By Sami Raninen
SQS, Vol.2 (2008)
Introduction: The Viking is the ultimate symbol of North European machismo. Since the 19th century, this pseudo-archaeological figure of an early medieval heroic barbarian has been used in innumerable political and cultural projects, often but not exclusively in ones associated with political conservatism or right-wing extremism. Despite all the national-romanticist trappings devoid of any authenticity, the Viking myth has some historical basis. After all, no one can deny the military successes, artistic achievements or wide-ranging discoveries of the people with Scandinavian cultural and linguist origin during the 8th–11th centuries AD. However, the Viking world involved a diverse range of social and cultural positions, some of which do not fit very well in the reactionary and chauvinistic representations of the ancient “Heroic Age”.
My intent is to give a brief presentation of the recent research regarding the role of gender-transgressing or gender-mixing practices, often of an openly sexual quality, in the Viking period Scandinavian society and religion. This presentation is not based on any first-hand research, and is intended essentially as an information piece. My ambition is limited to presenting this interesting field of queer history for a new readership, and guiding the intrigued readers to the rich research literature of this topic.