If I had a nickle for every time I heard or saw someone talk about the warrior culture of the Norseman, I would make enough money that I wouldn’t have to worry nearly so much about that Patreon campaign that I keep banging on about. I don’t mind that some of our ancestor could lay the smack down when so inclined, because that’s a pretty awesome thing. Martial prowess is a worthy pursuit, one which I have full intention of pursuing once a few physical matters are firmly taken care of.
The thing I mind is when people forget that our ancestors were more than that.
Everyone talks about their warriors. When are we going to talk about our craftsman? Our farmers, merchants, and explorers? It’s like these are completely dead spots on some people’s ancestral radar. To hear some Heathens talk, all of our ancestors were warriors first and everything else just sort of fell into place. It’s almost as if they’ve forgotten their there are Gods and Goddesses known for something other than their capacity to cause violence and devastation.
Truth be told, a lot of the mythology has characters that were far more than warriors. Even those Gods and Goddesses whose providence included war were more than just warriors. Odin is as much of a scholar as a warrior, and what farmer didn’t seek the rainstorms heralded by the thunder of mighty Thor? Freya is a battle Goddess, but she is also a being of delight, passion, and ecstasy. Than of course there are Gods of tactics, diplomacy, and brilliance that are just at home within the hearth as they were on the battlefield. While Loki fits those qualities most assuredly, there are other divine figures to whom the terms are not foreign.
That’s just the mythology, too. If we should view things with more then an iota of sense, it becomes clear that the farmers, craftsmen, and the traders were far just as important to the Norse worshiping cultures as the warrior. How would a Norseman or woman eat? What would they cloth themselves with? I suppose people could put forward that they would raid for their food, but that’s a really bad idea! Fighting on an empty stomach, against well fed man at arms defending their home wouldn’t have been a way for the Norseman to thrive; it would have been the means by which they met their end. They needed wise farmers, strong craftsmen, and welcoming merchants, much as any culture in that time did.
Yes, they were some excellent raiders when they chose to be. This was also what a majority of nations and societies did at the time, because might did made right. If I have the strength to take something from you, and you didn’t give me a reason to not take it, than you didn’t have the right to have it. Raiding wasn’t an invention of the Vikings; they were just one of the more skilled and romanticized practitioners of that prevailing economic model.
We focus much on the warrior ways of our ancestors because the saga are powerful and exceptional pieces of literature that stir the blood and give fire to the imagination. That doesn’t make them legion however. The entertainment of a culture casts a reflection upon that society, but it’s an incomplete representation at best. If you looked at our entertainment objectively, you’d come away with the belief that our society is based entirely on giant robots, cleavage, new brands of tacos, explosions, Joss Whedon, and rouge cops that have to buck the system in order to see justice done. Certainly, all of those things call to something within our mentality*. It’s just not the entirety of who we are, however.
The saga are about warriors because warriors make for good stories. No one want’s to hear the tale of how Thor’s accountant calculated his deductibles.
My Grandfather was a warrior; he came back from World War II with the Silver Star. He was also a craftsman, a lover of beer, a damn fine father and grandfather, and a crack shot on a pool table. He was wise and intelligent, and filled with a resolve and compassion I still struggle to emulate. I am proud of the man, because he is a man worthy of being proud of, with a legacy that I will happily pass on to my daughters. He was a warrior, but I don’t remember him as that. I remember him as everything that he was, both good and bad.
I remember him as one of the greatest men I’ve ever known, who also just happened to also be a warrior.
I’m not saying that all Heathens have a blind spot here; I’ve heard plenty of great speeches at Sumble, and I suspect I am not alone in this regard. Time and time again, however, I come across people who only remember our warriors. People who forget that, often times, those warrior were farmers and blacksmiths when the fighting was done. I don’t understand why we keep forgetting the men and women who clothed them, fed them, and gave them something worthy of fighting for.
Hail the ancestors, whatever path they may have taken in their lives!
*This is especially true of Joss Whedon.
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