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"I, Adrian Spendlow; poet in residence for the Jorvik Viking Centre of York, kneel before you Georg Hanson, I who have travelled so far at your behest hereby pledge allegiance to you the Chieftain of Gudvangen."
Imagine if you will that I, the skald of the ancient city of Jorvik to which I hold much affiliation and a huge debt of honour tempered with gratitude, have responded to a summons from a town in a fjord so very far away and have travelled not by modern means but by a sleek ship that rises above the waters themselves and skims the waves at great speed and at great risk to arrive in a deep

chasm of a valley to an alien culture seeking to represent the powers and influences that spawned me, only to discover that here in this town of the Vikings stands a culture so vivid so strong that all else I have experienced dwindles to memory leaving me in the moment of joining and wonder.

A welcome so real comes leaping out of this culture and straight into my heart. Many peoples have gathered to bring their ways, their views, their skills together to this town for one reason; they are a part of the dream made reality of one man, this is why he is chieftain, not through hereditary or power but from a heartfelt wish born of deep affection and this is why I kneel now and make such a pledge.

I will of course have been an influence and my unique way will be a matter of thought and discussion among the hearts of others there for perhaps months to come. That is the way with us all of course, for we have been drawn in and empowered to bring our uniqueness to share. I was empowered from the moment back in February when I was described as The Skald of Jorvik and my heart rose to be so well thought of,

not because of any real position I held but through an acknowledgement of my skills,
skills shown in so many crowds and groups over the years: the listener respecting their own levels of enjoyment. This is what Georg saw in me when he made that announcement and a crowd drew their chairs around me in the Merchant Adventurers Hall during the 2010 Jorvik Viking Festival and lived the moments of my tale.

People were still talking of having seen me there when I visited Gudvangen. So many of you who are part of that culture in the Fjord will be able to identify with such empowerment because it has happened to you too.
Nothing prepared me for my visit however, no matter the great work I have done for such as Dr Chris Tuckley and the dear Jane Stockdale for the Archaeological Trust in York and the many great people within the teams there.

Gudvangen was nothing like I had experienced before. Things were so very different and we can all learn so much from each other.
My journey turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected and involved a trip through the lands to the town of Voss from Bergen.

As I said in my introduction for the Viking Rock Festival, "People of Norway, your country has made me cry!" and so it did, I was brought to tears by the wonder of this country and expressed myself in gasps and sighs (as I was journeying alone this brought undue attention from others travelling the same route).

I can only be grateful for the many tunnels along the route, forty seven by my count, for they gave me a respite from the power affecting me.
My Chieftain brought me to my new home to even more wonder from me; the Gudvangen valley is so very beautiful and has a power of the earth that reaches right into your heart. I must confess to being dizzy and unsteady in those first days there from all the looking up in amazement. The faces in the rocks looked down at me, not through my imagination but from my core and I reacted as if Njord himself was indeed looking down at me from his valley by the sea.

Stepping across the narrow suspension bridge from the sight of the welcoming Gudvangen Fjordtell to the Viking town side of the fjord I was transported back to a sight of wonder, which Georg amazingly sees as only the start of the dream, a town of permanent and nomadic structures filled with representatives of a living culture.

Juxtaposed to this experience of the past was a structure very much of the present; a state of the art huge stage.
This marvellously designed mobile platform for music imposed upon us for the first few days and then just as we were wondering at the brilliant experience it had given us it was gone. I look back now at the marvellous experience of my fellow nine performers and think how I have never experienced anything of this sort before.

Here is an event I would very much like to bring home with me, and I will be telling at length of my impressions. It was not just the great bands and quality performers and the great night that they gave us all but the fact that we in Britain generally have no idea of this movement of huge bands melding modern music with ancient sounds and offering rich lyrics that celebrate a sense of roots.

