You are on page 1of 25

To the people of ancient Greece and Rome, a Barbarian was anyone who was not of their

extraction or culture.

Because most of these "strangers" regularly practiced raids upon these civilizations, the
term Barbarian gradually evolved into a perjorative term: a person who was sub-human,
uncivilized, and regularly practiced the most vile and inhuman acts imaginable. Nothing
could have been farther from the truth.
The Greeks encountered scores of different foreign cultures, including the Egyptians,
Persians, Phoenicians, Etruscans, Romans, Carthaginians, Kurdish, Basques, which had
no characteristics in common. It is not the case that Greeks automatically despised all
alien cultures. They were aware of the greater antiquity of the much more developed
civilisations of Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia, from whom they borrowed
extensively. Plato Statesman 262 rejects the Greekbarbarian dichotomy as a logical
absurdity on just such grounds: dividing the world into Greeks and non-Greeks tells one
nothing about the second group. In Homer the term appears only once (Iliad 2.867), in the
form 'barbarophonos' ("of incomprehensible speech"), used of the Carians fighting for the
Trojans. Notably the Trojans themselves, who despite bearing Hellenized names in the
Homeric telling are emphatically not Greek, yet are not called 'barbaroi.' In general the
concept of 'barbaro's does not figure largely in archaic literature (before 5th cenury BC).

A change occurred in the connotations of the word after the Greco-Persian Wars in the
first half of the 5th century BC. Here a hasty coalition of Greeks defeated a vast empire.
Indeed in the Greek of this period 'barbarian' is often used expressly to mean Persian. In
the wake of this victory they began to see themselves as superior militarily and
politically. A stereotype developed in which hardy Greeks live as free men in city-states
where politics are a communal possession, whereas among the womanish barbarians
everyone beneath the Great King is no better than his slave. This marks the birth of the
cultural view termed "orientalism".

Overwhelmingly, the slaves of Athens were "barbarian" in origin, drawn especially from
lands around the Black Sea such as Thrace and the Tauric Chersonese (Crimea), while
from Asia Minor came above all Lydians, Phrygians and Carians. It is hard not to despise
the people you are keeping as your slaves, even essential: in the intellectual justification
of slavery (Aristotle Politics 1.2-7; 3.14), barbarians are slaves by nature. From this
period words like barbarophonos cited above from Homer began to be used not only of
the sound of a foreign language but of foreigners speaking Greek improperly. In Greek
the notions of language and reason are easily confused in the word logos, so speaking
poorly was easily conflated with being stupid‹an association not of course limited to
ancient Greeks.

Barbarians were a tall, fierce, fair-haired and fair-skinned people, in contrast to their
swarthy counterparts from whence they had traveled. They displaced or assimilated the
indigenous people of the regions they entered, they never truly settled anywhere, ever-
moving as their needs and resources changed. Eventually they did settle and create homes
and lifestyles for themselves, yet their culture was never elaborate.

Those who they came in contact with considered them uncivilized, and yet were
fascinated by their strength, stamina, force of will, charisma, and versatility. They were
respected by those they befriended, and feared by those who opposed them. Even within
their own society, they fought amongst themselves, seeking supremacy of power and
controllership of the lands they acquired.

In Northern Europe they became known as the Teutons, Norse, Goths, and Celts, and
within those tribes arose many sub-tribes. Settling deep in the regions of Northern
Europe, they were forgotten by the various civilizations to the South and East such as
Greece, Assyria, Persia, and Egypt. It was not until the end of the Bronze age and the
onset of the Iron Age that the cultures would re-emerge, clashing with those civilizations
fronting the Mediterranean Sea; Greece, and Rome.

Reviled by the Greeks, and both respected and feared by the Romans, these people would
time and again engage in battles against those civilizations. Those of Teutony proved to
be indomitable, and even the ones conquered by Rome did not remain under Roman rule
for long. Their fierce, warlike nature and coarse behavior earned them the name.


167 - Germans invade Italy and Greece.

200 - Visigoths and Ostrogoths move to Russia.

367 - Picts and Scots invade England.

370 - Huns invade Europe.

406 - Vandals, Alans and Suevis invade Gaul (France).

410 - Visigoths capture Rome, settle in Spain and southern France.

421 - Angles and Saxons invade Britain.

429 - Vandals invade north Africa. Burgundians and Franks invade France and Italy.

451 - Huns invade France, but retreat.

455 - Vandals conquer Rome.



One of the most famous barbarians, Alaric the Goth (allegedly born on the coast of the
Black Sea, at the mouth of the Danube River on the isle of Peuce, on December 18, 371
C.E.), was the first barbarian to successfully capture the city Rome in 410 C.E.

Although his troops spared most of the residents and the architecture (Alaric was a
known lover of beauty and literature) they pretty well looted the place. Interestingly
enough, a vision of his some 15 years before had predicted that he would successfully
capture Rome.

After the capture, he traveled south with the intention of crossing over into Africa, but
was hindered by the storms along the Mediterranean coast.

