Viking for a day: deep in the heart of Texas
Have you ever heard of an Althing? Used historically in Iceland, it was a coming-together of Viking peoples in a sort of town meeting where grievances could be brought and justice meted out, goods bought and sold, and time taken for fun and games.
The recreated Althing I attended last Saturday, held outdoors at a nature center east of San Antonio, Texas, drew over a hundred SCA members (Society for Creative Anachronism) from Texas and Oklahoma, the states which make up the “Kingdom of Ansteorra.” As a first-time visitor I was careful to dress the part in a borrowed costume of long under-dress and long over-apron, complete with the requisite breast brooches and hanging chains. I felt thoroughly “period,” as they say in SCA.
The central meeting area, ringed with tents, pavilions and even a small Viking longship, featured armed clashes between steel-helmeted men clad in heavy cloaks, sweating in the Texas sun. I was more attracted to the gentler arts of Norse embroidery, nalbinding ( a form of one-needle knitting using felted wool thread) and a very informative session on writing skaldic poetry. Vikings with more strength and stamina could tackle metal working, wood carving, blacksmithing and wire weaving.
A boasting contest was also offered, in praise of King Ulstead the Unsteady and his consort, Queen Ebergardis. This pair held court before the evening’s great feast, dispensing awards and honors to those who had done notable service to the “Barony of Bjornsborg.”
Throughout the event I felt as if I had stepped into a time machine, emerging to join in the life of a Viking gathering. It was a unique experience, one I shall long remember: my chance to be a “Viking for a day.”