You may have noticed that Vikings are all the rage these days. An increasing number of television shows and books set in Viking Age Europe have appeared, and the mythology has been represented in various forms, from Marvel’s eye-candy-stravaganza films to Neil Gaiman’s clever retellings. There has even been a resurgence in Ásatrú, pagans who worship the old gods in modern ways. You can hardly swing a bearded axe without hitting something Viking-related.
With all this Viking-mania going on around you, it’s natural to want to participate. Why not be a Viking in your spare time? Joining a reenactment group can be a lot of fun — but it’s also a lot of work.
For a hobby, historical reenactment is serious business. You may hear us say the word “play,” but we are not just dressing up and chasing each other around with swords and spears. (Really, we’re not.) You need to do a lot of research to develop a character around which all your kit will be based. Will your character be from Russia, Sweden, or Iceland? What exact time period and social class do they belong to? How will this character fit into the group’s overall narrative? All of these things will influence what kinds and colours of clothing they would wear, the amount and type of jewellery they might have, and what tools and weapons they might use.
There’s also the cost. The annual membership dues might not seem like much ($60 for Wulfthorpe) but you have to provide your own kit. Fabrics are mostly limited to wool and linen (neither of which are particularly cheap) and shoes will be made of genuine leather. Only certain colours and weaves of fabrics will be acceptable, and any stitches visible to the public will have to be handsewn; some groups may even expect every last seam to be done by hand. Certain items, such as penannular brooches (cloak pins), might be gotten from your local blacksmith, but more unusual or ornate jewellery, such as authentic tortoise brooches, may have to be shipped from other countries. Is your character a fighter? Weapons are a whole other level of expense.
That said, you should not be pressured to assemble a complete kit within the week. The other group members should support your efforts to research and develop a character, and they will lend their expertise in making clothes, choosing hardware and eating utensils, etc. If your items are deemed unsuitable for your character, you probably won’t be able to use them in a living history display; if you can’t replace them or borrow items from another member in time for the next show, you might not be able to participate.
Find your local group, check out their shows, and chat with the members. If they hold open meetings, craft sessions, or combat practices, go to them. Find out what the group is like, what their focus is, what will be expected of you, and whether you just enjoy being there. Reenacting can be a great way to meet people who share your interests, but some groups will be a better fit than others. Since this hobby is by its very nature a social one, you’ll want to find a group you feel comfortable in.
If you’d like to join Wulfthorpe or just want to talk history, we would love to chat with you at one of our events. Feeling a little shy? Anyone can join our moderated public discussion group, so if you’d just like to lurk ‘n’ learn for a while, you’re welcome to do that, too. When you’re ready to become a member, just email our membership officer, Beth Patchett, at Wulfthorpe.firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll help you through the application process.