Sometimes you buy a book wich unsuspectably delivers so much that it can be called revolutionary. The publication Fibula. Fabula. Fact. The Viking Age in Finland, edited by Joonas Ahola & Frog with Clive Tolley truly dismisses the beaten track.
Just having arrived at page 41 (of a firm 500) I already cannot withold my sheer enthousiasm. Fibula. Fabula. Fact. is intended to provide essential foundations for approaching the Viking Age in Finland. The volume consists of a general introduction followed by nineteen chapters and a closing discussion. The nineteen chapters are oriented to provide introductions to the sources, methods and perpectives from diverse disciplines. Discussions are presented from fields including archaeology, folklore studies, linguistics, paleo-botany, semiotics and toponomy. Each chapter is intended to help open the recources and the history of discourse of the particular discipline in a way that will be accesible to specialists from other fields, specialists from outside Finland, and also to non-specialists readers and students who may be more generally interested in the topic.
This aim and goal is a joy within itself as too often publications are discussions towards other authors believes or disbelieves. The general introduction is a feast within itself. Almost dismissing its subtitle from start on, the question is dropped if we can speak of a Viking Age in Finland on itself. Furthermore: what’s the Viking Age anyway from another – i this case Finnish – perspective? Did it begin and end within England? The more we think about this rationally, the more ridiculous such a concept gets. Or is there more than England to be considered and what is there to distinguish within the different areas of today Finland when it comes to vikings (or better: viking behaviour).
Several holy houses are kicked aside in passing. A passage like this is characteristic: (p.35)
Intuitively inferring that the precense of weapons in Viking Age graves is a relevant indicator of war-like raiding activities may be only natural from a modern perspective informed by poular discourse and its images of the Viking Age. However, this would be a generalization of the scope of the symbol’s implications on the basis of our own constructions and biases that must be cautiously guarded against. The burial practices do not present a connection to warlike activities per se. The burials show that the weapons were symbolically meaningful, but not were meaningful because the weapons were actively used in raiding activities, let alone because they were used on raids by the people with whom they were buried.
It is exactly this what I have tried to address in my review of Looting or missioning by Egil Mikkelsen. An artefact in a grave could have had a very individual meaning to the deceased wich meaning – of course – never can be uncovered again. Too often all sorts of explanations are put forward if we pretend to know what did happened or what the meaning was of a particular artefact in relation to the deceased and its time. Let alone to the individual smith and owner(s) of the artefact during its lifetime. Wich could have been hundreds of years. Before and after the Viking Age, if we consider stray finds.
It is time to devikingize our images and place ourselves in other perspectives, seen from our so called viking but, for example, but also seen from a bit more distance. Finland, for example. Fibula. Fabula. Fact. The Viking Age in Finland does righteous so. Being a publication from 2014 in my opinion it is a timeless masterpiece in contraire thought provoking and a bluemark for many publications to come. It is shaking the tree.
Let us celebrate the not knowing again and formulate the reason why we cannot know a lot of things from the past. It would be respectful towards the heads and minds of our so called vikings.