Goddess of Water – A freestyle interpretation of the Finnish Creation Tale
Goddess of Water – A freestyle interpretation of the Finnish Creation Tale
Visiting Viking Attractions: An Idea Swap, ‘First Draft’.
(Book mark it or save the URL now for you will want to come back and back.)
So, here I am back in Blighty. Bit of a rest-stop before it all starts again.
This isn’t a travelogue,
I have a feel for something a little more intellectual; an idea swap. There are ‘transferable models’ out there and we are the experiencees.
I have called this the ‘first draft’ because I just know you all have ideas to share.
When I say all, I mean Viking related peeps; if you are coming from other directions or none Viking ‘attractions’ OK well we would like to chat with you too you poor little things.
Think of this as a Birth-Product for we know there are ticket buyers out there and we want them in – and besides, gosh, we are engulphed by our own enthusiasm.
You hobbyists you.
Er, sorry, Vikings. x
While I was at Njardarheimr my good friend Christof took me to the
It was a wonderful experience.
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus wrote of the concept of farms as a commune, Karl the guide in Njardarheimr says so, and so does my friend Susan who lives on er, well a farm.
An expanded community almost in the same way as villages in Britain etc.
The farmhouse gets longer as we add people on. The square of the building becomes, er, squarer. The farm.
A Viking-age cultural development still relevant today.
Voss Folkemuseum came from such a community development.
We had a lovely time there. It wasn’t ‘populated’ like Gudvangen is, but on the other hand it felt good to be free to roam. We shared the experience and did so in our own time and in our own space.
Not all of the things we spotted and liked on the farm would have been used in the Viking age, yet share them I shall. You may know otherwise, or ideas may come from them.
One such thing which I loved was the work-stool; a stool yes, but with an extra bit to slot tools in, be it crafting or carving.
Another item of furniture I loved to see, but they were probably 18th or even 19th century, were the giant cradles or cribs which were for adults; sort of like box beds and wonderfully decorated.
They were free standing but reminded me of the fitted double-bed bunk (with the cute foot-hole ladders) you find in your typical ‘Viking Hus’.
Skipping over to the Njardarheimr town for a tick, I am reminded of the words of a visitor, (from Hungary). He was very moved by the sight of the bedroom in the chieftain’s hall as he recalled that he had slept in one just like it as a child. Except that he said it was higher because the potatoes were stored under it.
Back to the farm:
Containers:- In Viking areas we tend to have buckets and bowls aplenty but I was struck by the widespread selections of larger containers. Huge amounts of water would be required on a daily basis. There’s a lot of sauerkraut. Liquids would need storage. Drinks would be fermented.
Ale or wine, mead, all would need barrels, big bowls, large kettles, massive buckets, (massive).
In medieval times they fermented lighter ales as a way of purifying water.
All that water would need transportation too.
We enjoyed going upstairs, exploring different levels, down into the dark. Such activities may be less practical in Viking age constructions although, surely, they had barns and other farm buildings.
I will talk further on this in the Viking section as this idea of exploration can be developed for children’s activities.
The big one for us was saddles, they had almost too many! I believe they were circa 1750 and onwards but they reminded us of Norwegian saddles of an older period. Viking-age saddles and tack would be a great addition for Njardarheimr.
Another feature I noticed was the rounded edge planks which retain some of the shape of the tree trunk; walls made of such were very atmospheric.
They had chickens. We got chickens. Although I note ours are more free range. That I guess is to do with the fact our place is populated (and cockerels wake people up). More on the widespread songs of the cockerels when you get to the Njardarheimr section below.
We loved the photos; grainy old atmospheric images full of folks of such character. These often are sent in, copies offered, bequeathed. They are of the age of course, plus they didn’t have cameras in the Viking period that I know of. Vikingesque areas could have displays. All the attractions we are looking at have distinctive areas which are more modern; cafes, galleries, ‘meerkats’, lots of methods.
There could be scrolling big screens in cafes and dining areas.
People like to send in photos and footage.
They like to do art too. People, artists, kids. Send us that stuff.
Why not even an international arts display.
More scope on this below.
This is an area which not only would benefit from a touch of research to see what there is out there; it also could be a good cooperative venture with ‘sister’ places.
Talking of display areas; the farm had a separate children’s area, well, it was one of the actual buildings and it was set aside for activities (not actually moved aside of course).
One thing that struck me as being a great idea in there were the benches and tables. They were lower. How empowering. You go in, there are things on the tables, the kids sit down. No having to be lifted up or being supervised climbing on. They sit straight down. They weren’t so terribly low that it was too uncomfortable for the adults but were low enough for most children.
On the tables were a couple of sets of cut outs. One set was historic figures to dress up. I was reminded of the dollies I used to cut out for my sister from her Bunty comic. And the others were buildings to cut out, colour and glue.
Great for those underused Vikingesque areas.
The Jorvik Centre in York has a great selection of activity sheets; colouring in, quizzes, games, which also might be useful as a transferable model.
Some of the photos of the farm depict children in period costumes. So there must be dressing up opportunities and presumably re-enactment days too.
The management for the farm museum expressed interest in working more closely with Njardarheimr.
This could only be a good thing. Co-promoting comes to mind, perhaps forming sister sites. Certainly visits and sharing ideas and issues would be useful and could also be used as reason for media coverage.
Norsk Høstfest, in North Dakota was an amazing experience. It is a gigantic festival with 1100-plus stalls / display areas and many stages. The whole thing has a Scandinavian theme, and I am going to concentrate on the one area – The Viking Encampment of course.
There are three areas within one; to the right as you enter from along the covered walkway there is the stage, café and activities, to the left of this is the village, (again all indoors), this area has around a hundred stalls and tents all providing activities, sales or displays, there is an outside area too.
(Tim has kindly corrected me here, as my perception doesn’t reflect the accuracy of the way it is all organised – “The building we use is two different areas, the Viking Village and the other is the Tromsø Cultural Village, where the stage is, but we share the performers and presenters on that stage,” thanks Tim.)
I understand there were fight re-enactments outside but I didn’t see any of that myself, I did see tug of war.
There were two forges demonstrating bead making which was captivating to watch,
and a food area. I was fascinated by the different foods being made although I didn’t get to try any. The blacksmith display area showing different stages of the process of working with metal was intriguing and the blacksmith kindly let me share images with you all.
(Tim has kindly reminded me that the blacksmith with the ore display is Daniel Kretchmar (Danr) and the other Minnesotan blacksmith is Doug Swenson.)
People visiting were certainly interested, the crafters indoors were all kept busy demonstrating and interacting.
The friendly Norwegian Forest Cat was very popular.
I had a small area in this section for storytelling to small groups when I was not on the big stage and True Thomas had an area in the children’s activity space, (“He paints images directly into the mind.”).
The stage itself had a big screen and had a constant flow of acts and films. I was delighted to see the film on the Stamford Bridge tapestry which I had recommended. There were moving presentations on the Sami culture and concerts by Sami singer Stina.
There were samples of foods to try, I would have liked to have seen a more café-bar style with a menu widely available so visitors could drink, dine and watch shows.
I loved the alternative pallet seating.
Felt making was very popular, as were all the activities in the children’s space, (might it be better to say ‘family space’? I enjoyed being a kid again).
Troll Island was a highlight for me, and a very transferable concept. I love models and this was a model of an island, intended as a display base, but I enjoyed it in its own right. Perhaps if Gudvangen were to take up such an idea we could have a model of a fjord settlement.
I found all the trolls delightful and so did everyone. If this was to be utilised in our settlement in Norway there would need to be some adaption. IE eyes made of natural materials or beads. Imagine what could be done with beads. Another way to adapt this would be to have kids create buildings, fences, structures; clay, sticks, natural materials. Possibly populate this village with little clay people and animals.
Folklore and troll would be great to talk about at such an attraction and would influence the model making.
Imagine the films and photo shoots that could come of this.
That’s my kingpin idea that is.
It is worth noting that the Vikings got very well looked after, drinks constantly available and hot food turning up a couple of times a day; this was none Viking and in an area not open to the public. It was quite nice to sit and mix away from the hubbub; lots of networking going on.
I got biscuits and gravy with creamed potatoes and beans. There at times was such as pizzas, fried chicken, hotdogs, lots of salads.
They had set aside time to be available, to check on how we were all doing. Yes we were very well looked after, lifts to and from, including to go shopping.
The main reason they were free to support participants was because all the work was done. What I am saying here is that they were very well organised and had been working ahead for a long time. I got a distinct impression they were very good at learning from the past, “Ah yes that situation….”
This all gave time to laugh.
UW-Green Bay Viking House
I was excited to get to see the grindbyggning, (built and then later donated by Elspeth and Owen Christianson) and there it was in the grounds of a very large beautifully rambling university.
It is a phenomenon. It is a marvellous piece of work. It is more than this. It is a concept. It is a hope. It is a symbol. It is a way of being.
It is real atmospheric inside.
I am quite staggered by it. Yes it is wonderful, but it means so, so, much more than itself to everyone involved.
When I say involved, gosh, I don’t just mean the local Uni community, I don’t just mean the local community who want to make mead, I don’t just mean the myriad of groups and funders, I don’t just mean us crafters, I don’t mean historians, I don’t just mean the head of history, I don’t just mean the original gifters, nor the whole host of internet observers, I mean…
Oh, I don’t know what I mean, because the future hasn’t happened yet. I do know you will all be in it, and I do know there is a future, I know in the depth of my heart that it will be even more wonderful than it is now, even more magical, even more participatory, even more… (OK you get the idea). I do know I want to be there.
Want me to tell you an individual story of involvement to get you all wound up? There’s loads of those.
Mariah the Jarldriss in Waiting. She does so much. She does so much with her car. She does so much with her cauldron.
Do you know, I think I might want to suggest that everyone steps back at this point because she is bubbling.
Who knows what is coming next. I am not even sure that Mariah knows. It is all going to happen, and you are all going to be drawn in.
Historic joinery is not what it is about. Mariah is. No calm down Adrian, people are. All the people. The enthusiasm. The village in the mind.
It is happening.
Skaldic skills are growing fast too. As well as doing shows in the house, er, hus, we had a ‘Share’. A story circle. Adrian’s Alþingi.
We created our death poem for Bragi to recite when we head to Valhalla (or the Viking-age afterlife of your choice).
Then everyone told tales, all sorts of topics were covered and different periods in history. It was fascinating.
One of our friends, who came to everything we did and is now a regular participant, made notes throughout each telling. She had gone away armed with ideas. I am sure what is coming out of her at ongoing gatherings is totally different from the source (me) as all our minds work in inimitable ways, and she is a wonderful, unique individual. I was thrilled to hear Professor Sherman describe her recently as Erica the Viking House Skald.
There are people who should be thanked for this amazing experience, (See I still can’t quite bring myself to say it is a building, because it has grown beyond). Elspeth and Owen Christianson, two people who have a farm and they had a building and it came here, simple yes – wonderful too. There was a lot more to it than that. Their marvellous creative genius and generosity propelled a sense of Vikingness into thousands to come.
There is a wonderful guy to thank, he generously funded the process, making the establishment here possible.
There is a university to consider.
There is Professor H Sherman. She is what did it, made it what it is; it happened.
These are no sticks in mud. There is Heidi.
If you happen to walk by Green Bay in your travels of the world make sure you go by Heidi. Go explore the very concept of Viking heritage. There is a concept of Vikingness and it is called Heidi Sherman. No sorry I got a bit carried away and ended up that I have got it a little muddled.
There is a historic building. There is a complex of structures (three to date), there is a community. There is an invitation. (It is Heidi who makes it all happen.)
Wander by and discover.
Go meet the Jarldriss (Apparently students named her – Jarldriss Flaxblood Soul-breaker, but at least we can be thankful we are not students)
When I talk later about the way ‘Chieftainness’ has developed in Gudvangen; the way respect has played such a great part. When I talk of such, I will be talking of here.
