by AJ Lonski
Our present understanding of the Viking Age has shed light on the nuanced and complex depictions of gender and female identities, as conveyed through both textual and material artifacts. An initial survey of female depictions might suggest that their roles and status were largely uniform. Such uniformity might be deduced from select burial findings and primary sources, as well as discrepancies in secondary source materials. Together, these sources tend to suggest a hierarchized understanding of gender, with only males achieving significant wealth or power during the Viking Period, largely through fulfilling militaristic roles inaccessible to women.
However, by examining female roles and depictions in broader contexts, this apparent uniformity dissolves into a more fluid and dynamic understanding of the Viking Age—specifically that of the Viking Age female. Through comparative analysis of burial practices, grave goods, and written records of women across Viking Age culture, and those of the Old English Period, this project helps establish a cohesive framework to facilitate our contemporary understanding of females during the Viking Age. In doing so, it sheds light on females holding positions of power and wealth, females as warriors, and females as spiritual leaders, thereby providing a way to consider females in spaces traditionally conceived of as male-dominated during the Viking Age.
The Rare and Peculiar
Females and the Supernatural
- Meeting the Undead
- Ibn Fadlan and the Rus’
- The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane
- The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s Leg
- Old English Analogues