Norse World

Yaarel

Adventurer
For fun, I compiled a mythologically accurate world according to Norse texts.

It includes cosmological concepts, historical toponyms, and archeological assessments.



Five cosmological ‘realms’ appear on this map.

Niflheimr corresponds to the arctic cold. This ‘mist’ realm (niflr) is the Polar Ice Cap, floating on Hvergelmir, the frigid arctic ocean, with the arctic mist rising from it. The Norse seem unaware of the geography of Alaska and eastern Siberia, and evidently imagine even colder cold beyond. The eleven rivers of the Elivágar are possibly seasonal water courses on the ice cap, when the glacial ice thaws.

Múspellheimr corresponds to the equatorial heat. This ‘cataclysm’ realm is the Saharan Desert. Múspellr is of uncertain etymology but comes to mean an eschatological cataclysm, specifically a global conflagration of fire that occurs when the cosmos collapses during Ragnarǫk. The Norse seem unaware of the geography of Subsaharan Africa, and evidently imagine an even hotter heat beyond.

Jǫtunheimr is the mountain range that spans the length of Norway. The Jǫtnar are chaotic wilderness spirits, including stunningly beautiful ‘cliffrock giants’, Berg-Risar, as well as grotesque ‘frost ogres’, Hrím-Þursar. Jǫtnar who are spirits of such, can reach the size of a mountain, or even the land of a realm. But most Jǫtnar are humansize. Útgarðar are a group of locations in east Jǫtunheimr, featuring massive forests. This is probably Sweden that is almost entirely forested, especially the wildernesses of central Sweden whose forests are dense and seemingly endless. In addition to Scandinavia, Jǫtnar are said to populate the remote areas of what is today Finland.

Miðgarðr is land, the central realm of humans. Its defensive walls and ramparts of coastlands guard against the surrounding waters. It connotes continental Europe, with other landmasses being offshore. But later, Miðgarðr will come to be understood as encompassing the entire landmass of Africa-Eurasia, while the encircling cosmic ocean had made large watery invasions into it forming seas inside it.

Ásgarðr is the location where the orderly atmospheric spirits, the Æsir, hold their parliament. These nature spirits actually inhabit the ‘sky’ (Himinn) among the clouds. The sky is sometimes called the ‘realm of the Æsir’, Ásaheimr. But they descend daily onto land via a rainbow to hold their government meetings. There on earth, they vote to decide their activities. Snorri employs a folk etymology to identify the Æsir with ‘Asia’, thus identifies Ásgarðr with the ancient city of Troy. This links the sacred field, called Iðavǫllr (‘field of Íða’), where the outdoor parliament happens, with the prominent coastal mountain of Ida that looms over the city of Troy from the south.


Totaling nine cosmological realms, four are missing from the map.

Alfheimr. Where the realm of the Æsir is Ásaheimr among clouds in the atmosphere, the realm of the Alfar (elves) is in the stratosphere above them. Alfar are spirits of sunlight, embodying the rays of sunlight radiating around the sun, and downward as the gleaming lining of clouds, the sunbeams piercing thru clouds, thru tree branches, and reflecting off of brilliant snow. They embody positive fates of a success that impact many people. By extension, they associate with beauty, sexuality, and enchanting shamanic magic.

Vanaheimr is the ‘realm of the Vanir’. The Vanir are obscure. The only ones known by name, are the ones who became members of the Æsir. They appear to have much in common with the Alfar, sharing aspects of beauty, sexuality, fertility, success, and magic. Indeed, Alfheimr is said to be a gift to assist one of the Vanir. But where the Alfar associate more with sunlight, the Vanir associate more with the fertile breezes of lifegiving summer weather. On balance, Vanaheimr seems to be in today Sweden. King Sveigðir was at home in Svíþjóð when he married his wife Vana ‘in Vanaheimr’. Their son is Vanalandi ‘the man of the land of the Vanir’. Archeologically, the Vanir are indigenous to Scandinavia, and the highest concentrations of place names mentioning them are in Sweden. Vanaheimr associates with the relatively warm seabreezes across the shores of seas and lakes, as well as land that is fertile for farming.

Svartalfaheimr is the ‘realm of the black elves’, a nickname for the Dvergar. Dvergar are spirits of rocks and muck. They own great resources including precious metals, shapely minerals, and fertile soil, but they begrudge giving any of it way. It takes effort to obtain these resources from them. Dvergar embody negative fates of a futility that fails to impact others.

Below all is Hel, the realm of the dead. In some sense, Hel is any grave, and in an other an abstraction of all graves, existing deep underground. Altho Hel is below, the entrance of the tunnel winding downward toward Hel, is actually in arctic Niflheimr. So the spirits of the recently dying journey northward to the deathly ice, to the icecave that leads down into Hel. Hel itself is a realm of gloomly, listless, decay. Better afterlives can be found elsewhere if one dies bravely.



During the Viking Era, Norse exploration and trade spans the hemisphere of planet earth. The toponyms of faraway locations appear in Norse texts.

In the center, Noregr roughly corresponds to today Norway. A ‘Norse World’ would benefit from a closeup map for the prominent localities in Norway such as Rogaland, Raumariki, Alfheimr, and so on. Many viking expeditions launch from Þrǿndalǫg. Hálogaland corresponds roughly to the northern half of today Norway. Its founding monarch is said to be a Jǫtunn, specifically a Risar named Logi, ‘fire’, who is the spirit of fire. He was also knicknamed Hálogi, ‘high fire’, ‘high’ because of his height and muscularity. He and his aristocratic lineage are famous for their extreme beauty.

The Norse from Noregr established towns and trading posts in Ísland (Iceland) and Grœnland (Greenland), and even in North America. Canadian archeologists have established that the Norse maintained traderoutes with Native Americans, including Inuit and probably Dorset. As such, the archeologists identify the Norse placename Helluland with the arctic Baffin Isles and Markland with Labrador. Both are across from the westcoast of Grœnland.

Archeologists associate Vínland with the famous viking town that was discovered in today Newfoundland, Canada. The Norse continued to explore the coastlands and riverbanks of North America. This name suggests that this ‘land of wine’ extends at least as far south as Massachusetts, US, where grapes grow. Toward Massachusetts, a runic inscription has been discovered in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a Norse coin discovered in Maine, US.

Skotland, Írland, and Bretland, are Celtic regions of the British Isles. The Norse from Noregr establish a number of towns among them, including Dyflin (Dublin), Suðreyjar (Hebrides), and elsewhere.


