I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!



Thanksgiving! What does that have to do with the English and the Norse!

Okay, let’s call it Harvest Festival. Or maybe Lammastide. Or Loaf Fest. Or Freyfest. Or, yes, Thanksgiving.

Harvest celebrations are traditionally celebrated in many cultures. Important to any culture for whom agriculture and the harvest was of great importance, and that included most cultures. Most persons, even those as important as kings, were involved in agriculture. After all, harvest would decide whether they would live, or at least be moderately comfortable, until the next year.

Though Lammas is traditionally 1 August—customarily between the summer solstice and autumn equinox—the celebrations traditionally occurred between then and 1 September, and the later American Thanksgiving was, of course in November, though the first Thanksgiving seemed to have taken place somewhere between the end of September and the beginning of November.

The ancient Lammastide, in the words of an historian, “was a way for farmers to ease their way into autumn and to set their minds upon the harvest, and first fruits of their diligent labor of the soil.” In heathen times, it was a custom to bring a loaf of bread made from the grain harvested, and even after Christianity achieved a prominence, that load was blessed by the priest and divided into four loaves, each quarter being set in the corner of the barn to protect the grain. The English called the time hlaf-mass, or the “loaf mass.” early church documents, the ritual was referred to as the “feast of first fruits.” Christians also have church processions to bakeries, where those working therein are blessed by Christian clergy. Lammas coincided with St. Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Today, many heathens celebrate Lughnasadh about the same time. It was a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and was a heathen festival that was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The hlaf-mass was blessed in the early English church and was afterwards employed in protective rituals. In fact, a book of Englisc charms may be the origin of placing a quarter of the loaf at the corners of a barn.

What the harvest festival was called by the Norse or how it was celebrated by the heathen is most conjecture. After all, no purely Heathen name has survived for this festival, any more than most aspects of the heathen religion is known except what can be imputed by occasional verses and runestones. However, modern heathen writers then go on to describe how the first fruits of harvest were brought to the temple as gifts and in Norse tradition, the “First Sheaf was often bound and blessed as an offering to Heathen deities or the spirits of the field at the beginning of harvest, just as the Last Sheaf was at its end. English folk custom also includes the decoration of wells and springs.” // https://www.theasatrucommunity.org/freyfaxi //

For both the Norse heathens and the Englisc heathens as well as the early Christian themselves, all that can be definitely said that the amount of food was great, especially after a period that might have seen starvation and little or no food. Some food could not be preserved at the time and actually had to be eaten at the time. So we can almost intuitively note that the people—both Christian and he then—gathered together in large, convivial and warm company, and stuff themselves! May you approach Thanksgiving with the same plans and have a great holiday!


I was fascinated when I read about the dirt balls found in the Galloway Hoard in Archaeology Magazine. I’m still searching for information on them, but there were apparently dirt balls in Greenland, Scotland and Denmark, as well as elsewhere in the Viking world. The dates are ambiguous, but they are from the Christian era.

A supposition—that seems very logical to me—is that the dirt balls were souvenirs. Not quite pilgrims’ medallions, but the idea is close. They show you—and others—that You Were There. They were scooped up and rolled into balls from holy sites and then rolled against reliquaries, picking up gold dust from the reliquary. Were they produced in an industry, or did pilgrims o out and scoop them up themselves? For that matter, I am uncertain of how frequently they were made during the time, but there are suppositions that they dried and crumbled away. Those found in the Galloway Hoard lasted because they had ben put into air-tight containers that kept them safe.

Doing research into making some, Roland Williamson repeated something that I had already considered: Make them out of clay to insure their longevity. I ended up getting some air-dryable clay. The white seemed a little too pristine and brilliant white. I wondered if I could assume an adequate color by dyeing it with tea. I still do not know. I may experiment later, but this time I bought some terra cota-colored clay. I liked the hue it was, even if it was a lot darker than the relic! Ah well, reenactment is always very absolutely thenty… :\

I ordered ten ounces of dirt containing gold dust. Uncertain how much gold dust. Some buyers said it wasn’t filled with enough gold since they seemed to expect to retire to Mara-Lago on gold contained. I think the seller just went and scooped up a shovelfuls of dirt from an era where gold was found. They even included a free prospecting pan! 🙂 It was, I decided, good enough for my purposes. (yes, I did do Walter Huston’s prospector dance when it arrived 🙂 )

I rolled the clay into balls. Not spherical or smooth because I tried to mimics the Galloway balls. Dome cracks and fissures. Then I spread out some of the dirt that allegedly—or perhaps hopefully—contained gold. The dust covered the balls, and they actually sparkled in the sun, sine they seemed to have flecks of gold—or pyrite at least.

