The Vikings first arrived to Lindisfarne, also known as the Holy Island, in 793. Ever since Viking reenactment started up, they have been coming back, although now they are not pillagers, but performers.This year, on the first weekend of August I had the chance to take part in this fantastic show, held in one of Britain’s most beautiful corners.
The island is very spectacular. The historical and natural beauty are amazing. For me, the especially interesting bit was the tidal causeway, connecting the island with the Northumbrian coast. When the tide is down, the road is exposed, and island can be reached- but when the tide comes in, it floods the road, and the island is cut off. The natural environment of this place is truly unique.
But enough about the environment! Time to talk about the show itself. The Viking village was pitched in the ruins of the priory, where the fighting arena was also set up. It was there, that the spectators would see the Lindisfarne raids reenacted before their eyes, over Saturday and Sunday.
The usual Living History set up was put in place- craft demonstrations, authentic food, and reenactors talking about the life at is was at the turn on the 8th Century. The monks of Lindisfarne were also present, to tell the visitors about life in the priory:
The main part of the show, was the story of Lindisfarne, and the start of the Viking Age. The peaceful life of the monastery was ruined by the Vikings, who came over to plunder the riches of the priory. UNder the leadership of Ragnar Lothbrok, the Vikings came to Lindisfarne and, after killing the monks took all the treasure they could carry:
Historically, the Vikings returned home, and then came back for more, only to be faced by an army of Northumbrians. Some of the locals were taken as slaves, and the brave Northumbrians decided to free them as well as punish the Vikings for their raid on the Holy Island. This is where the history ends, and the show takes over. Great battle ensues, between the Vikings and the Northumbrian Saxons, which the Saxons manage to win, after a great struggle. The last surviving Viking is taken prisoner, and forcefully baptised, before being put to death:
As a “show fight” or a “display battle”, this battle had a pre-determined result- the purpose here was to entertain the public and provide a jolly good bash for the reenactors. Such battles usually follow very similar scenario: first, the taunts and insults are exchanged, both sides make noise and try to intimidate each other. Than, the lines clash fiercely, usually two times, with plenty of big blows, noise, screams and impressive fighting. Lines then separate and prepare for a third clash, in which the loosing side will withdraw and loose men, as if they were loosing a battle. Sometimes, the two sides will separate one last time, and clash yet again, at which point the loosing side will be killed to a man, or routed of the field. THe trick here, is to make this all believable and entertaining. Also, the “loosing” side must remember not to fight too well and make their rout look believable. Conversely, the “winning” side must remember not to make the fight one-sided and that some casualties, or occasional setbacks are necessary.
It is after the “Show Fight” is over, when both sides have a competitive re-fight, during which warriors fight only to kill and the best side emerges victorious.
Side note- it is essential for warrior to stay hydrated! No one realises how important water is for armies, until they take part in a half-hour battle themselves…
That was the battle of Lindisfarne- there was of course the traditional Kiddie Vike, when the children were allowed to take on (and, quite rightly wipe out) the fearsome Viking Warriors, as well as individual combat competitions and weapon displays.
It was also during the Lindisfarne Festival, that two of my good friends have tied the knot, and were married during a traditional ritual of Handfasting- presided over by Konungr himself, the president of the Vikings Society. All the traditions were observed, the gods were invoked and the mead was shared between all those in attendance. It was a wonderful and touching ceremony, in which I had the privilege to be involved. Dear friends- live a long and happy life together, and may all your dreams come true!
And that is all from Lindisfarne Festival 2014- I shall be looking forward to coming back next year, and to buying more of the delicious mead they brew on the island!
Photo credit- whenever the photos were not taken by myself, they were taken by Y Ddraig’s keenest photographer, Baggsy. Thanks a ton Bags!