It was a great adventure!
Midsommarblot, in Old Norse, is the Summer Solstice, one of the most important moments in Nordic and Viking culture.
We are talking about people who have long and very hard winters, where everything is ice, which have nothing to do with the Mediterranean winters or with my alpine winters, cold but much shorter.
The Summer Solstice is a time, in those cultures, which is a cornerstone of the year, it is the time to get busy, in the short summer, to produce the foods that will have to survive the winter. Viking culture celebrates the Midsommarblot with a propitiatory ritual that revolves entirely around the very idea of life and its perpetuation.
“This is Midsommar, the longest day and the shortest night of the year, when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky. From this day forward, the hours of daylight grow shorter until the winter solstice in Mörsugur”
In the Rungardvik Region, splendid in summer as in winter, the entire ritual was reproduced and simulated. The ritual begins in the temple, with ten virgins lighting torches and braziers, symbolizing the light of summer, but also the light of life, and attend the entire ritual, in which a priestess (Hofgothi) reads the ancient Norse texts, and invokes the gods to propitiate a good harvest, in the presence of the whole population. At the end of the ritual, the virgins lead the people towards a green meadow, where a large bonfire is burning, and perform the “Maiden Dance of Flowers” around the fire, surrounded by young men who will have to collaborate in the perpetuation of life
The undersigned VirgyStella was assigned the role of directing the virgins, both during the ritual and during the dance, including the final choreography.
It was a great challenge (especially the ritual), but one of those challenges that give satisfaction. Let’s start from the beginning.
My assignment began with an inspection of the temple, and I immediately felt the magone, a lump in the throat: it is a complex structure, with few spaces and above all almost devoid of horizontal movement spaces, something very different from the stage of a theater, where there are no climbs or descents and especially stairs. The temple instead has a central stone staircase, with two other wooden staircases on the sides that separate the central nave from the two side aisles. There are fires to light on the side columns, other six braziers on the sides of the central staircase, and two braziers in the side aisles.
Fortunately, while I am in the temple the Runes tell me that today is a big positive day, and after a few minutes Freya and Loki talk to me, and encourage me to go through with it.
I have no idea how to do it. In my mind, the image of the paths, of the milestones, of the virgins walking with lighted torches along the central aisle, down the stairs, up the stairs. The first thought that comes to mind is: “Oh, it’s impossible, it can’t work“. When something seems impossible, there is only one answer: just start doing it.
I calculate the coordinates of the center of the temple, I construct my good Cartesian reference, and I place the starting points of the virgins along two diagonal lines that converge towards the center of the altar, at the top of the stairs. Once the geometry of the system was fixed and a perfect symmetry between right and left side was found, before building the routes (to be sure I wasn’t doing a crazy thing) I explained the project to two avatars of my crew, Alex and Ambra (Ambra is also one of the virgins).
Alex, as a good architect and above all as a good director of machinima movies, who has already worked at Rungardvik, labeled my project with an “Oh, it’s impossible, it can’t work“. In these cases, there is only one answer: if you think that something cannot be done, try not to disturb too much whoever is doing it in the meantime.
In about 8 hours, the “traffic plan” is ready, ie all the paths that the virgins will have to walk. A sea of calculations and coordinates (thanks Alex for doing some with me). The effect made all my collaborators shiver, but it’s all calculated: there will be no collisions between one virgin and another, no tripping, no kicking.
The hard part is done!
The next day, it’s time to build the path from the temple to the meadow. I leave quickly, convinced that the worst is over, that now the easy part is coming, and instead…
Unexpectedly, even here problems arise that are impossible to solve. I put the positions of the virgins in a row for two, at the top of the stairs, I start them all in sync. “Down the stairs, forward to the door of the temple, then go outside and turn right, going down towards the lawn“. Too bad that to go down towards the meadow there is almost a ravine, a tremendously steep and highly irregular slope, the slope is not constant. I do a quick check and find that the soil is not made of prims, but is the soil of the Region, which has been raised in “Modify Terrain” mode. I am screwed, and I have no solution, I cannot have a smooth descent. Sure, I could have asked for a terrain modification, but I didn’t feel like it… maybe the manager of Rungardvik should have called an expensive landscaper and in any case it didn’t seem right to have her change the orography of the Region (and whoever worked on a private island knows what the terrible consequences are…) for a need of only one day. If the steep descent had a constant slope, no problem would arise, but it is bumpy, with protrusions and hollows that make it very realistic, but not suitable for a “clean” descent of the virgins, moreover followed by the people who will hardly take their eyes off from their butts.
