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The Aesir – Society

Art by distritopapillon

Aesir Culture is in some cases quite free as women are considered equal to men in many things. However, in other cases it is quite brutal. The lands of Norland are heavily wooded, and filled with violent dangers. Vargs or dire wolves descended from Fenris or the dangerous lake swimmers that dwell in the rivers and lakes of Norland.

Aesir Culture is separated in a stratified system of classes and a semi-feudal system with freemen supporting a local lord who then pays homage to a ruling King (who is elected).

  • The Holder – Holders make up the ruling nobility of the homestead and the regional holds of Norland. The Holder Class is split into the tribal chiefs or Hersir, and the leading landowners simply known as Landdsmen.

  • The Freeholder (Boendr) – The Boendr or Freeholders make up the primary citizenry of the Holds and often make up the primary fighting force of the Holds.

  • The Freeman (Leysing) – They are descended originally from Slaves, or are made up of former criminals. They often make up conscript warriors and tenant farmers of the local lords.

  • Thrall (Trael) – The Slave class made up of servants, they are often born into the position, trade for in debt or much worse. Some slaves are taken in raids from other holds and homesteads a problem that often leads to feuding among tribes. Slaves who are granted their freedom become known as Freemen and are considered freemen, but are lower in stature than Leysing.

 

The other grouping often found among the Aesir are not necessarily social classes as they are occupations or groupings that retain varying status based upon how they perform. Skaalds or warrior-poets act as a priests and storytellers for the Aesir people. The other is the Volvar or female priestesses of the gods. They are the casters of the Runes, and the readers of fate.

 

Hold and Ætt (Tribe)

Holds and Tribes

Ever since Allfather Odin founded the Holds over a millennia ago, there has been a distinct lack of unity among the various tribes and families that rule Norland to this day. This sense of disunity comes about because of the slightly violent innate nature of the Aesir who because of the cold and dark land they dwell in have come to honor strength and conviction above most ideals. For this reason the strongest leader of a Hold is known as the Jarl (or Earl) who reigns as his or her own small Quen within the hold greater. Beneath the Jarl stand the tribal chiefs (Hersir) who oversee the leadership of the tribal groupings known as Ætt. The Jarls are elected in local meetings of the Hold known as “Things” with the King of all the HOlds being elected at the “Allthing”.

Within the Ætt the Hersir or Chieftain reigns over his people and is accompanied by the selected regiment of warriors and retainers known as the Huskarls. Even with the democratic rule of the Things the differences between the holds run deep. Blood feuds and raiding are constant in Norland, and even when a King reigns there is usually some dissent among the Holders seeking rebellion to place their own on the throne.

Art by RUshN

 

Lands Divisions, Settlements, and Titles

Land and Titles of the Aesir

Land division and titles within the Holds are generally given to those who do well in raids against the enemy of the Ætt and the homestead. The size of land and the division of settlements is not as varied as other places.

The system of land begins with the Freeholder Class. Those who are of the Freeholding class own and have access to what is known as Othal land. The Land held in trust by the family and is often awarded to them by the Jarl or the local Thing for various reasons. In general however because arable land can sometimes be limited in Norland few families control vast amounts of it

Settlements are divided along the following lines:.

  • Hustwic – A small village of several buildings usually comprising of a few individuals.

  • Homestead – A walled village with central mead hall, it is usually home to over a hundred individuals.

  • Stad – A large homestead comprising of thousands of individuals. Generally heavily fortified and holding a fighting force.

Art by Nhaar

 

Other non-settlement objects or fortifications that imply ranks are:

  • Drakkar – The great dragon longboats of the Aesir. Drakkar hold many fighters and their raid leaders are known as Drottn.

  • Fort – A piece of land and building owned and controlled by a Brotherhood.

 

Land within the Holds is divided in the following manner:

  • Othal – The Land of a family or Household.

  • Ættlund – The collective Othal of the Ætt or Clan.

  • Scir – The Shire or land of the local Landdsman who serves the jurisdiction of the Jarl.

  • Hold – One of the four “lands” of Norland and ruled by a Jarl.

 

Titles of Rulership within the holds are:

  • Thegn – The leader of a Kyn or Household.

  • Drottn – A war leader of several Drakkar or raid groups. Also a term applied to the leader of a Brotherhood.

  • Shield Master – Leader of a local Brotherhood Warband or Hird.

  • Rådman – The leading freeholders that lead the Thing of a Hustwic or take part in decisions of the Things of greater size for settlements.

  • Hövding – The lesser lord who rules a Homestead.

  • Herre – The lord of a Stad.

  • Landdman – A landed Holder who acts as local lord for Scir.

  • Godhi – A Gods man, a Holder born priest of the gods.

  • Jarl – Leader of a Hold.

  • Koning – Title of the King of the Holds.