I shall seek to change this and raise awareness of a vital happening that is needed here in the sceptred isles. Two days of sound checking saw me meeting with band members and talking through the content of their sets and the philosophy behind their chosen field, from this I created story-pieces and poems to introduce their acts, not all of my work made it into the actual night because of pressures of time in the running of such a huge stage but nonetheless my tailored introductions complimented the direction of the acts and led to many contacts and requests for my work for display.

I also made many great friends who shared in an honest enthusiastic way. I have not come across such a great sound crew who made me feel a part of things throughout. I may not have always pronounced names of bands correctly but this was accepted by the audience. I found that throughout my experiences there that even where I made great efforts to use names correctly my English way of speaking could not accurately reproduce the way of expressing of this people.
This was accepted as being part of the rich culture for after all we of the Viking Town are a multinational mix of strengths and qualities working together (very often in English) to share and bring together.

The event kicked of with the very much alive Skvalthr who describe themselves as "Primitive acoustic music, not for the faint hearted," their throat singing, percussion, powerful instruments and pure joy brought the audience alive and then they proceeded to actually join the crowd following their great set and play on from within the crowd.

Among this great gang of friends was the wild and lively storyteller Gustav Holberg who tours widely and is now in touch with me sharing links and contacts so both of us can widen our spheres.
Next along was Glittertind who went down a storm. Now I must admit to never having heard of Black Metal but what I heard from them was powerful well-constructed pieces with quality music, resounding vocals and a heartfelt creativity drawing upon our pasts.
Their animated discussions of how they came to be who they are and why they live this music prompted me to write a poem to introduce them. The poem is made largely from their words or sentiments and I hope represents this great band:

Glittertind

There are members of Glittertind who tell me
That they believe in love
(Especially after the concert!)
So love them now
(and after the concert!)
Hence the barriers
Metal they may be
And black at that
But
There are no hard edges to belief
Barriers may block us
But no one can stop you
It is for you to know, and to feel
Challenge as they challenge
And travel through time
Blending and sending your own thoughts
Your own way
You are national - ancient
And modern - Be there
As they are
They spiral - through the mystic -
The natural
With witches we wind through -
Your own way
The balance
As these guys
Pick up the horn of Roland
Yet they dare to blow
In their own way
Their very own way
So we bring - Glittertind


I don't know if they did find that 'love' after the concert but I do know they will find many places to perform and to great success.
An extra surprise guest at this point was the well known tattooist and performer from Germany Kai who was invited to fill a sudden gap in the schedule with stories, jokes and poems. I do not understand German I am sorry to say but I 'understand' Kai, his performances are stunning and gripping and I was glad to ask him for more, more, more.

When eventually Arkona's costumes and equipment turned up (from Russia) we were at last able to be stunned by their dramatic powerful set which I introduced with the following poem:

Arkona

Take the dark steel by the hilt
The sword that is Black Metal
Thrust it to the sky
And we fly
High and far; hurtling back
To Russian roots
And a magical land of wild myth
Among the peaks; be alive
In strength and beauty
Stand on the battlements with this band
A Slavic city of belief
A castle of sound
Resounding, abounding about
And be here forever
In the citadel
of
Arkona


I have shared with you the poems I wrote for that Viking rock night, but of course not all my intro pieces were poems, some were improvised stories created on the spot. I did such intros of lengths to fit the time allowed for Tyr, EPLEMØYA SONGLAG, Valravn, Faun and Wardruna. I will attempt to recreate that introduction for you now.

From his great stone slab of a throne Odin looked down upon the nine known worlds and all the unknown worlds again and he saw there, hidden deep, the poetry mead which he reclaimed for his own and to share. Once this power was theirs the gods drew upon all their powers to cast runes upon the worlds, written on the tongue of Bragi, upon the paw of the bear, in all impossible and great places and even on the very face of the sun.
From the power of these runes was made another mead, far more powerful than before; the rune-mead. Thus the gods were able to give portions of this mighty mead to others of power and respect; some of this rune-mead was sent drifting down as a godly gift right into the hearts of our next performers who recreate the magic of that power here with the blessings and strength of the gods.
Prepare yourselves now for the wisdom and wonder which is - Wardruna.

