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

Archive for February, 2016

MEETING AT THE MARKET III

At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd’s family has set up a stall of the local market to sell grain and textiles, ad sales have been good. Then they are visited by a young girl who attracts Beornræd’s eye!

Beornræd smiled at the girl in what he hoped was an irresistible manner. “May I help you?” he asked.

The girl smiled back. “I am only looking. My mother is over yonder, and I am merely marking time until she has made her decision.” She was examining the fabric. It was unbleached and undyed, but the weave was very well done. Wænhold was a accomplished weaver and often complained that she had no daughters to learn the art.

Beornræd said, “My mother wove this from wool she got from the sheep we grow.”

“That I can see.” She smiled at him warmly and then turned her head. “My mother is calling. Good day, sir. I had better be moving on.” She moved through the crowd gracefully, and Beornræd looked on her until she faded out of sight.

Beornhelm reached and ruffled his son’s hair. “Bring back your wits, boy. You are needed here!”

Beornræd turned to his father. “I suppose that you are so old that you tell me how to be realistic about things,” he drawled.

“But still young enough to…”

“Beornhelm!” cried a new voice. Both turned to see the reeve walking up in an even gait.

Beornhelm said, “Good day, Eadmund. How fare you this fine day?”

“A good enough day.” said the reeve. He was a slender man who had seen forty summers. His black hair was beginning to grey, but he was still a vigorous and strong man. He walked up and shook Beornhelm’s hand. He nodded to Beornræd and his brother. “Good day, boys.”

“Good day, sir,” they chorused back, and the reeve turned his head to their father. “Are your prices the same as they have been in the past?”

“They are. And we have taken care not to adulterate our wares.”

The reeve nodded. “No less than what I expected from you.” He drew closer. “There is a merchant up there, named Ceolwulf, is a traveling vendor. He comes from Mercia, or so he says. I don’t know whether to trust him or not, since I have found that his wares are not what he advertises. If he continues to misrepresent himself, I shall have him scourged and driven from the market.”

Beornhelm clucked and said, “It is people like him who tar us all. If it were in my power, he would already be running away.”

“To be expected,” said Eadmund. “But you are not the reeve, and I have made my decision.” He smiled and bowed toward Beornhelm and moved on.

Beornhelm watched him move away as avidly as his son had watched the girl. When the reeve was out of earshot, Beornhelm said, he thinks he is a worthy man and that all fear, respect and love him.”

“But he is respected no more than the Lord’s goat?” said Beornræd, just as he had often heard his father say.

“Indeed!” his father laughed. “But…”

He went silent, staring at the man who was approaching. “We seldom see such as he in this area,” he said.

Beornræd followed his father’s gaze, and so he saw the Norseman as he sauntered through the crowd, coming toward them.

—to be continued

 

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MEETING AT THE MARKET II

At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market, in this continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. We tried to keep the installments as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE—Sixteen-year-old Beornræd and his family are traveling to a nearby market and have just arrived and are ready to set up their stall, selling grain and textiles.

The oxen were guided to where the family’s booth would be set up, and th father reined in the oxen. He carefully guided the waggon to where it would sit, and he turned to Beornræd.”Unhitch them and stake them yonder,” he said to Beornræd. “Give the man a coin so they could get fed, and then hasten back here, and we will set up the stall.”

Beornræd ran to do what his father said, as his father and Brunstan began to pull out the poles that would hold up the fly. The oxen were placed with other animals a distance from the market area, and he talked to the old man who oversaw the animals so that they would be fed and protected. And ran back to where his father and brother were hard at work. All around him, people were setting up, ready to sell. At some he smiled and waved, and they greeted him as he ran past. When he arrived, panting, where the Father and brother were working, his father snapped, “Help us with the frame. Wærburh, fetch out the cloth for the awning.”

It is a good day,” she said innocently. “There is little likelihood of rain.”

Beornhelm took an acid glance at her and said, “The clouds may blow away, and we will need shade from the sun,” he smiled, but Wærburh was already pulling out the fabric that would be stretched over the frame.

As they worked on it, securing the frame and stretching forth the fabric, a plump man in a deep green tunic walked up. “Good day, Beornhelm,” he said when he stopped before the stall..

Beornhelm turned and smiled. “Stay at work or you get the back on my hand,” he said to his sons. Then he walked over to the burgess and shook his hand. “What is the toll, Æthelberht?”

“It is as much as it always is,” said the burgess, “Sometimes I think you are merely trying to have me impose a lesser toll, so often do you ask that. But I am not so old that I would forget and do that.”

“Indeed,” agreed Beornhelm. He pulled his pouch about his neck from beneath his tunic and carefully pulled out a coin, hading it to Æthelberht. The burgess smiled and slid the coin into his own pouch. “So much do I trusty you, I will not even check on its purity,” Æthelberht smiled. “And besides, if you have tried to cheat me, I know where to find you!” He clapped Beornhelm on the back and went on to the next booth.