Art by Madspeitersen

 

Primary Regions of the Holds are:

  • Vanaland – The southeastern hold and home to the raiders that once sacked the inner regions of the Ice Sea.

  • Jotunland – The northwestern hold and home thick forests and mountainous fjords.

  • Svartland – Home to the dark forests of the lake plain and known for its mysticism.

  • Alfland – The home of the greatest Skaalds in all of the Holds and to the fierce border marches that once stood with the Norgard empire.

  • Huldaland – A former Hold turned Kingdom and ruled by the Ice Queens.

 

Architecture and Planning

Aesir Planning and Architecture

There are several different designs of home and village design found within the Holds. The most prominent is what is known as the longhouse. A longhouse is made from the hull of a Drakkar longboat and is often several feet in length and capable of housing several families. The basis of the Hustwic is often a small grouping of longhouses forming the central hall around several longhouses housing the major families of the settlement. The longhouse is often the formation of the more mountain settlements as well as the much smaller single family homes found in the lowlands.

The secondary form of dwelling is a single room thatched home that home a middle-sized family and is often given to the poorer members of the Boendr class. Another form of housing is that given to Cottars or farmers. Cottar homes are generally made out of wood and have a singular central fireplace, and two rooms or more. These small Cottar homes are generally no larger half the size of a longhouse. The final form of house was a created by digging a cellar out of the ground while the walls were constructed of stone and earth.

Art by J-Humphries

 

Town and Villages

The construction of the Hustic (hamlets) and Homesteads in the Holds are generally similar through most of Norland. Coastal dwellings tend to house a drakkar or smaller fishing vessels while the inland areas are generally set aside for farming and husbandry. The same basic concept remains the same. At the center of the town is generally the central gathering place set with an oak, or a great hall set with a oaken made chair. This is where the local gatherings or “Things” are held on a seasonal basis.

The local Holder or Holders very likely dwells in the central mead hall or the largest building of the settlement in question. In the greater cities of the Stad there is often a central wooden keep or fort built to House the family and Huskarls of the Stad’s ruling Herre.

 

Shieling and Landnam

The basis of land usage and farming within the Holds is known as the Landnam System and incorporates a concept known as Shieling. Landnam is a set of rules and tradition that dictates the raising and culling of stock animals for the Aesir villages. In Shieling small racnhes were formed outside the greater settlement with the cattle being used for milk during the summer as they were bred. During the winter the animals would then be slaughtered and breeding animals kept for the next year. Barley, and other grains were grown feed the animals during the year. These fields are then rotated and left to fallow after their use each year.

Non-dairy animals are raised in the open highlands closer to the lakes and the open fields near the mountains of the holds. These are raised during the summer and then brought into the lowlands for slaughter and shearing if they are sheep. Generally these are overseen by Cottar families who work for the various noble Landsmen of the local settlement.

Art by Narcotic-Nightmares

 

Fortifications and Halls

The standard fortification found within the Holds is a ring fort constructed of central hall surrounded by a wooden palisade. The gate of the palisade is often made of thick hard wood with the large construction of the palisade then being surrounded by a deepen motte filled with spiked wooden stakes. Lesser fortifications include a simple palisade surrounding a simple hustwic long house. Rock fortifications with a fitted tower or keep are generally reserved for the higher ranks of the Holder class or the independent lands of the Brotherhoods.

The final aspect of Aesir life is the hall. Mead halls or grand halls in general are central to Aesir culture. They act as the central meeting places for “Things” and for the favored feasts. Generally they are large massive longhouses filled with great tables and a large cooking area to prepare the food for the mighty warriors therein.

 

The Family

Aesir Kinship

Sides the Ætt the primary form of inheritance and blood found within the Aesir is noted through a structure of House known as a Kindred or Kyn. The ruler of the Kyn is either a Matriarch or Patriarch known as the Thegn. The Thegh as the head of Household is then charged as the primary decider of inheritance; is considered the keeper of the Othal land; and the keeper of the families history and greatness. The second most important position within the family is that of the family Skaald or Volvar. These individuals act as the teachers of the ways of the gods and of the keepers of the lore of the family.

Kyn’s tend to incorporate the extended family of up to five generations and often several trees. Several Kyn then collectively make up the formation of an Ætt. This tribal system places well into the more endemic insular cultural center which can lead to long term feuding and warring between neighbors.

Marriage between the Aesir is a complicated affair and begins with the Thegn of the Groom’s household sending the groom and an entourage to the family of the bride. The Groom then presents a from his family which usually consists of land and livestock  this is known as the Mundr or brideprice. Once offered the two families will then negotiate and discuss the compatibility of the couple in question. Afterward if the betrothal is agreed upon the bride’s family will then offer a dowry to the family of the groom.

