First of all, I want to thank all of my followers for joining me on this trip through time to the Viking age! Our raiding season has come to an end for this year but that does not mean that we are finished with our visit with these Vikings! As I have mentioned previously, I will be remaining on here in Paris for the time being- I need a bit of a vacation and while the present company tends to be rather stuffy, snotty and at times somewhat perverse, the accommodations are far more comfortable and luxurious than those of a long boat ride and another stay in Kattegat. The food is excellent as well… now, if I could just find way to rid myself of Charles and a few others residing here, my vacation would be almost perfect!
I don’t mind if Gisla stays… Yes, she can be a bit much to deal with at times- but I have a feeling she will be quite pre-occupied and busy with her upcoming nuptials and her future husband.
I will tell of that story later, as well as the story of what happened with our Viking group. I am quite sure most of you are already aware by now that our illustrious leader, Ragnar did not die but rose up to accomplish his goal of conquering the city- at least for a few hours! He has now departed for the trip home to Kattegat and we will tell that story later. Right now, I want to discuss the one other person who has caused such a stir and controversy within the walls of Paris. That would be Count Odo, of whom rumors and gossip are running rampant now. I have now spent some time at this court and heard many of the women, men whispering of him behind his back. Never would anyone voice these thoughts openly around him. But, there are indeed rumors floating around about his personal life… and about how he may react to the news of Gisla being given to the Northman, Rollo instead of him?
With all of that in mind, perhaps we should take a closer look at Odo and the recent event that has caused such controversy. Before we proceed with this discussion, I do need to warn and advise that the following discussion will contain adult subject matter, some sexual content and some nudity. If any of this causes you discomfort, then please do not read further. I would also have to say that if you are uncomfortable with this subject, then I am reasonably certain the recent event that took place with Odo and a willing participant caused you a great deal of discomfort! It was probably even more disturbing and discomforting for you because it was cut and edited in such a way for American viewers that you may not have understood the full context or reason for the scene? The reasoning for this scenario is still up for debate even among those who had the benefit of viewing it in it’s entirety. It did seem somewhat out of context and un-necessary at first. But, after thinking much about it and doing some additional research on this particular character, I can see where it may be coming from on a number of different levels.
Before we get into the discussion of it, let us look at exactly what happened! Count Odo was once again put off by Gisla and immediately after that he was approached by an unknown, un-named as yet, young Noblewoman. This young woman was open about her desire to show her gratitude to Odo for saving their city, even if Gisla would not. She showed an interest in spending more personal time with him. Odo, to his credit, did not just immediately take her up on it, but spent some moment thinking this over before giving her a hopeful answer in his response of, “Perhaps later”
This young woman searches Odo out, approaches him and is quite forward in her advances toward him. Odo did not go in search of her, nor did he do anything that would be of questionable conduct or behavior on his part. This is extremely important to remember later. This young woman purposefully set her sights and attentions on Odo and offered herself to him. He did seem hesitant about agreeing to her proposal.
In considering his hesitation over this and what takes place later, we now have to wonder about the other unknown woman that Odo seemed to have some relationship with at an earlier time?
Who is this other unknown woman… what role does she play in his life, both personal and professional? She does bear a resemblance to our more recent young woman, and at first I thought perhaps they were one and the same? But, I don’t think so… this woman appears to be older, more experienced and seems to already have some connection with Odo? How does she fit into what we are learning about Odo and the French court? I can only assume that this will all unravel for us in the next season!
For now, let us just focus on what took place later between Odo and this unknown young woman.
They did meet later in Odo’s chambers, where once again, she made it clear what she was offering. She made comments about how she was sure that Gisla was boring, so good, so pious and would not hold Odo’s interest for long. Odo brought up the subject of this woman’s husband and she responded that he was probably already so drunk as not care or notice where she was or what she was doing. So, we now know that this woman is married and is willing to enter into some arrangement with Odo despite that state. As a note- this was not at all uncommon then- we will discuss that later!
When the woman comments on her husband, Odo’s response shows he is well aware of her intent and her game, and he is letting her know it.
