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

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DEFINITIONS FOR LIVING HISTORY

For Kael Ball whose comment on farb an acronyms caused me to finish this post!

Some of these terms you might be familiar with. Others unfamiliar. As Lynn Bloom says, “Everyone new to a group…has to learn its code, in language and in behavior, as part of the initiation process. This is how we enter and become part of a discourse community.” Here are a few terms that that you will encounter in reenactments:

AO

Authenticity (or Accuracy) Officer, who is given the power to decide on the historical accuracy of an item.

Boffer

Mock combat with foam weapons.

Farb

Anything inaccurate, first seen in American Civil War reenacting in the 1960s. Origins are uncertain, but it may come from the phrase, “Far Be It for Me to Criticize, But…”

First Person

An impassions where you pretend to be from another time and behave in that manner, so that you do not know anything that happened after the date of your impression.

Frog and Feathers

French and Indian.

Jubbly

Anything not period accurate. The word originated as the name of a British orange drink in the 1950s, and it was later popularized as street slang. One theory is that its use in reenacting described someone who dresses as though they came from a jumble (yard) sale.

Kit

The possessions of a reenactor that might have been owned by his impression. A kit may be dictated by military regulations or merely be objects that a person of a particular time might have owned. Battle kit is a term often used to describe a fighter’s uniform, armor and arms.

MoP

Member of the Public; a spectator.

Period

i) An abstract term referring to historically authentic dress, mannerisms, etc.; ii) being in the style of an historical period.

Ramada Ranger

A reenactor who stays in a hotel instead of camping.

Reenactorism

Modern invention that is accepted and promoted as accurate to the period though if it is not.

Retro Research

Creating an artifact without doing research and then trying to find documentation that will justify it.

Ropeline

i) The real or imaginary line between which everything should be historically accurate.
Public Hours; ii) the times when the historical accuracy behind the Ropeline must be adhered.

Second Person

An impression where you present yourself as a person from another time, but you can break impression to comment on things that happened after the date of your impression. Also knownas a ghost impression.

Thenty

Accurate, coming from the term “authentic.”

Third Person

An impression where you present yourself as a person of the present and, therefore, know things after the date of your impression.

Three-Foot (or Three-Foot etc.) Rule

Something seems accurate at three feet, or any designated distance.

ACRONYMS UNIQUE TO LIVING HISTORY

A selection of acronyms not necessarily restricted to a single era! Feel free to contribution new an d additional acronyms!

Acronyms are everywhere nowadays, and many acronyms have vastly varying meanings. These are not necessarily universally used reenactors. But probably should be!

ACW
American Civil War
AO
Authenticity Officer
AWI
American War of Independence
BM
British Museum
CRAP
Can’t Really Actually Provenance

CW

Colonial Williamsburg
DA
Early Middle Ages. From the discredited term “Dark Ages”
ECW
English Civil War
LHE
Living History Exhibit
MA
Master at Arms or Middle Ages
MoP
Member of the Public (a MoPpet is a young Member of the Public)
MTA
Military Training Officer
SHITS
Seriously Hideous Inauthentic Trash
TAPS
Thick As Pig Shit
VA
Viking Age or Albert and Victoria Museum
VMA
Viking Middle Ages

ESSENTIAL TOOLS

Having access to or possessing certain items is essential. Having a loom, a desk or a work table is certainly essential. However, even more essential are those minor tools that can be easily transported and used. The fabled Mästermyr tool chest is an example of a traveling artisan who certainly had to borrow—or construct—a place where these tools can be used.

The following are essential, to be certain and should work for most basic activities, but they are just a start! All these tools were chosen because they were so often seen that they were ubiquitous and small enough to be easily held and transported.

Agriculture

Axe
Hoe
Mallet/Mall
Rake
Shovel
Sickle/Scythe

For a more complete list of what tools might be owned, consult the list in “The Discriminating Reeve” to choose what might be of use.

Cooking

Knife (Large)
Pot (metal or Stone; a tripod or trivet is also recommended, though a temporary surface of some sort can be made with stones)
Spoon (Large)

Leatherworking

Awl
Cutting tool (Sharp Knife or Shears)
Needle

Metalworking Tools

Hammer
Tongs

Textiles

Needle
Pins
Shears, Scissors or Snips
Spindle Whorl and Stick

Weapons

Spear

Woodworking Tools

Axe
Hammer (a Mall type, not a specialist hammer)
Tongs (also known as Pliers)
Wedge (metal or wood)

I have recounted above the basic tools needed for those activities with which I am accustomed. If there is an activity with which you are familiar that is not mentioned here (or a tool for one of these activities you find essential but mentioned here), please let me know!

WITHOUT A WORD VI: BUTTER

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 would like butter or fat, stroke with your three fingers on the inside of your hand.

ESSENTIALS

For living in the Viking Age, what would be the essential goods owned by a person?

I would suggest the following:
Tunic and Undertunic (or dress and apron/hangeroc and underdress)
Braises or stockings (unless you are warm)
Some kind of socks if the braises or stockings had no sock feet
Shoes
Cloak
A knife
A bowl
A cup

(unless, of course, you want to be a þrall or þraell)

Beyond that, it becomes two different matters. And even some of these—such as the shoes or the cloaks—are dependent on the weather in most instances.

Most would have a belt or sash of some sort, possibly just a length of rope or fabric If you are rich, there is no end of what someone would own. If you were literate—probably a cleric—you would have a Bible and perhaps other books relating to religious thought. Even the poorest of people—even the þralls—might have a religious pendant, a game of some sort and perhaps a souvenir, just a stone that attracted his fancy. Workmen had the necessary tools to do their trade.

