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  • Writer's pictureJames Wafer

The Viking Woman and “Dragons flying across the firmament!"

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

I recently had the pleasure of photographing the wonderfully erudite Diana Goodier. She's a former librarian and re-enactor of the Viking past. Diana, whilst garbed appropriately you understand, goes by her Viking name Hild of Alretune. But she doesn't dash round a field banging an axe on a shield or stand there, calling out pledges of revenge-sacrifice to Odin - but instead she calmly acts the part of a Viking medicine woman – and she's done her research!

On a balmy Summer's evening I took my Pentax DSLR, a few tasty lenses, my strobe lights and we made the short journey to Calderstones Park, Liverpool – specifically to the site of an incredible tree. This ancient sweet chestnut looks like it's leapt out from some dark peaty underworld and is standing there, brooding!

When I first met Diana and listened to her talk and exposition of olde-world Viking medicines from her pots and bags, it immediately took me to my own reading of parts of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle (especially as she cleared up a few poorly remembered facts).

The chronicle charts the monk’s accounts of the invasion of England by these terrifying North men. And look what they entered for the 787AD encounter!

"And in his days came first three ships of the Northmen from the land of robbers. The Reve then rode thereto, and would drive them to the king's town; for he knew not what they were; and there was he slain. These were the first ships of the Danish men that sought the land of the English nation."
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

And by the time of a full invasion, it's apocalyptic! The poor Holy men of Lindesfarne.

A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery, dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

I thought, I'd add these sections of the chronicles to give a tapestry of understanding to what the invaded Saxons thought!

Shooting with Diana was a pleasure, she brought her own nuance to her poses. We originally met at a guided tour of Calderstones Nature Reserve and struck up a very interesting conversation. After seeing my shots, Diana sent me this wonderful description of her character:

“Hild of Alretune (Allerton) is a 10th century healer with a basket full of plant remedies for all the common ills. Willow bark deals with pain, fever and the arthritis so many suffer from. Yarrow makes an excellent wound salve, particularly when mixed with the germ killing powers of honey. Sage soothes an itchy skin, and catnip cures an adder’s bite. It’s a harsh world and violence can erupt at any time, but Hild is skilled in tending wounds whether caused by spear or knife. And in more peaceful times she has herbs to ease a difficult birth or bring sleep to the weary. A good person to be friends with, but not someone you want to cross!”

See her last portrait to validate her last statement. Don’t mess with the Hild!

I hope you enjoy these images, I shot using a Pentax KP with a Pentax DA 70mm f2.4 Limited series lens and a Sigma Ex 30mm f1.4, with Godox flash on location. Send me a message if you want to work together.



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