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


When I was younger, I was inoculated with the popular myths about the Middle Ages. You know, they drank beer and no water. They never took baths. They wore a lot of fur. And more, all of which have been proven to be wrong but is still being taught.

But today, I want to talk about one of the most irritating myths that everyone knows. Succinctly put, that is that every drunk, dirty and furry person never went more than seven miles from home. Sometimes, we are told ten miles, but I have found the basic information in books that I find myself trusting on other matters.

Of course they traveled. For a variety of reasons. While they might have stayed close to home most of the time, but that is mostly true today for most people. They were not averse to traveling. They were not averse to trading for items that were not from their culture or, even, from their time. For example, look at the Helgö Buddha, which came to Sweden from India. Or jewelry that was made with objected recycled from ancient Rome. Or silver coins from the Middle East, which were found all over Britain and Scandinavia. These are not the things you obtain from Farmer Sven the next farm over.

People of the time:

• Travel to do business (see the Mästermyr tool chest)
• Travel for trade (and raiding; see the Vikings)
• Traveling to explore and to colonize (see Jorvik, Dublin and other sites)
• Travel to fairs and markets (generally but not always close)
• Traveling on Pilgrimage (more popular in later times but still done earlier)

In fact, so many Englisc went on pilgrimage to Rome, a “ community existed in Rome where these pilgrims would stay called the Schola Anglorum or Schola Saxonum. It was a small district located on Vatican hill that held militias and was visited by kings and merchants, those on ecclesiastical business and pilgrims to the shrines of the saints.” And “As unlikely scenarios go, the one that saw a band of English exiles fleeing William the Conqueror and setting up a colony on the shore of the Black Sea takes some beating.” It was known as Nova Anglia or as Nīwe Englaland. In other words, New England.

After we agree that the people of the time—both the Englisc and the Norse—traveled further than was commonly thought by people a millennium later, things open up greatly to more possibilities. For example, the list of what was carried—in chests or in pouches becomes much expanded. You can find articles listing what was found in the pouches in graves that will give a good idea of what the wearer would carry with him. This list gives a good idea of what the traveler might want to carry with him on his travels.

So, when you are writing your impression biography—which I recommend—don’t be afraid that you are just writing another pulp fantasy story if you have traveled more than eleven miles from home. Chances are that you did…and then you spent a lot of time gathered about the fire in winter!

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