Svíðjóþ roughly corresponds to today Sweden. It comprises both the northern Svealand with its city of Uppsala and the southern Gautland. The Norse understood the southerly Gautar ethnic group to be the origins of all Gothic peoples across Europe. A cautious archeological assessment of this claim is, the Goths are a group of diverse ethnicities, and the ethnicity in Gautland appears to be one of them.

Note ‘Greater Svíðjóþ’ extends to include all of the Norse towns and trading posts that were established along the river routes thru today Finland, Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, that link Sweden to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

Norse towns along the river routes include Holmgarðr (today Novgorod) being the capital city of a number of Norse towns that comprise the wider region known as Garðariki (‘the government of the towns’). Further south along a river route is Kœnugarðr (today Kiev). Later, a ruler of Garðariki relocates the capital south to Kœnugarðr. Eventually integrating the various Slav ethnic groups, the region develops into the Kievan Rus', from where today Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine descend culturally.


Finnland is the land of the Finnar. The name Finnr literally means ‘finder’ (of food) referring to the nomadic hunter-gatherers. For those in Noregr the Finnar are understood to be Sámi across the arctic Scandinavia. For those in Svíðjóþ the Finnar are understood to be the related but distinct Saomo across today Finland. The spiritual leaders of the Finnar are shamans, called a Noaidi. Likewise, the only spiritual leaders of the Norse are shamans. But Norse shamans can only be females, formally called a Vǫlva. By extension, a Norse male who demonstrates shamanic power comes to be honored informally as a ‘Finnr’ (sometimes ‘Fiðr’), referring to the Finn Noaidi who can be male.


Danmǫrk corresponds roughly to today Denmark. It is mainly northerly Jótland (Jutland) but its rule extends Danlǫg (Dane Law) to England. Most of the time, Skáney (today Skåne, the southmost tip of Sweden) was under the rule of Danmǫrk.

Skáney, where -ey means ‘island’ or coastland, derives from Proto-Norse *Skaþin-awjō, known to ancient Romans as Latin ‘Scadinavia’. This term and its later variant ‘Scandinavia’ referred to Skáney only. But in the Modern Period, it extended to mean the entire peninsula of Norway-Sweden, along with Denmark. English sometimes refers to Skáney as Scania.


Jórsalir is the Norse name for Yerushalayim. It can refer to the entire land of Yisrael, sometimes called Jórsala Land, and it can refer to the city, sometimes called the ‘walled-town of Yerushalayim’, Jórsalaborg. Later, Yerushalayim comes to be understood as the center of the landmass comprising all of Africa-Eurasia.


The traderoutes of Svíðjóþ that connect the Norse to the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, thereby join the economies of the empires of Miklagarðr (Konstantinopolis), Serkland (Arab Bagdad), Sarkland (the Khazars), Persiðialand (today Iran), and join up with the Silk Route that connects to China. The Norse call the Byzantine Empire of Konstantinopolos Grikkland, ‘Greek land’. Originally Serkland refers to the northern tribes of Arabia, collectively referred to as Serkar, but by extension comes to mean all of Arabia and the entire Arab world. So the Norse sometimes refer northern coastal areas of Africa as Serkland. The name Afrikka mainly corresponds to today Tunis. When Norse refer to the continent of Africa, they use the term Bláland, which is properly Ethiopia, but extends to include dark skin Africans. The kingdom of the Khazars is called Sarkland, deriving the name from Sarkel (Sarkel-land), which is a prominent Khazar fortress near the river route. Around the Caspian Sea, Tyrkland corresponds mainly to today Turkmanistan, but is already expanding across the southwest side of the Caspian Sea. Thru the traderoutes, the Norse are aware of India and Bactria (a Hellenistic polis instituted by Alexandros the Great at Bakhlo, north of Afghanistan). Merchants from these places also travel these traderoutes, and perhaps Norse individuals have even ventured there. Egiptaland (Egypt) is a vibrant traderoute connecting the Mediterranean to the seafaring routes of Persiðia and India.


Saxland corresponds roughly to today northern Germany. Frakkland corresponds roughly to today France, and relates to the Holy Roman Empire under Charlemagne the Frank. Before the Viking Period, Frakkland of the Roman Empire under the Merovingians is sometimes known as Hunnland, apparently relating to the Huganot family. Langbarðaland relates to today Lombardy, but earlier ruled over most of Italy and corresponds to today Italy. Ungarariki corresponds roughly to today Hungary.




(Image. Without text, the base image of the planet comes from globalquiz.org/en/norway-quiz. It has good image resolution for a cloudless earth from this northerly perspective. The bullseye focuses on the city of Oslo, Norway. I modified the original image for esthetics and emphasis, added Norse toponyms.)
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
The Norse venerate nature. Place names evidence the sacred worldview.

All land is sacred. In Noregr, the outdoor sacred spaces generally organize according to the sacred ways of life:

• hunting wilderness
• fishing coast
• farming meadow
• meditating cliff

Except for hosting a feast in ones home, all sacred activities occur outdoors communing with nature.

Sacred land locations that relate to the hunting wilderness are often an only source of food in winter:
dalr ‘valley’, with a reliable frequency of animals to hunt
þveit ‘clearing’, a treeless area in a forest with flourishing plant life.

Sacred land locations that relate to the fishing coast, include:
vík ‘inlet’, small bay, often river estuary; whence víkingr, traveling from inlet to inlet
ey ‘island’ − an island with a notable sacred feature is sacred to sailors

Sacred land locations that relate to the farming meadow, include:
akr ‘grain field’
vin ‘pasture’, grazing land for herding sheep, goats, and cattle; not to be confused with vín wine or vinr friend.
setr ‘dairy pasture’, specifically for cows for milk

Sacred land locations that relate to the meditating cliff, include:
nes ‘headland’, land that juts out over a sea or lake, with vertical sides
berg ‘cliffrock’, rockface, vertical expanse of exposed bedrock, such as vertical cliff of mountain or vertical surface of large boulder

A scenic cliff that soars upward from the ground or water typically invites contemplation of the sky as a living being. Certain cliffs might relate to an other feature nearby, such as a grain field or a valley, with a view to inspire other contemplation.

On top of a cliff one can commune with the lives of the features of the sky, the Æsir. At the foot of a cliff, one can commune with the lives of the features of the rockface of the cliff, the Risar.

Nature is sacred. Prominent, conspicuous, dramatic landscapes invite awareness of this natural holiness.



In the animistic worldview, each natural phenomenon is conscious. At a sacred location, the Norse strive to be friends with the psychic presence of the natural phenomenon. The ethic seeks mutual respect and assistance. A site that makes a strong impression can manifest in dreams, visions, or even physically, taking on the form of a human. Compare how some humans are said to be able to project outofbody, to interact with an other mind, even to manifest physically elsewhere, sometimes taking on an alternate form. The minds of some meaningful stones or terrains or atmospheric phenomena can do likewise. A friendly presence can imbue beneficial influence.