Georg once received a letter through the post addressed to The Viking, Norway, he got it.
When I talk of such I am also talking of here – UW Green Bay.
For there is the same concept of love, respect and power developing for a pure and good soul here as there was twenty three years ago when my chieftain stepped onto the ground which got to became the Viking Valley of Norway.
A community of love and giving developed around my Chieftain. He became such a chieftain because of them.
And so will Heidi.
There is a Viking community growing, building by building, concept by concept, artefact by artefact, in the grasp of her delicate fingers.
I can see it.
Go now while it grows.
Go again once it has grown.
When we shape from wood we become.
Go see the amazing building and area now for there is far more to come.
For we are Vikings.
And that is not just wattle.
There were amazing responses to my activities and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, plus the company was smashing, I think perhaps the most valuable aspect was utilisation. My skills were studied, my background researched, my energy levels considered and then I was utilised. Often places have an idea of what they want and they get you in to do it. They will probably have seen my work and think, ‘We want that’.
Here though more diverse aspects of my persona were delicately cherry-picked. I ended up doing all sorts of things.
It was a brilliant experience to do the National Railroad Museum; and it was a sell-out – over capacity. I actually performed stories of my late father’s on what would have been his birthday. I was thrilled that my niece and her husband were able to come over from Rockford to be there as an enjoyable sort of remembrance.
Out there in the world of blogs and internetting Heidi saw that I was the son of a steam engine driver (who had written his memoires), and that I was also the son of York’s first ghost walker (my mum). So she teamed these aspects up to have me create a show. It was so fulfilling.
I mention blogs; they can perform an extra service. I wrote a twelve-blog series on how to be a storyteller (link below). This was there beforehand for anyone to see, it was there for preplanning and it is there as a development area for the future.
Footage of my performances is to be shared. The ones from the jobs for Heidi have had great responses and the films of my show on trains and ghosts is to become part of a web feature on the high-profile Railroad Museum site. There is also talk that this will lead to requests for shows at other railroad museums and attraction across America.
Think of the publicity such coverage brings in for the relevant attractions. Anything of this nature is worth considering for your attraction, word spreads and any diverse opportunities are, well, new opportunities which give the media the newness and fresh angles they thirst for.
We need to ask – What skills and experiences do our workforce or potential workforce have to offer?
I am reminded of the theatre group I work for – We Are Theatre, they too can see beyond what you are, bringing you opportunities to reach a greater potential. Something challenging and new to you that as you start doing it you realise it is a just right thing for you.
This is one of those transferable models I keep banging on about.
There were of course the classes. There were classes mixed together. There were suggestions of themes. There were adaptions. There were interactive activities. Half a group listened to a story and then the other half came back in and listened to me; they then had to tell each other the tales they had heard.
While each group was out they had to jot down aspects of the Volsung Saga which went in a hat and then I improvised a story around a character.
We had discussions and skills and techniques which could be utilised after I had gone.
We will adapt further in the future.
I also did a show in the library theatre, thus bringing in different parties and individuals. This allowed me to cover different themes.
Something we would like to expand for future visits is interaction with Native American parties. The comparative work between different cultures and different perceptions was enriching and enlightening. There is loads of space for a similar interaction between Vikings and Sami people.
Another thing which will come from this is a coach trip to Finlandia (I didn’t know that was a place, I thought it was a vodka you see in duty free.) The very first Finnish Viking festival in the US. I am thrilled to be joining a coach to go and perform there.
A lot of the people who visit Gudvangen are exploring roots, and connections, or links to past life experiences, and many other inspirations. Here so too. In Green Bay though there seems to be more of a feel of organised groups, societies. For example, the fascinating group the Sons of Norway, (more women than men I noticed).
Other attractions could foster this sort of visit. Events put on especially for certain societies. Research needed.
I am very grateful to good friend Rob Wildwood of jelldragon.com for introducing me to Tim of Norsk Høstfest in North Dakota and Heidi of UW-Green Bay Viking House it has all lead to so much, especially great relationships.
Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway
This is our Chieftain’s dream, alright so it has been massively supported from the outset years and years ago, and it is a marvellous cooperation of local businesses and investors. This place isn’t funded by Government, Unesco, the council, charities. This is the Chieftain’s dream made real by the spirit of those who bought into the idea with their hearts.
What is it. There has been a market (or festival if you like) for at least fifteen years, there have been events, there have been visitors. Now. It is a Viking town. In an amazingly short time a town has been built. A small few people have found the way to make this happen. It was a massive battle to get permission and atone opposition, but it has happened.
If you go visit (and politely ignore the hidden half-built entrance way part) you will think you are seeing a full town. No there is as much again to come.
It will double.
Winter and summer our chieftain has watched every step, (and the hotelier has watched every digger and crane – he won’t thank me for that).
Why is Georg Chieftain? Well, a long time ago he decided that if he was going to be making this thing happen then he had better declare himself Chieftain.
Why is he still Chieftain?
He is not Chieftain because he is strong.
He is not Chieftain because he is tough.
He is Chieftain because he is loved.
That love is strong.
He will tell you himself that it is all about love. He feels it strong yes.
There is another factor. Thousands of people love him.
So it works.
It is wholeheartedly, overwhelmingly, undeniable.
The aspects of Chieftainness which I have alluded to in earlier sections. Those of you who do so very marvellous at running festivals and attractions do not always realise, or admit to your selves, that it is love which is the lynch pin.
You care and people care about you.
This is lesson to be learned Numero Uno.
This brings us to; please have this sword syndrome. “I have made this sword, please will you have it” Georg’s home is filled with gifts and collections. An accumulation of respect and service.
Carpets, ceremonial bowls, gods and horses.
I mainly mention this because I foresee how this can develop elsewhere.
Let us see some of the items to help us see how that other hall across the pond might become adorned.
One thing I have found to have far reaching effects is our incense burner. Coming from Poland for a pre-visit to bring Georg the gift of this beautiful piece of brass work, the lovely couple brought him the very first one from the mould. Modelled on one found in a boat burial in Norway it will have been used by Asatru (or Pagan) Vikings and then later in Christian ceremonies, it had originally come from a middle east area so will have then been Islamic. So this ceremonial device has been used by three main belief systems.
When it was the big market I went around to each tent or stall and explained that my Chieftain had instructed me to utilise the pine, charcoal and myrrh fumes to bless each area. As I swung the burner upon its chains everyone was visably moved and emotionally effected by the experience.
We parade. Each morning we parade with drums, chants and horns around the tents and buildings to the stage for the opening speeches. Incense wafted along as the burner was carried by Christian, Asatru and Islamic people in turns.
I have even told this story via video link to an Islamic leader upon the request of his cousin.
People are finding their roots here in all sorts of ways, here at the home provided for us by Njord; the fjord is dedicated to him and this is thought of as his land. He oversees us from the seashore and every year his statue is blessed with mead and recited to.
This is the longest, the deepest, and in one place, the narrowest fjord and a tall runic stone is planned to dedicate these facts. We plan to proclaim.
Njardarheimr is populated. People actually live in the houses (and some other onsite accommodation btw). This is a living village.
I am telling you about all this to help each other get fresh ideas so all attractions can develop. I am not telling you all of this because I am any sort of expert, and certainly not as any type of official spokesperson. Indeed I ask now that you all react. Send me ideas, further info, news and developments. Let us all help each other.
When it is the market it fills up even more with several hundred Vikings in tents.
You can come.
There are those of us who are employed here. Working in reception or retail, delivering historic walks and in the case of Georg and myself, presenting the great hall and telling stories.
There are also people living here for periods of times for various reasons. These are the Freemen. Robin for example comes over from Californian for a week or two at a time, lives as a Viking, crafts as a Viking and generally chats to people.
Ravn runs Ravnstova (link below) as a more of a professional service; outfit commissions, textile sales – as well as demonstrating dying and candle making. Conner and Audhild create jewellery and other metal-works on site and have a stall to enable them to ‘thrive, survive and live Viking life live’. Jenne weaves and supplies food. Karin comes with her kids to live and share.
There is also the Viking group with many members Njardarlag, they come and live and work and entertain – and all as volunteers.
Get that concept into your head.
(Well, in a gender-neutral way)
As well as many wonderful activities and offerings Karin and her two also bring the cats. A wonderful addition to our extended family. (More on animals later.)
Another category of visitors of course is the tourists – the mainstay, the raison d’être.
They are what brings in the money. When I say the place is all about the people, it also includes the tourists – you get some amazing people. Folks can be massively affected by visiting us.
When a Mexican teenager sits back down and says, “You are the best thing about my whole summer in Norway,” you know you are doing something right.
“We are going back to Minnesota and going to have a long hard think about how we can make our lives as fulfilling as yours.”
Another wing is what we call VIPs – this mainly just means that they have arranged for a private dining. There are other aspects to it, they might want to come after 6 when there is just them. They might even want Einar of Wardruna, or stories from me, or Krouka playing. They might want a big party. Torill is willing to be open minded, enthusiastic and adaptable.
There is another type of visitor lined up. Residential parties. Part of the new building program (it might be all done for all I know) is what is being referred to as Warrior Halls. Two great big halls where groups can come and stay. These could be organisations, reenactors or school parties – as long as they will live like Vikings, (during opening hours at least). There can be whole programs of activities for them.
Oh I am so excited about them because there are whole groups out there which deserve our contact and there are whole groups out there who wish for us to go and reach out to them.
Community is a timeless prospect.
While I am on new structures, I hear there is also going to be a stone round-house with a central fire-pit, I think it is being referred to as ‘the men’s place’, referred to, in a historic way. Is it possible that only men will use it? – Oh yeah like totally.
There will be developments in the arena of ceremonies, in the field of drama and the terrain of performance. I’ve seen plans for a more permanent stage facing the open playing area (see pics of the amazing Einar and uplifting Krauka) and many concerts will happen there, as well as in the huge Heidrun hall. I plan to do interactive dramas from that stage, where the audience act out according to my story points.
(We also do stories in many languages and this is linked to below.)
There is going to be a temple.
That was a statement which deserved its own line if ever there was one.
Now I know I have already stated that I am not in charge of anything. I have no power or valid opinion, beyond the fact that I signed myself up for a blog, but I will speak now: There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.
There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.
It will be a place of celebration, so I understand. We often have weddings, blessings, naming days, funerals; moments of life. Well bless Gudvangen, it is going to continue happening.
It is going from a holy hill with a couple or three statues, and me announcing spiritual Galda; i.e. from the runic inspiration of Lars Magnar, to having a temple for him to call you into.
There will be drama, there will be inspiration, there will be re-enactment, there will be the deeply moved, the past life, the happy to act, the incense swinger, there will be wonders to behold.
The entrance way complex will be completed real soon; with a café/bar, shop, display area and reception.
There will be other new buildings.
One day, one day, we will have a harbour.
I did say this blog is all about opinion from a verbose storyteller who has no power but just you stop and listen to what I say now.
One day, one day, we will have a harbour.
The Skald he has spake.
Or was that spaken?
People travel from one market to one market to another; this itinerant lifestyle goes on in Scandinavia from spring to autumn (fall) with crafting-up going on in the winter, (I think it is addictive), I have a vision about this, (in my optimistic way); this will happen in America.
Gosh for a powerless upstart I do keep wanting to proclaim about how I have spoken and therefore it will be. I guess that is the theme of this blog if you boil it down to ego. No, if you boil it down to Utopianism.
I have spoken.
Here I go again, carrying on…
Some of the stuff that works so so well at Gudvangen…
This is a blog about a writer / storyteller / personality (me) – who is funny: it is not a photo blog, there is text and it isn’t to supplement the art or photos, there are photos etc, they are not there to accompany the text, it is almost like they are separated ingredients ready to fry – but here for a first, and for a very, very, important reason, I am referring to a photo:- Write your name in runes.
A quiet stroke of genius. Write your own name in runes.
