Complete Hnefatafl Set

Another recent discovery, a complete Hnefatafl set from c. 872 CE was found by a metal detectorist, Mick Bott (article from the Independent and The Science Times). This was found in the site of a Viking camp of the 872/3 winter, a site he has been visiting and finding 9th c. artifacts from since 1982. In fact, his finds as well as other metal detectorists, were part of what led experts to identify the site as the camp in the first place.

The set itself was not recovered at one time, but over multiple searches, and was not identified at first as a game set. It is made of lead, and it is noted in The Science Times article that typically, game pieces from Scandinavia were not made of lead, and instead were made of polished stones.

A game board was not recovered with this set, but one was made to auctioned with the set on 2020 September 15th.

DNA Study of Viking Age Populations

National Geographic published an article this week about a study published on Nature on the genetics of the Scandinavian people during the Viking Age. It was quite a substantial survey, analyzing the DNA of 442 humans across Europe and Greenland in areas where there was known Viking Age burials. The survey discovers not only where Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian DNA entered into other populations, but also what DNA entered into Scandinavia. And they compare the results to not only Modern Scandinavians, but also as far back as the Bronze Age.

The survey confirmed some things that were suggested from other historical sources. Such as Swedes mingled in the Baltic, Danes mingled in England, and Norwegians mingled in Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. And that people buried in a Norse style sometimes we’re not of Scandinavian heritage.

They also found that the Viking Age population had a quite diverse influx, and was not just a single, untouched, homogeneous group. Even Norse people at home in Scandinavia had not excluded themselves from mixing with other groups. Looking closely, different areas of the Viking/Norse cultural group had a different influence from outside. For example, Viking Age Gotlanders had a greater genetic similarity to the Baltic Bronze Age individuals, while Viking Age Swedes and Danes were more similar to Neolithic farmers from Anatolia.

The Viking population also were confirmed to have similar levels of lactase-persistence to the modern population. That contrasts with earlier Bronze Age populations, where it was lower. (A recent article about Bronze Age Northern Europe focused on the total lack of lactase-persistence in a mass burial from a battle. Though also note the discovery of two women in the burial. In comparison, the drinking of non-human milk can perhaps be dated to 7000 years ago via ceramic finds that were likely made for toddlers and contained traces of milk proteins, though the eldest find, while it could have held pig milk, could also have been human milk.)

The National Geographic article is good of course, but if you can, take advantage of the free view of the original article.

Vigils and Vǫkur

vigil, noun

c. 1200, “eve of a religious festival” (an occasion for devotional watching or observance), from Anglo-French and Old French vigile “watch, guard; eve of a holy day” (12c.), from Latin vigilia “a watch, watchfulness,” from vigil “watchful, awake, on the watch, alert,” from PIE root *weg- “to be strong, be lively.” Meaning “watch kept on a festival eve” in English is from late 14c.; general sense of “occasion of keeping awake for some purpose” is recorded from 1711.


an act of staying awake, especially at night, in order to be with a person who is very ill or dying, or to make a protest, or to pray

Cambridge Online Dictionary

1: the act of keeping awake at times when sleep is customary
also : a period of wakefulness

2: an event or a period of time when a person or group stays in a place and quietly waits, prays, etc., especially at night a candlelight

3a: a watch formerly kept on the night before a religious feast with prayer or other devotions

b: the day before a religious feast observed as a day of spiritual preparation

c: evening or nocturnal devotions or prayers —usually used in plural

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

In the SCA, there are two major ways I’ve heard the word vigil is used. The main way is that the vigil is a time taken at an event between the time of asking the person to join one of the peerage orders and the time of the ceremony when they are elevated. Typically, a space is set aside where the vigilant can have private conversations with people who will give advice and help the vigilant understand what they are about to do, and what responsibilities and consequences come of it. In Northshield, food is typically laid out for people coming to a vigil. The vigil itself takes hours, typically.

The vigil may come immediately after the invitation to join, with the ceremony taking place before the end of the event. Sometimes the vigil is skipped altogether. But what I’ve personally seen the most in Northshield is the type like mine, where the person is asked, the sitting on vigil takes place at another event, and the ceremony takes place at an event past even that.

For example, Master Owen asked for the boon for Thomas at Warriors and Warlords on 2019-07-12. The Loonacy hosted Thomas’ vigil at the Bard Yard at Pennsic War on 2019-07-26 thru 2019-08-11. And he was elevated at St. Radegunds Faire on 2019-08-17.

This is where the second meaning comes in: where the person who has been asked to join is on vigil, usually for several months. But they will still sit vigil or have a vigil (the main meaning), at an event.

vaka, f. noun, (-ų)

the being awake, waking, í vöku og svefni, awake and asleep; […] and-vaka, sleeplessness. 2. in Icel. during the winter, the evening (when one works by lamp-light) is called vaka [Engl. wake]; […] kvöld-vaka, an evening; […] even evening entertainments are called vaka, wakes, hence viki-vakar, q.v. 3. a vigil, eve of a saint’s day, eccl.; […] Jóns-vaka, St. Johns-wake, St. John’s Eve, Norse Jons-ok. COMPDS: […] vakna-skeið, n. the vigil-time, the time about St. John’s-day (the end of June), Fms. ix. 29, 218, viii. 248. vöku-lið, n. watching people, scouts, Fms. vii. 310. vöku-maðr, m. a watchman, Fms. iv. 299, Fas. i. 405. vöku-nótt, f. a vigil, eve, […] II. = vök, an opening in ice, Sturl. ii. 248; brunn-vaka, q.v.

