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
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
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.
GODS AND GODDESSES
The belief system of the many of the barbarian peoples were elaborate. In
ancient times, they were polytheistic, worshipping a common pantheon of Gods and
Goddesses within their respective cultures.
The Germans and Norse worshipped what we now know as the Norse/Germanic
pantheon of Deities.
Odin (or, depending upon the dialect Woden or Wotan) was the Father of all
ODIN (Woden to the Anglo-Saxons) is a god of the mysterious realms of wisdom,
cunning, sorcery, and death. Subtle, aristocratic, and at times inexplicable,
Odin is the literal father of important gods, such as Thor, and All-Father to
the whole of creation, divine and human. Amongst his gifts to us, his children,
was the greatest of all: the gift of writing.
To accomplish this Odin hung himself upside down upon the World Tree, the
gigantic ash Yggdrasil ( a compound meaning "terrible horse"). After nine
days of fasting and agony, in which "he made of himself a sacrifice to
himself", he "fell screaming" from the tree, having had revealed to him in
a flash of insight the secret of the runes. Their initial manifestation
took the form of eighteen powerful charms for protection, increase, success in
battle and love-making, healing, and mastery over natural causes.
Thor (Thunar, Donnar), also known as the Thunderer, was considered to be a
son of Odin by some, but among many tribes actually supplanted Odin as the
Frigga (Frigg, Fricka), Odin's wife, was considered to be the Mother of all;
and protectoress of children. The goddess of the dead and the afterlife was Hel,
(Holle, Hulda), and was portrayed by the Vikings as being half-dead, half alive
herself. The Vikings viewed her with considerable trepidation. The Frisian,
Gallic, and German barbarians viewed her with some beneficence, more of a
gentler form of death and transformation. The Christian term "Hell" derives from
Frey (Ing) and Freya (the Frowe) were not of Odin's line (a.k.a. the Aesir),
but of another line known as the Vanir. After a War between the Aesir and Vanir,
which finally ended peaceably, Frey and Freya went to Asgard (the home of the
Aesir) to live. Freya is considered to be the goddess of Love and Beauty, such
as the greek Aphrodite, but is also a warrior goddess and one of great wisdom,
such as the greek Pallas Athene.