A Summer Solstice Fest With Magnus Barelegs Vikings

The Magnus Barelegs Vikings celebrate the summer solstice at the Ballyduggan encampment

Alison McGenaghan of the Magnus Barelegs Vikings was delighted at the mid-summer solstice festival going well with a good turnout of enthusiastic Vikings members and a substantial crowd of interested public who enjoyed the festive proceedings.

The Magnus Vikings enjoy life in their stockaded encampment on the shores of Ballyduggan Lake just outside Downpatrick

She said: “Our thanks go first of all to Christine and Peter McConville who were the main organisers of the event. As members they did a fantastic job in getting the Vikings stalls and participants set for the different events.

“And I’d like to thank all the members of the public who came along. It was a great family experience for children including the mums and dads who all learned something about the Viking way of life.

Magnus Barelegs Vikings, Philip Campbell, Chairman, Peter McConville, event organiser, and Alison McGrenaghan, secretary, pictured at the Viking settlement at Ballyduggan.

‘We have almost 90 members now and we are always busy on a project. On the Saturday and Sunday 6-7th July we are running Viking workshops, and that same weekend we are filming with RTE. So we are very busy.

“And then we have to get ready for the big Magnus Barelegs Festival which runs for the weekend of 24-25th August.”

The weather was kind to the Viking Summer Festival and the many Vikings who travelled from different parts of Ireland to take part encamped in an area of the stockade in their tents.

There was a wide range of what can only be described as Viking craft stalls. I met one where they were dealing in authentic Viking weaponry, and another where there were children’s wooden swords and axes and shields. But there was a lot more to Viking culture that their martial arts.

Practising their fighting skills at the Summer Solstice Festival with the Magnus Barelegs Vikings in Downpatrick.

In one Viking hut there was a young Viking maiden making up posies of herbs of various types with aromatic properties to help you sleep, breath better and so on. And next door was an other Viking making wildflower seed balls rolled in a mixture of native seeds.

And there were those who were making mead, or who were showing off their hand-made jewellery or fur or leather crafts while their husbands, if they were not in the ring fighting or playing Viking wresting games.

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Dave the filmstar Raven with Shay Cullen.

One of the highlights of the visit was meeting Dave! Not a person but a 9-year old raven, looked after by Shay. who explained that Dave was quite famous, and that he had appeared in a number of shows on The Vikings series.

Shay said: “Dave was actually a rescue bird. I got him when he was two years old and he had been kept in a very small cage and could not fly. But I put him in a long aviary and after a while he hopped around and learned to fly.

“Dave is easy to feed – he eats everything. He just loves children… but he couldn’t eat a whole one. I think he thinks they taste like chicken,” he laughed. Shay also had a small collection of various owls on display too.

Young Vikings take on the grown-ups as they charge the wall.

One of the entertaining parts of the day for the children was when they formed a ‘wall’ and advanced on the adult Viking wall in the ring. Then they charged with shrieking blood-curling cries as they tried to beak their opponents wall with surprising force. The youngsters were definitely exhilarated with this activity.

Overall, it was a journey back through time to an age about over 1000 years ago where Vikings survived with their crafts in small communities in Scandanavia originally.

But they spread across Europe and settled in larger town and cities and became more urbanised such as their settlement in Dublin.

Every game has to have a winner… even Viking murder ball.

Each day in the Summer Solstice Festival ended with a small bonfire where a ceremony paid homage to the Viking gods and dieties.

Alison led the ceremony addressing their gods looking to the East, South, West and North and calling on the Viking gods such as Idunna, Freyr, Ynghvi, Freyja, Mardoll, and Odin, each bringing their own guidance, blessings, wisdom, or protection.

Then they burned various aromatic plants and woods on the small bonfire with the aromas infusing the air around, and then they passed the cup of mead and drank from it and the celebration was complete.

It was definitely a good family day out. Children could participate in some of the craft and ring activities and that made this event special.

So well done the Magnus Bareleg Vikings in bringing the past back to life! And for everyone having such a great fun day out!

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