The recognition of a sacred natural site can be a source of pride for nearby homes. Often anecdotes recall a wondrous occurrence that happened at the site. Or an eerie one.

A person can place a vé ‘sacred boundary marker’ around or adjacent to an outdoor sacred site, often a fence of loose stones, or of a cord on wood posts. It separates a special sacred space from nearby mundane activities, or calls attention to a sacred space at a remote location. Any violence within a vé is extremely forbidden. The þing ‘democratic parliament’ is an aboriginal sacred custom. Its regional governmental sessions take place outdoors on a field within a vé, often juxtaposing an other sacred natural feature.

A person might have a hof shrine in ones home on a farm. Sometimes a bowl is there to share some of a feast. Originally, the term meant farm, extended to mean the sacredness of the family, the home, the success of the farm, and the land that the farm is on. The hof is personal and can honor any phenomenon that one or ones family feels a friendship with. Typically, an annual feast invites the presence of this natural phenomenon as a guest. (Something like an anniversary party today.) Some hosts invite friends and neighbors to come celebrate as well.

Animism values hospitality as a sacred ideal. One is to live in harmony with the surrounding features of nature, making friends with helpful features and being savvy with dangerous features.

Humans too are a feature of nature, are a family of vættir ‘nature spirits’, and likewise seek neighborly relationships with other families of vættir nature spirits.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
The Norse perceive all meaningful natural phenomena as conscious beings who can interact with each other.

The places for good hunting are a lifeforce called Ullr, who can engage in a dreamlike way to manifest as a hunter, mastering archery and personal combat, snowshoeing across the winter ice and snow.

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The Norse experience fertile coasts with reliable fishing spots as a dreamlike persona of Njǫrðr, a sailor of warm breezes. (Despite the northern latitude of Noregr, the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean Sea keeps the Norwegian coasts relatively warm. Sometimes coconuts drift onto the shores of Norway.)

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The Norse experience the psychic presence of meadows that are suitable for farming and grazing as the consciousness of Freyr, a sexy, peaceful, and successful farmer.

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The vertical cliffs that Noregr is famous for invite contemplation of the sky and of the cosmic horizon all around. Where we say ‘meditate’, the Norse say ‘sit’, or sometimes ‘sit out’, to commune with nature spirits. Compare the Finnar (Sámi) sacred tradition of ‘joik’, employing spontaneous and traditional chanting melodies to become one with any nature spirit − including honoring the presence of an other human. The Norse shamanic traditions share similar customs. There on the heights of the sheer surface of a cliff, there is awe of the holiness of nature. A wider perspective. A sense of cosmic order. For the Norse, lightning associates this mental experience. For the Norse, lightning is conscious and can engage in a dreamlike way as the persona of Þórr − an electric and thundering warrior who rides the sky in a rumbling chariot to protect humans in Noregr against deadly forces of chaos. The lightning flash of his weapon and its thunderous impact against the wilds also enforce the sacred oaths among the Norse. The natural phenomena of lightning and thunder is a conscious living creature − purposeful and protective.

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The skyscape of a cliff might invite the contemplation of other celestial phenomena as well. For example, Baldr the consciousness of the daylight sky makes a rare appearance at certain sacred coastal cliffs where daylight reflects in the waters.

Even so, four nature spirits, Ullr, Njǫrðr, Freyr, and Þórr, appear most frequently in the names of Noregr sacred landscapes. Þórr especially.



Note, while these nature spirits tend to associate with respective categories of landscapes, all four are members of the Æsir family of nature spirits. They are atmospheric phenomena. Njǫrðr is the consciousness of seabreezes. Freyr is the consciousness of gentle rains accompanying the warm sunbeams of the Alfar. Þórr is actual thunder and lightning across the sky. Inferably Ullr is the calm that is conducive to hunters and archers and that brings comfort in winter chill.

Heh, it somewhat reminds me of Magic The Gathering − how certain ‘lands’ correspond to certain ‘colors’.

The respective landscapes invite the holistic influences of certain atmospheric phenomena. Etymologically, the name ‘Æsir’ derives from Proto-Norse *AnsuR becoming Áss in Old Norse, plural Æsir. (This name is not to be confused with the Norse homonym áss meaning a ‘ridge’, the line where two rocky slopes incline upward to meet, deriving from *AnsaR.) Æsir literally means ‘spirits’, in both senses of ‘consciousnesses’ and ‘winds’. In Old Norse, the name comes to specify the Æsir wind spirits. The Norse credit atmospheric winds with shaping and ordering the world.



Norwegian archeologists have shown that the first city in Norway was founded in year 997 toward the end of the Viking Period, Þróndheimr. The first city ever. It is difficult for us moderns to wrap our head around it. The Norse perception of the holy is fundamentally nonurban.

In the Norse reality, the sacred is aboriginal, remote, and shamanist. The various objects of nature ‘who’ surround them, are alive. The Norse honor these multivarious facets of nature in the same ways that the Norse honor each other.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
Here is a good presentation of the rúnar (runes) that are in use among the Norse during the Viking Period.

Viking Era Runes.png



In Noregr, there are 15 rúna-stafir (runes letters) in the Norse alphabet fuþórk. In other parts of Scandinavia, there are still 16. But in the (Old West Norse) Noregr dialect the r-sound and the R-sound merged into the same r-sound. So the sixteenth rúnastafr for the obsolete R-sound fell out of use. The r-rúnastafr extended to displace it. The lost Proto-Norse R-sound reconstructs as a retroflexive [ɽ]. (This is sort of like the American r, but more fricative against the palate.) The exact sound of the r that prevails in Old Norse remains debatable. Linguists reconstruct it variously, possibly a tap [ɾ] or a uvular [ʁ], or a trill [r]. Today in the modern Scandinavian languages all three r sounds survive in various dialects, and there are regional dialects of Old Norse during the Viking Period too, plausibly with different r sounds.

Notice, these 15 ‘viking runes’ differ from the 24 runes that today pop culture might be familiar with. In fact, these 24 ‘elder runes’ did exist in Scandinavia for Proto-Norse during the 200s to 400s. But by the time of Old Norse during the Viking Period, these elder runes had been out of use for centuries. During the 500s to 700s, many experimental variants are extent. By the 800s, at the start of the Viking Period, they somewhat stabilize. The nickname ‘younger runes’ corresponds to the Old Norse rúnar that the víkingar use.

