Fierce and fearless, the Viking hordes of Scandinavia terrorized all those they visited. In fact, the idea of encountering one was likely one of the most frightening of possibilities for many western Europeans during the late eighth to 11th centuries. But this Saturday, a horde will descend on Fort King George in Darien, and it will be welcomed with open arms.
The South Althing, sponsored by the Spear Danes and Shield Maidens of Brunswick, will return to Fort King George, 302 McIntosh Road SE, Darien to highlight a number of historical demonstrations showcasing the Viking lifestyle. In addition to the local team, others will visit from different areas of the state as well as the Carolinas.
Collectively, they will create their own Viking community illustrating everything from archery to blacksmithing and axe throwing to more domestic duties like cooking. The term, “althing” in English is a form of the Icelandic word, ‘Alþingi,” which is now the national parliament of Iceland, the longest running in the world. It originated as a term for an outdoor assembly or “outdoor thing” with Viking groups gathered to discuss important issues.
The modern incarnation, which visitors will see Saturday, however is a way to share the history of this fascinating culture. For Michael Putnam and Randie Whisenant, learning about the Vikings has become a lifestyle in and of itself.
Whisenant, who is the leader of the group (or the Tegin Jarl — chief earl — in Norse), goes by the name Volünd Burvelson among his fellow “danes.” For him, the interest began when he was a child.
“I’ve been into the Viking culture since I was about 12 years old and watched a movie staring Kirk Douglas called ‘The Vikings.’ It was the fact that they had no fear of death and were fierce warriors,” he said.
Putnam, also known as Skeggi, took a bit of a different route.
“For me, interest in the Viking age came about in a roundabout way. I’ve always been very interested in medieval culture and in languages, and I fell into the Viking age because of the Old Norse language. I think what is so fascinating about this time-period to me is that there are so many misconceptions that we have about the Vikings,” he said.
Whisenant and Putnam — or rather Volünd and Skeggi — were not alone in their interest. They soon discovered others who shared their interest in the culture.
“I started this group with a few friends as something to do to get away from the modern world for a day or two. And every year we learned something new and interesting about the people of Scandinavia. So the historical part of our group improves every year,” Whisenant said.
“I got involved with the group through Volünd. He and I worked together and from day one, actually from the interview, we hit it off talking about Viking stuff. I’ve been involved with the group ever since. This will be my fourth Althing,” Putnam added.
During Saturday’s festivities the Brunswick group will be joined by others. Each will represent their own village and collectively they hope to display how each of these tribes would conduct their own bit of civic business back in olden times.
“At this upcoming event, we are trying to recreate a gathering of different tribes or villages in one place to vote on law, hold court and trade with each other called the ‘Althing,’” Whisenant said.
Other elements will also be on display. Putnam, for instance, will share a musical element with guests.
“This year I am playing the skald, the storyteller and music player, so you will see me with a lyre tucked under my arm and hear me before you see me,” he said.
While these modern day marauders are looking for a successful turn out, they are quick not to give too much away. But they feel certain all who attend will leave with a better understanding of who the Vikings were and how the lived.
“If I told you, it would spoil the surprise ... if you’ve ever wondered what life in the Viking world was like come and find out,” Whisenant said.
“I think people should come out, because how often do you get to see a bunch of Vikings in south Georgia? We’re going to have games and music and stories and crafts going all day long. This is a great event to bring your kids out to and it’s also a fun event to be a kid at,” he said. “You’ll get to learn a lot about how work and play actually got done in the Viking age and maybe you’ll quit associating horned helmets and double-headed axes with the Norseman.”