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

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PROJECTS FOR THE PANDEMIC I: HNEFATAFL

I was able to order two hnefatafl sets, from the Jelling Dragon and one from Tillerman Beads. Although all the taflmenn had holes so they could be turned into pegged pieces, the reason I purchased two sets was that one was pegged and the other not. I bought a set based on Lindisfarne finds from Tillerman, including the rather elegant king that has been recently discovered.

Storage was a big question. The earlier, less accurate pieces were kept in bags, but that frustrated me a bit. Finally, I devised a pegged and a non-pegged storage device, and I felt like a complete prat for not thinking of it. I had two oak squares. One had holes drilled so that the pegged pieces could be set into (onto) the square. The other had pegs rising up from the board, so that the pieces could settle on them (their holes could at least). The results were very pleasing, though I can only assume that this was not done in period. It took up a lot of space! I presume that bags or pouches were used to carry and store the pieces.

The gaming boards are all hand made. I had no foldable leather “boards.” First of all, there is no existing evidence that they were used. All that remain were made of wood or stone; few are whole, since most seems to have rotted away. Second of all, I preferred a wooden board aesthetically. So I made boards.

I made four types, flat and pegged (what I called travel tafl since I can imagine the game being played on ships, and the pieces not skittering around) and straight edges and framed edges (with a raised edge around each side, like the Ballinderry and other board boards). There is still a question about whether the inside was routed out or the edges were added, and both sides can cite good reasons. I did both, and I ended with separate frames attached. The decision was made for mercenary reasons. It was faster, easier and did not result in so much wasted wood!

The squares were carved out, and because it helped communicate to others, certain squares were painted in with milk paint. I put a layer of linseed oil over the board, just to protected the colored squares.

The hnefatafl games are popular among the public as well as people buying them to personally play (I use aquarium stones as the playing pieces, since they are inexpensive and close to accurate pieces, as well as simple wooden pegs for the pegged games). A variety of rules exist, and I have modified the rules I play by. I encourage buyers to feel free to invent their own versions!


FIFTEEN THINGS I WOULD LIKE NEVER TO SEE, HEAR OR SMELL AGAIN!

People who say, “Ahm too bizzy too do resurch or use goggles, so tell me…”

People using the term “Viking” to describe anything Norse.

People mixing something that is definitely post period with their period impression (mixing pre-period goods with period goods is fine and justifiable as long as it is not too often).

People who say they are not racists, just white pridists, because they have Viking blood!

People using the term “authentic” when they mean “historically accurate.”

People who use the Term “Garb” to refer to historical dress, historic costume or soft kit. In fact, I love the good hon est term “costume” and can only think of a person who wears garb as having a shuck of wheat in front of the privates!

People wearing spectacles or sunglasses, whining that it is not safe for them not to do so. Especially people who have never tried to see what they would have had to do visually in period and who try to do things in public that require them to wear magnifying lenses. For that matter, people smoking on the line…whether cigarettes, cigars or pipes.

People who brag about their authentic fantasy LARP and blithely use the term “reenacting” when they mean “fancy dress ball.”

People who justify what they are wearing by saying “If Theyda Haddit, Theyda Usedit.” These are the sorts of halfwits who have the skiffy blasters with their garb.

People who tell me that their polyester costume looks just like linen. Uncertain whether they need to see an optometrist or a psychologist.

People who rationalize their inaccuracies by drawling, “Ah doan speak Old Norse anyway, so why should Ah try to look authentic…?”

People wandering around in historical dress with their telephones pressed to their ears, or watching the screens of their Ipods or carrying their teevee sets on their backs…

People who unthinkingly just try to incorporate current taste into their clothing—such as a big embroidered patch on their dresses—usually without even recognizing it.

People wearing their Air Jordans or other tennis shoes in their historical costume because, as they plaintively whine, “Mah foots are tender lahk, so I gotta baby them. Besides, no one looks at yer shoes…”

People discussing their fervent current political or religious convictions without even trying to anchor these thoughts to anything history. Or people discussing what they saw on teevee last week. Or discussing any teevee show, film, sporting event, comic book or anything like that without even making any effort to associate it with anything historical or to disguise it as something historical. For that matter, people singing or humming the latest pop song on the line.