In the 900s, the vowel letters for Old Norse rúnar were as follows. The ã-rúnastafr can represent any nasalized vowel sound. In some places where Proto-Norse had a vowel followed by [n], by the time of Old Norse, the vowel assimilated it becoming a nasalized vowel. (Compare today French which similarly features many nasalized vowels.) The u-rúnastafr can represent any rounded vowel [u, o, ǫ, ø, y]. The i-rúnastafr can represent any frontal vowel [i, y, ø, e]. And the a-rúnastafr can represent any open vowel [a, ǫ, ø, ę, æ]. So, rúnar inscriptions evidence many spelling variations.

By the 1000s, the nasalized vowels ceased to exist in the Noregr dialect. So the Noregr runic tradition repurposed the obsolete ã-rúnastafr to now serve as a rúnastafr for the vowel [o], thus innovating the o-rúnastafr , whence the alphabet name, ‘fuþórk’.

As an other innovation some decades later, some Noregr rúna-meistari (runes master) repurposed the long-gone R-rúnastafr , called Yr (‘yew’ tree), to now represent the rounded frontal vowel [y]. From this point on, the runic vowel letters came to narrow the possible vowel sounds. Around the same time, a pointed i-rúnastafr added to the fuþórk to distinguish the vowel [e] from other frontal vowels relating to the i-rúnastafr. The shape of this new e-rúnastafr resembles an obsolete short-twig script h-rúnastafr, so in some sense both earlier rúnastafir R and h found reuse as vowel letters. The use of vowel letters, o, y, and e spread across Scandinavia, making u and i more precise as well.

Across the Viking Period, the consonant letters can represent both the voiced and unvoiced sounds. For example, the k-rúnastafr can represent both unvoiced [k] and voiced [g], as well as nasal ‘ng’ [ŋ]. Note, a soft velar fricative [ᵞ] can be either the k-rúnstafr or the i-rúnstafr, or sometimes silent.

During the Post-Viking Period, 1100s to 1300s, increasing exposure to Pan-European literature and its Latin alphabet, inspired runic traditions to innovate more rúnastafir by adding modifications of related ones, so as to distinguish between voiced and unvoiced, and so on, thus forming a highly precise phonetic alphabet that remained in use as the ordinary alphabet in Noregr thruout this period.



During the Viking Period (800s to 1000s), several rúnar scripts are in use simultaneously. The script that tends to prevail in Svíþjórð is the ‘short twig’ script, the one that tends to prevail in Danmǫrk is the ‘long branch’ script, and the one that tends to prevail in Noregr (illustrated above and below) is a distinctive script that shares certain features with both of them. Much less frequently, certain other scripts are in use across Scandinavia.



The names of the rúnastafir (runes letters) are.

ᚠ Fé ‘asset’ (money or cattle)
ᚢ Úr ‘dross’ (from iron ore)
ᚦ Þurs ‘ogre’ (grotesque frost Jǫtunn)
ᚮ Óss ‘estuary’ (especially as sailing port) (obsolete Áss ‘sky spirit’)
ᚱ Reið ‘ride’ (such as on horse or wagon, or further developing work done by others)
ᚴ Kaun ‘ulcer’ (such as infected skin boil)

ᚼ Hagall ‘hail’ (understood as a seed of matter and the material world)
ᚿ Nauð ‘need’ (painful, but motivating innovation, and sometimes connoting a wish)
ᛁ Íss ‘ice’ (able to bridge over deadly waters, yet can be deadly itself)
ᛆ Ár ‘year’ (but in the sense of annual harvest and abundance)
ᛌ Sól ‘sun’ (a gentle lifegiving warmth)

ᛐ Týr ‘victory’ (an obscure sky spirit but connoting singlemindedness in struggle culminating success)
ᛒ Bjarkan ‘birch’ tree (apparently connoting deception − unsure why)
ᛘ Maðr ‘human’ (the Mennir family of vættir nature spirits, connoting farming, sailing, hunting)
ᛚ Lǫgr ‘mountain lake’ (receiving and giving freshwater rivers, especially above a waterfall)

The rúnastafr ᛦ Yr ‘yew’ (connoting a longbow made out of yew wood), discontinues as R around the start of the Viking Period but revives as y around the end of the Viking Period.



The Norse can employ runic inscriptions for magical purposes. Many examples survive in the archeological record. No two inscriptions are alike. Norse magic is individualist, spontaneous, and diverse. It is more important to be in the moment, to emanate personal influence.

Norse magic is mainly verbal, but can be silent, or even unintentional. A warrior can improvise a new ‘chant’ (ljóð) as a focus to manifest protective magic (defense, healing, warding, restoration, abjuration). There are occasional examples of employing a somatic ritual, apparently drumming a vǫlr shamanic staff on the ground for a psychic attack against a distant mind, sitting on an elevated ‘high’ seat to enhance clairsentient ‘sight’, and one woman cursing while bending over to see the target upside down thru her legs. Evidently, Norse men tend to sing protective magic musically, while women modeling the female Vǫlva shaman tend to speak mind-manipulating magic in prose. Notable examples exist that are probably fair to characterize as crossgender magic. Yet its wielders can still exemplify a cisgender identity. For example, there are masculine men who demonstrate feminine mind-manipulating seiðr, and feminine women who demonstrate masculine galdra chanting. Anecdotes about the Alfar (where Alfar are men and Valkyrjur are inferably Alfar women) show both sexes mastering every form of magic, both protective and mind-manipulating. Moreover, anyone who can prophesy (spá), whether male or female, is sacred. As a social institution, the main duty of a Vǫlva shaman is to prophesy, albeit she is likely to master other kinds of magic as well.

Generally for a magical runic inscription, the inscriber creates a memorable phrase that expresses the intent, focuses on it while writing, thus psychically imprints and imbues this personal intention into the object being carved. The object can then transport the psychic influence to wherever the object is. The more mnemonic the phrase, the more memorable, the more impacting, thus the more powerful the magical effect. Alliteration is common. Occasionally just the first rúnastafr of each word appears, so that the inscription looks like an obscure acronym. For some individuals, the different phases of the writing process serve as different phases of the meditative process, from mental to actual: cleaning a flat surface, deciding what phrase to write, sketching out the rúnar with charcoal, reading the sketch outloud to proofread, carving the rúnar, then wetting the rúnar with ale to clear debris and enhance legibility.

Note the two meanings. The Norse carve a rúnstafr ‘runes letter’ into a rúnstafr ‘runes staff’. Ideally a suitable stick is stripped, smoothed, and rounded, for a staff. The runic message lines across it or coils around it. But in the archeological record almost any surface is possible, such as wood, stone, horn, ivory, or bone.

