Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Frederikssund - Vet the Viking Tradition. History's Agendas: Writing-Dependent

Viking Culture.
He Who.

He who controls the writing controls what is written.
And how. 
And what is said. 

How to find "history" when the victors wrote their version; 
or, the stories were written so long after, 
and by those who were not there; and have agendas.

Frederikssund.  Frederikssund is a town not far from Copenhagen, that boasts a Viking-camp type recreational area, with longhouses, pathways, a little village.  It closes in the fall, but offers a pleasant respite walk before heading into Copenhagen. See http://www.visitfrederikssund.dk/international/en-gb/menu/turist/turist-maalgruppe-forside.htm

 Frederikssund, Viking sculpture, modern
On the topic of Vikings, why are they so maligned by Western "Christian" cultures.  Barbarians are there!  Onward, Christian soldiers!  Look more closely at the tradition of Viking maligning.

1.  Definition of barbarian.  Who is one?
2.  Ancient. Reach of indigenous history: People have been settled in Denmark since 3000 BC Stone Age
3.  Handicap:  With no writing system beyond runes, a narrative could not be recorded and passed on easily. 

4.  12th-13th C. foreigners - The victors - did the job of writing, and they did a job on it. It was foreign conquerors or those looking down their noses who wrote down Scandinavian Stories, with the writers' agendas. Or, the "historian" did his best with the material, but the times did not value vetting fact, but putting down whatever was heard. 
5.  History.  History is not fact.  History is what is sifted, written, persuaded, recorded, discovered.
6.  Control of reading and writing enriches the religious and military exploiter, colonizer
7.  Vikings:  sources for appreciation of system of laws

Viking Reputation in History
1. Who is the barbarian.  

Was that really religion talking, or turf and seeking wealth and power.  Vet "barbarian".  Rocks of other people's ages: what speaks. Frederikssund offers festivals to recreate what it can. Remember camp?  Coming to a Viking reenactment festival site is like that. Role playing, demonstrations, crafts.  We saw the reenactments at Horsens, DK, the rehearsals before the Big Day following (best time to go), but this one - by mid September - had just closed. No matter. Wander anyway.

Where else to find a positive reconstruction of Viking culture, that is not tainted by the doctrines of those who had the writing knowledge - monks, scribes -- of the conquering Western Religions.  We know more than we think:  see http://www.vikingship.org/ourfaqs/beliefs_1.html

"Barbarian" came into use in the mid 14th Century, and originally was not a pejorative.  It was merely descriptive.  See http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=barbarian.
  • Latin - barbaria - foreign country, the Romans applying the word to those who did not display Greek or Roman accomplishments
  • Medieval Latin barbarinus -
  • Greek - barbaros - foreign, strange, ignorant; and Greek barbaroi - those who were not Greek, referring to the Medes and Persians especially. The meaning "darkened" after the Persian Wars, says  The Romans technically, for Greeks, would be barbaroi.  
  • Old French barbarin - Berber, pagan, Saracen, barbarian, 
  • Linguistic sound root "bar bar" - as an echo of how foreign speech sounded to those who could not understand it;  or Sanskrit root (a "cognate") as barbaros or stammering, see http://en.allexperts.com/q/Etymology-Meaning-Words-1474/Barbarian.htm [and, same site, not connected to barbecue or barba for beard]
Who is the barbarian?  See Western Ethnic Violence Timeline

2.  The reach of indigenous history

Frederikssund has been inhabited since early Stone Age - see that era illustrated in Denmark at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPoFCDxJlKQ.  Years?  Pre-1700 BC. Even as far back as 3500 BC. The Bronze Age, uses of metals, came in about 1700 BC. See http://www.kulturarv.dk/1001fortaellinger/en_GB/theme/stone-age-farmers

There was an extensive culture in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, religious and social organization evolved from then to the invasions of the Europeans to the South.

Enter Rome into Germanic tribe lands in Germany - Saxons, Wends, others -- and note that Rome could never subdue the Germanic tribes.

See http://www.new-wisdom.org/cultural_history1/11-norse/angles_saxons_jutes.htm

Then fast forward to the second wave of attempts to subjugate, and these worked: The medieval military-religious invasions as Christianity, inheriting the Roman militance and developed organizational skills used largely in its violent forms, spread the faith by requiring conversion or death among the northern peoples.

Watch the march of the Frankish Christians (Charlemagne) and the Popes  and later Holy Roman Emperors; then to Eastern Crusades that morphed into Crusades against the multi-deist and even Orthodox-converted Christians in the North.

Those later cultures of south-influenced Europeans, The Romans, the Franks, had writing and records.  The Danes, the Jutes, the Norse (term for all northern peoples here), the tribes in Sweden and Norway did not, at that time, in their own language.  See the scope of contemporary college courses, example  http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/O11P911AHW

3.  The handicap of no writing system, beyond Runes. 
Could not use writing to persuade, keep records

History:  Records are a matter of agenda.  Who made the record, why, when, where.  Does it relate to demonstrable events; or is it to persuade of something. If a culture has no narrative writing record, are they inferior; or a product of their geography and environment.  What extra time do cold people have, to develop writing.