Cleasby-Vigfusson’s Icelandic-English Dictionary

In 10th c. Early Old Norse, this word was probably pronounced *waka (the bilabial voiced fricative [β], which is presumed to have occurred between the /w/ and the [v], was believed by E.V. Gordon to occur in the 12th c. As I remember, Stefán Karlsson did not posit a date for it in his Icelandic Language). The 10th c. plural, perhaps *wakuʀ — it’s a bit hard to pinpoint when that original /a/ started to be umlauted to ǫ [ɔ].

Norwegian Viking Age Grave

They have recently found a warrior grave in Norway. One of the unusual things is the placement of the sword. Typically, swords are placed on the right hand side of the body (opposite of how a right-handed person would draw the sword from). It’s unknown the exact reason for this practice. But in this grave, the sword is on the left side.

All Garbed Up and Nowhere to Go

So, last week on Thursday evening, during my children’s bedtime, I received a phone call. I wasn’t able to take it then, so I had to call back in the morning. I was asked to read a scroll text in Old Norse in Northshield Ethereal Court. Baroness Katerinka said the recipient knew correct pronunciation, and so they wanted the expert to pronounce it. Ok. I would need to sign and waiver and we’d get set up for a sound check before court at 7p. I agreed, and double-checked with my parents because they would need to be involved to make this happen. All good.

On Saturday morning, I found out that this was a text I had been asked to translate into Old Norse towards the beginning of the month, but I had not received the details and I promptly forgot to follow up about it. And so, I needed to translate the scroll text before I read it into court that night, and the scroll would follow at a later date.


I used the rune stone formula for speed, and finished the translation by the sound check at 3p. But it was in Standard Old Norse rather than the recipient’s target. But really, that could wait because sound check time!

My iPad’s microphone had stopped working properly back in spring. I have a microphone that Master Thomas gave me to record my music. I checked that the connection worked, and hoped that that would solve the problem.

That did not solve the problem.

The Microsoft Teams app wasn’t registering the external microphone!

Well, I had mentally prepared for this. Let’s try the laptop with the camera.

The laptop browser would not load the website for Microsoft Teams. 🤦🏻‍♀️

I had not mentally prepared for that.

I borrowed my dad’s iPad.


That’s what I would use for the evening. And this way, I could have my text up on my iPad to read off of for court. Great!

Back to the translation! The recipient was Varangian, late 11th c. Which meant my target was the Eastern Old Norse dialect. I hadn’t done Eastern Old Norse yet, so I had to do a lot of fast reading in my Gordon to make sure that later sound changes weren’t expressed in the text, and I reflected the sound changes that were different from West Norse. I finished with enough time to shower and get dressed, and practice a bit before joining the meeting. I had butterflies, but dealing with that comes with being a bard.

I was the last thing on the docket, and I did a little introduction as asked before going into the script (for technical reasons). I hadn’t realized I was “um”-ing that part a lot. In my head, I had to halt myself from talking in another language that I’ve picked up in the last year. 😅

But you see, this was all a ploy.

His Majesty asked me to stick around. And the next thing that happened was that my Laurel, Orlaith Ballach inghen Flainn, was called into court.

👉 Head 👈 meet reality: 😵🔨

“Your Majesties, I have a problem with my apprentice. She does entirely too much work for her station.”

Yup. Yup, that’s right. A boon. My Laurel was asking for a boon.

Oh, look! There’s Master Ingus! And Master Danr and Katriona meistari! And Mistress Rosanore!

Now, my brain had noticed a tell earlier. While waiting for court, I saw a new person join the feed. And man, that looked like Ingus. I mean, the name was not labeled Ingus. And it had been awhile, and the hair was a little different. But man, that looked like Ingus. And Ingus doesn’t play anymore. The only reason he would be in court would be if I was being vigiled. And if I was being vigiled, then of course he would have a fake name.

But, I told myself, there is a slim chance there is a look-a-like that I wasn’t aware of. And, if I allowed myself to think this was happening, I would be waaaaay too nervous to properly do my reading. So, I pushed it aside and didn’t think about it.

I am told there were other tells. But I for sure didn’t notice them! Good job all you planning, sneaky people!

The biggest shock for me was after court when I learned that my parents and my husband had known and were in on it. My husband, since the beginning of the week, but my parents since near the beginning of the month. I h a d n o i d e a.

There was an after party on Zoom and I stayed up too late responding to texts and IMs and even one phone call. And it was hard to fall asleep. And the next day I kept getting hit with the emotional reality, and crying happy tears every half hour to hour or so.

So, that happened. And ya….

Heya, I’m Eyja, and I was placed on vigil
— on the 12th day of Tvímánaþr
in the eighth week til winter
in the fársumar (plague-summer)
during the Ethereal court of
Ciarán king and Elis queen
to be elevated to the Order of the Laurel.