Symbolism

Vikings for all occasions, no raven too black

Manaraefan Herred

Comments on this site should be sent to Roger Barry

             To carry any banner is an honour and only reliable warriors should be allowed to do so.  To give a banner to a warrior of low status and ability is foolish in the extreme, the loss of a banner while any member of that unit or group is still able to fight is a disgrace.  Any warrior carrying a banner must be wearing armour, as should his chief.  If the banner is lost to the enemy then all warriors who follow that banner must fight the regain it, if they die doing so there is no disgrace, only those that sit around the campfire with no lord and a lost banner need feel shame.

Manaraefan

As you might have realised by now green and yellow are the shield colours of Manaraefan Herred, our banner has the same colours with the addition of the black raven.  Most, if not all, the groups belonging to The Vikings have adopted two or three colours and a symbol to represent  and identify themselves.  I can’t speak for other groups but suspect that the reasons for these choices were similar to those of Manaraefan, so a short history.

             Manaraefan was founded in 1994 on the suggestion of Guthrothr Belly-Shaker and Valgard Toe-Breaker, Hrothgar Bokraeder, Halgerd Eiricsdotta and Astrild were the first members.  At the time of writing I believe Guthrothr also suggested the name and all agreed, he then asked what colours should be adopted for the group and only Hrothgar expressed any preference, as no one objected green and yellow became the colours of Manaraefan.

             As the group grew a banner was made , this first banner had a relatively short life and was replaced by a larger one which is still used today.

             While there was no thought of any symbolism when first made the banner has come to take on some meaning of it’s own, particularly when you take into consideration what the raven meant to the Vikings.

             The raven symbolises death in battle, once the fighting is over the ravens turn up to feast on the corpses of the fallen, the Ravens Hugin and Munin are the spies of Odin, supreme god of war, and will seek out the best warriors for Odin.  So the raven represents death in battle and Odin as he watches.  The green of the lower half of the banner represents the field of battle which Manaraefan stride across with confidence and skill, providing leadership and special skills to the Host.  The yellow above the green represents the golden sunset and the end of a victorious battle for Manaraefan as they move on to a golden future.

The Vikings

             The Vikings society also has it’s own symbolism, who chose the symbols used by the society and why is unknown to the author at the time of writing and may well now have been forgotten.  Several of the original members of The Viking, then known as the Norse Film and Pageant Society (NFPS), have since departed for one or other of the halls of Asgard so it may never be entirely clear.

             The Vikings symbol has had some minor makeovers and was often affectionately referred to as the “Dog in a cog” because that’s what it looked like.  Three features of the symbol have remained constant and any suggestion that they be changed has been fiercely resisted. There is the Yggdrasil, or World Tree, superimposed by a wolfs head which in turn is superimposed by Mjollnir, Thor’s hammer.

             When The Vikings hold a banquet the law speaker reminds the members what these symbols mean:

             “The Hammer! - Is for the Mjollnir, Thor's Hammer, symbol of the courage of the Drengr, with which we crush our enemies!

             The Wolf! - Is for Fenris, The Wolf, who runs with the pack, and his strength is in that unity!

             The Tree! - Is for the Yggdrasil, the tree of life and knowledge, giving us greater understanding and wisdom!

             So, whenever you see our Society Symbol, you see Strength, Courage and Wisdom!”

Konungr Hrothgar has a personal battle standard called Land Grabber. As a member of Manaraefan he has retained the colours green and yellow and the raven.  The raven is wrapping itself protectively around the “Dog in a Cog” symbol of The Vikings society.  Hrothgar selects a different standard bearer for each battle and sees the duty of carrying as an honour.

The Standard Bearer

Battles of the Viking age rage around the person of the king or chieftain leading an army or force of raiders.  The cause for which the warriors fight is their king or chief, they may devout believers in their faith but it is not for their god they fight.  They may proudly call themselves Danes, Norwegians or Englishmen but it is not their nation for which they fight.  They would have no concept of a political system but ironically this is what the fight for, they fight for their monarch or chief.  They do not necessarily do this for love of the man in that position, they do it for honour and self-interest.  A man’s honour is everything and without it he is nothing and has nothing, no man respects another without honour.  But even an honourable man cannot survive on honour alone hence the self-interest, the king or chief retains the loyalty of his followers by rewarding their good and brave deeds carried out in his name.  The king or chief feeds, clothes and houses his most loyal warriors, his hearth troop, and gives them special gifts when their service has been of a high standard.  On retirement from the king’s hearth troop he will bestow a grant of land upon them ensuring their comfortable retirement and the presence of a loyal man in the general populace.  Other rewards might be position and title and one of the most prestigious and sought was as the king’s standard bearer.

The warrior chosen had to be brave and skilled for he would stand beside or right behind his king and along with him would be the centre of attention for the king’s enemies.  The fiercest fighting would be around the king or chief for even though one side might be getting the worst of the struggle a single killing blow to the enemy king or chief would bring them victory, though the hearth troop would stand over their kings body and protect it or die many of the lesser warriors on hearing of their lords demise would see little point in risking their live further.

The standard bearer, being the closest warrior to the king or chief would be keen to keep his lord from harm and would be as close to him as possible.  With the standard in his left hand the standard bearer would only have his sword to protect his lord, tucked close to his lord so as to benefit from the protection of the kings shield he would use his sword to parry any blows aimed at the king.  So close to his king or chief would he stand that they might seem to move and fight as one, a single two headed beast with two sharp claws.  Everyone, friend or foe can see where the king or chief is because the standard is held high for all to see.

Should the king or chief fall the standard bearer will step before him and protect him until he rises again, or if dead until all the enemy are defeated or he himself is slain.  The standard bearer will call on the rest of the hearth troop to rally around their fallen lord and do likewise, no greater shame can a man bear than to return home without their lord unless he is fully avenged, and even then they will be lesser men for having allowed their lord to die.

Almost as great a shame is incurred if the standard is lost to the enemy, a lost standard give heart to the foe and disheartens the king’s host. To see their king’s standard amongst the enemy without him under it is a great shame and only quick action will save the army from breaking, the king and his hearth troop must throw themselves at the enemy to regain their lost honour and the kings loyal men must call his host to follow.  Quick action of this sort can turn shameful defeat into glorious victory.

No lord will set foot on the field of battle without a standard or banner. And army that has none is not and army, it is a band of brigands and dishonoured men without leadership.  The king’s host standing proudly under his standard will take heart seeing that their foe has no honour and can be relied on to run at the first setback.

The standard bearer is the first of the king’s champions, he is the most skilled and trusted warrior of the hearth troop and can be relied upon in every circumstance to be beside his lord.  Standard bearer is the greatest honour the king can bestow on one of his warriors, no prouder boast can a warrior make than that he was his kings standard bearer.