This blog is part of the Scáth na Feannóige/Shadow of the Hooded Crow project exploring fénnidecht as a practice to follow the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. This is a less formal place for me to discuss various issues of interest to someone on a modern version of the Outlaw warrior path such as physical training, history, Old Irish literature, pop culture inspirations, werewolves, ecstatic trance (okay, I find that one tough to write about but I may try), gender issues the wilderness....


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Women Warriors and Excitement over Non-Evidence

I actually posted the following on the Facebook page, which this will then be posted to via Networkblogs, so sorry for those who have been hit multiple times. ~:p  But it was long and I figured I'd repost here where it will also stick better. I've also done a bit of editing on it. I'm also avoiding working on a post on contemporary issues, I'm having a lot of trouble with the post and am not sure it will ever see the light of day. So...


Kristanna Loken as Brunhilde in
Dark Kingdom:The Dragon King/
Ring of the Nibelungs/Die Nibelungen/
Curse of the Ring/Sword of Xanten 

because she was so much better than the movie.
In fact, she was totally awesome, as she always is.
Also because everyone is using Katheryn Winnick
  as Lagertha from Vikings who I do think is pretty awesome
 too but I've never met and, of course, the more photos
and mentions of celebs I have here the more hits I get. 
You may have noticed I didn't get into the excitement over the whole "half of Viking warriors were women" headline that has been running around Facebook so cheerily. When the study was announced awhile back in a somewhat more realistic, although only slightly, spin, I did read the actual study...which is why I largely ignored the posts...because I didn't want to go through doing this here, Tracy V. Wilson does a better job than I could have, anyway, so now that she has I will elaborate a little on my issues with such hyperbole.

It doesn't help in our quest to find evidence for female warriors to take findings out of context. Putting them in context is so very, very hard to begin with. This study did demonstrate well how our expectations regarding migration are often wrong, as well as show that we cannot determine sex or gender based on grave goods.

Sexing graves using bones doesn't always us the full story either, however. There may be a number of reasons, either cultural or personal, why a sword might be in a woman's grave other than her having been a warrior. No matter how much we might wish that was the reason. Even evidence that someone died by violence or had been wounded and healed from an earlier battle does not mean they were a warrior, civilians are killed in war every day and sometimes those who are not trained choose to fight when it comes down to the enemy being in your home. To know if someone was a warrior also requires a careful study of the bones which would determine long term physical changes which might come from training. Depending on the condition of the remains, this is not particularly easy to determine. If the person died young, as many warriors did and do, it might not have  been evident yet.

Of course, there is also the matter of gender as opposed to biological sex. Transgender is not new, what is new is that we now have hormones which can make some changes to the body which if started young enough might actually give future anthropologists some clue. So an apparently female body does not actually mean someone who lived as a woman....nor does an apparently male body mean someone who lived as a man. While cultural clues may give us some indication if it's likely, much of our cultural information comes from biased sources so it's, again, impossible to fully determine. It's also difficult to determine from bones if someone was intersexed which might also cloud what gender that person identified as or was identified as in their society.

Truly, I wish the evidence could be so clear. My heart did give a little flutter at the headline even at the same time my brain said "nah, you know what this is about." I know women fought, that we have always fought. The evidence is there. But it's open to speculation. We cannot prove it. All we can really prove is what we can do now and in the future which, itself, is evidence that we've always done this.

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