Yesterday was Friday the 13th… for some reason, a day now associated with bad luck? I mention this because in my time spent here in this early Viking era, there does seem to be an abundance of bad luck in marriages and relationships?
It’s not known for certain how the superstition surrounding this day arose, but both Friday and the number 13 are connected with the crucifixion of Christ (Friday being the day the crucifixion took place, commemorated weekly in Catholic practice, and 13 being the number of people present at the Last supper). According to Phillips Stevens, Jr., associate professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), “There were 13 people at the table (at the Last Supper) and the 13th was Judas. The Last Supper was on a Thursday, and the next day was Friday, the day of crucifixion. When ’13’ and Friday come together, it is a double whammy.”
This year, that most special of days devoted to such things as love, Valentine’s Day falls directly after that most unlucky of days in some societies, Friday the 13th. How that will bode for many who are superstitious and yet still hoping for love and romance remains to be seen?
The world and time that I live in now has no such tradition or ritual day as Valentine’s Day. That will come much later… Though in that part of the world which is now Christian, the day is already marked as one of the Saint’s Days and thereby a Holy Day. It is not a day devoted to love of anyone other than God and the Saints? In the future, it will take on that more romantic notion because of one such Saintly legend.
J.C. Cooper, in The Dictionary of Christianity, writes that Saint Valentine was “a priest of Rome who was imprisoned for succouring persecuted Christians.” Contemporary records of Saint Valentine were most probably destroyed during this Diocletianic Persecution in the early 4th century. In the 5th or 6th century, a work called Passio Marii et Marthae published a story of martyrdom for Saint Valentine of Rome, perhaps by borrowing tortures that happened to other saints, as was usual in the literature of that period. The same events are also found in Bede’s Martyrology, which was compiled in the 8th century. It states that Saint Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. A later Passio repeated the legend, adding that Pope Julius I built a church over his sepulchre (it is a confusion with a 4th-century tribune called Valentino who donated land to build a church at a time when Julius was a Pope). The legend was picked up as fact by later martyrologies, starting by Bede‘s martyrology in the 8th century. It was repeated in the 13th century, in Legenda Aurea. The book expounded briefly the Early Medieval acta of several Saint Valentines, and this legend was assigned to the Valentine under February 14.
There is an additional embellishment to The Golden Legend, which according to Henry Ansgar Kelly, was added centuries later, and widely repeated. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to the daughter of his jailer Asterius, who was no longer blind, signing as “Your Valentine.” The expression “From your Valentine” was later adopted by modern Valentine letters.
For me, it is now one of those memories of the future that I think about on occasion but do not usually miss? When I look back, or forward… to such times, I think of them fondly but they do not have a place in my world now so I choose not to dwell upon them. Oh, yes, I do once in a great while think of the romantic notions that the day puts forth, and I do occasionally indulge in my own romantic daydreams and fantasies… Don’t we all on some occasion do the same? It has been my choice thus far in this life to remain single and unattached, much comparable to my previous life in the future. Though, I do admit that it was far easier much of the time be single in those previous future years that I lived in! Here, life is difficult for all women and it is considered a given that women will marry and have children. Those of us who do not accept that role are looked at as to be pitied and frowned upon? It is expected that we should be married, a part of a family unit, both for benefit of the community and as not to be a burden on the society? After all, if we are not married with family, who will care for us in our old age? Even though the society here looks upon women more favourably than many others, it is still expected that we as women will eventually wed and much of our value as women is placed on this… our marriages will bring families, lands and profits together ensuring a better life for our next generations. Many do marry for love, in that they are lucky, for just as many are wed for financial and political reasons. Most young girls here as everywhere else do not marry whom they choose, but who is chosen for them by their families. It is always hoped that the arrangement will lead to love or at least good companionship between the couples? In my situation here, I have no family, other than my “supposed” brother, Gunnar, who brought me here and placed me in the care and keeping of Siggy and Earl Haraldson.