LOOK! UP IN THE SKY!

There has been a connection between mythology and comic books since comic books were first invented. The super heroes created by comics were from the beginning colorful representatives of comics, but many had a much closer relationship. Captain Marvel’s SHAZAM (Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’s power, Achilles’ courage and Mercury’s speed) made it obvious and incorporated many different mythologies. Wonder Woman was affiliated with Greek (or Roman) mythology. Kid Eternity was created by Jude-Christian beliefs. And Þorr was rooted in a wide variety of stories, ultimately culminating in the Jack Kirby super hero.

When Mighty Þorr became more popular, he became much closer to Norse mythology. The strip not only eventually incorporated more and more Norse mythological characters, but Kirby illustrated Eddic stories adapted by Stan Lee in a series known as Tales of Asgard. Norse mythology became very closely associated with comics!

Neil Gaiman, originally a comic-book author, composed his own prose adaptations of Norse Mythology. They were fresh and original version of traditional tales. It was little wonder that they were adopted into a series of modern versions of Tales of Asgard. The stories were adopted by P. Craig Russell, a formidable comics creator himself, and illustrated by Russell and many other top-flight illustrators. The series was published by Dark Horse Comics and is still being published but the first six comics books have been collected into a hardcover edition, and more collections are promised.

The collection features stories illustrated by Russell, Mike Mignola, Jerry Ordway, Piotr Kawalski, David Rubin and Jill Thompson. The stories related in the collection include the creation of the Nine Worlds, the loss of Odin’s eye and the crafting of Mjollnir, plus other tales. The stories are all relatively faithful to the Eddas, but people wanting faithful to the Eddas would do better off reading one of the translations. The greatest feature of this adaptation is the art!

They incorporate a variety of styles, and they are classic comic-book versions of the fantasy. There is no reality as you see the gods running around bare chested with loin cloths and fitted sleeveless mail shirts. These are modern fantasy and not scrupulous adaptations of the Norse mythology or religion. And they are recommended for their skill in portraying that fantasy and not because of any accuracy!

So buy a copy of the Poetic Edda translated by W. H. Auden, Lee Hollander or Jackson Crawford and do your studying from them. Then, relaxing at night, open this volume and read it it just for sheer enjoyment!


ALWAYS LOOK AT THE SILVER SIDE OF REENACTING

The last year has been a mixed bag. Most reenactors do it for the chance to talk with and demonstrate to the public. However, they also do it for the chance to share information with fellow reenactors and to get more goodies.

I have been fortunate. I have gotten to events that I never have because they did Zoom meetings (Virtual TORM and Jorvik Virtual Viking Thing for example) and have been able to Zoom with fellow reenactors socially. I’ve met many folks who have just ben names on a page!

And because I have not had to py for travel, for hotel costs and the such, I have had plenty of money to spend on reenacting goodies that I had always wanted to buy (or to make) and been unable to afford! Including an aestrel, a mail shirt, a seal, a set of glass tafl men, a remarlable set of replicas of the Lewis chessmen and all sorts of smaller objects made and sold by smaller distributors (amazing hw I did not buy many things from any corporate sources). Did you? I havealso been incredibly more productive on woodworking projects (durig the warm weather). Have you?

I hope to do show-and-tell the next few years. Please feel free to join in!


TEN GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS OF EARLY MIDDLE AGES

These are why I refuse to call the time the “Dark Ages.”

The stirrup

The yoke

Increase in agricultural production

The discovery of a new continent

The creation of the viking ship

The heavy plough

Horse shoes

Juries

Books (codexes)


ENGLISC MONTHS

The Englisc calendar had twelve months and the year started with the winter solstice. This festival was known as Geola from which we get the modern word Yule. The summer solstice was known as Litha whose meaning is unclear.