Allegedly he took ill suddenly and died during this expedition, and is supposedly buried
near the river Busento. However, legends and some historical evidence also claims that
he "faked" his death to save his people from capture from the Romans and Vandals, and
went "underground" so to speak, where he continued to "rule" the later Visigothic
kingdoms for several decades, dying of old age finally in the year 470 C.E. (he would
have been 98 years old!).

His descendants, the Visigoths, migrated to the Iberian peninsula, and eventually became
the Spaniards; an indication of their heritage lies in the fair hair and blue eyes of the
Northern Spaniards.
Attila the Hun

One of the most feared and notorious barbarians of all time, Attila, was not a Germanic or
Celtic barbarian, but Hunnish. Believed to be of distant Mongol stock, he ravaged much
of the European continent during the 5th century C.E. Apparently Attila was as great a
menace to the Teutonic tribespeople as he was to the Romans; he and his forces were
finally defeated by both Germans and Romans working together (!) in 451 C.E. Attila
supposedly died soon after. The rumors of his cannibalistic practices are not unfounded;
he is supposed to have eaten two of his sons, even. He actually does make a cameo
appearance in the Volsung saga, as Gutrune's second husband after Sigurd's death.

Boadicea (Boudicca)

Not all of the famous barbarians were male. The warrior queen of the Celts, Boadicea,
who reigned the tuath Iceni in what is now England during the 1st century C.E., was one
such female barbarian. In 61 C.E., she led a revolt against the Roman invaion of Britain
in retaliation for the rape of her daughters by the Roman soldiers (under order from their
superiors.) Her army of Celts was victorious at first and pushed the Romans back to
London, which Boadicea and her forces sacked and burned to the ground, killing almost
all of the Roman citizens therein. Her luck held until the battle of Mancetter, where she
and her army was defeated by the Roman general Suetonius Paulinus. She allegedly died
by taking poison administered by one of her faithful druids, rather than suffer the
ignominy of capture by her hated enemies.
Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne)

The grandson of Charles Martel (see below), Charles I of France (April 2, 742-814 C.E.),
the last of the Frankish Barbarian kings, conquered much of Continental Europe,
including the areas of France, Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, some of the Balkan
states, and parts of Italy.

He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 C.E. by Pope Leo III, and was supposedly
surprised at the Coronation; Pope Leo having devised it on the sly. He never learned to
read or write, although was very learned by listening to visiting scholars and monks read
to him from the ancient works.

Although the Carolingian dynasty lasted only one generation after Charlemagne, the
Empire lasted 1,118 years until the year 1918 C.E., when the last Holy Roman
(Hapsburg) Emperor, Karl, was defeated at the end of World War I. Among other cultural
reforms, Charlemagne was the first to establish the idea of the Divine Right of
succession, in which the King was considered to be an avatar of the Christian God, as
was his heir apparent.

Most of the constitutional traditions of continental European kingdoms were derived

from the reign of Charlemagne.

Charles Martel

A Frankish barbarian of the eastern Frankish kingdom of Austrasia, Charles Martel (688 -
741 C.E.) was most famous for the Battle of Tours (732 C.E.), near Poitiers, in which he
successfully defeated the Saracen Moors in their invasion of France, thus preserving
Christian Europe from the encroachment of Islam. He held the title of Mayor of the
Palace of Austrasia, but in actuality wielded the power of a king. His byname, "Martel,"
meant "hammer" and was used to describe the way he indefatigably drove back the
Moorish invasion.
Genseric (Gaiseric)

The Vandal king, Genseric, or Gaiseric as he was also known, was one of the more
notorious Barbarians, and is probably largely the cause of the word "Vandal" becoming a
derogatory term in modern language. He was harsh and cruel, both toward his subjects
and towards the Romans, and was a rabid Christian of a radical sect, violently opposed to
any other expression of Christianity or Paganism.

Allegedly born on December 11, 390 C.E. in Gaul, Genseric was proclaimed king of the
Vandals in 428, deposing (and disposing of) his brother.

In 439, he and his troops seized the Roman city of Carthage on the North African coast,
and established a barbarian stronghold there, becoming an independent ruler of North
Africa in 442.

He established treaties with the Romans, which he later breached, and in 455, succeeded
in sacking and looting Rome itself.

From 455 to his death (of old age!) in 477, the Vandals, under Genseric's leadership, were
the rulers of the Mediterranean sea; providing one of the first examples of Barbarian
maritime warpower.

Many of Genseric's people remained in southern Spain as well, along with the Visigoths
(who actually ran many of the Vandals out of Hispania and into North Africa). The region
was known as "Vandalus" until the invasion of the Islamic Moors in 711 C.E., when they
overran the region and renamed it "Al-Andalus." Today, the Spanish region "Andalusia"
bears the name and ancient culture derived from both of these civilizations.

