If you want to make a statement that says "Vikings coming your way", then red and white is your go-to colour combo.
Some horns on a helmet would also not go astray.
But for local Viking enthusiast Iain Wright, no detail passes muster that is not heavily scrutinised against tough historical guidelines. That rules out the horns, sorry to say. No wings are allowed on helmets either.
"It's a pop culture reference," Wright says.
And, it would be a pretty inappropriate way to dress for either sailing the seas, or for battle.
"Think about it, if someone hits you on the head they're going to hit your horn and dig in," he explains.
"It's particularly dangerous to have something on your helmet that could catch."
Somehow danger and Vikings seem to pair well. But, "there's a lot of popular misconceptions", Wright says. Like the decorated helmets. They are thought by scholars to have only been used for pagan ceremonies, but took hold as classic how-to-dress-like-a-Viking attire during a German arts movement of the 19th century, known as the Romanticist Viking Revival.
Correcting such myths is a driving concern for Wright, who devoted eight years to studying ancient history and Latin language in his earlier years, before becoming a theatre nurse now working in the Hunter region.
Wright says that these seafaring people of Norse origin who expanded from Scandinavia during the 8th to 11th centuries have been "given a bad rap".
"People think that Vikings were particularly vicious and nasty, but they were no worse than the people they fought."
Holding battle training sessions in public, fully kitted out in handmade Viking-wear, is part of an ethos to "enlighten as to the true nature of the Vikings", Wright says.
He has been involved in re-enactment groups since the 1990s, and is currently a member of the Hunter-based Fire and Steel society, as well as the Wandering Folk who go on overnight treks, camping in traditional tents.
Fire and Steel regularly combat train on the shores of Lake Macquarie.
"We have quite a few people come up and have a chat," Wright says.
"It does give us an opportunity to educate people in the way of what we do. Some people are quite gobsmacked."
Last weekend, Wright and his fellow re-enactors, drew extra attention when they launched the Isobel. Wright bought the wooden clinker-built boat, modelled on a traditional Norse faering vessel, at the beginning of 2020.
It was a lucky find rather than a purchase made on whim.
"I was starting to build myself one, and I lucked out. Then a friend said 'Have a look at this'," Wright recounts.
The boat had been built in Sydney for the Woolwich Sea Scouts, who had it decorated front and back with a polystyrene dragon head and tail.
"Which is not quite right," he says, but it was good "for the kids".
It also came with modern metal rigging, a Scout emblem sail and a few other non-traditional parts. Wright has since reworked some detailing.
But first up was to alter the vessel's name, from Isabella to Isobel, in keeping with the spelling of his grand-daughter's name. Fittingly, she was born nine months after he bought the boat.
With thought to maritime tradition, he made the name change quite carefully, removing the last two letters and reforming the first "a".
"I haven't broken the old nautical curse of changing the name of a boat," he says.
Wright had a lake-based sailmaker apprentice create a new sail. He says that while the red-and-white stripes are part of the popular image of a Viking, they are also historically accurate.
"There's evidence for that from what some of the people said who got raided."
The new sail is synthetic, but Wright is also planning to hand-make a traditional version which entails sourcing a special long-stranded wool and treating it with oil and wax. That sail would only be hoisted up the mast when the boat is in display mode.
Also only for display, are hand-hewn timber "kabe" where oars are slotted. For rowing days, Wright switches to modern metal oar locks.
Wright crafted the kabe from "backyard trimmings", including grevillea as a suitable replacement for Northern Hemisphere timbers like beech. He chose "elbow pieces" where branches create natural nooks, then employed an axe, adze and carving knives.
In the re-enactment movement, such details count.
"We need a good rationale, archaeological or written evidence they had it in that period," Wright says.
"You can't say 'would have, could have'.
"We're talking about a thousand years ago, so there's a little bit of grey area."
Some compromise is necessary too.
"We wear life jackets - not very Viking".
But they do fit under the period clothes.
And, Wright notes, "Mail isn't a really good flotation device, so we won't be wearing any mail on board."
Darren Delany, a founding member of Fire and Steel, says the group is an official "Living History" society, differentiating it from "fantasy" groups.
"We try to authentically recreate history," Delany says.
"History as it was, as opposed to history as what you'd like it to be.
"If it didn't happen in history, we don't pursue it. Which means we are constantly trying to explain ourselves."
The group re-enacts the whole of the Viking Age, rather than just the ways of Vikings (that was more of a job type than a people, he says).
All items they use and wear are hand-crafted in a traditional manner, from clothing to armour and weaponry. Fighting gear is made of steel, in keeping with the real world of battles past, except sharp bits are blunted.
Delany, himself, is a stitcher, and currently making a new pair of shoes.
"I know you can buy them, but that's not the point - I want to do it myself," he says.
"I'm happy to spend the hours carefully stitching clothing together."
Not only is recreating history an obsessive passion for Delany, that's consumed four decades to date, he says it also "gives perspective on now, it helps you appreciate our modern conveniences".
The arrival of the Isobel on the shores of Lake Macquarie adds another element to authentic scenes that can be recreated.
The small boats are perfect for raids on small waterside villages, Iain Wright mentions.
"On a big raid they would have used these to do a lot of explorations," he says.
"That was the idea of the faering, it will go into shallow water quite well."
Their nimbleness was also utilised to "run interference" in sea battles, and to damage the oars of larger fighting boats. In peaceful times, these littler vessels were taken out on fishing missions.
As Delany points out, mostly Vikings were "battle ready" rather than at battle. And, largely, they would prefer to set up trade deals than to raid.
"A common life was a farm life," he says.
"You wouldn't be making raids or going to war constantly."
Wright hadn't sailed much since he was young. So he's on a learning curve now, with some experienced sailors at his side. He was "over the moon" when the Isobel's sail first billowed into life.
His grand-daughter, Isobel, was there to see the thrilling sight. Her father Josh, Iain Wright's son and also a Viking enthusiast, was sailing alongside his father.
They, like most who re-enact, can trace their ancestry back to the eras they are seeking to recreate. The Wright family descend from a clan born out of the earliest Viking strongholds.
Iain Wright, looking every bit the Viking with his flowing beard, has found his niche within a niche world. His mind is now set more than ever on building his own vessel from scratch, a longboat now in planning stages to join a fledgling fleet.
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