Norse marriage


Norse marriage is eternal. Exactly as a blood brotherhood (fróstbrœðralagr in Old Norse), when two souls blend, they can’t never be split again. So it musn’t be done with nonchalance. Norseman had divorce and separation practices, but they were only for the brúðlausi, namely, the marriage without complete rite. Norse marriage, as the Celtic one, isn’t celebrated in closed temples, but in the woods, in the rune circle. A goði or a gyðja (priest and priestess) aren’t mandatory, but is so the consecrated mead, the consecrated athame, a Mjǫllnir and two consecrated drinking horns. Norse marriage can be stipulated even between people of the same gender.
Sources, as usual, are at the bottom. 


The first step, in ancient times, was “buying” the bride (or the groom, rarely). The applicant went to the family of the desiderd, in a journey called bonorðsfǫr, to formally ask to marry who he wants. Usually, in this journey, the applicant was together his father, his/ best friend and a variable number of witnesses (optional). When the desidered’s family gave assent, preparations began, which was funded by both the families. Of course nowadays it doesn’t happen anymore, and the two future spouses choose by their will who they want to marry.

The engagement (kaupa) is officially sanctioned with the wedding vows, called “festar”, and then the two future spouses are called festarmaðr (boyfriend) and festarkona (girlfriend). For the wedding vows is reccomended the 6 witnesses. Engagement can be broken, but it is not easy: the consent of all the 6 witnesses is mandatory, and because this they shall be trusted people. Who brokes the engagement is called “fudlogi” thath means “fugitive”. Engagement’s duration time is decided at the festar, and at the end of it there is the real marriage. 


The bride’s gown is made by a white linen tunic, precious stones, and a veil for the head. It is called brúðar-lin or hvit-fǫldud. This dress is narrowly described in the Þrymskviða. 

Þá kvað þat Þórr þrúðigr Áss: | Said Þórr the mighty god: 
« Mik munnu Æsir argan kalla | « The Æsir will call me womanish 
ef ek bindask læt brúðar-líni. » | if I will dress this brúðar-lin. » 
Bundu þeir Þórr þá brúðar-líni | They dressed Þórr wih a bride glown in white linen 
ok enu mikla meni Brísinga; | and the lovely necklace Brísingr, 
létu umb hónum hrynja luka | they bound golden chains at his belt 
ok kvenn-váðir um kné falla, and the womenish underwear down his knees, 
enn á briósti breiða steina, | and precious gems on his breast, 
ok hagliga um hæfuð typðu. | and they put a gracious veil on his head. 

For the cerimony are needed sacred mead and a sacred athame. The ritual must be hold in a runecircle, which can be created carving some trees and consecrating the ground. It is need also a sacred Mjǫllnir. As the last thing is decided the honeymoon’s duration time. 


The actual cerimony starts when the kaupa (engagement) ends. Witnesses go around the border of the runecircle. The celebrator make the participants kneel down at the center of the runecircle. Then the two spouses swear eternal fidelity invoking the goddess Vár, goddess of the oaths. At this poin the celebrator carves two cuts onto the flesh of the participants, invoking Freyja to unite the loving union. The two participants unite their cuts, doing so a union of blood. After this, the celebrator consecrates the union with a Mjǫllnir, and so the two participants are linked for eternity. The groom gives to the bride a bunch of keys, which symbolises her dominion on their house; while the bride gives to the groom a weapon, which symbolises his duty to protect her. At the consecration’s end the mead is pour into two drinking-horns and the newlyweds drink together, crossing their arms. 


As after every ritual, even after the brúðhlaup a veizla (feast) is mandatory. During this special feast, called “hjónaveizla” (spouses’ feast), the newlyweds dance and receive the blessing of the invited at the cerimony. Traditionally more mead is donated to them, and it will be used in the honeymoon. At the veizla’s end, the spouses depart for the honeymoon, which is named after the mead, and last as the time that was decided during the preparations. 


Njáls saga: verses 2, 26, 27 and 34. 
Hǫrds saga: verse 3. 
Færeyinga saga: verse 26. 
Ólafr Haraldsson saga: verse 94. 
Gunnlaugr Ormstunga saga: chapter II. 
Laxdœla saga: verse 43. 
Ljósvetninga saga: verse 13. 
Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks: verse 14. 
Grágás: chapter I, verses 75 and 316. 
Kristinrétt Þórláks og Ketils: page 94 (there is only a version so it is always at page 94). 
Bjǫrn Hitdælakapp saga: it has not versers nor chapters; brúðhlaup is mentioned in the middle of the saga, when Bjǫrn wants to marry Óddný Þórkelsdóttir.

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