RELIGION & REENACTING THE VIKING AGE
In a recent entry, we discussed the inadvisability of combining modern politics with historical reenacting from two very different perspectives. First that if your society is a not-for-profit [nfp] group, you are forbidden so to do and that even non-nfp groups who are trying to honor historical integrity should avoid muddying the waters by affecting historical accuracy by aligning historical interpretation with modern political interpretation. The second was that most modern political thought has next to nothing to do with historical process. This week, we will comment on something similar that should be avoided for many of the same reasons.
This is, of course, religion, but it is merely a concern that religion is forbidden by nfp status and by the integrity of an accurate historical interpretation in a similar matter. The inclusion of religion is made even more complex by the fact that religious portrayal might offend the devout who might by offended that a nonbeliever is portraying a believer (or by a nonbeliever because he does not want any faith or religious practices to be forced on him) or that any portrayal by himself might be seen as a blasphemy or a burlesque of his own belief.
However, the fact remains that religious thought moulded so much and so many of the cultures of the past. To ignore religion entirely is like ignoring an important part of the culture and is as foolish, especially for the medieval era as creating a society that ignores religion but that allows members to wear modern spectacles or sneakers!
This is not to say that merely representing you as the member of a modern faith is in any way less anti-educational. After all, t truth is that representing an out-of-period faith to mops is as bad as representing how an ak47 was used by Norse berserkers! Out-of-period faiths are legion. And while many if not most incorporate parts of faith that might be compatible with the period faith, they are still out-of-period. Even the faiths that existed were very much different from those of the current day:
Judaism (there is little or no indication that Judaism existed at all in Britain or northern Europe at this time; the Norse of course encountered Jews in other areas and there were probably even converted Norse Jews)
Islam (for the most part, Muslims were forbidden to travel in non-Muslim lands, so they did not exist in Britain or northern Europe at this time; the Norse of course encountered Muslims in other areas and there were probably even converted Norse Muslims)
Roman Catholicism or Greek Orthodox (they were Christians; there was greater difference between Celtic and Latin Christians; until the Great Schism of the eleventh century, there was no official differences between these faiths. Even today, there is a disagreement as to whether the Great Schism birthed one faith or the other!)
Faiths listed in the following incomplete list are very much out of period (although there is controversy over the exact dates they were founded):
Lutheran (sixteenth century)
Anglican or Church of England (sixteenth century)
Presbyterian (sixteenth century)
Puritan (sixteenth century)
Baptist (seventeenth century)
Quaker (seventeenth century)
Amish or Mennonite (eighteenth century)
Methodist (eighteenth century)
Mormon (nineteenth century)
Asatru (nineteenth century; many of the myths date back no further than the writings of the thirteenth-century Christian author, Snorri Sturlusson)
Wiccan (twentieth century)
Scientology (twentieth century)
For some, their modern religious faith is essential to their own self images, and they cannot bring themselves to say or do anything at odds with their modern faiths and sacraments. Some do not even admit that their faith has changed through the years. Others refuse to incorporate anything religious into their impressions because they are atheist.
However, it is important to remember that it is reenACTING. Just as an actor in a stage drama or in a film is not expected to be channeling their full faith (there are exceptions of course, mainly proselyting films underwritten by religious sources that are designed to be shown in Sunday schools or to the already “faithful” or to change the infidels’ beliefs), but how many viewers assume that Charlton Heston was a Jew because he portrayed one in “Ben Hur” or that Al Pacino was an Roman Catholic because he ordered heinous deeds during a religious ceremony in “The Godfather”? Or necessarily that Derek Jacobi was a Catholic or Joseph Fiennes is a Lutheran or…
Anyone who wants to give an accurate historical portrayal must concede that part of the portrayal is acting or not do reenacting at all!