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

Latest

MINI SEAX

Watched two Woody Fields films (without commentary; I have four more on order!) and mounted my mini-seax/patch knife. Rather pleased with the results!

I received the knife from Townsends and may be ordering five or six more because I kept thinking of other variations I can do, and I’m thinking a few more for sale when we get back to events (Miss Julie says, it is rather cute)! Most knives from Townsend are slab tanged, but those of our time the knife at least could be rat tanged. I’ll be making sheathes for them as well.

I have three small seaxes that are period. Not very popular because buyers want big mucking blades they can hang beneath their six-inch wide belts…

FIRST MICEL FOLCLAND PUB QUIZ!

Don’t be a luddyduddy, don’t be a mooncalf, don’t be a jabbernow! Join us for the first Micel Folcland Pub Quiz! We are going to have the first Micel Folcland Pub Quiz on Thursday, 9 December at 6 cst on Zoom. Hopefully, you will find it as much fun as the last year and a half of Regia Pub Quizzes have been! And there will be time for show and tell, q&a and other things that will help bring members of the group and others interested in Viking Age reenacting together!

Here is a possible question. Questions do not necessarily have to do with our era and culture, but I think they are all interesting and informative!

What is the tallest statue in the world, where is it, how tall is it and when was it completed?

You do not have to be a member of Regia Anglorum to attend!

WHEN IS THE VIKING AGE?

People seem to love to define eras very precisely. But then most people love to make definitions and then argue like crazy with anyone who has a different idea. For the most part, the common education system relies on being able to make these definitions.

I suppose that I am no exception. So…

I define the Viking Age as the time when the Viking ship—the drakkar, the knarr and the othwr types—was the greatest weapons of the time, just as the atomic bomb was the greatest weapon of the Atomic Age. The Viking ship was about the foremost of its time, though variations leading up to its invention could be found in many culture prior to their appearance on the scene. They were shallow, clinker-built ships propelled both by sail and by oars. They were quick and maneuverable, perfect for hit-and-run raids/expeditions.

The Viking ship was invented in…well, we do not know. It was probably a developed over many years, and not only is it difficult to say when it was developed, it is difficult to say at what step you could call it a Viking ship. And though many smaller boats today are built on the Viking ship ideal, when can you definitely say that the Viking ship was no longer made except as reproductions. They tried experiments—like a castle such as the cog, which succeeded it, had at its stern and sometimes both ends and never quite worked. But at either end of the timeline, they were not the preeminent weapon of the time…even if the exact times cannot be pinpointed.

Vikings were thugs. Many people try to portray them as bucolic, peaceful flower children who probably wandered around with flowers in their hair. But if you read the descriptions by contemporaries (…the raiding-army became much stirred up against the bishop, because he did not want to offer them any money, and forbade that anything might be granted in return for him. Also they were very drunk, because there was wine brought from the south. Then they seized the bishop, led him to their hustings on the Saturday in the octave of Easter, and then pelted him there with bones and the heads of cattle; and one of them struck him on the head with the butt of an axe, so that with the blow he sank down and his holy blood fell on the earth, and sent forth his holy soul to God’s kingdom.” Anglo-Saxon Chronicle translated by Michael Butler Swanton) and even by their own sagas (“Next morning they found Hálfdán Hálegg on Rinar’s Hill. The Earl made a blood eagle be cut on his back with the sword, and had his ribs severed from the back-bone, and his lungs pulled out. Thus he gave him to Odinn as an offering for victory…” Orkneyin Saga, translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie), they were thugs. Of course, as I have said so many times before, everybody of the time were thugs! It is very hard for me to exclude everyone but the Norse in the Viking Age. For example, the Englisc and the Norse were very similar. Differences were in the details (and that is the source of accuracy, so do not lecture me 🙂 ). So never think the Viking Age just said one side of the struggle was evil!

To be succinct, my definition of the Viking Ages is not the common 783–1066 (the raid on Lindisfarn until Stamford Bridge. After all, there were earlier Viking raids on many less famous locations (Iona and Portland for example) and the Vikings still made raids later (the 1070 claim of England by Sven Estridsson at Humber to claim England and even later), but this is mainly an English definition, and the definition is different in other locations. I like round numbers. For no specific reason, I define the Viking Age as 750–1100. Your definition might—should!—be different!

What started my musings on the matter was a video by The Welsh Viking. It is a thoughtful and perhaps controversial piece. Watch it, think and do not accept what others are stating as fact. What is your definition of the Viking Age?

