Tea with Frigga

Hejhej! I’m a (sort of) Viking. I’m not really a Viking, obviously, but that was my degree course and I got into the habit of introducing myself as a Viking, mostly because there were so few of us on the course. We even have our own collective noun: a Clump of Vikings.

Anyway, come in, come in; sit yourself down. There’s plenty of tea in the pot and cake on the table. Help yourself; it’s there to be eaten, not to look pretty. There are only a few rules in my house:

  •   Firstly, please dress according to the code: elegance and grace should be your watchwords (think old style Hollywood glamour), not that which is fashionable (unless of course it should happen to be elegant and graceful). Clothing should be well-made, fit and suit and, if necessary (for women), show either (not both) legs or cleavage;
  •  Secondly, you may talk about anything you like, but I would ask you to avoid the subjects of Faith (I am here making the distinction between Faith, what one believes, and Religion, the organised and official version of a set of beliefs), Politics, and Money. I also ask you to refrain from using unnecessary obscenities and insults. We are not here to be trolls or controversial; we are here for light-hearted conversation;
  •   And finally, no smoking, thank you: it makes my cushions and curtains smell and you won’t be able to taste the cakes and chocolates properly, and that really would be a shame.

Now, do you have tea and cake? Then we shall begin properly.

You may be wondering about the connection with Frigga. You may know her as one of the Norse Goddesses; you may even know that she is considered as the Norse equivalent to the Greek Hera or the Roman Juno, the Queen of Heaven, as it were. Frigga is the guardian of hearth and home and is married to Odin. She is also a guardian of marriage and she really doesn’t like it when people make a mockery of it (like breaking marriage vows). She shall be our hostess.

So gather around. We shall discuss recipes and ingredients, cloths and clothing, books and stories, films and music, and anything else which takes our fancy, but bear in mind Rule 2, please. I reserve the right to remove or edit anything which I consider to contravene Rule 2.

I suppose I should begin by explaining about the Vikings and why I’m (sort of) a Viking. Basically a Viking is a raider, and I’m clearly not (or you’d have heard of me before now), and I read Viking Studies at university because I like mediaeval history. I’m not even Scandinavian…

The Viking Age is those three centuries or so prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, usually it is understood to have begun with the attack on Lindisfarne in AD 793, which, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us, was foretold by omens including whirlwinds, lightning storms, and (my favourite) fiery dragons. The Normans, by the way, were so called because they were “Northmen” – Vikings. William the Conqueror’s great-great-great-grandfather was Rollo the Viking, who was requested by the King of the Franks, Charles the Simple, to settle in Northern France to protect the coast from the Vikings…Over time, and especially after the death of Charles, Rollo decided that the bit of land wasn’t big enough, and, goodness gracious me!, built up the Duchy of Normandy.

The Vikings weren’t just raiders though, although when they were merchants or farmers or even just explorers, they weren’t really Vikings. I expect you know that Erik the Red and Leif the Lucky were the first known European ones to reach North America; the ’Rus (Scandinavians who largely came from Sweden) also made it, potentially, as far as Baghdad. We aren’t quite sure – they got to somewhere known as ‘Serkland’, which we believe is somewhere around Baghdad. It was a bunch of these ’Rus Vikings who gave their name to Russia, although the first Russian state was centred on Kiev.

Vikings were also mercenaries, and one of the best opportunities an adventurous young Scandinavian had for winning fame and fortune was by travelling off to the Byzantine Empire and joining the Varangian Guard, which was almost exclusively Scandinavians and which was the Emperor’s personal bodyguard. Apparently he didn’t trust his own men, just those whom he had paid to guard him…Harald Hardrada, him of Stamford Bridge fame, was one such man and it enabled him to win enough gold that he was an eligible suitor for Yaroslav the Wise of Novgorod’s daughter, and then for Harald to raise enough of an army to persuade his half-nephew Magnus of Norway to share the throne with him, if he wouldn’t, you know, just hand it over. Magnus didn’t last very long after this agreement, and look! Harald had Norway to himself. He then died in battle in 1066 against Harold Godwineson, who died a matter of weeks later at Hastings.

So that, in a very simplified manner, is a brief explanation of the Vikings.

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