Skip to main content

Through the Portal

A bit of culture at Melemskov

I have been away for a small time and thought it might interest a few to know what I’ve been up to.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

Quite simply, I have been studying. One of my consistent readers suggested some time ago that I spend some time studying culture and I thought this idea had some merit, although at the time I did nothing about it.

The recent news re certain renditions of the haka rekindled my interest in that aspect of culture and history however. So, I decided to learn something about my family’s Norwegian culture. My first step was to register for a course at the Hrafnagud Institute, located in the Waiarapa town of Melemskov, looking to gain some knowledge and experience of the war chants Vikings used when pillaging various coastlines.

Melemskov is a small town built by the Norwegians about 150 years ago. It has since been given another name which has nothing to do with the creation of this town, so we will ignore that. The Hrafnagud Institute is just outside town and isn’t too flash. To be honest, it looks like an old barn.

Inside the barn the walls are lined with wooden shields and spears. I had registered for the course on “The Beginners Guide to War Cry” along with a couple of other blokes, a strong woman and a kid who couldn’t keep still. The blokes weren’t that big, nor am I, so a glance at the woman had me thinking she had class champ written all over her.

We all met our tutor, Olaf, he called himself, and got the agenda for the 3-day course. The first day was war cry with shield. Day two involved spear and shield and on day three we could also finish off with a charge. This session would be outside, weather permitting.

We were all kitted out with spear and shield after which Olaf lined us up. “Right,” he said, “First lesson is the straight war cry. You spot your enemy advancing, glare at him and yell ‘yrrrgghhwrrr’ over and over.”

So, upon Olaf’s signal, we started glaring at the opposite wall. ‘Yrrrgghhwrrr’, we yelled. It was exhilarating. We had a couple of goes at this and started to smile at each other. This was fun. “Once more then we will try with shields,” yelled Olaf.

So once again we let out a mighty cry of ‘yrrrgghhwrrr’ and at the end of it, the kid took a pace forward then spat at Olaf’s feet.

Olaf did not look impressed, held the kid in his gaze and raised an eyebrow. The kid looked a bit sheepish and stammered out “I thought it was time for the spit”. Olaf responded coolly “Vikings don’t spit, it’s rude and disrespectful. Why did you think this would be appropriate?”

The kid looked nervous, “I thought you spit at people you don’t like”. Olaf shook his head, “No. No. Spitting is rude. If you don’t like them, you charge down for a bit of skull bashing, but that’s day three, so keep to the timetable please, and no more spitting.”

At this stage, the woman took a step forward and announced she wanted to change our war cry to something more modern. Olaf was agreeable to individual expression, so asked her forward to show what she could offer, which she did.

Taking a deep breath, she started her cry of “yrrragMenAreSissieshhwrrr!”. I glanced at Olaf after the war cry died away and he did not look happy. Tapping his foot, he scowled and announced, “Political opinions form no part in a war cry. Never do that again. How do you expect to bring fear into the hearts of your enemies with a political announcement? If you feel you cannot honour the culture of the Viking War Cry, I suggest you go away and become a negotiator.”

The afternoon session took place, but it became obvious that the woman and the child weren’t handling the intricacies of yelling while waving a shield about; their minds seemed to be elsewhere. It was obvious they were not able to honour culture, so they were dismissed. Once that deed was done, Olaf eyed up the rest of us and announced the secret additional session, drinking ale from the skulls of your enemies. True culture, even if his skulls were made of plastic.

Driving home I couldn’t help but think our old culture was quite simple and often had a practical side to it. Perhaps we were taking modern versions a bit too far away from their roots on some occasions which is something to be wary of, but perhaps not afraid of.

Thought for the Day: No one has ever seen a cowboy stride up to a bar and demand “Whiskey, with Coke Zero”