Man or woman, child or adult, slave or free, noble or serf, the most important thing a person can have is honour. To be honourable is to live in a manner appropriate to one’s station in life, to be respectful of the gods, of one’s elders, of one’s superior and of one’s family, in that order, and to respond to any and all affront in an appropriate manner.
The greatest affront a man’s honour can take is to be compared to a woman. Effeminacy and dishonour are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing, and no man will allow anyone to call him a woman or to even imply such without the accuser facing a retort, even if the accuser is the man’s superior. It is better to die than to allow such dishonour. This is not to say that such insults are common – they are very offensive and often end in a bloody duel.
Men, particularly warriors, can also be insulted by being referred to as cowards, as unwise or imprudent, or for being weak, or for knowing too much about the work of women.
A woman is dishonoured in more subtle ways. A woman can dishonour another woman by saying that she is not fertile or that her children are shameful, but such insults are only effective if the woman actually cannot produce children or her children are actually shameful and so there is no meaningful defence against them, and insulting someone already ashamed bring shame on the accuser.
The most common insults to a woman’s honour are to insult her suitability as a wife – that she runs a poor home, or that her home poorly. A woman is expected to be prudent, careful and very wise in the matters of the home unless she is a skald or shield-maiden, and even then she should know how to run her house. For skald and shield-maidens it is far more common for them to be insulted in the same manner as a man – insulted for cowardice or imprudence.
Shield-maidens are a relatively new phenomenon in Asengervald, so insults aimed towards shield-maidens tend to be rather lackluster.
Sample Insults towards a male warrior: “You mare/woman/sow.” “You spend more time at your mother’s hearth than at swordfighting.”
Sample Insults towards a female warrior: “You have no honour.” “You fight like a milkmaid.”
Other insults can be found in online articles and in literature on Viking history and culture.
In addition to being dishonoured by the words of others, it is quite possible to bring honour on oneself. Dishonour can come from something as simple as forgetting to help an elder with a difficult task or something as blatant and atrocious as breaking a blood-oath or committing cold-blooded murder of a peer or superior.
Honour and Sex
Because Asengiir households are such open places, and because animal husbandry is such a part of common life, sex is less taboo in some other human cultures. From a very young age, children know about sex and it’s role in culture.
A husband and wife are expected to stay faithful to one another, but there can be some flexible so long as both partners agree. A husband whose wife is unfaithful is expected to deal with the matter himself – he can certainly bring the matter before the elders, but the laughter and scorn he will have to deal with make it an unpleasant enough experience that most men will either suffer in silence or sort out the matter themselves. Spousal abuse is frowned upon as well, but unfortunately no less common.
In some of the more northerly villages, a particularly powerful man might take multiple wives but this is definitely an exceptional circumstance.
Sex among people of the same gender is not unknown, but is a subject best left unspoken of in Asengiir life. Most shield-maidens and bachelors are assumed to be homosexual, and no one belittles them for it unless their affairs are made public. Lesbianism is probably far more common than the men of Asengiir would feel comfortable admitting and there is almost no stigma attached to even a wife having an affair with another woman so long as it’s properly quite.
Male homosexuality is another matter. If saying a man is a woman is enough to get you into a fight, saying that a man has sex with other men, particularly as the “bottom,” is enough to start a permanent blood feud. It is for this reason that Kehl’s intense hatred of the other gods is not regarded as unusual. They did, after all, shame him into just that role.