That Way Madness Lies
Structure and Events
As the name suggests, the Games are centered around a series of athletic competitions: running, swimming, rowing, spear throwing, unarmed combat, and archery. The running events are split into two separate competitions: an approximately 200 m sprint in front of the temple, and a roughly 4-mile run through the foothills of the mountains, and both races end in front of the main temple. The swimming and rowing take place in a small bay largely protected from wind.
The Games were first organized in the small village of Minen Saari, far to the northwest, by the local priesthood of Thor. In the earliest days, the Games were a yearly festival simply of a foot race through the hills, a spear toss, and a test of unarmed combat. The original Games drew heavily from local martial traditions, and bore a strong resemblance to elements of warrior training in the northwest. The extent to which the first Games were religious phenomena is uncertain; although it is known that the Games were organized by the priesthood of Thor, the extent to which the Games served to reinforce religious practice can never really be known.
Over the years, the Games grew in popularity and recognition, and began attracting an ever larger crowd. As people came from further abroad, the scope of the festival expanded with its popularity. The Games’ increasing appeal significantly changed the structure of the festival in a number of ways. For one, additional events became incorporated over time, especially as people from coastal regions began participating in greater numbers. The first events to be added to the original itinerary were a sprinting foot race and a swimming competition in a nearby lake. As the Games grew, devotions to Thor held less and less of a monopoly over the religious ceremonies, and devotions to other gods (chiefly Odin, but also Frey and others) gradually became more common. Although other gods are now commonly worshiped at the Games, Thor’s patronage is still undeniably a central aspect of the Games, and his priests continue to be the chief organizers of the festival.
About 30 years after its founding, the Games were moved southwest to an area near the coastal town of Atenai, for a variety of political and economic reasons. Atenai proved to be more accessible and more accommodating for the larger attendances at the Games, which continued to grow in popularity. Reflecting the further diversification of the Games’ participants, a rowing race was added not long after the move to Atenai.