Peace seems to be something everybody wants. It is one of the most common ways of saying to someone that we want him/her to be well: «Go with peace.» «May peace be with you.» «Peace, my friend.» We’ve all heard those phrases and maybe used them ourselves. And even though I understand it is a very nice thing to say, I am never comfortable when people wish me peace.
The Scandinavian summer is the time of the Viking festivals. During a few, hectic months, Viking reenactors and craftsmen come together at various places to trade, exchange stories and sit around the campfire.
These are the days of the invisible friends. And I’m not talking about supernatural beings here, not at all. Our invisible friends are those we meet through social media. Most of these people we will never meet in person, so they remain «invisible». But that does not mean they are not important.
Imagine being a child in Viking Age Scandinavia. Have you wondered what it would have been like? I often do. In fact, in order to understand a culture and a society, I find that studying those childhood years makes me able to understand the whole culture far better. After all, we all start out as children.
I always wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I ever doubted or questioned that I would make a living writing books. Looking back, it doesn’t even feel like a choice — it was just the path I knew I had to walk. I was a loner as a child and I started writing my first book at already as a teenager. While other kids were desperate for acceptance and just wanted to be part of a group, I was sitting in my sound-insulated loft, writing. I didn’t even tell anyone what I was doing during the first 6 years of my creative writing career. Needless to say, I didn’t have many friends. In fact, none. And I was quite happy with that.
The Norse civilization was much more spiritual than most seem to think. And while many still see the Norsemen as savage brutes, no longer is there any discussion among historians and archeologists about the fact that they were mindful about their connection to nature and the “spirit world”, which to them was basicly the same thing.
A long time ago, there was no money. There were no kings, no rules and no borders. We lived as hunters and gatherers, and we were free. Yes, at times life was hard. Death could come swiftly. But no matter what kind of misfortune life threw in our faces, we were free. And there were times when we thrived and even had time for art and music.
We are fascinated by the Viking mentality. Their fighting spirit and their tenacity seem to have captivated the attention of an entire generation. And while I believe most people don’t really get who the Vikings were, I also believe that those of us who work with this historical era every day, need to be inclusive and stop judging people for their lack of knowledge. Even archeologists I know hesitate to call themselves experts on this subject. It’s so clouded by centuries of monotheistic dogma that it’s only now that we are really beginning to understand the Viking world.
Have you ever asked yourself who you really are? I think you have. We all have, I guess. It’s an existential question that tend to present itself from time to time. And even after having done some serious soul searching, most of us can’t really come up with a good answer. I think I know why. The question in itself is wrong. Rather than asking ourselves who we are, we should ask where we come from. We are the result of our ancestors’ struggles and victories, their marriages and their love affairs. It is their genes we carry in our blood, and when we are born, that is all we are.
Everybody wants to be a Viking these days. But the world around us is still the same and nobody cares if you’d rather go full Norse. Since you can’t time-travel back to the Viking Age, how do you live your Viking life in the year 2016? How do you cope with the demands of modern society, when all you want to do, is to set sail and go exploring the oceans and distant continents? It seems like Viking life has no place in modern society and that your Viking lifestyle must remain something you do in your spare time with like-minded people.
Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like that.