Viking culture, how has it grown so big?

Part I

So, by viking culture what exactly are we talking about? Over the years I have been humbled enough to watch the evolution of its interest develop in a “way of life?” (Okay so whats a way of life?) by a way of life, we are talking about a cultural movement, and this transcends religion or music, its essentially all encompassing, the beating heart of an art style, music style, philosophy, morality to ones day to day life.

My adventures and travels exploring this started around 2007, when I was a young lad, and trying to find answer to my life. From there, I found these awesome “viking cultural” or Reenactment events underneath my travels with Jomsborg.

My first huge encounter of this, was in Iceland (my first viking market ever!) and this is commonly named The Viking Festival in Hafnarfjordur Iceland (Its around six days long and really something spectacular) however since I went, the viking organisation which runs it, has gone from around 30 members, to around 120+, and the size of the event has pretty much doubled in public interest also.

From there I travelled around the world and went to Archeon in Holland, to Moesgaard in Denmark, and my spiritual viking home, Wolin. Now these events didn’t just spring up out of the ground, and nor were they recent endeavours, each concept, or viking cultural sanctuary has its roots well back into the early 90’s, so for many of these, they have been going for over 2 decades! And they are bigger than ever!

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ULFLAG and there travels

ULFLAG and there travels

Influence, what changed it?

So essentially what changed? Well, you have to imagine the viking cultural movement has been not organised by some huge over bearing organisation controlling every little thing, quite the opposite, its been the trickling of water, like water on stone that eventually weathers it down. Each country has its own groups, its own events, its own media influence, and this more often than not can come down to differences in each state / county.

Imagine a siege, with a huge fortress, the huge fortress, is the Kingdom of ‘Modern Society’ and the people sieging the castle, is a confederacy of different Kingdoms and fiefdoms all attacking from different positions, each with different leaders, different strategies, and different outlooks on how this should be attained, and although this chaotic formation of tribes and warriors meet with the same goal, our strategy is utterly uncontrolled, and out of that, the beauty of what we are trying to achieve is born (with a natural organic, chaotic process).

Then a huge change occurred, the siege was only so effective, no one could break the walls then…. The rise of the internet, social media, and youtube, this gave viking culture a whole new platform, effectively for the siege, this was like the advent of the Tribuchet, or the Cannon, small groups, media around the world was given an oppertunity not to use standard forms of media practice, and get there vision across, and this essentially changed the world.

Media Influence:

1.The Kingdom of music: With musical influences such as Amon Amarth, and many, many countless metal, folk, and other forms of music, a great force of media influence has been put forward with the aid of youtube, and facebook and so on.

2. Mass Media: A huge significant change in my opinion has been the interest of Thor (via Marvel) and The Vikings TV series, although these may only be movies, and essentially just “TV” its widened peoples understanding and romanticism with viking culture. Its definitely created a “victorian’esque” romanticism about what we do, and in my perspective, im certainly not complaining.

Academic Influence:

A long side this, several huge academic advancements have been added to the mix, which includes the huge viking museum tour which went across Europe and America (Did anyone get to see that? I fortunately did at the British Museum and it was amazing!).

However smaller more fringe elements have started to occur, like Triglav Books, a respectful indie book label made by Igor Gorewicz in West Pomerania (Poland) highlighting viking, slavic, and rus cultures (generally that time period, where cultures clashed and merged, kingdoms rose to the heavens, and others were crushed under the feet of war). unsurprisingly, thousands of these books are sold every year, and they do extremely well!

Igor Gorewicz has been working on this subject, as an academic, for many years, but also as a reenactor and Warlord of Triglav, back to the times when Poland didn’t even really have a viking / slavic reenactment scene! Many shows in mainland Europe have his influence there, and you can be certain, Triglav books is sold somewhere. They have swiftly become a staple of the viking culture academically, but also simply, for tourists. It fundementally bridges the gap between interest archaeologically / historically, and the common tourist who wont understand the “academic jargon” which makes it unsuitable for visitors. Simply put, they are a handy resource which balances information, without being too pretentious or “too intelligent”.

Viking Drinking Horns

Viking Drinking Horns

 

As you can see by going onto Amazon, our love for the viking culture academically is huge, its romanticised about, studied, theories created, and you can buy enough books to fill your house on the subject.

Reenactment / Combat Infuence:

Another of the influences, if not the hugest influence, is the viking / Slavic / Saxon Reenactment scene, from battles seen in the UK like Hastings, going Eastwards to Russia (Like the battle of a thousand swords) there’s a huge cultural revival of normal people, like you and me, picking up steel swords, armour, and training in ritualised combat around the world, in a mix of Reenactment, and Pseudo martial arts, which would be our Western World alternative to the Japanese traditionalists following a Religious / Spiritual enlightenment through discipline of Aikedo, or the countless other forms of Martial Arts. Although please note, I may make this comparison, the differences vary according to each culture / group, and there goals / aims.