Gundahar (Gunthur)

The Burgundian king Gundahar actually existed, although his legendary account is more
famous, thanks to Wagner. He reigned in the court of Worms in what is now southwestern
Germany, along the Rhine. In the legends of the Volsung saga and the Nibelungenleid, he
is the brother of Gudrun, wife of Sigurd (Sigifried) the Dragon-slayer; and husband of
Brunhildde. Because of the treachery in which he and his half-brother Hagan slayed
Sigurd, he was doomed to defeat at the hands of Attila in 436. Whether or not the legend
is fully true, King Gundahar did die at the hands of Attila and his forces, along with
20,000 of his Burgundian warriors. His descendents became part of the French nation;
Bourgogne is one of the main divisions of France to this day.

A drighten of the Cherusci, Hermann served under General Varus during the Roman
campaign to conquer Germany. Known as Arminius to the Romans, he secretly plotted
against them with his tribesmen and led the Roman armies into a deadly trap in the
Teutoberg Forest in the year 9 C.E. His armies could not withstand the Roman legion
formation, but in the Black and Teutoberg Forests, the Romans were forced to abandon
their military formations and march single file, in which guise they were easy prey for the
furious Cheruscans and Alamanni. So many of the Roman soldiers were killed or
captured that Varus, in shame, committed suicide by falling on his sword. Rome
withdrew its forces back across the Rhine, and did not attempt any further invasions of
the Teutonic territories.


The Herulian Odoacer is credited with being the barbarian who brought about the end of
the Roman Empire. In 476 C.E., he forced the last of the Western emperors to abdicate.
Odoacer was a rash and arrogant fellow, though, with little concern for others. It was no
one's grief when he was slain by Theoderic in 489 C.E., although the manner of his death
was fairly grisly; Theoderic clove him from the shoulder down to the groin with his


The Vandal Stilicho was the arch-enemy of Alaric the Goth. The barbarian governor of
the northern Roman province, he and Alaric would cross forces 4 times between 392 and
402 C.E. No one understands why, in three different instances, that Stilicho did not crush
Alaric when he so easily could have. Historians have speculated counter-treaties and
"back-stabbing" against Rome, but no concrete evidence was ever found to support any
of these theories. It seems that Stilicho only wanted to keep Alaric at bay, not to destroy

Perhaps he hoped to team up with him at a later time when he felt that Rome was weak.
Stilicho's most heinous attack against Alaric came on Good Friday, April 4, 402, when the
Christian Goths were celebrating their mass.

The "Good Friday" massacre very nearly wiped out the Goths, but through negotiations,
Alaric was able to maintain his forces. Again, Stilicho could have wiped him out, but
didn't. Stilicho was executed by the Romans on August 22, 408, for suspected treason
against Rome, along with thousands of barbarians who were living peacefully in Rome. It
was this last crime against the barbarian people, it is believed, that gave Alaric his needed
"in" for being able to sack the city of Rome in 410.

Theoderic (Dietrich)

Theoderic the Great, ruler of the Ostrogoths, was one of the last barbarians at the fall of
the Roman Empire. After Rome was utterly defeated, he established treaties with all of
the other Germanic tribes, and ruled over sort of a "pax gothica" until his death during the
6th century C.E. After his death the Goths fell into squabbles and inter-tribal battles, and
were eventually defeated by the Byzantine empire under Narses around 555 C.E. No
more is heard about the Goths after that time; supposedly they intermingled with the
resident cultures.

This site maintains a text of Theodoric's (Theoderic's) Letters. They show him to be a
man of wisdom and fair dealing with others.


During Julius Caesar's occupation of Gaul (now much of which is France) in the first
century B.C.E., things were going fairly smoothly for the Romans until this upstart
Swabian Barbarian named Ariovistus came moseying across the Rhine to see what was
going on. In fury, Julius Caesar chased him and his troops back across into Germany (58
B.C.E) and proceeded to pursue the occupation of Gaul much more aggressively than

In anger, many of the Gallic barbarian tribes, such as the Averni, rose up in revolt against
the harsh Roman treatment. A feisty young barbarian named Vercingetorix (pronounced
Ver-sin-JEH-toh-ricks) was adamant that Caesar and the Romans would be driven out of
Gaul. His people raised him to kingship in 52 B.C.E. Under his leadership, the Gallic
tribes were very largely successful in quashing the Roman occupation, until the fateful
batttle of Alesia, where Vercingetorix and his troops were forced to yield to Julius Caesar.
Vercingetorix was captured as a prisoner of war, taken back to Rome by the victorius
Julius Caesar, imprisoned there, and later executed by crucifixion in 45 B.C.E. Of
course, Caesar himself was assassinated the next year by his own people, so "what goes
around, comes around."


Vortigern was a warlord in Britain during the 5th century C.E. By all accounts, Vortigern
appeared to be a usurper and a pretender to the rule of Britain, and was shown to be a
man of low character and inclinations. He achieved his position through assassination and
treachery, killing even the young king, Constans, to whom he was an advisor.