‘Now look I want to take credit for this because I bought the charcoal sticks.’ ‘No I brought the plank of wood – and the string.’ ‘I got the huge gift from the tannery we used some of for people to write on (with my charcoal sticks actually BTW).’
‘Now look will you two stop bickering in the Chieftain’s hut, it is like hearing some old couple.’
Oh alright – I admit – Georg was right.
It was a stroke of genius quietly put together and agelessly displayed, subtly offered.
Not only can you take part on the spot.
Not only is it done in a none modern way.
You can take a photo and take it away with you.
Think of it as a travel activity.
People love it when I suggest that.
Yes, Georg, it is a really great idea.
You can play Hnefetaflr.
The Viking Game.
You can listen to me or Georg telling you how it is played.
Many just love to hear about it.
“I am duty bound to inform you that there are sets for sale in the shop as you leave,“ usually makes them laugh.
Some want to play.
Georg is very good at being the opponent to singles.
Some will sit down opposite each other and play and play and play.
It is a very good job that we allow people to stay overnight!
Just discussing and looking at the runes is a great thing, people are fascinated.
There is so much to say.
I am so glad we just have the time to talk – and to listen.
We also offer a game, or just talk about it, that I only know from the medieval attraction in York; Barley Hall (You must go there – link below) so my name for it is of the wrong age, but, Nine Men’s Morris.
Folks like that.
There is a piece of leather on a table. ‘I got the leather and the charcoal to mark it up.’ ‘They are my precious playing pieces.’ – ‘Alright you two shush now.’
OK it draws attention – it is tic tac toe – it is noughts and crosses. It isn’t, it is earlier. You get three pieces each. The chances are you won’t get a line in three placements. Then you start moving the pieces one space at a time. It is really cookie.
We have the Lewis chess set (I am just randomly talking at this point so don’t think I am any sort of expert or even anything), I understand this is thought of as post Viking-age, but isn’t Lewis in Scotland, didn’t they have Viking kings till 1250ish. Way later.
The Vikings knew chess OK.
And anyway, it is probably from India or China, or wherever it was Snorri says Odin and the rest of the Aesir arrived from (cough).
Anyhow – chess is very popular. You pop out, you come back, there are two people playing chess. You start stories. They never notice you.
They go on for absolute hours.
Tacitus the aforementioned diarist spoke of runes from when he visited Germanic tribes. The Father of the farm chopped a branch and marked it with his own signs for the gods, (so we are sounding kind of pre-rune here), then he divined. So I have a bag of my own signs for the gods and I draw you one out.
I also offer rune readings, (Elder Futhark), and where people are happy for me to, I add in the crystal ball – scrying was of the period. The Jorvik Viking Centre have employed me to do readings for children, that was very interesting.
The runes could be compared to Ancient Egyptian symbolism; each has a meaning as well as a sound; Water, Birch, Riding etc.
The Jorvik Centre I believe still use the Elder Futhark, as do I, whereas in Njardarheimr the smaller set, the Viking runes are favoured. So one needs to decide. Runes are planned to be used for signage, so I will discuss this in that section.
More of an ornament or artefact than an activity but I just love Georg’s scales; especially crafted for him, and people love to see the engraved weights, they are a real talking point.
My chieftain has the aim, (and passion), that he will make some improvement every day, (perhaps that might be the main lesson of this blog?), and he had the blacksmiths create him an inverted L-shaped hook-stand to bang into his log-shaped table. On sunny days when we choose to bring all the activities outside this really allows the scales to look at their best.
Peter the highly-gifted bone-carver across the path has described us as a Viking-age theme park.
There are weavings hung down the walls, I would love to see them adorned with a couple of embroideries each. Such as the wonderful silks ones made by Nine Worlds Clothing, the best I have ever seen, (link below).
No I cannot talk of how great our coin minting activity is without tipping a ginormous hat to the Jorvik Centre. You have paid to come in, so extra revenue is a bonus, and we want activities don’t we, so you don’t charge a fortune. Having a path to follow helps too as so often you see people roaming, no dashing, straight past things.
Georg’s coin-making equipment is very popular. He even offers silver ones.
I cannot refer to the Jorvik Centre without talking about the flood. So we shall take a brief interlude from discussing the activities at Njardarheimr and visit York. I must tell you of what I heard. Now I am no news hound or anything, but if what I was told is on the button there are staff at the centre who deserve a medal. The reason it took so long to rebuild and reopen is that it wasn’t just floodwater that came up into the place it was something far fouler. The lower section flooded and I was told that a group risked their lives by going back down the stairs into the slightly higher section where the genuine artefacts were. Engineers took off a fire door and actually gaffer-taped it across the open doorway to hold it all back! It could have burst at any moment! The atmosphere must have been quite toxic too. Staff then saved all of the precious items.
I think we should tell the queen.
(BTW If I haven’t got all the details here I would be glad to hear more.)
One or two ideas come to mind from my experiences there. One activity I’ve been employed for is queue busting; from me that is fun characterful chat, others demonstrate their kit, and archaeology students demonstrate finds.
I frequently enjoyed borrowing interesting jewellery from stalls and telling a story related to it. People would often go over and buy jewellery as a result.
All this ideas swap business suggests to me that there could be exhibitions of regional finds on loan from other establishments.
Representatives from Viking attractions I am sure would be welcome in Njardarheimr, not just as ‘Freemen’, also to demonstrate skills and share information.
Back to the chieftain’s Home in Njardarheimr, Gudvangen, Norway and how it came about. It is real with objects in a home not in cabinets, with people in the beds!
It has a kitchen. We are especially grateful to the volunteer joiners who created this area. When you train in your craft in Switzerland or Germany you pledge that once you are qualified you will travel away and work for food and lodging (I think for two years). These wonderful people created many great things including the kitchen and the Hnefetaflr table.
Oh and the skittle castle. That has gone down great. Georg carved wooden figures to stand on it and folks love it.
We plan a larger castle for next year, to go in, and I am hoping to be able to paint it.
Other games include Kubb, Knutlegg and tug of war. I am not going to mention the Loki run.
Oh yes and axe throwing, (not hatchet catching) and archery.
Then there is fighting. There is competitive fighting, (in twos), there are battle enactments and there are choreographed shows. There is also Glima the wrestling of course.
That leads to dressing up. There is an area with mail and helms and weapons where you can don them for a photo. There is also an area with play weapons; wooden swords, shields axes etc.
Georg made me a three-metre spear and I started doing shield wall re-enactments with kids. They would line up against an imaginary enemy with me behind holding the spear between them. That was great fun and made for great photos of us stabbing warriors and horses.
Dressing up could be massively expanded. I would like to see more wooden weapons, a couple of saddles to sit on and lots of clothes for people to borrow. Fun for all ages and lots of memories to be made.
I also wondered about having a photographer. Perhaps a photo wall offering pics as you are leaving (like the ones when you come off a roller coaster).
Having a blacksmith’s shop on site is a marvellous thing. A great team of smiths too. We can all work and develop together.
All the kitchen fittings were created here. Hooks, nails, hanging oil lamps and bowl candle holders are all transferable ideas. Nails, it’s all about nails.
There is a great display of wares hung in the blacksmiths; fish hooks, knives, dozens of objects – nails! I love nails.
The annual market brings in hundreds of Vikings and of course many more visitors. Huge arrays of skills and crafts and goods come to us.
A whole series of events are programmed, worthy of far more attention and publicity. Entertainments, demonstrations, dramas. We also have always had a series of courses available. These can be a way to make it more financially viable for visiting experts and add massive value to the visit; needle-binding, storytelling, fight skills, many skills are on offer.
Story circles come fondly to mind, something we could bring back in the stone roundhouse perhaps. These tend to draw in teenagers and young adults too.
A new development for me at the 2018 festival was improvised storytelling, or perhaps more like poetry. Great musicians and percussionist joined me while I pulled one of my signs of the gods out of a bag and then we made up a piece with music and word and song. Wonderful experience.
This year I noticed that lectures were added to the repertoire. Women’s lives, Women at war, Viking-age music, and the Viking year were on offer.
As promotion improves and these activities are planned well ahead the amount of people who come especially for a certain course, show or lecture will greatly increase.
The historic walks are a brilliant feature, they are actually referred to as guided walks but I appreciate the history side the most; you come away from these historic walks with a greater understanding of the concept of Vikings.
I do wonder if these will change in the future, as the place becomes busier, (it is going to get packed out), that there will be members of the village stationed here and there strategically around all the different features and sites with visitors going from one to another. That is just a thought I am throwing in the pot and would develop on from what is already offered.
Visitors are international so guided walks aim to be so too; currently there are tours in Norwegian, English, Spanish, French, German, Latvian and Russian available most days throughout the busy season and I believe this will increase. I guess the majority of people who visit are able to speak and understand English so it tends to be more common.
Should there be Meercats? – Meercat is the nickname for freestanding information boards. I like the idea and think people will appreciate them and not think of them being out of place and out of time because they are expected and useful. I know Georg prefers the idea of only signs in runes to be more in keeping with the timelessness of living Viking style in the nowadays.
That thinking has led to the ideas of a treasure hunt, spotting runic inscriptions, plus a printed guide which tells you which runes to find for which feature.
The place has become more popular due to people developing an understanding of the place and getting the idea of how long they could visit for. As tour operators start to offer longer schedules and as publicity gets out to the people who may plan to come more and more effectively, people are able to stay for longer.
It is a genuine experience coming to Njardarheimr. It changes people. One thing you hear sometimes is, “Is that a real fire?” Many people have never seen one before and now suddenly they are being invited to sit by one. They can make bread to eat. They can mix with Vikings.
People take photos. People can be encouraged to share their photos and footage with the online presence. This is an area which could be greatly increased.
More could be done with art work, exhibitions, there could be art competitions, poetry competitions. All with galleries displaying them, both on line and in the reception area. Folks could pop in and out of the café/bar and end up watching for hours.
Just some of the ideas which have been bandied about.
The walls of the Heidrun hall could be filled.
This could even be tied in with the problem of guided tours in bad weather. Do you know when you go out for a meal, in a Greek restaurant, or a Thai place, right, and they have like 3D artwork on the walls – this makes me think that there could be relief images of the areas of the town along a wall so talks can be done inside. IE of the god statues., and the weapons
Highlights of activities must be the pottery and weaving via Marcin and Monika. People love their time there learning and they love the things they get to take away with them.
I am just doing some math – hang on – I am, nearly there with a new idea – just before going to hit publish – hang on – I am thinking – 3D displays – experts on pottery and weaving – put them together – what have you got!
I understand there is someone in the Green Bay area who does wattle and daub and I was thinking that might be something to be developed ‘ower ere’. Living sculptures, archways, and fences from something like willow are also exciting.
We’ve talked of large containers for storage, preserving and brewing etc, I also was wondering about the idea of buried food; fish and venison. (Get your muslin and your spade and then discuss.)
We have all already made a start on gardening. A great start. Collecting or buying plants of the period and of the area. So the outside areas are ‘growing’, becoming more real.
A thing that needs looking into is that it has been established that composting was done in the Viking-age and we might want to look into this. Of course this is a modern age and people living in the village will be concerned about the environment so will want to compost for the earth’s sake.
I love the peat walls which flourish with wild growth and greenery as do the rooves.
Ravn and others have demonstrated candle making and Holger has utilised old wax with moss to make candle bowls; wonderfully atmospheric.
Talking of composting leads to the topic of poo. We got chickens we have. In the future there may be more poo available as the range of livestock grows.
It is lovely when chicks are hatched, but a shock when they turn out to be male. I understand that currently there are plans to set up a second hutch in a different area. Residents will definitely be woken early, wherever their hut.
As I’ve said these chickens are free to roam and can be seen all over the town. This I hear, there is also a possibility of a different animal, I heard talk of there being a small friendly breed of Norwegian pig and two or three could roam around.
Cows would always be a no no because basically there would be far too much poo.
Cats we also have and as I mentioned above there is a breed of Norwegian Forest cat which might settle to roaming the town.
