A new kind of Viking conquest

More than just a network, Harald Blåtands Laug aims to bring people together and promote Zealand’s rich history 

In 2020, we are more inextricably connected to people around the world than ever before. The meteoric rise of Zoom has seemingly negated the need for any non-digital business relationships. 

But for one organisation, valuable connections require more than simple introductions and mutual business interests: Harald Blåtands Laug is looking to regional roots and mutual historical fascination in order to build richer, more valuable relationships between people from a host of different backgrounds. 

Harald Blåtand, the first King of Denmark, is famed for having united the country and bringing Christianity to its shores but, more than that, he was a leader with an outlook global in its scope: committed to looking beyond Denmark’s borders to new trading partners and allies.

It is this legacy that Harald Blåtands Laug, founded in 2014, wishes to carry forward into the 21st century.  

Love not war 
Talking to Diplomacy Magazine, Finn Berggren, Oldermand for the laug, was quick to assuage fears that the organisation had any relation to the blood-thirstier elements for which the Vikings are typically known.

 “The Vikings were not only warriors, but also adventurers, traders and cultural communicators – seeking out unknown shores in the hope of peace and prosperity,” he said. 

It is these latter factors that the laug hopes to promote. Bringing people together around a historical West Zealand site, they aim to be more than a simple business network. Whilst members can apply to the board for access to relevant business contacts, they are also part of an organisation involved in spreading historical knowledge and cultural experiences. 

It is not the first time the King’s connectivity has been noted. The now common Bluetooth technology, launched by Swedish group telecommunications giant Ericsson, also drew upon his legacy. For Berggren, the message is clear: “We are inspired by two words: connecting people.”

When new members are inaugurated, the ceremony takes place on the site of a Viking ring-fortress near Slagelse in west Zealand. The castle, which is believed to have been commissioned by King Harald in 980 AD, was a central site in his mission to improve trade and international relations throughout Europe. The site is home to a reconstructed longhouse, and the laug is part of a number of local initiatives supporting the future expansion of the site. 

Inside the hall and robed up for business

Cultural connectivity 
On the historical front, Harald Blåtands Laug is committed to increasing awareness and understanding of the Viking monuments in West Zealand. In part, this is achieved through a cultural exchange program through the Irish Embassy, as well as supporting school trips in exploring the area. 

Perhaps more unexpected, however, was the laug’s sponsorship of a group of ‘Viking fighters’ to participate in a global event in Russia. The World Martial Arts Festival drew 20,000 participants, allowing the Vikings to showcase their skills as well as building connections with Viking groups to the east. The team rightfully won the ‘Preservation of Tradition’ award. 

Members are invited to engage in the area’s rich history by meeting people with a similar outlook and mindset. But Berggren was keen to emphasise that it was not only historians that made up their membership. 

“The members are everything from ambassadors and politicians to  artists and business leaders, from home and abroad,” he stated. For Berggren, what matters most is a global mindset and an “inspiring and positive outlook on life”. 

Invitation only, the guild is not open to everyone, however. To gain entry, one must be nominated by current members and pass the scrutiny of the board. Members are promised more than a simple business network, with attempts made instead to build a friendly community of people from a wide range of backgrounds at annual events – not to mention a rather fetching outfit!  

Ambassador friendly 
In particular, the Laug currently boasts seven ambassadors amongst its membership. Austria, the Czech Republic, Albania, Greece, India, Slovenia and Serbia all find diplomatic representation in the organisation. With its mixture of cultural and business interests, it is perhaps unsurprising that ambassadors are drawn to the organisation upon their arrival in Denmark. 

For his part, Berggren describes it as part of the guild’s strategy. “We are incredibly happy with our many close relationships with foreign ambassadors in Denmark. We have deliberately tried to create relationships with them and encourage them to become part of our guild.” 

It is as much about what the ambassadors bring to the organisation as it is what the organisation can offer the ambassadors. 

“We experience ambassadors as inspiring members with their natural international outlook and a simultaneous interest in Danish culture and history,” Berggren said. In particular he took pride in having gained a regal ear, recounting a tale of an ambassador telling Queen Margrethe of their membership of the guild. 

For ambassadors looking to gain an insight into the history of Zealand, as well as meet business leaders from home and abroad, Harald Blåtands Laug is certainly an appealing prospect – all they need is to find a current member to let them in… 

Berggreen with Birgitte Dinesen, the owner of Kragerup Gods where the meetings are held

Peaceful expansion 
Unfortunately, like with seemingly everything, much of Harald Blåtands Laug’s plans for the year were put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. For organisations that depend so heavily on connectivity, social distancing was never likely to prove beneficial!  

But, despite having to cancel dinners and inauguration ceremonies, spirits remain high at the top. They are confident of bouncing back quickly from this brief social drought and continuing to expand their network as they edge closer to their tenth anniversary. 

Ever more global and ever more connected: that is the takeaway message from Berggren’s plans for the future. He is hopeful that ambassadors from all corners of the world will play a crucial role in driving forwards this new growth, building the organisation, and spreading knowledge of West Zealand and its history ever further.