Gender in NT practice-Women, Men and Seidr

“If women deviate so far from custom and tradition that they wear men’s clothes or adopt any male practice whatsoever in order to be different from others, and also if men adopt any female practice of whatever kind, then the punishment will be banishment for the person, whether man or woman, who does so.” Gragas Law, paragraph 155.

In American society, gender is a fluid concept.

Everywhere you see women with short hair wearing pants, next to men with long hair wearing skirts (not just kilts anymore). Some women are the primary economic power in their households and some men are the primary caregivers for children or aging parents. It’s an exciting time.

In the saga era, there are examples of Icelandic women who held great power. They were often the driving force behind feuds, which if you’ve read the sagas is a constant source of power wrangling in the Viking world. They are the driving force behind battles, like Freydís Eiríksdóttir taking a stand against Native Americans in Vinland by putting a sword to her breast. They were also the mistresses of peace, while used in marriage to make alliances with other families, they were the ones that did the work to make sure those alliances stayed strong. And they were powers in their own right, such as Unn the Deep-Minded, who sailed to Iceland in command of her own ship, claimed large tracts of land, and was known for her hospitality far and wide.

“Femininity was not acted out in the way that it was in some other cultures- women labored hard and had little time for beauty and vanity. Strength and independence were simply the best qualities to possess if you wanted to survive well in Iceland during the past.” Charley McCarthy, Gender Roles in Medieval Iceland.

And in saga era Iceland, women primarily practiced seidr.

The practice of seidr was done by both men and women, but when men did it, it was seen as “unmanly”. “But after such witchcraft followed such weakness and anxiety, that it was not thought respectable for men to practise it; and therefore the priestesses were brought up in this art.” Ynglinga Saga Ch 7.

Even though by myth, Freya taught Odin how to do seidr magic.

So here’s the thing, do we as NT practitioners need to be constrained by medieval gender constructs?

I am always surprised at the number of people that say “yes” to that question.

Because in the lore, seidr is unmanly.

But in American society, with its fluid gender roles, manly and unmanly are not longer measured by the same yard stick.

Of course, your mileage will most certainly vary.

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