Viking Weregild: Viking Monetary Tool to Solve Killings

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Viking Weregild: Viking Monetary Tool to Solve Killings

In the Viking Age, one common way to settle disputes was to pay a sum of money as compensation for the family of the victim. This amount of money was known as the weregild. 

"Weregild" consisted of two words "were" meaning "man" and "gild" meaning "fee" or "payment". Generally, "weregild" meant "man-debt". It was a sum of money that the criminal must pay for the victim's family. 

In the Viking Age, weregild was the most common and, maybe for the murderer, weregild was what they wanted. Because other ways to settle disputes was to holmgang the criminal. And the result of the holmgang - Viking duel - was often one party got killed. Not everything could be settled in a civilized way as we do now. Blood could be paid by blood. 

Viking holmgang was the duel of the Vikings either to challenge or to settle dispute

Viking Holmgang was the Viking duel either to challenge or to settle the dispute

The price that the Vikings set upon a life much depended on their social rank. The average weregild for normal Viking man was about 200 silver. But the Viking thrall would claim no weregild if he got killed.

The amount of the debt in the thrall's case was not considered to be weregild "man-debt". Because, to the Vikings, their thralls were not viewed as a man.  Rather, they were the commodities or cattle. So killing a slave often meant a loss of property to the owner of the killed slave. 

Viking fighting scene

During the Viking Age, there was no specific distinction between manslaughter and murder. Everything boiled down to "killed". Nothing else mattered. And when the Vikings held the Althing to judge, everything would be settled.

If the criminal was sentenced "outlawry", it meant he was done with the society. But if the chieftain and the victim's family agreed with a sum of money, then the criminal had to prepare the weregild to get rid of his crime. 

In Norse mythology, even Odin and Aesir gods had to make the weregild to make up for their wrongdoing. That was they killed the son of the Dwarven King. So a weregild was demanded to solve the conflict. 

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