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The Skogar Þrostur will be in Windsor, CT on Sunday May 15, 2011 from 2 to 5 pm. The Hartford Lodge of the Sons of Norway is celebrating Norwegian Constitution Day at the Hayatt Summerfield Suites Hotel.  Here is the flier (1 page .pdf). Come see us there!

On May 21st we will be setting up a Viking encampment with friends at the Daily Life Schola at Holcomb Farm in West Granby, CT. This is an all-day event filled with classes of every day activities of medieval life, from the daily use of Viking ships (that's us!) to baking in a bee-hive oven. If you're interested, come on by!  We will have medieval clothing to loan for you to wear. Site fee is $8 (plus $5 if you are not a member of the SCA). The classes are mostly free, though some have a modest materials fee.

We will also be at the Roundhill Highland Games at Cranbury Park in Norwalk, CT on Saturday July 2, 2011 from 8am to 6pm. We'll be talking all about Vikings in Scotland.

Speaking of which, here's an article about a Viking archeology site on the Isle of Skye. This is so very, very cool.

Aerial surveys are being carried out over Skye to help archaeologists
investigate a 12th Century Viking shipbuilding site.

Boat timbers, a stone-built quay and a canal have already been
uncovered at Loch na h-Airde on Skye's Rubh an Dunain peninsula.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of
Scotland (RCAHMS) has launched the air surveys.

Staff hope to pinpoint new sites for investigation.

Working with marine archaeologists, RCAHMS also hope to find
potential dive sites for searches for the remains of ships and other artefacts.

Archaeologists now believe the loch was the focus for maritime activity
for many centuries, from the Vikings to the MacAskill and Macleod clans of Skye.


We've spent some time working on the boat.  We've scraped and scraped and will scrape again tomorrow. We plan, probably in June, to paint it in stripes!  See this illustration from an 11th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript. (Part of this article about a Viking Grave in Oxford, England in the Smithsonian Magazine.)

Also the longships on the Bayeux Embroidery are striped and there are contemporary descriptions of "colorful" Viking ships sailing up the Seine. So we decided to be colorful ourselves!  You'll see the results at the Roundhill Highland Games.

We hope to see you all!
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We will be teaching a class in How to Rig a Viking Faering Boat at the Novice Schola SCA event in Springfield, MA on March 5, 2011.  Our friend Jeff Krug will join us.

Here is the class description:  The anatomy and rigging of a Viking or Norman ship. The Skogar Þrostur is a Viking Faering (four-oared boat) based on the Gokstad faering buried in Norway in the 9th century.  We will demonstrate standing and running rigging, explain construction techniques, steering and navigation.  Class outside (rain or shine - bring an umbrella if it looks like rain, one hour, no class limit.

We will also be teaching the Bayeux Embroidery Technique class I talk about below. 
A combination of lecture on the political and social events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the embroidered tapestry that illustrates it, plus a hands-on lesson in the stem stitch and laid couching embroidery stitches used. Embroider one of the ships from the tapestry. Two hours. Materials fee $1 plus another $1 if you want to buy the wooden embroidery hoop. Class limit 8 for the hands on embroidery portion. Unlimited people can come and listen to the talk.

Novice Schola is put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) group in Springfield, MA. It's a day long series of classes in Medieval Arts, Crafts, Sciences and History. There is no fee to be on site and attend the classes, though there may be a materials fee for individual classes. 

There is a "Day Board" for no additional fee (though donations are welcome) which just means a medieval-themed buffet style lunch.  Bring your own plates and silverware.

There is also a medieval feast that evening for $8.00 but only if you pay in advance by February 25th.

The SCA is a participatory group.  All participants are required to wear a "reasonable attempt" at pre-1600 clothing.  The group in Springfield has a lot of medieval clothing available to loan for the day.  There are tubs of loaner clothing available at the check-in desk.  Just ask to borrow some!

As soon as they post a class schedule, I'll update this entry.  Classes in the past have ranged from how to make a book to beginning calligraphy to an overview of Viking Clothing.  I love this event and all it's classes.  And you really don't have to know anything about the SCA or medieval stuff to enjoy it.
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Many of you probably know about the Bayeux Tapestry.  It isn't a tapestry at all--it's a 230+ foot long embroidery. So I call it the Bayeux Embroidery.  It's all done in only three stitches--Stem stitch, laid work and couching.  That covers a lot of ground with not much wasted thread on the back.

It was commissioned by William the Conqueror's half brother Bishop Odo of Bayeux.  It was embroidered soon after William took the throne of England on December 25th, 1066.  Consensus seems to be that it was embroidered in eight pieces at various nunneries in England; though the technique is very Scandinavian.

There are lots and lots of Viking-style ships on the Bayeux Embroidery.  It's one of the main contemporary sources for what they looked like.  There's even a faering on there (well, a small afterboat--it could be a faering!)

Janet and our friend Carol were going to teach a class on Bayeux style Embroidery at a local community college this month; but Janet can't make it so I've been drafted instead.  I've been spending the weekend putting together a handout about the technique, materials and colors of threads; and a longer one on what happened when and by whom in 1066.

