Need non-racist-affiliated Viking jewelry and traditions for a wedding
February 4, 2013 8:15 AM   Subscribe

My fiance is half-Norwegian, and all the family he's in contact with are pretty Norwegian. We're having a wedding and trying to honor each other's heritages. I need touches and customs that can be added to said wedding. Problem: while googling on the internet for Viking stuff and/or meaningful runes, I'm finding a ton of racist stuff. My fiance has done antifa work and I just plain hate Nazis. How can I find cool customs that have not been appropriated by horrible people, and how can I buy jewelry (particularly ring-type) that isn't going to racist pockets?

I really like some of the things I've looked into, around equality and fighting women and all such, but I'm pretty new to this mythology - most of what I know comes from the Prose Edda. Googling for this on the internet seems kind of like googling for a non-sex-related use of porn, though.
posted by corb to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've previously poked around this site (my first hit for "viking jewelry") and see no sign they're connected with any white supremacy groups. I bought an iron ring from them last year on a whim and it was delivered quickly.
posted by zadcat at 8:22 AM on February 4, 2013

The problem you're going to run into is that neo-nazi racist types have been raiding the nordic cupboard for some time. Heck, several letters of the Elder Futhark alphabet were appropriated by the real Nazi's for unit insignia in the 30's and 40's, so you're going to run into this kind of nonsense a lot.

The best I can advise is to look at websites put up by serious historic types - in my experience the types of people you're looking to avoid will put up websites left and right, but are unlikely to build a knorr using only traditional hand tools. The Jorvik center or other Jorvik (York) related links might help. This pdf on Norse jewelry might give you some ideas for rings.

If this is the sort of thing you're looking for, I'll try and come up with all the best Google terms I can over the next few hours.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:34 AM on February 4, 2013

You might want to look into Norway's indigenous Sami ("Laplander") history, culture and symbols (pending the relevant conversations with your fiance's family, of course). The Sami are known for their traditional silver jewelry -- Juhls' Silvergallery is one of the most prominent sources.

posted by argonauta at 8:42 AM on February 4, 2013

I think the traditional approach is to wear a wedding crown. Some places rent them. Here is one. I believe it would also be traditional for your husband to give you a piece of jewelry the next day.

(I once went to a wedding where the couple rode in on Norwegian Fjord horses. They were escorted by hardenger fiddlers. He had on some sort of bunad. She had on a wedding crown. It was quite Norwegian, and nothing reminded one of the Nazis. The Viking / rune stuff may be where you are getting into those areas.)
posted by Area Man at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

A cloak for the woman, and a sword for the man?
posted by thylacine at 8:58 AM on February 4, 2013

HERE. Efva Attling is one of the top Scandinavian designers and I'm pretty sure not a skinhead.
posted by three blind mice at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: If this is the sort of thing you're looking for, I'll try and come up with all the best Google terms I can over the next few hours.

It's certainly one of them! I'd appreciate more historically oriented sites, it's just that my attempts to search for them have come up mostly with crazy people.
posted by corb at 9:21 AM on February 4, 2013

What about the Viking Ship Museum Shop? I have bought jewelry there, for gifts. They have beautiful stuff
posted by mumimor at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ingebretsen's has some traditions. Wedding

I think you'll have more luck if you use "wedding traditions" and "wedding folklore" + Norwegian as search terms, as the wedding sites are thick on the ground for this stuff. Also, My Little Norway blog.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd appreciate more historically oriented sites,

Well I am writing from Sweden with some bias, but Norwegian Vikings were particularly nasty people as Vikings go and nothing about this culture is non-racist, non-violent, or remotely redeeming. They were slave traders and pirates of the worst sort. Those intrepid, sea-faring explorers who discovered Newfoundland, found nothing to steal and no slaves to take so they left it. They did however establish a city called Dublin because there were lots of slaves to catch in Ireland. The more you find out about the historical activities of the Vikings, the less you will want to associate yourself with them. There was a reason the Nazis were enamoured with Viking myth and it's not the association with the Nazis that makes them unpalatable.

Modern Norway is as far from Viking culture as you can get so please celebrate with something modern Scandinavian like you'll find in the link I posted.
posted by three blind mice at 9:31 AM on February 4, 2013 [12 favorites]

You need to find a decent sized SCA (society for creative anachronism) event near you! Seriously, the merchants row at these events will have TONS (maybe literally if you weighed it all) of Celtic/Nordic/Viking stuff and all racist free and all nominally historically accurate.

here is the juried merchants list for jewellry (meaning SCA has said they have historically accurate stuff available and aren't sleazebags) and most merchants have some handmade stuff done in the old ways.

And here is the larger merchants list for everything.

here is a link to the activities page and if you can make it to one of the 5 big 'wars' I promise you will find exactly what you are looking for and maybe pick up a fun new hobby and learn to be one of those 're-creation' types that get made fun of. I promise the only nazis tolerated (and barely) are 'period' nazis-not the same thing at all.
posted by bartonlong at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, three blind mice, that was some opinion.