(Though I disagree with his assertion that you have to be a heathen to be a Viking…)

WITHOUT A WORD VIIII: SHEARS

Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

The sign of shears is to move the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand on some cloth, as if to cut it with shears.

PROJECTS FOR THE PANDEMIC VIII: MAKING A HOME FOR YOUR SEAX

I purchased two seax blades—from Germany, one more of a scramseax, a contemporary term sometimes used for longer seaxes. Damascus steel and pretty darned pretty! I won’t go into hilting them, because I did not use a ferrule and just attached the blade to the hilt through a hole driven in the wood. Some note that this is done by heating the tang, but I have personally never been able to heat it enough. YMMV.

However, I would like to speak a little on the sheath for the smaller seax. In fact, the necessity for making new sheathes was one of the reasons I purchased the blades in the first place.

While many people might not believe it, we have plenty of artefactual evidence for how seaxes were carried in the day! I consulted a favorite book, Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York by Quita Mould. Ian Carlisle and Esther Camerom, published by the Council for British Archaeology. It has a variety of shapes that have been found in Coppergate. I already an idea of what shape of sheath I wanted. I considered using a brass edge, as many sheathes of the period were so edged, though I consider that not only a trifle posh but a bit beyond my metal-working skills! I found a shape that I liked and used it, while changing the stitching a little so that I used a chain stitch on the outside, without any wood that the leather covered.

I chose veggie-tanned leather, about .24 inches (2.3 mm) thick. The size of the sheath itself is determined by the length and size. By trial and error—not much by this time—I determined how to cut the leather by laying the shape found in the book against it. I then bent it double and clamped the sides together, punching sewing holes with an awl, Using the two-needle method, I sewed the sheath in a lock/saddle stitch, sewing it with waxed 5 ply linen thread (sinew could be used as well, though you should stay away from cotton or polyester thread). I tied off the ends to make the stitching more secure.

I inserted the knife into the sheath and then dunked it in water so that the leather would shape and constrict. I did learn to be careful clamping, since there is a tendency for metal clips to discolor and streak the wet leather. Make certain there is enough room for the seax to enter and to leave the sheath easily. Oil, while making it easier for the leather to hold the shape, has a tendency to discolor the leather as well.

I finished it off by punching a hole into the sheath where it was indicated on the drawing. I used leather on the first and a hemp cord on the second, then attached it to my belt so that it hung usefully at my side. Wearing it tht way in a modern flding chair dangerously entanmgled it, so using a period stool or bech is more important than just being accurate!

Although YAT has found red-dyed leather sheathes and thinks additional colors were plausible, I did not dye the leather. The leather discolors naturally, assuming a pleasant patina, and I like the effect. Period sheaths were also often decorated with leather carving, using popular designs, so you can use knives or stamps on the finished sheath.

WITHOUT A WORD VII: EGGS

Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you need eggs, scrape with your finger up on your left thumb.

MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION: IIII

Here are a few possible occupations, separated according to gender. Many occupations could be followed by members of either gender, though there were more of one than the other, and. This is only a sampling:

Male

Artist, Painter, Scribe
Bee Keeper
Beggar
Brewer
Carpenter
Cook
Egg (Wild) Collector
Farmer
Fisherman
Fyrdsman (militia)
Hunter
Jeweler
Læce (doctor)
Lord
Lady
Miller
Miner
Moneyer
Monk
Potter
Priest
Sailor
Shepherdess
Skald, Scop
Slave (Þrall or Þraell)
Tradesman
Warrior (Professional)
Warrior

Female

Artist, Painter, Scribe
Beggar
Brewer
Cook
Concubine (prostition was apparently not found until later)
Dyer
Farmer
Jeweler
Laundress
Læce (doctor)
Lady
Potter
Nun
Shepherdess
Slave (Þrall, Þraell or ammmmm)
Tradeswoman
Camp Follower
Weaver

The Final Impression

There is no such thing as a final, finished impression. It should always be added to and corrected to depending on research and new discoveries or interpretations. But above all else, your impression and its construction should be fun! So, have fun and good luck!

MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION: III

Primary Questions

These a few standard questions that should be answered as you finalize or refine your impression:

• What is your name?
• Where were you born?
• Do you read and write?
• What is your state of health?
• What diseases have you suffered?
• Are you married? Divorced Widowed?
• Do you have any unique skills or talents?
• How do you get from one place to the other?
• Are there customary talents that are common to your station and class?
• What clothing is typical of your station?
• Do you own property?
• What is your occupation?