What a great gang, as were all our performers and what a great, late, finish!
Look out for Wardruna at events near you. People say to me that they have heard that Jorvik has a market and they would like to come. This is not quite so, not quite in the way that they might see. I saw, as I walked through that market over the forthcoming days, tent upon tent full of highly skilled crafting, full of unique new items from old old ways, path upon path of gritty real yet beautiful people who are undeniably there in the moment of our timeless past. I say no, we have nothing like this. A market in York is a great display of wares, presented in enlightening ways by great people but Gudvangen is a living event. Staying within the village amidst their own wares and with their own image of how to live, these people are there for the duration and never want to leave, and ever wish to return.
York will bring you a chance to choose before you visit and to pre-book a whole host of events from seminars to children's crafts that offer such a wide range that you will be breathless by you have fitted in all that suits you. York will be a city taken over. It is not a market though, it is a festival with market stalls amongst its many offerings.
Gudvangen is a Market because it is, but it does not even begin to describe what was on offer for me to take in.

Crowds who are fascinated by what they might buy and intrigued by the detailed answers to their questions, a whole host of workshops where you can deepen your skills on topics from the magic of runes to the ways to create accurate items, activities from archery to wrestling, presentations of storytelling, music and dance and a whole host of ceremonies and feasts.

Now that is a market. Come and stay in 2011.

There are many personal highlights for me and I will tell you of a few of them here, but it is the people that are its greatest attraction. I met many new friends and mixed in magical environments. The welcome I received was totally heart-warming. Georg and all his family there have become close friends and I have nothing but admiration for all of them.

Thank you to Camilla, Michael, Ina and Georg and all the other fine friends I have met and will hear from again.
I met many through my performances and several who came back and back again to listen. The other storytellers and musicians were a joy to listen to, even those I do not share a language with, and all of you who were so welcoming, supportive and stimulating I say thank you.
A particular highlight was the Saturday night feast where I performed the following poem.

Other World

There are other worlds
Just as we Vikings
Have always said
Cries for help
and voices of lost souls
Call through intangible channels
from other lands
They burst in constant waves
Into the ear of our chieftain
The mobile phone lines of Georg!
And he, with a shine in his eye
Listens to all
Encouraging action
Accepting offerings
To make all of this wonder here
Happen
Our chieftain
Our ever working
Ever thinking
Chieftain
We thank you.

When I had finished the poem I looked around and Georg was sat on the throne behind me with a big smile and reaching to shake my hand. I chiefly performed my stories that relate to the British (or English) experience as they seemed to best compliment the mix of story there. My Hobb's Tall Tales went down very well and are a mix of good fun and daft voices with events from folklore, history and myth.

I also told homecoming tales where I consulted a seeress about the meaning of ravens I had seen arriving upon our land, they were a sign that travellers would be with us with tales of other lands,
these included warriors from Greece, travellers who had brought back stories from nations within the new found land (and the creature they may well have brought back), events and tales from Jorvik and news of a beast 'discovered' in Sweden.

I also shared my Nordic Cards, my Medieval Moments and my Rune Cards in quieter moments. I didn't seem to find the time to do any rune or crystal readings so perhaps they are a thing for future visits. My casting mat where I create your very own story is another prop I am packing for my return.

Of the stories from the mythos that I did over the trip the tale of Gunnlodd perhaps went down the best with a few listeners finding it a little too chilling. One that went down well and caused a lot of jolly discussion and input was Eight Places To Go When You Die. Although I think in the end we got it up to eleven places that a Viking might go to when the call came.

