Tag Archives: Dark Ages

Poulsbo Viking Festival

This last weekend I went to Poulsbo for their annual Viking Festival. Poulsbo was founded by Norwegian loggers who were drawn to the Puget Sound for its logging, fishing, shipping, and shipbuilding industries. Since 1968 they have held the Viking Festival to celebrate both Norwegian Constitution Day and their more distant Norse past.

The parade was good, fairly standard as far as small town parades go but with lots of cool costumes. However the star attraction of the festival are the reenactors who dress up in authentic dark age attire and set up living exhibits. Here are some pictures from the event:

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Charles the Great

The most fitting more distant family member I can think of is Charlemagne. I don’t know for an undisputed fact that I am descended from him, but it is thought that ALL European people (more accurately anyone with European DNA) living today is descended from him. Unless you have no European ancestors whatsoever, highly unlikely in the Western Hemisphere, that would make him your ancestor. That and probably pretty much everyone you know. Maybe even every singe person you know. That’s a lot to think about, and the implications are very interesting.



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Review of the Consolation of Philosophy

I have finished the Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. Boethius was an Gothic philosopher who lived during the fall of Rome and the rise of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in the Italian peninsula. He served as a trused advisor to King Theodoric until a turn of events resulted with Boethius on death row. There he wrote the Consolation, and trust me the story behing how the book was written is far more interesting than the book itself. The entire book consists of one giant dialogue between him and Sophia, the feminine personofication of God’s wisdom, on the nature of reason, fate, providence, neccesity, time, fortune, and a bunch of other things that would have been quite interesting if there was some form of narrative. While it is one of the most influential books ever written, I found it to be mindnumbingly dull and only finished it because it was required reading. Unofortunately, it is foundational to Medieval and Renaissance thought; meaning I may be at a deficit for my later study of those eras. One thing that was rather interesting was the concept of the “Wheel of Fortune” (not the show) where the King sits at the top, the poor on the the bottom, and commoners hanging on the sides of the Wheel. That went on to become a very common theme in illuminated manuscripts, and for centuries the Consolation was one of the most copied books other than the Bible.

philosophy wheel Boethius

Other than that allegory, I didn’t get much from the Consolation. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have spent 27 straight hours translating it from Latin to English, so it is pretty obvious that some people have a LOT out of it. Perhaps I would have been able to enjoy it if it weren’t for the fact that I have like two or three other books I need to juggle reading at any given time. Whatever the case, I did not enjoy The Consolation of Philosophy and wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you have to.

Now we are on Dante’s Inferno, I’m only two cantos in and I already find it infinately more interesting than the Consolation.

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Being a 20th Century Boy? It’s a mixed bag.

I know this prompt was from a couple days ago but I was just catching up since I was gone and thought this was an interesting topic. Anyway, back to the prompt. As the post title suggests, there are things I really like about living when I do and things I do not. Most of this has to do with dreams to become a published author. Living when I do has made the entire writing process easier than was ever possible before, even twenty years. With word processing outlining, drafting, and editing documents requires almost no physical effort. I doubt I would want to write if I had to use a typewriter (I might have been used to it if that’s what I grew up with), and I know I wouldn’t if I had to do it by hand. Hell, I’ve never even had to use a bottle of white-out!

I am highly troubled by the fact everything is going digital. Now many people are convinced in ten years or so print media will be nonexistent. I doubt it will be that extreme, I think there will always be some things that are still printed. However, I believe at the rate digitization is going we will enter what people centuries later will consider a Dark Age. By most definitions a dark age is a time in history where there are very few surviving primary sources; which is likely what would happen with most of our media being digital. In a post apocalyptic (or such) scenario I doubt anything digital would survive. With less physical sources the chances of what was printed surviving would be slim. Okay, all that is sensationalized speculation but I really could see that happening. I don’t know why is is that digitization bothers me so much but it does.


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The Legacy of Viking Art

The peoples we refer to as the “Vikings” are the Germanic cultures known as the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, collectively called the Norse. Most today know them only as pirates, which is what the word “Viking” roughly translates into, and many were pirates, but the Norse were also farmers, fisherman, merchants, and many other occupations. However it was piracy that they first became notable for as they raided monasteries and villages in Scotland, Ireland, and England (and master pieces like the Book of Kells narrowly survived their pillaging). They made their merciless raids from their highly mobile ships, which brings us to their first art form we’ll look at. Not only were their long ships well designed from a functional standpoint, many of them were also floating art exhibits. One of the first long ships to be evacuated intact is the Oseberg Ship. The book notes it’s beautiful interlaced beast designs that frame the margin of the ship. Such designs will ring a bell with anyone who looked at the Kells page earlier in the chapter, as well as the jewelry from other Germanic tribes in earlier chapters. One striking detail not discussed is the gorgeous metal dragonhead, decorated with a similar aesthetic, but appearing far more abstract. The Oseberg ship has some enigmatic features as well, such as a bucket with a figure who looks suspiciously similar to Buddha. Here there are below:
Oseberg Ship Head


Such images made it possible for the Norse to travel all over their known world, evidently diversifying their art while they were at it. At first they were content with raiding and trading, but soon they tried their hand at conquest and colonization. The Danes nearly conquered all England, fictionalized Bernard Cornwell’s excellent Saxon Series, and colonized the Faroe Islands. The Swedes set up a successful colony known as the Rus, which would eventually evolve into Russia. Most successful were the Norwegians who conquered Normandy, founded Dublin and Iceland, and set up ill fated colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland. Wherever they went, they took their fine art with them. Despite our image of them as brutal killers, they seemed driven to beautify the items around them.


Runestone 2

Runestone detail

The Norse made such a profound impact so it is little wonder today they are more myths than men. The sagas and poems they left behind actually seem to reinforce that. Both their actions and their art have served as inspiration for artists ever since.

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