Then, wanting to see what drying would do to it, I set the dirt balls for a few days, an they dried into a very satisfying hardness.

The results were great!

In period, were the dirt balls carried around like a crucifix? Were they kept in a single, stationery place like replicas? How were they kept safe? The answers may pop up, but I will not be waiting for hat information.

When I feel safe to do shows again, I plan to trot out a dirt ball. The dust can easily be rubbed off, so MoPs probably will not be allowed to handle them. But for that matter, the dust might be rubbed off in transit and storage, so I am using boxes and packing foam to keep them safe!

I have no idea what the reaction will be. I hope that MoPs are fascinated by them and have never herd of them before. Aren’t those the main reasons we do re-enacting to start with?


Seals were used in the earliest civilizations and were very familiar by the early middle ages. Wax seals were being regularly used by the end of the tenth century. The practice of sealing in wax gradually moved down the social hierarchy from royalty, nobility and high-ranking ecclesiastical individuals to minor knights by the twelfth century and to commoners by the middle of the thirteenth century.

By the middle of the eleventh century, the seals were attached to charters by a length of parchment that was cut from the charter itself. The modern pouring of wax to “seal” an envelope was not yet used. I determined that a seal should not be used on the computerized charters that I produced and ordered some actual parchment—my supplier suggested goat parchment—that could be used and sealed.

After looking at historical and available seals, I decided to design my own. I decided on the circle shape, made the circular text “FOLCIVSÞEGNMICELFOLCLOND✠. The center would conventionally have the head of a person, but I decided to go with Michael, the mascot of Micel Folcland, in the center. In deference to my skills at carving the seal, I decided to replace the crane with a triskelion design that appealed to me. As it turned out, I could have kept Michael since I had the seal carved by a professional. I ordered a professional seal out of brass but did eventually carve a seal myself out of faux ivory, but I did not have the skill to do it veery well. I plan to work on another in my spare time.

Most of the seals were on disks that the parchment was attached to, and I found a suitable mould, the top to a cannister of pills. I melted wax, placed the end of the strip of parchment and placed more wax on top. It popped out of the mould with no problem, and I was pleased with the result.

I used simple red wax, which was of dubious authenticity, and I mixed up more accurate waxes, combining powdered and then crushed rosin with beeswax (2/3 to 1/3).

I have a lot goat parchment, and I intend to keep trying to make a very satisfying result. But then good living history is a never-ended experiment!


How important were paint brushes during the period? We are familiar with the pens, but pictures of paint brushes are more rare. With the help of the guidance of Gary Golding, I have been busy this last year to accumulate–generally making–scribe tools: pumice stone, prickers, burnishers, straight edges and clothlets, as well as pens and scrapers. When they were all finished, there was no way to delay even more. No matter how much the process intimidated me, it was time to make a brush.

I began by reading DIY articles on making brushes. I cannot say that the brushes were entirely accurate, but I was able to take what seemed to work. And I did several, so I was able to take several different approaches. Some of the results I was not satisfied with, but they were not entirely dismaying!

Brushes were made from boar bristles or from squirrel fur. I was able to secure both, but the squirrel fur was intimidated me too much, so I still have a whole squirrel’s tale. I may use it someday, but I did find the boar bristles very easy—if frustrating at times—to work with.

I took the boar bristles and cut them to the desired sizes. They were cut a little longer than what the final result would be simply to be able to cut them down. I would take about twelve bristles, bend them double and bind them at the bend with hemp thread. Then, there were bent double. The bristles were obstinate, and this was not as easy as it sounds!

The handle part was a bit more iffy. I tried a wooden handle, and it was adequate but not satisfying. For the most part, handles were made of the quills—just like the quills used in making the quills—and vulture feathers were recommended. And then I discovered that vulture feathers were expensive! I bought one and used it. But frankly, I did not find that it was any more useful than the goose quills that were much less expensive. So most of the brushes I made were made from goose feathers.

The goose and the vulture feathers were treated in the same way. The feathery parts were stripped, which is actually a very simple thing to do. Pinch the barbs of the feather at the base of the shaft and just pull. It will usually zip off easily. Both sides must be stripped off. Then the open end must be reamed so that it is entirely empty. Some people say it must be soaked, but I found that a bit of overkill.