In Odo’s response to her about Gisla, we get a clue as to what the future could possibly hold for Gisla if she should end up married to him… or if the marriage event does not go his way and he would choose to extract some personal vengeance upon Gisla for it?
Please remember that this woman is willing and eager to enter into some arrangement with Odo. She suggests that perhaps she could hold his interest far longer than Gisla ever could. Odo responds with we shall see…
The young woman then follows Odo down a dim hallway to what one would suppose to be a much more private and less known about dungeon like space…
This is obviously not a space that Odo shares with the general public or more casual acquaintances…
This is where we discover Odo’s more personal and private preferences. Apparently, no other woman at court has thought to possibly warn this young woman ahead of time of just what type of sexual proclivities, deviations or acts Odo may be fond of practicing. I am certain that there are probably other women who know of this, who have experienced this with him, but for what ever reason they have kept such information to themselves- a much guarded secret? Perhaps they have been well rewarded for their silences on this matter…or perhaps they are in fear of any retribution on Odo’s part if he should find they have been sharing this secret… possibly, it’s a bit of both. In any case, this woman is rattled by this place and it takes her some time to regain any composure. The key to this is that, she does regain her composure, she does go ahead with this experience even after being warned and cautioned by him to choose carefully. The other part to remember here is that Odo is not looking at this as abuse. He is well versed and well trained in this art of BDSM and is giving her free choice as to continue or to walk away. If she chooses to continue, he is willing to guide her through this experience.
What we see is this young woman having second thoughts, weighing the choice in her mind and probably the benefits of continuing on as well… this is entirely new for her, and she battles to overcome some fear and possible distaste for the idea in thought of what the eventual reward might be for her. She has obviously set her sights on an arrangement with Odo for some reasons that most likely have little to do with sexual gratification- though that would be an added side bonus- but more to do with advancing her and or her husband’s status at court. This was the most general reason for women entering into such affairs, and often they had their husband’s agreements on such an activity. One could look at it as a career opportunity for young women at court. We will delve into that a bit closer after we view the rest of this experience.
Odo gives her his explanation and his offer… If you would submit to being chained and whipped, we might come to some arrangement. The key here is that he is giving her choice and she is free to decline is she so chooses.
I can not stress or emphasize enough that this experience, this act is not in and of itself abuse or torture. Odo is a trained expert in this form of sexual practice and they are both consenting adults on this experience. He is giving her fair warning, free choice in the matter and no one is forcing her into this experience. While it may be disturbing to watch, and it may not be to your personal taste, sensibilities or morals, it is not abuse. As I said, he will guide her through it and will give her choice as to when to strike or when to halt. The final choice is now left up to her and she makes her decision…. What a portion of this choice comes down to is that of what a person might be willing to do for status, fame, power or control. I will not say love at this point because in this particular situation, love or obsession has nothing to do with her motives or his. There may be, though a willingness on her part too, to experience it for curiousness of this act?
What follows is this young woman’s initiation into the sexual practice of BDSM with guidance from Odo, her Master in this experience. Odo allows her to choose when…
After a moment of preparing herself, she is ready
what much of the viewing audience missed was the rest of the act…
We did not see any further sexual conclusion to this initial act so we really have no idea if she truly embraced the experience and enjoyed it or not. We can assume that is was pleasurable for Odo, and that as such a well trained master in this practice, he would have enlightened her as to the basic premise that there is a fine line between pain and pleasure. This premise is the basis for much of the practice of BDSM. What we do see at a later point is that she does seem to have elevated her status at court somewhat by being at Odo’s side at an important Court function, Ragnar’s supposed funeral. This small detail may be easy to overlook but it is extremely important in the context of this experience and what her benefit or reward might have been!
Now that we have looked at the experience, let us look at those other pieces of the puzzle…
First of all, we need to look at the character of Odo and where this part of his character may have originated. I know we have looked at him and his part in history previously but let’s look one more time because this seems to be a new side of him that his original history did not necessarily prepare us for? Of course, this particular preference or practice may not be one that would be so well known or documented through history!
