In the Edda's and other old writings about the Germanic peoples and their mythology the women are almost completely ignored. Does this reflect the attitude of the old Germanic peoples or the attitude of the Christian writers?
Their are three sources of writings about the old Germanic peoples:
Some Romans wrote about the Germanic peoples. Mainly Tacitus and Caesar. Their writings contain a lot of bias. And most of their knowledge about the Germanic tribes was 'hear-say'.
Christians that lived among the old Germanic peoples. Like the writers of the Poetic Edda, Snorri Sturluson and Saxo Germanicus.
The oldest texts of laws.
VIII. Their traditions tell that more than once, when a German line was wavering on the point of giving way, the women rallied it, urgently entreating the men to fight on, baring their breasts and crying out that their captivity was at hand. Captivity for their women is a thing the men abhor far more than for themselves; so that, as a matter of fact, we always obtain the firmest hold over those states which are compelled to include amongst the hostages they send us some maidens of noble birth. Nay, the Germans even ascribe to women a certain inspiration and power of prophecy; they do not either despise the advice they give or neglect their forecasts. Most of their tribes long gave divine honours to Veleda, whom we saw as a prisoner here in the days of the Emperor Vespasian, of blessed memory; but there was also an Aurinia in earlier times, and many others likewise, whom they venerated sincerely enough, though not with any idea of making goddesses of them.
According to Tacitus the Germanic men saw the women as equal. Not the same, but equal in value. The Germanic man did not hate or despise the women.
All mediaeval writers did write. The pagans did not read or write. All old writers were educated as a child by Christian priests. And they were brainwashed by Christian priests.
All the men that wrote songs of the Poetic Edda, and writers like Snorri Sturluson and Saxo Germanicus were educated and brainwashed by Christian priests. They were raised to hate and despise women.
Around the time of writing this article (2023) it is not so obvious to some readers, that Christian culture has a long history of extreme hate, fear and loathing towards women.
According to genesis 2:22 Eve was made from the side (or of a rib) of Adam. In this myth the inferiority of women in respect to men is implicit.
According to Icelandic mythology the first man and woman were (probably) made from two trees. See: Ask_and_Embla. This creation myth could go back to the time before the Germanic peoples and Zoroastrians separated. According to the Zoroastrian cosmogony, Mashya and Mashyana were the first man and woman whose procreation gave rise to the human race.
In Christian mythology women are inferior. In Germanic mythology they are made equal.
According to genesis 3:1-7 Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit. So Eve seduced Adam. Then they were cast out of Paradise. And this was all to blame on Eve. Hence the hate of Christian culture against women.
The early Christian church adopted the theories of Aristotle. Wikipedia writes: The works of Aristotle portrayed women as morally, intellectually, and physically inferior to men; saw women as the property of men; claimed that women's role in society was to reproduce and to serve men in the household; and saw male domination of women as natural and virtuous.
The Romans already had a long history of repression of women. The Christians went much further. The apostle Paul demanded, that women should be silent, submissive to men and obedient.
Most Christian churches and cults denied women the right to be a priest or to lead. At some point, Christian men started to say, that women had no soul. (Probably this started with the reformation and was intended as slander against the Catholic church.)
Among Germanic tribes women could be priestess. They were revered as seeresses. There is no evidence that before Christianity the women were seen as less than men among Germanic tribes.
Around 1500 AD something changed in the way Christianity treated women. Perhaps because of the discovery of America or perhaps a change of climate caused a lot of suffering and people needed someone to blame. Until around 1500 AD modest women were protected by the Christian church. There was a form of Great Mother worship around the virgin Maria. With the reformation this changed dramatically. Christian leaders started to persecute women of influence. Wise women were burned as witches or heretics. Women were more often depicted as the source of evil.
The laws in Christian countries limited women in many ways. Quite often women were not allowed to be independent. They were 'under the protection' of a legal guardian. That could be her father or her husband. See: Legal rights of women in history and Salic law.
For a long time historians claimed, that these laws were 'Germanic'. Wikipedia writes: Until the 1950s, these commonalities were held to be the result of a distinct Germanic legal culture. Scholarship since then has questioned this premise and argued that many "Germanic" features instead derive from provincial Roman law. Germanic law.
Wikipedia writes about Scandinavia:
The early law of the northern parts of Europe is interesting from the different ways in which it treated women. The position of women varied greatly. In Pagan Scandinavia prior to the introduction of Christianity, women in Scandinavia had a relatively free and independent position. ...