A chance to work with others and meld and mix our approaches is a real joy that I am very grateful for, one such experience was the chance to work with gifted singers and musicians, more of which I will tell a little later. One wonderful highlight of my time in the magical fjord was a marvellous ceremony that built from the writing of a poem, a thoughtful approach and a gift of vision of what is possible. Lucas a Polish sculptor had been commissioned to create a wonderful statue for the grounds of the Fjordtell, a statue of Njord himself. He carved him of wood and bid him to stand upon his ship looking out to sea from the hotel bringing us safe journeys, a clear route home and a wish to return.

I had a patch of time between performances and had a wish to continue making a contribution so I sat and thought on the idea of a poem. I recalled as best I could without my notes the techniques of skaldic verse;
I went for a two stanza piece with a lead-line each that is echoed as a similar refrain at the end of the stanza and four main lines per group which followed a three / two alliteration and where possible contained kenning.

I took the finished piece to Thor Ewing for I knew he had a knowledgeable understanding of such style and following a good read and a few helpful suggestions of improvements proclaimed it most fitting. From this grew much.
I mentioned the poem to Camilla and that I would write it up neatly for a possible reading and the next morning I duly went along to the hotel seeking Olav and his wife Torill. As I walked towards the open cafe area I was called across by Camilla and she was sat with the two smiling hotel managers. My writing of a poem, (or more correctly perhaps Camilla's encouragement), would lead to so much. I was thrilled to hear that the news that I had been moved to write had encouraged Turael to turn to poetry and what a wonderful piece it was. From this she had created a whole ceremony and as I walked away with a big smile on my face Olav shouted after me, "This is a tradition, a new tradition, and it will happen every year".

On the Saturday evening before the market closed we gathered. Two long wooden poles and had been packed under the statue and a whole host of very strong Vikings were poised to lift (it was a very heavy statue). The drummers and pipers struck up and the Vikings put in great effort and up arose Njord. With Turael and myself proceeded forward with our grandly dressed sword boy behind us and the band following. I heard from one of the strong carriers that the rhythms of the musicians was all that made it possible for them to maintain the effort of transporting our Njord, but make it they did in regal style. We processed through the grounds, across the narrow suspension bridge, into the Viking Town and through to the centre of the main square.

There our chieftain was bethroned and waiting for us with his chieftainess beside him. We lowered Njord in front of him and Georg welcomed him and accepted him with fine greeting.

I was then signalled to pronounce my poem and then Tureal clearly and proudly recited hers, the band struck up again and then she blessed the figure with mead.
Our chieftain offered up his cloak to Njord and added to the blessing we all then proceeded to share of the generous offering of mead and to dance around our figure.

Here is my poem:

Njord at Fjordtell

Here stands Njord
Collecting callers calmly; warm welcome
Godly Gudvangen; a happy harbour
Sea-being so splendid - wedded to this water
Luring you cruisers - wooing you to wander
He commands the fjord Here Njord is home
As Skadi his bride is, so will your heart stay
Wherever in this wide world your ship has sailed from
You will fail to forget us and ever wish to return here
Njord Gudvangan's guide will hold you forever
Here you are home

This leaves me to tell you of a wonderful collaboration: a delightful change of program lead to me being teamed with the wonderfully talented and most charming couple Harold and Mari Foss. Georg introduced us and we chatted for a little while and as a result a delightful and exciting set was developed and went on to be performed to great success. We performed at both the Saturday event and then by welcome return during the Sunday events. I had said how I had been thinking that as there was no music or songs surviving from the actual Viking period yet much material from just a little later there was a need for someone with the skills, passion, vision and talent to create songs that were a fitting contribution to how our ancestors would have experienced the sensation of relevant song. I said this would be equivalent to someone digging up bones and rusty implements and recreating the actual scenario of the period but in song. "That is what we do" they exclaimed. Indeed they do, in a delightful performance.
A spellbinding hour putting duos of poems or stories together with songs saw us have a Celtic feel, a runic session, a battle lament, a pair of broken hearts, the settling of Greenland, among many others.
The three of us cannot wait to work together again and foresee far more collaboration around the world.A word of thanks for a friend of mine back at home, my neighbour and close friend Jackie Etheridge or should I say Svanhildr Hrólfsdóttir who can trace her ancestry back to a royal lineage portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry. She is an expert on the history of the runes, gives demonstrations on costume, tales from her ancient family tree as well as being a busy writer. I would be undressed and unprepared without her!