Constans' younger brother, Uther, was unknown to Vortigern and so escaped his
treachery. Vortigern ruled Britain with the aid of Saxon mercenaries who kept him in
power until he, too, dealt with them harshly. The Saxons eventually turned on him and
Vortigern met his death in a blazing castle tower in Wales at the hands of Geoffrey of
Monmouth, although some sources claim that the tower was mysteriously struck by
lightning, catching it on fire. After Geoffrey's rule of Britain, Constans' brother, Uther
Pendragon, became ruler of Britain, and Uther Pendragon was the father of the legendary
King Arthur.
Not all of the famous barbarians were male. The warrior queen of the Celts, was one such
female barbarian. In 61 C.E., she led a revolt against the Roman invaion of Britain in
retaliation for the rape of her daughters by the Roman soldiers (under order from their
superiors.) Her army of Celts was victorious at first and pushed the Romans back to
London, which Boadicea and her forces sacked and burned to the ground, killing almost
all of the Roman citizens.


Please visit the

Norse Gods.

Spiritual Realms - Afterlife

Except for Asgard and Hel, which were considered to be separate from the Earth, all of
the other worlds had their realms within the Physical Plane of awareness. These worlds

Vanaheim: Home of the Vanir; the Nature Gods

Alfheim: Home of the Elves; Elemental Plane of Air, realm of the Mind
Mulspelheim: Elemental Plane of Fire; realm of Fortune and Magic

Midgard: Home of Mankind; the Earth, where all things are manifested

Nifelheim: Elemental Plane of Ice; home of the Etheric being

Svartalfheim: Home of the Dwarves, the Elemental Plane of Earth; that of the

Jotunheim: Home of the Giants, realm of the Subconscious

Hel: Realm of the Dead, home of the ephemeral

The ability to consciously travel among these worlds was much the practice of Seith
(Sedhr) magic, known to us now as Shamanism. Sedhr was considered to be a feminine
form of magic, and was practiced mainly by women and by a few men who had mastered
the craft as well.

To the Barbarians, the Being was comprised of several parts; each interrelated, but which
could be separated and sent forth away from the physical being. These parts of the entire
being are:

Lich: the physical body, which is ephemeral,

Hamingja: fortune, luck, or what is known as "mana"; magical power

Fylgia: the Fetch; the etheric double, later known as the "Ghost"

Orlog: one's destiny or Fate, as determined by the Norns

Minni: Memory, or the Subconscious, Instinctive Mind,

Modig: The Mood, or the Astral (feeling) body

Manig: The Will; a combination of Earthly Strength and Soul-Force

Hugr: The Higher Mind; capable of thought, idea, and reason; the Mental body

Hamr: The Soul; that which endures lifetime to lifetime.

Each of the portions of the Being was associated with one of the Nine Worlds.

The Lich was of Hela's realm; the Haminja was of Mulspelheim (Fire), the Fylgia was of
Nifelheim (Ice), Orlog was of Midgard (the Earth itself), Minni was of Jotunheim (realm
of Giants), Modig was of Svartalfheim (the Dwarven realm), Manig was of Alfheim (the
Elven Realm), Hugr was of Vanaheim (the home of the Vanir Gods), and Hamr was of
Asgard, realm of the Aesir.

A tenth attribute of the being, that of the Aldr, was the "Life-Age", and pertained mainly
to the Soul's Age as measured by its experiences through its various incarnations on

Mention, too, must be made of Wyrd; that aspect of the Soul that counteracted Orlog and
could rewrite it; known to us as "chance" and "Free Will."

In a largely war-based society such as the Norse, Celts, and Teutons lived, death was
viewed as an inevitable, yet not calamitous, portion of Life.

In particular, the Norse (later, the Vikings), believed that to expiate yourself in death on
the field of battle assured that you would have a place in Walhalla, the Norse paradise;
where there would be feasting, gaming, and battle on a daily basis.

Those who died of sickness or old age were relegated to the shadowy realms of Hel, ruled
by the Goddess of Death of the same name.

The concept of Valhalla and Hel tends to be a more recent one (only 1000-1100 years old)
and seems to have been influenced by Christian philosophy of Heaven and Hell.

The barbarian peoples before 400 C.E. believed that after death, the intelligence and soul
would be reborn back into their family's lineage, thus indicating a strong belief in
reincarnation (along blood lines).

The Celtic philosophy is very similar, although some of the Celts (in particular, the
Druids), believed in the ability to return as plants or animals rather than as humans and in
a particular blood line.

Other barbarian tribes who did not believe in reincarnation, believed that the intelligence
and "soul" continued on Earth, only in a separate but parallel dimension, accessible
through their burial site, or howe.

Burial practices among the barbarians ranged from cremation to actual burial (without
embalming, of which technology the barbarians were ignorant).

Cremation was an elaborate ceremony, reserved mainly for drightens (warlords), kings,
and true heroes (think Sigurd, Beowulf, and Cu Chullain). The body was prepared for
burial by adorning it in the richest of garments, furs, torcs, armbands, and other jewelry.

The weapons, shields, and drinking horn(s) or goblets of the hero were also placed with
the body, in the belief that the hero would require them in the Otherworld; be it Walhalla
or Tir Na nOg (among others).
The body would then be placed upon an outdoor bier, which would be ignited. During the
funeral service, sumbels (toasting ceremonies) would be drunk in honor of the dead one;
both laughter and tears were welcomed. Stories would be told of his/her battle prowess
and other legends of his/her feats.