In most instances, if I were a young girl, it would have been up to Gunnar to decide upon a marriage for me? I would have been allowed some choice in the matter and hopefully, the one I would choose would be acceptable to my family. But, I came to this place as an adult woman able to make my own choices… Gunnar has disappeared, I fear the worst for him… I’ve not heard anything of him in quite some time? Neither have the other travelers left here. There are not many of them left either… most of those who were here chose to leave when Earl Haraldson turned so suspicious of all and so brutal in his attacks on any he deemed a threat. Many of the families that might have stayed on here, have chosen instead to go elsewhere, such as Gotland, where they say they will have good lives and more peace. So, my connections to the future are becoming less and less as the years go by. With Gunnar gone, it might have fallen to Earl Haraldson to make some arrangement or choice of marriages for me as I was a part of his household. But, with his demise as well, I was left on my own… in many ways, that was much fortunate for me! For, having seen his choice for his own daughter, Thyri, I can only imagine who he might have decided upon for me? His henchman, that Piggy man was not married and was always following me around, sometimes in suspicion, other time in disgusting lust! He did once put forward the proposition to Earl Haraldson that I would make a fine wife for him, luckily Siggy chose to veto that suggestion! Perhaps that is one reason I stay by her and stand for her, as she did for me in those early days!
Now, the years have passed and I am still on my own, by choice… I do wonder at times if I shall ever find anyone here in this time, or if I shall be on my own forever? Not that it really worries me that much, I do not dwell on it often. I have a good life now and I do have as well, a goodly portion of treasure in my keeping that will suffice for me if need be in my future. On returning from one of his many trips, Gunnar left with me a chest of much value for safekeeping. He told me that should he not return, it would be for me to use as I see fit. So, for now, I remain a part of Siggy’s small household… haaaa it is pretty much just me and Siggy on our own here, with Rollo as our friend, our companion, and our protector. There time when I think of Rollo in those ways which I know I should not… what woman could be around him and not have her thoughts wander that way at times? Late at night when I am most lonely, I do think of him and imagine that he might feel the same things for me that I feel for him? I keep these thoughts to myself, I am nothing if not practical in my nature! I know such thoughts and feelings are not to be acted upon and would only cause much trouble with us all. I suffer silently from that ailment known as unrequited love. We have all suffered it at some time in our lives and it gets us nowhere to continue dwelling upon it! It is best to accept what the Gods give us in this department, but so difficult not yearn for more. The Gods have fated me with the man’s friendship and I should appreciate that in itself above all else! I value the friendship of both Siggy and Rollo. I would never compromise this gift of friendship for some few moments of lust filled bliss that would destroy what we all have together now! I am a sensible woman… but Gods, it is so hard at times to ignore the feelings toward him. My only salvation in this is an ironic and strange one. Siggy knows my plight, understands it and is always thoughtful of my feelings. She keeps telling me that I should find one to spend time with to ease my thoughts in this direction? Then she smiles and understands that I am not one to be so easy with my lusts or my affections that I would choose to just enjoy sex for the simple pleasure of it! I have done that already in my past, the future, and I do not need to do it here… I learned long ago that it is never so simple as just lust or just sex, and I do not want it to be that way. I have learned from experience that I want it to mean something to both of us who would share in this activity. Siggy and I understand each other on this thought. Even though there are time when women must do what ever they need to, yes even trade their physical bodies in return for what they need, it does not mean that we trade our minds or our hearts in that activity!
For Rollo, I am a strange one indeed! He is not used to such women as me, one who chooses a life such as that priest, Athelstan. He says it is not right, for a woman such as I to not want to be with a man? Ohhh if he only knew… He contantly introduces and suggests men who thinks would be a good match for me? He shakes his head in frustration at my refusals. He says he would see me happy? As though that is what would make for life’s happiness? One day, he mentions that in his voyages to that England and from Athelstan, he has heard of places where women such as I might be, live together and make vows to their God… Perhaps I should like to go there? Would that make me happy, he asks? I can not help but laugh loudly at this thought! He would suggest taking me on a voyage to England just so that I might enter a Nunnery or Convent! No, that thought should not be to my liking, I must explain to him. I am not so devout in my religions that I should be willing to think myself wed to God? I may be celibate by choice for now, but I am certainly not for those reasons such as the monks, priests and nuns are! I walk away still laughing at that idea… No, I admit that it is more my practical, sensible and scared silly future knowledge side that keeps me celibate for the most part. I am sorry to say that the idea of sharing myself with most men in this time causes me to think of what various incurable diseases they may also be sharing with me? Ummm also, it is far hard enough living here on my own, I should not like to think of giving birth to a child here? Ahhh yes, I know women have been enduring and surviving it for thousands of years previous even to this time… but, the fact of the matter is, many women do not survive it, and almost every women here can attest to having lost a child or two or three in child birth or as infants. Quite simply put, I do not find myself up to this part of life right now and the only surest method of preventing such event is not participate in the activity which causes it!