I know a lot about the Battle of Hastings and what lead up to it, of course. The Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066 is often reckoned to be the end of the Viking age--with Harald Hardrada of Norway the last Viking King.  But up to now I've only been explaining 1066 in two minute increments to interested people at faering demos.  (The secret of Viking navigation is that they didn't have to be at work on Monday.  This leads to a quick-and-dirty 2-minute lecture on why William was trapped on the wrong side of the channel all summer and Harold was out of position when he finally sailed across--with huge consequences to both the history of Western Europe and the English Language.)  Tackling a two hour class that's part how-to-do-embroidery and part history of the Battle of Hastings is a whole other kettle of fish. And when we did a run through of the class last weekend I realized I needed more than quick-and-dirty 2-minute lectures.

So lots of reading and pasting and writing and finding good illustrations.  I learned a lot, too.  I knew that King Harold's brother Tostig had been with Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Fulford and the Battle of Stamford Bridge.  But I hadn't known that probably Tostig talked Hardrada into the invasion.  And I hadn't known much about why Tostig would fight against his brother (Tostig was removed from his post of Earl and exiled due to mismanagement and murder and Harold was the one who oversaw it. Though the decision was forced by the thegns of Northumbria.)

I also learned more about exactly why William felt he had a claim to the English Throne. And how close he came, multiple times, to failing in his invasion.  And also why Pope Alexander II endorsed the invasion. (Probably as a result of Normans ... misleading ... the Pope.)

It's been an enlightening weekend and I can't wait to teach the class!
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Back around the year 900 anno domini, a very wealthy Norse man was buried with a full panoply of grave goods. These included the Gokstad ship—79 feet long, 17 feet wide, and could hold a maximum crew of 70 people—and also included three smaller boats: a 6-oared boat (seksring), a 4-oared boat (faering) and another boat which is rarely described in the literature because it was not as well preserved as the other two.

The Skogar Þrostur is based on the Gokstad faering boat.

 Along with his own small armada, the man in the Gokstad grave was buried with many more goods to see him into the next world:

  • Three iron fishhooks
  • What might be a back pack—possibly for hunting.
  • A two-sided game board made of oak with playing pieces made of horn.
  • Pieces of horse harness
  • Six cups and a plate made of wood
  • Twelve horses
  • Six dogs
  • The earliest known Peacock found in Northern Europe

What wasn’t found:

  • No sword
  • No jewelry
  • No gold
  • No silver

The grave was robbed of such things long before archeologists excavated the ship.

So what can we deduce from this? The man in the grave was probably a King. Maybe Olaf Gudrødsson from Vestfold who, according to the Heimskringla, died about then.

The Norse had portable, knock-down beds. And tents. They used sledges to get around on the snow, with horses to pull them. Even very wealthy men liked to fish and play board games. He might even have liked to cook, though most people think the cooking gear was part of the camping goods. The Norse may have liked to hunt for sport—-the possible back pack has a drawing of what may be a deer and is certainly a dog on the lid.  Not to mention the 6 dogs sacrificed to follow him into death. They imported things, probably even live peacocks, from vast distances.

And most stunningly of all, they built breathtakingly beautiful ships. The lines of the Gokstad Ship are the most beautiful, classic, simple, and proportioned I have ever seen. Vast numbers of stylized representation of not only Viking ships, but of ships in general, use the Gokstad prow as a model.  Stunning.


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On May 8th we went to the Vinland Games SCA event near Harrisburg, PA.  We brought our Viking Faering boat and spent the day talking about Viking boats, Viking history, Viking culture and Viking boats.
 
We had a fantastic time.  There were many other classes besides our Viking Faering class and we attended the “Diet and Nutrition among Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Viking” class by Lady Ragnveig Snorradottir which was thorough, fascinating, and packed a very dense amount of information into an hour.  
 
Nutritional information from middens, fecal waste, pond pollen, skeletal and dental remains.  Fascinating!  And some of it has relevance even today.  Dental structure changes in developing teeth as babies are weaned from breast milk to cereals with fewer protiens happened back then just as they happen today. She got through all her material clearly and boy did we have to pay attention to so much information in an hour!  Wonderful class.
 
Carowyn Silveroak taught a glass bead class that I couldn't attend, alas. But I saw the beads she made and brought as examples for the students to look at, and what a dizzying variety she's made since I taught a glass bead class in Silver Rylle years ago!  They run the gammut of time periods and techniques.  Lovely work.  She's even been making her own miliflori.
  
The feast and dayboard were delicious!  What a splendid spread.  I was told this was Ketterlyn der Wilde's first feast as head cook and she did a wonderful job.  Day board, the main feast and even a special feast for the "Odin's Table" where spaces were auctioned off to raise money.  Everything was delicious and it all looked well researched for a Viking feast.  And hot, too, despite a problem with the electricity in the kitchen.
  
The people in Blak Rose are friendly and hospitable.  We felt very welcome.  Friderich Swartzwalder autocratted a fun and informative event with great food and lots of activities for everyone.  Huzzah!

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