This article originally appeared on VICE Sweden
When the neo-Nazi group the Nordic Resistance Movement in September 2017 tried to organise a march through Gothenburg, a city on the west coast of Sweden, Italian photographer Matteo Congregalli was on hand to document the event. But amongst the large crowd of counter-protesters, one specific group stood out to him – Vikings.
The Vikings attending this counter-protest were there representing the network Vikingar Mot Rasism (Vikings Against Racism), whose members are out to show that you can cherish ancient national traditions without being a racist dickhead. After the march, Congregalli got in touch with some of the Vikings, who agreed to speak with him and let him document modern Viking culture – specifically in Skåne, Sweden's southernmost province, but also in Norway. Like many people would, Congregalli assumed that being a modern Viking would just entail some play-fighting in reenactments, but he quickly found out that it was a way of life.
From his conversations with the group, Congregalli also discovered that living like a Viking has become increasingly popular in Sweden since the country joined the EU in 1994. "I felt like [Sweden joining EU] meant that we lost part of our Swedish identity," Ola, a member of the Viking group Halsingarna, told the photographer. "Joining a Viking group has given me and many others a way to preserve our historic identity."
"When I started documenting Viking culture I quickly realised that it's a rapidly growing subculture," Matteo Congregalli told me. "And just like with any subculture, today's Vikings are trying to find a sense of purpose. Some move to Viking villages during the spring and summer, while others just sort of change into Vikings when they get home from work. But most of them celebrate traditions from the Viking era all year round in their own ways – from the Midwinter festival to organising Viking weddings."
Scroll down to see more of Matteo Congregalli's photos of modern Vikings.