I took the bristle bundles and stuck them into the empty end. Ideally, you want to do so with about six benches, but the size of the quill opening determines how many are used for a brush. After a while, I discovered that a drop of glue in the empty space helped keep the bristles under control.

Then taking hemp thread, I would wrap the bristles. There is actually no way to describe what needs to be done to make it secure. You just see and feel it. I discovered that coating the thread in glue helped. Cheating? Maybe, but glue is my friend! It eliminated the need for knotting or otherwise securing the cord. I then put another coat of glue over the bound bristles just to make it more secure.

I was then able to trim the bristles to the desired size. I must admit that the bristles sometimes would not work together, so I needed to keep them together with little glue. The result was pleasing visually, and I used one a little but did not use any a lot. But for display, it was veery satisfying!


The clothlet was a piece of cloth impregnated with pigment (generally a vegetable dye), used to hold vegetable pigments in a dry format. A portion of such cloth, when soaked with a little gum arabic, releases its colors into the medium and produces an artist’s pigment. Clothlets were convenient way of carrying or shipping vegetal pigments, and they were especially popular from the fourteenth century on, with the growth of the textile trade, though they seemed to have existed in earlier times.

An early appearance of the clothlet was in the tenth-century Mappæ Clavicula. The earliest copy of the Mappae was a manuscript in the Benedictine monastery of Reichenau, dated to 821-822. The manuscript is no longer in existence. But later copies speak about a variety of colors derived from organic sources.

Production of clothlets is simple but time consuming. Basically, a pot of vegetable color is made by boiling the vegetable source of the dye in water. It must not be too watery. I made several batches, include woad, madder and weld. Several different colors could be made from a solution depending on the density of the solution. For example, these organic colors could produce blue, red, green and yellow. Experiment with the solutions

Gary Golding, who guided me in the production of clothlets, notes that “A clean linen cloth is dipped in pigment and allowed to air dry, then dipped and dried again and again until it’s impregnated with pigment.” The cloth is soaked in the solution and brought out to dry. I hung them from rods and allowed them to dry. I did this about twelve times for each piece. I used squares of white linen. These would be stored until needed, and a piece would be cut off. It could be soaked in glair or gum. In the morning, you should have a wash that is ready to use. Gary adds that “Organic pigments have poor coverage compared to mineral ones. Such pigments tended to have poor coverage and lightfastness and so were typically used as highlights or washes on other colors. This would then be used to highlight or wash the stronger mineral pigments…” These washes were often used to enhance other colors in a book illumination, since they created a rich, glowing, and transparent effect.

In period, clothlets were often stored in books. I have found that blank pages are recommended, since colors rub off onto the paper!


How well do you know the Early Middle Ages? As we get back into the school year, these questions might be of interest to students, and to new or inexperienced reemactors!

  1. Leicestershire
    A. Loncastre
    B. Lundenwic
    C. Lægreceastr
    D. Leòdhas
  2. The name of the most important Viking town in England was
    A. London
    B. Canterbury
    C. Jorvik
    D. Nottingham
  3. The poem “Beowulf” takes place in
    A. Iceland
    B. England
    C. Denmark
    D. Russia
  4. Sårkland was in Old Norse
    A. Muslim lands
    B. A fish farm
    C. A fallow field
    D. Scotland
  5. Blæland was in Old Norse
    A. Muslim lands
    B. A fish farm
    C. A fallow field
    D. Scotland
  6. Grænland was in Old Norse
    A. Greenland
    B. Greece
    C. Gotland
    D. Constantinople
  7. Miklegård was in Old Norse
    A. Greece
    B. Iceland
    C. Cathay
    D. Constantinople
  8. Undoubtedly real evidence for Norse in North America was
    A. The Vinland Map
    B. The Kensington Stone
    C. “Pathfinder”
    D. L’Ans Aux Meadows
  9. Grikkland was in Old Norse
    A. Poland
    B. Greece
    C. Serbia
    D. Sicily
  10. Ireland was in Old English
    A. Armagh
    B, Ísland
    C. Grænland
    D. Leprekhan
  11. The Mediterranean Sea was in Old English
    A. Heahsæ
    B. Wendelsæ
    C. Hierusalem Sæ
    D. The Middle Sæ
  12. Kent was in Old English
    A. Clarke
    B. Krít
    C. Camri
    D. Cent

answers: 1-C. 2-C. 3-C. 4-A. 5-A. 5-A. 6-A. 7-D. 8-D. 9-C. 10-A. 11-B. 12-D.