Vikings.  No records but oral history, and variations of runes.

Without original, indigenous records, how to recreate Viking culture to teach others based on fact.

Archeology goes only so far.  How to derive an understanding of belief systems, values, when they themselves did not (could not, as a matter of northern climate rigors and priorities to stay alive) keep their own records.  They did did not have the tools to do that until after they were conquered and were forced to learn new languages and ways; and most important, ways of heating enabled a Renaissance in the north. Is that so.  
  • Writing is a luxury. The role of cold. Have to keep warm. No time from that to figure out how to record things, or store them. And nothing much to write it on.  The easy writing materials like papyrus or clay for tablets, or pyramid walls inside, started that handy scribe-capability much farther south, where it thrived. Hot climates = early writing cultures. Cold climates = late writing cultures.
So, rather than Vikings spinning their representations of their culture to show how wonderful they were (as did southern Europe and Mediterranean cultures), they did not do much representing at all.

They just lived it, and told it. They did rune stones as memorials of people or events; or for directions in the woods; and told their stories, in a rich oral tradition.  But even that oral tradition of origins, heroes, gods, like ours was finally written down by people living much, much later.

When their stories were finally written down, it was not edited even by Vikings from the culture (the earliest Adams and Eveses did not write their own story either).

4.  12th Century Foreigners Write Down Scandinavian Stories, Long After; With Agendas

So who wrote down the Viking oral histories?

Sometimes we have no idea other than a name, if even that. It was not written by the Vikings themselves, who did not know the European or Latin languages to write it.  This was done by people after Christianity took hold, even as to advanced societies as that in Iceland.

The original peoples did not write their stories before the great conversion eras brought in the converting scribes.  It was done by Christian advocates, or other Europeans or Latin-religious conquering people - like Romans, clerics, scribes, monks bound on conversion. Conversion: like it or not and call in the Pope's or the Holy Roman Emperor's armies to see that the rabble got fixed, or killed, whichever came first.
  • Snorri Sturulson in 1200, Iceland -- a poet and politician, see the Prose Eddas at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/. He respected he earlier culture and religion, and created a framework for the stories of the gods. Still, his viewpoint was Christian: Christianity is valid, multi-deism is not. See all the dreadful things that happened under multi-deism. We are so much better off now.
5.  History is what is sifted, written, persuaded

a. What we were taught.

Vikings suddenly and without cause began raiding Europe, say in 790 AD.  Up and down the lengths of the rivers:
  •  France, 
  • Russia (the Volga, that route largely to develop trade down to and beyond the Black Sea), 
  • attacking in Britain and Ireland the unguarded monasteries and conducting atrocities, slaving, conquering much of Britain and ruling it (King Canute) for a time, 
  • back at the monasteries, taking riches, engaging in great commerce ventures throughout the Mediterranean, down the Volga past the Black Sea, returning the next year, and on and on from about 780-1150 AD.
Is that so?  A sudden explosion, or was it a response to equal and even worse exploitation over centuries of cultural invasion.

b. Vikings - What we now know about motivation: was the culture really just callousness. What did Charlemagne do, culminating after 30 years in the slaughter of Saxon Wood, Sachsehain, at Verden.  That was 782 or so.  After 30 years of warfare, forced conversions, killing off of cultures.  That would put the start of Charlemagne's campaigns to colonize the north at about 752.  Enough is enough.

Ask what motivated them to raid?  Charlemagne, stupid. The Pope, stupid.  Is that it? Who dares say.

Put the records together. Were the Vikings triggered into aggression because the Charlemagne-type Holy Roman Emperor-Type Christian conquerors were invading their lands and forcing conversions?

At first the Vikings did hit the monasteries, LIndisfarne was the first;  so a religious connection makes sense.  Convert or die?  And they refused to convert, for the longest time, until they had to, or die. Is that it?  They had no formal "religion" or word for it, but their culture embraced law and morality.  Was that system better?
No wonder the Vikings hit the monasteries.

Barbarism was not in the killing - the Church had done that for centuries of invasions into the north and west; and then came Inquisitions and Crusades.  See http://worldwar1worldwar2.blogspot.com/2010/11/westerm-ethnic-violence-timeline-put.html

Barbarism is in pretending that other people's killing is worse than your own.  Historian's agenda.  How is a people represented. Why. Here, look at the retaliation angle, not the barbaric ferocity. Lindisfarne - retaliation. Viking target not only for religious retaliation, but for loot.

c. .  Retaliation as the Motivation; then when it paid so well, go back and do it again.
Of course the Vikings hit the monasteries.The monasteries were rich and undefended - look at what a monastery could hold.

d.  Ask what the real purpose of all that converting was.

The institution and the Holy Soldiers got rich from it. Souls?  A peripheral smoke-screen, judging from the methods used to convert.