I wonder if sheep or goats might be a possibility in the future, or even deer.
We almost got rabbits, but at the last minute someone said that the Vikings only had hares. Personally I think no one would mind if we had rabbits, but would also like to know if hares might be a possibility, IE would they settle to wandering here?
(NB rabbits dont ever dig upwards, they dig down and along, so would proberbly stay.)
We do have horses visiting at times and this is something that would be popular as a more frequent occurrence.
Someone suggested pet polecats or ferrets in a hutch with a run, but that would have to be quite secure.
These are all things that need to develop along with the gradual increase in visitors to be sure of adequate staffing levels.
Any other suggestions?
You may recall how I had enjoyed clambering up and about at the farm museum, it gave me the idea for a feature for kids. Children like up, under, in and over. A Viking style equivalent of a climbing frame or adventure park. A forest. Buildings. A fort.
Talking of dark places, I have always really liked the idea of a sweat lodge. The building of it and the idea. A hole with seated sides and a pit in the bottom. A bender cover of leather over saplings. A nearby fire pit where stones are heated which then can be rolled in using big sticks. Very exciting.
There is much scope for a program of online activities and all events would benefit by lots of advance planning; this would also help fill time on the rolling displays in the entrance or café/bar. Attractions could run features on each other. IE wouldn’t a film on Njardarheimr go down brilliantly at Norsk Høstfest (or film and talk).
An online feature on how to be a Viking would be brilliant.
Examples of stories also, so Vikings can learn, skills too. People pre-armed and able to contribute.
Many thanks to all who have supplied photos, especially my chieftain Georg who very kindly took images of many of the items I wished to talk about.
Gudvangen has a great set on how to fit in as a Viking. (“Everyone is welcome here except those who don’t make others welcome” Georg Hansen.) Policies have been developed on etiquette and authenticity of atmosphere so I am hoping to feature info on these in the future.
Thank you for reading all this way. I hope some of this is an inspiration for you and do enjoy the links below.
All my own mistakes, I mean work.
University Wisconsin; Green Bay Viking House
And UWGB Viking House on Facebook
National Railroad Museum – Green Bay, Wisconsin
Norsk Høstfest Viking Village
Voss Folke Museum
Gudvangen Dream Life as a Viking – Dream-time IV
I have already been there, in other writings, in other lives, and these are the times. I am stood between Siw-Alfadis and Blathnaid-Brigid whilst Bjorn-Ole surveys the sea from the promontory, we are in Njardarheimr in Freyr-An’ersh’s Gudvangen Village of the Vikings. I am here with my heart. I am at once really here and yet also actually here in this dream.
My Gudvangen Dream Life IV portrays me already in a Viking-style life in Gudvangen where I am actually living as Skald to the Viking Chieftain in Njardarheimr Viking Town in Norway; in this blog version everything of myth and legend has become real.
Stay in place as followers to know what happens next; beware, nothing is made up, yet most of this is dream.
NB The names used are taken from those I have known but the characters added to them are based on other people I know.
PS Credits will be given for any writings.
PPS You can become part of this by sending me thoughts and ideas adrianspendlow @ gmail.com or by commenting below (as if you were there). A huge thank you to all those who have made suggestions and offered writings (there are loads half written up for the next one).
Gudvangen Dream Life as a Viking – Dream-time IV
We use the name Viking yet we are different, we are from different worlds, different worlds of thinking. We are together; I do not think like you. I do not think like you. I am Vanadís. I am Díser of the earth. Creature of the old ways. I craft. I drag the iron from the very earth. I tell stories. I tell stories from my mother tongue. Far away. We are all far away. We are all here. See how the spring shoots grow. See how the hammer is protective. I sew the Troll cross. There is little time to practice to survive. I swing the iron. We practice with long shafts. I see the Ramslurk grow. I see the mists and their foreboding. The children play. The wolf sleeps. Dream people; for we are a commune. Ships come.
Our chieftain, Freyr-An’ersh, respected as he is, he welcomes, while we judge and consider. They bring more skills. We flourish. We are what you call Viking and this is where we lie. Tread lightly as you go for you walk upon our heart.
Fires suddenly burn along the tall ways. Along the high edges of the fjord walls. The lands we hardly know of. Top side. Up there in the Sami lands; the seasonal lands of nomadism, they pay respect to us. They are watchers. They trade with us. They will come down soon as warmer weathers once faded lead to cold times before the hard freeze. They go somewhere else when it is all frozen solid. Some say they go to other worlds, some that they are always of those worlds and visit us through a veil, some that they cave-live for the winter, in the steep sides of uninhabited fjords where no one can observe their smoke.
They will come down for the final trade quite soon. Coming to us is the nearest they ever get to warm climes, and that is in the far end of autumn.
So the beacons burn. The ancient debt we receive for; the old old owing, yet how can we ever repay the repayors! They far surpass whatever it was in ages past that caused them to be owing to us. Yet the fire beacons burn when we are in need of warning. They watch from on high whenever they are in the heights of their seasonal hunting grounds. Their camps look down upon the fjord and they see ships come. So they light the beacon fires; one upon one upon run and light along the high ground; and we know, we know: of battles, or enemies, of returnings, of strugglings. A ship is coming, (or a leviathan). We shall not venture out to sea to see.
We shall watch. We shall prepare ourselves.
Bjorn-Ole stands the stock of blades and bows in the strategic places we have established. Our defences are in place.
Poppa-Varg, Poppa-Volva and the other children climb Yew and Maythorn trees back on the higher ground.
Warriors; Tor-Gunlodd, Brunhildr, Ailbhe Connell and Frode-T’or climb cliff sides.
There is an expected returning. There is a ship we know and love returning just as we hoped that it would quite soon. Nothing comes. The beacon fires up high should have brought a ship or result by now. Our Viking ones are overdue. The beacons must mean other than ‘Here comes your brethren returning’.
Our thoughts are that, there is a complication. Perhaps enemies assail them. Perhaps they are all dead. Perhaps they are sinking on their way home.
We do not know and Thorfinn Asmundsson will no doubt regail us of the tale in a slash by blow way after the settling of them; the hopeful settling of them. We wish and hope for a safe fare landing together if all return and blood is staunched; the fettles calmed.
A light, we see a light. Surely we do. Just a hint of a glimpse of a dot of a shine that amplifies within the mind into a massive talisman of hope. There is a ship coming, it has a light above. We peer in hope and anxiety. Down the long fjord we glimpse for real.
It cannot be an enemy shining one light. Many fires waved would be to intimidate us, but just one would serve as a warning and defeat the objective of the incomer; so this shall be our returning vessel.
One of our brave travellers must have climbed the mast with a flaming torch and is lighting the way. No, the light would guide them very little, it must be for us to see. They are letting us know that they approach. They must be a-feared that they may not make it, they are struggling. “Sail out, they are sinking,” cries Björk-Mari, “Board our vessel here at the harbour and sail out. Just enough to crew the ship, to row to their rescue.
“Yes,” calls Siw-Alfadis, “we may need room for them to board for safe return”.
The one light in the far far distance is standing now, it comes no nearer. “We must hurry, worries Jan-Robert.
Leif-Lasse leaps, “Row, row like the wind”.
“One of you must climb the mast with a burning brand so they know you are coming, to give them hope: for us to see also so we can hope,” Signy Volsungsdottir.
Long is the watching. Long is their journey. Small hands clench maternal hands. Our home ship is slowly nearing the returning vessel. Just in time perhaps we hope. But no. The far light is tipping. Slowly, steadily, heading lower. The mast is swinging. The ship is tipping. They are lost to us in some moments.
The home ship is nearing. Our hands are all gripping. We gasp. We cry out. We clench each other’s shoulders. They are, distantly from us, heading for the ice-cold sea. The nearer ship approaches them, it is traveling fast. They are rowing as hard and as sleek as they possible can. We fear that they will ram.
The one light steers beside the other light. We see the lower light lift. One ship has hit into the side of the other with its fast-incoming flank.
The power of the one ship arriving straightens the other. We see the flaming torch lift till both are the same height.
We can only guess the crew are pulled aboard. It seems that the lightened load of the suffering ship may well be enough to let her ride this stormed night.
There is no blood left in our fingertips, nor in our shoulders, or in our hearts. We can scarcely breathe for the holding of each other so very very tight.
“One ship is bringing both the crews and is pulling the other ship in too,” sighs Björk-Mari.
It is an age and an eon until those two ships near us.
The torch is gone from the mast of the rescued ship and eventually from the saviour vessel.
Our cliff-top warriors cheer.
Eventually they are home. Their ship is home.
There is much blood.
It was a battle at sea. A swooping pirate of the waters has attacked and followed and attacked again. Our ship, the returner, was valiant and saw their ship adrift and empty. The binding which held them while the crews leapt from ship to ship in battle were unloosed. And the empty ship went far adrift before it eventually would go down.
It may have been better to keep it. For our far-travelled ship was much damaged. It made it as far as it did.
The ship is home. Both our ships are home. The long-journeyed crew are mainly returned. Safe and back and families are reunited.
All is good.
This ship which returned did not remove its battle dragon. How could it do so. It is not a trade ship which returns. It is a ship of dragonhead. A serpent thing upon our land. Whether intentional or not. It has been accepted here with sign of war. With sign of mystical beasts. Of other worlds. The Díser are enraged. They abandon us. The land is cursed. Cursed. We all are cursed.
The land is cursed. The Díser leave us. All last growth dies. The new growth in the spring of tomorrows will not happen.
Our chieftain must journey to the land of the Vanadís. We burn the herbs. The juniper for the visions. We shall all sleep. We shall dance, we shall tremor, we shall sleep and some of us shall journey to the realms of the Vanadís and we shall tranquil them. Standing with our chieftain as he bravely speaks. He steps forward and declares. He acts for us all and his true heart is read, “We ask of the earth to return to us growth and plenty”.
There is a cost. In old old tales we hear from other lands terrible costs are paid; the life of the first born, the servitude of the next borne or other such heart-wrenching promises. Terrible things. We promise a terrible thing. We promise that one shall go from our midst to ever-serve in the all-time forever as a Vanadís, returning only at will in the when-ever and at times of need and of love and of celebration. Always over there though in the forever of the timelessness.
We shall not choose who will go though. We shall wait till one is willing. We will tell this tale for generation upon generation, the Sami at the topper-most shall also tell. From our midst and perhaps from theirs too shall emerge a chosen one; chosen by their self.
And they shall go. They will be the payment for the return of life to this valley. The Díser shall be welcomed back. The earthy ones who inhabit our realm in a distant way shall be here and the Vanadís shall be in their realm. With our daughter or son. They shall be ever watching through to ours.
That serpent beast-head upon the returning ship has taken a terrible cost and payment shall be forever. (The one who eventually went is still there even in your time as you read this and they are looking down upon us all.)
Lo the freeze times come and there is chanting, throat music, names of old old gods and beings, remembered ones; chanting, casting, renewing.
Hear the visitation from above. Down the goat path they come; the Sami.
Olga-Stina leads the dancing chant for all to add to. “We sing to lead.” “We sing to enchant.” “We sing to mislead.” “We have pipes of metal to suck back our kindred’s brains in revenge.” “Follow us if you dare, if you are of evil intent.” “Look you follower, a sharp drop off a cliff.” “Come with us enemies, we will keep ourselves safe by leading you, come, come, come.” They softly spookily chant, chant.
They come to trade. First. They come to work. They drag and dodge and massively bundled tree trunks dodge and slide and drag; behind, in front, by sides. They, harnessed, bring the wood they need.
They pile and build and burn and create charcoal, here in the flatter lands of warmer ways.
They bring the wood they need. They pile and build and burn and collect; resinous flowings. Twenty two trees for every trunk needed for wood work.
There had been a huge shadow behind each one of these shamanic nomadic visitations as they traversed down the steep sides in their ancient ways here in Gudvangen; with poles under arms they steered huge mountains to down here, to bring us furs.
