Överhogdal Tapestries

The Överhogdal Tapestries are a group of extremely well-preserved textiles discovered in Överhogdal, Sweden. While it’s not exactly close to Gotland (where my persona is from), it is from approximately the same period, and I like to use this as a basis for some of the motifs I use when tablet weaving. The tapestries are unique, in my opinion, because they depict both Christian and Norse mythology, reflective of the prominence of both religions in that era.

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Image Source: http://www.medievalhistories.com/viking-textiles-from-overhogdal/

The tapestries were found in the Överhogdal Church vestry in 1909, though they have been dated to between 800-1100AD by radiocarbon dating tests. The majority of the tapestry is made of a combination of hemp and flax, though the figures are embroidered with dyed wool.

At the bottom portion of the tapestry, you can see a small building embellished with crosses, representing Christian churches. The small rectangles of two colors represent people, worshiping Christ.

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Norse symbolism is also clearly visible, in the many eight-legged horses, representing Sleipnir, Loki’s child by the horse Svaðilfari, and Odin’s steed. In the center of the bottom portion of the tapestry, Yggdrasil, or the World Tree, is prominently displayed in a stylized manner.

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There are also portions of the tapestry that depict Viking longships, again packed with rectangular figures that represent people.

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Previous theories of what this tapestry could be depicting range from a march towards Yggdrasil, to the Christianization of the region Härjedalen. Most scholars now seem to agree that it most likely depicts Ragnarök, the series of events that would eventually lead to the destruction of the old world and the renewal of life with Líf and Lífþrasir, two human survivors.

Analyzing artifacts in their historical and iconographic contexts is important to learning how to accurately replicate anything. The motifs from this tapestry can give us an idea of what was aesthetically the “norm” during the period, and can mean the difference from good, accurately constructed reenactment, and one that is well, not so good. I personally don’t think I’ve gotten to that level yet with my garb, but I hope with the research I am currently doing, I will eventually get to that point where I can fully embody the traits of somebody from that period, because isn’t that what true historical reenactment is?

Yours in service,
Lady Mathilde Huldsdotter, AoA

 

Resources:

[1] “Viking Textiles.” Medieval Histories. 19 Oct. 2013. Web.