Despite the modern moralistic condemnation of gossip, gossiping is a very important part of human nature, and this was true in the Viking Age as well as today. It gives us a very good idea of how the culture approached certain private matters, just as gossip today does. For example, in the ancient cave at Mæshowe, Norse runes were carved saying:
“Ingebjork the fair widow—many a woman has walked stooping in here a very showy person”
“Thorni fucked. Helgi carved” [This was censored on the original site, which notes that “the official guidebooks usually tone this inscription down.” Is this evidence for exhibitionistic sex?]
“Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women”
In other words, people behaved the way that people do nowadays, and they were not afraid to comment on it.
Other examples may be taken from the rune sticks that appear in England and Scandinavia. University of Oregon medieval scholar Martha Bayless shared rune sticks from centuries past that were found in Bergen, Norway. They were thought to be rare and restricted to important matters but there were 660 such sticks found in a small area of Bergen, Norway and they carry brief and personal everyday messages (exactly like tweets) that show that sharing “too much information” is nothing new!
“They are both living together, Clumsy-Kari and Vilhjalm’s wife.”
“Ingebjorg loved me when I was in Stavanger.”
“Arni the priest wants Inga.”
“I love another man’s wife so much that fire seems cold to me. And I am that woman’s lover.”
So if you have a good story about Olaf getting drunk and pissing in the kitchen sink, you’re not being inaccurate by spreading it!
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