We know there are a lot of festivals out there, competing with each other to offer you the most impressive line-up or most original location. But what if I told you there is a hidden gem out there? A festival that held only its third edition this year, but succeeds in offering a festival experience that combines metal and folk music, authentic folklore, stunning nature and a rich Viking history. Add a small but very international crowd and a most welcoming atmosphere and you have the recipe for a weekend that will change your life. Allow me to take a trip with you to Borre, Norway, to Midgardsblot.
|Location & Philosophy||Things To Do||Metal Music||Folk Music|
Things To Do
These are my top suggestions for things you should do while spending your days at the Midgardsblot festival (in no particular order).
- Visit the opening ceremony
It’s only logical that a gathering of such significance is opened in a proper way. Much of the old Viking traditions are unknown to us these days. We try to reconstruct what we know from archaeological finds and written sources. Blending in traditions from other cultures the artists of Folket Bortafor Nordavinden (see also ‘Folk Music’) try to recreate the experience of a blot. People gather around them with torches as they lead the way in honoring Odin, Thor and Freya with a blood sacrifice. But you are not just supposed to be a spectator! Guided by the artists chanting and drumming you are invited to step forward and make your offer to… whatever you like. Midgardsblot really stresses the open character to people from all over the globe, no matter their race or beliefs.
- Educate yourself
Musical performances start around 2pm so there is plenty of time to do other things before checking out some new bands. A highly recommended activity is to indulge in all the knowledge that is offered for free during the festival! The Midgard Historical Center is free to visit for every visitor of the festival. At this moment they had an exposition detailing all kinds of aspects of Viking warfare. A tour was given by one of the persons who did reenactments in the daily Viking battles. You could also step outside to have a guided tour by one of the archaeologists excavating the sites on the area, treating you with details of their founds, theories on what life in Borre in the Viking age might have been and their future plans. Finally, there were up to four seminars every day where scholars or speakers were invited to discuss their work. This way we learned more about the role of women in the Viking age (were they housewives, shield maidens, or both?), about the group of Jomsviking to which Amon Amarth dedicated its latest album, about the roots of metal music and its influences of satanism and paganism, and so much more. Ivar Bjørnson gave a casual talk on what inspired him as one of the lyricists of Enslaved and he seated in a panel debate on the gender roles in metal and Viking culture. Ivar admitted this was his favorite festival and he could be found as a DJ at the afterparties at night where he played some songs of the upcoming Enslaved album ‘E’ in world premiere. The love for metal and folk music was clear with many of the speakers as you could easily spot them in the crowd later that day.
- Play some Viking games
You prefer a more active pastime? Try some Viking games! As these were fearsome warriors they often trained from a young age in many different forms. While you had the more traditional axe throwing, archery, and the by now well known Kubb throwing game, you could also try some more unknown challenges. Jonas Berlin of Lekegoden og Trollet did his research and found close to 50 traditional Viking games in manuscripts. These often require great strength but some can also be won based on agility, flexibility, balance and technique. We tried bending ourselves around sticks, fought with one hand over a piece of leather and got our ass dragged through the grass after a lost rope challenge. Are you a more peaceful and reflective type of Viking? Try a game of Hnefatafl, a reconstructed board game mentioned in the old Norse sagas (the ability to pronounce the word is not required to play it).
- Get your hair braided
Always wanted to try that look of Ragnar or Lagertha? No problem, for just a small price you can have your hair and/or beard braided in Viking fashion.
- Relax in nature and between the grave mounds
A metal festival with so many side activities can be an overwhelming experience for the senses (and then I’m not even talking about the amounts of alcohol that kill those brain cells). Therefore, it can be a very rewarding experience to distance yourself and find a spot in nature to soak in your surroundings and let the rich history sink in. With the festival’s small scale it is very easy to walk on your own without encountering another soul for quite some time. Try taking a walk along the shore collecting seashells and observe the crabs or seagulls. Plant yourself on the top of a grave mound or under a tree to connect with your ancestors or the nature spirits. If you need some help with this, you could join Saskia Thodes of Metal Yoga Bones in a relaxing meditation session every day. If all of this does not appeal to you, at least make sure you don’t disturb the sheep who peacefully graze the pastures between the grave mounds.
- Try some metal yoga
Metal yoga is the new hype and after teaching classes at Wacken Open Air Saskia Thodes of Metal Yoga Bones also shared her intense but exhilarating yoga sessions at Midgardsblot. Traditional yoga poses are adapted with lots of headbanging, air guitar, grunting and raising your metal horns. On music of Ensiferum, Obituary, Dio, Slayer, and many more you have your workout of the day. Truth be told, the session was a lot more aerobic than a traditional yoga session, so several participants were out of breath pretty early. Luckily there is always the ending corpse pose, which will never be the same to me again after the preparatory ‘giving birth to the spawn of Satan’-pose and ‘disembowlment’-pose. Not your everyday yoga class, but definitely a lot of fun and laughs.
