The procession was somber as the rag-tag group carried the ship through the tent-lined paths to a clearing. There, a woman dressed in a dark linen tunic started a fire with flint and steel. She used her hand to protect the tenuous flame from the wind until it caught the tender, then her bobbing torchlight led the way through the dusky stillness to the water’s edge.
Though a crowd had gathered, few spoke, as the designated individuals lit their torches from the main flame and set their part of the boat on fire. From time to time, pained sounds escaped, as if someone were trying not to cry and failing. Fragile tendrils of smoke curled into the still air, then a man stepped forward to propel the vessel out into open water. It rode the lake’s small currents, heading for the center.
This ritual has been going on since Pennsic War 30. (I just came back from 45) So for the last fifteen years, Baron Garwig of the Kingdom of Ealdormere, has been creating a Viking ship to burn in the memory of loved ones lost.
I can’t really explain to you how moving it is to have this tangible way to express your grief. Those who have lost a friend, family member, or beloved pet, come and place mementos such as a favorite collar or piece of jewelry on the craft. The year I lost my grandmother, I put a shield on the lovingly constructed ship, and I was honored to be one of those chosen to carry it to the water’s edge.
These special moments are important in our lives. I wanted to share this Pennsic tradition because I think it embodies much that is noble in the human spirit: compassion, a willingness to help, and a desire to remember.
If you want to learn more, Pennsic has its own newspaper, and one of the articles dealt with this subject. http://pennsicindependent.com/node/322 The Pennsic Independent is a great way to discover more about what goes on at ‘war.’
Do any of you have traditions that bring family and friends together? I’d love to hear about them. Until next time… www.Dawn-Ireland.com