Of Warriors and Wanderers

Three reasons why I nearly cried at Jorvik Viking Festival:

1. Einar Selvik’s lone voice piercing the rain-drenched darkness, bringing the long-dead language that I love to life. I have always wondered how Old Norse poetry was sung, with its primally stirring meter and uncompromisingly complex structure – and now here it was. The words were more than words, each intricately connected to the next, unlocking half-memories of lives I have not lived.

2. The desperate dance of Gunnhild, witch and Mother of Kings, recklessly mourning the man whose downfall she brought about. It was a timeless tale – a Brynhildr tale – and one that rang all the more heart-rendingly for the chaotic precision of the dancer’s movements as she led the funeral procession.

3. Because it is the mark of a great warrior to weep for the passing of a great leader.

Four years ago, the sagas of the Norsemen dominated my life. I learned a language and translated tales, wove kennings and woke longing. I achieved a Masters degree with distinction after wrestling with words and wolves. I proudly formed a link in the chain of scholars that kept this incredible heritage alive.

The weekend’s festivities stirred my shield-maiden’s heart in a way I hadn’t expected. I owe a debt of gratitude to the experts at Jorvik and the beautiful, brutal volunteers from around Europe who helped me relive the stories that run through my veins.

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