Vikings conquer the Shetland Islands again, but sadly only for a day! Up Helly Aa!

Sadly the current occupation regime remains in power for now…

Thousands of viking enthusiasts descended upon the town of Lerwick in Scotland’s Shetland Islands as part of the ‘Up Helly Aa’ festival. The event brought a Viking procession through the town before the lighting of a galley ship.

Lerwick in Shetland is the location for the annual Up Helly Aa, Scotland’s biggest fire festival. For 24 hours, on the last Tuesday of January, this small town goes more than a little mad. Up Helly Aa is a lot more than a sub-arctic bonfire and booze-up. It’s a superb spectacle, a celebration of Shetland history, and a triumphant demonstration of the islanders’ skills and spirit.
This northern Viking invasion lasts just one day (and night). But it takes several thousand people 364 days to organise. Much of the preparation is in strictest secrecy. The biggest secret of all is what the head of the festival, the ‘Guizer Jarl’, will wear and which character from the Norse Sagas he’ll represent.

The annual festival which began in the 1880s attracts travelers from all over the world, who gather to celebrate the island’s viking heritage and the passing of the darkest days of winter.

Tuesday’s procession saw Lyall Gair take on the coveted role of Guizer Jarl, the leader of the vikings, as he led up to 1,000 men through the streets.

The name ‘Up Helly Aa’ is believed to be a reference to the festival occurring at the end of the holy season observed over Christmas, with up meaning “to end” and helly meaning “festival” in a mixture of Norse and Icelandic adopted by the island’s old inhabitants.

Gair, 37, is one of the youngest men ever to take the role of Guizer Jarl. His interest in vikings first spiked when he watched the event as a five year old and became obsessed with vikings. “Me and other members of the squad have been saving £15 a month towards the suits since 2006,” he told the Aberdeen Press and Journal when asked about his attire.

Following the procession, Gair was given the freedom of the town for 24 hours at a civic reception held for him and his entourage at the town hall. They then visited schools, hospitals and care homes in the area.

Visuals partly from Shetland Times and music by Corvus Corax and Omnia



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