The Vikings are back! Winged helmets and longboat hit the Shetlands (but this time it's for a knees-up)

Back in time: Almost 1,000 costumed 'guizers' in winged helmets and sheepskins descended on the island for this impressive recreation of the past

Islanders in Scotland thought they had been transported back to the Middle Ages when hundreds of Vikings brandishing axes and shields torched their homeland.
But the marauding invaders had not returned from the grave to reclaim their ancient stomping ground.
The 'army' were taking part in Europe's biggest fire festival Up Helly Aa, which commemorates the Norse heritage of Lerwick, Shetland.

Roaring flames: Vikings torch a galley during Europe's biggest fire festival on the in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles

Almost 1,000 costumed 'guizers' - dressed in winged helmets and sheepskins, descended on the island yesterday.
Their arrival was heralded by the Jarl Squad - who landed on the Shetland Isles in an impressive replica of a Viking longboat.

Breathtaking sight: The invading 'army' torched a galley as they rampaged through Up Helly Aa until the early hours

As evening fell, the hordes marched through the town's streets, dragging the traditional galley, which they proceeded to send up in flames.
They then visited halls across the town as the carousing continued until 8am this morning.
Today is a public holiday on the island to allow the party-goers to recover from their exertions.

Fierce foe: The Norse ruled Shetland and neighbouring Orkney for around 500 years before they became part of Scotland in 1468

The historic festival takes place on the last Tuesday of January every year and always attracts thousands of seasoned revellers.
It was started in the 1870s by a group of men who wanted to inject new ideas into Shetland's festive celebrations.
The Jarl Squad normally participates in the festival alongside 45 other squads. The number of guizers ranges from 16 up to a maximum of 25, with guests also invited into the squad, taking its size to between 50 and 70 participants.
The squad design and make their own suits - consisting of helmet, breastplate, shield, axe, dagger and belt.

Arresting armour: The Jarl Squad, led by Guizer Jarl David Nicolson (right), arrived in Lerwick on ta replica Viking longboat

Each year the suit is different, and preparations begin approximately two years in advance. The manufacturing of the suit starts in February and it is completed by late autumn, in time for the following January.
The Jarl Squad are led by the elected Guizer Jarl. He chooses his own design for his kirtle and cloak in colours that mark him out from the rest of his squad.
The first Jarl’s outfit was described as follows: 'He wore a silver helmet, with raven’s wings rising high on either side, a corselet with sleeves of silver mail was worn over a jerkin, fastened round the neck and hung loosely from the shoulders.

Heavy night: The warriors enjoy a public holiday today to recover from their exertions

'On the legs were thigh length black stockings and on the feet were rawhide sandals fastened with tan leather thongs which criss-crossed over the instep and all the way up the thighs.
'He carried a round silver shield on which was engraved a raven, a large silver-headed battle axe and dagger hung from his belt.'
In the 1930s, improvements were made to the outfit. The helmet - decorated with a raven set in white metal - was chromium plated, while shield, axe and dagger were electroplated.

Citizens of Shetland: Crowds in modern-day dress arrive to welcome their costumed heroes

source: dailymail


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