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

Archive for June, 2014


More wit, wisdom and philosophy from literary works of the Viking Age:

Faþer vár es ert a himnom, verði nafn þitt hæilagt
Til kome ríke þitt, værði vili þin
sva a iarðu sem í himnum.
Gef oss ok hværn dag brauð vort dagligt
Ok fyr gefþu oss synþer órar,
sem vér fyr gefom þeim er viþ oss hafa misgert
Leiðd oss eigi í freistni, heldr leys þv oss fra illo.
The Lord’s Prayer (in Old Norse)

Now I command you, my beloved warrior,
that you tell this vision to men,
reveal in words that it is the tree of glory,
on which Almighty God suffered
for mankind’s many sins.
From Dream of the Holy Rood (tr. Rambaran-Olm)

May the beasts on earth be healed, they are vex in health; in the name of the God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit let the Devil be expelled through the imposition of our hands; who shall separate us from the love of Christ; through the invocation of all your saints through him who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Prayer for a Sick Animal

The foolish man
thinks he will live forever
if he avoids battle;
but old age gives
him no peace,
though spears might spare him.
Verse 16 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)

There are more things to be thought of by men than money alone.
From chapter 47 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)

He who is never silent
speaks plenty
of meaningless words;
the fast-talking tongue,
unless it have controllers,
often sings itself harm.
Verse 29 of The Havamal (tr. Ball)

Facing Death, that fateful journey,
no man can be wiser that he
who reflects, while breath yet remains,
on whether his life brought others happiness,
since his soul may yet win delight’s way
after his death-day.
Bede’s Death Song (tr. Michael R. Burch)

Where fault can be found, the good is ignored.
chapter 139 of The Saga of Burnt Njal (tr. DaSent)

By their clothing, their gold armlets,
You see they are the King’s friends
They bear red cloaks, stained shields,
Silver-clad swords, ringed mail coats
Gilded sword-belts, engraved helmets
Rings on their arms, as Harald gave them.
Porbjorn Hornklofi

Hottest is the fire that lies on oneself.
From chapter 59 of The Saga of Grettir the Strong (tr. Morris)

One of the horsemen said, “Is Earl Toste in this army?”
The earl answered, “It is not to be denied that ye will find him here.”
The horseman says, “Thy brother, King Harald, sends thee salutation, with the message that thou shalt have the whole of Northumberland; and rather than thou shouldst not submit to him, he will give thee the third part of his kingdom to rule over along with himself.”
The earl replies, “If I accept of this offer, what will he give King Harald Sigurdson for his trouble?”
The horseman replied, “He has also spoken of this; and will give him seven feet of English ground, or as much more as he may be taller than other men.”
From Part 2, Chapter 94 of Heimskringla, Saga of Harold Hardrada (tr. Laing)

Shepherd: I have much work to do. As soon as it is light, I drive the ewes to the pastures and guard them with dogs through heat and cold, so that the wolves do not devour them. I drive them to the folds, where I milk them twice a day. I move their folds and I make butter and cheese as well, and I am faithful to my lord.
Ælric, Colloquy (tr. Watkins)

Show courage and bravery in battle; fight with proper and effective blows, such as you have already learned, as if in the best of humor, though filled with noble wrath. Never fight with feigned strokes, needless thrusts, or uncertain shots like a frightened man. Heed these things well that you may be able to match your opponent’s skill in fighting. Be resolute in combat but not hot-headed and least of all boastful. Always re- member that there may be those who can give good testimony in your behalf: but never praise your own deeds.
from page 214 of The King’s Mirror (tr. Larson)

(With thanks from Regia mates: Hrolf Douglasson, Gary Golding, Rich Price, Kim Siddorn, Ali Vikingr and Paula Lofting Wilcox)


“Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Since childhood, how many times have we heard this? It is just as relevant in living history today. This is for all reenactors, not just Viking Age reenactors! At the end of the test, add up the points (or have a friend add them up for you…) and check your score!

When I sew a costume, I
Make what looks good. 0 points
Glance at a web page, especially Wikipedia. 1 point
Make modifications to a researched design. 2 points
Do extensive research and duplicate it exactly. 4 points
Wear whatever my SO puts on me. 0 point

At events, I camp in
A nylon pop-tent. 0 points
A canvas tent using polyester ropes. 2 points
A canvas tent using natural ropes. 3 points
A  flax or hemp linen or wool canvas tent that I wove, with sealskin ropes. 4 points
Camp? Spewww! 2 points

At events, My camp or day camp is filled with
My dad’s camping equipment. 0 points
A matching set of nylon camp chairs (mmmm, comfortable). 0 points
Most of my equipment is documented or at least primitive. 2 points
Equipment that is documented or at least primitive. 3 points
Only furniture and equipment that I can document. 4 points

At events, I wear
Funky Elton John sunglasses, maybe in my prescription. 0 points
Whatever sunglasses or spectacles I regularly use. 0 points
I never notice spectacles at all; I don’t know. 0 points
Nondescript glasses that don’t detract from my impression. 3 points
Period accurate spectacles or none at all. 4 points

