When my eldest son was aged about 10 years, we watched a movie at a theater. As the credits were rolling and we were gathering our belongings, he said, “Stories never have an end, Mom. They have beginnings, but never an end.” My heart swelled with such pride that day, and tears well up in my eyes as I think about it even now.
This is the story of the beginning of Friða Káradóttir and how she came into existence.
Once upon a time, like so many others I know, I loathed history.
Yes, loathed it.
Well, allow me to be more specific. I now know what I loathed was not history itself, rather the manner in which it was taught in school. In reality, I love is the stories history has written. The stories that led to the artifacts buried through meters of dirt and rock. The stories in the paintings and tapestries. The stories that only the falling walls of ruins could tell. I watched documentaries on how linguists labored over scripts to learn ancient languages, to decipher their codes and meanings and learn more about the cultures. I fell in love with ancient Greece and Rome, with the Mayans, with the Picts and Celts and Gaels. Two of my three most favorite movies are set during the medieval period.
Then one day, I learned of a worldwide group of people who study medieval history and strive to incorporate the best aspects of the medieval period into their lives, daily if possible. I took on an 11th century Norman persona named Jocelyn. I didn’t do much to develop her but with each manuscript I studied, with each class I attended, I learned more stories and how we could infer certain activities and skills based on a number of historical documents. There is a wide array of personas from Byzantine to Mongol to Italian to French to Scottish to Norse (aka Viking). Without going into much detail, each time I passed a Norse encampment with the steep angled tents and wooden crossbeams, my soul fluttered and my heart skipped a beat. I grew more and more intrigued by Celtic culture and languages which led me to a connection with the Norse culture. Yet, I remained true to the persona I was developing, though I did not embrace her.
As it normally does, life happened. My world was turned upside down and I moved a thousand miles away from everything I knew. Jocelyn “died.” I brought nothing of her with me save some jewelry, a few photographs and art. I honestly didn’t think I would continue my quest into medieval history. But time would prove otherwise.
Several months later, I went back to visit some friends who also enjoyed medieval history and “playing the game,” if you will. They showed me a few videos of our friends at a recent tournament. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the sound of swords and shields and armor clashing. A lump welled in my throat and I choked back tears. I decided there and then, right there on their couch, that I just had to get involved again.
But Jocelyn was already gone.
Who would I become?
Then she came to me.
I was watching a show about Vikings and I realized all the things I read about and researched and what showed up in my social media. It was all about Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Celts, Gaels, Vikings and the like. I recalled how I’d felt at events when I saw others who had taken on Norse personas. I wasn’t much into the apron dresses and thought I could do more research on their clothing. But she needed a name; that’s the hardest part, choosing a name. It’s what people will call you over and over. It’s what people will think of when you enter their thoughts. It’s who you are.
Deeply intrigued by Norse paganism, I found myself drawn to Freyja over all the other deities, and toyed with the idea of being called by her name, but I could not. It felt wrong. How could I dare to be so bold, especially when I was about to meet new people, to refer to myself as Freyja, the goddess of sex, lust, love, seiðr, war, and more? I just couldn’t.
This Norse persona of the 7th or 8th century needed a name that had meaning. Something I wanted to be. Someone I needed to become.
The surname was easy: I chose someone in my real ancestry whose name was Kári, added -dóttir. Changed the -i to an -a, and Boom!: Káradóttir. But I still needed a given name.
I tossed around ideas with old friends as well as with a couple of news friends. I found Friða. It is a primitive Scandinavian name that means love, beloved, beautiful and peace, and could also mean protection and defense. This was as close to Freyja as I felt I could become.
This is the story of becoming Friða Káradóttir. She is not fictional. She is not real. She is the idea of the woman I long to become.