Beornhelm returned to where his sons had the fly mostly up, and he nodded begrudging approval, noting, “Hurry now. Customers are already filling the market, and I want to be ready for them. Now, put that frame leg there, and stretch the wool. Good…good.” He smiled and turned back to the wagon, pulling out a plank which Beornræd ran to help slide it between the frame to make a table. As soon as they had set out wares, folk began to stop by, taking glances, examining the wares. Some Beornhelm knew and greeted by name. Others. He did not. By the time they had been set up for an hour, trade had been brisk and quick, and Beornhelm was smiling. It will be a good day,” he said.

Then a young girl, dressed in fine blue, her hair unbound and blonde came up. Beornræd smiled and said to his father, “I can take care of her.”

His father, glancing at Beornræd’s mother with a knowing grin, said, “I am certain you think you could…”

—to be continued

 


MEETING AT THE MARKET I

Welcome to a continuing serial set in the Danelaw of the early eleventh century. At the 2015 Market at the Square in Urbana, Illinois, Micel Folcland manned a table once a month. We released a new installment every month, at our appearance at the Market. We tried to keep them as related to common everyday life in the Anglo-Scandinavian culture of the, and we tried to deal with matters of history and culture that were largely unknown and that would provoke question and thought. We were glad to answer any questions that might be posed, and we still are!

Beornræd was shaken awake by his mother before sunrise, and within moments, he was wide awake. Today was the great market, and he had been looking forward to attending it since they had gone to the last a month ago. Last night, the waggon had been loaded with grains grown by his father and with textiles that had been woven by his mother, and she said, “Harness the oxen. We’ll be off!”

With a grin, he sprang out of bed and pulled on tunic and braises, slipped into shoes and ran out to fetch the oxen and to harness them to the waggon. He was by now fourteen and being given the responsibilities of adulthood, and he welcomed the status, trying to do his best. By the time he was finished, the first red fingers of dawn were filling the skies. His father climbed onto the waggon and said, “Let’s get going!” When his mother and brother joined them, the waggon began to roll.

It was only an hour from the farm to the market, but the father did not tarry. They rolled down the path, over a hill, past a wooded glade and then onto the old Roman road. The stones were burnished and worn from centuries of traffic, but it was not overgrown and was smoother than the unpaved pathway had been. Still the wooden wheels creaked and groaned, and they jostled in their seats as the wheels made their way across the stones of the old road, and they joined in with the others traveling toward the market.

Their fellow travelers were no doubt merchants as well. Most were neighbors, and Beornræd already knew them, though some had traveled much farther and were known only from being seen at earlier markets, perhaps even in previous years. He was fascinated. There was Uhtred, who would sell onions, leeks and turnips from his farm. Beyond him was the smith, Rædwulf, whose cart clattered with his wares and the contents of his repair shop. He did original work as well and “signed” that work with a maker’s mark of R, for he was proud of his ability. And far ahead, Beornræd could see the cart of Alric, who carried milk and eggs. He smiled, since there would be so much and so many to see, and he had not seen many of them for months.

As they rolled along, Beornræd’s younger brother, Brunstan, said, “Will we have trouble finding a spot?”

“Nay,” said the father, “Not in there days…”

Beornræd closed his eyes and smiled anew, for he knew that a tale from his father was coming up, and his father was an excellent storyteller.

“When I was your age,” the father said, “The market was not chartered, and merchants set up as they were able. Many were the fights and disputes. I remember when old Æthelhun was knifed by a merchant who disliked where he set up. There followed a great struggle, and many people had their heads knocked about!” He sighed. “Things have become so much safer after the market received a charter, even if the tolls are greater than they were then.” He laughed. “But I would not want to go back to those days!”

In a while, the roads began to convert, joining together in a great hub, and the oxen were guided to a space close to a bridge over the river. It was by then quite bright, and the day looked warm and clear, and the Father smiled and said to the mother, “Today will be a good day…I can tell!”

The mother replied, “That it will be” and looked around excitedly herself.

—to be continued

 


A DOZEN INEXPENSIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PERSONAL IMPRESSION

This is based on an article by Cal Kinzer for the American Civil War community. To see what it contains, see http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/showthread.php?1094-A-Dozen-Inexpensive-Ways-to-Improve-Your-Personal-Impression-By-Cal-Kinzer

Cal notes better than I could, “Everyone thinks it costs big bucks to have a first-rate authentic soldier impression. However, there are a number of things any Reenactor can do to improve his impression that cost little or no money.” As he directed his list to ACW reenactor, I direct this list to Viking Age reenactors.

DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING INACCURATE THAT CAN BE SEEN

Non-period BVDs are permissible (we will not here deal with the fact that period underwear remains for the most part unknown), but anything that is seen should be documentable. Wearing a kirtle of the proper weave, cut and color does not obviate the need not to wear not to wear farb such as black cotton pants, Harley boots and a cowboy hat if nothing comparable may be found or bought. A person wearing a period style kirtle and nothing else is preferable to the person dressed as a fancy party goer!