There is, before they disappear for winter’s hard of hardest times, a trade, a final trade.
What can we give them worth their trading, worth their skills, worth their service?
They have charcoal for their forging, resin for their building, praise and thanks for their service to us. They have worked well high above and have aplenty.
The crunch and the green and the fruiting of the lower lands. We have lived a summer; they have lived a harshness.
We have a year’s worth of preserves for them. Some still fresh too. Some in sealed leather.
Food up there freezes, here it ferments, when buried (gravved) we dig for them and they guzzle like it is fresh; they chant and then eat more.
Have we a feast for them. “Come join us.” “Come feast”
“Talk of fermented, here is brew you yearn.”
High nethers never yielded such dairy. Milk; they glug. Yogurt with honey they laugh and laugh with joy. This is a feast of many things, the largest of which is joy. Joy.
We have pledges to renew and enjoin.
Then there are bounteous gifts. You from the high lands have done us so much. You are promising so much. We will be united in the blessing of the land which the Vanadís have renewed. We shall be united in the pledged of promise to these Dís. One of you, one of us, will agree to go.
We have a yield to share amongst our two types of humans and a yield to share from our world to another world; the world of Dís. We commemorate this as promise. This is an eternal gift and true true all-world promise.
Boots we have. Bounteous harvest too. Much-folded swords. Treasures; Coptic and Islamic. Gold in bent shapes, and coins. Coins with many pictures amongst them. Jasper. Jade even. Dying materials gathered for this trade. They ‘yeep’ at the colours they can make. They almost wee at the thought.
We give them arched strong bows.
We cry now for they return the wool we shared. We have a holy gift for them we have held back, held back. Here first is the return. Wool. Uncarded it went and spun it returns. The Sami they spin.
They sit and they spin. They walk and they spin. They talk and they spin. They ride and they spin. They spin.
Them Sami can spin,
We have bounteous return for them. We have worked hard over the years, over the seasons two results. One for us. One for them. We own, we have a result from our shared spinning. We have to give… A blanket.
Thus is the strength of our gift.
It will be spring-time and gone by you know this yet here is the winter gathering. The fire. The mjord. The time of tellings. Of sharings. “We gather now and hear,” declares Poppa la Princesse Une fois.
“Let me tell you of a clear blue sky,” our Sami friend now relates, “and then of a terrible sudden downpour; from an empty sky it came, till in a blink, well everything was soaked and covered. Then the strange thing happened. In that instant out of the warm blue it froze. Everything frozen. A bush, the rocky mountain side, for I was not quite at the top. The stream, the moss upon the stone. Everything was silver. Completely silver. Even myself; I had to shake, twist, to break free from it and drop thin sheets down upon the ground. In the time it takes for chick to hatch it was gone and everything was wet and damp. The sky was just as blue and clear as ever”.
“I have been down below there, nearer the dim waters – in the almost always dark,” relates Finley Mac with his woman by his side, “As we sailed out I saw things, well, a thing; it was big and it climbed. It climbed so far then it leapt. As slopes turned to crags it needed to leap to gain purchase, but all of this was fast, very fast indeed. I don’t want to know what I think it was, I don’t want to hear myself say it aloud, but it was grey, it had long arms, long legs, a big knobbly head. I almost wish I hadn’t told you”.
“Indeed, it was huge…bigger than a tree and then it climbed in no time,” Linnea-Ingeborg whispers, “Hundreds of feet it jumped and he told me late one night in the sleepless dark how he saw the space between land and sky where the dark bulk left the ground…”
“There was something on the way back,” says Olafr-Andreas whilst staring outward.
“Who looked out, we were sinking!” wonders Frederick Steinsson.
“No there was something.”
A few listening shudder and quietly groan; they were obviously looking too.
“It had wings,” continues Olafr-Andreas, “No it was wings; wings of shadow, yet with strength. There was nothing else though. Just the wings. They were slow and strong and ponderous, and they were close to the steep stone sides; low over the water. Travelling forever.” “Wings.”
“There was something else terrible travelling back with us!” outbursts Kjell-Toffe, “A man in a skirt!”
“It is a kilt”, proclaims Collum McCull.
“Well, you are from the far north, even norther than the north lands; just below the ice,” spells out Johnson.
“You are Pictish,” points out Patrick.
“It is better than Elvish!” chips in Myrull-Ylva.
“Or silky!” remembers Olve-Daan.
“Or from the realms of rain, begorra,” winks Ragnhild.
“We renamed your Pictish land after us doon forget; Land of the Scots, doon forget that means Irish,” laughs Blathnaid-Brigid.
“Irish? Eh, O, OH, Aye?” laughs Collum McCull.
“Ah yes the land of little men and rainbows,” adds Lars-Eirik.
“The place where the women came from!” Blathnaid-Brigid interjects, “The scribes”.
“That is another story,” adds Add ri An.
“Hex yer, hush noo, ahn look yee tiv the skirt of the monn will yeee,” winked Inga-Idun.
“Take the blame you sailors of all Viks,” declares Hin-Mann, “All the north and all the northern lands are of the Viking in ouradays, look not to stilltocomeadays or longgoneadays I ask you to awaken promptly. All is Norse, deal with it”.
“Kjilt inne Norske Yeh,” laughs Meretha-Silje, “Pleat the material. Look yeh at hoo affluent you look. You are a Viking if you are terribly proud.” “Aifter you.” “Aifter you.” “What yer doing pushin in yer grunta?!”
I heard the dying words of Atle, “it started here”.
“Eermm ok… once upon a time”, starts Björk-Mari, “there was a very commanding Viking chieftain named Hrollr. His village was very powerful and other chieftain would travel from afar to pay his respects in the hope that Hrollr and his army wouldn’t wage war upon them. They would bring Hrollr their most prized treasures from raids from all over the world! One day, a Scottish chieftain by the name Glnockie came to visit and he brought with him the most exquisite wool from the Highlands. Hrollr was mighty impressed with the quality and beauty of the tartan and ordered his most prestigious seamstress, Njaela to stitch together a tunic that he was going to wear during a blot and in honour of Glnockie.
Njaela was ecstatic at such honour bestowed upon her and immediately began cutting the fabric, despite it being dark – so she sat down by the fire and began her work. As she was almost finished, a tiny spark from the fire caught the fabric and in front of her eyes, half of the tartan vanished before her. She knew that the chieftain would certainly have her blood-eagled for this, so she called upon Loki to help her.
Loki had travelled far and wide in his eagle-guise and had seen many strange things however, he quite fancied seeing the two chieftains at war so he began telling Njaela a tale of how the most powerful warriors in all of Midgard wore “half skirts”. Thinking that this would surely impress the chieftains, Njaela began sewing a “half skirt” and added, bedazzled it, with jewellery and a bag with the most beautiful hide she could find.
The next day, her chieftain, Hrollr, called upon her and asked her to show him the tunic. When he saw the “half shirt” he almost exploded from rage until Njaela was able to explain to him that all the greatest warriors that Loki had seen in Midgard, wore those but that this one was the most exquisite of them all. Upon hearing this, the chieftain put it on and entered the feast, presenting his “half skirt” to Glnockie.
Glnockie was so impressed by the “half skirt” that he immediately asked Njaela to make him one too – which she of course did! Upon arriving back to the Highlands, Chieftain Glnockie became a fashion icon and all the clans in the land followed suit.
The Vikings however, quickly discovered that the cold didn’t agree with the half skirts, so the trend never really caught on here.”
“Or so it is told.”
“I came here from even farther away,” tells Bjorn-Ole, “My family were traders and travellers so I was born and bred upon the road and have never seen my homeland. I learnt of the letters though, and so I have written. I sent my ancients letters in a message to be sent to my grandparents in our faraway land”.
“Ah yes I have seen those pictures that you write which are like complicated runes,” adds Nils-Harold.
“They are our letters. I dimly remember how it is done from being a child and Add ri An commanded that I should send word. I will never be able to visit as it is so far away and I am a Viking now. If I could visit I would take sore eyes to my grandparents, but as it is I have sent the letters at the command of the Skald. He said I should say that they could congratulate me on being a good soul who knows their own path and is strong. I told him (didn’t I Add ri An) that I would be too blushed to say so even in writings. Yet he commanded it and Blathnaid-Brigid she also insisted that it be so. Mind you she also suggested I ask them to send us some silk!”
“Let the truth be known at your homes Add ri An told me and I admitted that his command was my command (‘Wise old man that you are,’ I added with a wink)”
“Hahaha he agreed reluctantly what a great honest skilled respected wise man he is who is strong and we are proud of. and he eventually agreed to say. Ah no come to think the wise bit was about me,” laughs Add ri An, “Say that a wise man said, that’s me. He promised.”
“What a noble errand indeed,” is the final word of Blathnaid-Brigid.
“Eh, it’s a good yarn,” smiles Teresa-Linn.
“I recall that when I came here I asked what the white stuff was on the tops of the mountains and now I am sending word of how well I am thought of here.”
“Your grandparents will have sore eyes,” adds Lis-Ravn..
“Wood-smoke fills us, fills this place, it will clear it will clear.”
“Tears are smoke,” acknowledges Tyra av Rafnsblõt.
“Tears are smoke and a sea trip will cheer us,” states Linnea-Ingeborg..
We sleep and as we wake we see the distant Sami climbing. These creatures are fond of welcome; fearful of a goodbye.
So, after feast leftovers are filling us to break our short sleep fast we recall the pledge of line and net to cast.
To net and line and catch and gut and clean and work together.
“A fishing trip, a boat outing, a pleasure to cruise among the fjord walls which in places never feel the step of man,” announces Linnea-Ingeborg.
“Lars-Eirik claims to be the only human to have stepped ashore at every one, (he does fish from his dugout often),” laughs Loke-Daan.
“Pale skins may have stepped there, but often it is as if my feet are the first ever human feet to stand a being tall upon these hidden inner lands, yes,” says Lars-Eirik.
Skirts are held. Arms are held. Ship bows are held.
And tensions, as we gaily step, are released.
This is a ship trip.
The waves skip.
More coming in than river ripples outwards. They bring a mix of clemency.
And we are ripping out.
A turnabout, we feel the drift, the tide within the turn within the burn; is going out. We row anyway. Sails in fjord waters are for gentle sessions or sheer emergency. We seek wider pass where half-rig will tender bob us on. While we sojourn.
Light twinkling on the facets of the stone sides gives a promise of spring,
“And while we idle,” muses the Johnson, “let me intrigue with a riddle…”
“Ooo yes we like a puzzle,” enthuses Svanvhit Smedsdottir-gjenfødt.
I am your ally on the hunt
But do not walk with me
Lest I be warning to your quarry
Eye glaze and there is quiet for a while.
Others will think longer.
“I shall tell my tale,” says Bjarki, “For this journey reminds me of many,” he says as he sits and spins.
“I went to Hildrgard, beautiful Hildrgard,” he glances fleeting to the side, “and I told her – I had made a lock and attached it to my dwelling at the other side of the by, then I untied the key from my belt and offered it to her.”
“He clearly was asking me to move in with him,” chips in Hildrgard from her rowing perch.
“But you wouldn’t would you.”
“I moved in,” she added, “I said I wouldn’t be with you because you had nothing.”
“I cannot help being an orphan; a victim of chance, war and plague.”
In a stirring of mail across towards the prow T’or-Gunlodd asides, “Balder wasn’t there for you was he.”
“No T’or-Gunlodd there was no sense of family for me,” agrees Bjarki
“Never-the-less,” states Hildrgard, “your uncle left you the house, the small house. The blacksmith Svanvhit Smedsdottir-gjenfødt taught you how to make the lock and you still owed her for the iron, not to mention for the lesson.”
“I pledged to pay the blacksmith in the same way I pledged to pay you; a future promise.”
“I wondered how you could ever repay of an equal value to such pledges. Then I learned you had arranged to go Viking.”
“So Hildrgard, you arranged to move in.”
