Facts About Viking Women

15 Facts About Viking Women: Raiding, Marriage, Divorce & More

Norse Women: They had property rights, could file for divorce if they were mistreated, and shared management of farms and homesteads with their male counterparts. Additionally, the legislation shielded them from a variety of unwelcome male attention.

When they first got married, which was frequently young, their primary sphere of influence was the family. By modern standards, Viking family life was chaotic, unpleasant, and odorous, yet warm and social.

The majority of Vikings resided in a long, one-room building with seating and sleeping quarters built around a central hearth.

 The center of Viking household life, these “longhouses” served as places where people cooked, ate, socialized, and slept.

In the home, women also played a significant role in passing on knowledge to the next generation by exchanging poems and stories, such as the well-known myths and sagas that were later recorded in medieval Iceland.

Female Vikings: Separating Fact From Fiction

Feeding her family and visitors was at the top of a Viking woman’s list of household responsibilities. Additionally, preparing food and beverages back when there was no mass production was laborious. Women had to first crush corn to make flour before they could bake flatbread.

In addition to labor-intensive dairy items like cheese, skyr (a yogurt-like yogurt), and butter is a part of their diet, meat and fish had to be preserved.

1. Strictly Speaking, There Were No “Viking” Women

Norse women

Most people are unaware that there were female Vikings because the bulk of the most well-known Vikings mentioned in Norse mythology are men. However, there is a very good historical chance that women fought with men in the Viking era.

2. Viking Women Sometimes Accompanied Men On Raids

Norse women

Viking attacks are typically thought to have involved large, powerful warriors with full beards, horned helmets, shields, swords, and spears. However, recent findings suggest that women also contributed significantly to these raids.

They served as advisors and assisted in organizing social events for major donors and allies. We are aware that the items are a byproduct of Viking invasions, which are seen as a masculine domain. However, since these items were discovered in the tombs of women, we can infer that they belonged to and were used by those women.

3. Viking Women Were Sometimes Buried With Valuable Goods

Norse women

The interpretation of a 1000-year-old grave is controversial. The first known high-ranking female Viking fighter was revealed to be a woman by archaeologists last week.

She was buried with a sword, axe, spear, and two shields and was initially unearthed in the 1880s. A Viking was interred with all of their possessions for the afterlife.

Few Vikings acquired a seagoing vessel in their grave goods since they did not need many boats in their whole, especially as compared to the necessities of living.

4. Viking Women Often Married Young

Norse women

Families negotiated to arrange women’s marriages, which typically took place between the ages of 12 and 15, but the lady typically had a say in the decision.

If a woman wanted a divorce, she had to gather witnesses and announce her decision to divorce her husband in front of them. Women of the Viking era married young, as young as 12. Almost all men and women were married by the age of 20.

The average lifespan was 50 years, however, most people passed away well before that age. Few of them made it to 60.

5. Viking Women Had Rights

Norse women

However, Viking women at this time in history had a lot of social independence. They had rights to property, could file for divorce if they were mistreated, and shared management of farms and homesteads with their male counterparts.

Additionally, the legislation shielded them from a variety of unwelcome male attention. Women during the Viking era looked for a compatible companion. There are numerous tales of ladies striving for the best male throughout the sagas.

But love did not always endure. Therefore, it was advantageous that Scandinavia led the way in promoting equal possibilities. The Viking woman had the option to pick a husband and then decide down the road not to wed him.

The scope of these equal chances did, however, have some limitations. For instance, during the Viking Age, only men were permitted to attend court.

6. Wives Were The Unofficial Leaders Of The Household

Norse women

During the Viking Age, women in Scandinavia held a number of important positions (eighth to the eleventh century).

Their occupations included everything from spinning and weaving cloth to producing clothes and hangings, canning, producing, and cooking food and drink, caring for livestock, working in the fields, cleaning and doing laundry, and even warming beds.

Their positions ranged from slave to farmer to landowner. Little is known about women in cities, but if they were married to craftsmen or merchants, it stands to reason that they supported their husband’s enterprise.

The written sagas, poetry, runes, and representations of women in art are among the primary sources of information on Viking Age women, along with archaeology.

7. The Osberg Burial May Show That Viking Women Could Be Leaders

Norse women

The Oseberg vessel was brought ashore and used as a ship for the two women’s interment. Behind the mast of the ship was built a burial room. The dead women were placed on a bed covered in bed linen inside a room with walls ornamented with an amazing woven tapestry.

Examinations of the skeletons reveal that the elderly woman passed away between the ages of 70 and 80, most likely from cancer. The other woman was a bit over 50 years old and younger. Her death’s exact cause is unknown.

8. Some Associate Viking Women With Valkyries And Shield-Maidens

Norse women

Shield-maidens are likewise inhabitants of war in Eddic poetry. The shield-maidens are human, and have human parents and human lineages, in contrast to the valkyries, who seem to be divine or, at the very least, semi-divine.

They also possess supernatural skills, such as the capacity to fly and travel across water. Given that Freydis Eirksdóttir is regarded as the most well-known female Viking fighter and has been mentioned in a number of historical records, we may have saved the best for last.

9. Some Associate Viking Women With Shield-Maidens

Norse women

The most well-known shield maiden is Lagertha, who is neither a goddess nor a Valkyrie, and not because of her significance in the sagas (she appears in just one chapter of Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum or History of the Danes), but rather because of the contemporary TV series Vikings, in which Kathryn Winnick plays her.

The presence of male fighters during the Viking era is strongly supported by grave goods and graves, but there is less archaeological evidence to support the existence of shieldmaidens.

