NORWAY, Mich. (WZMQ) – Over the weekend, in Dickinson County, the city of Norway came alive with its annual Viking-themed Leif Erikson Festival, and at the heart of the festivities was an interactive history group, dedicated to reviving the past.
Amid the vibrant Leif Erikson Festival was a lively conversation with members of the Shire of Skerjastrond, a U.P.-based chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism, also known as SCA.
The group united in chanting a harmonious viking poem, as the reenactment of Leif Erikson’s funeral proceeded, “….In the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever. In the halls of Valhalla…”
This society, a non-profit educational organization, had a special role during the festival, contributing to the historical re-creation of various events, from the grand parade to the solemn funeral of Leif Erikson. However, one spectacle truly stole the spotlight during the day’s activities – a live sparring demonstration. The facilitator of this captivating act, and leader of the group, explained the distinctive nature of Viking combat.
Andrew Tomlinson of Houghton remarked, “Unlike kendo or boxing, where the fight is scored by the refs, the fighting in this, its honor-based combat, it’s scored by the combatants. And so you decide when you’ve been bested. Like when you’ve been hit with a shot that you think is of sufficient force.”
A member of the group expanded on their mission, emphasizing how their interactive characters were serving as educational tools, fostering cultural awareness and immersing the public in pre-1600s history.
Jessica Holman of Negaunee noted, “A lot of the local people involved do have Viking personas that we portray, and so this is a natural fit to be able to educate the public in the Viking period.”
She continued, “We’ve got a variety of people involved, including our spice trader from North Africa. Because the Vikings did get all the way to the Mediterranean, so that is a culture that they would have encountered in their travels.”
Another member of the group shared a profound aspect of her role as the spice trader, emphasizing its representation of an oppressed African people who had only recently seen their language recognized.
Marquette resident Valerie Bradley-Holliday stated, “I didn’t come up with the idea for the spice trader hanging out with the Vikings, but it was a cool idea.”
She added, “I got excited about my character because the Society for Creative Anachronism opened it up to all cultures. So I thought that was pretty cool. So I decided on Amazigh.” According to Bradley-Holliday, her character’s name, Oxille, means cheetah in the language. The children of the tribe were forced to speak Arabic for hundreds of years, and were even forced to name their babies Arabic names. In spite of all this, the Amazigh people were able to proudly hold onto their language and gain official recognition in modern times.
The Shire of Skerjastrond comprises of local chapters spread across four U.P. cities: Marquette, Houghton, Iron Mountain, and Escanaba. The group devotedly traverses events throughout the year, and its participants extend a warm invitation to new members eager to embark on this historical journey.
According to the group leader, Tomlinson, there are endless ways to get involved in the group.
“I always tell people the coolest thing about the SCA is it’s a lot like getting an MFA in fine arts, because you can learn how to blacksmith, and you can learn how to cast bronze, and you can learn how to brew beer, and you can learn how to work with stained-glass, and you can learn how to do viking wire-weaving. And all kinds of stuff, it’s all out there. Heraldry, calligraphy, costuming, clothing, jewelry-making. It’s a really deep pool of knowledge, so if you’re somebody that likes to do things, this is possibly a group for you,” stated Tomlinson.
The group is active on social media. For more information about the Society for Creative Anachronism, visit: