With the huge rise in interest in Viking history and culture, many groups have been springing up around the world, keen on experiencing life as Norse people would have known it more than 1,000 years ago. 

One such association is the Sons of Ivar, a living history society based in the northwest of Ireland. Like others across Europe, they attend festivals, compete in battle contests, and share food prepared according to authentic recipes.

Photo: Courtesy of Sons of Ivar

Forming the band

Since 2016, Sons of Ivar founder Orm Gunnarson, aka Adam Leggat, has been spending much of his free time wielding a sword and sleeping in tents with his fellow members. So, what's the attraction?

"In 2015, I took my two sons to the Festival of Slavs and Vikings in Wolin, Poland, and we had a great time," Adam tells The Viking Herald. 

"When I looked for a similar group here in this part of Ireland, I couldn't find one, so I decided to start one up."

Sons of Ivar started making their own equipment and going to events: 

"We generally welcome like-minded people. For weekends away, everyone's in each other's pockets, so you have to have a sense of harmony within the group. It's hard to find this kind of communal feeling anywhere else".

While a greater number of TV documentaries presented various aspects of the Viking era, so more people were becoming interested in the subject. "There's a lot of information out there," says Adam, "and not all of it is particularly accurate. We use actual historical sources as much as possible".

This authenticity runs to clothes, crafts, and even food, the reenactors delving into Daniel Serra's seminal publication, An Early Meal – a Viking Age Cooking Cookbook & Culinary Odyssey (available on Amazon, here), for tips and recipes: "They would cook whatever they found, whatever happened to be around them at the time," says Adam.

Photo: Courtesy of Sons of Ivar

Battle ready

The biggest activity, of course, is the battle reenactments. 

As Adam explains, there are three main categories: "The first is the so-called Western Style, carried out with lighter weaponry and armor, where the target zones on the body are quite limited. Then there's the Eastern Style, much harder and more physical, where the target zone includes the upper body and top of the head, and the cutting edge of the weapon can deliver more power. Finally, there are live fights that take place on a bridge, so within a narrower area and generally fought with five on each side".

The numbers involved at a big gathering such as Poland's Wolin Festival can run into the hundreds. 

"At a regular weekend event, we would have three battles on Friday, three on Saturday, and three on Sunday, and each would last up to ten minutes." 

The battles aren't the only reason why Adam and his friends dedicate so much to their unusual pastime, training once a week and acting out their own battles once a month: "For weekends on camp, you're eating together, sleeping in tents similar to the ones Vikings would have done, and there's a real sense of camaraderie." 

This year, Sons of Ivar plan to attend three main festivals: the Boyne Valley Viking Experience at Slane Castle, County Meath, Ireland (May 20-21), Hrafnseati near Dudley, England (June 3-4), and the Festivals of Slavs and Vikings in Wolin, Poland (August 4-6), as well as a number of smaller events.

To find out more about the Sons of Ivar, see their Facebook page.

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