“I agreed to move in on my own, then, when you returned, if you didn’t return dead, I would let you in if you brought treasure.”
Bjarki turns to the crew, “I came back with nothing. Nothing but an agreement to go again.”
“That wasn’t good enough, but I did admire your determination. I couldn’t agree to anything until after your return as you had no skills.”
“I used to watch my mother spin.”
“And on this ship, I asked him, there are times when you just sit?”
“Yes, yes.” Bjarki eagerly nods as if still in that moment.
“Then, I said, take this wool and this spinner and then we will see.”
“Few of us returned alive, all of us with nothing.”
“Except you, you returned with sacks of yarn. It was nearly enough for me to let you in, but not quite.”
“Then you had another idea, and I had planned another adventure.”
“I asked, when you are in foreign lands, do you sometimes sit by a fire? You said you did so, so I said, if you return and you have dyed this yarn I will accept.”
Bjarki looked proud, “I returned with blood-red yarn…”
“And treasure as well my love.”
“Armour and two swords!” beamed Bjarki.
“I made those.”
“And now you are my beloved Bjarki Famed Fletcher.”
“And father of three!” grins Bjarki.
“I am looking forward to the goat hunt in the spring,” smiles Tove-Marie.
“I less so.”
“Why would that be Add ri An?”
“I clambered the old path by the Galda Cave and through the forest came a whole pack of wolves. They were running, running wild for the sake of it. They brushed right past me. One stopped, she was a large silver-grey she-wolf. She hissed breath in and out of her teeth and it sounded like, “Rieka Sølvulven runs with wolfs,” and then they were gone.
Among the very mixed reactions is a sharp intake of breath everyone looks round, they are relieved to look away from Add ri An.
Olafr-Andreas speaks, “As I was about to die upon that tied battle ground at sea I saw a shadow of that famed she-wolf and the tide turned – the tide of the battle that is – I heard the shadow as it fell upon him say, May you feel the burning of a thousand suns as they rise at one upon you. And then I stabbed”.
The eerie silence is broken, “Perhaps once the returned ship is repaired it will be time to build another,” suggests Leif-Lasse.
Myrull-Ylva speaks, “This can be a good opportunity to be a fighter Viking for a big and rich chieftain. Maybe he will allow me to go to Gardariket also. Then I will fight for the big sultans and be rich me too. And then, I can go wherever I want after that. And get my own army of ships and Vikings. I can see me standing there with the big kings and chieftains, with sword of the best blacksmith in our known world.”
“I am a big rich chieftain,” proclaims Freyr-An’ersh.
Happy laughter bursts from all.
“Back to enjoying the boat trip,” Linnea-Ingeborg.
“We are not doing much fishing,” adds Poppa-Varg.
They all laugh and look around.
As the boat gently bobs, their chieftain Freyr-An’ersh adds, “It is enough to know we have worked so hard. That we have enough of everything. To be thankful to those who gave. We move onward in our town in happiness they earned for us. Parties are not the only way to happy. Nor are stories. We are a story. We are taking a boat trip and it is fulfilling. While there is light enough.
Take time to feel the bobbing of the rhythms.”
Poppa-Volva chips in, “Oh look it is time to turn back!”
“And so we return to sleep till spring,” adds Thorfinn Asmundsson.
“Ha you wish,” musters Tyra av Rafnsblõt, “This is when the work starts”
“Oh I long for spring,” sighs Blathnaid-Brigid, “Where I am pleased to know we will witness little miracles growing all around. I am sure we will, I am sure we will, and am so very excited.”
Footnotes and Credits
The element of the story where one ship props up another in a fjord rescue is based upon the real-life memories of my sister-Norn Sigrun watching out for family members returning upon a fishing vessel; hers is an extremely moving tale to hear.
Thank you to my chieftain Georg for the story of the dragon head and the Vanadís.
The traumatic effects of burning the fruiting juniper branch come from the book Legal Highs.
The riddle is the first of a few I shall feature and come from a small book of Vikingesque riddles by highly skilled bone-worker Peter Merrett (and I am sure many of you will wish to add comments below).
Thanks to my good friend Grethe-Irene for her tale of the warrior Viking.
The natural phenomenon of the ice rain in the Rockford area was brought to me by my niece.
Thanks go to Judson, Atle and Holly for discussions on kilts.
Storytelling is… #12 The Skald
What is a Skald?
I could look it up, and perhaps I will, but there is almost no need of history, we are history, we are re-making it as we go along. Let ‘What is a Skald?’ be answered by what is needed of me.
Some of you are, like, yes but what is a Skald? I am storyteller to the chieftain so we can start from there.
Fame and respect I suppose. A storyteller and or poet would be noticed and enjoyable. They would be thanked loudly as well as being responded to as they go along. So it was with me I guess. I did many a performance in many a place before I was asked to be Skald. Poetry and story and most importantly, a mixture.
So audiences were aware of me. Any passing chieftains would be able to see that appreciation shown by the crowd at a glance. They would hear the applause and sometimes even cheers. They would hear laughter – but I do maintain that I am funnier over here in Norway than I was back home in Yorkshire.
There needs to be a little more than this when that chieftain comes along. He needs to like what he hears, to see where the performer is coming from with an air of expectation.
More than this though, they need to jell. So it was with Georg and I. We got along with mutual respect and anticipation right from the start. Not that we are alike, or at least not in every way; our views compliment each other. Also, as Georg says, we ‘look right’.
Not that the role is exclusive, parts of the job can be stepped into by others at times: storytellers, shamans, musicians, hosts, all play a part as happens.
Georg saw me perform at the Jorvik Viking Festival (many times in fact) and through that he invited me to go to Gudvangen.
My performances were a mixture of poetry and story and were tailored to fit the occasion, and the needs of the festival organisers. This arrangement is a happy compromise which also requires an effort to acknowledge the needs of the audience.
So it was in history and so it is that history repeats itself.
Yes, Skald, or Skalt, means poet. One needs to be a poet, experience shows however one needs to be so much more.
The praise poems are needed of course. Special occasions are marked, battles also. In this Viking town rather than just celebrating past battles the Skald needs to support in current ones; fighting the corner in more gentle or subtle ways than the battles of axe-wielding of old. One may also need to help bury the hatchet.
Other roles such as ceremonies we shall come to which often require poems; ‘poems of a purpose’ beyond the topic of the role of the chieftain.
I think my chieftain (or would-be king) continues in the role not just because of the massive levels of respect and expectation from thousands of supporters but also because it is fun.
One must have fun, one must also take ones role very seriously. I know I do. I couldn’t write for the job if I didn’t have a massive respect for the man, for his role, for our societies, and for all who come here.
I am not alone in the role, Georg has several singers, poets, tellers around him – I throw myself into the role and try to take up every challenge. I try.
I take my ‘job’ very seriously, that way it leads to a whole load of fun.
I am sure the Skalds of old had fun, I am also sure they were storytellers. It is said that their panegyrics (praise poems) were quite complicated. The main elements of skaldic verse ( to keep this brief and simple) are: beat rather than rhyme, resonance, assonance, alliteration, consonance and that uniquely Norse metaphoric construct the kenning. The naming-word structures kenning were chiefly used to refer to stories from the Norse belief system which we most often refer to as the myths.
It is believed that the Skald utilised a combination of skaldic verse and story; partly to enthral, partly to impress.
A poem would be spoken, not all of it would be understood so the Skald would look impressive, they would then tell the story or stories which related to the kennings, so being entertaining and explanatory they would now repeat the poem and the listeners would understand it and they could be impressed with themselves.
Some say there was vanity involved, even so far as to say that we only know of the myths / belief system because such as Snorri could feel immortal because we could understand his poetry.
I know that I am immensely proud of being humble and it is the only reason I have been so exceptionally successful.
My main topic here shall be my diversity within the complexities of the role it is an echo of the past in the present, and the skalds certainly diversified.
Beyond the many aspects of the role there is also the fact that it has come about through the natural occurrence of events to be perpetually entwined with occurrences of the past.
We are a rock. A bridge. A ship. A hog-back stone. We are a Heiti – A short replacement of description by metaphor.
We are a time-talker – death-spanner – eon-kin; we are interlinked by our use of kenning.
Our very panegyrics: our words of praise unite us across time.
We are the ‘sound’ from the Proto-Germanic skalliz = sound, voice, shout. The Old High German skal for sound; a skalsong was a song of praise.
Be aware we also have cross time connections in the field of mocking, insulting, word-sparing, with the current English word scold coming from the same root.
For good or bad as a skald you will be an influence, usually for the good of course. You will be an influence and may diversify further into other roles.
You will join the ranks of the keepers of culture and history and of old this often led to other roles.
Becoming a clerk or a scribe was common; a record keeper. Some became preachers, then, as of now, are different faiths and different groups. One now might be led into a role within a re-enactment society’s management, back then skalds would become representatives at a Thing; at the All-thing. You are a skald you are a prominent figure.
One thing is for certain, there were stories to tell, there was a wish to listen, be captivated, to learn. I am very glad to say there is still a place for story today; still a place for old tales and tradition always. Being the skald can definitely lead to stories being told.
One should come to this role through respect. I understand that in some societies, especially in Britain, one has to endure tests – it all sounds a bit Greek to me.
Back in the day, (The Norse day – our heyday), one might be tested by circumstance and be seen to rise above. Perhaps one may even take part in a skald-off – the old mock fights of mocking words, where you make the other look so bad that you rise to the fore – not for me that one, (unless pushed).
In many a re-enactment society to tell stories there are tests which one must. Forgive me if I have details wrong but it goes something like this… Apply to be a member, pay up a fee, arrange to go to the annual training weekend, do the village test, and acting test, three appearance tests and the skald test – you are now a skald. I would place the emphasis on ‘a’ skald and would better describe this as being tested to be a storyteller. There are other ways yet this is one way.
To become ‘the’ skald however this comes from respect.
By ‘the’ I mean the chosen representative of a leader or group; it may be a queen requiring great praise, it may be your local Vikingslag for berating the loser of a scrap or a skirmish. Be it live action role play or at a Viking activity centre it is best not to look at the role as a rank, a qualification or an employment; you deserve the role.
You will be busy.
We shall need to write and or memorise skaldic verse or stylized words for the sake of the occasion, achievements and celebration, (I use a leather binder rather than memory).
We may well help others; story circles, workshops, shares, we may even organise a vote to choose skald of the festival, of the market, of the year. We can create storytellers.
There shall be collaboration; with visiting dignitaries, event managers, business owners, societies. There will be creative collaborations with musicians, drummers, singers, chanters, marchers, actors – with bloggers, vloggers, media, artists, weavers.
Then, of course, there are the speeches, welcoming, declaring open, creating an atmosphere, thinking of fun ways of saying things – attempting to capture the essence of the atmosphere but also of what my chieftain will want to put across.
People should feel good – my chieftain’s golden rule is everyone is welcome except those who don’t make others feel welcome.
Then our chieftain shall speak and I shall have made everyone aware of how important his words shall be – I can put them in a nutshell for you though – It is all about love.
There is the blot or versions of same. This can be a ritualistic ceremony where everyone involved is deeply moved with the connection to the Aesir. The Asatru are the followers of Odin’s family, they are his family.
Such ceremonies are similar to many activities which many British would describe as Pagan.
A simple ceremony can be formed at an opening to bless and celebrate – this is often a mixture of light-hearted and or sentimentally moving. We fill the horn with mead and pass it round, as it circulates each person takes a sip (or gifts a little to the earth if they don’t drink alcohol); as I say these can be endearing and powerful or as simple as ‘Skol’!
One highly jocular comment seemed to be extremely popular when I was in the circle, “Cheerio Miss Sophie.” – this is seen by Norwegians as quintessentially English and yet, for years, was completely incomprehensible to me.
Everyone is welcome and ‘everyone’ is a wide-ranging set of people. – there is almost every belief here and many reasons to be here; Pagans may feel a connection to the place, Asatru to their gods, Muslims might be internally connecting in their own way, Jewish… – you get the idea.