The Mundr specifically can only be inherited through the Bride’s line meaning only her children can inherit. It usually includes properties, goods and possibly servants or slaves. To divorce in the Aesir world all a woman has to do is to walk to the front of her house say the words “I divorce you” and then do the same at the consummation bed. She then returns to her family and the Mundr goes with her.

Art by dashinvaine

 

Oaths and Vassals

The north does not have a complex system of fealty and liegemen as other nations. Instead the bond of fealty is found in an age old oath between a local noble and the warriors sworn in brotherhood with him. This formed the basis warband which dates back to Odin Allfather himself leading his sons and brothers into battle against the Jotnar giants of old. Within a Warband only the Warleader is above everyone else. It is within this sworn band of blood brothers and sisters that the Oath system was born. A Warleader can call upon his sworn band or hird when he sees fit. However, a Warleader cannot go against the collective will of the Warband.

It is this semi-democratic will that forms the basis of the Oath. Even though a Warband has the ability to move against the Warleader a sacred bond exists between them and the Warleader. This bond is formed by the Sword Oath, a creed sworn before the liegeman of that binds them to the m to the Warleader of the band. This relationship gifts the Warleader with the ability to call upon his Warband in times of need, and direct them in various other tasks. From this basis Aesir formed a semi-feudal society with powerful bands creating networks of fealty and resulting in the basic formation of a Holder and his sworn retainer of Huskarls. In a Kyn the Thegn often has the power to call upon his vassals as a means of support, and as a means to enforce his rule. As long as the brotherhood and the oath is maintained then a Thegn, and or a Holder in general rules well with his vassals at his side.

Art by dashinvaine

 

Children and Family

Children in the Holds are highly valued and a Kyn often guards its children with adamant intent. However, children with defects, weaknesses or in times of little food are often left out to die in bad weather. This is not a common practice among the nobility who can afford to be selective about their childbearing. Those who can afford it can often import Dawn Drought a potion made of a herb that can end pregnancy. The weathering of infants is not consider a sin to the gods or a murder as long as it happens within three weeks of its birth. Beyond that it is believed the Gods have given the child a soul. Any action to kill a child after that is considered extremely heinous.

 

Dress and Attire

Clothing for the Aesir

General Clothing for Men

The standard clothing for Aesir men is known as an overtunic. Made from common textiles created from wool and often dyed in a singular color. The typical Aesir tunic is often a large shirt that would hold a simple loop and button at the neck. A form of status could easily be state in the length of the tunic when worn. Holders often had enough wealth to invest in more material which meant that they were generally reflect in much longer almost skirt like tunics. Another shirt or undertunic was then worn as a secondary under-layer to keep warm in the cold climates of Norland. Undertunics were often made out of linen and were generally simpler in appearance and nature. Male underwear was generally found in the form of a short trouser like construction and nothing more.

Leg wear within the Holds is a varied form of trouser from baggy to tight. All were generally constructed of thick wool and were held up either a drawstring or a belt. Most fighters use a belt as the drawstring is generally not strong enough to hold the trousers up for extended periods of time. Viking age Shoes were generally constructed out of leather and were a simple laced up walking shoe.

Southern tribes along the tip of Norland were also known for using woolen wraps around their legs. These are known as puttee and are often down to add an extra layer of insulation and also protected against crashing through dense brush. Shoes in general could also include button clasped boots or high top laced boots reached to just above the ankle.

Various form of headwear were used by the Aesir from woolen caps, to hoods made made to cover the head. Among the nobility it was not uncommon to have a furlined hat usually taken from a varg (dire wolf) or another large creature.

Art by fightpunch

 

General Clothing for Women

The clothing for women is similar to men’s in that it was often made from either linens or wool. Generally a woman wore an ankle length skirt that died to one color. Another overskirt might be worn in an apron-like fashion held up by a pair of broaches. This overskirt was often called the hangerock because of its general design. A longer coat like over skirt was created that had a area cut around the chest to allow the display of the broaches.

Women often wore the same shoes as men, and their heads were generally covered with kerchiefs or shawls of some manner.

 

Children’s Clothes

Clothing for Children was often similar if not smaller cut versions of that of their parents.

 

Slave Clothes

Slave clothing in general was a poorer less maintained version of that worn by the upper classes. In most cases it was whatever an owner could afford to clothe the thrall in.

Art by wrednawiedzma

 

Marks of Blood and Clan

Within Aesir Society there are several manners in which someone marks their blood, their Kyn, and their hold. Common within the holds is the usage of cloaks as a means to cover and insulate the body in the harsh climate of Norland. Many of the Boendr to Holder class often mark their cloaks in the common color of their hold. In other cases the rich adorn their cloaks with brooches simulating the mark of their chosen god. Brotherhoods often wear cloaks display the blazon of their chosen allegiance. The cloak is one of many ways however in which jewelry and other marks are used for members of the various Kyn, Ætt and Holds identify themselves from others.

