a viking age quarterly


The Meaning of ═■rˇttir

The word 'Ý■rˇtt' still exists in all the Nordic languages today, though its spelling varies slightly from country to country. But where today it mainly refers to sports or leisure time activities, it used to have a much broader meaning during the Viking Age: accomplishment, feat, art, skill.

So what kind of skills and accomplishments are we talking about? Fighting skills? Farming skills? Weaving skills? What about shipbuilding and smithing? And how about reciting a saga and knowing herblore? Or steering a ship across the sea?

The answer is relatively easy: all individual elements of the above would constitute 'Ý■rˇttir', as well as just about everything else that would result in a person being considered skilled, accomplished, or knowledgeable.

And there were clear distinctions between similar skills, as well. Weaving linen for sails is different from weaving wool for clothes; fighting with one knife is different from fighting with two knives or with a sword; shearing sheep is unlike making leather, and building a ship is not really the same as making buckets; wrestling is different from running, riding from rowing, stone throwing from archery; carving runes in a stone is not the same as carving wood, and making cheese is different from baking bread: that's why all these and many more would be considered 'Ý■rˇttir' in their own right - the list seems endless.

During the Viking Age, a person's 'Ý■rˇttir' were the result of growing up in a certain environment, of learning from their elders, of travelling. They determined a person's role in life, and often their status. Skills and accomplishment had an influence on the wergeld to be paid if a person was hurt or killed. And, of course, they could make the difference between life and death in certain circumstances.

Viking 'Ý■rˇttir' also are important today, whether your main interest is pure experimental archeology or Viking re-enactment with its emphasis on portraying small parts of past skills, arts and crafts as authentically as possible, be it during a Viking market or when working in an open-air museum.

Unfortunately, we do not have the possibility to learn most of these skills in childhood or in our everyday environment. And although we all spend many hours studying and experimenting, we too learn best when others share their knowledge and their skills with us, be it in an re-enactment group or during a market. Or by means of a magazine, written for and by people interested in sharing the skills and knowledge of a time long past.

Hence the name: ═■rˇttir.

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