Rollo’s mention of those sanctuaries for women brought about a lengthy discussion of them and my explanation of how many women go there not so much because they are so devoutly religious. Many of them choose God over a bad marriage. With those Christians, there is no such option of divorcing each other… other than possibly in some extremely rare cases that must be approved by their highest religious leader, the Pope who is like their highest King? This completely confused both Rollo and Siggy and I gave up trying to explain more. I just tried to convey the idea that those Christian women were oft treated very badly and to enter the sanctuary of the church life was one of their few options. I only wanted to stress this to Rollo and advise him to please in his raiding of places, leave those such women be. I have heard and read of some of these places of sanctuary were raided and attacked as viciously and violently as any other places. That is not to suggest that Ragnar and his group do such things, but I felt some need to reassure myself that none of them would go down such a path as that? Rollo’s answer at that time was to shrug it off and he did take some offense that I would think such a thing, that they would brutally attack women… there were far better uses for them than that! I knew he meant it in jest but neither Siggy or I found it amusing!
Our conversation did cause me to sit one night thinking of all of the marriages and relationships I have seen here. The relationships do not change over time for the most part. The only one that will change is the one in which the marriage is arranged? And, if I look at that realistically, it has not been very long in terms of history that such notions about marriage have changed. In some ways, I do ponder on whether that was really such a bad thing… for one’s families to be involved in ensuring that a marriage would be beneficial to all and that often young people do not know their hearts and minds well enough to make such important decision. Then I think of those such as poor Thyri and that disgusting Piggy Henchman, and I quickly conclude that while it may work on some levels, there are always those who will suffer from it! Thank the Gods that Rollo put an end to this man’s miserable life for me…. Thank You, Rollo- For that you will be forever my hero!
Thyri was one who suffered much from arranged marriage until Siggy stepped in and put an end to it. Thyri’s marriage was one that was based solely on the financial benefit and the alliance it would bring for her Father. Thyri was worth 20 pounds of silver and some land thrown in for good measure.
Siggy’s own marriage to Earl Haraldson was an arranged one… but she did love him once and remembered him for who he once was, not the cruel man that he changed into? She did have happiness with him once and truly mourned him when he died.
Arranged marriages in the Saxon world
In that other place, England, most marriages of nobility were arranged with little regard for happiness or love being involved in such arrangements. One such union was that of King Aelle and his formidable wife, whose devotion to God was most likely above that to her husband? She is one of those women who might benefit from escaping or ummm choosing to follow God in a nunnery?
Another such union in that England was that of Aelle’s daughter Judith to King Ecbert’s son, Aethelwulf. A marriage designed and planned for the specific purpose of alliances with no regard for the feelings of those involved in the arrangement.
The only things that mattered were the decisions and agreements between the two Fathers!
Foolish dreams and Fairytale Fantasies
Here in Kattegat, as in most place, those who fare a bit better in the marriage decisions are those of the working classes… those people who make more of their own decisions based just on what is best for them. These people often have more voice and choice in who they marry. The relationships difficulties are still much the same as any in our future day.
There are those who marry young, choose their mate on those youthful romantic ideals… we all know, the stuff that fairytales are made of- One true love, and happily ever after? Then they grow up, grow apart and become different people than who they started life as? One such couple would be of course, Ragnar Lothbrok and his wife Lagertha! Sadly that happily ever after was not to be and their marriage could not stand the tests that it was put to. I do not like to make accusations or place blame, but it does seem to me that Ragnar’s new found power and fame went to his head a bit? Also, his desires for more sons and the temptation of a younger woman did nothing to ease their problems, in fact it resulted in the demise of the marriage. Lagertha refused to share him with another wife and chose to leave, taking Bjorn with her. I can not fault her for this decision… it was like a blow to her womanhood and throwing the fact that she could not bear him another healthy son in her face? So much for the romantic fairytale fantasy!
Part of those foolish childhood dreams and romantic fantasies is that ailment which we have already discussed, Unrequited Love and Desire. Yes, I do suffer from this as I have admitted, but Rollo has endured it himself. From the beginning he was enamored of his brother’s wife, Lagertha. She remained ever faithful to her husband until the marriage ended so badly and repeatedly dissuaded Rollo’s advances. He held hope within his heart for a very long time and even now he holds her in high esteem. I sometimes think that perhaps he holds every other woman up to her, compares them to her and they always fall short in his estimation? In his eyes no one woman will ever come close to being another Lagertha… Even Siggy, whom he does seem to care much for, does not warrant the value and esteem he puts on Lagertha.
