Viking Mythology in the Children of Ribe

We’re taking a little bit of a look at the history and mythology that C.S. Woolley uses in the Children of Ribe series today and by sharing it, giving you a little look into how she writes and pulls concepts together into the fairy tales that she has crafted.

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Arm Rings

Arm rings (and neck rings) were more than simple fashion statements. Arm rings were given to boys when they were old enough to serve the lord or earl. When they were given an arm ring they took an oath to serve, like the other men around them.

Arm rings were also symbols of power and great deeds. Men and women were given arm rings for heroic deeds, mostly by the lords or earls that they helped. These lords and earls were known as ring givers.

In Beowulf Scyld and his son, Beow are known as the ring givers. The number of arm rings a warrior had told everyone how many heroic deeds he had performed.

Viking Fighting

There is very little information available about Viking fighting. We only have the accounts from the priests during Viking invasions and the Viking sagas, which means that we have to rely on two very biased accounts for information.

The fighting in the Viking Sagas is seen as more accurate as it not only gives us some idea about how one on one fighting happened, but also how it was related to the culture. One of the most interesting things about Viking fighting was the idea that the time and place of their death was set.

Because the Vikings believed this, they could fight against overwhelming odds, even when injured, because they are weren’t afraid of dying.

The Völur

The völur were the witches and spellcasters in Viking culture. Free women in Viking culture were expected to be able to use some form of magic. These women were the völur. Völur is the plural name of völva. They were groups of wise women and witches. They were normally not married (but some of them were) and could live and travel across the lands without any fear. The women carried staves that were their wands and women that carried these staves were never harmed by anyone.

The völur were the allies of the fate goddesses and had the greatest powers. Völva literally translates as wand-wed or staff-carrier. The völur were wise women, healers, prophets, oracles and shamans as well as those that dealt in darker magic. The völur were buried with their staves when they died as a symbol of how well respected they were.

The völur in the Children of Ribe books are a mixture of good and evil, like the warriors. In Viking culture a völva was considered to be powerful but the concept of being good or evil isn’t really applied.

Some women who practice magic are priestesses rather than völur. There are two different types of priestesses but the role of being a priestess overlaps with the role of a völva so sometimes you will see völur referred to as priestesses as well as healers, witches, shamans, prophets, oracles and wise women.

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