At the end, the ashes of the hero would be gathered and either scattered over the water
(for a sea-faring people) or placed in an appropriate burial chamber (such as a howe).

There is no historic evidence to suggest that the Vikings or the barbarians ever engaged in
sea cremations (where the bier was placed afloat on a boat and then ignited as the boat
sailed into the sea).

Although such a practice could have been possible, it was highly unlikely that it was
widely used; and it seems to be more of a dramatic theatrical modern supposition upon
Viking culture equalling that of placing horns on their helmets. It works for Hollywood,
but not for historical fact.

Other barbarians, especially the ones espousing Christianity, employed burial without
cremation for the honorable disposition of the lich (corpse). Even those who were non-
Christian often used this type of burial for the remains of those who were non-noble or
had not died upon the field of battle or while performing a heroic feat.

The body would be adorned similarly to that of the hero; in their best and finest garments,
jewelry, and possessions, and placed within a howe; a burial chamber of a mound.

The lich would pass to the Otherworld and, according to barbarian belief, continue their
life and affairs within the burial mound, retaining their intelligence and even some of the
personality of their former existence.

It was believed that if one visited the howe of one's ancestors, one's fate could be
revealed by communing with them. This was not a form of necromancy; rather, it was
similar to divination or meditation.

It was also believed that if one sat upon a burial howe for an entire night without going
insane, one would be gifted with bardic talent; the ability to compose and perform sagas
and poetic songs.

The settled Germanic peoples, the Norse, Gauls, Franks, Celts, and Picts, all achieved
civilizations which, although never rivaling those achieved by Greece and Rome, could
never be thought to be uncultured or uncivilized. Barbarians were not anarchistic.


Generally speaking, Barbarian society was hierarchically, arranged as in most cultures of

that day.


The most noble of the Barbarians were the Drightens, or the class of Kings (depending
upon which title was given) A drighten was, basically, a warlord, similar to that of the
Japanese Shogun. The terms "drighten" and "king" were interchangable within barbarian
culture, depending upon local custom and the size of the ruling area.

Society was similar to that of a monarchy, with the exception that the right of kingship
was earned and proven, not inherited. If a king or drighten (warlord) became unfit to rule,
it was the duty of the thanes (similar to knights) of the king or drighten to sacrifice him so
that fertility would return to the land. This became known as the ritual "sacrifice of the
Sacred King" enacted by most druidic-based faiths.

The progeny of a ruler did not automatically inherit the throne (this was never the case
until Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne), first Holy Roman Emperor, established the
precedent). Rather, the ruler's sons (or daughters, if he had no sons) had to prove
themselves worthy of leadership before the thanes and people would allow them to
accede to the High Seat.

Noblewomen were known as "Frowes" (the German word "Frau" for lady derives from
this term), and could hold land and reign in the same stead as men, if no males of this
class were present, such as the Celtic queen Boadicea (Boudicca). Generally speaking, a
married Frowe was the social leader of a tribe or clan. Most historical evidence (Owen,
Wulfram) points toward females having much autonomy within the Germanic clan. There
is little or no evidence to indicate that the Germanic/Norse barbarians ever enslaved
women, and such claims are sadly ridiculous in their blindsighted sexism in our modern

Thanes - Warriors

These were similar to the medieval knights; however, they were not considered "noble" in
the same sense. They swore their fealty to their drighten or their king. A Thane could
accede to the rank of Drighten or King by evidence of their deeds. In the story of
Beowulf, the dying Beowulf yields his kingship to his young thane Wiglaf, because
Wiglaf was the only one of his thanes who came to his aid in slaying the dragon.
Thanes were not necessarily chivalrous, nor were they overly couth. They did have
certain standards of behavior, but were considered to be fairly rough and ferocious, being
of a warrior class.

The commoner class came next. These consisted of villagers, free servant to the drighten
and his thanes, and merchants (such as blacksmiths, storekeepers, innkeepers, etc.,
depending upon the level of sophistication and specialization of labor). These people
were free men and women under the protection of the drighten or king.


The lowest class was that of the thrall, or slave. Usually battle-captives, the thralls had
their heads shaved or cropped to denote that they were powerless, and iron rings placed
around their neck to indicate that they were in thrall (our modern word "enthrall" means,
literally, to be "enslaved" or obsessed by something).

They had few rights, although generally they were treated well by their masters (slaves
were valuable commodities in barbarian society). Thralls could also rise above thralldom
after several years of service, if the drighten decided to make them free servants (raising
them to the commoner class). They could also marry out of the class (mainly open to
female thralls).

Among the Norse and Germanic barbarians, lawmaking was a surprisingly democratic
process. Every year, a general convocation would be held for the various tribes called the
"Thing." This is where marriages were arranged or ratified, treaties were signed, disputes
were settled, and criminals were punished.

