Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Joining the Gang.
My name is El from Liverpool. Walking around Chester you are constantly aware of the fact that you are in an historic city, from walking the walls of the city centre to the buildings on almost every street. However, its usually Roman history you’re made aware of. There are centurions giving tours and museums dedicated to roman artefacts. After walking past the Amphitheatre to St John’s Church, I instead found a group of Vikings living and fighting on the grounds of the building.
OK well I knew they were there. My ex-partner is friends with one of the group and honestly the thought of dressing up and recreating Viking history sounded so thoroughly exciting that I begged to take me to meet them all. As soon as I arrived I was nervous, I wanted to make a good impression so that when I asked about joining they would be totally on board. I needn’t have worried. As soon as we arrived Halvdan, the jarl of Unknown Vikings, had already greeted us and was explaining who they were and to look and touch whatever I wanted. Ranghild was knarl binding and showed me her work and explained what it was used for and then Sassaný was showing me the knives and keys tied to her apron dress, while Thorgrim was showing me his new sword. I am absolutely aware of the innuendos I wrote just then but please bear with me. What I’m trying to say is how I was immediately and comfortably invited into their world.
I have always had an interest in history, but my period of interest was Tudor to English civil war to Napoleonic, and from when I was a kid until I was 16 I had done re-enactment of those times periods. I was a member first of the Sealed Knot, then with Sir Valentine Walton’s brigade in the English Civil War Society (ECWS) which led to being a member of The Tudor Group. The last group I was a member of was the 95th Rifles who were featured in the Sharpe TV series. I had stopped doing reenactment after that and hadn’t done anything until now, almost 22 years later.
I honestly knew next to nothing about Vikings, my knowledge extended as far as the TV show, which I have since come to learn is painfully inaccurate. I learned more in an hour sitting and chatting with Unknown Vikings then I did after 5 seasons of the TV show of the same name. So over 20 years had passed since I last had done anything like this, I’d grown up, got piercings and tattoos, my hair was crazy colours but that didn’t matter so much. All I needed to do was cover my hair and my tattoos with appropriate wear and take out a few piercings. I wasn’t judged on my appearance or on my lack of Viking knowledge, if anything it was more exciting because I got to learn some new history from people who every so often lived it.
I started as a thrall as everyone had before me. I sewed a simple tunic of unbleached linen, bought me some Viking shoes from a re-enactment website and I was pretty much set but I could have borrowed the kit as that was also offered to me. All I had was myself and my sewing kit, which was used that first show to fix the sleeve of my Jarl that had ripped off, which I was quite proud of and I can sew a thing that would survive a nuclear blast.
So those first few shows I sat by the fire and I watched and learnt, I bought and read recommended books (though I could have borrowed those too if I wished). I found an interest that no one else was doing and decided to research that, seeking out podcasts and papers on the subject, and I bought my freedom by showing the rest of the group, my new friends really, that I was invested, interested and wanting to learn more.
Since then, I have made an apron dress for myself, I've helped make tunics and apron dresses for some of the group, I bought a milk churn and a pot for making butter and cheese. Slowly I’m building up my kit, knowledge and experience, no rush, no desperate need. I can borrow whatever I don’t have, I can ask about whatever I don’t know. I already had experience of reenactment and it had been many years ago but that feeling and joy of dressing up and living that life was still there.
So here I am! I’m the Viking milkmaid and my milkshake brings all the jarls to the yard. I'm the queer representative being the bisexual Viking so please ask me about Vikings being gay!
The point of this blog was to show you, dear reader, that it isn’t hard to be one of us, one of Unknown Vikings, it's hard knowing when to stop. Don’t be scared or nervous, just ask us. And please, if you want to join us then message us here or on our Instagram, twitter or Facebook pages.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at one of our shows!