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

Archive for June, 2020

TIME TO DISCUSS CALENDARS

A recent project was to make a medieval calendar (based in general on the Julius Work Calendar). Certainly not an exact replica, but close enough to the original to confuse anyone on the street today. While I had a passing familiarity with medieval calendars, I had to do a lot more research to obtain what I needed!

People of the Middle Ages experienced calendars very differently than we do today. They were religious guides, and they were not used by lay people. Especially important dates or feasts were written in red, thus the term “Red Letter Day.”

Four columns were commonly found on most calendars, but more columns were used from calendar to calendar. One containing roman numerals was used to determine the phases of the moon, Easter and associated holidays. Another repeated the letters A thru G which were used to determine the day of the week A stood for Sunday, B for Monday and so on. Instead of dividing the month into weeks as we do, the month was divided into three unequal segments called Kalens, Nones and Ides.
A-First Column

In period calendars, the first column contained the Golden Numbers. These were the phases of the Moon from what remained as a lunar calendar, to help determine Easter, using other charts to help determine this.

B-Second Column

Actually, there were sometimes many more columns, denoting referenced to various tables that helped to calculate Easter and other ecclesiastical matters.

C-Third Column

This column was the day of the week. Sundays were important and so were red.

D-Fourth Column

These indicated what “week” was portrayed. Instead of dividing the month into four weeks, the month was divided into three segments, and Kalends, Nones and Ides were used to show the reader where he was in time.

These are the days of the month. Months had the same number of days as in our current system, but they were not numbered sequentially from 1 to 28, 29, 30 or 31. Instead, they counted backwards to indicate the names before the next nones, ides or kalends. Kalends was the first day of the month; nones fell either on the sixth day, and ides came eight days after nones.

E-Fifth Column

Saints and festivals commemorated on this day. So-called Floating Feasts, based on the lunar rather than the solar calendar have not been included in thecalendar but may be, like the days of the week, insered by you if so desired.


DEFINITIONS

Some of these terms you might be familiar with. Others unfamiliar. As Lynn Bloom says, “Everyone new to a group…has to learn its code, in language and in behavior, as part of the initiation process. This is how we enter and become part of a discourse community.” Here are a few terms that that you will encounter in reenactments:

Ropeline

The real or imaginary line between which everything should be historically accurate.
Public Hours

The times when the historical accuracy behind the Ropeline must be adhered.

AO

Authenticity (or Accuracy) Officer, who is given the power to decide on the historical accuracy of an item.

Farb

Anything inaccurate, first seen in American Civil War reenacting in the 1960s. Origins are uncertain, but it may come from the phrase, “Far Be It for Me to Criticize, But…”

First Person An impassions where you pretend to be from another time and behave in that manner, so that you do not know anything that happened after the date of your impression.

Jubbly

Anything not period accurate. The word originated as the name of a British orange drink in the 1950s, and it was later popularized as street slang. One theory is that its use in reenacting described someone who dresses as though they came from a jumble (yard) sale.

Kit

The possessions of a reenactor that might have been owned by his impression. A kit may be dictated by military regulations or merely be objects that a person of a particular time might have owned. Battle kit is a term often used to describe a fighter’s uniform, armor and arms.

MoP

Member of the Public; a spectator.

Period

i) An abstract term referring to historically authentic dress, mannerisms, etc.; ii) being in the style of an historical period.

Retro Research

Creating an artifact without doing research and then trying to find documentation that will justify it.

Second Person

An impression where you present yourself as a person from another time, but you can break impression to comment on things that happened after the date of your impression. Also knownas a ghost impression.

Thenty

Accurate, coming from the term “authentic.”

Third Person

An impression where you present yourself as a person of the present and, therefore, know things after the date of your impression.


SCRIVENING NOTES

For the past few days, I have concentrated on making clothlets. Gary Golding, a fellow Regia member, former society AO and an earnest scrivener, has been working on his scrivening outfit during Quarantine. And he has greatly inspired me. I had most of the tools he mentions, but I have gotten some new ones and am intending on getting or making some more.

One of the things are clothlets, which are linen patches that have been dipped in various dyes and dried, repeating the process a dozen times. To use them, they are then cut into small pieces and soaked in water (and alum or vinegar) and gum arabic for about 24 hours. The result ca be used as a wash. It was suggested in a later source that they be stored in a book and out of the damp. There is no indication how long they were good.