We all have reasons for being here too, from the tourist to the re-enactor, from the site owner to the child of the drummer, traditionalists and newcomers, outsiders and originators, we can all get something out of this, and the nearest I can come to summarising is – timelessness.
There are specific ceremonies, ie funerals, naming days, blessings, weddings, initiations. How are these done? – By everyone sharing their expectations and wishes, to ensure that these elements are included.
You have jobs beyond the grand occasion, newcomers should feel welcome, they should not feel unsure, they should be guided and befriended. – Keep an eye out for them and point them at the right person (possibly yourself).
New ideas will come and you will seek to be encouraging and informative.
Off-shoots of my role have included, contributing to newsletters, blogging, arranging tapestry presentations across the globe.
The biggest thing perhaps is the parade; the background to it and the resultant ceremony.
Background indeed, often an aspect hardly noticed IE there are drummers and pipers hanging around wondering what’s going on. The film crews will be arriving in about five minutes. “Could you drum so they hear which way to come?” “Maybe blow horns when they are in sight?” “Could you be at either side so they walk through?”
To the chap with the three-metre spear, “Could you accompany the chieftain and I so you are his honour guard on the stage?”
“You warriors, when I hold up my hand for silence for the chieftain could you run in front of the stage roaring and clash your weapons to your shields?”
“Galda man, when the shields have been clashed and the horns have been blown could you make one of your spiritual screams?”
“The crew won’t be set up in front of the stage for ten or fifteen minutes so we all could parade around the full camp following our chieftain.”
I shall call onlookers to follow us so we have a crowd from the stalls.
So, everybody marches.
Being adaptable and able to respond ably to commission are vital skills.
People need to get there too. How is the place represented? Can you improve upon what is out there? During the course of writing this blog several people have enquired upon how to visit my chieftain’s town.
The getting there is a story in itself and can be made very entertaining, especially if you make it seem of the Viking age.
I was lost at a huge place with many stalls, all selling odours and alcohol, water was highly priced. I became lost in this accused place and passed many many gateways all leading to other worlds. When I found the right gate and donned Freyja’s feathers I landed in a place of many tunnels – no wonder you people believe in dwarves.
I am from the new lands and have returned to the old stone to remember they ways.
The narrative of the day is also important. Letting people know in a fun way what to expect and what they can take part in.
I of the new lands must admit to forgetting the old ways – we no longer have grass on our rooves – we have done the terrible deed of missing with the others – Saxon! Angles! Even Parisii!
I may have an advantage; being fluent in English as the world of the Viking is multinational and English is a common tongue, giving me advantage of a Norwegian speaker slightly, possibly, maybe.
We have told multinational stories in over twenty languages and dialects. See Norway in a Nutshell.
On the topic of tangential roles I have recently been asked to write a story to accompany every product on a Viking website.
My own blog keeps me busy with its various strings. This blog is part of the Storytelling is.. string. There is also a series of prose poems on the Gods and Goddesses. Plus another string on my many visits to Gudvangen; this set or series has recently been widened to include My Viking Dreamlife which mixes reality with myth and folklore.
The roles and off shoots I have described are the main elements defining the Skald in a timeless way through the needs of the community. As it must be so shall it be and so shall it always be in the before.
And that I show I ended up with a blood brother and living in a little hut next door.
Storytelling is… #12 The Skald
Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle
Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle
Gathering in a circle with the theme of stories is more ancient than we would generally imagine and yet is totally relevant.
Circles as part of a festival can be mainly a safe environment for people to listen and to input to a degree. A safe environment to share with the storyteller. So the element of being a show continues somewhat. This kind of environment tends to attract young adults and teens although does work for all ages.
Indeed single people who are not always confident at going out on a night or into bars will be attracted to such circles as something they feel happy within.
There is always the opportunity to share and sooner or later most people do. There is no better time for a circle than after a workshop or series of workshops. It is something to work towards. Somewhere to celebrate.
Circles empower and give confidence.
As well as working towards a solo performance at a circle there is the opportunity to share group work.
The Yggdrasil chorus with taking turns to epitomise elements of the worlds is a good example.
As is a multinational story where everyone translates into their own language a line at a time; always goes down great.
A story in the round from prompts can be great fun.
A trigger phrase also is good IE “I am that Viking who…” (fill in the gap) – “and I…” People can always pick up on it when they are ready.
I am often told I am a great teacher and when I question they say I teach by example. My storytelling is stimulating, my approach is encouraging.
Having an expectation of those around you can lead to miracles.
Here we have a safe environment not only for telling a tale but for discussion. A great place for feedback; both ways.
Suggestions can be made.
Ideas can be practiced.
Discussion prompted by a circle often leads to the group working together to help each other.
I usually start off with a batch of stories before developing the circle further.
As with shows, lectures, workshops the circle part of the package empowers the individual; to feel better about their skills, to better understand the process and to be more able to tell.
Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques
Welcome to the workshops.
We shall be chopping stories up. Following on from the ‘knowing’ comic strip, (displayed on the wall), we can look at the idea of gradually working away from scripts to a far more free-flow approach where important elements come to the fore.
There, that is all you need to know, goodbye – oh no I’ve already done that gag.
S.T.O.R.Y. shall be displayed for discussion, and possibly for a rewrite.
Story is to stare at
Traditional told anew
Oral always, abandon all scripts
Reinvent eventually through practicing live
You should be the centre of attention yet forgotten altogether
There that is all you need to know – Oh gosh this theme has become really repetitive.
Let us look at story breakdown.
Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques Subsection #8b The Breakdowns
(Scroll down to see full details of many.)
Here are some tales…
A Survival Tale – Bamboo Girl – Brynhildr Sleeps – Cinderella – Creation – Hansel and Gretel – Old Eater – Hare and the Tortoise – Loki’s Daughter – One Thousand and One Nights – Rocky and Bullwinkle Meet the Mermaid (based on the talking fish) – Sigurdr Falls in Love – Statue Boy – The Bones of the Mother – The Selfish Giant – The Sumerian Tale of a Giant – Viking Sea Travel Issues.
They are below you.
Go scroll down and be back, but rest assured you have just played the breakdown game.
You are back.
You may wish to work out the stories from the snippets as an interlude.
There comes a point where you don’t need this mini script but you may still have places where you falter so you need notes as reminders of these points you find tricky.
Then eventually you need no notes.
Then you don’t need to decide which story to tell until you stand up.
You may even start to weave between tales as you go.
A prompt is always good ie Rebecca’s Babe (it is a title really) – you are building a set list and you may add essentials as a footnote ie 1411 St Marys.
Rebecca’s Babe (1411 St Marys) – Go tell.
We are talking storytelling not Snorri repetition – thanks to all you folklore documenters in one big lump, (especially the female Irish slaves employed as scribes in Iceland), thank you all of you, (often vicars for some reason), fairies and trolls only exist because of you.
Creating the tale from its pieces is still traditional – no, it is even more traditional.
We are the tellers.
(BTW We say full stop in the UK where in the US you say period, period might fit better here.)
We need to get it into our heads that there are elements which have to be fitted in. That is all really.
And then practice.
Let us take those vital elements of those particular stories and juggle.
Let us deal out a share and seek to create a story of them.
Let us add in our own stories as breakdown (scribbling during a coffee break).
These can be from a wild selection of areas and types.
Think of stories you are familiar with.
Consider the idea of key points and make a list.
Let us add them to the pile.
We are creating the now.
From the then.
So, once they are shuffled and dealt and we all have a few in our hands it is time to create story.
Move them about while you think, (ask to swap one if you are stuck), work out an idea for a tale. Then tell your tale to a colleague.
Once practiced it is time to share, if we feel really confident the listener tells the tale they have just heard on behalf of the creator.
Tell me about children. Anything which come sot mind; habits, quirks, feelings, characteristics, choices: anything.
Now pick a few of these and apply them to adult Vikings.
You have a story.
IE Jealousy is very different thing if it is regards a powerful woman with a spearhead hidden in her cloak
Holding hands can conjure up all sorts of possibilities.
Children what are they like!
Be long and slow in your considerations of what your topic needs and fluid and witty in your storytelling
I also shall create a set of prompt cards, similar to the Ales and Tales ones found through the links blog but specific to our topic.
I carry a treasure chest of tiny things to use as prompts always, these make a fun change.
We can also use the snippets to create a group story.
Pull one at random – start a story – then let someone else go along with it – this is for fun – but also releases the imagination.
Often when I do a storytelling show I have different groups attending. It is good to get them together afterwards and have one group tell the other one of my stories.
This works even if you have already heard it because it comes out quite different.
Scripting. OK you might have written a story, or written something down, or written a script I add. I admit I have. Take out the elements and use these to tell. Allow it to break away from its rigidity.
We all have faults and failings. I say play to your failings. I know it is more usual to say to play to your strengths and yes that works too. We have our failings with us and it is them which need playing to. To be aware of where we might go wrong and think of strategies to deflect or prevent. This is mainly to get rid of the anxiety which can come with concern about faults. My big failing is names, I struggle to remember names and or numbers; let’s be honest, I am rubbish at facts. I found I relaxed into telling a lot more once I had realised. Once I had given myself permission. If I could say ‘his son’ – ‘her lover’ and get around the forgetting of a name it helped me relax. It helped me relax to the degree that I probably remembered the name, because the pressure was off.
I allow myself not to be perfect every time.
It was the start of my realising each telling is unique.
Areas which were issues when I first started; all in one tone, not using voices for characters, digressing and losing track as a result.
Describing characters, places or situations without using their name is an interesting exercise. I shall supply a list of suggestions and ask participants to add to the list. Not as a trick or puzzle but with obvious ways of describing so we know who or what it is. This helps with descriptiveness.
Experiments with use of space and ways of moving follow on nicely here.
Dream you have done it – come back tomorrow.
I have always found that performance example inspires and encourages people so will refer people to my storytelling show and look for reaction and discussion. Help us find out why we are here and to self help us into improving.
“I am that Viking who…” (fill in the gap)– “and I…” – This is a good one to throw in to a story share. So people can pick up on it when they are ready.
What is a skald? – imagine you are a chieftain – what do you want from me? We piece together an image and then seek to fulfil it.
You are not a strong brave important warrior or leader, you are other than this, imagine yourself as a less dynamic character, perhaps limited in some way and then consider how you would fit in. Tell us of life on that farm.
We are Yggdrasil and all is gathered within our growth. Then each person personifies a place, character, situation, creature etc; I am wolf. Then repeat the chorus piece and so on. A good one to practice for a group performance.
Creating this blog allows the reader to consider which elements would be most helpful to them so we can shape the workshops between us to best suit our needs.
Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques Subsection #8b The Breakdowns
Warning these story breakdowns are spoilers!
A deity can tire of endless perfection – desire to be human – wear a swanskin and fly to Midgard – Strip and swim naked and mortal – A man recognised her, took her skin as blackmail – Make my side win, she did – As she set off to fly home Odin cursed her – ‘Sleep a loveless sleep for ever’.
A huge downpour – God asked Noah to build an Ark – Take two of everything – Noah called and they all came – the unicorn were all playing in the puddles – they missed the call.
Big storm – Fishing boats turns upside down – all drown – except the chef he is clinging to the upside down toilet – dark with a bit of air, fish start to bite – he swims down to the ceiling and pulls out some of its boards – he floats on the boards for five days in the dark upside down galley – there is a knock on the hull.
Eater down by Tongue River, of the Cheyenne – Caught one of his horses – as he rode away, one was missing, Grey Face! – He rode all day looking – Upon his return his wife hears his tale and says you are riding Grey Face.
Jack’s mother says nothing will grow, us and the cow will starve – Go to market and sell the cow – He comes back with five beans she throws them out in disgust – Jack climbs the beanstalk that grows – in the giant’s castle are a hen that lays gold eggs and a harp which plays – he steals them – then he chops down the beanstalk as the giant is coming.