Another common form of mark is the metal worked belt buckles or clips often worn by warriors or decently earning individuals in Aesir society. These are often worked with the chosen emblem of their chosen god, a popular mark of their hold, or the personal emblem of their Ætt. These marks and emblems are also shown in leather braiding and embossed images worked into the leather.

The final form of identification or simple adornment is tattooing. Tattoos are often less or more ritualistic depending upon the chosen group or ideal which the individual is wishing to show. Members of the Brotherhoods usually bear a tattoo on their right forearm declaring their allegiance. Members of a Kyn might tattoo their shoulder with the mark of their family.

 

Hairstyles and Facial Hair

The typical male hair style was usually worn long and lose. It was not uncommon for men of battle to tie back their head nor was it for women to do the same as shield-maidens. Men often sported thick beards as they grew older, and kept themselves trimmed or did as they pleased. Braiding of bears, and hair in general is not uncommon and some have fun with creating various styles to fit their needs. It was far more common for married women to braid their hair than girls as braids were often used in some of the more interesting Aesir marriage practices.

 

Currency and Trade

Trade in Norland

Trade and the exchange of goods has always been difficult within the Holds of Norland. Ever since the father of the Aesir, Bori founded the original Aesir and Vanir tribes eniminity has existed between members of the race. For this reason there has been a lingering lack of official coin presented and minted by the Holds for years. Generally each Jarl present their own coinage with the Silver Mark being the basis of most exchange.

Trade between the holds for this reason has often been based upon bartering and the basic exchange of goods and services. This is often based upon the trading of goods, livestock and thralls. IN other cases it might be Marks depending upon the rank of the individual and what they can offer.

Art by Nis-Staack

 

Coinage in the Holds

Gold is rare in the Holds and for this reason is strictly reserved for the usage of Holders and those who have plundered it from the lands beyond. SIlver is highly sought after and is only uncommon with plenty of it being mined from the northern mountains in and around Norland. For this reason there are two basic forms of coinage found with the Holds

  • The Silver Mark – Worth two Iron Shillings.

  • The Iron Shilling – Worth ten Copper Pennies.

  • Copper Pennies – Lowest denomination of coinage.

 

Examples of Trade and Cost

  • A Milk Cow – Five Silver Marks

  • A loaf of bread – One copper Penny

  • A Unmarred Love Slave – Fifty to One Hundred Silver Marks.

  • A Common Thrall – Two Silver Marks and an Iron Shilling

 

Education

Aesir Education

The Holds of Norland are not known for their extensive education as the harsh land and stratified society between the Thrall and the Holder has created a rift in knowledge. For this reason education is often broken down by Class rather than as a basic form of curriculum taught to all classes. All Norlanders to some degree except the weakest slave are taught to fight and defend themselves. Even women become Shield-Maidens and fight alongside their husbands and brothers in combat. Some even become Valkyr or the Sworn Sisters of the Sword who fight for the King as his secret police.

All Children in the Holds grow up speaking the native language often known simply as Noric. The more estudious members of the Boendr to Holder classes then have the opportunity to learn other languages and primarily the trade tongue or hanelska.

  • Thralls / Freed Slaves – Taught what is necessary for their roles deemed fit by the slave owner. Extremely rare for slaves to know magic unless someone decided to teach them, doing so is considered a severe act of dishonor.

  • Freemen – Taught the basics of working the land and fighting. Women are often taught household works such as loom work, creating textiles, working with livestock and domesticate work. It is rare for the Leysing to become magic users unless they meet a friendly Skaald who might teach them.

  • Boendr – Men and women learn to fight at the age of six to fifteen. They are taught their native tongue, the Hanelska trade language, basics of math, basics of navigation and the usage of magics. Some may become incredibly versed in the ways of the Gods. Some Boendr may become practitioners of magic, though access is slightly limited.

  • Holder – Versed heavily in the lore of their Kyn and Ætt and the ruling of their people. Holders are often taught from a young age on the various laws and extensive problems often facing the Holds. For this reason they are the most educated of the classes as it is they who often keep the peace when things go wrong. Holders usually have some magical knowledge, though a majority are only part-time users.

Art by dashinvaine

 

The teaching of citizenry often falls to their parents or to the Skaalds and Volvar. Skaalds are the warrior priests and bards of Aesir society. Many homesteads and hustwics offen feature at least one Skaald who will teach them the way of their people. Ætts also feature local priestesses and seeresses of the gods known as Volvar. These women are often charged with illuminating the primary gods to the Aesir and are often the interpreters of the fate of each individual.

Upward mobility is not the easiest thing in the world and often the teaching presented to a given child is strictly based upon what the local lord deems fit for those below him. In other cases a child if they learn more has the ability event attain a higher class if they can gain enough wealth or fame to do so.