I might not have found time to create this log of my wonderful adventures had it not been for a bad case of motion sickness, here I am on my third day at home and am still fairly deaf and finding it difficult to move around without, well, er, swirly around. Thank you for reading this, your (temporarily) dizzy friend.

As for those of you reading this who have not experienced the Viking Town of Gudvangen I have one thing to say, go there! Thank you
Adrian

As a thoughtful postscript:
We do all approach elements of our interest differently and I am reminded of a chat on the bus back to Bergen. A lovely young guy was in need of assistance into the bus with all his market stall items following a fall where he had hurt his hand (sorry I have forgotten your name my friend) and we got to talking as we viewed the scenery and headed off for him to return to his shop in the city. There are traditions to follow and perhaps two main ways. One can portray what we know in an accurate and stimulating way so an audience are entertained and enthralled while learning or reaffirming that which is preserved. I am reminded of the folk ballads and sea shanties of my own shores. People recreate these as a beautiful experience so they are not lost or forgotten, yet they cannot help but change them and so they evolve without any intention. Of course in our modern world of information anything can be found and studied with ease so we have a stronger method of preservation than our predecessors. When it comes to those sea shanties which are there for a job, with each song having a purpose upon a sailing ship they are described as traditional rather than credited to a writer or described as anonymous. I have heard 'traditional' explained to mean nobody wrote them. So many voices have had a hand in passing them along that each of them has altered them subtly, often unconsciously, until what we hear is absolutely different to the first shanty they came from. The singer though is upholding the tradition of encouraging the crew, to show them the rhythms, to entice them to greater efforts, to distract them with jollity, to show them the meaning of the role that is timeless. I was saying to my friend that I see it in a similar way with telling traditional tales, beyond the recording of them, beyond the capturing of them, beyond the passing on of them is the tradition of the storyteller, the skald. Around two thousand years of tradition in fact of an exciting new or renowned skald arriving at your court or farm with a whole new approach that echoes that which you know but brings you something fresh and exciting, something to stimulate discussion. There is a tradition to follow and preserve; an evolving tradition of uniqueness that yet honours that which we know or believe.

We went on to discuss the discoveries one can make in a historic text, the fresh look, the stimulating questions, the answers to anomalies or spaces and my friend told me of his poetry he writes as he travels that is on topics of the mythos (or belief system depending on your view) yet looks at things from his way and creates poetic words partly out of innocence and imagination.

As for belief, I strongly believe in belief, but I do not really care what you actually believe. That is your choice, your direction to go in, you might find what you hear to be a historical piece of information, or you might find it to be what you truly believe you can call upon for spiritual inspiration. That is your choice not mine, I am not here to tell stories that make you think like me, merely to make you think. The thing relating to belief I seek for when telling is that for the moment, just for that moment, you decide to allow yourself to believe.

That way I look up into the faces of children within the faces of those of all ages and I see joy and innocence and an absolute belief in the moment. Allow this within yourself and live, allow this within yourself and imagine, allow this within yourself and step away with a spring in your step and a whole new approach to life and belief. Well that's what I believe.
Well, I also want to spread a little happiness.

Related Articles: Skald of Jorvik, teaching aids, interactive sessions, writing workshops, poetry, storytelling, greeks, vikings, pirates, combined arts projects, how to book. coming soon

Adrian Spendlow: 01904 789950 / 07854 764511. 6 Acomb Mews, Front Street, Acomb, York YO243BQ
Jump to: about.adrianspendlow.co.uk