Cosplay has been around for a very long time – check out the Up Helly Aa Viking Festival of 1927!
While today’s cosplayers run around Convention floors, taking selfies and posing for pictures with celebrities, carrying foam weapons and wearing body paint, the cosplayers of the past rocked a VERY different aesthetic. Today we’re opening the history vaults to shed light into an almost CENTURY old video of viking cosplayers at a famous Shetland Fire Festival.
The invention of film and television- the ability to capture not only someone’s image, but also their movement and attitude- redefined history as we know it. No longer were we dependent on still images to learn from the past, but became able to share much more broadly the visions of past ages. While Cosplay is a modern movement that has taken the pop-culture scene by storm, people have been dressing in costume for festivals for as far back as the history books go. Image from UpHellyAh.org
In 1927, a videographer captured rare footage of the Up Helly Aa festival, held in Lerwick, Shetland on the last Tuesday in January every year. Up Helly Aa day involves a series of marches and visitations, culminating in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a galley.
“Surprises abound in this extraordinary film of Shetland’s famous fire festival, ‘Up Helly Aa’. First up, chief Guizer Jarl and his Viking cronies lead a spectacular torch procession and boat burning ceremony. But the fun really begins with the costume parade (look out for the Michelin men) and comedy skits: an American prison scene, ‘sheep’ herding, and some wildlife spotting down by the shore…”-BFI
Cosplay in 1927. The residents of Shetland dress up in an array of weird and wonderful costumes for the annual 'Up Helly Aa' festival.#BritainOnFilm
Posted by BFI on Friday, September 14, 2018
The video clip above comes from a film titled “Old Norse Vikings Festival Gaumont Graphic No. 1656”, which features a look at the festival from 1927. People dressed as vikings, as animals, performing tricks all while wearing a wide array of costumes. The entire film can be viewed on the BFI:
“Marking the end of the bleak midwinter, Up Helly Aa is held annually on the last Tuesday in January. The festival pays homage to Norse ritual and Shetland’s Viking heritage, though it’s actually a fairly modern custom, dating to around 1881. Like other newsreel companies, Gaumont Graphic sought out regularly occurring events and calendar customs. But few could be more impressive than this one, beautifully filmed and brilliantly bizarre.” -BFI
Up Helly Aa Today
The festival has lived on through generations, and is still observed yearly in Shetland. Thousands of people dressed in Viking Garb, carrying torches and paying tribute to their history. It’s an incredible sight to see, and we’ll be featuring more images from this event in the future!
Image Credit The Scottish Sun
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