We have previously gone on the assumption that he is a representation of Count Odo of France, but there are couple of Count Odos during this time period. I believe that our Odo is most likely another of those combinations of historical figures. While he certainly is most likely partially a representation of Odo of France as basically described here:
|King of Western Francia|
The Coronation of Odo, from the Grandes Chroniques de France
|Coronation||February 888, Compiègne|
|Predecessor||Charles the Fat|
|Father||Robert the Strong|
|Mother||Adelaide of Tours|
|Died||1 January 898
La Fère, France
Odo (or Eudes) (c. 852 – 1 January 898) was a King of Western Francia, reigning from 888 to 898. He was a son of Robert the Strong, count of Anjou, whose branch of the family is known as the Robertians. Odo is also known as the Duke of France and Count of Paris.
For his skill and bravery in resisting the attacks of the Vikings at the Siege of Paris, Odo was chosen by the western Franks to be their king following the removal of emperor Charles the Fat. He was crowned at Compiègne in February 888 by Walter, Archbishop of Sens. Odo continued to battle against the Vikings and defeated them at Montfaucon, but he was soon involved in a struggle with powerful nobles who supported the claim of Charles the Simple to the Frankish throne.
In 889 and 890 Odo granted special privileges to the County of Manresa in Osona. Because of its position on the front line against Moorish aggression, Manresa was given the right to build towers of defence known as manresanas or manresanes. This privilege was responsible for giving Manresa its unique character, distinct from the rest of Osona, for the next two centuries. To gain prestige and support, Odo paid homage to the Eastern Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia. But in 894 Arnulf declared his support for Charles, and after a conflict which lasted three years, Odo was compelled to come to terms with his rival and surrender a district north of the Seine to him.
He is most likely also a portrayal and representation of Odo I, Count of Blois. Odo, Count of Blois and Touraine, was a French nobleman of the tenth century. He is described as a vicious, cruel man who lost his left arm in a sword-fight.
This link is to a short peview of a book called Odo Count of Champagne and Tyrant of Burgundy
For our purposes, we have not yet seen our Count Odo as overly cruel or vicious… He seems to be a well capable man in charge of defending his City and making far more rational, sound decisions than King Charles! What we can see of him is a desire for added power and fame, which the marriage to Gisla would bring him. So far, he has really done nothing else to warrant our suspicions and speculations upon his character, his morals or his supposed cruel streak. He is in a high position of power and presents himself with that level of confidence and authority for the most part. At this point, his personal proclivities, preferences or fetishes are just that- his personal business, and he as yet not let them carry over into his professional life. We can not pass judgement on him for that yet. He has made mention that it might be interesting or enjoyable to break or tame the lady Gisla… but right now, there are countless other men who probably feel similarly in that respect… namely, our Rollo! But, that is a separate story from our current topic!
As to our unknown young woman’s motives, ambitions and loose morals… We need to look at the idea and the role of mistresses in the context of Royalty and history. As I mentioned earlier, this was not really uncommon and not really looked down upon. For young women living at Royal Courts it was often expected that they would use their assets wisely to benefit themselves and their families. Many families sent their young women to court specifically for that reason- to use their feminine assets in order to develop alliances and connections that would help all of the family move up in status and wealth. Just because they were perceived as religious and pious people does not mean that they were all pure, good and devout in their beliefs and their actions. This was a cut throat world and their intent was to survive and thrive by any means necessary. Women in this time had just as much desire for status, wealth, power and control as men did. They just went about achieving their goals in a slightly different type of warfare!
We know next to nothing about this woman, her husband or her family so we can not be sure exactly of all her reasonings and motives for seeking out this arrangement with the high level Count Odo. She may have been put up to it by family members seeking to increase their status via her relationship with such a powerful man, or it may be her own ambition pushing her on in this endeavor. That all remains to be seen in the future!
A brief look at Mistresses in history:
A mistress is a relatively long-term female lover and companion who is not married to her partner, especially when her partner is married. Generally, the relationship is stable and at least semi-permanent, but the couple does not live together openly and the relationship is usually, but not always, secret. There is often also the implication (if not the fact) that the mistress is “kept” – i.e. that her lover is paying for some (and sometimes all) of her living expenses.