Gary started with three colors; he’s made several more, using methods he learned from Theophilus and from the Mappae Clavicula. He notes he will probably make more, and I know how he feels. For the most part, they will be on display and not used.

I had bought some dyestuffs for my wife, when she was making some dyes. She quickly lost interest, so I just had it. I was able to use the colors for making my clothlets: welt (yellow), woad (blue) and madder (red). I’ll probably make at least one more.

It was the first time I did dyeing, so I probably didn’t do it as well as I should. The smells were informative; welt was sweetish, woad was sourish and madder was basically neutral. And linen does take natural dyes very well, so e results are not the even dye that you get from dyeing wool. And, of course, with more practice, I would no doubt do better. But it was fun, will make a great display and might even be useful if I decide to ry to use them!

I was inspired to make a new book, incorporating various essays, both borrowed and newly written. The books are not for sale and are useful for keeping the DIY information at hand. I made certain that there were several blank pages, which will be used to store the clothlets.

My scrivening setup, of course, had more than the clothlets. I already had ink wells, pens (quill and reed), scraping knife, a leather penner and much more. Inspired by Gary, I made up a way of storing them for work, and I made a small desk with holes for holding tools. I also have a DIY setup that has the ingredients for making iron gall ink, and supply of parchment. Actually small scraps of parchment or vellum that I bought from a parchment maker; they are the results of various projects he did. I have had the ink and pens available for MoPs to use to make little keepsakes for themselves at events, and the other tools as well. The scrivening set will no doubt get larger; in many ways, Gary and I are very similar!

At the beginning of the book, I include a poem by Colmcille the Scribe that was translate by Seamus Heaney. I describes ascribe’s life perfectly and says

My hand is cramped from penwork.
My quill has a tapered point.
Its bird-mouth issues a blue-dark
Beetle-spark of ink.

Wisdom keeps welling in streams
From my fine-drawn, sallow hand:
Riverrun on the vellum
of ink from green-skinned holly.

My small runny pen keeps going
Through books, through thick and thin
To enrich the scholars’ holdings:
penwork that cramps my hand.


THE WAX TABLET

Wax Tablets were used for thousands of years, from at least the time of the Greeks until the middle of the nineteenth century. To a good extent, they were medieval PDAs, where you could mark down notes, sums and other information that might be transferred to a more permanent medium or just “erased” and written over.
The original tablets came in a variety or sizes and ratios, and the size was dependent on personal need or taste. Sometimes, there were more than one pane on each side of the tablet. Most of these were apparently used in business.
Styluses were apparently anything that would mark wax: dedicated metal or wood styluses, broken arrows and much else. Many had a flattened end, which was used to erase, that is, to smooth over the wax. When the wax became too choppy and unsmoothable, the wax could be melted, so you could stop from scratch—pun intended—with the writing surface.
It is unknown whether wax tablets were used in “illiterate” cultures, though none have found.
Making a Wax Tablet

Choose two pieces of wood, preferably a hard wood with no holes, of the size you want. The boards should be about a quarter or half an inch deep. Sand them and stain or varnish them.
Using a router or a chisel, a depression should be made in the center of each panel. The depth is up to you, but it should neither be so shallow that marks can be made nor so deep that it goes through to the other side of the board. There is really no need to sand or smooth the depression, since the irregularities help keep the wax in place.
Melt 100% bee’s wax. When it has been melted stir in some carbon black to it to help visibility. The amount is up to you. Either make the carbon black manually by scraping soot off a ceramic or other such item (I would make the soot by burning a lighter against a plate and scraping the soot off; tedious!), or buy a can of carbon black from a paint store (much less time consuming). When the wax and the carbon black have been integrated and melts, the mixture should be pour into the depression. It should smooth and to the corners (the drying usually means there will be a gap). If necessary, use a pencil or dowel to smooth it out; the hardened wax may be easily rubbed off where it does not belong.
Set it out on an even surface to dry.
You might want to drill holes for leather thongs to hold them together, either before after the wax is poured.
A stylus of the desired type can be included with the tablet. On my first few, I drilled a hole in the stylus and attached it by a cord to the tablet so that I did not lose it!