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.
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 norm in this culture.
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 themselves.
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
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
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
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 [14-17] ).
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
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.