 

Law and Crime

Aesir Law

The law of the Land is set down by the Allthing of the Holds and then the regional Things of each hold respectively. The Jarl has the right to arbitrate and change law as necessary, but only with a majority vote of the Thing of his hold in question. General judgement and mediation of law is then assigned to the the respective Ætt Hersar and local Landsmen in a given Scir.

Law enforcement throughout the holds is enforced and kept by a group of Aesir who are known as a Reeve. Reeves act as the hand of the Jarl the holds and may only be appointed by them. They have the right to raise a levy of Hirdmen or warriors to use as enforcement and often work in hand with the local chapters of a given Brotherhood to enforce the law.

 

Honor

In the world view of the Aesir there is only black and white. Fate or the Wyrd is a horrible thing that curses all Aesir with the fact that to make anything of their lives they must overcome great adversity. For this reason, an aspect of the Aesir world is a severe sense of Honor. To lie, to deceive and to cover up an action is dishonorable. To proclaim one’s intentions, and to tell the truth is the simplest and yet highest form of honor. When honor is removed, or someone intentionally dishonors another it can lead to the outbreak of animosity or worse, blood feud.

 

Marriage

Marriage within the Holds is an agreement signed between two families and often headed by the local Thegn of a Kyn. The Mundr is paid for the bridge and then the brides family gives a dowry to the groom. Only the brides children have the right to Othal or land given to her, and in cases of divorce the bride is free to do so without the groom’s permission. Marriage between same sex couples does occur, but it is generally frowned upon in the north. Marriage between class is generally restricted to upper class members of the Boendr and lower class members of the Holder.

Nobility often plan and foster possible mates long before agreements are made. Because the blood of an Ætt can be very important to specific high ranking Holders.

 

Guest and Hearth

Guests within the Holds are treated with utmost respect and are kept safe from any form of harm. To break this is to bring upon the wrath of the Allfather and the gods upon them. For this reason it is considered sacrilegious to threaten a guest or even bring weapons into a home to harm those within if offered sanctuary.

Art by FrancescaBaerald

 

Infidelity and Bastards

In the Holds, a bastard is only as good as  his or her own fate. Because they are born outside of wedlock a bastard or baseborn child is often considered lesser of those of a noted strong bloodline. This is perhaps why the Aesir enforce restrictive laws on the indidelity when it ocurs without proper legitimization. To legitimize a child all a man or woman must do is to claim the child, and then convince the Thegn of their Kyn to recognize the claim.

Those who openly disvow the agreement of marriage often forfeit the price or dowry paid to them upon marriage. Women lose the Mundr and men lose the Dowry.

 

Inheritance

Within the HOlds of Norland, inheritance is decided purely by the right of blood, and gender. All descendants of the father partake in his inheritance with the right of giving out the inheritance going to first the oldest son, the second oldest son and then to the oldest daughter. Only the children of a specific mother may inherit the goods and land from a given mundr. Bastards may only inherit if they are legitimized before a father’s death, or with a full vote in their favor before the local Thing.

 

Rule and Leadership

In the Holds the Holder class is seen as the divinely bound blood descendants of the Gods, and it is they who have the right to rule. However, there is also the belief that a man can forge his own fate and those truly born to rule shall have it or take it. At the core of all decisions even that of the King is the democratic vote of the Things. A strange name for a gathering of freeholders and holders in a region, the Things are all done by a majority vote. When a King is elected it is an Allthing of the most prominent of each town that comes and votes for him and it is the Thing that enforces the law of the Jarls of the Holds.

For this reason the rule of a King or a Jarl in the Holds is based heavily upon the freeholder class which has given them a level of strength not seen in other noble bound societies. The Jarl and the King alike has the right to impose laws on their region (the Holds entirely) for the rulers decisions must be enforced and respect by the local Thing. If they do not side with the

ruler. then his decisions are nothing.

 

Arbitration and Judgment

The act of arbitration, mediation and overall judgement resides within the local leader of a town. If that is a Hustwic then the local Rådmen wll reside as a council over the arbitration. If it involves an a Homestead or is out in the county then the local Holder with charge over the region will see to it. Judgment and mediation within an Ætt is usually overseen by the Hersar or the Thegn for Kyn or Kyns in question. At all times it is encouraged that the arbiter will listen equally to both sides and then enforced the local law as they see fit fairly.

The arbiter has the ability to imprison the accused; to fine them, or worse have them killed. The worse thing an arbiter can do is call a death curse upon the accused which prevents them from entering Valhalla and their spirit is then cast into the darkness of the Middle World forever. Non-Criminal cases are overseen in the same manner except that in generally there is the ability to appeal to the local Thing to overturn the judgement. If this occur then the judgement is rendered void. Only a higher ranked Holder has the ability to retry the case.