Occupation

There was a wide variety of jobs that were practiced in the early middle ages. Some of the job titles originated or were popular only later, but they were performed throughout much of the early middle ages.

Many of these jobs were trained positions, so that craftsmen specialized even in homes, and persons might identify as a practitioner of more than one occupation. Most were not full time employments, and it is misleading to say most were professions.

In our next installment, we will list some of the occupations. Many occupations were hereditary and even became used for later names though there were temporary exceptions, based on current needs!

MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION: II

CONSTRUCTING YOUR IMPRESSION

Name

What name do you use in reenacting? Is it the original form of the name or atranslation of the original Norse name? Is it a modernization or an Anglicization or some other transformation?

The use of a transformed name is rather endemic in many of the books that are otherwise full of vital information. There is an attempt, it seems, to make the modern spellings and pronunciations of the names, probably to make things more comfortable for the mainstream reader. However, looking at any good book, there is often an attempt to compromise between these two. If you want a name in its original form, the name that is given in the modern, more instantly recognizable form, you often find that the traditional form is given as well, in parentheses, in a footnote or even in an endnote. If it is not there and you want to use the original name, you should be able to track it down easily on the internet.

The reenactor must also deal with this, and there is no perfect answer. Just be very careful not to mix the names at a reenactment, which comes very close to intermingling the names of Greek and Roman Gods in the same project, a situation that is immediately hilarious in many cases. I prefer the use of a totally period name, but even that becomes questionable because in most cases, it is a modern interpretation that may or may not have been used in period.

When choosing a name, make certain that you know how and why names were constructed, and know the accuracy of the source. While it may be amusing to know the supposed meaning of a name, it is more important to know its origins. The baby-name books which list names and their meanings, however, might be amusing but are generally of very doubtful accuracy and should be regarded only s a starting point for further investigation.

Ethnicity, Class & Nationality

Keep in mind that ethnicity, class and nationality—or the combination hereof—will determine not only your name, often your costume (while styles of costume did not vary from location to location, details did have an effect) and must be considered. The addition of a single piece from another ethnicity or nationality is allowed by most groups, though more than one specific inclusion shoul be seen at single event since the common goal of living history is to represent everyday life. Ethnicity and nationality are also determined by feasability, since the goal for true living history is historic accuracy and not cheap pulp fantasy.

What ethnicity and nationality does not necessarily determine is the skin color. From ancient times, people of different races were easily found in the same ethnicity, class or nationality. Illustrations from the time indicate this, though primary literary sources do not since it was of such little importance to them. Racial prejudices seem to have started much later; at this time, religious prejudices were much more important!

MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION: I

In living history, the term “impression” refers to how a reenactor is dressing, behaving and presenting to the public and to fellow reenactors. A reenactor can create a feasible & believable persona impression. That impression—also referred to as persona or character—tells you how you should dress, behave and present yourself and is, therefore, integral in making certain that your living-history portrayal is not just another fantasy LARP.

PERSON IMPRESSIONS

By this we refer to how a reenactor presents himself to the public. There are three sorts of these approaches of dealing with the presentation.

First-Person

This is an acting option where you portray yourself as a person from the time being portrayed. People with first-person impressions cannot give any hint that they know after the time they portray, though they do not have to speak in the common language of the time.

Third-Person

This is more a dress-up than an acting option. While you accurately dress as a person from another time, you do not portray yourself as a person of that time. You know things after the time of you portray and can help to put it all in perspective with the rest of history—even today—when talking to a MoP.

Second-Person

This is a combination of first- and third-person impressions—sometimes also referred to as a ghost impression—where a person usually portray himself as a person of the time but can break into this portrayal to be a modern person if needed to clarify things.

There are some people who say a third person impression means that you really do not need an impression. I disagree vehemently. The impression tells you what you should wear and what you would know. Otherwise, you might wear an eleventh-century tunic, cotton pyjama bottoms, rhinestone sunglasses and Keds, telling everyone you are a Viking…

Historical Impression

Most impressions are of everyday persons of the time, and living history itself usually deals with is standard. Yes, they have a Buddha statue in Viking-Age Helgo, Sweden, but the chances are that not everyone had a Buddha statue!

The exception is when the person portrays an actual person from the time: King Ælfred, Knúdr the Great, Sir Walter Raleigh or Abraham Lincoln for example. These are first-person impressions on high octane, since you must not only be well versed with what an ordinary person of the time knows but with actual biographical data.