During the Viking Age, women had a relatively free status in the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, illustrated in the Icelandic Grágás and the Norwegian Frostating laws and Gulating laws. The paternal aunt, paternal niece and paternal granddaughter, referred to as odalkvinna, all had the right to inherit property from a deceased man. In the absence of male relatives, an unmarried woman with no son could, further more, inherit not only property, but also the position as head of the family from a deceased father or brother: a woman with such status was referred to as ringkvinna, and she exercised all the rights afforded to the head of a family clan, ...
Source: Legal rights of women in history
The oldest laws of Iceland probably show the most reliable view on the position of women in Germanic cultures. This is the result of the peculiar history of Iceland. Between 800 and 1000 AD Norway was converted to Christianity. Pagans had two options: Convert to Christianity or migrate to Iceland. As a result, the die-hard pagans migrated to Iceland. When Christianity tried to convert Iceland to Christianity it failed. The population of Iceland agreed to freedom of religion and put that idea in law. As a result Iceland got the most 'modern' law of Europe. Freedom of religion and equality of men and women was put in the core of Icelandic law. See Settlement of Iceland and Harald Fairhair.
Unfortunately we have no information about these oldest laws. The oldest written version of Icelandic law is written by Christians. And we do not know if they wrote things down as they were or that they tweaked the writings to serve their own agenda. Wikipedia writes:
The existing Icelandic Commonwealth laws that now exist as the Grágás never actually existed in one complete volume during medieval times. The Grágás does not contain a unified body of law, as arguably one never existed in the Icelandic Commonwealth. Instead, the Grágás was derived from two smaller, fragmentary volumes known as the Konungsbók ... and Staðarhólsbók. ... Sometimes the Konungsbók and Staðarhólsbók present different information, sometimes complementary information, and sometimes contradictory information. ... According to the Grágás, one third of the Icelandic laws were recited by the Law Speaker at the Icelandic national parliament, the Alþingi, each year over a three-year period.
During pre-historic times the songs of the Edda were skalded by Skalds to instruct the young people about the cosmology and customs of their people. The Law Speaker does the same thing but with another content: the law instead of the Edda songs.
There is a huge difference between the earliest written laws of Iceland and the text of old sagas. One of the first settlers in Iceland was a woman with the name Unn the Deepminded. According to the Laxdæla Saga, Unn was the daughter Ketil Flatnose. Ketil refused to submit to Harald Finehair and refused to become Christian. After his death Unn migrated to Iceland with her followers. There she took some land, built a farm and ran it like a man would. Later she gave parts of her property to her daughters and their followers. At that time (around 900 AD) women could lead and could have full control over their properties. Later Roman-Christian laws limited the participation of women in society.
There is a very peculiar law in the Grágás about cross-dressing. Women are prohibited to wear men's clothes or to wear arms. There was also a lot of bias against men wearing women's clothes.
You do not make a law to prohibit something that no one does. There is no law prohibiting you to put your arm in fire. The fact that there was a law preventing women to behave like men shows that a lot of women behaved like men. That was not acceptable for Christians.
The bias against men wearing women's clothes also shows, that that was not uncommon. In many shamanistic traditions there are shamans that change their traditional gender role. See: The Androgenous Shaman or shamanism + crossdressing. It seems probable to me, that the Christians introduced laws in their writings to curb the freedom of pagan priests and priestesses.
We should keep in mind, that the law in old Iceland was very different from the law in a modern society. A modern society has a police force and a public prosecutor. They did not exist in old Iceland. If you suffered damage because an other person violated the law, you had to go to the thing and make a complaint about that person. If that person was powerful, he could prevent you from going to the thing. In that case the law had no real value. The laws prohibiting women to act like men were probably new when they were written down. You have to have some kind of law enforcement to charge women about breaking this law.
There is nothing to suggest that the prehistorian Germanic men hated or despised women. As far as there is any evidence, it suggests that women were more or less equal to men among the pagan Germanic peoples. Bias against women was introduced and developed by Christians.
Further reading: Pulling the Strings: The Influential Power of Women in Viking Age Iceland by Kendall M. Holcomb
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Werewolves and werebears
Origin of traditional festivities
Germanic tribes lived from about 3500 BC to 100 AD. Each tribe had its own myths and customs. And they changed over time.
So we can not say things like: "The Germanic people were like this and they believed that".
When you put a 'V' before the word Edda, you get Vedda or Veda.
Vedda or Wedda is related to the Dutch word 'weten' and the Germand word 'wissen' (to know) and the English word 'Wit'
The Edda, the Rig Veda en the Zend Avesta have the same origin.
According to DNA research of David Reich et al. the Germanic people came from Central Asia from the Yamnaya culture.
Ulfhedhnar are the original werewolves, shamans that had the wolf as power animal. They were the teachers of the native Europeans.
Bersekrs are the werebears, shamans that had the bear as power animals. They were the healers of the native Europeans.