Graphic novel originally commissioned by York Archaeological Trust for display at the Jorvik Viking Festival
Graphic novel originally commissioned by York Archaeological Trust for display at the Jorvik Viking Festival
Opening Ceremony 2016 Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway
Welcome, welcome, you are all welcome. So good to see you all gathered here for the opening ceremony of this the 14th Viking Market here in Gudvangen Viking Valley.
You are safe here, welcome; you can relax and enjoy yourself, even though you will be spending the day among huge, hairy, heavily armed Vikings.
We are glad to have you here eating our food, drinking our mead, looking at our stalls.
Yes welcome, so relax you will be safe here – it is when we visit you that you need to worry.
“And we won’t be emailing, there will be no polite email asking if it is OK to visit. We will suddenly be there but you will know straight away. You will be well aware we are among you.”
This is a very special place; there is something magical about this valley. Everyone says so. You begin to feel the effect of being here straight away.
These Vikings here, as soon as they step off the ship they calm down, which is unusual I assure you. All the time they are here they are friendly, easy-going and peaceful – well most of the time.
Look at me. When I am at home I am a wild, dangerous, rampaging mad thing.
You will enjoy yourselves! Do you hear what I say, and can you see the shine of sharpness along the edge of my axe. You will enjoy yourselves!
Besides, we have many things on our stalls which we want you to buy. We have been to many lands and learnt many skills; old, well-tried, traditional skills. We will enjoy showing you; try not to be nervous when you generously show your appreciation.
Yes, we have sailed to many nations. We have landed on a wide range of shores, seen people of many types – and robbed them, traded with them, I mean traded with them, yes, traded.
“Can we ask where you are all from?”
“Spain.” “Poland.” “Canada.” “Ireland.”
“Ah, those are the places we robbed.”
That’s where we got all these things we are selling.
“Hey, stall holders, lower your prices.”
Yes visitors we will sell your things back to you quite cheaply.
“And you will be safe here. Adrian remind them how welcome they will be, and how safe.”
Yes, yes, safe, yes. We have sworn an oath, an oath. We wanted to reassure you so we oathed an oath, and when a Viking makes an oath they make an oath and the oath that they oath is an unbreakable oath which we have oathed; an oath is an oath is an oath. Let it be known that we have oathed.
“What is an oath?”
A promise; and a promise is a promise and…
“Don’t start that again.”
No, right, of course, but we did; there is a ritual and a belief. To make that oath the first thing you have to do is – spit in a barrel.
Well we skipped that bit.
“Yes well we are selling lemonade and mead to you. So we thought it best not to spit in the barrels. Or talk about it even…”
No sorry. No spitting. The barrels are fine!
A promise is a promise though, and it has to be kept. We worry about where we will go when we die.
Oath-breakers have to walk through a river of gushing ice. This ice is formed into axes, spears and knives – then, you step out – to be kept in a tower made of living serpents. Bitten and sprayed with burning poison for ever and ever and ever and ever.
Or until Ragnarok; the end of the world.
“So we keep our promises; enjoy.”
If, you enjoy hearing of the old mythos – watch out for the ravens…
A shadow will flicker over you. As you look up, the second raven will fly in from the world waters, by you see the third raven it will be too late. There it will be upon the mast of an incoming ship; a ship so terrible you will quake at the sight of it. The Vikings are coming, and they are no ordinary Vikings. These are Njardar. Njardar Vikingslag.
We are coming to you and charging onto your land. Hear the roar. See the gleam. A huge army of huge warriors are upon you. These are the best (the Mayor of Aurland himself said that we were second in exports and visitors and soon to become first, so it must be true). It is like the sky itself is filled, and they wait, with weapons high, only for a command to charge. Step forward the chieftain; Olafr Reydarsson. When he speaks we listen. He is big! Very big!
Well, his beard is big anyway. He will give the command; the word and we will all, roaring, act upon that word.
The word is…
“Welcome; you are all welcome to come and visit us in Gudvangen. Everyone is welcome, except those who do not make others welcome. Come visit.”
And so they do, in their thousands, from all over the world.
We have had a battle though, a long, hard fought battle – a battle to build.
As you step though those gates into the fourteenth Viking Gathering here at Gudvangen you step back into the past. Now. The long battle is over. Now. As you step through these gates you are stepping into our future.
By the fifteenth Viking Gathering there will be a Viking Town. It is a two year project with the first row of Viking houses ready by May – I have put my name down for one of these already.
