Thomas Hansard, the "Jarl," or leader, of Vinland Texas Vikings, says his is an educational nonprofit, teaching members, and the public, skills used by ninth to 11th-century people. Those include blacksmithing, leatherworking, clothing construction, and arts.
He says the organization is a 501(c)3, and his wife, Morgan Satterfield, is the CEO. As such, the Texas Vikings provide an educational medium used by living history museums, historic sites, and schools. They recently made an appearance at the Kerrville Renaissance Festival.
Vikings being a warrior culture, the members also practice fighting, with steel weapons, weekly. Hansard says the emphasis there is safety, while learning how to fight realistically. "But 75 percent of what we do is not combat-related. We train on history, the way things were made and people lived back then, similar to the World War II or Civil War reenactment groups."
"We want to educate the public about Viking-era culture and society, illustrating clothing styles, pastimes, and handcrafts," Hansard says. "Unlike the Hollywood portrayal, historical Vikings had an advanced farming civilization for the era. They were the only iron-age people to allow women to have equal rights, which was not seen elsewhere in Europe for centuries. They were exceptional artists and craftsmen."
He says while Vikings did engage in raiding and conquest, they were also exceptional merchants, establishing trade routes east into Russia, west into Iceland and Greenland, and south into Northern Africa. They settled in North America 500 years before Columbus landed.
A typical Viking settlement consisted mostly of farmers, he says. Since they originated in the cold climates of what is now Norway, Denmark and Sweden, farming was difficult. That's why raiding and conquest became necessary to provide supplemental goods. When Vikings did conquer an area, though, they tended to merge with the local culture. The English town of York, and the Irish town of Dublin, were originally Viking settlements.
Today, Hansard says, the Vineland Texas Vikings have three main groups, in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, as well as members in Fredericksburg and Kerrville. They meet on Sundays, and the gatherings are open to the public. More information is available on their website, vinlandtexas.com.
Hansard says he was born in Conroe, and lived in Tomball. But his grandparents, Julia and Tom Surles, retired to Kerrville, and when his parents, Michele and Don Hansard, decided to escape Houston, they moved here as well. Hansard was 10 at the time, and he attended Tivy Upper Elementary School and Peterson Middle School, and graduated from Tivy High School in 2001.
After graduating, he says he moved to Austin, and spent 12 years working by day in the videogame and computer industry, and by night managing musical venues including Antone's Nightclub and the Back Room.
While he was managing Antone's, he says a friend, Rick Albrecht, brought a colleague of his from San Marcos, Morgan Satterfield, by the club. In 2013 Hansard decided to move to Kerrville, and he took a job with Hill Country Telephone. He is now overseer of the call center.
He says he and Satterfield started dating in 2018, and married January of 2019. They have three children, 18, 13, and 11, who participate in their Viking activities. Satterfield owns a mortgage company, and is an artist, using found objects in her sculptures. She also makes glass beads, another Viking art, for necklaces and other adornment.
Hansard says they keep a home in Austin, for when they want to do "city things," and a home outside of Ingram for the country life. During the Renaissance Festival his property became the "Viking village," where those members participating in the weekend set up their Viking camp. "Two homes, city and country, help us balance out," he says.