At events, I speak
Like the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, Yosemite Sam or the Quaker Oats dude.. 0 points
Forsoothly. 0 points
Like a normal modern person, maybe sprinkling in some period idiom. 2 points
More formally than in modern life, maybe sprinkling in some period idiom. 3 points
In the proper language and dialect. 4 points

At events, I like to listen to
Stuff on my IPOD. 0 points
Stuff on my boom box. 0 points
Accurate Period Music on my boom box. 2 points
Accurate Period music on modern instruments. 3 points
Accurate period music on appropriate period instruments. 4 points

At events, I eat
Wing Dings and Snicker Doodles I got at that last gas station. 0 points
Whatever is available on site. 1 point
Modern foods cooked in a modern manner. 1 points
Accurate period foods cooked on my range at home. 3 points
Accurate period foods cooked in a period manner with period utensils. 4 points

At events, I like to talk about
Things I do in my modern life. 0 points
Things I do, whether they are historical or modern. 0 points
Things I do that relate to The Hobby. 2 points
Things I do that are historical. 3 points
Only period matters. 4 points

At events, I think cell phones
Ought to be used without anyone raising any eyebrows. 0 points
Ought to be used only for important matters. 1 point
Ought to be kept out of sight unless needed. 2 points
Ought to be kept out of sight and used only for emergencies. 3 points
Ought to be turned off and left in the car if not at home. 4 points

At events, tattoos and piercings
Are proudly displayed. Isn’t Taz with a horned helmet cool? 0 points
Are irrelevant. 0 points
Are hidden unless that is difficult. 2 points
Are hidden unless documentable. 4 points
I don’t have any. 2 points

I think cameras
Are a kick. How will anyone believe this otherwise? 0 points
Ought to be carried by everyone. 1 point
Ought to be hidden until they are used. 2 points
Ought to be hidden and brought out to be used only when no civilians are around. 3 points
Ought never to be used by costumed reenactors unless they are period appropriate and then only when the mechanism is period. 4 points

I prefer to portray
Any class whose clothing looks glitzy on me. 0 points
Exceptional high-class characters. 1 point
Famous characters. 1 point
Famous or important characters only when appropriate. 2 points
Ordinary everyday characters. 4 points

Living history is
Often too much like high school history classes. 0 points
An excuse to wear funny clothing, drink beer and get laid. 0 pointsA romantic lark. 1 point
A chance to kick back, relax and forget the modern world. 2 points
A mandate to educate spectators, participants and yourself. 4 points

Authenticists are
Repressed sexless Nazis with no senses of humor. 0 points
Misguided. 1 point
Sometimes nice folk if you don’t talk about living history. 2 points
Valuable if they keep their ideas to themselves unless I ask about them. 3 points
Essential to the integrity of The Hobby. 4 points

Documentation is
Irrelevant. 0 points
Okay if it’s not inconvenient. 0 points
Can be disregarded if the end result is uncomfortable. 1 point
Important. 3 points
Essential. 4 points


0-5 Farby–You probably like to wear funny costumes, get drunk and have senseless fun. We’re not certain why you’re in reenactment, but remember that there is always a chance to improve!

6–14 Below Average–Although you like history—or at least the fantasy in history—but you’re not going to let that or any obligation to educate stand in the way of a good time!

15–26 Average–You like history, but you don’t think accurate historical representation is important enough for inconvenience or discomfort. You’ll be accurate if it’s not too difficult.

27–45 Excellent–You honor and respect history and want to make a very good presentation.

45–60 Old school…real old. You may stop at pulling out your modern dental filling. May…


For years, I tried to “lead by example.” This is a euphemism for making certain your kit is top flight and encourage everyone else to make theirs better as well. But you know, in that “historic” organization, there might have been one or two who spiffed things up—and were outrageously proud of their improvement, but not enough to get out of the organization—but there were many many more who dug in their heels and de-spiffed because, as my wife noted, they felt threatened or insulted. Many indignantly rationalized their farb by saying that they needed it, that it was comfortable, that other people did it.

I was in that organization since 1972. In 1984, I published a book on its failures after talking with friends and reading Professor Anderson’s seminal volume on serious living history and realizing where it failed. My standards had increased. In 1989, I got into AWI living history, and it opened a whole new curtain. From then on out, my perspective was greatly different. In the pre-Internet early 1990s, I tried and failed to form a more accuracy-focused living history group that covered some of what that original organization covered. After a health crisis, I cut down on activities, concentrating on an effort where I thought I could make a difference. It didn’t and, afterwards, someone came up and thanked me for taking over the job until they could find someone else to do it. The fact that I did it for three years made it sort of an extended “filling in” but that seemed not to penetrate his conscious.