Here is the first of the timber being delivered now…
You will be able to take part in the Glima wrestling…
With hardly any risk to yourself….
Hear Galda upon the holy hill…
Learn leather skills with Hamish, or buy his bags from Annabelle…
Visit Lady Chaga…
Be warned; slavers are in the area and you are at risk…
And it is no use complaining, we know that now.
But no, no, no, do not worry, as we have promised, you are completely safe here, well, until six o’clock. Once the market closes at six all promises are off!
Don’t spit when you speak!
Vikings will become Vikings again.
You will be greatly at risk – unless you buy a tunic and a pair of boots and stay here.
Then you will be welcome.
Before we actually open the market and get on with selling you your treasures back, there is one rather tricky thing which must be dealt with.
“Don’t tell them Adrian.”
No, we must.
“There is a rumour.”
A terrible rumour.
“It has been whispered over and over as people come through the gate.”
We are now going to deal with that rumour.
“People have been saying that they have heard that a group of tourists with plastic wrist bands came here to visit and were never seen again.”
“It is true!”
Never seen again!
They bought Viking outfits and became part of this marvellous experience.
“Now we must warn you.”
This may happen to you.
“This valley is such a wonderful, unique place that once you have visited you never wish to leave. Many choose to stay and be here forever.”
This we must warn you of.
“But there is a greater risk, a great and terrible sadness and yearning which may come upon.”
“If you do choose to leave here you will regret it forever.”
You will always feel that you are not where you belong and will feel terribly, terribly sad that you did not choose to stay.
“Terribly, terribly sad.”
“Now, finally, we welcome you with one piece of explanation about what you might expect here, here is the secret – it is all about love.”
“We will be opening the market again tomorrow.”
And this worries me greatly.
“I will be wearing my helmet. It was a wonderful gift to me and is an accurate reconstruction of a Viking age helmet.”
And why does it have a figure of a boar on the top?
“This is to signify that I command a team of specialist warriors.”
What kind of warriors?
And you are wearing it tomorrow? This worries me greatly. I have pledged to always stand by your side. To dress appropriately and be there in the way that you need me whatever you ask of me. What does a Berserker wear?
“A small fur collar.”
And that’s it!
Right I will have to get my outfit ready then.
“It worries me as well, I don’t think I will be standing next to you tomorrow.”
(“And if you blog about it tomorrow Adrian, do not do a drawing.”)
Thinking about it, I will make a great berserker. If you put all the fighters and all the wrestlers in the field ready I will be able to beat the lot of them, I will clear the field.
If I come screaming across to them wearing nothing but my berserker outfit they will scatter. I will see off the lot of them.
They will run.
“So will I!” “Enjoy yourselves today, because tomorrow is berserker day.”
We now declare the Viking Market open!
“This is a marvellous experience, with Vikings and visitors from all around the world, none of the differences you might notice elsewhere matter at all here, all beliefs, all life styles are for elsewhere; here everyone gets along and shares the wonder which is Gudvangen.”
So it is spoken by Olafr (Georg) and this is the world.
Our Time at Balagard Viking-age Finland 2019
at Finlandia University, Hancock, Michegan, United States of America
Tell Me (Based on Finnish creation) – Listen now…
All stills by Heidi…
The shape changer god no longer knows what he is. The change of shapes so often, takes away the god-like sense of human-form, until a part of him is monstrous.
Even at his birth, when lightning took away his mother, he had to survive. Laufey had ran away while heavily pregnant, in fear for her life from Cruel Striker, she ran. Deep into the Iron Wood. At the moment of Loki’s birth- lightning struck and Loki was alone. He had to change.
To hunt, to hide, to feed,
What monster in a god’s form entered Asgard?
He was embraced as blood-brother. Here he could be equal, and, he loved; his beloved wife and children, to them he was fair and loyal and true.
Yet he felt the call to share his love, to fly away – He went with Giant-woman Angrboda. Went with her often. They had children.
If ‘children’ is what they were. A snake. A wolf. A half dead daughter. Their wildness, their corruption, the danger of them spread as word to gods. They must be stopped.
Now. Jormungand the Midgardyrm is cast into the sea, to grow and fume and wait.
The wolf they could not kill, they tricked it: tied it down to howl and wail and strain with magic dwarven ribbons holding him.
The daughter; blackened half, commandingly beautiful in half; she was cast to the very deep.“Become the queen of all the death, the cowardly dead, the trickster dead, the oath breaker. – Keep them, keep them.” So hollered High-seat god of all the worlds.
