Today’s Viking - By Milène Larsson

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Today’s Viking - By Milène Larsson

Message  LA le Lun 5 Mar - 16:31

> Entire interview with a Viking from today
Sum-up of the interview by Milène Larsson.

Björn M. Buttler Jakobsen, the Viking king. Björn means “bear” in Swedish. Portrait by Anders Kristensson.

King Björn M. Buttler Jakobsen of Foteviken has been a Viking for more than 30 years, and is also the director of the city's Museum.

Foteviken is the only reconstructed Viking city on earth; it is mostly active during the summer, with a tithing operation all year round; its inhabitants live like they did during the Viking era.

How accurate is the image we have of Vikings?

-The imagery of Vikings depicted in the films and images of modern times is not at all representative of what they actually looked like.
-The most common assumption is that they wore metal helmets with horns. But metal was very expensive. Regular Vikings wore leather helmets with metal reinforcements, if they could afford it. That myth originated in the late-19th-century Wagner opera Twilight of the Gods, which is about Ragnarök, the end of the world in Norse mythology. They mixed all kinds of tools and symbols for the costumes in that opera because it was typical for the Romantic era to enhance everything and give it a twist, though there might have been some kind of ceremonial horn helmet that was used during the Bronze Age.
-A sword was worth as much as an estate, so it was something only the richest men had. They had bows, knives, spears and sometimes axes—tools they used in their everyday life for hunting, eating, or chopping wood—that could also be useful for smashing someone’s head in when going to war.
-If you had a loom in the household that meant you had a wife, kids and a pretty good life, meaning you wouldn’t want or need to go out and pillage. Those who did were men who had nothing. As only the oldest son could inherit, all the disinherited youngsters would gather, build boats, and go out to ravage and pillage. When they had made some money, they’d start trading instead. Then, when they had made a life for themselves, in Ireland, for example, and had a cute Irish wife and healthy kids, they wouldn’t want to continue plundering. They were a mix between pirates and merchants.

How did a regular Viking dress?

We’ve acquired most of our knowledge about how Vikings dressed from grave goods, which means we know of their best clothes. Nobody knows for sure what Vikings actually looked like (cf maybe the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia’s traditional clothing).

During the Viking Age, the women made the clothes and if they were good seamstresses, the clothes would look fancy. Their fashion was influenced by foreign cultures; decorative Viking style differed depending on with whom they traded (the Vikings that had traded with the Irish came back with crosses, those who had been to the Black Sea returned with baggy pants). They wanted to show that they’d been traveling, and had different passing styles and fashions, just like today, but they wouldn’t go out of fashion as fast. Most of the decorative style came from Norse mythology, Thor’s hammer being the most famous symbol.

There was a loom in every household. Since they couldn’t weave anything larger than 23 inches, the fit was funny looking.
They used the nålbinding technique, an insanely complicated Norse method of knotting the yarn, time-consuming but resulting in nearly indestructible garments.
Buttons or zippers hadn’t been invented, so they used buckles.

As fabric was expensive and hard to come by, things were often patched together with all kinds of different fabrics and patterns; they had to put padding under the arms and wore their clothes until they fell apart.
They looked mismatched, though fabric had very basic colors, as dyeing was pricey and time consuming. Later, in the Middle Ages, that actually became fashionable.
They worked with layers and wraped stuff around themselves.

-Everyone had access to leather through hunts to make shoes, pants, cloaks, rope, and bags. They also had good access to wool that they’d snarl or spin, and flax, for which there was the whole process of harvesting, banging, and weaving to make linen.
-The most exclusive fabric was silk, which they had probably traded for in Byzantium.

To define standing and wealth, you should wear jewelry in silver and gold and fancy fabrics like silk and fur—flamboyant, garish, hard-to-come-by details that were obtained from trading in the Far East. And you should have an impressive beard, as that was the strongest sign of manhood.
The stronger colors you wore, the richer you were: red and blue were signs of wealth because they were the most difficult colors to make. The only way to make blue stick to fabric was to mix it with urine from a man who had been partying for three days. You had to cook the fabric in it; it smells very bad! The most colorful red was made from squashing a certain kind of Spanish lice.

Upper body:
-Cloaks and (often several) tunics—sometimes decorated with braid on the neckline and cuffs—on top of each other.
-Long, cone-shaped hoods they could wrap around their necks and wear as scarves.

-There were many ways of making them. Styles changed through the Viking Age.
-They wore down several pairs a year.
-They looked like any shoe today but without the sole and laces and with a buckle. They put wool in them to form a sole (without it you get periostitis, which "hurts like crazy").

-Linen was mostly used for underwear.
-Linen diapers.
-No socks: they wrapped up their feet and legs in fabric and then attached it to the underwear to make pants. When it was cold, they’d wrap up in another layer of fabric.

Women clothes.
-Much like men's, only not in pants.
-They’d wear a pretty apron to dress up.
Anything that emphasized the bosom didn’t appear until the Middle Ages. In medieval times, not only women enhanced their body parts, even men had reinforced crotches on their pants so that it’d look like they had huge packages. They even had fake balls and dicks that they could tie to their underwear.

Viking hygiene.
In some ancient Arabic scripts they describe how Vikings had reserved Saturday for cleaning themselves: they washed, combed, braided and eventually cut with scissors their hair and beards.
They were clean and maybe even vain people, whom used primitive irons consisting of a round and flat stone to press their clothes and were even buried with their combs.
Harald Hårfager, Harald Pretty-Hair, was, according to the stories, a very beautiful man with long, shiny hair. The others made fun of him for his vanity.

The Vikings were obsessed with fertility.
-They needed kids to support them when they were old.
-Wedding celebrations only finished when all the guests had seen the couple make love (the wedding night was an open ceremony).
-Many old Viking rituals dedicated to fertility are still celebrated in the Nordic countries to this day. Like Blot, a ritual held on the darkest night of the year in December, to celebrate that brighter times are coming, still celebrated at Foteviken. On Blot night, Viking got drunk and sacrificed animals and people to the gods and then drank the blood of their offerings. They didn’t let anything go to waste and ate the sacrifices afterward. They even made food with the blood, like the black pudding we still eat today.


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Date d'inscription : 26/02/2012

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