When he went against Earl Haraldson and defended Ragnar, Lagertha tried to thank him for it… His answer to her was, “I did not do it for him, I did it for you!”
Rollo held on to his hope until that day when Lagertha announced that she was carrying another child for Ragnar. It was then that he seemed to see that youthful dream fade and then went on to Siggy.
Second Choices and Second Chances
Sometimes we think of relationships in terms of settling, or second choice? In some ways, maybe that was what Rollo was doing when he began his relationship with Siggy? He knew he could not have Lagertha so he chose instead, Siggy. Siggy was looking to him in terms of some desperation as well, so it might seem that she too was settling for what she needed to save herself and her daughter.
Rollo and Siggy have a love that many do not understand… It was not born of fairy tales of childish dreams and fantasies. Their lives have been painful and oft filled with darkness. But, sometimes love is painful and it grows from those darkest and deepest cuts to the heart. Their relation may not last but I believe that they will remain friends and support each other whether together or apart… they will not spend their lives competing against each other to see who is most equal, as some others I know are so want to do…
Rollo did later talk about this ailment of unrequited love and felt that he had finally conquered it. “This new Rollo does not love Lagertha or any longer suffer from that desire for her.”
Midlife crisis “I want what I want when I want it because I deserve it!
When Ragnar became Earl, I believe that it did go to his head. He has made the comment that Power is dangerous, it attracts the worst and corrupts the best… He could be speaking of himself! I know that I should not make judgement but I can not help it. I am reminded in his actions of words of the future as in Once a cheater, always a cheater? Ohhh, I know that he does not look upon it as cheating or disrespecting Lagertha, but that is the way I see it. There are oft times when I should like to tell Aslaug, who walks around here so smugly, “If he would choose you over one wife, then he will eventually choose another over you!” To me, his relationship with Aslaug is one of that typical midlife crisis where one sees a younger more youthful body and is tempted. Ahhh, yes he did offer appeasement to Lagertha in that she should stay and share him with Aslaug, to which Lagertha promptly refused and left to find her own way. So, now Ragnar has gotten what he thought he wanted… more sons and a wife is content to stay at home and enjoy her “Queenliness” Will he be content or happy now with this, I think not. Already he makes attempts at winning Lagertha back into his life as partners in raiding. It is easy to see in face that he should like more than that? I only hope that Lagertha keeps her head held high and does not fall for his attempts. I would remind her, “If he has done it once to you, he will surely do it again!”
What Ragnar did not take into account or realize was how deeply this betrayal of Lagertha would cut his son Bjorn’s heart. Bjorn could not forget or forgive the action, and chose instead to leave with his Mother. So, in getting what he wanted, when he wanted it, he gave up a son not knowing if he would ever see him again.
Years later Aslaug did provide him with those many sons he so desired but not a lot else. When Lagertha returned, Ragnar still held to the thought that he might have both women… he went to the Seer about this and was bluntly told by the Seer, “You are foolish Ragnar Lothbrok, you forget one thing. The choice is not yours to make anyway.”
Love among the common folk
There are those who are bound by less rules and make their relationship choices as adults. Ones who go into the relationship with eyes open and understanding of each other. Does that mean their relationship will hold any better than others? Tis difficult to say, but at least they knew each other well and made commitment to each other out of love with no other baggage or barrios between them. Such a couple was Floki and Helga. Two adults, who lived together and chose to make a life together.
I have to say that is one wedding which everyone enjoyed attending! So much love and happiness filled the air that day, it was a true joy to celebrate their union with them! I would only hope that it lasts through the storms of life that we all must weather!
Strange Love and possibly Plural Love?
I must speak of that love which defies any logical, rational or sane explanations? We all know of such strangeness. Certain relationships that can only be explained as oddly bizarre, bordering on insanity? Our world encountered one such relationship, if you could call it that? I do suppose that one might call it a timeless or forever sort of love that one man had for his wife, lasting long after her death. Jarl Borg was that man…he entered our lives when he took over our village in revenge against Ragnar. Other than the treacherous feud that he was involved in with Ragnar and King Horik, the first impressions of him were that he was a normal and decent enough man?
As I said, at the very first he appeared a sane and normal man? When he began to speak of his first wife, though his face showed a change as he told of how her death screams would forever follow and haunt him.
Now, I must add that this relationship not only deals with a bizarre insane obsessive sort of love, but it could also be included in the category of plural love. As Ragnar made much mention of when trying to woo and convince Lagertha to stay and share their relationship, there were many instances where a man might have more than one wife. Though I do have to clarify that this particular instance puts that practice to the limits of any social boundaries.
