Annual Norse West Viking Festival emulates, honors Norse culture and tradition


Yelm’s Cochrane Park transformed into eighth century Scandinavia as Viking emulators from all throughout the region celebrated the traditions, culture and lifestyle of the Norse.

The Norse West Viking Festival, held Sept. 9 and 10 in Yelm, featured many activities and demonstrations throughout the weekend, including horseback jousting, trebuchet, skinning, mead making and weaving classes, hair braiding, archery and more.

One of the many reenacted ceremonies over the weekend was an offering to Freyja, a Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility. During the ceremony Sept. 10, a Viking emulator Vegtam led the ritual with a song and beating of a drum.

“Freyja is regarded as the most powerful of the female gods, the most beautiful. What we did today was use the mead as a medium, invoke her and ask her to bless it. Then we go around with it and take it into ourself or pour it onto the ground. It’s got her blessing in it so we take it into ourselves, and because she’s given it to us, we owe her a gift back. That’s why we offer it to her,” Vegtam said after the ceremony. “She’s a beautiful woman, a beautiful goddess. She likes to be recognized and deserves to be recognized.”

Vegtam added that Freyja loves songs, divination, acknowledgement through hearing her name and being recognized. Proposing offerings to Freyja makes the goddess happy, too, according to Vegtam.

“Some people believe it as Freyja as a real goddess, and I believe she’s a real goddess as I believe Odin is a real god. I emulate them more than worship them, and I admire them greatly,” Vegtam said. “Today was an opening ceremony acknowledging that aspect of Viking culture and an actual blessing that people really received and actually benefited from.”

Following the conclusion of Vegtam’s ceremonial singing, he moved on to bless mead on-site and pour it into a large drinking horn. Once the mead was poured, he allowed the Viking emulators and visitors of the ceremony to drink in the mead while receiving a blessing. Each Viking and community member on hand exclaimed “hail Freyja” following their blessing.

Vegtam noted that while Freyja is loving, enjoys interacting with people and would bless those who offer to her, people should not get on her bad side.

“It’s not like lightning would come down from the sky, although that might be a possibility. It just seems when you get on her bad side, things don’t go well,” Vegtam said. “You could get a flat tire, things could break, but it’s just stuff in everyday life.”

He described the community’s reception to the ceremony as remarkable and said participants were moved and touched at the conclusion of the ritual and blessing.

“There were different energies and different frequencies from the different deities. Freyja’s presence is love and joy. You just feel good, that’s who she is. She arrived before the ceremony. I felt her arrive. She’s a big spirit, a powerful spirit. She’s alongside Odin with might and power and wisdom, but she’s different,” Vegtam said. “It’s an incredible feeling of wellbeing, happiness. When you’re going along and giving these people individual blessings, they have these smiles and feelings of joy and love. They’re glad they’re there. They’re feeling Freyja, and I feel that from them.”

Vegtam said he feels he is supposed to be involved in events such as the Norse West Viking Festival.

“I took an oath long ago that I would do rituals and blót for the people. It’s really important to do that. I don’t want to be someone who says I was called to this, but it’s very interesting to me and I like doing it,” Vegtam said. “In our religion, the oath is extremely important. To not keep your word has very negative spiritual ramifications and actual consequences. I’m obligated to keep my word because the oath is forever.”

He added by leading ceremonies or rituals like the blessing on Sept. 10, his hamingja, which Vegtam compared to karma, is blessed and becomes stronger because he kept his word and oath.

Vegtam added that he aims to emulate Odin, one of the principal Gods in the Norse religion, in his day-to-day life “as an archetype.”

“Of course there isn’t much difference between worship and emulation, but as an Odian, your philosophy revolves around the Rune Poem,” Vegtam said. “In the Rune Poem, Odin says ‘I know that I hung on the tree.’ Odin’s name means ‘the spirit,’ and the spirit is what makes me alive. To the Norse, he’s the giver of life.”

He said the idea of emulating is transformation and enlightenment through learning more, doing more and being of service.

The Viking also credited Captain Bill Koutrouba and Norse West Viking Festival organizers and participants for putting together an incredible weekend. He said everyone involved, whether  emulating or reenacting, fighting through jousting, or participating as a vendor, is at the event because they love it.