Before they had a football team, as we all know, the Vikings did a bit of marauding and exploring. We have enjoyed attending mountain men reenactments in the past, so when we found out our newest neighbors, Colleen and Mark, were reenactors, and that they were coming to northern Missouri this weekend for a Viking gathering, we made arrangements to attend. The event is being held on a private farm where, over the last several years a Viking fort, called Ravensborg, has been constructed.
This site is only open to the public twice a year: in the spring for the Return of the Sun observance, and in the fall for the Return of the Dead. Three different groups were represented here, with reenactors from as far away as Canada and Ohio. They are required to live, eat, and function as authentically as possible during the weekend. There were people using card looms to weave strips of twill that would be used as belts, straps for horns and purses, and decoration for clothes. The previous day, they had dug a pit to fire pottery and were in the process of gradually uncovering it to bring the temperature down slowly and avoid breakage. An armory is the most recent building under construction, and displayed helmets and weapons.
Our neighbor, Mark, is the head cook--a position he said he didn't have to battle anyone for. When we arrived, he was serving lunch of soup, cheese, eggs and apples. The reenactors must provide their own dishes of wood, horn and pottery. Mark was in the midst of preparing the night's feast. He was expecting to serve about 100 people. A wooden outhouse had been converted to a smoker by charring the inside. He was smoking a pig, several pork loins, a beef roast, and 48 Cornish hens. He would also serve salmon that had been previously smoked, pickled herring, and a cabbage and leek dish. Authenticity is fudged for the children--they were going to have hot dogs and Goldfish. The kitchen is a long building with a large fire pit and baking oven. The feast would be served in the mead hall, another long building and the first built on this site, entirely lit by oil lamps with raised platforms on both sides.
The main attraction for the public visitors were the battle demonstrations. First they staged an attack on the gate house. Casualties were high. Then they demonstrated how the various weapons--swords, staffs, spears, etc. were used and the importance of the shields in defense.
I think we tend to think of early cultures as entirely isolated and homogenous, but there were constant reminders of the Viking contact with other people. Ornamentation that was typical of Slavic people who joined the Vikings was worn by some members. More elaborate armor indicated that the warrior was probably a Byzantine mercenary. Food and tools gave evidence to the huge amount of trade that went on. It was a fascinating afternoon.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.