Toward the end of the Viking Period, the Skald bardic traditions formulate a poetic rhythm for use in magical phrasing (galdra-lag ‘layering of magics’). Each ‘layer’, being a verse in the stanza, alliterates a particular sound. It develops from a modification of a formal rhythm for use in musical chanting (ljóða-háttr ‘meter of chants’). Even so, magical runic inscriptions continue to be spontaneous and diverse, and the Skald formula is best understood as a personal style of certain individuals.



The name rúnar literally means ‘secrets’, in the sense that the alphabet is a kind of secret code that only literate people know how to decode.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
Viking wool bright colors.jpgViking wool colors.jpg



Norse clothing during the Viking Era is simple and colorful.

The Norse wore solid bold colors, to be seen. Local pigments include.

• blues (indigotin from woad)
• yellows (yellow-x from a still unknown source; asperuloside from bedstraw)
• reds (alizarin from madder and bedstraw)
• purples (orecin from lichen)
• grays (charcoal)
• browns (walnut)

These dyes often blend with each other, with mordants such as alum and iron, dipped according to various techniques and times, to produce the spectrum of hues, tints and shades. When spectral chemical analysis revealed the pigments in use in archeological remains, archeologists were admittedly surprised by how colorful Norse clothes were. Judging by jewelry beads, the cultural shift toward bold colors appears during the 600s and 700s, and persists the Viking Era. The more frequent colors of Noregr tend to be blues then greens, reds, purples, then other colors.

For conspicuous wealth, brilliant reds (kermetic acid) and Chinese silk travel the riverroutes thru Garðariki to Svíþjórð. Dyflin in Írland supplies vivid yellows (luteolin from lichen), as does York in England (luteolin from weld). York is a trade hub for continental Europe. For precious fabrics, the formidable process to produce royal purple (dibromoindigotin from dogwhelk sea snail) is evident in Noregr and England.



Norse garments are straightforward. Fashion emphasizes wealth and individual taste. Both men and women wear armrings of silver and gold, and meaningful pendants on cords. Hairstyles vary widely. Men can be clean shaven or sculpted beard, with short hair or long. Norse typically use combs carved from horn or wood, and keep clean. They select clothes for the day from a wardrobe. Extended clan may help to ensure good clothing.

Wool clothes are local productions, well made, soft, supple, attractively textured, carefully sewn, and bright, usually an appealing solid color. Linen grows in England or comes thru Garðariki, but is notably frequent. Linen clothes are usually natural white or bleached, but blues, reds, pale yellows, and grays are known. Both wool and linen tend to feature patterned embroidery trim.

Mens clothing
• tunic (wool or linen, thigh-length, longsleeve)
• overtunic (wool, thigh-length, longsleeve or around elbow)
• pants (wool or linen, belted; often sewn with socks, uncommonly wrapped tight around calves)

Womens clothing
• dress (wool or linen, ankle-length, longsleeve)
• overdress (wool, chest to calves, each shoulder strap fastened with traditional oval ornament)
• jewelry often hangs from across the oval ornaments

Both
• socks (wool or linen, often resembling extension of pants)
• shoes (leather or inline fur)
• belt (leather, wool, wrapped around waist to tuck tunic or dress, belt-tongue hangs low)
• winter cloak (wool, fastened by broach often at shoulder)
• winter hat (wool, various styles, including various modern-looking ski hats)
• winter mittens (wool)
• winter hood (separate garment draping over chest and shoulders)



Because of traderoutes and individualism, foreign fashions are occasionally possible.
• kaftan coat (from Garðariki today Russia, from Circassians in NE Black Sea; calf-length, open front fastened at torso)
• pantaloons (from Garðariki, baggy around knees, bound around calves)
• outer hose (from Saxland today N Germany, socks-leggings gartered to belt)
• wrap jacket (from Saxland; resembles modern karate gi)
• calf-length tunic (from Finnar today Sámi in arctic Scandinavia)
• plaid (from Skotland)
• silk (from China)



Viking tunic and pants.jpg9c63c2501f87afd4344cbc6dc1131f5c--medieval-clothing-historical-clothing.jpga329187bd5eab3fde6207032e9a1168e.jpg3059d9e48cf98bc6674099a9b6185ea4--grave.jpgviking denmark.jpgViking-garb (Gokstad).jpgyellow tunic.jpg3926a9ae1a744bd1e4ff773681334dd5--viking-embroidery-viking-garb.jpgc8cd2e2dd208fd5e1379c9a132db046b--viking-men-viking-garb.jpg



3760b06505b775ead5a155d7af6dae30--viking-men-viking-garb.jpgb4d0542b06613c48d0b73c3cdce47b77--viking-reenactment-viking-garb.jpg02626ff37bd4e740c35c6497736feb31--viking-clothing-renaissance-clothing.jpg39f19e80a2dd04dc2125287b2fb4f678--viking-reenactment-viking-costume.jpg




IMG_3062.jpg
a45df6d09c960a4d61303891c5b5aaa5--viking-clothing-viking-jewelry.jpg71f30c6bc77a3d0cf6a288a67feb9cb4--viking-dress-viking-costume.jpgdd992ab38b59099b275d0cc7614f230c--viking-dress-viking-costume.jpgeecd6b7ebbd5c797970746ec5ba1a71a--viking-dress-viking-garb.jpgb194b92bf47a598d876988117b3a1441.jpg04d384a3020cc96421df6e80e610191b.jpg12c540fd53e084024c072e58e6d203c9--viking-men-viking-garb.jpg787d94886386add3c528463be79b0129.jpg
 
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pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

Dude, you turn that into a 32 page PDF/LuLu-POD, add in typical bartering/pricing of stuff, and a couple more informative tid-bits, then slap $15 or $20 price on it and I'm in for three or four!

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Bitbrain

Adventurer
This is a very, very enjoyable thread to read, Yaarel.

Definitely up there with Giant in the Playground's Toxic Seas thread, RPG.net's Returned Maztica project, and the City of Salt in Wounds blog.
 

Eltab

Villager
Yaarel,
I'm putting together a Frozen North campaign (using Storm King's Thunder and Rise of Tiamat material).
I'm posting here to create a tag into this thread - you are creating descriptions for the non-combat NPCs!

Thank you for the work - it is, and will be, appreciated.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
This is a very, very enjoyable thread to read, Yaarel.

Definitely up there with Giant in the Playground's Toxic Seas thread, RPG.net's Returned Maztica project, and the City of Salt in Wounds blog.
I appreciate your interest. It makes the effort worthwhile.



Yaarel,
I'm putting together a Frozen North campaign (using Storm King's Thunder and Rise of Tiamat material).
I'm posting here to create a tag into this thread - you are creating descriptions for the non-combat NPCs!

