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Jelling: The Vikings certainly had a party – we just don't quite know how

The discovery of animal bones and broken drinking glasses, for example, in the remains of a large Viking hall shows that large feasts were held in the Viking Age.

But the sources we have are written down a few hundred years after the events took place. And is colored by a Christianized view of the world; which perhaps magnified the savagery in the story.

We only have written sources on the most important events. Like for example when Harald became king over all of Denmark and Christianized the inhabitants. Harald thought that posterity should hear about that event.

A ten-ton Instagram moment

The message had to be set in stone. And on the larger Jellingstone it is written: "King Harald ordered these kumels to be made after Gorm his father and after Thyra his mother - the Harald who won all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christians".

The stone weighs ten tons. And you can see that it is a bit cumbersome to write down all your recipes by scratching runes on a stone. But we know something about parties anyway. And everyday life.

The Vikings' blót

It was important for the Vikings to stand well with the forces found in nature and with the gods. That's why the Vikings bled. It was a kind of gift exchange, where the Vikings sacrificed to the gods, so that the gods would then give something back. They had to ensure better weather, greater harvests or progress on the battlefield.

We believe that there were a number of fixed blót distributed over the year. If an acute crisis arose, so that they needed a little more help from the gods, they kept an extra blót.

We have a written source, the Arab al-Tartuchi, who saw how the Vikings in Hedeby celebrated the winter solstice:

They celebrate a feast where everyone comes to honor the god and to eat and drink. He who slaughters a sacrificial animal erects stakes at the door of his courtyard and places the sacrificial animal on them. It is so that people may know that he sacrifices to the glory of his god.

Archaeologists have excavated several large farms with associated cult buildings and sacrificial areas nearby. Farmers and good people from the whole region gathered here on certain occasions to honor the gods with a big feast.

We find a description of a blót in the saga of Hakon the Good. In it, Snorri Sturlasson tells us that it was customary for the farmers of the region to come to the temple to make sacrifices. Everyone brought food to the party. Many kinds of animals were sacrificed, especially horses. The blood from the sacrificial animals was collected in bowls and then sprinkled on altars, walls and participants.

The meat from the animals was prepared and eaten as a feast. Floating beer goblets were carried around the fire – and both meat and beer were consecrated by the magnates.

Then you toasted. First in Odin's honor - for the king and victory - then for Njord and Frej - for good years and peace - then many emptied the bragbeaker - for a personal promise of great achievements. Finally, a toast was made to the relatives who rested in the burial mounds.

The Vikings did not go out of their way to have a good party. Sometimes it went wrong. Even for Odin who in the heroic quatrain Edda sits and ponders what went wrong during the feast at Fjalar's:

Drunk I got,
way too drunk
with the wise Fjalar.
The best thing about beer is
that you get
your mind and senses back.

Odin, according to the heroic quatrain Edda.

In the sagas, we can also read about Vikings drinking "jul" - or jól, as it was called at the time. In early Christianity, the church tried to have the great winter festival rebranded so that it came to be called "Christmesse" - or "Christmas". It worked in England. But we didn't go that far in the Nordics. The Vikings wanted to drink "jul". Enough.

Viking food

The excavations show that pigs and cows were the main sources of meat. They also ate a lot of fish, with everything from oysters to whales to thin-lipped mullet on the table. Herring was probably the most popular fish – simply because of availability.

All in all, the Viking chef's Haut Cuisine had raw materials in a quantity and variety that can make today's New Nordic chefs envious of the Old Norse cuisine. And Harald had fine cooks in his entourage when he traveled around to maintain his power base in the country.

Come by the museum shop and buy a bottle of mead to take home. We have 7-8 different meads in the store. They can almost be compared to mulled wine. They taste different. Talk to the staff and get a mead to take home when you want to taste the history. It has been difficult to obtain so much honey in its time. Therefore, mead was a luxury item. As it is today. But there must now also be room for a little luxury.


Recipe for pork in beer

Kindly loaned by Ribe Viking Center

The Vikings loved pigs. At least they ate a lot of it. And dreamed of endless amounts of meat from pigs. For example in Valhalla, where the boar Særimner lives and is a source of plenty of fresh pork. Særimner is cooked every day, but is skinned whole in the evening. Therefore, there should never be such a large crowd in Valhalla that there is not enough pork for everyone.

Recipe for 4 people:

1 piece of neck fillet, approx. 1 kg
600 ml good strong beer
3 cloves of sliced ​​garlic
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 teaspoons chopped fresh sardine (or rosemary, if you can't get sardine)
2 finely chopped onions

Mix onions, herbs and beer and let the meat marinate in it for 12-24 hours. The meat is then grilled over indirect heat for approx. 2 hours. You can also choose to roast the meat in a regular oven. Turn the meat regularly and brush with the beer marinade.

The ready-roasted neck fillet is cut into slices and served hot with e.g. a cabbage salad, spinach and fresh cheese.

Bon appetite!