The original Knut’s Guilds were medieval Danish merchants’ guilds that functioned as economic networks and social safety nets in order to take care of deceased brothers’ children and widows. The guild also served as a local defense or Home Guard and therefore arranged regular archery exercises and contests. The guilds still practice the ancient tradition of ”Parrot” shooting on targets shaped as parrots.
The guilds all had a religious character and gave the members solidarity and protections in times when the legislative system was weak. Most of the S:t Knut’s guilds had duke Knut (Canute) Lavard as their original patron saint; he had been canonised by the Pope in 1169 and they probably originated during the period 1170 and up to 1250.
The contemporary guilds are primarily of a social character that celebrate the traditions and arrange yearly dinners and dances as well as other social activities. The guild also engages in some charity work directed towards the young and elderly. Membership is for life and there is only a one-time small membership fee to be paid at the first reception. The Saint Knut’s guilds are unusual as they, from the beginning, welcome both men and women as members.
The primary celebration, since ancient times, is on the feast day of Saint Knut on the 13th of January or on the nearest saturday. At the reception deceased brothers and sisters are commemorated and new members introduced. The guild also arranges the traditional annual parrot-shooting in the end of May or in the beginning of June.
The regalia of all members is a small gilt silver dove, or parrot, suspended from a blue silk bow.