When a child was born, there was a waiting period of nine days before the naming
ceremony. This was in recognition that it would take the Soul nine days, one for each
world it passed through, to pass through the Nine Worlds of the Germanic/Norse
cosmology into Midgard (Earth) to claim its new form.

During those nine days, the newborn was considered to have no "Soul" and therefore to
be "not a person." It was over this time period that infants who were deemed to be
mentally and/or physically deficient were abandoned at a crossroads, given over to Odin
and Hel (Hulda, Holle).

From an early age, children were taught how to fend for themselves within their culture.
Fathers would take their sons with them to the fields or hunting; daughters would learn
from their mothers the arts of cooking, spinning, weaving, and sewing. In high war-based
societies, the young men would be taught the arts of smithing, weaponry, fighting, and
horsemanship. Barbarians also encouraged play among their children.

Barbarian men and women were skilled craftsmen and were able to fashion delightful
toys for their children, including wooden dolls, warriors, animals, and small, crude, but
effective games.
Offenses against children were treated with the same importance as offenses against
adults. For that reason, practices of child molestation and abuse were rare in this culture,
compared to more Mediterranean cultures such as Greece which practiced, and even
sanctioned, paederasty in schools and other aspects of their culture.

As children grew and matured, they began being trained for their careers. In more
civilized Northern European cultures, a son could be apprenticed to a craftsman for a
trade, or he could follow along in his father's profession of milling, baking, vinting,
brewing, carpentry, lapidary, farming, trapping, hunting, or other trades. War-based tribes
had the more heroic young men preparing to be warriors, or "thanes", under a Drighten
(warlord) or king.

Young women continued to be schooled in the domestic arts, although many of them
could seek outside craft-oriented trades such as tailoring, lapidary, or farming.

Contrary to popular opinion, most barbarians were not sword-swinging adventurers.

There were warriors, of course, mainly in large communities headed by a drighten
(warlord), but these served as guards for their tribe and in waging raids on other tribes.

The bulk of landed barbarians were agrarians (farmers) and hunters. Neither did these
barbarians appear as bulky, muscle-bound heros.

While many of them (especially the Nordic Europeans) were tall and broad-shouldered,
many of them were lean and even gaunt; their skin pulled taut over muscles and bone
from sheer hunger.

Day-to-day survival was often the lot of these people.

Wilderness and rural barbarians wore scant clothing, even in the winter, mainly because
of need.

Quite often, a barbarian would be barefoot all of his or her life, and may have only
enough resources to fashion a pair of breeches or a fur wrap around their waist.

Strangely enough, most of these people were remarkably long-lived; possibly from
becoming desensitized to their harsh environment.

In Germania, Tacitus notes that the Germans are a robust and hardy race, capable of
enduring even the harshest of climates: "to cold and hunger their climate and their soil
inure them," although he notes that they are susceptible to extremes of heat and to thirst.

The nomadic Goths were a remarkable peaceful people; moving from location to location
ever in search of a better home. Eventually, some of these settled in Byzentium and
became known as Ostrogoths. Having little or no recorded history or culture, they would
adapt the culture of the people in whose lands they settled.
Thus, it was not uncommon to find polygamy and same-sex relationships among the
Ostrogoths; these being accepted among the Greeks and Byzantines. The other Goths,
who came to be known as the Visigoths, were more warlike in their nature and retained a
sense of their original Scandinavian culture and heritage.

Crime and Punishment

Punishment among the barbarian peoples generally fit the "crime." For civil crimes (tort,
wrongful death, etc.), barbarians established a system called "weregild" among the
Teutons, and the "eric-fine" among the Celts. These were monies paid for wrongful or
negligent death to the kindred of the victims by the perpetrators. The victim(s) kin
decided the weregild or eric-fine, and this was approved by the council of the Thing.

(In less remote areas, it was decided by general consensus). This particular system of
settling civil cases was not flawless of course, but it did much to keep the cycle of
revenge and counter-vengeance from escalating out of control.

In Anglo-Saxon communities, crimes were dealt with swiftly and effectively. In the event
that a person was harmed or stolen from, that person could call to his neighbors to pursue
the wrongdoer. If the chase led from the village to another village, all those in pursuit
would call to the members of their neighborhing village to join the chase, and so on until
the culprit was captured. It was then up to the injured party to decide the penalty (which
was often hanging).

This method was known as the "Hue-and-Cry", a phrase which we use to this day. It was
by no means foolproof, as an unscrupulous person with a grudge against his or her
neighbor could create a false hue-and cry and result in an innocent person's death or
injury. This was balanced by the fact that if a hue-and-cry was found to be based upon a
falsehood, the perpetrator was treated as an oathbreaker and dealt with accordingly.

For worse crimes, such as oath-breaking (considered worse than wrongful death or theft
of property by the Norse and Germanics), rape, treason, and willful murder (extremely
rare in this culture), the criminal was no longer considered to be human.

