Vikings and Weddings and Snow, Oh My!!!
Author: Nymala Ingasy
Editor's Note: To save space, the photographs which originally accompanied this article have not been added. The images are all preserved in the newsletter version.
I looked down as we slowly descended into Oslo, the ground below me a frosty white. I’d always been a traveler, but now I was going to someplace I’d never been to before. I huddled in my winter jacket as the temperature dropped as we descended through the iron-gray clouds. We landed in the afternoon, ready to go. My husband and I collected our luggage and took the airport train to Central Station, off on a new adventure.
When we first got the news of an upcoming wedding between our friends, Nyarin Sedai and Elandria Sedai, we were happy and excited for them. My husband Matt, and I, had been friends with them through our D&D channel on IRC for many years. We were invited to the wedding, and to my surprise, Matt said he wanted to go. Matt is not a traveler by nature, and dislikes airplanes generally speaking, but off we went.
The first thing that struck me when we landed, was, of course, how cold it was. I thought I was prepared for it, but I was woefully mistaken when I walked down the steps and onto the tarmac in Oslo airport. The other thing that struck me was how low the sun was even in the afternoon. It would continue to flummox me throughout the entire week because the sun would be setting by 2 in the afternoon and not rise again until nearly 10 in the morning. I could easily see how it would be depressing to live like that for months.
Even though we were there for the wedding of two of our friends, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to do some sightseeing as well. We tried off and on for a few days to get to the World War II resistance museum, which we did eventually get to. I found the museum fascinating, and enjoyed it immensely even though we got a little lost trying to find it. Most museums in Norway are closed on Mondays. Fortunately this one wasn’t, so we spent several hours learning about all the different ways the Norwegians resisted the Nazis during WWII. The museum is located on a complex with several other museums and a working army base. We got turned around and a very nice Norwegian army officer redirected us back across the foot bridge. When we found it, we found it perched on a hill overlooking the bay and the city center. The views were stunning and well worth the walk alone.
Another personal highlight for me was a trip to the Viking museum. We went with the other out-of-town guests to the wedding, and the tour was given by Elandria Sedai, a Brown and a history geek of the first order! The museum itself was stunning and utterly fascinating. It is home to three actual Viking ships, two complete and one partial. It was amazing to me that they were still there after hundreds of years being buried and used as funereal tombs. The ships themselves were black with the 100-year old preservation efforts, but it made the ships fragile and unable to be moved. Even so, the fact that they still exist after a thousand odd years is amazing.
The most fascinating ship was the Oseburg, named after the area of Norway in which it was found. The skeletons of two women were found in the grave with the ship. One, probably aged 60–70, suffered badly from arthritis and other maladies. The second was initially believed to be aged 25–30, but analysis of tooth-root translucency suggests she was older (aged 50–55). It is not clear which one was the more important in life or whether one was sacrificed to accompany the other in death. The younger woman had a broken collarbone, initially thought to be evidence that she was a human sacrifice, but closer examination showed that the bone had been healing for several weeks. The opulence of the burial rite and the grave-goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. One woman wore a very fine red wool dress with a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave, while the other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, possibly showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress. The sheer number and variety of grave goods that these ladies took with them was amazing and my eyes boggled!!!
Of course, the real highlight of the trip was the wedding itself. The ceremony and handfasting took place out in a snowy field on a sunny afternoon. The air was bright and clear and very cold and we were standing shin-deep in snow. I had on about 4 or 5 layers under my dress. The dress code for this wedding was a little different. It was Viking themed, so everybody wore their own version of Viking “formal” attire (no horns though), or the Norwegian national costume, the bunad, which made the clothing wide-ranging, festive, and fun. My husband even grew his beard out and braided wooden beads into it to look Viking-like. Even though I didn’t understand 99% of the ceremony, it was easy to see that the two ladies who were getting married were joyful and ecstatic, and I was pleased and proud to be able to share the day with them.