How well do you know the Early Middle Ages? As we get back into the school year, these questions might be of interest to students, and to new or inexperienced reemactors!

  1. The center of medieval maps was generally
    A. France
    B. Jerusalem
    C. China
    D. Rome
  2. 3. A quern stone was used for
    A. Washing clothes
    B. Grinding grains
    C. Mortar
    D. Executions
  3. The horns on Viking helmets were
    A. A length denoting the rank of the wearer
    B. Five Inches
    C. Ten Inches or More
    D. Viking Helmets had no horns
  4. The first white man to set foot in North America (west of Greenland) was
    A. Christopher Columbus
    B. Saint Brendan
    C. Bjarni Herjolfsson
    D. Leif Eiriksson
  5. A person of the Viking Age most likely would eat
    A. A jalapeño pepper
    B. A carrot
    C. A turnip
    D. A banana
  6. The term “Viking” refers to
    A. A job
    B. A style
    C. A military force
    D. A race
  7. The most popular pet for people in the Viking Age was
    A. A horse
    B. A dog
    C. A dragon
    D. A cat
  8. The British king with a coin with an Islamic text was
    A. Offa
    B. Alfred
    C. Arthur
    D. Richard
  9. The early Norse call spectacles
    A. Magik Eyes
    B. Nothing at all; there weren’t any
    C. Lens
    D. Bifockels
  10. Englisc parliaments were known as
    A. Things
    B. Parlements
    C. Senates
    D. Moots
  11. An ard was
    A. A light plough
    B. An ox
    C. An ale
    D. A small longship
  12. A gerefa was
    A. A reeve
    B. A broom
    C. A pastry
    D. A stableboy

answers: 1-B. 2-B. 3-D. 4-D. 5-C. 6-A. 7-B. 8-A. 9-B. 10-D, 11-A. 12-A.


How well do you know the Early Middle Ages? As we get back into the school year, these questions might be of interest to students, and to new or inexperienced reemactors!

  1. Medieval maps had what direction to the top
    A. East
    B. North
    C. South
    D. West
  2. The magnetic compass was introduced into Europe in
    A. Circa 800
    B. Circa 1200
    C. Circa 1300
    D 1492
  3. In Old Norse, a church was known as
    A A sulu
    B A kirk
    C A picard
    D A coy
  4. Commentary by the scribe in the margin was known as
    A. Marginalia
    B. Commentario
    C. Sidenotes
    D. Textblocks
  5. Books were commonly made in the middle ages from
    A. Parchment or vellum
    B. Paper made of hemp
    C. Metal sheets
    D. Papyrus
  6. Books were protected from being stolen by
    A. Keeping readers naked
    B. Poisoning the pages an keeping the antidote secret
    C. Being protected with a book curse
    D. Requiring another book to be left as hostage
  7. Right Hand pages were known as recto, and Left Hand pages were known as
    A. Leifto
    B. Verso
    C. Contra
    D. Buckram
  8. The movable type press was invented in Europe in
    A. The fourteenth century
    B. The fifteenth century
    C. The eleventh century
    D. The sixteenth century
  9. Books were hand written until
    A. Gutenberg invented movable type in the mid-fifteenth century
    B. Block books were invented in the early fifteenth century
    C. Paper was produced in Europe in the eleventh century
    D. Typewriters were invented in the sixteenth century
  10. Illustrations in books were also known as
    A. Cartoones
    B. Ditkos
    C. Illuminations
    D. Litabits
  11. A frilla was
    A. A large horse
    B. An Icelandic monk
    C. An Englisc queen
    D. A Norse concubine
  12. A Norse sleeping bag was called
    A. A blanket
    B. A hüdfat
    C. They had none
    D. Goksattad sack

answers: 1-A. 2-C. 3-B. 4-A. 5-A. 6-C. 7-B. 8-A. 9-B. 10-C. 11-D. 12-B.


How well do you know the Early Middle Ages? As we get back into the school year, these questions might be of interest to students, and to new or inexperienced reemactors!