- Spend an evening (or night) around the campfire
Midgardblot‘s campsite is located between the forest trees and offers room for a few hundred people and has a separate quiet zone. You pay 250NOK/~25EUR for a camping ticket and 300/~30EUR for a tent space (which might feel like a weird deal at first for those of us who are used to pay one entrance fee to festival campings). A trailer just outside the area offers coffee, a hearty breakfast of eggs, beans and bacon for just 60NOK/~6EUR and burgers. Still, inside the camping is not where you want to be hanging out all the time. The place to be is at the campfire just outside the tent area. The fire is lit early in the afternoon and is fed wood blocks occasionally until at least 2am in the morning. This is where people gather at night after the concert to share drinks and stories. Nationalities meet and exchange experiences of their day and lives. People grill their sausages or potatoes in the fire. Musicians bring their folk instruments and you see them dwelling around the circle of people, playing with ideas, starting a jam together, and eventually stepping inside the circle requesting people’s attention. In a moment where everyone silences they bring their improvised tunes or collaborate on entertaining us with a familiar melody. Hearing for example Wardruna‘s Helvegen sung by a whole group in unison is a breathtaking experience that leaves fond memories…
- Swim in the fjord
I needed to find at least one downside to this festival, right? Well, I would argument these are the showers which are located further away in the village’s center in the sport facilities (approx 20min walk) and have not so convenient opening hours. There you have it, one flaw! But allow me to also immediately introduce a suggestion to feel fresh and clean: just go for a swim in the fjord! Nothing is more exhilarating than a dive in the cold waters surrounded by stunning Norwegian nature.
- Listen to stories in the great hall
Right after a concert on the main stage a horn sounds across the festival field. You see a short man standing on the tables just outside the Gildehallen. Even though he is small in size, his voice carries a long way over the turning heads. “It’s story time! Come gather and sit to listen to stories about the gods and their adventures!”. With these words Gustav Holberg lures people into the great hall where everyone gathers on benches while the storyteller takes his place in the middle of the hall. You might have read some of the old stories of Norse mythology, but I’m pretty sure you never heard them narrated and performed quite like this. Using the space of the hall and the magic of his voice that we love from his work with Folket Bortafor Nordavinden Holberg intrigues and captivates the audience while recounting how Loke brought the Aesir gods in trouble and stirring commotion once more in Asgard. If you ever tried to visualize a Norse skald or poet, look for this guy.
- Experience the Viking camp
Next to the main stage area and the Gildehallen, you can wander around the Viking camp. Look past the Viking Stage and its bar for a second and talk with the people in their tents. Inquire about the goods they sell or taste some of their Viking cooking. Play a game with them or sit around and jam some music on traditional instruments.
Besides these free activities the festival offers even more workshops or activities for a registration fee:
- Beer and mead tastings
Yes, Norway is expensive and has insanely strict laws on alcohol if you come from a country like Belgium. You pay 70NOK/~7EUR for a regular beer (close to 50cl), so deal with it and plan your budget. Now that we addressed the elephant in the room, let’s take a further look what more Midgardsblot offers you. Besides the standard lager the festival offers a wide selection of different styles of beers from sours like gose and berliner weise, over ciders and pale ales, to dark porters and stouts. A beer geek like me is more than willing to pay a little extra for this. Just like Wacken Open Air turns their cups into a collectible item each year, Midgardsblot had different magnets sealing the bottom of your cup. So it was worth getting to the bottom of your beer! Another point worth mentioning is that there are hardly any dead drunk people across the festival. While you have to pay attention at Graspop Metal Meeting or Wacken Open Air to not trip over knocked out people, the visitors here might be tipsy, but never shitfaced. Do you really want to have loads of alcohol? Then we can recommend the beer and mead tasting for 250NOK/~25EUR where you get at least 6 beers to drink in 45 minutes before the next show starts. This gets to the head of even the strongest berserker. Here you could also taste the official Midgard Ale (Horten Mikrobryggeri) and Midgardsblot mead (Eiker Ølfabrikk)! Expect those reviews soon in our Pick Your Poison column!
- Food workshops
For 300 NOK/~30EUR you could participate in cooking classes that allowed you to learn in a hands on approach how people cooked in the Viking age. Everything from everyday cooking to festive meals was discussed (and eaten afterwards of course!). Overall, the food at the festival was really good. Everything was prepared in front of you with fresh ingredients. Don’t expect any cardboard pizzas or frozen burgers here. Of course for people outside of Scandinavia you have to take into account the higher prices. Anticipate to pay at least 80NOK/~8EUR for a meal. But the quality of the food makes it worth it in my opinion. Where else can you buy a stew with fresh meat and vegetables that you have seen simmering in a cauldron over a fire for over two hours?
- Tattoo convention
Do you know many festival that have their own tattoo convention? I thought not. Specializing specifically on Norse style tattoos the artists present at Midgardsblot were fully booked several months in advance, but you could still admire the raw works of art being set in the tattoo tent and on the human canvases afterwards.
- Photography workshop
All these activities of course offer great snapshot opportunities so a photography workshop was offered to learn tips and tricks.
However, our house photographer luckily didn’t need no schooling anymore. Be sure to check out her photo report of the festival here.
With all of this going on you might forget there is actually also a music festival going on! So let us take a look at the line-up which offers a mix between folk and metal music.
(Pictures by Gillian – check out the full photo report here)