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Students take a bite out of Viking culture

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Professor Laura Michele Diener’s Viking World class received a taste of authentic Viking culture with their Viking Feast final project Friday, May 3. Students cooked Viking food, dressed in traditional attire and provided Viking-style entertainment during the course of the feast at Camp Mad Anthony Wayne.

During the feast, guests of honor—faculty members of Marshall University’s history department—set at the head table, underneath the chieftain’s banner and realistic Viking swords. Traditional food, including lamb, salmon, porridge, stew, homemade cheese and bread, was served.

This was Diener’s third time organizing the Viking Feast, and she said it was not always the final project for the class.

“A huge part of Viking culture is feasting,” Diener said. “That was how they celebrated community, and there’s a lot of descriptions of feasting in the sagas. So, I kind of threw it out to the class one day, and they got so excited by the idea that now it’s become like an integral part of the class.”

Diener said one of her favorite aspects of the feast is the food, as well as seeing the different ideas students come up with. Students were allowed to be as creative as possible for the feast, she said, with some making homemade, authentic gifts as well.

“Students have a lot of choice in what they do,” Diener said. “A bunch of them cook. But some of them also have produced traditional crafts, like weaving, or they’ve done blacksmithery. When people are arriving (at the feast) they look at the things on display.”

As part of the feast activities, there was also Viking entertainment, including storytelling, singing, dancing and recitations. At the end of the feast, gifts were given, which is another Viking tradition that Diener and her students followed.

“Because feasts were an important part of the community, they were an opportunity for people to build networks,” Diener said. “They tended to do that by giving each other gifts— a lot of times jewelry, including rings; gifts of metal; sometimes valuable clothes, like a fur cloak, or something that was made of silk; or really valuable weapons like a sword with a beautiful scabbard.”

This is the end of Diener’s eleventh year at Marshall, and she said the Viking World class she created is very popular.

“My favorite thing about the class is that the students who take it all tend to really want to be there,” Diener said. “They’re very interested, and they ask a lot of questions. My favorite thing about the material would probably be Viking women. In the literature they’re kind of extraordinary women in the Middle Ages.”

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]

Amanda Larch
The table for the Viking Feast at Camp Mad Anthony Wayne, Friday, May 3.

Amanda Larch
Students from the Viking World class participating in traditional Viking weaving.

Amanda Larch
Professor Laura Michele Diener with a drinking horn during the feast.

Amanda Larch
Students wearing homemade costumes.

Amanda Larch
A replica of Viking runes that a student translated from English to Icelandic to Old Norse. They mention an honorable man.

Amanda Larch
Samples of food from the feast, including lamb, fried apples, bread and porridge.

Amanda Larch
Professor Diener and members of her Viking World class dressed in Viking costume.

Amanda Larch
The Head Table, where important guests were seated.

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