The historically best known and most-researched mistresses are the royal mistresses of European monarchs, for example, Agnès Sorel, Diane de Poitiers, Barbara Villiers, Nell Gwyn and Madame de Pompadour. The keeping of a mistress in Europe was not confined to royalty and nobility but permeated down through the social ranks, essentially to any man who could afford to do so. Any man who could afford a mistress could have one (or more), regardless of social position. A wealthy merchant or a young noble might have a kept woman. Being a mistress was typically an occupation for a younger woman who, if she were fortunate, might go on to marry her lover or another man of rank.
The ballad “The Three Ravens” (published in 1611, but possibly older) extolls the loyal mistress of a slain knight, who buries her dead lover and then dies of the exertion, as she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. It is noteworthy that the ballad-maker assigned this role to the knight’s mistress (“leman” was the term common at the time) rather than to his wife. In the courts of Europe, particularly Versailles and Whitehall in the 17th and 18th centuries, a mistress often wielded great power and influence. A king might have numerous mistresses but have a single “favourite mistress” or “official mistress” (in French, “maîtresse en titre”), as with Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. The mistresses of both Louis XV (especially Madame de Pompadour) and Charles II were often considered to exert great influence over their lovers, the relationships being open secrets. Other than wealthy merchants and kings, Alexander VI is but one example of a Pope who kept mistresses. While the extremely wealthy might keep a mistress for life (as George II of England did with “Mrs Howard“, even after they were no longer romantically linked), such was not the case for most kept women.
In 1736, when George II was newly ascendant, Henry Fielding (in Pasquin) has his Lord Place say, “…but, miss, every one now keeps and is kept; there are no such things as marriages now-a-days, unless merely Smithfield contracts, and that for the support of families; but then the husband and wife both take into keeping within a fortnight.”
Occasionally the mistress is in a superior position both financially and socially to her lover. As a widow, Catherine the Great was known to have been involved with several successive men during her reign; but, like many powerful women of her era, in spite of being a widow free to marry, she chose not to share her power with a husband, preferring to maintain absolute power alone.
Mistresses were a common part of Royal and Noble life throughout history. In fact in history, the Charlamagne that Charles is so fond of reminding people of, had a number of mistresses.
- Gersuinda of the Saxons
- Amaltrud of Vienne
- Landrade des Herbages
And, if we use Charles the Simple as part of our role model for our Charles, he had a few himself!
- Edgiva of Kent
- Frederuna von Ringleheim
While Count Odo is not Royalty, he is close and in history, he would be king for a time. So, this would put him in the category of Royalty for a young woman determined to advance herself and her family.
A royal mistress is the historical position of a mistress to a monarch or an heir apparent. Some mistresses have had considerable power. These powerful mistresses have been commonly referred to as the “power behind the throne“. The prevalence of the institution can be attributed to the fact that royal marriages were until recent times conducted solely on the basis of political and dynastic considerations, leaving little space for the monarch’s personal preferences in the choice of a mate.
In European history the children of mistresses were not normally included in the line of succession, except perhaps when secret marriages were alleged. Hence the Monmouth Rebellion when James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth claimed the thrones of England and Scotland on the grounds that his mother had been the wife, rather than a mistress, of Charles II.
The last portion of this discussion is a brief, basic explanation and history of Odo’s personal sexual practices, BDSM. I am not going to go into any lengthy detailed discussion of it as it is not really pertinent here and it is a very personal choice and lifestyle which each person has different levels of accepting or believing in. I would not pass judgement on anyone for their personal tastes in such areas as long as it does not cross boundaries set by either consenting party. That is the most important thing to remember about any type of relationship.
BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, roleplaying, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle.
