Marcella Falquez – Less than Peaceweavers: Viking and Saxon Women and Bloodfeuds

“Less than Peaceweavers” is my entry for Lissa Underhill’s HERstory challenge. In keeping with the theme of bloodfeuds in the Viking/Saxon borderlands, I chose to research women’s participation in bloodfeuds in both Viking and Saxon cultures. While in both cultures, women were generally not expected to openly participate in combat, they had important roles in other areas of the feud process.

Viking women played an important role in counseling their relatives, whether to work for peace or to deepen the feud. Their relative inability to receive weregild payments may also have been a compelling factor in their roles in goading or inciting feuds. Many women who incited feuds did so with profound economic motivations to seek vengeance (in addition to their concept of honor and their emotional suffering). Women’s roles in ending feuds could also be expressed through marriage alliances, in a similarity to Saxon women’s experiences. Finally, there are more examples of Viking women participating directly in feuds, whether by trying to break up a fight or by taking up weapons of their own.

Saxon women played a similar role to their Viking counterparts when it came to counseling their relatives during the course of a feud. There are examples of female relatives being chosen to negotiate the appropriate weregild for slain kin. They, too, were bartered in marriage alliances to end feuds, although this was not always successful. However, their direct participation in physical combat was much rarer, with the majority of women mentioned in feud contexts being passive participants. This may be due to cultural factors, as the more Christianized and centralized Saxon society may have had more resources to support women in financial or social distress during feuds, as compared to Viking women.

Find the entire paper here.

One thought on “Marcella Falquez – Less than Peaceweavers: Viking and Saxon Women and Bloodfeuds

  1. What a fascinating topic! Thank you! I just had time for a quick browse, but look forward to reading this much more thoroughly soon!

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