As a people they were not called “Vikings” but “Danes”, “Norse” or “Northmen”.
They weren’t all raiders; they were farmers and traders.
They bathed often.
There is a belief that the raiding Northmen were dirty savages. Not so. Typically the Danes bathed once a week on Saturday. This was at a time when an Anglo-Saxon would only bath once or twice a year. In fact, the original meaning of Scandinavian word for Saturday (laurdag / lørdag / lördag) was ‘Washing Day’.
Viking burial mounds reveal many personal grooming tools, such as razors, tweezers and ear spoons. In fact, combs seem to be the most common artifacts
found from the Viking Age.
Danielle Daglan, director of Jorvik's Viking Festival, says, “In ancient images, Viking men are depicted with finely-trimmed beards, and waxed - often curling - moustaches.”
While the Norse god Thor wore a helmet with wings on it, which some might think look like horns, there are no records of horned helmets having ever existed. All depictions of helmets dating to the Viking age, show them with no horns.
They loved jewelry, even the men.
Viking graves and hoards tell us that various decorative personal items in bronze, silver and gold were plentiful, including coins.
Viking Age metalworkers were more than highly skilled craftsmen; they were designers and artisans. For example, to make their gold jewelry shine, they cut tiny chips into the designs that would catch the light. They also soldered filigree to the surface of an ornament. And to make a design stand out, they inlaid them with a black compound called niello (silver sulphide).
Both men and women wore brooches, necklaces, neck rings, arm rings and finger rings. In addition to the pins, brooches and such, there are also necklaces. In some Scandinavian cultures, women wore many beads to display the wealth of their husbands. While evidence for necklaces worn by the men is sparse, where pendants are found, the Thor’s Hammer seems to be the most common. No surprise there.
They were into fashion and strong women, quite modern, really.
Vikings were quite fashion conscious. They cared about their appearance, keeping their facial hair well trimmed and waxing, plaiting and trimming their beards.
They favored headstrong, independent women. (However, there is evidence that the Norse warriors kept sex slaves, so these Viking men clearly differentiated between ‘keepers’ and ‘casual’.) Viking women ran households and commanded the thralls (slaves) when the men were away. If a Viking man displayed too much chest hair, his wife could divorce him, and he was liable for alimony. Now there’s a thought.
Like their Anglo-Saxon sisters, Viking women could own property and pass it on, something that changed in England when William the Conqueror came along (as Serena in The Red Wolf’s Prize laments).
With their love of fashion, strong women and dyed hair, they were actually quite romantic figures, and modern.
They were great storytellers and poets, though most could not read or write.
On those long, cold winter evenings, they sat around the fire telling tales about feuds, battles, kings, gods and heroes. They loved poetry and when they feasted, a poet, or skald, was usually invited to entertain them.
When the Danes celebrate their victory in York in Rogue Knight, Waltheof, an actual historic figure who had joined the rebellion, had his Icelandic skald entertain the men.
If you want to meet some actual Norsemen living in 11th century Scotland, read my novel, Rebel Warrior. It begins with a Viking attack!
– Tartan Book Reviews