What it feels like to ... be a Viking

Alaster McCormack, 44

I FIRST became interested in vikings when I was a child - everyone wants to be a Viking when they're a kid don't they? Some people think I have the traditional look of a Viking - people have said I must have Viking blood, although I don't as far as I know.

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What made me join the Viking Society was my wife Lesley, who was - and still is - working at the Viking visitors attraction in Largs, Vikingar. She's a tour guide there.

The traditional image of Vikings is of violence and rape, but that's very one-sided. Like everybody else, they were farmers and just regular people. I think it was the harsh conditions that forced them to go and look for something better.

I first became involved in Viking re-enactments when I was visiting my wife at Vikingar - people took a look at me and said you must join the re-enactments; you look like a Viking. So I joined and became friends with them. We re-enact battles and also do living history - sometimes we just get on with everyday things, such as making things. The re-enactments are a hobby - in my day job, I'm a landscape gardener.

A change comes over me when I put on my Viking costume. You just feel instantly like a Viking and you act like one. I also feel a lot more confident as a Viking. It's an escape from work and daily life as well. My wife and I also re-newed our vows in a Viking ceremony outdoors. When we got married the first time in 1995, there was a lot of family pressure to do it traditionally but when we re-newed our vows, we did it the way we wanted to.

I'm currently building a big Viking boat which we will burn on Saturday night for the Largs Viking Festival. The festival is part of educating people about Vikings - everybody thinks they were bad people, but they weren't really - is there any culture that has invaded more countries than Britain?

Lesley McCormack, 42

I FIRST started learning more about Vikings when I got a job as the Vikingar centre in Largs. What intrigued me more than anything was the mythological side of it - the sagas and the gods, Odin and Thor.

I also do rune reading - every culture has its own interpretation, but Vikings used ancient Germanic symbols. The stones act as a guide - they guide you on the right path in life. They can also be carried as talisman and lucky charms - warriors would take certain runes into battle with them for good luck.

When I started working at Vikingar, we got to know the re-enacters and we are now members of the group Swords of Dalriada. I did have a go at battles, but fell flat on my backside and thought 'this is not for me'. Some women do take part - viking female warriors were traditionally unmarried daughters.

The role I play is the seeress, the wise woman, the healer. She would be the one that people from the village would consult - she would contact the gods and would be treated almost like royalty.

The word Viking is actually a verb - to them it was a doing word. To go Viking was to go on your adventures, on your travels, although other people saw them as pirates and raiders.

We chose a Viking wedding because we when got married through the church, it was very formal. I go on the side of paganism now, that's where my religion lies, and it felt right for us to get married in that old style. It was better than our original wedding.

We have a daughter, who took part in re-enactments, but she's now 14 and no longer wants to take part in the dressing up and all the rest of it. It's embarrassing. It's not something that we enforce. But my husband and I are still weekend warriors and it's great fun.

The Largs Viking Festival is on today and tomorrow. For more information, visit largsvikingfestival.org