I tried to increase the waypoints and put them close together, sweating hours of calculations and determination of equations of lines in space, I changed the milestones, but in any case there are always points where the virgins end up with all their legs under the ground or with their feet 30 centimeters above, as if floating. The first idea that comes to my mind, as I often do in my shows, is to make them fly, or by having ropes appear to hang them on (but I would need an overhead crane to support them and move them), or by making them sprout their wings, which would be fanciful but unrealistic… and Rungardvik is keen to have a realistic ritual (and I agree).
As I struggle to figure out how I can mitigate the bad effect, from inside the temple, or perhaps from Valhalla, Loki’s thundering and a little angry voice comes to me yelling: “You’re wasting time. There is no solution… Accelerate!”
At first I think he told me “Accelerate” because in the meantime time passes, and there are three days left before the ritual, then I get enlightened: accelerating is the solution. I don’t like virgins to sink into the ground or walk 30 cm above the ground? Well, let’s make it last as short as possible. I change the values of a few variables in the scripts, and I accelerate the speed of the virgins on the slope, I bring them to the threshold of the running pace, to reach the flat ground as soon as possible. I arrange the waypoints and finally in my imagination the virgins are at the mouth of the meadow. I think it’s done, I just have to bring them in a circle around the bonfire. Instead…
Another unexpected problem!
I hadn’t come to terms with the fact that we are now 70 meters away from the center of the coordinates, from the origin of the axes, and Firestorm Viewer, which is the most used, has a known bug, which in recent days I also helped to identify. The bug causes a sudden interruption of the virgins walk animation, just a few meters before they circle around the bonfire, so the poor girls arrive at the final position with a kind of long slide with legs blocked. All we needed was this: the unexpected last meter, and it’s a Firestorm bug, so it’s not something I can fix. What I do? When in doubt I pray to Freya: “Greetings to You, Freya, Queen of Aesir, Queen of Vanir, White Lady of Alfheim. Master of magic, Mother of Midgard. For the sovereign strength of Seiðhr And the strength of Brisingamen. Lend me your insight into this. my Rite “
A moment later Freya’s voice resounds in my mind: “But what do you care that the animation stops? The virgins have almost run down the slope, and arrive by the fire with a great slip, with braking effect, is not realistic, perhaps?”
Freya is right.
Freya is always right.
To hell with the Firestorm bug. What a final slip it is.
At this point the Dance of the Virgins starts. My crew have been teasing me for weeks: they call me “the virgin trainer”, making quite obvious allusions
This part is easy though. It is 30 minutes of dance, but listening to the songs that make up the soundtrack 5 times, which I have chosen by the way, I also find the right animations. To make sure I’m not wrong, I still read the runes, which even today tell me this is a good day. In another three hours of work, and recycling some animation, even the 30 minutes of dance are ready.
I have time to disconnect and have dinner quickly, then go back online because I have summoned the ten virgins for the real training.
I want to make it clear that these girls played virgins with total involvement. I had no doubts that they were Role Play experts, but they were really fantastic! It was enough for me to send them a Notecard with the style indications, and all of them worked hard on their avatars to make them as good as possible and above all as I wanted them, exactly as I had imagined them!
They were much more professional than some dancers I know, and I also understood why: the ten Virgins of Rungardvik did not play their role in OOC, they instead fell into the character, like theater actresses in RL, so they were not avatars at that time playing Viking virgins … they were really the 10 Viking Virgins, and their interpretation, believe me, was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival. The final applause goes to them, even if they managed to excite me already during the dress rehearsal and the practice, when we chose the sunrise for the lighting.
However, this Summer Solstice has another protagonist, besides the virgins: Alessandra of Mecklenburg, owner of the Rungardvik Region, leader and animator of one of the best Role Play communities ever seen in SL, but also Hofgothi of the ritual of the Solstice and, above all, the woman who has lost many hours of her life in being next to me while I was building everything, not only in keeping me company with friendship, but also solving problems, looking for the right costume, mediating with the Virgins, procuring the wreaths of flowers (designed by Kimmy, another of the Virgins), writing the (complex) script of the ritual, marking the times. A heartfelt and sincere bow goes to her.
And the applause goes to the wonderful ten Virgins of Rungardvik (if any of them wanted to pursue a career as an actress/dancer, just tell me and I will cast them in my next shows): Kvitravn (damayantia), Lina of Rungardvik (lina.blackwood), Esme (eternalbloom), Kimmy (mariaofianda), Agan McKeith (minamaymindi), elia (elia.lykin), Elizsabeth Zenoria, Heidr Ragnarok, Ambra, Abby (Abigailmorgana), Brynhildri.
The last credit is for a book, without this book I would not have thought of certain solutions, I recommend reading it to anyone who can read English: Paur Rhys Mountfort, “Nordic Runes: understanding, casting & interpreting the ancient Viking oracle”
P.S.: The Ritual and the dance… they was both wonderful!