Naming is an important rite of incorporation in many cultures, and certainly was so among the Norse. Not all children were raised: children with defects or which the family could not afford to rear were exposed. The fate of a new-born generally was the responsibility of the father, or the male head of household if the father was not available. If it was decided to rear the child, then the baby was washed, dressed, and formally named. The ceremony of naming was certainly a rite of incorporation, for once the child had been named exposing it thereafter counted in the laws as murder. The giving of the name conferred upon the child the status of a member of the family and any rights of inheritance. In antiquity, it is assumed that placing the child at the breast to suckle would have been the act which signified the child was to be reared, not the naming. However, by the Viking Age, the ceremony of naming took the place of this older ceremony.
Naming was done by a practice called ausa vatni, "to pour water over". The ceremony began with the lifting of the child from the floor (where, presumably, it had been laid for the father's inspection and evaluation of its fitness to be raised) and placed in the father's arms (borit ar foður sinum). This rite was not the same as Christian baptism, which is usually termed skirn or "purification" in Old Norse after the advent of Christianity in the North. Once in the father's arms, a sign recalling the Hammer of the god Þórr was made over the child, probably invoking the protection of the god who was considered Mankind's Warder as well as hallowing the child and the ceremony. Another vital element in the name-giving ceremony was the giving of a gift to the child: children received a name-gift from friends and relatives of the family, and also another gift called a "tooth-gift" when the baby cut its first tooth.