Art by muratgul

 

Age of Majority

The Aesir are a mighty race that although strong bodied, they lack the longevity of some of the races of and for this they age at a regular rate often found among mortals.  are often For this reason and the one implied by the greater emphasis on marriage agreement, and because of their violent nature the Aesir possess harsh laws on the age of majority. Girls are considered women at the age of seventeen, with boys being considered men at the age of sixteen. Once they gain their majority a child is taken to the local Thing and proclaimed before it. Girls are often then noted to other local families and suitors for possible marriage as boys are often referred to a local group of fighting men.

The coming of majority is quite different for each social class. When it occurs for lsaves are they are generally repriced and then possibly sold. For Holders it is a time for alliances, and for marriage to be born. For the Freeholders it is a time for work, and to seek adventure. Even if a woman is ready to be married she has the right upon her majority to state her intention to see her own fortune. If a woman does this she for a time forsakes the right of her Othal land and the right families protection. A strange law that was placed upon Aesir women as a means of controlling them by its more recent patriarchal former King Skaldir Skaldisson.

 

When gaining majority a Boendr gains the following rights:

  • Right to decide their own fate and seek fortune.

  • To work land given to them by their family.

  • To stand in the local Thing.

  • To Claim Weregild.

 

Holders have the following rights:

  • Rule of a given set of lands.

  • The right to raise fighting men or women in just cause.

 

Members of a Brotherhood have the extra rights:

  • Right to answer to their Drottn in arbitration.

  • Right free of prosecution when dealing with local nobility.

 

Fosterage

Exchanging children to live with another is a common manner of building trust between Kyn, and even Ætt. The act of Fostering almost always falls under the sanction the rules of Guest and the Hearth. In some cases fosters are used as a means to not only build trust, but as a means to build a possible future of marriage.

 

Murder and Weregeld

To the Aesir, ones honor is high based in the idea of open action and word. To kill a man in plain sight is to commit manslaughter. To kill a man in secret is murder. Laws on murder within the Holds can be at times seem slightly confusing as they are based on time, and day. No matter how you kill someone the result is generally what leads to the problem of blood feud between the families of the two individuals. The only to end a blood feud is through the payment of Weregeld or “Man Price”. A trade of goods, services or slaves set by the plaintiff family, Weregeld often requires long discussion and does not always end a feud. If an Aesir is found guilty of murder after being brought before the local Thing. Many witnesses are required to be called in a case of murder specially with the slight variation in how some laws define murder. Refusing or failing to pay weregeld directly then requires the victims family to seek the death of the killer to keep their honor.

To kill someone at night is murder, to kill them in broad daylight is not. However, if someone is alone and kills another they are required to inform the first person they see of what they have done. If the killer suspects that a family member or relative may be nearby they may pass a total of two houses before having to confront the owners of the third. Failing to do so shows a clear intent to cover up the act of murder thus meaning the killing was not manslaughter.

To kill someone openly in an alehouse or a mead hall breaks the Laws of Guest and Hearth. Those present must then assist in the killer’s apprehension. In execution an Aesir has the right to ask for a beheading which will allow them to still enter Valhalla (unless cursed by the arbiter after death). Anyone deigned outlaw or who kills several times and covers it up is hanged in dishonor.

 

Duels of Honor – Holmgang and Einvigi

The Holds are a violent place, and with laws that require family to kill any who kills their own, and a strict sense of honor blood flows easily in the north. Many years ago as a means to limit the internal feuding of the Aesir, Queen Grimhilde called the Jarls and Landdsmen of the Allthing and proclaimed the foundation of Honor Duel. Known as Einvigi, or Blood Duel the hope of the edict was to prevent the further spread of blood feud inherent in the Aesir way of life.

Einvigi is a simple act two opponents meet at a declared time, and location and then battle it out till one is dead. There are no judges, and once the Duel is over the family of the dead combatant may not attack the family of the victor. For a time the Blood Duel held, out and yet it became harder to enforce the prevention of blood feud. For this reason, it became customary to bring witnesses to the Duel so a testament could be given at the local Thing as a means or preventing further killing. Einvigi is always fought wither either a great axe, greatsword or one handed swords, no shields.

When Skaldir the Iron King took the Throne of the Holds another form of Duel was founded, Holmgang, or Honor Duel. Holmgang is slightly more complicated than Einvigi, but it rarely ends in the death of one of fighters. In the act of Holmgang the two combatants stand before a judge and swear an oath of honor stating “In Odin’s Name” before taking up a sword and shield. Each contestant is given three shields, the first man to either be knocked unconcious or smash the others three shields wins. Generally a Reeve or local Holder stands as judge over the Holmgang. Once the Duel is over all blood held between the contestants and their families is ended.

