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.
PART – 2
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.
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 people.
By the age of 13-14, the adolescent male/female was ready for his/her particular rite of passage into adulthood, and matrimony.
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.