The important thing is that all items owned by a person would be from the same culture and of the same cost. There might be an exception—a souvenir or gift—but here I am talking about a single item, and if the item was very expensive, the chances are that it would not be often flaunted!

But not everyone would have such an item. I might well vary from person to person according to taste and what is necessary.

What is the point of these observation? Merely this…

When you are starting reenactment, take pains that everything should be of the same class. Your first outfit might very well be rather primitive. As long as it is accurate in its composition, color and style, it does not matter how sophisticated it is. In fact, having a sophisticated piece of clothing that is cheaply done is often more comical than accurate. When you are acquiring your first set of period clothing—and all subsequent sets as well—you must carefully research and recreate. When determining what your clothing should look like, you should carefully avoid almost every film, most comic books and books by authors such as Iris Brooks, Herbert Norris and Ruth Turner Wilcox. Instead, consult such books as the various Textiles and Clothing books, Þor Ewing’s Viking Costume or Gale R. Owen-Crocker’s Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Good luck, work hard and have a good but accurate time!

WITHOUT A WORD XI: GIMME A BOOK!

Actually give me a bible, but I just did this as a cover for the Folump catalog and really liked it!

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 would have a book, move your hand back and forth, raise up your thumb and set your hand flat against your chest.

A SELF-PROMOTING “REVIEW”

I am proud to announce the publication of a new book, Everyday Early Medieval Life. It is directed toward reenactors, though it may be of interest to non-reenactors who are interested in early medieval history. My background is modern journalism, and I have tried to back up all assertions with citations. Finding these citations was difficult, since they deal with subjects of little interest to many archaeologists, historians and so many “Combat Wombat” reenactors!

It deals with the contents of pouches, the kinds of shoes worn, accurate tentage, accurate furniture and much more, along with notes on what is generally accepted—often referred to as reenactorisms—but is farby to the extreme. Besides the citations, the book includes a bibliography, a complete table of contents, original illustrations, period illustrations, photographs of reenactment sites and photographs of period replicas from my collection. Here are a few photos of pages from the book:

Roland Ambrose. Everyday Early Medieval Life , containing revised, corrected and enlarged reprints of the previously published chapbooks: Not an Anchor but a Mast, Luxuries of the Long House, Drink Until the Tables Are Cleared and Let the Sea-Serpent’s Couch Slip out of Your Pouch. Folump Enterprises; $20. https://www.etsy.com/listing/1059818789/everyday-early-medieval-life?ref=shop_home_active_1&fbclid=IwAR3OJ43aZuemVl3iQ1_hoVTrnhgDqQp86Vet0LdR9acCtaQg-E-YbjXzyrM

WITHOUT A WORD IIII: KNIFE

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 a knife, cut with one finger over the other as if carving.

FINDING THAT “PERFECT” SUPPLIER OF REENACTING GEAR

Getting tired of reading about buffs complaining pretentiously that a vendor should be despised because the vendor is selling things that are not a hundred percent accurate and affordable.

Let’s face it, As the saying goes, good reenacting is not inexpensive. Reenacting materials can be inexpensive. And it can be accurate. But getting them both at the same time is nearly impossible unless you are dealing with previously owned materials, with gifts from friends and makers that do not want to make any sort of a profit. Having a vendor who offers moderately inexpensive and moderately accurate merchandise is, no matter what people say, legitimate as long as the vendor does not say that they are all perfect for any reenactor.

The basic thing is that any reenactor must examine all pieces of merchandise according to the accuracy requirements that he adheres to. Generally but not necessarily a society’s regs. These vary from vague and ambiguous enough to encourage new members with the least amount of work to a printed book that explains the regulations. These are taken from the Regiaanglorum authenticity manual and re copyreight Regia Anglorum. We use the terms Encouraged (common), Optional (less common), Allowable (with AO’s permission and provision) and Unacceptable. If an object is Allowable, you must consult with the AO! The opinion of the vendor should not be acceptable for the ratings of accuracy unless it includes photos of extant artefacts or legitimate provenance!

What this means is that almost no piece of kit may be worn on the line or displayed to the public without some modification! When someone complains how farby a dealer is, perhaps you should take a closer look at the situation and see why the buff dislikes the vendor!

Making modifications to insure that a piece of kit is acceptable to the authenticity regs of your society is essential to your shopping. It is necessary. Almost nothing is going to be perfect in the eyes of the buff (and keep in mind that their interpretations of accuracy might not be the same as yours). The cost and time required to make the necessary modifications must be allotted. Snarky descriptions and condescending comments on the vendor must not!

Items Found in Pouches

Much of the following has been taken from “The Great Pouch Debate” by A. McVie, A. NichoIson and G. Waidsom.

There are few extant pouches that have been found, and there seems to be arelustance to say what they contain–if anything remains. Andrew Nicholson noted in private conversation that, “organic survival is difficult.” “Buried Vikings: Excavating Cumwhitton’s cemetery” notes in Current Archaeology 294 that “Initially, all were X-rayed to determine their contents. Then, using the X-rays as a guide, the blocks were carefully excavated, and the objects stabilised, cleaned, and conserved as they emerged from the encasing soil,” but finding these contents is difficult! This page is not finished and may very well be added to and corrected as we received the information.

*McVie et. al. notes, “the citation does no say whether these are human or animal.”

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