Thank you for the work - it is, and will be, appreciated.
If there is anything specific you want me to look into for your Norse-esque setting, let me know, and I will see what I can put together.



Hiya!

Dude, you turn that into a 32 page PDF/LuLu-POD, add in typical bartering/pricing of stuff, and a couple more informative tid-bits, then slap $15 or $20 price on it and I'm in for three or four!
Hiya!

If the thread evolves, maybe it is worthwhile to compile it in a pdf, for the DMs Guild. Also mention anything that would be useful for you to include in this thread.
 

Sadras

Explorer
Yaarel,
I'm putting together a Frozen North campaign (using Storm King's Thunder and Rise of Tiamat material).
I'm posting here to create a tag into this thread - you are creating descriptions for the non-combat NPCs!

Thank you for the work - it is, and will be, appreciated.
Yeah I'm bookmarking this for a similar campaign STK, RoT and LotCS.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
During the Viking Period, the Norse normally avoid wearing fur. The reason appears to be, according to custom, only the Vǫlva shaman wears furs. Fur is a sacred clothing, and signifies a sacred institution.

Indeed, the Norse even make fake fur. The fabric for this ‘fake-fur cloak’, vararfeldr, is a pile weave, where uneven wool hairs are woven into the fabric with both ends facing out to resemble fur. The cloak is labor-intensive to produce and popular for winter wear. In Ísland the fake-fur cloak becomes legal tender, and in the context of using the cloak as money, sets the standard size of a feldr ‘cloak’ to be about 1 meter by 2 meters.

Archeologically, fragments of such cloaks survive. The wool can be died for any color. There is even mention of a cloak woven to produce striped fake-fur. A unique instance of a Saxon wrap jacket dyes the fake fur pink for the trim of the jacket (with alizarin acid from madder). Shaggy fake-fur cloaks are also popular in Írland.

vararfeldr - fake-fur cloak.png



Ragnarr Loðbrók (one of the heroes of the tv series, Vikings), his nickname Loðbrók means ‘wool-tuft pants’, from lagðr ‘wool tuft’ and brók ‘pants’. Presumably his fake-fur pants are for winter. But the Norse thought the use of this fabric for pants was unusual enough to earn him a permanent nickname.

Here is an image from the Torlunda bronze plates from the 500s-600s (discovered in today Sweden). Altho before the Viking Period, the man appears to wear the loðbrók wool-tuft pants. He leashes an animal (probably a large wolf with ears and tail) with one hand and holds an axe with the other. These bronze plates are thought to depict a ceremony.

Bronsploat_4_fr_Torslunda_sn,_Oeland_(Stjerna,_Hjaelmar_och_svaerd_i_Beovulf_(1903)_sid_103).jpg



Archeologically, the only example of fur clothing that I am aware of is a fragment of a fur-trim hat in Svíþjóð (in the town of today Birka). But it is in the context of the Garðariki clothing styles, and here this Proto-Russian ‘gerzkr’ hat is of a style still in use in Russia today. The wool ski hat closely fits the head, with fur lining around it. It might be a souvenir from a business trip abroad along the riverroutes.

Noregr also knows about the fur garments that the arctic Finnar wear (today Sámi). The annals of King Alfred (of Anglo-Saxon Wessex) record an account about Ottar from Hálogaland, who brought fur skins from the Finnar including reindeer, bear, seal, otter, marten, and a cloak of bear fur.

An Arabic account in Serkland (relating to Bagdad) mentions Norse merchants themselves supplying the furs of marten, fox, steppe-fox, beaver, hare, and goat.

The Norse are hunters. Furs are abundantly available.

Norse texts know about garments made out of fur skins. The notable absence of fur garments in archeological contexts surprises me. This requires explanation. Fur is an issue that I am still looking into. The following is my current impression.



So, furs are everywhere. Why arent more Norse wearing them?

A look at the Norse texts suggests only the Vǫlva shamans wear furs. Fur clothing appears to be the sacred ceremonial garb signifying a Vǫlva. By extension, informally, laypersons who demonstrate shamanic powers might also wear furs.

For example, one saga specifies how a Vǫlva shaman, Þorbjǫrg Lítilvǫlva, wears a hǫttr hood made out of black lamb-fur, and lined inside with cat fur. Additionally, she wears shaggy calf-fur shoes, and cat-fur mittens. The text’s attention to her garments of fur attests to their being unusual and significant.

An other saga uses the expression, ‘waving a goat fur hood around our head’, to mean inducing mind-magic illusions, literally meaning that such a heðinn fur hood is used in this way. In this saga, the mind-mage employs her magic without actually waving any fur, yet the traditional connotation of fur skins here is telling. Other sagas also mention wrapping a fur hood around the head of the shaman or around the head of the target to induce illusions.

Where Þorbjǫrg is a human Vǫlva, Freyja is a vanir Vǫlva. She uses a cloak of falcon feathers for her shamanic magic to shapeshift into a falcon, the feat of a particularly powerful shaman.

Here is an image of an inline fur hood, suggestive of the one that the shaman Þorbjǫrg wore. (It might help to translate the word hǫttr ‘hood’ as ‘poncho’. I modified the original image for a more angular front and a longsleeve dress).

cat-fur hood.png



Relating to the feminine Vǫlva, the berserkar employ a masculine use of shamanic magic, allowing for courageous personal combat. The berserkr shapeshifts ones own mind into that of a dangerous animal, and sometimes the body too.

The nickname ‘bera serkr’ literally means ‘she-bear dress’. Notably bera is a female bear, and serkr is the dress that women wear. The only difference between a mens tunic (kyrtill) and a womens dress (serkr) is the length, thigh-length and ankle-length, respectively. And the womens outer dress with the shoulder straps can be calf-length. Thus a garment whose hem is below the knees can appear gender-ambiguous.

When looking in the origins of this nickname, the animal fur of the berserkr seems to derive directly from the Finnar shamans (today the Sámi Noaidi). During the Viking Period, the Finnar clothing styles include a mens outer tunic that is long, reaching below the knees. For the Norse whose tunic is thigh-length (anywhere from groin to above knees), the calf-length Finnar tunic below the knees can resemble a Norse dress. So the name ‘serkr’ appears to refer to a Finnish mens tunic.

Finnar typically wear wool, but are also known to wear garments made out of fur, including bear fur. Thus the ‘bera’ of ‘bera serkr’ likewise appears to refer to a Finnish mens tunic that is made out of bear fur.

Nicknames are nicknames, sometimes ironic. For the Norse, to refer to a shamanic warrior as a ‘bera serkr’, wearing a ‘dress’, probably connotes how, for Norse custom, only the Vǫlva shaman wears fur, and only a woman can function formally as a Vǫlva. At the same time, the ‘she-bear’ connotes strength, power, and maternal ferocity. They respect the berserkr as a deadly warrior.

