It’s hard to truly know how the Vikings lived. The Northmen were busy farming, fishing, and raiding leaving them no time to write about their way of life. Much of what is known about them comes from the Poetic Edda, a collection of poems dating to the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as the Prose Edda, a collection of tales based on older stories. The Prose Edda was written several centuries after the Vikings were converted to Christianity and comes from stories passed down through the generations. Many of the civilizations that the Vikings raided were much better about writing down their history. We get much of our information from the writings of these groups of people.
Join us for this 7 part series as we learn more about the myths and facts of Viking life.
Myth #1: The Northmen were filthy savages.
Evidence from both literature and archeological sites show that the Vikings were more clean and hygienic than other cultures at that time.
“Combed and washed every thoughtful man should be” a line from the Reginsmál in the Poetic Edda (exact quote varies with each translation) is one of the first clues to show their cleanliness.
They took great pride in their appearance, keeping their hair washed and trimmed. They used a soap made of animal fat and ash, and would leave it in their hair to bleach it as blonde hair was considered more desirable. It is believed that the women kept their hair long and were responsible for the cutting of men’s hair. In nearly every archeological dig, instruments used for grooming have been found. Typically made from bone, wood, or antler; tweezers, combs, toothpicks, and ear wax scrapers are among the most common items found with the occasional addition of washbasins.
Viking men likely kept their beards long and the Brennu-Njáls saga suggests that those who couldn’t grow beards were mocked. An antler carving from the Viking age shows a helmeted man with neat, trimmed hair and a long beard and mustache. (See Below)
In the Gragas, an Icelandic law book, it was stated that there would be severe penalties for anyone who made another person dirty to disgrace them.
The monk John of Wallingford in his chronicles wrote:
”The Danes, thanks to their habit to comb their hair every day, to bathe every Saturday, to change their garments often, and set off their persons by many such frivolous devices. In this manner, they laid siege to the virtue of the married women, and persuaded the daughters even of the nobles to be their concubines.”
Yes, this means what you think it does. The people of England were such irregular bathers the Vikings were having no trouble seducing their women. Of course, they were known for stealing women during their raids, but would you be surprised if some of them may have gone willingly to get away from their smelly husband?!
All of the above (and more!) inspired our line of beard grooming products and can be found in our store!
Know any info about the Viking's grooming habits that we missed? Drop a comment below!
Check back soon for Part 2 and more!