He was made a "warg"; meaning both wolf and outlaw, and became an outdweller, living
apart from the rest of humanity since, by his action, he had set himself apart from normal
humans. In the Volsung saga, both Fafnir and Reginn become "wargs" after they murder
their father for the Rhinegold; Fafnir eventually tranforms himself into a dragon with the
use of the Tarnhelm (Helm of Awe), while Reginn dwells among the Svartalfs (dwarves)
and becomes one of them.

Reginn does eventually return to interact with humanity but, being a Svartalf, can never
fully regain his humanness.
Both Sigimund and his son Sfinjolti live as "wargs" in the woods, shape-changing into
wolves and preying on passing merchants and thanes of their enemy, Sigigaiar, husband
of Sigimund's sister Sieglinde.

Among the Celts, especially the Tuatha de Danaan, the perpetrator of a foul or horrible
crime had to become that which they most feared.

In the legend of Lir's children, their stepmother, out of sheer jealousy, curses them by
turning them into swans. For her crime, the god Lugh forces her to reveal that which she
most fears, which is a "Spirit of the Air" (a Bain Sidhe, or "Banshee.") As soon as she
reveals this, she is immediately transformed into one, and goes shrieking off into the
night, never to be seen again.

Much of this is legend and allegory, but it does show the concept of the "warg" again, the
outdweller; one that, by their actions, has trespassed beyond the boundaries of humanity
and cannot return.

In actuality, greater crimes among the Celts were expiated by the laying of a "geas", or
the performance of a duty, that the criminal had to complete in order to clear his/her
name. Gradually, the term "geas" came to mean "curse."

In general, the lifestyle of the Northern European Barbarians was a simple one.

Their daily routine varied from season to season and tribe to tribe, but generally included
some form of work (the bulk of the day), eating, play, sex, and sleep.

There were three main types of barbarian cultures: landed, nomadic, and maritime.

The landed cultures tended to settle in what is now North Central Europe (Great Britain,
France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Austria, and Poland), and included
the Gauls, Celts, Picts, Franks, Burgundians, Swabians, Alemanni, Marcomanni,
Lombardi (Langobards), Cherusci, and Saxons (later Anglo-Saxons).

The nomadic cultures dwelt generally in the Eastern and Southern European areas,
including what is now Western Russia (Byelorus and Moldavia), the Balkan States,
Northern Greece and Italy, southern France, and the Iberian Peninsula, and included the
Goths (Ostrogoths and Visigoths), Allans, and Huns.

Maritime barbarians settled near coastal regions of Europe and Northern Africa,
consisting of the Frisians (Dutch), Juts (Danes), Norsemen (and eventually Normans),
Inglings (Swedes), Vandals (Spain and Northern Africa), and Anglo-Saxons (Northern
Germany and, eventually, England).

The life of most barbarians was a harsh and lonely one. Living predominantly in the cold
northern climates, barbarians had to work long and hard to eke out a meager existence.
Quite often, wilderness barbarians would live miles from any other human habitations.
Marriage and Family

As a race of people, the ancient Norse, Celts, and Germans espoused very strong family
values. Except for very rare circumstances, the standard male-female relationship was the

Depending on the sophistication of the tribal culture and the class level of the couple,
marriages were either arranged by the parents (generally for political alliances, as was the
custom during Iron-Age and Medieval Europe), or were decided by the bride and groom

Nomadic barbarians such as the Goths were more prone to marriage by "capture." (Celts
were prone to use this method as well.)

A young barbarian male would raid a village in which his beloved lived and carry her off
to be his bride. This method of "capture" was generally performed by the male, with aid
from his closest friends and kin.

There were times of the year, however, when a barbarian girl, with the aid of her friends
and family, could capture the male of her desire by "netting" him (generally when he was
asleep or bathing). It was acceptable for women to do this during the festivals of Imbolc
(Disting, around Jan 31- Feb 2), Walpurgis (April 30), and Winternights (Oct 31-Nov 2).
(In later eras even into modern times, it was acceptable for women to propose to men on
Leap Year or other special days as well).

In the more settled or "landed" barbarian cultures, such as those of the Alamanni, Gauls,
Cherusci, Lombards, Burgundians, Saxons, Frisians, Danes (Juts), and Norse, the more
common people would marry out of love, although quite often parents had a strong hand
in helping arrange the marriages, often with the aid of the local druid, godhi or gydhia
(priest/ess), or vikti (wizard).

To these people, courtship was not materially different from the way it is now. The couple
would be given the opportunity to meet and adjust to each other.

Often the young male, especially in a war- or hunting-based tribe such as the Saxons,
Cherusci, or Alomanni, would be expected to perform a feat of heroism before he would
be allowed to marry.

In part, the girl would be expected to perform some task proving her worth, such as
sewing her bridal dress or making a fur cloak for her beloved.

Quite often, the barbarian male would be expected to hunt and kill an animal, such as an
auroch (a now-extinct form of wild European ox or buffalo) with his bare hands.
Assuming that he successfully accomplished his task (and lived to prove it) and she
successfully completed hers, the marriage was honored and sanctified, often sealed with a
very simple ceremony such as "jumping a broom."