Here are images of an arctic Finnar tunic from about 1000, discovered well-preserved in the today town of Skjoldehamn, in northern Norway. It is actually wool woven with colorful patterns, but here its brown from aging helps visualize a bear fur. His DNA matching that of the Sámi confirms his identity as Finnr. Note the calf-length of this tunic reaching below the knees. To the Norse this can connote a Norse dress. Also note the distinctive widening skirt, for full maneuverability of legs.

Skjoldehamn Finnar tunic.jpgSkjoldehamn Finnar - Tromsø Museum.jpg1000 Norway - Saami -  Sholdehamn tunic in bog.jpg




In the next image, a man wears a heavy brown wool outer tunic, with an unusually long hem covering the knees. Additionally a reddish hood is on his shoulders with the hood back. One can imagine something like this being a shamanic Finnar tunic made out of reindeer fur or bear fur.

clothes.jpg



One saga reports a Finnr (a Sámi Noaidi shaman) using reindeer fur for combat clothing. They esteemed it to be even more effective against weapons than metal chain armor.

‘ Þórir Hundr had many kinds of dealings with the Finnar. There, he had ·them· make twelve reindeer fur-tunics, charged with so great a multitudinous knowledge ·of diverse kinds of shamanic magic· that no weapon could penetrate them. ’

The text seems to describe an indigenous Finnar example that relates to the Norse berserkr magic. Note, this term ‘multitudinous knowledge’ fjǫlkynngi refers to a shaman who is skilled at different kinds of magic, such as prophecy, mind magic, shapeshifting, outofbody projection, teleporting, and so on. The reindeer bjálfi fur-tunic can transmit the mental power of the shaman. The Finnar shamans employed magic for combat, in a way that the Norse considered reasonably masculine, in this case, because it is for defensive purposes rather than an unfair attack from the distance, and allows for courageous personal combat.

The nickname ‘she-bear dress’ likely originates from a similar Finnar long tunic made out of bear fur.

Note, the nickname ‘berserkr’ originates from the use of a distinctive bear-fur long tunic. However, the Norse berserkar shamanic tradition came to employ various other kind of furs in the shape of other kinds of garments as well.

A fur in itself can imbue the wild mindset of an animal. One saga mentions a traveler coming across a berserkar campsite while the berserkar were currently on a wolf-shape run. The traveler put on the wolf furs to keep warm by the fire, and accidentally became overwhelmed by the shamanic shapeshifting magic, transformed into a wolf, and went on a bloodthirsty frenzy.

The Norse perceive the berserkar as wild, ferocious, antisocial, magical, and dangerous. Essentially, they are shamanic gangsters. There is a kind of love-hate fascination with them.

One saga (Grettis Ásmundarsonar) mentions King Haraldr in Rogaland (in today Norway) shrewdly employing berserkar as personal bodyguards. They were famously nicknamed the ‘wolf fur hoods’ (úlfheðnar). ‘They were called wolf fur hoods, but no iron would bite on them.’ (Þeir voru kallaðir úlfhéðnar en á þá bitu engi járn.) Despite their vulnerable armorless appearance, clad only in fur, they prove invulnerable to even metal weapons. Other sagas likewise mention these ‘wolf fur hood’ berserkar (Haralds Hins Hárfagra, Vatnsdæla, Hrafnsmál). Again, this term ‘fur hood’ ostensibly refers to the connotation of a Vǫlva wrapping a fur hood to transmit a magical effect.

The form of these wolf fur hood appears to be identical with the kinds of fur hood that some of the Vǫlva wear. Pop culture tends to portray the berserkar wearing a raw wolf pelt with the wolf head still intact. Nevertheless all known examples of shamanic furs are well-crafted garments. In any case, the Norse observers understood the magical nature of these warriors − because they wore fur.

Keep in mind, the Norse wear leather shoes and leather belts. So, specifically the fur seems to connote the ceremonial shamanic garb.



In sum, for the Norse, fur clothing seems to represent a separation between the human social order and the shamanic magical wilderness. The Norse can and do sometimes wear fur clothing. But it is sacred and dangerous, and never done carelessly.

If Norse individuals wear a fur garment, likely they are displaying their skill in shamanic powers.
 
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Bitbrain

Adventurer
^
If ever I run a quasi-medieval setting, I'm borrowing this for the viking-counterparts.

Feels very thematically appropriate for a faction of Circle of the Moon Druids and Totem Warrior Barbarians.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
- bear fur cloak.jpg

The Heðinn ‘Fur Cloak’
of the Vǫlva and the Berserkr




The image above suggests what a heðinn ‘fur cloak’ looks like. This particular one is bear fur.

A Norse cloak is a wellmade garment with a simple rectangular form, formally standardized as 2 meters by 1 meter. Normally, a cloak is a wool weave with finely sewn hems. But a rare cloak for shamanic use might be fur. The Norse typically wear the cloak in the following way. If one is righthanded, the cloak is folded longwise in half around the left side of the body, with the two sides of the cloak front and back. Then the two sides of the cloak are pinned over the right shoulder. The resulting neck area can be as loose or as tight as suitable for comfort and weather. The two sides then hang down from the pin, often reaching calf-length, front and back. Thus the right arm remains free from coverage. The front side can be thrown back over the left shoulder if the left arm needs to be free. Additionally, the cloak can function as blanket, especially outdoors in harsh winter.

- cloak.jpg



The Old Norse term heðinn is uncommon. But it is famous because of its appearance in the name Úlf-heðinn, literally the ‘Wolf Fur Cloak’, namely the nickname for special berserkar serving as bodyguards for several kings, including the Haraldr Inn Hárfagri the king of Noregr, according the skald poem Hrafnsmál.

Because the Norse typically avoid wearing furs, except in certain shamanic contexts, the archeological record for a heðinn remains so far unattested. But fragments of wool cloaks of a similar shape do survive. Likewise, texts and drawings affirm what a typical Norse cloak looks like.

The heðinn is a loose garment that can be ‘swung’ around someone, the way a cloak or a pelt of animal fur can. This differs from a tunic that one must squeeze thru, or a jacket that one must arm thru.