10. Viking Women Were Craftswomen And Businesswomen

Norse women

The majority of academics agree with Jesch’s assertion that there would have been no female warriors due to the “Viking ethos.” Women did, however, enjoy equal rights in many facets of society. They might be able to own property, file for divorce, practice religion and run a business. Their area of influence, though, was domestic.

The advancement of gender equality is a hallmark of contemporary Scandinavian society. The Nordic countries are regarded as a role models for other nations to follow, with their parental leave laws and high representation of women in parliaments. But according to recent research, such a society might not be all that advanced.

When boys were still “preferred” in most of Europe more than a thousand years ago, Viking society may have actively promoted gender equality.

In the journal Economics & Human Biology, researchers argue that men and women of the Viking era experienced “remarkable” equality. They also suggest that this society may even have helped to contribute to equality in Scandinavia today.

11. A Woman Could Initiate Divorce

Norse women

The substantial legal protections for divorce made the Vikings distinct from the peoples of medieval Europe. Divorce gave an unhappy marriage the opportunity to part ways and start over with other partners before resentments turned into hate, which may result in arguments and violence.

In light of instances of behaviors that resulted in marital dissolution, it is possible to better comprehend the circumstances that existed in a Viking marriage in relation to the laws and traditions controlling divorce.

The extensive list of divorce laws described in the Icelandic sagas is proof of a highly developed legal system. For instance, if her husband relocated while on vacation, the lady may ask for a divorce but only after three years had passed and he hadn’t had any sex with her.

12. Viking Women Could Be Seers

Norse women

The function of seers in Norse paganism was significant. Many Vikings thought that seers had the ability to see into the future. Among other things, Viking men often inquired about upcoming conflicts and harvests.

Seers practiced using a variety of tools and drugs. According to all accounts, a woman’s job responsibilities were cooking and housework.

She also spent a significant amount of time working with wool, spinning yarn, stitching, and weaving for the family’s needs. Having a baby and nursing a baby takes time out of a woman’s life.

13. Viking Women May Have Fought In Some Battles

Norse women

Though women’s participation in Viking combat is very sometimes mentioned in historical accounts, the Byzantine historian Johannes Skylitzes did note that women fought with the Varangian Vikings in a conflict with the Bulgarians in A.D. 971.

The bones of a decorated female warrior from the 10th century are preserved in an ornate Viking Age burial in Sweden, serving as the first piece of archaeological proof that women had high-rank roles in Viking society.

The majority of academics agree with Jesch’s assertion that there would have been no female fighters due to the “Viking mentality.” Women did, however, have equal privileges in many facets of life.

They could be able to own property, file for divorce, practice religion, and manage a company. Their area of influence, however, was domestic.

Here are three examples of Viking women in combat: 

  • Lagertha: We are aware of a fabled female Viking known as Lagertha or Ladgerda according to Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. This amazing lady was one of many fierce female warriors who volunteered to aid legendary warrior Ragnar Lothbrok in exacting revenge for the murder of his grandpa.
  • Shieldmaiden: The shieldmaidens are a group of numerous ladies, not just one like the other two entries on this list.
  • Inga Freydis Eirksdóttir: Given that Freydis Eirksdóttir is regarded as the most well-known female Viking fighter and has been mentioned in a number of historical records, we may have saved the best for last.

14. Lagertha Fought Against Swedes

Legendary Viking shieldmaiden Lagertha, sometimes spelled Lathgertha or Ladgerda, is shown in Saxo Grammaticus’ early 13th-century CE Gesta Danorum.

She is described as the first wife of Ragnar Lothbrok, a mythical Viking monarch who is claimed to have reigned around the ninth century CE in this Latin-language text on Danish history.

Later, Bjorn discovered Lagertha, who had become mentally unstable and had whitened her normally blonde hair. The illness, known as Marie Antoinette Syndrome, causes the hair to become white as a consequence of extreme stress.

15. Viking Women Made Their Clothing And Jewellery

Norse women

Textiles used by the Vikings included wool, linen, and animal skins. The Vikings were expert weavers who produced all of their own clothing.

Children assisted women as they spun the wool into yarn and added color using plant-based natural dyes. Women wore a long garment with a pinafore over it, while males wore tunics and pants.

To display their riches, Viking men and women adorned themselves with brooches, necklaces, rings, and arm rings. The elite utilized gold and silver to create their jewelry, while the impoverished used animal bones, bronze, and pewter.

Wax molds were utilized by the Vikings to create jewelry. The process was referred to as lost wax. They utilized the silver on their arm and neck bands as money. Most males wore necklaces featuring Thor’s hammer.

As a result, the wealthier Vikings often placed orders from regional jewelers. Most of these jewelry items were handcrafted from bronze, silver, or gold. Additionally, affluent Norsemen had the option of adding expensive gems, pearls, or other crystals to their jewelry.


1. What is a Viking female called?

In Norse literature, women who engaged in combat were known as valkyries or shield-maidens. Female warriors came in a variety of forms.

Some were supernatural entities, like the valkyries sent by Odin to gather the fallen soldiers.

2. How did Vikings treat their wives?

For their period, Viking marriages were largely equal. Despite the fact that their culture was still controlled by males, women possessed many legal rights.

Norse women could file for divorce, regain their dowries, participate in politics, and have a say in who their husbands were.

3. What did a typical Viking woman look like?

In comparison to modern times, the looks of men and women in the Viking Age were more similar. With strong brow ridges, the looks of the ladies were more masculine than those of modern women.

The Viking man, however, had a more feminine aspect than modern males do, with a smaller jaw and fewer brow ridges.

4. What was Viking society like for women?

Norse women were completely in charge of their homes, particularly while their husbands were away.

If the male of the home passed away, his wife would take up his responsibilities permanently and manage the family farm or trade enterprise by herself.

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