ADVICE TO BEGINNING VIKING-AGE REENACTORS 2
Bright colors for the most part as well, at least if you’re not doing a posh impression. However, the term for “black” was identical to that for “blue,” indicating that many translations of black must be regarded with a bit of skepticism. There are some people who insist that with massive over-dyeing, black is possible with period natural dyes, but it is unlikely that anyone would want so much to have black garments that they would commit to the time and the expense necessary. See Þor Ewing’s essay on colored clothing.
Display Tattoos and Piercings
There is no doubt that the Norse had tattoos since ibn Fadlan tells us in the narrative of his travels among the Viking Rus that “Each one of them has from the tip of nails to the neck figures, trees, and other things, tattooed in dark green.” There is a probability that the Anglo-Saxons did as well, though much of this comes from pro-tattoo sources who make a loose interpretation of a line in William of Poitiers’ account of the Battle of Hastings. In both cases, the exact design of the tattoos were not given, and modern tattoos are only supposition. Tattoos—especially of things like the Tasmanian Devil in a horned helmet—should not be seen by MoPs!
The same does not go for piercings. We have enough artifacts that are probably women’s earrings to know that some had a single set in their ears. However, men did not have any, and since other piercings have not been verified at all, piercings should not be seen by the MoPs.
In both cases, hiding the tattoos and piercings beneath clothing is recommended (my wife demanded her tattooist put her tattoo where it could not be seen in low-cut Italian Renaissance gowns). If that is impossible, a bandage or a similar cover is recommended.
Regarding scarification, if the design looks like something beyond a weapon wound, please keep it disguised!
Go Shirtless (if a man)
We are told that a man exposing his chest was effeminate and a reason for divorce, since only women should expose their chests (probably a reference to breast feeding, though modern minds usually leap to a more prurient interpretation). Despite appearances in films, comics and pulp fiction of bare-chested Vikings. This is most probably fantasy (the exception are Saturday night bathing, which was completely nude and allegedly a popular time for attack by Anglo-Saxons since they knew the men would be separated from their weapons). Looking at the Julius and Tiberius work calendars, the common man in the field does not take off his shirt. What they would do, if the illustrations are true, they would remove their pants to keep cool!
Wear a Leather Belt (if a woman)
If we go by the size of buckles, most belt of the Norse during the Viking Age are half an inch in size, and most societies restrict them to an inch at the largest. The modern concept of World Wrestling Federation sized belts is a reenactorism at best and farby trash at worst!
In addition, women might not have worn belts, or worn them only while performing specific tasks. Fittings were found in Britain with tortoise brooches, indicating that accouterments were hung at the breast. In Scandinavia, in the words of Shelagh Lewins, they “have not found graves with female accoutrements and metal belt fittings.” It is suggested that women reenactors do not regularly wear belts. When they do, they should eschew leather belts and restrict themselves to fabric belts, such as card-woven wool. Regia recommends that belts for women, if the have to be worn, be the same color as the gown it holds so that they are immediately so noticeable.
Carry a Plastic or Paper Bag from a Vendor
Often times at events, there are modern vendors who will stuff purchases in plastic bags (or the purchases themselves are obviously modern), and a person in kit carrying around a plastic bag is tantamount to wearing a sign around you neck that says “FARB.” Rather, while shopping, carry with you a bag or basket that shields the contents from view (not a net bag unless you are carrying things that you don’t mind might be seen by the MoPs).
In addition, such a bag or basket should be period. A cloth Spider-Man bag is no better than a plastic bag! For an indication of what is period and accurate, look at period illustrations, which must be carefully inspected and interpreted since it contains objects that are, not strictly speaking, from our period.
Wear Mugs or Horns on Your Belt
There is no example of this done in period. After all, they were not wandering from party to party in search of alcohol. They were at home (where drinking vessels were readily accessible), in military camps (where drinking vessels, if used, would certainly not be carried on the belt into combat) and at parties (where they were probably provided by the hosts). The use of vessels hanging from the belt seems to be a Scadian and Renn Faire interpretation!
Canteens were in common use to transport potations. They were undoubtedly out of leather, though we do have the sample of a ceramic canteen that is made to look like a leather one!