Norrland society has a smorgasbord of historical societies and cultural associations you can join to turbo-boost both your knowledge and your social life. Rehana Lothian speaks to a society with a difference. Photographs by Hedwig Adomeit
Last year, I took a look at some of the historical artifacts and stories in Skellefteå Museum’s Storsia exhibition, which guides us through the centuries of Skellefteå’s past. The society I’m speaking to now goes one better – they are living it (if only for the odd weekend and evening).
Reengarda is the Skellefteå section of an international society of people interested in recreating the past. SCA, the Society of Creative Anachronism is an international group with bases in Sweden, across Europe, North America and even in Asia and South Africa. There is a diverse set of activities covered, ranging from cooking to fighting – and everything in between.
Must be pre-1600
Members choose to dress for and recreate their favourite historical time periods, with the sole proviso that these are from pre-1600. The most popular eras tend to be the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The wider society, in this case including all of Europe, holds regional tournaments twice-yearly. This event decides who the new ruling pair ‘King and Queen’ will be, followed by a coronation event. Locations move with each event, sometimes being held at an English or German castle for added atmosphere. As well as these events, the society holds courses for skills of the period (a ’university’). In January, it was the turn of Reengarda – team Skelleftea – to take on the ‘coronation’ event. Six months in the planning, the event involves people from around Europe in the three-day celebration, which is no small affair. With 150 guests to feed and entertain, a small crew set about making this an event to remember. A fun weekend recreating a medval banquet with as much historical detail as possible
takes a lot of energy. It requires clothes, food and entertainment to suit, (but unfortunately no castles are available here in Norrland).
Lots of mead!
Celebrations suited to such an auspicious occasion included the crowning ceremony, a fire show, historical music, fight demonstrations, feasting, dancing and, of course, mead (fermented honey), with the addition of a reindeer skin-lined snow cave designated the Norrland-style chillout space. The organisers appear to have thought of everything.
So, what did people eat up here in days of yore? Well, that would depend on who your family was. From what is known, most people lived closer to a subsistence lifestyle. A privileged few lived a more comfortable lifestyle, of course. But although some may have been wealthy, there were no nobility as existed further to the south of Europe. To reflect the two styles, the cooks devised an average poor farmer’s menu of nettle soup, bark bread and chanterelle toast. Yes, they really spent many hours collecting chanterelles and other ingredients from the forest to feed 150 people. Ironically, you’d pay top dollar to get the same thing in Stockholm these days. The second, wealthier person’s, course, partially consisted of moose soup and pork.
The weekend was a big success and was well appreciated by the visitors from as far afield as the US, Ireland and Austria. The cooks, however, were understandably exhausted…
Eri is a language student who travelled from Finland to be here and has had an amazing time. ’One of the best things about SCA is that it’s so diverse and accepting. I’m an autistic non-binary person and I don’t feel different or awkward here – it’s just fun. I learnt a new technique, and I met new people. I even got to swap craftwork that I’ve made for cool stuff, which is great if you’re a student on a budget.’
‘The only negative here is that everything requires Swedish money, which I don’t have as a Finn. A friend and I went searching for the ATM. I have to say, walking through town in full costume did draw some attention!’
Find out more at reengarda.se