As I have witnessed, I thought when I first joined “The Viking World” of reenactment, the culture was saturated, no movement for progress, thousands around the world already did it, and it had reached its peak, many hugely influencial people thought similar. How certainly wrong we were. As an example, since 2008, the organisation of Jomsborg has gone from having around 500 active warriors world wide, to anywhere up to 2000 in 2016, and that’s with considerable losses over the years.

Over all, Reenactment could not be considered anything other than a strange wonder which has taken upon itself its own spirit, its own energy, and its own sub culture which just as we think its reached its limit, we find it still grows, against all predictions.

Another factor for why Reenactment has helped this, is its influence on Media (Media Companies, film companies, bands, etc etc etc) using Reenactment as a way of creating content. As an example with World Media Rights, The ULFLAG have been working with them for two series’s now, and the first series was seen by millions in the programme Ancient Black Ops, its now on Netflix, and has gone world wide. Season two is likely to do the same. Now, without reenactors, hiring stunt fighters, hiring costume, and set, and casting would be a nightmare which would throw the cost of each episode into hundreds of thousands of pounds, but the great thing about Reenactors, is it has the “Plug in and play” element, in that they turn up prepared, experienced, understand what is needed / wanted, and have the kit needed with them (of course this varies from organisation to organisation). As an example, since the ULFLAG’s formation, we have been involved in Dragon’s Dogma (console game) TV work and media promotional work with Holiday Inn, Talk Sport, and countless other works, it never ends!

Finally, combat halls, there is viking age martial arts combat halls being run all over the world, from Ireland to London, Sweden to Texas, Canada to Poland, to Australia and more. Each of these is, respectfully, its own martial arts hall, similar to a boxing club, or MMA classes (but approaching reenactment to different levels of martial arts) as an example, we have our own in London, which has evolved and changed over the years, but its been going 16+ years now!

(Please note, there are many, many contributors towards this culture, and we honestly cannot thank them all, so on behalf of TheVikingStore, I deeply thank you for your contributions and hard work building something special, and so beautiful that it brings us back to it year after year).

Part II still to come.

By Max Bracey.

**Kindly Martin Kreekel made this reply, who is an organiser of a very popular event in the Netherlands**

I have read your article about how the Viking culture became so big. It was an interesting read, I and my family are now about 23 years active in the Viking scene. We started in the early 90ties and it has affected our lives to what you call a lifestyle. Being a Viking is not putting on a garment, living in a tent and partake in battles. It has changed our way of thinking, acting an reacting, and most of all, it has become so far that putting on my civilian clothes means I’m dressing up for the world, putting on my Viking gear means I am at home. The reason I believe many enjoy to partake is that in the Viking scene you are not judged by what you are or do in ‘normal’ life, we have professors and unemployed, business owners and IT specialists, all having a total different social status when we are among ourselves. You are judged by honesty, craft and skills, ethics and the amount of effort you put in for others. Money is nice but does not count, wisdom preferred above intelligence. And of course the complete freedom, no one who is pulling the strings of what you have and must do, if you decide to accept duties, chores, tasks etc, it is of your own free will, not because you must but because you can. This is something many lack in modern society and by encountering this gives a feeling of belonging and home. Further there is the point of our culture, we are very much influenced by TV, internet and other media to do things the ‘American’ way. Re-enactment is pure, it is about doing things yourself and not relying on others to do it for you, and finding back a bit of your own roots. Being a Viking made me a bit of a ‘homo universalis’ it gave me the urge to try everything, woodworking, leatherworking, ironwork, fighting, everything we used had to be made or bought. By making it ourselves we learned, what can I achieve and what am I not so good ad, it gave the opportunity to trade and exchange craft for craft, this again giving status and respect for both the makers. You do not wish to deliver shitty work for a good object in return. There are many other reasons why the Viking scene is so appealing to many, for me the old ways, the religion, the Havamal and its guidelines for life are also beneficial, but that may be for every person different. I’m looking forward to see part II.

With kind regards, Martin Kreekel

 

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3 thoughts on “Viking culture, how has it grown so big?

  1. Hi, I just ordered a fake chainmail from The Viking Store, since we will have “Vikings” as the dress up theme for our Midsummer party in a couple of weeks (we have a different theme every year). It just so happens I have started to watch the TV-series “Vikings” this spring (I know, I’m late, but will catch up soon, on Series 3 already). When realising the TV-series is loosely based on the life of Ragnar Lodbrok, I vaguely remembered having seen this name far back in my family tree. And when checking this – sure enough – Ragnar is my 34th Greta Grandfather!
    My point is that 1. I like the stuff you sell for those who want to dress up or re-enact. 2. I’m one of the first to welcome a revival of peoples interest in history in general, and in Viking culture in particular.
    And lastly – if you haven’t already been – visit the Viking museum/exhibition in York! It’s really, really good!
    Paul L, England (but of Swedish original)

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