So you want to be a Viking re-enactor

A lot of people hear about Viking re-enactment and think that it sounds like a lot of fun, but think they don’t know enough about Viking history and couldn’t afford all the kit so it’s not something they can do.  Well, I’m here to tell you that actually it doesn’t have to be expensive and it really isn’t that hard to get into.

For a start, most groups have kit they can lend new members.  With Odin’s Aett you don’t have to spend so much as a penny to come along and get started.  We can lend you swords and axes and helmets and shields for fight training, we can lend you kit so you can dress up for events, and we can lend you books if there are areas of Viking life you want to learn about.  Plus our experienced members are always happy to answer questions and point you at useful resources, and we teach fight skills and living history/Viking age craft skills at our training sessions.

Of course, if you do decide to jump in you will probably want to start collecting your own kit, whether your interest is living history or fighting you will need to dress like a Viking. In it’s simplest terms this means a dress or tunic and trousers with a belt.  Viking clothing was very simple in construction, just rectangles and triangles of wool or linen sewn together so it’s pretty straightforward to make the basics yourself.  If you don’t sew there are groups selling second hand kit on Facebook and there are fabulous traders like Drakos Djottir who will make something to order that fits your exact requirements.  Make sure you talk to any traders you are thinking of buying from, a good one will want to know what period you are going to be re-enacting and will know what colours and materials are suitable to use for that time.

You can get away without buying shoes if you don’t mind being barefoot. When you do buy shoes you need to consider the surfaces you will be wearing them on – modern soles tend to be ok no matter what you are walking on, replica shoes have either smooth soles or hobnails, smooth soles can be very slippery on grass, hobnails can be very slippery on hard surfaces.  It is possible to make your own shoes if you fancy giving leatherwork a try, if you prefer to buy it’s a good idea to go to a re-enactment market where you can try them on to get the right fit.

Odins Aett Viking Reenactors fighting on the beach at Sheringham February 2020
Marauding on the beach

If you want to fight you will need safety gear – gloves and a helmet.  A simple pair of welding gloves will do, reinforced by gluing on some strips of firm leather for extra protection. You can pick these up for a few quid from most hardware stores or you can buy gloves made for the purpose with extra protection already added where it’s needed.  This is probably the first thing you should buy as well fitting gloves will make it a lot easier to fight without risking injury to yourself or others.  The helmet you will almost certainly have to buy, it needs to be strong if it’s going to offer you enough protection to withstand an accidental axe to the head – at least 16 gauge steel is recommended.  There are a lot of light weight helmets available as costume pieces but these are not designed for actual combat, even with blunt weapons.  This is the one area where it really does pay to buy the best you can afford, you only get one head. A basic helmet starts from around £60 new

An ideal first weapon is the axe – these can be picked up quite cheaply and would have been available to pretty much everyone.  An axe used for combat must be blunt edged with no sharp points.   A combat ready axe will cost about £50 new. Alternatively a spearhead would cost in the region of £30 for the head and you would need to fit a shaft yourself. It pays to talk to people with experience before you buy armour or weapons as it can be an expensive mistake to buy something you can’t safely use or that wasn’t around during the 9th/10th century which is the main period we portray.

Swords were a high status weapon so should only be used if you are wearing high status clothes with the accompanying bling which is beyond the scope of most beginners, although you can of course use them at fight practices and training sessions.

Odins Aett Viking Reenactment Living History ar Sheringham February 2020
Some textile crafting in a quiet moment

If fighting isn’t your thing, we can get you started with all sorts of crafts, teach you Viking games, how to cook like a Viking, or some basics of leechcraft and how to interpret the runes – again we have all sort of supplies available so you can try before you buy your own.

It really couldn’t be easier, with just a few things bought or borrowed you will be well enough equipped to attend shows and take part as a Viking. Of course there is no limit to the amount of money you can spend buying fancy replicas and shiny things as you expand your kit but you really don’t have to go beyond the basics unless you want to. A lot of us go on to make our own kit using Viking crafts but that is also completely optional, you just do the bits that are interesting to you.

If it’s the lack of history knowledge you are worried about, don’t be.  You can spend your time at events making sure people are safe as they try things on and take photos posing as Vikings, or you can easily spend all day keeping a fire alight and stirring a pot of stew.

There are always experienced group members on hand to answer harder questions and you’ll be amazed how quickly you pick up bits of information when you’re hearing it being explained over and over again as the same questions are asked by different people.  The only rule is that if you don’t know an answer, ask someone that does, and if none of us know the answer we’ll go away and find out so we know for next time. 

Hopefully that’s given you an idea of how easy it is to get involved.  If you’re near Peterborough and want to give it a try please do let us know, Odin’s Aett can help you every step along the way and would love to turn you into a Viking reenactor like us.  It really is a lot of fun.  We’re not currently able to meet in person due to the pestilence sweeping the land, but modern technology means we can still meet online, talk about projects and share the things we are making at home as we all make ourselves ready for normality to return so we can get together and go a-Viking again. it would be great if you came with us!

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