Egyptian DNA cats" were brought back up the Varangian Road to the Norse homelands.