Larry Wright/BURNABY NOW
The inside scoop on a Viking's life
Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
In anticipation of the annual Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, Jennifer Moreau caught up with resident Viking John Cowan.
Cowan is a member of Reik Félag Norse Cultural Recreation Society, a group that re-enacts Norse cultural history from 792 to 1066. Society members will be at Burnaby's Scandinavian Community Centre June 21 and 22 in the Viking trading village, a display where they live, eat and sleep like Vikings for two days.
Who are you? Thornin Red Legs: Breather of the Liquid Dragon Fire.
What do you do? I am a retired sword Dane who fought in many shield walls. I am an old farmer now and growing fat on my farmstead, which I share with my wife, children, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their children.
Who were the Vikings? The Vikings are the ancestors of modern-day Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Icelanders.
What does Viking mean? Viking means 'pirate,' but the term should be stated 'to go a-Viking,' which means to go voyaging and raiding.
Tell me about your particular crew of Vikings: I have a crew of sinister cutthroats that sail the ship Dragon Breath on so-called trading missions. We enjoy visiting places of great wealth and borrowing as much as possible.
Describe a typical day in the life of a Viking. My wife and I rise at sunrise, and depending on the season, I go out with the thralls and other people living on the farmstead and tend the field, chop wood for winter, fish in the lakes and streams and hunt deer, wild pig and fowl. We spend much of the time getting enough to survive the winter - even the king sometimes starves.
What do you do for fun? At night, I play with my boys and teach them the sword, the axe and the shield to defend themselves. Sometimes I would play Nefeltafl, a board game.
Have you been up to any pillaging or plundering lately? I have not been pillaging or plundering unless you count my three trips to Yorvik (modern York) to trade and haggle with those Saxons.
What special characteristics does one need to be a Viking? A Viking needs cunning skill, a hearty constitution, a strong sword and axe arm, several shields and lots and lots of luck.
What is the most difficult thing about being a Viking? Surviving past the age of 35. I am considered an old greybeard.
Do Vikings have a bad historical rap? You bet. You go a visit one little monastery, take some stuff and they write down a history of bad things about you. Those monks have no sense of humour.
Anything else we should know about Vikings? The Vikings were a gentle folk, like many other societies at the time, but they lived in violent times. We had the same loves and passions as everyone else: we farmed, we fished, we traded, we made crafts, were metalworkers and perhaps the greatest ship-builders of our time.
What will you be doing at the festival? Reik Felag sets up a Viking trading village. We have smiths, weavers, woodworkers, toolmakers, spinners, scalds (storytellers), warriors, law speakers, merchants and traders. There will be a shield wall, a civil law dispute and games of tafl and kubb. We will be debunking all those stories you heard about us.
Source: Burnaby Now