In most Viking graves, the dead were buried with a comb.
November 13, 1002, the Anglo-Saxons massacred Viking warriors all over England. The massacre became known as St. Brice’s Day massacre.
The main reason was to exact revenge for frequent Viking raids in English territory. But according to one chronicler, there might have been other powerful reasons for the massacre…
The Vikings took great care of their personal hygiene and the English men found this odd and repulsive.
Contrary, the English women (as would most of the women) found Viking cleanliness very attractive.
“The Danes, thanks to their habit of combing their hair every day, of bathing every Saturday, and regularly changing their clothes, were able to undermine the virtue of married women and even seduce the daughters of nobles to be their mistresses.”
- John of Wallingford about the cleanliness of the Vikings
The medieval Europeans were filthy as hell
Next time you will be on a train, bus, or airplane, smell the person next to you. It’s a high chance he or she will smell nice.
However, just 100 years ago, everyone smelled bad. People didn’t take wash regularly, neither did they change clothes often.
Now, imagine how filthy our ancestors were 1,000 years ago.
Let’s face it. Medieval Europeans were dirty and smelly.
The Arabs who regularly bathed found them disgusting.
In the 16th century, when Spanish conquistadors brought “civilization” to the Aztecs, the natives bearing incense burners were assigned to accompany them.
The Spaniards thought they were worshipped. Yet, the natives just wanted to cover the awful Spanish smell.
The formidable Vikings were very clean
First of all, the word Viking is a general term applying to the Scandinavians from the 8th to 12th century. The Vikings didn’t call themselves the Vikings. Instead, they were the Danes, the Norse, the Rus, etc.
The term Viking means pirate since the Scandinavians, using their longboats, raided the coasts of Europe all the way to Constantinople.
Viking women and men placed great importance on personal hygiene. They bathed regularly, combed their hair, and changed their clothes.
They washed their hair and combed even their beards. The beards were a symbol of maturity and masculinity. But the Vikings made sure their beards and mustache were trimmed and tidy.
They had a morning ritual of washing their faces, hands, and hair in a bowl of water. They also had a habit of washing their hands before eating.
“Combed and washed shall the wise man go.”
- a verse from the Viking poem Reginsmol
The Vikings preferred to be blonde, therefore men and women used strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair. The practical consequence of such soap was it also killed lice.
Saturday was meant for bathing
On Saturdays, the Vikings bathed. During summer in rivers and lakes and during winter in heated bathhouses.
Actually, in the Icelandic language, Saturday is called laugardagur, which means bathing day. Yes, Iceland was a Viking colony.
Other modern Scandinavian languages use similar words for Saturday — lørdag in Danish, lördag in Swedish, and lauantai in Finnish.
The Vikings loved hot baths
Viking sagas are full of descriptions of hot spring baths.
If there was a chance to do some skinny dipping in hot springs, the Vikings did it.
One famous Viking, Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), built himself an elaborate bath at his farm at Reykholt in Iceland around 1210. It was fed by hot and cold water pipes from the water springs nearby. He could even adjust the temperature.
The bath was four meters (thirteen feet) in diameter, had stone steps leading into the pool and bench seats at the side of the pool.
The Vikings were buried with their combs
Combs, ear scoops, toothpicks, tweezers, razors, and fingernail cleaners were very valued among the Vikings.
The Viking grooming tools were made of bone, antler, or metal and were stored in boxes, which signified the importance of such tools to the Vikings.
It is not swords or battle-axes, but combs, that are the most common archaeological findings in the Viking graves.
For example, on July 4, 2019, archaeologists near Upsala in Sweden found a grave, which contained a sword, spear, shield, and an ornate comb.
The English found the Vikings repulsive because the Vikings bathed and combed their hair.
Today, we find the medieval English repulsive for thinking the clean Vikings were repulsive.
This leads to two interesting facts:
The majority creates the norms of what is acceptable. Even if those norms are wrong.
What is acceptable or not acceptable changes over time.
Então pense com sua própria cabeça e faça as coisas certas.
Da mesma forma que ser limpo hoje em dia é normal e esperado de nós, desejo que no futuro, aceitar as pessoas com base em seu valor e não por sua raça, religião ou sexualidade seja o normal.
Não apenas normal, mas esperado de cada membro da sociedade.
So think with your own head and do the things because they are right.
Same as being clean is nowadays normal and expected from us, hopefully in the future, accepting people based on their valor and not on their race, the color of skin, religion, or sexuality will be normal.
Not only normal but expected from each member of our society.
SOURCE: History of Yesterday
Preskar, Peter. “Viking Warriors Were Actually Obsessed With Personal Hygiene”. History of Yesterday. Guildford. 12 mar. 2022. 13 mar. 2022. <https://historyofyesterday.com/viking-hygiene-538d1da334ac>.
Sign our Newsletter or add our WhatsApp to keep informed about the Viking World... Please, follow us in Social Medias.