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

Archive for November, 2012

ADVICE TO BEGINNING VIKING-AGE REENACTORS 4

DO NOT

Discuss Modern Politics or Religion (except to show contrasts between modern and period politics and religion)

This is especially important if your society is a NFP charity!

It should go without saying that modern politics has nothing to do with reenactment until a candidate notes how improper it is (like US Republicans did with a Democratic challenger who plays World of Warcraft or the Democrats did with Republican who once dressed as a Nazi [though they were displeased with the Nazi impression and not with reenacting per se]). Hopefully, your reenacting society is not a modern political debating society as well!

However, religion has as much to do with reenactment. After all, the Catholic Church of the time was considerably different from that which exists today, let alone the Protestant, the Mormon and the Scientology churches, and the status of Judaism and Islam was very different, especially when it has been conjectured that there were Jewish and Muslim Norse Vikings (converting so they could trade more easily with these peoples). Even the modern Asatru movement is based upon a modern interpretation and probably has little to do with period heathenism!

It is admissible to talk about the faith of your impression—and every reenactor should have some idea of what the faith of the time was like—but keep it separate from modern faith when speaking with MoPs!

Buy Too Many of the Exact Same Items

Not merely personally, but you should avoid getting the same thing as your mates if they will all be displayed in the same or adjacent areas. For the most part, the era of the Viking Age was not a cookie cutter age. Everything was slightly different and did not look like everything else of that sort. Things were mainly hand made and not manufactured, using the technology that we have today to make everything the same. Even items that were mass-produced, for example in a mould, no doubt differed slightly fromever other product of tht same mould. Seeing the same item in camp site after camp site is giving everyone an inaccurate view of the past!

There sometimes seems to be a tendency to make reproductions, not merely replicas. For our purposes, a reproduction is an exacting duplicate of an original; a replica is an approximate duplicate which differs from the original but that maintains many of the artifact’s specifics and doesn’t violate of them but is a hand-made artifact of its own.

I try to make replicas. That means that every item I produce is unique; it probably differs slightly from any other. It isn’t meant to be different, and I just take no pains to make an exacting duplicate. Even items that were mass produced—we have period moulds for casting jewelry, for example—were slightly different because they were each finished individually and by hand. Therefore, the objects in your camp should not look as if they came from cookie cutters. There should be a variation, end products that are made with a varying amount of skills. Having everything look the same does not give a realistic view of the past.

Even when purchasing instead of making items, there is a tendency toward having everything alike. That is because there is an understandable tendency by vendor to provide items that are exactly the same. There is no other way to make money without using modern manufacturing methods! That does not mean that you have to buy an artifact that looks like the artifact that everyone else has. Patronize workers who personally make unique and hand-made items. Not only are you supporting their efforts, but you are making your set-up look more unique!

Buy Anything That You Don’t Research

In all eras of reenacting, this is a common admonition. Unless you are looking for something to display on your mantle, don’t just buy things because they are glitzy or attractive to you. When shopping for an artifact to buy, research it and see how close it is to originals. Many societies urge newcomers to go shopping only with an experienced old hand—but even these sorts of folk might be vulnerable to reenactorisms and ignorance. Our group has a shopping guide, where photos of artifacts illustrate knives, pottery so forth. A copy is essential when walking around, looking at vendors’ wares!

Buy an Object That Cannot Be Customized

Hardly anything sold is 100% accurate, and most things have to be customized or altered in some way. When you see an item you want or need but which is slightly inaccurate but which it is within your ability to make accurate, do not hesitate. Think of it as a new project!

To get an idea of what one society requires for an accurate portrayal of the past, see Regia Anglorum’s Authenticity Regs

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ADVICE TO BEGINNING VIKING-AGE REENACTORS 3

DO NOT

Wear Broad-Rimmed Hats

There is every indication that broad-brimmed, especially straw hats were used in earlier times, but the first medieval illustration of someone in such a hat comes in the twelfth century, probably a century or two after the Viking Age ended. If you look at people in the sun in the Julius or Tiberius work calendars, hats are not used. Even the head coverings generally worn in the time are caps without brims. Hoods were used and, and persons wanting to shield their eyes from the sun are encouraged to use hoods!

Eat Obviously Inaccurate Foods in Camp

At shows, there is sometimes a tendency to buy what food is available, and that usually means that the food is not accurate. Whenever possible, a wic should be set up to prepare accurate foods, but let’s face it, that is not always possible. But modern foods should be consumed in a private, farb area.

Eat from Non-Period Plates

When foods purchased is not modern or at least not obviously modern, it may be consumed behind your ropeline, but care should be taken that it is not consumed on non-period plates using non-period utensils. Styrofoam or plastic plates should be avoided. Plastic spoons and forks—and forks of any kind–should be avoided. Transfer the foods onto period tableware—bowls, trenchers, etc.—outside of the area or bring them into your camp disguised in a bag or box and transfer it onto a piece of period tableware. Back in the public area, eating using your knife, your period spoon or even your fingers.

Be careful not to use a paper napkin when cleaning up. You don’t necessarily need a hound upon whom you can wipe your hand, and you need not wipe your hands on your clothing. However, fabric napkins are period and easily made!

Mix Too Many Cultures and Periods

There are many indications that people during the Viking Age had objects that came from other cultures and that they used objects from their history if they were still practical. See the Buddha in Sweden, pre-historic “thunderstones” found in Norse graves, revered stone-age relics and ancient coins. However, these were probably exceptions and such combinations should not be regularly done. In addition, from a modern reenacting perspective, having too many objects of this sort in your camp gives an inaccurate impression of everyday life of the time!

Be Ignorant of Time and Culture

Do not concentrate on a certain aspect of reenactment and have it be adrift inside questions and interest. Although knowing the ruling monarchy is the source of much boredom in historical education, it is part of the larger picture. Be able to fit your impression within the culture, to answer MoPs’ questions and, if necessary, say that you do not know the answer but know with whom they should speak. Many groups will write down questions they cannot answer, specifically research them and be able to answer with confidence the next time they come up.

Commonplace books, containing such trivia and information, is not part of our period. They were first found in the fourteenth century in Italy (reportedly with the development of paper), and also known as the “hodgepodge book” contained trivia and bits of information of interest to the writer, Wikipedia notes that the term is “a translation of the Latin term locus communis…which means “a theme or argument of general application”, such as a statement of proverbial wisdom.” Commonplace books were greatly used by English school children in the eighteenth century and have retained their popularity to this very day, though modern technology has certainly changed the way they are presented and preserved! Our group has several hundred pages, bound in a period style and never to be read by a MoP, but which contains scads of vital information that can be read by and used by members!

A history and notes on creating a commonplace book may be found on line, including this source. However, despite its use and practicality, they should never be referred to as commonplace books when speaking with the MoPs. That is totally wrong!

Feature Inappropriate Activities at Your Events

There is a tendency by some to approach serious Viking reenactment as just another renaissance fair, and this means that many Viking events features activities and entertainments that are inaccurate to the max! Do not feature such inaccurate activities at any “Viking” event you sponsor, including the game of Kubb (dating from the 1960s), belly dancing, inappropriate music and dancing. You are miseducating the MoPs, who will go away knowing that Vikings went to their mead halls and spent the evening casting runes for fortune telling, watching hoochy-koochy dancers and singing songs that were only written down in the eighteenth century!

If your group or society is participating in a more lax fair, keep this in mind and try to remain accurate in your corner of the fair!