Next Thursday, September 14, the Midgard Viking Centre near the Borre burial mounds will be hosting a special presentation by Tom Kaye, currently a master's student in Viking and Medieval Studies, doing his second year at the University of Oslo

The spirit of Odin

Titled The Frenzied Warband as Odinic Cult, the hour-long talk beginning at 6 pm will offer a comparative perspective on the warriors during the Migration Period and the Viking Age believed to have been possessed by the pagan spirit of Odin.

Kaye's research delves into the ideology of poetically inspired madness that motivated these Odinic Warbands. Entrance to the talk is covered by the standard museum ticket.

A cultural heritage attraction in operation since 2000, the Midgard Viking Centre was initially sited due to its location alongside the Borre burial mounds, an important Norse landmark on Norway's southeastern tip.

Initially called the Midgard Historical Centre, it soon drew visitors from across Norway, but it has long been looking to raise its global profile. This year also sees the tenth-anniversary celebrations for the Viking Hall unveiled here in 2013.

Viking Age burial mound in Borre National Park, closely situated to the Midgard Viking Centre. Photo: Bohuslen / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Strange graves

As Christina Leverkus, spokesperson for Vestfold Museums, the regional authority that oversees Midgard, recently explained to The Viking Herald:

"Our aim is to make us the leading center to experience the Viking world in northern Europe. That was why we made our focus more on Viking history and changed our name in 2019."

The move was not without foundation. As you sit in the center's café, as many locals do as part of a relaxing day amid the scenic landscape, you have a perfect view of the grave mounds. 

Within the huge Borre National Park, out of some 50 graves, ten are considered monumental, though only seven exist today. 

The first investigations took place back in the early 1850s after workers accidentally discovered a grave filled with weapons and riding equipment.

Some of the originals are now on display at the Historical Museum in Oslo, but you can see faithful replicas at the Midgard Viking Centre. 

The items not only show a particular local style of ornamentation, especially for harnesses, but they point to the economic status of this area from the Merovingian era, between the middle of the fifth century and the Viking Age

The earliest mounds at Borre date to 600 CE, underlining this long span of time.

Built in 2013, the Gildehallen at the Midgard Viking Centre offers an authentic glimpse into the Viking Age with its detailed interior, wooden pillars, and Viking-style carvings. Photo: Wolfmann / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Feast halls and burial ships

"In 2007, archaeologists discovered traces of what was probably once a feast hall," says Christina. "After that discovery, we decided to create this reconstruction."

Much of it crafted by hand using time-appropriate tools, the Viking Hall displays beautiful wood carvings typical of the area.

The hall is the centerpiece of the guided tours, which are offered in both English and Norwegian. These tours also include the main permanent exhibition and the grounds.

"Everything we publish, including videos, is available in both English and Norwegian," says Christina. "And with a significant increase in visitors from Germany, we may have to include German as well."

A visit to Midgard has always been a hands-on experience. While activities laid on for local schools are carried out in Norwegian, all children and adults can try out the bow-and-arrow and log games in the playground. 

During the school holidays, archery and spear-throwing take place outside the Viking Hall.

Large-scale events include the Midgard Viking Festival, which features battle re-enactments, archery, and crafts. 

The 2019 discovery by archaeologists of what is believed to be a Viking-era ship constructed as a tomb for a high-ranking member of society should generate increased interest in Borre. 

This discovery emphasizes the area's historical significance as a harbor. 

"In addition to expanding the exhibition area," says Christina, "we aim to make the center more accessible to groups, who can take advantage of the appropriate and picturesque setting to get together and pitch up their tents."

Midgard Viking Centre, Birkelyveien 9, Horten, Norway.
Admission: 100Nkr/€8.75. Seniors, students, and ages 7-17: 70Nkr/€6. Under 6: Free.

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