Dublin winters are chilly but not too cold, daytime temperatures hover just above freezing. That’s mild for the foreigners whose war with the Irish is now led by Ivar the Boneless. He’s son of legendary king Ragnar Lodbrok. His army will winter above Black Pool, or “Duiblinn” from which today’s city takes its name. These 9th century Vikings are among us today.
Half a world and 1,000 years hence, the Black Pool Vikings are encamped at Fort Lytton, the colonial fortification built in the 19th century to defend Brisbane from the Russians. Scott is from Ipswich and of Celtic decent. But today he’s every inch a Viking.
It’s the History Alive festival that brings the past millennium alive. The passion and knowledge of those here is infectious. The Vikings are a favourite, and there’s hoards of them. Near the Black Pools are the Saga Vikings and their king Harley. His thick Danish accent further clouds the mists of time. His leather and antler craft is spellbinding. He points to his home on a deer hide map. He’s not imagining this, he really is from the 9th century.
Five hundred kilometres south and every two years is the Armidale Easter Gathering where 900 Vikings battle for four days in the pine forests. Vikings only, the public are not invited. They’re part of the New Varangian Guard, an historical re-enactment realm direct from the Byzantine Empire of the 9th to 13th centuries.
Yesterday an ambulance was called three times to the battle arena. Armour induced heat exhaustion, sword wounds, and a broken rib. Scott says that’s not from the Vikings, because they have strict codes. I believe him.
Watch these videos from the 2016 History Alive re-enactment festival