How Loki fumed. It turned his heart. They were not monstrous to him. They were his monsters. They were his offspring. See ahead how bitter are his deeds because of this. “My children! My monsters! My offspring!”
Footage collection with Adrian, friends and family – Yorkshire Culture, UWGB, Lucy Spendlow, Egg Drop Soup, Frode Tufte, Njardarheimr, Alda’s Viking Kitchen, Lamb Stew, Steam Tales, Daily Distraction, Skipping Day, Scarborough, Georg and the Rooster, Sigrun Design, Alda on Top of the Pops, Real Good Time, Latvian Vikings, Dan Webster Band, Nisswa Viking Festival, Society For Storytelling, Jamie Cooper, Natcha Dauphin.
An audio only set first. I was commissioned by Professor Rebecca Nesvet, Assistant Professor of English at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay to create a presentation on Yorkshire culture. This was recorded by Kate Farley, Instructional Technologist at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.
Next I am very proud to show you one of the cookery programs from top chef Lucy Spendlow; Egg Drop Soup.
Here is a visit to the sadly missed Njardarheimr Viking Town in Norway to see our CEO Forde Tufte walking the sheep. I hope we can join you soon. https://youtu.be/TGJBjUIpZII
Alda’s Viking Kitchen presents Lamb Stew.
Snippets from my forthcoming book Steam Tales, written in collaboration with my late father Ronald. This was presented as a ‘daily distraction’ via UW-Green Bay College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I am proud to be assisted on this publication project by the History team of students while working with Professor Heidi Sherman.
Skipping Day in Scarborough.
My chieftain Georg blesses the God statues while accompanied by the Njardarheimr cockerel.
Top displays at London Fashion Week and very much in demand; Sigrun’s Viking fashions are modelled well, but never as well as now. Here is your chance to see me in my Viking Shirt from sigrun.co.uk
This is Alda with her hit from Top of the Pops revisited
Heidi filmed these two wonderful Vikings from Latvia, Līga Reitere and Zane Danoss, singing to the very essence of nature and the power of the light.
The brilliant Dan Webster Band performing Sand.
The Viking Era Was Brought To Life During First Nisswa Viking Festival, (Nisswa is a city in Crow Wing County, Minnesota) – Thank you to Trodin Hegn for this link…
Members can post events in here, so I guess it is worth a look…
Wonderful guy Jamie Cooper with a wonderful rendition of When the Swallows come back to Capistrano
Captivating song from Natacha Dauphin, Je Pars (Poor Patrick). Subscribe to her channel.
Some Viking Shields – the start of a collection.
I am gathering information for Dwayne to utilise for creating shields to hang within the UWGB Viking House, and now I am also sending the package to Professor Katie Walkner, of UWGB Manitowoc for a project one of her student is creating.
There will be plenty of great images and links out there which I don’t know, and I would be glad to hear from you the reader.
Many of the action images come to us care of Eric De Bernardi of Vanaheim Vikings who are a part of Vikings UK. Lots more images and info on their page – https://www.facebook.com/vanaheimyork/
The Regia Anglorum image comes to us courtesy of Līga Supantīsaūli Gūlbs.
I am proud to be a member of Vanaheim the York University Viking group. Which makes me think of connections and affiliations. Wouldn’t it be great if each shield we display has a story to link it to others we are connected to. Toby of Balagard – Viking-age Finland made this suggestion.
Tim of River Ravens also suggested it would be good to have their image on a shield to show our connection. https://www.facebook.com/FMRiverRavens/
Eric recommends contacting Roland Warzecha, aka Dimicator c/o – https://www.facebook.com/Dimicator-266934476773420/
Eric also thinks that Roland will probably direct you all to Asfolk Viking Martial Arts in Minnesota. https://www.asfolk.com/
My great chieftain Georg Hansen of Njardarheimr Viking town, Gudvangen, Norway sent me some real good links too.
and an interesting blog post
Sigourney of Origami Llama has offered to paint, in particular a Viking-stylised wolf or ouroboros. – https://www.facebook.com/theorigamillama/
Professor Heidi Sherman is also working on some designs.
Visiting Viking Attractions: An Idea Swap – one of my most successful blogs, here revisited, which celebrates the uniqueness of such as Norske Høstfest ND, UWGB Viking Festival and of course, my other home, Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway – lots of ideas…
(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.