  1. Medieval Books were printed on
    A. Paper
    B. Skin
    C. Wool
    D. Horn
  2. A bound book was known as a
    A. Notebook
    B. Rune stone
    C. Scroll
    D. Codex
  3. The first books were bound in
    A. Circa 33
    B. Circa 300
    C. Circa 700
    D Circa 1455
  4. Right- and left-hand pages were known, respectively, as
    A. Dexter and Sinister
    B. Right and Left
    C. Recto and Verso
    D Kumquat and Plantain
  5. Paper was first used in Europe in
    A. Circa 100
    B. Circa 1100
    C. Circa 1350
    D Circa 1612
  6. In Europe, books were hand written until
    A. Circa 1000
    B. Circa 1400
    C. Circa 1455
    D. Circa 1583
  7. Pen nibs were made out of
    A. Feathers
    B. Steel
    C. Copper
    D. Reeds
  8. An individual page was known as
    A. Folo
    B. Folio
    C. Octavo
    D. Octavio
  9. Awls for boring holes were also known as
    A. Needles
    B. Gimlets
    C. Martinis
    D. Seaxes
  10. The movable type press was developed in Europe in
    A. Amerigo Vespucci
    B. William Caxton
    C. Johannes Gutenberg
    D. Marco Polo
  11. The name of the bribe paid to the Norse by the English was
    A. Hoard
    B. Blood Eagle
    C. Pouchware
    D. Danegeld
  12. The first Norseman who encountered Iceland was
    A. Naddoddr
    B. Leifr Eiriksson
    C. Thangbrand
    D. Snorri Sturlusson

answers: 1-B. 2-D. 3-B. 4-C. 5-B. 6-B. 7-D. 8-B. 9-B. 10-C. 11-D. 12-A.


How well do you know the Early Middle Ages? As we get back into the school year, these questions might be of interest to students, and to new or inexperienced reemactors!

  1. The best cure against a head ache is:
    A. Drinking a hen’s egg, mixed in warm ale
    B. Lying on a dog’s head, burned to ashes
    C. Singing nine Pater Nosters
    D. Leeches
  2. In an Anglo-Saxon aphrodisiac, you would likely use:
    A. Deer testicles
    B. A carrot and two plums
    C. Oysters
    D. Leeches
  3. A hiccough is most likely caused by:
    A. Accidentally swallowing an elf
    B. Drinking too quickly
    C. An imbalance of the humors
    D. Fear of Viking Invasion
  4. Which is the best cure against warts?
    A. Applying some leeches
    B. A mixture of dog’s urine and mouse blood
    C. Pray the Pater Noster three times
    D. Cutting them off with a heated knife
  5. In case of severed sinews, apply:
    A. Leeches
    B. Hemp bath
    C. Earthworms
    D. The bark of a young and healthy tree
  6. Throwing a dung beetle over your shoulder and saying “Remedium facio ad ventris dolorem” three times will:
    A. Get rid off an annoying itch between your shoulder blades
    B. Give you the power to cure stomach aches for a full year
    C. Alleviate diarrhea in the entire village
    D. Get rid off the dung beetle
  7. A child has a fever, you:
    A. Apply leeches on its forehead
    B. Have him drink a potation with goat dung
    C. Put it on a rooftop in the sun
    D. Put it in an oven
  8. Against heart ache:
    A. Ribwort, boiled in milk, drink it for nine mornings
    B. Ribwort, boiled in milk, drink it for six mornings
    C. Ribwort, boiled in milk, drink it for three mornings
    D. Ribwort, boiled in milk, drink it for seven mornings
  9. Which one of these remedies is not an actual Anglo-Saxon remedy?
    A. None; They are all real
    B. Against madness, hit the patient with a whip made of dolphin skin
    C. Against a stomach ache, sleep next to a fat child
    D. Against misty eyes, rub the eyes with child’s urine and honey
  10. Your patient has a sore throat, you prescribe:
    A. Nine leeches
    B. Take the neck of a goose and wrap it around the patient’s neck
    C. Gargle with the spittle of a horse
    D. Drink heated honey with some herbs
  11. For a cold
    A. Drink Garlic tea
    B. Fry black snails in a hot pan and rub it to dust and let the man eat the dust
    C. Seethe nettle in oil. Smear and rub all over the body
    D. Take cannabis, pounded. with grease, lay it to the breasts.
  12. A physican was known as
    A. A doctor
    B. A laece
    C. A surgien
    D. A barbour

answers: 1-B. 2-A. 3-A. 4-B. 5-C. 6-C. 7-C. 8-A. 9-A. 10-D. 11-C. 12-B.