Among the barbarian nobility (the Drighten / King classes), marriages were almost
always arranged except in extreme circumstances (wartime, death of parents, etc.).

By the age of 13-14, the adolescent male/female was ready for his/her particular rite of
passage into adulthood, and matrimony.

Marriages were less for love and more for political connections, especially in the latter
part of the Iron Age (5th-8th centuries C.E.). This was an established practice in almost
all European civilizations during this era, including those of Greece, Rome, and

Often, marriages were arranged while the parties were still children, with the bride and
groom having little or no say in the matter. Quite often, the marriages would take place
with the couple at mid-to-late adolescence.

Assuming that he successfully accomplished his task (and lived to prove it) and she
successfully completed hers, the marriage was honored and sanctified, often sealed with a
very simple ceremony such as "jumping a broom."

Among the barbarian nobility (the Drighten / King classes), marriages were almost
always arranged except in extreme circumstances (wartime, death of parents, etc.).

Marriages were less for love and more for political connections, especially in the latter
part of the Iron Age (5th-8th centuries C.E.). This was an established practice in almost
all European civilizations during this era, including those of Greece, Rome, and
Byzantium. Often, marriages were arranged while the parties were still children, with the
bride and groom having little or no say in the matter. Quite often, the marriages would
take place with the couple at mid-to-late adolescence.

Monogamy as a marital structure was the norm among the western barbarian people.
Among the Eastern nomadic barbarians (Ostrogoths, in particular) polygamy gained
popularity over time, especially with the Goths being influenced by Byzantine
philosophies and standards. In a polygamous setup, one bride would be chosen as the
"head wife"; with several concubines under her supervision. Even among the Ostrogoths,
who were notorioius for being overly impressionable and easily influenced by the
presiding culture, polygamy never caught on as a norm, and it was virtually unheard of
west of the Carpathian mountains.

After the marriage was consummated, it was customary for the groom to settle a gift upon
his bride; generally money or jewels. This "reverse dowry" custom actually had a grim
implication; by opening his bride to the possibility of pregnancy and childbirth, the
groom presented the gift in compensation to her for the risk to her own life. (Not that the
gift would had helped if anything DID go wrong with childbirth, but it was a token to her
that he respected and honored her for her potential sacrifice.)

Marriage for the barbarians was generally for life. Only in extreme cases were wives or
husbands ever "put aside" (divorced). An example in literature is Sigimund in the Volsung
Saga, who divorces his wife Borghilda after she poisons his son Svenfjotli upon learning
that Svenfjotli brought about the death of one of her kinsman in a fair duel.

Rare was the barbarian who never married. Only those who worked with magic, called
vitki (wizards) and spae-crafters (seers or mystics) would live solitary lives in order to
better devote themselves to their magic.

Rarer yet was the practice of homosexuality in barbarian culture. Relations between
members of the same sex was not looked down upon for moral reasons such as the
Christians espoused, but for sheer practical ones: in a culture with very few resources, the
reproduction of the race was paramount. Again, it was generally the vitki and spae-
workers, if any, who engaged in such practices (mainly for magical workings), and they
were both venerated and feared for their activities (both sexual and magical).

Regardless of class or level of sophistication, barbarians loved and cherished their

offspring. Recognizing that children were synonymous with their future, barbarian
parents did their best to raise their children to be able to survive and thrive in the harsh
conditions of their society and environment. Discipline was strict, but not harsh, and
tempered with mercy. It was not until many centuries later, after the introduction of
Christianity and the power of the Medieval Church to these people, that they developed
the concept of children being "born in sin" and "inherently evil", in which discipline
became harsh and even cruel and abusive.

Although women could enter battle (and some, like Queen Boadicea, did lead troops),
this practice was very rare and not at all encouraged. Young women also began being
groomed for marriage, since matrimony was highly encouraged among the Northern


Early Barbarian homes were basically huts with the Chieftians' hut in the middle. Later
stones were used to build homes.

There were people called 'skalds' or 'bards' who could obtain free room and board for the
whole winter with a family in exchange for entertainment services, music, and
storytelling. Skalds who excelled at this art were in high demand. Skalds who were less
than talented were generally presented with a rotten cabbage and sent on their way, if
they survived.

Barbarians enjoyed swimming and outdoor games in summer.

In the winter they played games such as the use of Runes. They belived that the Gods
controlled the roll of the dice.

They enjoyed jewerly making, working with stones, leather, wood, and metal.

Women were involved with sewing, weaving, food preparation, brewing, spae-crafting
(working magic to protect the family and tribe), and their general tasks. They were as
fond of storytelling as were the men; however, many a barbarian woman was secretly
thankful when the long winter months were finally over and her lively warrior husband,
sons, and brothers were out from under her feet at last.


Most of the people were illiterate, therefore their folklore was passed down through oral

Some of the written works include the Kalevala, Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, the
Mabinogion, the poetic Eddas (stories of the elder Gods and heros), and many other sagas
were once transmitted through song and poetry until they were written down by literate
barbarians or medieval scribes.

Thanks full to

Ellie Crystal's