Bloodfeud and Scandinavian Mythology
By John Lindow
Alvíssmál, Vol.4 (1994)
Introduction: Medieval Iceland was hardly unique in possessing a stateless society, one in which individuals were responsible for resolving disputes without executive aid, with or without the law, and decisions reached at law had to be enforced by the plaintiffs. Such societies typically practice a variety of methods to resolve disputes, and these methods clearly work, or the societies would perish. Some legal anthropologists use the term “self-help” to describe what happens: people take the law into their own hands, as we might say, but under a highly developed if sometimes unexpressed and always unwritten set of rules. One of the means of doing so involves homicide or the threat of homicide and is called the bloodfeud or simply feuding.