The term BDSM is first dated from 1969. The term BDSM was formed by joining the term B&D (bondage and discipline) with S&M (sadomasochism, or sadism and masochism). (It is sometimes believed to contain within it, as well, the compound D&S (dominance and submission) but that is not historically correct, and an example of folk etymology). BDSM is used today (2015) as a catch-all phrase covering a wide range of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures. BDSM communities generally welcome anyone with a non-normative streak who identifies with the community; this may include cross-dressers, extreme body modification enthusiasts, animal players, latex or rubber aficionados, and others.
Unlike the usual “power neutral” relationships and play styles commonly followed by couples, activities and relationships within a BDSM context are often characterized by the participants’ taking on complementary, but unequal roles; thus, the idea of informed consent of both the partners becomes essential. Participants who exert sexual dominance over their partners are known as dominants or tops, while participants who take the passive, receiving, or obedient role are known as submissives or bottoms.
The Historical Origins of BDSM
The historical origins of BDSM are obscure. During the ninth century BC, ritual flagellations were performed in Artemis Orthia, one of the most important religious areas of ancient Sparta, where the Cult of Orthia, a preolympic religion, was practiced. Here ritual flagellation called diamastigosis took place on a regular basis. One of the oldest graphical proofs of sadomasochistic activities is found in an Etruscan burial site in Tarquinia. Inside the Tomba della Fustigazione (Flogging grave), in the latter sixth century b.c., two men are portrayed flagellating a woman with a cane and a hand during an erotic situation. Another reference related to flagellation is to be found in the sixth book of the Satires of the ancient Roman Poet Juvenal (1st–2nd century A.D.), further reference can be found in Petronius’s Satyricon where a delinquent is whipped for sexual arousal. Anecdotal narratives related to humans who have had themselves voluntary bound, flagellated or whipped as a substitute for sex or as part of foreplay reach back to the third and fourth century.
The Kama Sutra describes four different kinds of hitting during lovemaking, the allowed regions of the human body to target and different kinds of joyful “cries of pain” practiced by bottoms. The collection of historic texts related to sensuous experiences explicitly emphasizes that impact play, biting and pinching during sexual activities should only be performed consensually since only some women consider such behavior to be joyful. From this perspective the Kama Sutra can be considered as one of the first written resources dealing with sadomasochistic activities and safety rules. Further texts with sadomasochistic connotation appear worldwide during the following centuries on a regular basis.
The final thought that I need to address here is one that some people have brought up in various discussions of this scene. Some people have compared Count Odo’s behavior to that of Aethelwulf’s self flagellation. I do not believe that Aethelwulf’s self flagellation has anything to do with eroticism but more to do with the religious context of it.
The Flagellation refers in a Christian context to the Flagellation of Christ, an episode in the Passion of Christ prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. The practice of mortification of the flesh for religious purposes was utilized by some Christians throughout most of Christian history, especially in Catholic monasteries and convents.
In the 13th century, a group of Roman Catholics, known as the Flagellants, took this practice to its extreme ends. The Flagellants were later condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as a cult in the 14th century because the established church had no other control over the practice than excommunication. Self-flagellation remains common in the Philippines, Mexico, and one convent in Peru.
Some members of strict monastic orders, and some members of the Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, practice mild self-flagellation using an instrument called a “discipline”, a cattail whip usually made of knotted cords, which is flung over the shoulders repeatedly during private prayer. Pope John Paul II took the discipline regularly.
St. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun of late 19th-century France who has now been declared a Doctor of the Church, is an influential example of a Catholic Saint who questioned prevailing attitudes toward physical penance. Her view was that loving acceptance of the many sufferings of daily life was pleasing to God, and fostered loving relationships with other people, more than taking upon oneself extraneous sufferings through instruments of penance. However as a Carmelite nun, she practiced voluntary corporal mortification.
Because practices such as starvation, sleep denial and flagellation are known to induce altered states, flagellation may be used by religious ecstatics and mystics as part of ritualistic practices or ceremonies to achieve unusual states of mind.
I hope this answers any questions, confusion or puzzles you may have concerning Odo, his personal practices, his history, and the young woman’s possible reasons or motives for entering into this arrangement. Hopefully it will give you some insight as how and why this scene fits into the context of the story. I can do nothing about your personal feelings, judgements or discomfort regarding all of it!