How did the church get so rich? Were the Norse, includind the Danes, correct in the assesment that the invasion of the Christians was simply military; and responding in kind as long as they could.
  • Consider the process of and motivation for developing religious ritual, and building in opportunity.
An abbot or monk or priest attending a death and administering last rites had an easy sell:  you are going to hell, mister, unless you donate this and that and that, and so they did. The Church controlled the process. Only the religious had access to writing materials, so just sign on the dotted line. X goes here. See the records of the Danish Cistercians, Abbey founded at 1153 at Esrum.  By the 1500's they owned 300 farms plus churches plus highly lucrative mills.  Thank you, death bed. Is that so?  See http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/word/will.htm
Medieval Wills and Inventories:

Fair use quote: Emphasis added, Medieval Writing site:
"Wills were not used to dispose of the family real estate, as theoretically that was not the legal prerogative of the owner. The legal heir was designated by the crown, and the process could be full of political machinations. Wills were used to make donations to religious bodies such as monasteries, for the benefit of the owner's immortal soul, and to specify the nature of their funerary monument and funerary commemorations."
Further, in England wills had to be proven in Church courts. Medieval Writing site. Medieval Wills and Inventories: Guess who won.  The "inspeximus" was a specially proven will, a certified copy by a person especially trusted.  For substantial persons, the original will would be verified by the seal of a higher up clergy, even an archbishop, and five others. What was needed for mere farmers?  See an example of a portion of such a will at http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/word/will.htm
Medieval Wills and Inventories:

Clever. See http://www.suite101.com/content/esrum-abbey-and-mill-in-north-zealand-denmark-a374421  The name "extreme unction" was generally used by the end of the 1100's, so this Abbey was right on time to benefit financially. Go to the site, Our Lady's Promise: It takes so long to justify the reasoning for this new sacrament that allowed, even required, the Church to be present at death. From the convoluted reasoning,  it is reasonable to suppose that its use (particularly as it extracted property in practice at the same time, to save the soul), is and was not justified at all.

Just handy. Persuasion tactics. Who would resist donating property to the church, if eternal damnation were the alternative. My sins not forgiven?  Where do I sign. See details of the ritual itself (that of course does not refer to the ancillary benefit of property donations in extremis)  at http://www.ourladyspromise.org/blog/lesson-27-the-sacrament-of-extreme-unction

Vikings? Barbaric? In the sense of being foreign, yes.  In pejorative behavior? No. So of course Vikings aimed for monasteries.  Not only was Viking religion and culture being invaded and Germanics killed by the new Religion-Meisters, but how else could the North people fight back? They did not roll over easily. And monasteries were wide open. And they kept refilling their coffers.

6.  Control of reading and writing  enriches the religious and military invaders and colonizers

Examine Wills. Examine the role of property in culture and status. A Will, a form of writing that establishes in some areas who gets what, and easily includes donations to a religious sect when that sect demands presence at death (not just to save a soul, but see that papers are signed in time).  For the individual, illiterate or not, a Will give a sense of conclusion, continuity, a sense of time and place.

Who controls the will? The one who controls writing. If the testator cannot read or write, who is to say what was really agreed. Enter, the religious authority with the clout of damnation if the poor sick soul does not donate.

Old wills served a different function from ours.  Old wills could not dispose of anything at will.  Pun. That made the role of the church all the more overpowering in dispositions.
  • One of ours, in name only (similar first and last name, to some old deceased) Johannes Widingh 1376 .  The worldly goods of Johannes Widingh are recorded in perpetuity in the Hamburg records from yes, 1376.
Johannes Widingh 2011

Seeing an old will is its own satisfaction.

Keep a people ignorant and illiterate and on the run, and the colonizer-invader wins. Learn to read, and you can protect yourself, to a degree. So get your own records and see if you don't feel more rooted, less vulnerable -- all is kept -- and only a small processing fee and postage. Go and ask. See

  • The point is not just the fun of finding it, and a name (even if no relation at all) recognizable to an uncanny degree over 600 years later, but seeing a Truth:  A culture with writing has records. And the person with writing skills has power over the one who has not, particularly in transmission of goods and donations.  What is being signed for?  Who knows.

This will appears formal, but we see no seal, or signature of Johannes Widingh.  See the example of a very formal one with special certification from England at  http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/word/will.htm

7.  Vikings - Resources

No writing.  No respect. No look at invader causation (us). Just call them marauders, pirates.  See http://history-world.org/vikings.htm  No wills. Leaders arose and fell back as needed. Far less hierarchy than the Franks and Popes were imposing from the south. Although Vikings had no separate word for "religion", their customs and practices were based on long-standing tradition and belief. See arild-hauge site.

a.  Viking laws.  Even the word is Viking. See http://www.viking.no/e/life/elaws.htm
b.  Viking society as self-regulating. Read the customs, emphasis on personal honor, use of vengeance at carefully chosen times, to uphold honor, daily life. To attack persons outside the law area was no crime. See http://www.arild-hauge.com/elife.htm
c.   Danish runes.  There were 16 until about 800 AD. Then more were added, and later, influenced by the Latin alphabet, see http://www.arild-hauge.com/edruner.htm. 
d.  Influence and place.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/conquest/after_viking/viking_colonists_01.shtml
and http://www.arild-hauge.com/edruner.htm

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