Sex, sexuality, and virginity are significant parts of modern-day society, impacting everything from conversations and relationships to religion and culture.
But how was virginity a big deal in ancient cultures? And exactly how much value did the Vikings place on it?
Vikings valued virginity for economic purposes, not for moral or religious reasons. Like many other cultures, Viking culture celebrated female virginity.
However, the Vikings valued it because raising an unacknowledged child would be an additional expense.
While Vikings are known for being raiders and explorers, they also had interesting cultural attitudes and rituals surrounding marriage, courtship, and sex.
This article explores some of these nuances and explains why the Vikings valued virginity.
It also answers questions about non-virgin marriage, monogamy, and divorce in Viking culture.
Also, see Who Were the Vikings’ Enemies? to learn more.
Would Vikings Marry Non-Virgin Women?
Although modern movies and TV series typically portray Vikings as bloodthirsty, uncivilized savages that spent most of their time pillaging and warring, they actually had laws .
These laws guided everything from hygiene and relationships to marriage and sexual conduct.
The laws also had very clear ideas about marrying non-virgin women .
Vikings were allowed to marry non-virgin women, a practice that lasted throughout their civilization.
Marriage regulations were strict, and the ceremony included certain rituals, but the law was lax about purity .
Still, Vikings celebrated female virginity because it meant the new groom could start a family without worrying about caring for an unacknowledged child.
Since the focus was on the lack of an existing child, non-virgin women with no children were almost as valued as virgin brides.
Viking law was also clear about the financial costs of raising children and how it expected each parent to contribute to the child’s upbringing.
Usually, the father had to contribute two-thirds to the child’s needs, and the mother would provide the rest.
However, if born outside of marriage, the father had to acknowledge the child for this law to apply.
Children born to married couples automatically fell under the law’s purview.
Therefore, unacknowledged children born to unmarried women were wholly cared for by their mothers and the mothers’ families.
But the law also stipulated that grooms were to take full responsibility for their bride’s children, even if they belonged to another man.
This practice meant that men were sometimes unwilling to marry non-virgins, but only if they already had children since it implied they’d take on more financial responsibility.
Still, it wasn’t uncommon for men to marry women who had borne children to other men, especially if they cared for the woman and had the resources to take care of their family.
And while childless non-virgins were as prized as virgins for these economic reasons, virginity was still considered a big deal in some circles, particularly in royalty.
In this case, virgin brides were considered strategic commodities to strengthen alliances and elevate an individual’s social status.
Vikings also used maidens to secure a kingdom’s wealth or ensure peace between warring tribes.
Sometimes, even ordinary folk valued virginity since the “bride price” could be used to improve a family’s financial fate .
Ultimately, the Vikings didn’t value virginity in itself and only appreciated it because of its economic connotations.
Did The Vikings Believe in Monogamy?
Monogamy has become the norm in today’s society, and most countries insist that individuals can only create unions between themselves and one partner at a time.
However, monogamy wasn’t always the norm, and many ancient cultures used to practice non-monogamous unions.
So, did the Vikings believe in monogamy?
Most evidence suggests that the Vikings believed in monogamy and used to practice it frequently.
However, some evidence suggests that this practice wasn’t as common within the wealthier sects of Viking society, like the Royalty.
Still, marriages in Viking cultures were more or less business deals, even among the common folk. So, extramarital affairs were likely common, even among women.
Unfortunately, there’s almost no concrete evidence to support these assumptions since the Vikings didn’t keep records.
Most of what is known about them today is from anthropological studies and unreliable sagas .
But the evidence suggests that wealthier men frequently practiced polygamy, had concubines, and even took other men’s wives, which indicates the society’s patriarchal roots .
These practices were almost unheard of among women, but they did have discreet affairs before and after getting married .
Still, these practices implied that men further down the social ladder were left with limited partners to choose from.
And some men even had to spend the rest of their life without wives.
However, Viking marriages were considered vital social unions, despite these infidelity issues.
Familial bonds were a crucial part of Viking culture, and family members were expected to show undying loyalty to their kin.
At What Age Did Vikings Marry?
Despite the competitive nature of Viking culture, especially concerning mates and marriage unions, marriage was still an essential part of the civilization.
In fact, being unmarried in a Viking community was generally a source of shame. However, at what age did Vikings typically marry?
Vikings used to marry as early as 12 years old for women and 15 years for men.
Vikings usually married young, and families wedded most of them before they turned 20.
Late marriages did happen, but they were very rare.
These early marriages might seem distasteful by today’s standards, but they were practical back then .
After all, the average life expectancy at that time was below 50 years, and most young men died before they turned 30.
Could a Viking Woman Divorce Her Husband?
Vikings often used marriages to form political alliances for the following reasons:
- They ensured a family’s bloodline.
- They brokered peace.
- They elevated ordinary men to powerful positions.
- They were also crucial in growing a tribe’s numbers and were treated as sacred unions.
In this situation, could a Viking woman divorce her husband?
A Viking woman could divorce her husband, although this practice was rare.
However, she could call for divorce on any grounds, including abuse, neglect, or if she wasn’t interested in the union anymore.
She’d have to gather witnesses and announce her decision, and then the property would be divided according to the marriage contract .