AFAIK, the Vikings were farmers who were very successful, and thus grew out of their land (the younger children survived childhood). This led them to seek new land, which is always problematic - usually when you find "new land", someone lives there already and violence follows. However, the reason the Viking-age was very short was that Vikings were rapidly integrated into their new countries, wether these were in Northern France, England, Ireland or Russia. So well integrated that they practically disappeared within two or three generations (though still to be found in language and in DNA). I can't imagine this type of integration would have been successful if it was only based on slave-trade and pillage. (Compare with the European conquest of the Americas)
The Viking expansion was in part a vast system of trade, spanning from Constantinople to Greenland, and in part successful farming techniques. Both of these were based on a very advanced level of technology and communication, compared to other peoples of the early middle ages.
Slavery was a fact of life throughout antiquity and the middle ages. It makes no sense to single out Scandinavian culture as particularly evil in this context.

Lots of people who are not at all associated with Nazism enjoy studying and reenacting Viking lore. The Sagas are amazing and fun, and everyone should go see the ships in real life.

That was a long detour to say: Norwegian traditional weddings have very few Viking elements (maybe there is something with the silver brooch stuff), but they are very romantic. You might like to look at those, as in Ideefixe's links? I tried to image-google the Norwegian princesses' weddings, because I think they had some traditional parts, but I cannot remember their names so I get a thousand images of Kate Middleton and other princesses, but no folklore
posted by mumimor at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow, three blind mice, that was some opinion.

I think I am just trying to answer corb's question:

Problem: while googling on the internet for Viking stuff and/or meaningful runes, I'm finding a ton of racist stuff. My fiance has done antifa work and I just plain hate Nazis. How can I find cool customs that have not been appropriated by horrible people, and how can I buy jewelry (particularly ring-type) that isn't going to racist pockets?

Corb and his fiance don't like racists and what I am saying is that everything about Viking stuff is racist. The Vikings haven't been appropriated by horrible people - THEY WERE HORRIBLE PEOPLE. The Norweigans being amongst the worst of them. Now you can say that well they weren't so horrible in light of the times, and I'm saying that they were the horriblest people of their times. There are churches in Northen England with the prayer God Save Us from the Norseman. These Vikings were the Nazis of their time. This is the reason that they are so popular with the skinheads. Let's be honest about this. The chicken came before the egg.

In short, the guy selling you a Thors hammer might not be a racist, but he is certainly selling those same things to racists for it is a symbol of racism of the worst Dark Ages sort.

Again, modern Scandinavia is a repudiation of this past. Efva Attling has some nice stuff and it is really, typically Scandinavian without being anything like Viking.
posted by three blind mice at 10:59 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does the cross-cultural reference need to be symbolized by jewelry?

For example, I went to a wedding years ago in Kenya, bride was Kenyan and groom was Australian. Part of the ceremony was exchanging of national foods, after their vows the newlyweds carved cooked goat and then kangaroo to share with each other and also with the guests. Just a thought.
posted by Under the Sea at 11:06 AM on February 4, 2013

Response by poster: I am, FYI, not that it's relevant, a lady. :)

Again, modern Scandinavia is a repudiation of this past. Efva Attling has some nice stuff and it is really, typically Scandinavian without being anything like Viking.

In this case, I really can't go for any generic Scandinavian stuff - I've already put my foot in my mouth by suggesting something that turned out to be Swedish, not Norwegian. Efva Attling does have really pretty jewelry, but it's also outside my price range - I'm not looking to spend more than about 400-600 on a ring, and anything below that is a nice bonus for a wedding that's already getting bloated.

The Norweigans being amongst the worst of them.

I don't think I can legitimately say - "All Norwegians were horrible, so I'm not going to be honoring your heritage." However, I do appreciate some insight into the weird inter-Scandinavian dynamics.

Does the cross-cultural reference need to be symbolized by jewelry?

It does not, but the catering contracts are already signed, also for the cake and alcohol, so I was thinking it'd be an easy way to add some things in. I'm definitely open to other suggestions.
posted by corb at 11:09 AM on February 4, 2013

I don't think I can legitimately say - "All Norwegians were horrible

Well, of course not, but the historical Vikings aren't exactly remembered as a culture that overall valued kindness or justice. And contemporary appropriations of Viking imagery have some bad connotations. Unless there's a direct family connection--along the lines of a family crest or tartan--I think you'll have trouble finding specifically Viking stuff that doesn't have some kind of negative connotation.