Anyone who breaks the judgement of Holmgang faces the wrath of the local Thing and likely Outlawry.

 

Ritual War and Raiding

A problem found among the Holds is the existence of raiding and attacking other Kyn and Ætts. This is known simply as Ritual War, a form of feuding that may only be declared by the Thegn of a Kyn or the Hersar of an Ætt. Ritual War is conduct then between select warriors and on specific targets. Any raiding that occurs outside this prohibition often results in extensive feuding and possible intervention by the Jarl or the King of the Holds. Often it is not uncommon for Ætt to raid each other or even take targets as slaves. This generally thus requires years of work to create peace.

The taking of slaves from another often more than not actives an ongoing blood feud between the two parties. In some cases when one family, Kyn or even an Ætt refused to pay a blood price or a debt to another, the wronged group raids the victim and members of it as slaves as recompense. There are also those who capture and abduct others from other holds as a means of occupation. Slaving as an occupation outside of selling children of slaves is often seen as a lowly job as it requires deceit and trickery. Only bounty hunters taking out the worst of Outlaws are seen in a better light than common slavers.

RItual requires that the Thegn or Kersar in question must journey to a local Scared place, thed itselfre they must contact a Volvar or Gothi. Then with the holy persons assistance they must swear before the gods and to the Wyrd itself their intent of Ritual War.

Art by ChrisRa

 

Theft and Burglary

Theft and Burglary are two different subjects within Aesir society. Thieves are those who outright use deception and trickery to steal objects or goods from others and are considered highly dishonorable individuals. Burglars or in other cases “raiders” (as they are called under the rites of Ritual War) just take or steal in the light in front of witnesses. The punishment for stealing in general differs based upon the value of the item stolen and the applied means.

Examples of punishments for theft:

  • Stealing a Loaf of bread – Small fine the price of the brea running a gauntlet of folk and being pelted with rocks.

  • Stealing an animal – Fine equal to the worth of the animal, days hard labor for small animals, a week for larger animals.’

  • Stealing a simple weapon – A week of hard labor.

  • Stealing a fine weapon – Possible slavery depending on the worth of the weapon.

  • Stealing a Sacred Item – Slavery.

  • Stealing Jewelry – Fine equal to the worth of the item.

  • Repeated Stealing even when enslaved – Face being outlawed.

 

A sentence may be lessened for theft if witnesses can be brought forth to prove the person was a burglar (stealing without deception and in giving the victim chance to prevent it). Rightfully declared Ritual War is excempt from any form of theft as long as a Gothi or a Volvar can provide evidence ofthe properly declared Blood Oath of war upon the victims.

Outlawry

Another punishment, and perhaps the worst that could be heaped upon someone was the act of Outlawry, or a form of social exile. The word outlaw in Aesir law refers to those who have been exiled from the law itself. Though not a directly prescribed punishment it is one properly acted upon those who steal, kill and commit actions without honor. Outlawry might be applied for some of the following reasons.

  • Dishonoring the local Kyn and Ætt through criminal action or through deceit.

  • Constantly bringing bad luck and ill fate upon those around them.

  • Dishonoring or defaming the places of the gods.

  • Killing someone unjustly (an unarmed man, but in plain sight).

  • Disobeying a Holder or a better.

  • Stealing and raiding allied or local peoples.

 

The punishment of Outlawry can then be split into a few separate categories which then impart a level of punishment and exiles to them.

  • Herathssekt – Lesser Outlwary and means exile from a particular settlement or Scir.

  • Hold Exile – Being outlawed from the Hold of one’s birth for three summers and three winters.

  • Full Exile – The person is fully exiled for seven years from the lands of Norland.

  • Skogarmathr – A full sentence that the person if found is exiled from all laws meaning they can be killed on sight anywhere (even outside the holds) without recompense. Skogarmathr are branded on the cheek when declared outlaws.

 

Thralldom  - Slavery

Slaves or Thralls are the lowest social class in all of the Holds. Most Thralls are marked by the thick metal collars worn around their neck emblazoned with a line of ruins proclaiming their owner. Thralls in the holds do most of the general labor such as herding animals, working on building projects or harvesting the fields when the grain is ready.

 

Typical jobs for male Thralls:

  • Field laborers and construction workers.

  • Personal Valet or body servant.

  • A bailiff or officer of enforcement (subordinate to a Freeholder warrior or Huskarl).

  • An overseer or taskmaster for projects or other slaves.

 

Typical jobs for female Thralls:

  • Grinding grain and salt (back breaking work using a hand grinder).

  • Domestic work such as laundry, milking animals and cleaning a household.

  • Personal maids or nannies.

  • Sometimes as bed slaves.

 

All slaves generally participated in lighter tasks such as:

  • Plowing, planting and then bringing in the harvest when the time comes.