After that, I started looking around for a serious living history group that covered the era. At that time, a lot of top-notch foreign groups were expanding into the States, including one that I had belonged to briefly in the mid-70s (but that floundered from lack of interest) as well as Regia Anglorum, which started in 1986. I had considered joining an independent Stateside group but was warned that it was going to wink away; sure enough, it did. Then I ran into a Regia encampment at Gulf Wars. I fell in love immediately. Everything that I had learned in AWI living history was being duplicated. That started me on my current thrust.

I was surprised at how much that original group came to grate on my nerves. Members patted their backs and repeated nonsense. The organization’s emphasis of bureaucracy over accuracy—which I had long complained about—became paramount. A long-time and high-ranking member chided me for wanting history, noting that the only reason that the group even mentioned “history” was because the federal government wanted to give it a tax write-off. A member of the group publicly said that he hoped I died a painful death because of something I said about accuracy. A high-ranking member of that group very conspicuously insulted me and ignored my contributions while leading by example. Several members asked for information, which I freely gave and for which they never thanked me or even acknowledged the receipt of the information. And the straw that broke the camel’s back, a new officer doing a job I had done for thirty years and for which I got a university degree, told me to step aside and let her handle it; when I asked her what qualifications she had, she returned, “I don’t have to tell you. That’s my job.”

There are no attempts, not even a desire to make things uniformly accurate and to tighten up the nonexistant accuracy regulations. The idea of hours or areas to be accurate is totally beyond most members, and many times, members recruited from that organization must go through length “re-programming.” Many see the organization as a bush league, to seduce new members, but they ignore the fact that continued membership becomes either a romantic ideal, a family or a reason for driving people away from medieval reenacting altogether

I am amused and puzzled by the “freckles” in that group. That comes from my observation if good living history is a tan, then that organization is freckles. There are spots of sheer genius, things that impress friends from Regia, but they are content to ignore the white spaces between those freckles. Cynicism leads me to believe that their accuracy might help them stand out in a farby organization while they’d just be part of the crowd in a serious organization, but that is cynicism. I’m certain there are other reasons for clinging to the group even if I cannot see them.

Yes, that organization has more members. If quantity is more important than quality, then it rings the bell. At an early meeting, our group announced that we wanted quality over quantity, and we have turned away a number of potential members who though that we’d lower standards to gain their membership.

I still have friends in that organization. I have many more who have left for one reason or another. A good many do other eras of time in serious living history because that organization has spoiled most people’s perception of medieval reenacting that organization even likes to use the name of the organization to mean “medieval.” But when people from other eras see the work we do to create a consistently accurate image, they are impressed and have complimented me on it. They prefer the quality to the quantity, and coming from people I respect and admire, that makes me more than happy!


I have alluded before to my belief that Experimental Archaeology and Living History are similar—often complementary—but separate pursuits. Let’s look a little bit closer at the two pursuits.

Experimental Archaeology “attempts to generate and test archaeological hypotheses, usually by replicating or approximating and the feasibility of ancient cultures performing various tasks or feats”

Living History is creating an illusion in which “people to simulate life in another time.”

In the one, we are doing things in the way that they were done in the past. In the other, we are displaying to the public the results of those labor or displaying how it was. In that last case, we might be combining the two pursuits, but that is not necessary. In the first case, you can wear what you want; in the second, you can use an accurate replica made with power tools. Or you can demonstrate a procedure for MoPs—or to fellow reenactors at BUFU events—using period tools and technology.

For some people doing living-history, experimental archaeology is essential to the experience. They are trying to duplicate the feelings and technologies of the past so they can better appreciate living in the past, and all I know, period clothing might be essential for some experimental archaeologists as well. After all, they cannot know the restrictions on and limitations of movement unless they are wearing the clothing from the time!

In the end, experimental archaeology is in many minds, just a version of plain archaeology, while living history—because of many practitioners—is not considered to be a valid pursuit at all. As a practitioner and adherent of living history, you can well imagine that my interpretation is somewhat different!


Most serious living-history groups are always looking for new members, but they are not organizations for everyone. Below, we have a dozen statements that will honestly ascertain whether you would be interested in serious living histrory. If you disagree with many or most of them, then you would happier participating in a less exacting living-history organization, in a loose fancy dress party with titles, in a fantasy-based LARP or perhaps in no such organization at all. However, if you agree with most or all of these statements, you might very well enjoy what you’d be getting yourself in for!


I am interested in history


I think history is fun


I am interested in having fun not only while learning but because I’m learning


I am interested in recreating history as accurately as possible, surrounded by friends who share my standards


I want to explore the past because it’s interesting, not because of a possible award or title or because I want to look more accurate or more posh than anyone else in the organization


I am willing to share what I know I find out and to help fel-low members achieve the same level of skill I have attained


I am willing to obey the dictates of an Authenticity Officer


I am interested in dealing with the public


I can operate without modern spectacles (contacts are allowed), sunglasses, sneakers, sun hats, parasols and other modern conveniences if they were not used in the period the organization recreates


I am interested in the geographic area and culture that the organization recreates


I am interested in the arts and crafts of the culture that the organization recreates


I am interested in the everyday life of the culture that the organization recreates