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


I am an atheist. Not a pagan. Not a Protestant. Not a Jew, a Muslim nor a Zoroastrian.

Yet in my Anglo-Scandinavian impression, I wear a religious pendant about my neck. I have bound many books that reprint Psalms, Gospels and Homilies. I have written my own homilies and compiled a harmony or two. I have carved and constructing crucifixes for hanging, preaching crosses and reliquaries (well, my wife does use one as a jewelry/spinning box 🙂 ). Many people who do not know my personal lack of beliefs might muse happily to themselves, What a good true Christian!

A contradiction?

Hardly. Reenacting is, more than anything else, acting. Guess what? I am not an Anglo-Scandinavian. You are not a fierce Viking warrior. The woman at the loom is not a Norse or Englisc good wife. It is called acting. Pretending. Asking the audience to join in on being deceived. It does not matter how ridiculous my behavior might be. It was what was believed and done at the time. It is part of an accurate portrayal of the time! And I am proud to do it!

It is one of the reasons that I came to despise the anti-religious aspect of a medievalesque LARP. They said it was so that it did not offend anyone; I was offended by the fact that tried to force farby impressions and actions. I act out religious motifs in Regia presentations and do many other things that would give vapors to that medievalesque LARP.

Religion was so very important to many cultures of the past. Throughout history, religion has been important. The number of cultures not shaped by religion—or by a militant reaction to religion—is few indeed. Yet, in much of living history, religion is neglected, misinterpreted and at times forbidden. However, if the purpose of living history is to provide a realistic view of everyday life—as I believe it is—then the neglect of religion is not merely a hindrance to understanding but in many cases actually serves to dis-educate both participants and spectators. They approach and react to what they see as the Past in a way that is false and misleading. Forbidding any attempt to present such an important aspect of their culture is akin to a command, “Be authentic…but not too authentic.” It is akin, in my mind, to teaching the nineteenth-century flat earth theory in a medieval culture!

For example, in Regia, we have priests, monks and nuns. They are not hidden, but no one is offended. They add to the medieval environment. And that is why I emphasis the importance of religion in reenacting. (I have concentrated here and at reenactments on the Christian religion. Almost nothing is known about Norse and Englisc pagan religions because Christian endeavors and censorship has been so successful. Most of what is “known” has actually been invented by modern pagans!)

The only thing that really concerned me when I started to incorporate religious actions and artefacts into reenactment was whether it would offend the genuinely religious. I made inquiries to many sources. Those who responded said, “As long as you are being honest and not making a burlesque of your presentation, I have no problem with it.” Now that is akin to a film or a teevee show where some actor is portraying a cleric when he is anything but. Only the most radical and extremist of religious zealots will object to this, or to a Jew portraying a Christian or anything else that they see in an orinary film or teevee presentation. For that same reason, a reenactment that presents an honest interpetation of a religious pratice should not be condemned.

Be honest. Do not be a burlesque. Try to present another aspect of everyday life. Have fun, and be accurate. Research to insure that accuracy might be as enjoyable as researching historical garments, researching common food of the time, research what kind of swo…well, not not if sharp and shiny and blingy things are your most important concerns because they are sharp and shiny and blingy! 🙂

If you are atheist, agnostic, Latter Day Saint, a Baptist, a Catholic or a pagan, that should not affect how you portray the past. You should do your best to portray the past as it was.

So sing a hymn (the earliest music for the middle ages that we know), crown or marry participants, hold masses, pray over your troops and hold a religious ceremony for your village (we do have written ceremonies from the time that show us exactly what to do), it is all part of accurately re-creating history!

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