So, perhaps there's a way to incorporate something a little more neutral but still specifically Norwegian, such as a rosemaling design on... something. You could use rosemaling-decorated plates or boxes in your centerpieces or find some rosemaling-decorated jewelry.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2013

I remember one thing which fascinated me when I studied Viking culture: the women always carried the keys of the house in a huge key-ring. (Well, that was what historians thought 20 years ago, when I was interested in Vikings, I have no idea where research is now....). So a key, or a key-ring was symbolic of the power of the house-wife.
The reason for this was that during the summer, when the men were going Viking, the women led the household, including those tasks which were normally a male prerogative. The keys would not only open the house and storage, but also the treasury. Back then, I often gave my girlfriends a Viking key when they got married.
I was told that this was the original source of Scandinavian emancipation, but I think that has been thoroughly disproved. The Lutherans seem to have literally killed off all independent women. It's still a good story, though, and I always imagined this must have been why all those English/French/Russian/Irish maidens fell in love with Viking men. (Because no, they were not all raped and enslaved)
Here is a link to the Jorvik Viking Centre Kid Charlemagne
Another Yorkshire link, and here's a recent update on the Vikings
posted by mumimor at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My wife's grandma has insisted that a Kransekake be served at family weddings. They are traditionally served at important celebrations. We also had our contracts, but the caterers agreed to let us put one next to the wedding cake as it didn't reduce what we were spending with them and wasn't something they could provide. Often little Norwegian flags mounted on toothpicks are placed on the Kransekake, so it would be quite clear to everyone that the cake is there as a Norwegian thing.

Another idea, is to have Grieg's "Jeg elsker Dig" (I love you) sung at the wedding. Its a beautiful song and can fit well into a wedding ceremony. You might be able to find a soprano who knows it or will learn. It was sung at my brother's wedding and my Grandpa seemed to appreciate the nod to his Norwegian heritage. (If its being used in this way, the song should be sung in the original Norwegian and not in German.)

If this is about honoring his family, it might be worth considering the extent to which the more obscure Viking stuff will or will not resonate with them.
posted by Area Man at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

When I think of my Norwegian heritage, I am inclined to think of Norse mythology (including trolls and other beasts, not just Thor and friends), lefse, boller, fish, seal fur-lined clothes, fancy handmade wool sweaters, pacifism/nuclear disarmament, Laplanders (aka Sami), the Northern Lights, skiing, and NOT of Vikings. But hey, I'm only 1/4 Norwegian and only lived there for a couple years in grade school, so what do I know?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:13 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about famous Norwegian sweater patterns? This would be especially nice if either of you is also into knitting. There could be cakes decorated with them, or table linens or banners.

Weddings with Viking or runic symbols in them remind me too much of the SCA or Ren-Faire crowd (not that there's anything wrong with that).
posted by Brody's chum at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2013

Wow, that's quite a heavy view of Norwegians. But I can say 5 years ago looking for Viking stuff on the internet just wouldn't get you to all these neo-fascist sites, and

Here in England, all along the East coast but especially Northumberland, people are really proud of thinking of themselves as descended from Vikings. In fact after a television history progamme that tested people's DNA in the North East and found they were actually more related to Saxons, the people they tested were palpably disappointed. Now that's in spite of the fact the area's notorious for having been raided by Vikings - would be 'Viked'? Area notorious for having been thoroughly Viked - St. Cuthbert, Holy Island, etc.

So i think looking at the English museum sites as advised above may get you some nice, untainted, ideas.

(But then they said the Saxons themselves were originally from Scandanavia, I think.)
posted by glasseyes at 5:58 PM on February 4, 2013

Well I am writing from Sweden with some bias

Wikipedia: "In pre-Viking times, as well as during the Viking period, Swedish tribes regularly made slaves of members of neighbouring tribes. Viking society was to a certain extent a stratified caste system. The Thralls, who according to Norse mythology were descended from a son of Ríg (Heimdall) called Thræl, were at the bottom of the caste system. Thralls could be born into slavery, or become slaves by committing crimes. These conditions were common in Scandinavia and Danelaw-controlled England.
Swedish Vikings travelled east into Gardariki, and were known to have traded extensively in slaves. Slaves also came from Germanic, British and other northern European tribes, and were sometimes sold to Arab and Jewish traders,[citation needed] who in turn traded them further afield. Slavery in Sweden was (temporarily) made illegal in 1337."

Regarding jewellery, I would suggest something in this style, made by well known Norwegian jeweller David-Andersen in the 1960s, or jewellery designed by Tone Vigeland; modernist in style, but with shapes and patterns inspired by Viking era decorations.
posted by iviken at 7:10 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Norwegian weddings are big on speeches by the best man, maid of honor and all the important family members. (Looooong speeches, punctuated by much toasting.) You might not want to go there, but that kind of has been incorporated into American culture too, I think, with the slideshows and whatnot.

Your best bet is a kransekake ... essential, and easy to make.

And the Grieg song as Area Man said... lovely. Maybe a fiddler to play a couple Norwegian songs.

If people have bunads, you can encourage them to be worn to the wedding. (My relatives wear theirs.)

As far as rings... I'd probably just find yourself a local jewelery maker, and give them your design for some silver rings. There are bunches of them in Minnesota. This guy is definitely not a racist, and also a nice fella:
Brad Nelson Designs
583 North Shore Scenic Drive :: 218-834-4188
Located in a Norwegian Stabbur building, this unique gift shop specializes in Scandinavian and European imports plus silver jewelry designed and created by Brad E. Nelson.
posted by RedEmma at 11:24 AM on February 5, 2013

Actually, I would highly recommend Brad, but you'd have to make a road trip. He doesn't appear to have a website. Luckily, hanging out around his place is pretty cool.
posted by RedEmma at 11:29 AM on February 5, 2013

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