Norse texts mention heðinn for use in shamanic magic, such as figuratively for illusions in Eyrbyggja Saga. A target of an illusion later complains, ‘I have (it) in mind, (that maybe) if Katla had swung a heðinn fur cloak around our head?’ (Hvort mun Katla eigi hafa héðni veift um hǫfuð oss?) More literally, in Njals Saga, a male shaman by the name of Svanr ‘swung’ a pelt of goat fur around his own head for focus to shapeshift his friends into the appearance of a dense fog. ‘Svanr took one goat-fur and swung it around his head. And he spoke: Become fog, and become horror, and a marvel (to) all (of) them who seek after you. Then a massive fog came (to be) in exchange for them.’ (Svanr tók geitskinn eitt og veifði yfir hǫfuð sér og mælti: Verði þoka og verði skrípi og undr ǫllum þeim er eftir þér sækja. Þá kom þoka mikil í mót þeim.) Later, those who sought these mist-form men were struck blind in terror, falling from their horses and scattering.

Elsewhere a heðinn is ‘folded’ (vefja) around a person, as a Norse cloak, as illustrated above. Similarly the legal-tender sheet of wool fabric (vaðmál) can be ‘folded’ around a person for use as a cloak. This standard section of fine wool fabric can be used as money, and if so must be 2 meters by 1 meter. Typically, this sheet is cut to tailor various garments such as for a tunic or dress, yet can be used as-is as a winter cloak. The heðinn fur cloak appears to be a similar kind of standard section of 2-by-1 fabric, but comprises a well-made fur, rather than a wool.

The Norse proverbs, Hávamál, mention a heðinn garment as presenting a threatening appearance. In this context, the head hides the tongue while the heðinn hides a hand, and both can deliver deadly attacks. Possibly the tongue refers to verbal expressions of magical intention. Meanwhile the hand might hold a weapon.

‘Two armies are of one. A tongue is a killer of a head. For me, I consider, (he) is in a heðinn (for) what of a hand?’ (Tveir ro eins heriar, tunga er hǫfuðs bani, er mér í heðin hvern handar væni.)

The proverb advises vigilance against any attack. In this case, the heðinn garment normally − proverbially − serves to hide one arm, namely the left one under the cloak fold. (Thus the heðinn seems unlikely to be a sleeveless jacket, as some might speculate.) Moreover, there is no indication that this heðinn cloak covers the head. (Thus it seems to lack a hood.) The proverb indicates a head that can be seen clearly, while the tongue hides, and while one hand hides under the cloak.



Altho obscure, the Norse texts corroborate the heðinn as a rectangular fur cloak, finely cut and stitched, as wool cloaks are. Scholarly confusion comes in from the Non-Norse context of Anglo-Saxon Old English glosses. For example, the Latin term mastruca is a peculiar heavy outer vest made out of goat fur or sheep fur, which is worn in Sardinia since the 200s BCE. In the Latin text, Cleopatra, the marginal annotation of the First Cleopatra Glossary lists the Old English term hæðen to elucidate this obscure Latin term mastruca. Add to this, linguists note that Old English hæðen is a cognate of Old Norse heðinn. At this point some speculate incorrectly that the Norse garment too is a vest or ‘sleeveless jacket’, in contrast to the Norse textual evidence and archeological evidence for Norse style garments. Here the main difficulty is, even if two terms are cognate, each language uses them in different ways with different meanings. In any case, this same term hæðen can also be used in Old English to mean a simple sheet of goat fur or sheep fur − agreeing more with the way that the Norse use their cognate term. Apparently, the Anglo-Saxons import furs from the Norse, often in the form of wellstitched two-by-one rectangles that the Norse call heðinn and that the Anglo-Saxons call hæðen. This fur can be used as-is as a cloak. However, the Anglo-Saxons themselves appear to cut this fur fabric (as they would wool fabric) in order to sew together various kinds of fur garments, which they also call a hæðen.

In any case, in the Norse context, the use of fur garments is rare. A fur cloak is called a heðinn. Its shape and hemming resembles a standard Norse wool cloak. Mainly, heðinn seems to be goat fur. But the furs of other animals are also known, such as the wolf fur.



In sum. The famous berserkar known as the Úlfheðnar appear to be wearing wellmade wolf-fur Norse cloaks.
 
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Grainger

Villager
Cool stuff. Personally, I'm more concerned with the mundane than the mythological. I like narrowing down the historical setting from what is - in my view - the ungainly hotch-potch of D&D (rapiers, plate armour and short bows... ugh). I think that gives the game a lot more flavour when compared to the kitchen-sink approach of vanilla D&D.

I have been running a game influenced by Norman England. I'm about to run a prequel campaign that is effectively set in Anglo-Saxon times (and Vikings will probably appear), and I'd be interested to hear how folks handle weapons and armour in a more "historical" (or basically more sensible) setting. You don't want people running around with full plate and rapiers, after all.

My approach is to keep it simple. In my game, all D&D weapons and armour are available, so players have the same range of tactical choices, but everything is re-skinned. So "plate" armour is basically better quality mail.

One problem with having a fantasy game set in a historic setting is that it's hard to find images of fantasy races with period-specific equipment. There's plenty of historical art from the likes of Osprey - and photos of reanactors - which is great for humans, but it doesn't help for images of halflings, dwarves, elves etc. Fantasy artists (and figure sculptors) tend to take the approach that fantasy means "anything goes" and you end up with half the images showing characters plastered in vast plate mail (looking like power armour) with huge greatswords etc.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Cool stuff. Personally, I'm more concerned with the mundane than the mythological. I like narrowing down the historical setting from what is - in my view - the ungainly hotch-potch of D&D (rapiers, plate armour and short bows... ugh). I think that gives the game a lot more flavour when compared to the kitchen-sink approach of vanilla D&D.

I have been running a game influenced by Norman England. I'm about to run a prequel campaign that is effectively set in Anglo-Saxon times (and Vikings will probably appear), and I'd be interested to hear how folks handle weapons and armour in a more "historical" (or basically more sensible) setting. You don't want people running around with full plate and rapiers, after all.

My approach is to keep it simple. In my game, all D&D weapons and armour are available, so players have the same range of tactical choices, but everything is re-skinned. So "plate" armour is basically better quality mail.

One problem with having a fantasy game set in a historic setting is that it's hard to find images of fantasy races with period-specific equipment. There's plenty of historical art from the likes of Osprey - and photos of reanactors - which is great for humans, but it doesn't help for images of halflings, dwarves, elves etc. Fantasy artists (and figure sculptors) tend to take the approach that fantasy means "anything goes" and you end up with half the images showing characters plastered in vast plate mail (looking like power armour) with huge greatswords etc.
This is one of my favorite takes on a dark ages Weapons and Armor list for 5e: http://dnd-edit.tumblr.com/search/dark+ages

Numerically it's just the stuff from 5e, but Plate is gone, and Heavy Chain is now the 18AC option and likewise the Langseax takes the place of the Rapier.
 

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