What is Holmgang?
It was a duel that the Norse people did if they could not settle a legal dispute.
The Norse had their own legal system. Sometimes disputes wouln’t be settled through their legal system and this is where Holmgang would help.
Holmgang is when justice becomes injustice and would only be solved by spilling blood of another.
The word “holmgang” means “Island Walk” which refers to a cloak or a hide.
The holmgang or
hide was about three metres long, it was stabilized by stakes in the ground within that boundary.
The competitors had to duel within the bounderaries of the holmgang. No matter what walk of life a person comes from, they could be challenged with a duel in order to settle an injustice. Three to seven days after the challenge, the duel took place.
If one of the challengers didn’t show up for the duel they automatically lost due to no show!
On the other hand if the challenger that demanded the duel didn’t show, he would be considered a coward or old Norse word ‘bleyda.’
If one of the challengers was too old or not a fighter they could bring a champion from their own clan to fight in their place.
Once a competitor was killed it wasn’t considered a crime and a weregild ( a raparational payment due to wrongful death) wasn’t needed to be paid by the standing champion.
Art by Johannes Flintoe public domain. Egill Skallagrímsson starting holmgang with Berg Önundr.
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