Here are a few pet peeves that assail me by Viking reenacting…
Horned Helmets, Fur Loincloths and Other Stereotypical Viking Appearances
After spending so much time and effort getting things just right about my impression, seeing popular media interpretations being presented—sometimes proudly presented and touted as accurate—gripes my guts. And when I see a fellow reenactor—I use the term loosely—wearing kit and costume based on these incorrect interpretations, my pain moves slightly lower!
Referring to a Farby Fantasy LARP as a Reenactment Organization
Calling a duck a swan does not make it a swan. If I go to a Viking-theme event and see people wearing sneakers, shades and black cotton trousers and watching belly dancers, it is not a reenactment and it is not being sponsored by a reenactment society!
People Who Insist Their Society Is Not Fantasy Because it Does Not Have Any Dragons, Magic Swords or Enchanted Puffballs
Look up fantasy” in a dictionary. These people should realize that there is “high fantasy” and “low fantasy,” and know that just because your society is not magical, that does not mean it is not a fantasy!
Trying to Assert That a Religion Based on the Writings and Creations of a Christian Author Writing for a Christian Audience Some Two Centuries after the Close of the Viking Age Is an Education Going Back to the “Old Ways”
‘Nuff said. Read Katherine Holman’s history of Norse settlements in Britain and Ireland, The Northern Conquest and Nancy Marie Brown’s biography of Snorri Sturlasson, Song of the Vikings!
For people unfamiliar with the term, that is talking like nineteenth-century Quakers or like mid-twentieth-century funny book heroes). Generally with an Irish accent that came straight from a Lucky Charms advertisement…
Much or Any Forcing People to Choose Impressions According to Racial Stereotypes That They Have
I love the response of someone from Australia who responded to a reenactor saying that no black person—he did not use the term “black person”—by saying that he was more concerned with accurate clothing from the skin out!
People Who Claim They Are Descended from an Important Person from the Time
No one is ever descended from Wig the Ceorl, have you noticed?
The Term “Garb”
Just like “fantasy,” look up the definition of “costume” in a dictionary. As Kim Stacy wrote, “Inevitably, at each event, I overhear some reenactor, respond with sophomoric indignation to the question from a visitor about ‘The costume’ that the reenactor is wearing. At which point, the reenactor, with an imperial tone of voice, proclaims:
‘ “This is not a costume!’ At this point, the poor innocent visitor promptly regrets asking an important question….[but] pair of levis, Adidas sneakers, t-shirt, and baseball cap, is every bit of a costume, just the same as your period garb.” This was written many years ago, but it is as true today as it was then. Say “historical clothing” or “historical kit” if you want to avoid using “costume,” but me, I will always say “costume”! ‘
Farbs Who Say If They’da Haddit, they’da Usedit!
Uh, no. That is not experimental archaeology or extrapolation. That is fantasy wish fulfillment!
Farbs Who Say That They Can’t Reproduce Artifacts Accurately, So We Don’t Have to Worry about Anything Else
All good, serious living history is evolution. No one starts out dead perfect; maybe you will never get there. But that does mean that it does not matter. Always strive for perfection, even if you might not get there!
People Who Claim That They Do Not Even Notice Spex or Other Farby Anachronism
Do they just have no clew, or are they not noticing anything or are they just frigging idiots? How many jokes in popular films that depict historical characters wearing anachronistic spex for comic effect go totally over their heads?
Farbs Who Justify Their Farbiness with Reductio Ad Absurdum
And especially when they do not realize what they re ignorantly doing. These are the people who degrade your efforts at accuracy by asking haughtily if you drive a car to events, forsake your inoculations or pull out your dental filling. They just do not—or do not want to—realize that I am visiting the past, not living in it!
Using “Viking” as a Cultural Term
Too many serious books use the term in that way because modern mainstream audience see “Viking” as a cultural description. In Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland, author Clare Downham justifies the use of the term by misdirection, “I need to clarify my use of the term ‘viking’. The name has acquired many shades of meaning and been used in a variety of ways in both scholarly and popular literature….There are problems of being over-specific with ethnic terminology as identities are subjectively, but not objectively, created or assigned.” For us non-academics, the reaction was bullpucky!
The Term “Dark Ages”
The so-called “Dark Ages” were named by the Renaissance author, Petrarch, who deified classic Roman civilization and who neither saw nor understood the time, and many modern scholars think that the term should not be used. The era saw many discoveries and innovations as it emerged from a Europe dominated by Roman empire, and it cannot today even be claimed that facts concerning the era are either unknown and obscure. The phrase I will use—except for humorous effect—is “Early Middle Ages.”
These are the terms that annoy me most of all. There are undoubtedly more. What are yours?
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
I resolve to never use the term “Dark Ages.”
I resolve never to use the term “Viking” to describe a culture.
I resolve never to wear spex while in Early Medieval clothing
I resolve never to wear cotton jammie bottoms in costume.
I resolve never to wear a belt more than an inch thick in costume.
I resolve never to darken my appearance with pitch black.
I resolve never to participate in a society that has to apologize for and rationalize its farbiness.
I resolve never to wear a necklace of beads.
I resolve never to respond to anyone who apologizes or rationalizes his society’s farbiness and then calls his society’s events “reenactments”…but I will continue to laugh like crazy whenever I read this!
I resolve to always examine and to implement any valid new research.
I resolve to always do as good a job creating and maintaining the illusion required by living history and remember at all times that merely dressing in historical clothing means that I am a model for all reenactors.
I resolve to educate people, to have a good time doing it and to never be ashamed for being silly off hours…but not to claim that this has anything to do with reenactment.
Most of these are not new. That does not mean that they are not important!