All grace goes to the givers. A guest
has arrived, but where shall we
sit him? Anxious is he who
sits at the heart to test his mettle.
A fire is the first thing a wanderer
wants if frozen to the knee.
Dry garb and grub are a must
for whoever’s come over the mountains.
Water is a want for someone who’s come
for a meal, a towel and a warm welcome.
Good nature, if they can get it,
both speech and silence in equal measure.
– Hávamál, stanzas 2-4, J. Dodds translation –
Come, come in. Don’t be shy. It is always warm near a blacksmith’s hearth, where tales as well as beautiful object are wrought between. Grab a cup and pull up a chair from the corner, for you are welcome. But do close the door behind – it is January after all.
I write this this welcome message somewhere high up in the air, halfway between Dublin and Stockholm, where I will jump on another plane to Trondheim. I am going to a feast organized by the living history group Trondheim Vikinglag and meant to celebrate a new year of adventures. There I shall meet my friends, colleagues and other interesting individuals who for different reason, be they professional, academic, or just pure fun, spend a portion of their lives sitting around campfires, dressed up as Vikings. Food and thought shall be shared, memories invoked and plans shaped.
But now I look at the clouds beneath and think of the words which will have to herald the shapes of things to come for this blog.
I have spent the last few years dividing my time between hammering hot metal, spending time at university, excavating ancient towns, going to academical conferences, gatherings of craftsmen and living history events. My travels and projects took across Western and Central Europe, as well as to Scandinavia, the Baltics and even as far east as Russia. All along the way I have met some exceptional characters. They might have been craftsmen, thinkers, leaders, entrepreneurs or often a combination of all of these. Young sprites and tough old bastards alike, they they were hard working, talented and passionate men and women who had a vision. I listened, I learned and sometimes I added some of my skills and stories to our moments spent together.
Now, the time has come when I have learned just enough so that I may give some of the stories back to the world, or at least to those who are willing to listen. In the following posts you can look up to my thoughts on various aspects cultural heritage and its presentation. You can look forward to me trying to transcribe some of the arcane language of archaeological scholars into something approachable to somebody who did not dedicate at least half a decade of university life to this discipline. Last but not lest, there shall be much ado about craft and living history – their importance and joy, as well as introductions and tutorials. Personally, I am looking forward to the challenge of doing something differently again, as well as the occasional guest contributions by some of the like-minded individuals which have met on my way.
So, finish your cup when you are ready, put on your coat, and join me on an adventure!
Harald the Smith, January 2017