Loki falls for Angraboda and sees her without his wife knowing – They have three monster children , one is Hel – The gods come to dispose of them – Hel is half beautiful and half rotten – they throw her down the long drop of the dead – She rules the underworld – Her dead servants are building a ship so she can bring an army to Ragnarok.
New step mother is cruel – They overhear plans to dump them in the forest – Sneaking out they collect stones to later mark their way back with – Upon return they again hear plans but the door is locked so they keep the bread from supper – Birds eat the bread crumb trail – They are lured into a gingerbread cottage – She must work to fatten up her brother – She pushes the witch into the oven – Step mother is also dead or gone when they return so all is happy.
Poor fisherman catches mermaid – agrees to release – wife cross makes him go back – grant me a wish of a palace – she keeps making him go back for more – ‘queen’ then, eventually, ‘Goddess?’ – Mermaid asks what he wants and he just wants to be happy like before – “Come in I am so proud of how neat I have got the hovel.”
Poor old bamboo cutter finds golden babe – They bring her up, finding gold to help – to city – many men propose – she falls for the young emperor – discs of warriors and a king appear in the sky – she has learnt her lesson and must return – her memory is wiped – as it fades she throws an eternal life potion so he can find her – he cannot bear forever without her – servant throws it for him – it hits Mount Fuji and burns
Shahryār is enraged when his wife goes with another – Every day he marries a new virgin and executes her the next morning – until there is only the vizier’s daughter left – Scheherazade tells a tale without and end (Tell half a tale) -The king postpones her execution – She finishes the tale and starts a new one each night (You do the same).
The Happy Prince was a gold-leaved statue with sapphires for eyes and a ruby as a sword hilt – A swallows love for a reed make shim miss migration time so he befriends the statue – The once happy prince can see the city now he is dead and feels sorrow – A poor woman cannot buy her poorly son oranges – Statue bids bird to take his ruby – More sad cases until all the gold leaf has gone – Then one of his eyes and then the other – Perhaps when the swallow dies they will be reunited in the meadows of heaven.
There was nothing – in the nothing was ice and fire – fire melts ice old muck comes out – Muck makes Imir – A giant cow floats by dripping milk – Imir drinks – the cow is hungry so licks salt from the ice – Buri forms from the ice – Imir’s angry sweat forms into more giants – the earth’s first beings were giants (and a cow).
We fear as we travel the seas – Ask Njord for help – Ran under the sea sends her nine daughter – They are the waves – Ran throws her net to catch drowning sailors – they will entertain her – Call to Njord, Call to Njord.
Young warrior has killed a dragon – he has gold and a ring (the ring is cursed) – ahead a mountain-top tower shrouded in flames – He rides fast and his horse leaps – A naked woman sleeps – He dismounts and kisses her – It is love – He puts the cursed ring upon her finger.
Zeus gets angry with humans, yet again – big flood – Deucalion builds a big floating box for him and his wife Pyrrha – they land on Parnassus – floods go – Oracle Themis says throw the bones of the mother behind you – so they throw stones over their heads – the stones turn to people.
Quote from John Thor Ewing
“It has been a while since I’ve done a “storytelling” show as such, although I still use stories in performances. My own style was always to cut through to “the story itself” as quickly as possible and, although of course I always adapted both wittingly and unwittingly, I always felt that I was telling it “straight”. So, I don’t think I could ever do what you do, which seems to deconstruct the idea of storytelling, as if Chaucer or Bocaccio had decided to concentrate on the storytellers rather than the stories – in my mind, it shouldn’t work and, although I know that you can make it persuasive, thought-provoking and entertaining, I have no idea how you do it. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I really don’t feel I have anything valid to say about this, but I have confidence in your abilities.”
Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning
Come along with me on an atmospheric walk around the winding ways of this ancient city where I utilise forty years of experience of hosting ghost walks around York. I shall write as I recall and be as true to the recollections of witnesses and to my own innate abilities as for accurate representation of historic events you may feel the need to go check such details out for yourself.
Oh yes, As we wander I shall try to remain true to my major influence for I shall be explaining as we go along the details of my claim to fame; Son of York’s first ghost walker.
There is a strict no swearing policy and definitely no entertainment allowed, in the vibrant, friendly, (and gay friendly), little pub by the York Minster; The York Arms.
You may feel like swearing though if you were to use the stairs. you will be on the floor. As the stairs only lead to the private accommodation it will serve you right for either not paying attention or for being up to no good. The stairs are guarded. You may see the figure of a previous landlady or you may not. If you do you may have a moment to consider how elegant she is with her flowing hair and long gown. Whether you see her or not you will feel her presence. Just in the instance of a strong sensation of anger at your intrusion you will feel her push you very hard. You are on your way down. All in the back bar will see you and definitely hear you as you crash to the floor by the serving hatch. You may still be conscious but are unlikely to be able to run, or to even get up; so you will be apprehended for your crime. For the crime of interfering with the privacy of the lady on the stairs. She keeps her fellow residents safe.
Even less friendly is the ghost across the road, he is running away, running away to cause trouble. Especially if chased. Especially on the eve of his death, death, death.
Tortured, hanged, drawn, quartered and then burnt over and over again. No wonder he causes fires if disturbed.
Yes we have left York Arms and across from there you can see, you guessed it, the Guy Fawkes Tavern (formerly Youngs Hotel). You have passed the main doors of the Minster and more poignantly St Michael Le Belfry. That’s where we are coming from. That’s where the ‘guy’ (sic) was christened. Contrary to what you may have heard of late Guy was his real name. It isn’t now, but it was when he was christened. Guy Fawkes. He was a hero. A hero of Catholicism; a servant of the Pope. Remember remember his whole world was Catholic; the whole of Christendom as they referred to it.
The British (*spit*) protestants were anti-Jew and anti-Catholic, quite an austere lot altogether really. Mr Fawkes was following a Papal Bull – a holy command.
Britain was up against the world and the Pope issued instructions to do whatever you could to destroy the new faith.
Guy was a hero in Spain and his righteous valour caused him to be awarded the more fitting first name of Guido, this he preferred and this we shall call him from now on.
Guido the terrorist, globalist, servant of the Pope, soldier, did not blow up the houses of parliament, he did not try to blow up the houses of parliament, well he did yet it is not the purpose of his endeavours. He was just a distraction so the King’s boys could be abducted and brought up Catholic. The future of the throne was the main intent.
Thus it is that on a certain date, (Remember remember the ‘fourth’ of November), his angry restless spirit appears to storm home from St Michael Le Belfry to his birthplace, through the tavern to the read annex where he was born.
His storming figure has been seen in the residential area. Two women told my mum of their experiences there. This was the fourth of November, the eve of his death. This is, of course, a death which has been re-enacted countless times.
The fifth of November is Bonfire Night and upon every bonfire, (originally fires of bone), is placed an effigy of Guido Fawkes. No wonder he is angered into haunting as his horribly cruel death is venerated over and over again culminating in explosive cheers and sizzling bones. Everywhere they dance to his death, everywhere except St Peters School. He is an old boy of St Peters. So, it is told, that they never burn a guy – they burn a gal. Victims of their ritual burnings are said to have included Victoria Beckham, Maggie and Katie Price.
The year the two women saw him that rule was planned to be broken – St Peters school planned to burn a guy, ‘the’ Guy, their Guy. No wonder he stormed home.
“Excuse me,” cried one of the ladies as they ran down the stairs from the residential area, “There is a strange man upstairs,” “Yes,” added her friend, “an intruder.” The bar ‘guy’ ran upstairs and sure enough there was the intruder, a sinister figure in a long black flowing cloak. “Oy,” he half turned towards the bar man’s call then marched on. On into the end of the corridor. On, right through the wall. The office beyond burst into flames at just gone midnight – November the fifth.
There are ghosts in this ancient city and my mum knows that for sure. She met many of the witnesses. She worked for the author: John Mitchell. He wrote Ghosts of an Ancient City. It is still out there and it started it all. Not the inventor of the ghost walk though. The original ghost walks were invented by…
My mum’s pals.
A gang of them. They got together and chatted and the next thing mum knows the phone is ringing. “You know how you were the researcher and met all the witnesses first hand?”
“Yes.” Hang fire here comes the invention of ghost walks…
“Why don’t you take us on a walk round York and tell us the stories where they actually happened.” Now there are eight or nine companies doing ghost walks every night of the week.
Yes my mum was in on it at the beginning but she didn’t know that my sister Ginny was too. John Mitchell ran experimental groups which would have several lasting repercussions. It is only in the last couple of years that it has come out that they both attended these groups.
The library at St Olavs is dedicated to John Mitchell, but his chief work was undertaken while he was teacher, and later ‘head’ at the ancient school of St Peters.
People from all walks of life were invited to experiential workshops with experiments, practices and discussions.
Mum listened to voices among white noise, talked to the dead, discussed the power of visitation with the then late H G Wells, held vigils late into the dark, felt upturned wine glasses fill with power,
“So did I,” proclaimed my sister, “with my teacher.” Her teacher from Mill Mount School for Girls had recruited her for one of John Mitchell’s projects. Light in the dark; wisdom for the believer.
From all of those groups came the search for witnesses, from these came a book, from this came the ghost walks. From those decades of ghost walks came an invitation for me to tell ghost stories to young people. Ghost stories in St Olavs school in the John Mitchell library. I told stories but not for long as you will see.
I did them ‘the worst thing about doing ghost walks’. The worst thing about doing ghost walks is – there is always someone on my ghost walk who knows a better story than me! It is just not fair!
Take the lady who told me of coming home from work late. It was a large terrace house which had been split into two and her and her husband had the top part as their apartment.
She was late home. Work were keeping her. She managed to let her husband know. She would not be in till 19.30 but he would have a meal ready.
She got off work not as late as expected and headed home. She let herself in and started up the stairs, as she neared their apartment she heard voices.
There was someone talking to her husband; it was a woman.
There was a woman inside her home. She could hear her voice. That woman was in her living room.
She burst open the door. There was no one there.
She could still hear voices. They were in the bedroom.
She crept to the door; she burst it open. There was no one there.
They were in the bathroom. She could definitely hear them talking. She burst open the door.
There was her husband looking in the mirror and shaving. As he slowly looked round, she asked, “Who were you talking to?”
He answered haltingly, “I, thought, I was talking to you.”
Then he was staring to the side of her – to – behind – the – door. She peered around the door and there was a young woman. She was dressed smartly, but rather old fashioned; her full-skirted black lace dress had frilled cuffs and a ruff at the neck, “I must be in the wrong house.”
The young woman walked out and around my friend and past her into the lounge. They watched as she opened the main door, they heard her clunk down the stairs. They heard the front door open and close. They came to their senses and ran after her.
They ran down the stairs. They got to the door – it was locked. Locked, twice, and both bolts were across and the chain was on.
By they had it open the woman was gone. They locked up and went back up into the lounge. He flopped in one chair and she in the other. They stared for a second then one said, “She was as real as me and you.”
Then the other said, “But,” and then they both said at the same time, “She didn’t have any feet.”
Yes she was as real as me and you but she disappeared from the ankles down.
After a few more such tales as this it was time for the kids, and boy did they know tales.
They frightened each other; the girl with no face, the lover who turned out to be long dead, the figure you just know is right behind you, the building no one ever goes in and no one ever returns from, the ribbon around the neck which must never be removed, the fingers in the trunk, the light over the gravestone, the warrior who slowly turns towards you, the romans in the cellar, the roman in the Minster, the angry figure. They frightened each other.
I reminded them of whose library we were in. John Mitchell would certainly be listening, he spent his life trying to discover the truth about life after death. He was York’s man of ghosts, now his school’s pupils were telling ghost stories in his library, of course he was listening, and going by the bristling tension we had created, of course he would be proud.
Click links below to see previous editions
Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning
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I highly recommend: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/
See also my Nordic Prose poems of the Gods and Goddesses series…