  • Raising livestock and slaughtering them during the fall for the culling season.

Slaves are taught from early childhood onward to serve their owners and to accomplish a job set before them. This training is usually conducted by their parents or a senior slave of the household. Particularly good looking slaves may end up being taken for other purposes such as consorts and concubine.

People become Thralls in Aesir through several means. It can be the result of punishment from a crime (weregeld of a person or theft), one could be captured as an outlaw (Skogarmarthr and full Exiles only), being taken in a raid, or sold into slavery by someone else. Once a slave is taken they lose all rights except the following:

  • To be fed and sheltered by their owner.

  • To be given care when sick so they can work effectively.

  • Protection as property from being stolen.

 

All children of slaves are considered slaves. A slave’s child could be sold upon their majority by their owner and no sooner. It is not uncustomary for extra slave children to be left out int he cold winter when a family cannot afford to feed it. Killing a slave was equal to kill a man’s pig, or cow. A slave does not earn weregeld, but their worth as a worker and an individual does have to be paid to their loss.

 

Becoming Free and the Rights of Freedmen

Freedom for Thralls is attained via a few methods. First, if a third party wishes to buy their freedom from their owner which then must result in a careful negotiation. An owner always has the right to deny an offer of freedom. Freedom can be gifted to the slave in question who then goes through a freedman ritual which marks their upward movement into the freedman class. Then there is the option of self-redemption whereas a slave has earned enough money or paid in services given to purchase their freedom.

The act of becoming a freedman or freedwoman is a big occasion for many as it marks the status of becoming a real person in the Aesir world. Generally a feast is held where the freed thrall then sacrifices an animal such as a sheep, goat or even a cow (only on rare instances) to the gods as a mark of health. They then cook the animal and feed their former master as a mark of show them gratitude for the food and shelter given. At this point in their life the freed individual is now considered an Anaud, a upper ranked freed Thrall who is still below the Freemen class of the Leysing who make up the landed peasantry of the Holds.

Anaud see expanded rights including the right to weregeld and the ability to testify during acts of arbitration. In most cases however, a Freedman or Freedwoman is still behold to their former owner in some form. Masters exert a lot of right to control the permission of a slave to move, to marry, to enter into contracts and is still consider partially responsible for them. Perhaps it is then not so uncommon that the family that once owned the slave often adopts them as one of their own. This still places the individual lower than most of the local Kyn, but it does expand the ability to better control what the former slave might do to dishonor the family.

 

Subsistence and Diet

Foods and Beverages of the Aesir

The harsh northern climate of Norland and its large amount of highland has often placed the various holds at odds with each other for resources and arable land. The northern Holds of Alfland and Jotunland are perhaps the most reliant upon fisheries for subsistence where as Svartland and Vanaland have the option to farm the land around the Twin Rivers. The Shieling system of farming itself provides much for the  north as is. With the lands to the north producing mostly fish the southern Holds rely heavily on the farmsteads of the Cottars as a means for meat. Sheep, Goats and Cattle are the most common of protein for many in the holds. Pigs are often kept by those dwelling near the dark forests of Norland and are then culled near the usual time before winter in late fall.

Hunting elk and other large deer is also not uncommon. Norland is home to several great beasts which the Aesir often hunt in rituals of glory or in sacrifice to the gods. The large Dire Boars of Jotunland are often used as a right of passage for the Jarls of Hold, and the great lake serpents of Thunder Lake are often caught for the feast of the new King.

Dairy products are quite evident throughout most of the Holds. The proliferation and spread of the art of cheese making has also become a means of export and survival for somes. Because of the extremely long cold winters of the north (literally called the ‘dark days’) the eating of cheese and yogurts is a staple in many of the Leysing and Boendr classes. Production of either is generally done on a small scale in local homesteads and by some organize crafting guilds. Export of Aesir cheeses is generally done on a small scale and not large enough to warrant a mass industry as of yet of the product.

Art by EgilSterkr

Grains such as wheat and barley are heavily farmed in the landnam way in around the farmsteads of the south. Unlike the massive fields of the south, these smaller fields are generally only enough to maintain bread and other grain foods for cereals. Growing herbs and vegetables (beets, mushrooms, and onions) in small gardens in the local steads is not uncommon.  The Aesir are known to grow apples, pears and other temperate fruit bearing trees in small orchards outside their larger Homesteads.

Water in the lands of Norland can sometimes be questionable when it comes to purity so it is not uncommon for the usage of beer as a supplement for common drink. In general the people often drink a lot of milk from goast or cattle. They also ferment large amounts of beer to a point where it has become an art to some Aesir. Ales are preferred in the north whereas lighter lagers are beloved in the south. The Aesir do purchase wine and other alcohol from the south, or take it from ships that raid in the Sea of Aegos to the south of Cels.

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