During his stay in Kattegat we were well aware of his second wife, Torvi who made the move with him but was not happy about any of it.
Later upon visiting his homeland, Rollo discovered his rather unorthodox relationship and another wife? Rollo arrived at Jarl Borg’s to find the odd group relaxing together… Yes, I know that it is not quite clear yet but you shall soon see the strangeness of this relationship. PLease take note of the very nicely covered object on the table.
Rollo asked what the object was and Jarl Borg very calmy and casually uncovered it adding, “That is the skull of my first wife”.
Rollo was at a loss for words but attempted to remain calm and unphased by this situation.
Rollo did ask whether such an arrangement was really fair to Torvi? Torvi sat quietly throughout the discussion and offered no replies or input. She was after all only a second wife so obviously her status was much lower and her opinions would not be heeded.
The first Mrs. Borg held much higher status and was asked to join in the discussion
After much private discussion between the two and some additional endearments, a decision was made.
After some length of time Jarl Borg announced that his wife was in agreement that they should go back to Kattegat!
I can really find no other words for this relationship other than that I can only assume that upon Jarl Borg’s death, his wife’s skull joined him for eternity? The second Mrs. Borg did remain in the Kattegat area and we will possibly hear more about her quite soon?
Young and slightly frowned upon but not quite taboo Love
When young Bjorn grew up and returned to Kattegat with his Mother, he experienced that first rush of young love. Unfortunately, he experienced it with a slave girl. To say this was not a match which befit his station as heir to the Earldom is putting it mildly. It is one thing to use a slave girl for one’s relief and pleasure, but quite another story when one such Bjorn would think, or assume that he could raise her above her station in life. This fact did seem to escape Bjorn’s thoughts completely, though the young woman was very well aware and concerned of how inappropriate his behaviors toward her were.
Eventually, they did work out some of the difficulties in this uncommon relationship. Aslaug did step in and make Porunn a free woman, and then Porunn decided that she would choose to be a shield maiden like Lagertha! So far as I know their relationship is still going well? But, you know how it is with young love, first love… it often does not last for very long.
Godly, Saintly and Chaste Love
There is one last relationship I would touch upon here and it is an entirely different sort. This relationship is more of a spiritual type, but none the less just as important to that one who holds this relationship so close to his heart but does continuously question it and fear that he has lost it? That would be the priest Athelstan’s relationship with God, and his struggles with his beliefs. Athelstan takes this relationship quite seriously and treats it as one would any other sort of earthly and human union and relationship so we should respect that. I bring it up here because recently he has begun to question his relationship on the spiritual level and there is some rumor and thought that he may be ready to enter into a more physical relationship on an earthly level. He did endure great suffering during his recent stay in England and began to have some odd visions and experiences which may have led him down this path to a more physical and intimate type of relationship. First of all, he was asked to advise in the judgement of a young woman’s trial. He advised King Ecbert of Pagan laws regarding the mistreatment of women and thereby saved the girl from more punishment than she had already received in abuse from her husband.
This might seem unrelated to his future decisions but really I think it did play some part? Some time after this trial, he had one of his odd visions? He thought that he saw the Madonna coming towards him out in the public courtyard. It took his breath away and his only response was, “Mary, Mother of Jesus!”
Well, as the woman came closer, the vision cleared and it turned out to be the young woman he had helped at the trial?
It was the most chaste kiss, but it just might have been Athelstan’s first kiss?
The whole experience had a profound affect on him…
Could that one chaste kiss and all of his visions lead him to explore more earthly pleasures?
I do believe that I have run through all of the various relationships that I am aware of right now in our world? I hope that you have enjoyed my thoughts and my look at love in our Viking world. Happy Valentine’s Day to Everyone out there!
Just a quick update…. I must share that I do believe my secret and silent infatuation and unrequited desire of Rollo has been found out? Who could have told him of this… perhaps Siggy in thinking to alleviate my current tensions and somehow repay me for my faithful service and friendship to her over the years? I do have to say that she may feel some guilt over her own actions and seeks to make some amends to Rollo in encouraging, allowing or at least turning a blind eye to some action on his part? Anyway, Rollo has come to me with his own message… an invitation to join him for a quiet and private enjoyment of the evening, just the two of us?
While I know that I should refuse such invitation, really how could any woman say no to such offer! So, I am off now to enjoy my special evening in the private company of Rollo!