IN FACT, KEEP ALL MODERN FARB OUT OF SIGHT

This should go without saying. Do not wear watches, spectacles or shades. Keep any tattoos hidden, as well as most body jewelry (women can wear earrings, but only if they are accurate to what a few women of the time wore). Even if a mobile phone is kept with you (put it on Vibrate and Mute it), keep it hidden and retire to someplace where you are not obvious to use it. Even if you keep your keys with you, keep them in a pouch and unseen. The same with money (especially since it may be needed if there are things being sold at the event). Do not combine modern and period wear in camp or walking around, although that may be permissible on the drive home if you cannot change. You might not be from the period—all living history is an illusion, but good living history is a good illusion!)—but you should look as if you are, an if you are miraculously transported back in time, ideally, those around you will not suspect you are not from their time and culture until you open your mouth!

COMB YOUR HAIR AND TRIM YOUR BEARD

Everyone had a comb. It was used to help strain out fleas and other louses, but it was also used just to be presentable. People took pride in their appearance, and they combed their hair, bleached it often, braided it apparently and had various toiletries that they used to make themselves look better. In fact, the Norse took full immersive baths once a week, a practice that upset at least one English clergyman, who complained that local girls wen after the sweet-smelling Norse youth rather than to the English boys who did not bathe so often!

DO NOT LOUNGE OR STROLL AROUND IN YOUR ARMOR FOR NO REASON

It is a great reenactorism to walk around in full armor, helmet on your head and mail jangling, looking deep and dark and macho. Chances are that this was not done in period and ought not to be done by reenactors. Unless there is a reason–guard duty, coming from or going to the battle), the cumbersome armor was probably set aside, and the warrior would be lounging around in his civvies.

I won’t even mention the old Shield Maiden myth. If a woman dresses in armor and fights alongside the men, she had better look like just another bloke and change into female dress at the end of the battle!

REGULATE YOUR JEWELRY

There has been a pretty good indication that jewelry was gender related. A man wore a pendant for good luck and to do homage to his deity(ies), but he seems to have worn only two or three beads if at all, and some at his waist. It was the women who wore a lot of jewelry, since their bling indicated how rich–and generous–their men were. In fact, if you are a man and wear a lot of beads, it might be advisable to just give it to your woman and take pride in how she looks! 🙂

MAKE YOUR APPEARANCE CONSISTENT

I am referring both to era and status. There are exceptions, but we think that having one piece from another era (just one, and from an earlier era, not anything after the era portrayed) and class (a person in peasant rags carrying a broad sword is just ridiculous, although a person of a lower class might well have one small item that had been given by the lord). The idea that you would be dressed like some kind of scarecrow wearing anything gathered as a souvenir on your travels is either a cinematic affectation or a stark reenactorism!

DO NOT LAUNDER YOUR SOFT KIT VERY OFTEN

Metal and jewelry should be polished and burnished frequently, but unless the material is covered with mud or grease, or it absolutely reeks, brush the wool and launder the linen every once in a while. Believe it or not, many people in the past were not always immaculate and bright!

BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU TALK ABOUT BEFORE MOPs

Modern politics, modern religion, television shows, novels, films…anything that does not have a direct reference to your presentation. Talking about a modern folkway or fact is okay if you are doing a third-person impression and are using it to compare or contrast with what is being done today, but take care that it is only a tool—and not over-used—and not the whole reason for talking!

TAKE MIND OF THE SEASON

This a reference not only to clothing but also to what you might eat in public. Know what fruits and vegetables might be available fresh; otherwise, dried or preserved victuals should be used (as well as tack about the Hunger Month if that is timely and appropriate), and meat should be carefully moderated so that it was either salted and preserved or fresh only in slaughtering months. Persons of the time—even the most exalted and wealthy—were dependent upon agriculture, and that differs from today so much, and that should be accurately presented to the MOPs!

TURN THE FUR AROUND

Chances are from extant garments and practical experience, any fur was worn with the fur toward the body and not as a shaggy cloak, hat or something else. It was warmer, and that was as good a reason as any!

DO NOT HAVE THE END OF YOUR BELT HANG DOWN

This was a later style, it seems, and probably was not done in our era because of the slides that are found so often that keeps the end of the belt attached to the belt itself after the buckle. A metal slide is inexpensive and often may be easily found, but slides of leather or even of cod are also acceptable.

DO NOT THINK THAT BIGGER MEANS BADDER

At least if “bad” is a positive, macho term. Amulets, belts and much else was small by modern standards. Belts were thin, and most jewelry and pendants were similarly small. We are trying to portray ordinary people from the time, and not members of the wrestling foundation from the 1980s! (At least hopefully)