January–Æfterra Geola (After Yule)

February–Solmonad (Sun Month)

March–Hrethmonad (Named after the divinity Hrepe)

April–Eastermonad (Named after the divinity Eostre)

May–Drimilcemonad (Cow Milking Month when cows were milked three times daily)

June– Ærra Litha (Before Litha)

July– Æfterra Litha (after Litha)

August–Weodmonad (Weed month)

September–Haligmonad (Holy month)

October–Winterfylled (Winter month)

November–Blotmonad (Slaughter month, when animals who could not survive the winter would be slaughtered)

December–Ærra Geola (Before Yule)


A NOTE ON RESEARCH

Obviously, speaking with more experienced members can give you much information, though you must be certain that their advice is backed by provenance (the member should not be offended by a request for documentation and should, in fact, have provided it before you asked). Obviously a preference should be made for advice from the AO, though hopefully any other information given you will not be contradicted!

Bibliographies and lists of recommended books can be helpful, but a list of books that should be avoided or not believed is often just as vital! Do not trust everything that anyone tells you or that reenforces your beliefs. Do not trust anyone who make a a statement and provides no provenance, and do not trust anyone who uses a discredited person as provenance.

Personal research is essential. Just remember that what you find may be with odds with old and cherished myths. Never be reluctant or hesitant to discard old beliefs when you uncovered documentation that contracts them! Please note that sagas were historical fiction that was written down several centuries later. They probably contain true parts, but using them as unassailable fact is similar to using “Prince Valiant” as unassailable fact. Stay away from Pinterest, Reddit, Wikipedia and similar sites unless you intend to do further research elsewhere!

Attending events is helpful. This will tell you whether reenacting is for you. You can talk with fellow members, observe interactions with MoPs and perhaps even have your own. Have fun and be friendly to both fellow participants and to MoPs, laugh a lot and offer to help where needed. Thank people who help you, and talk to MoPs. If you do not know the answer to a question, admit it and don’t feel bad about it. Refer the questioner to someone who does know the answer, and learn the answer yourself! And above all, remember that as a reenactor, you represent all reenactors!

The experience at an event may be very enlightening and, hopefully, enjoyable. And perhaps, after this experience, we may embrace you as another experienced fellow reenactor!


ELEVATED LAP PLUTEUS DESK

After a discussion with Gary Golding on racks for holding scrivening tools, I made a triangular desk. It was relatively small and attractive. Then Gary told me about the elevated lap desk and shared several illustrations. And suddenly, I wanted to make one!

Desk1

Gary helped me considerably, answering question s and making suggestions.I decided that I wanted to make a rounded-end desk but, to make it interesting, I had the top rounded and the bottom straight edged. Was this done? I do not know, but it does not seem impossible!Looking at the illustrations, the desk were probably about yard long. I made mine of oak and, to keep the weight down, made it 20 x 11 inches. I wanted to make the desks ½ inch, but I ended up making it one inch thick.

Desk2

While uncertain whether the originals were able to be disassembled for transport or not, I made the desk able to be disassembled. The pins were wood and to make it more stable, they were rather thicker than the illustrations show.Here is how the desk is disassembled.

Desk3

Desk4


A NOTE ON RESEARCH

Obviously, speaking with more experienced members can give you much information, though you must be certain that their advice is backed by provenance (the member should not be offended by a request for documentation and should, in fact, have provided it before you asked). Obviously a preference should be made for advice from the AO, though hopefully any other information given you will not be contradicted!

Bibliographies and lists of recommended books can be helpful, but a list of books that should be avoided or not believed is often just as vital! Do not trust everything that anyone tells you or that reinforces your beliefs. Do not trust anyone who make a a statement and provides no provenance, and do not trust anyone who uses a discredited person as provenance.

Personal research is essential. Just remember that what you find may be with odds with old and cherished myths. Never be reluctant or hesitant to discard old beliefs when you uncovered documentation that contracts them! Please note that sagas were historical fiction that was written down several centuries later. They probably contain true parts, but using them as unassailable fact is similar to using “Prince Valiant” as unassailable fact. Stay away from Pinterest, Reddit, Wikipedia and similar sites unless you intend to do further research elsewhere!

Attending events is helpful. This will tell you whether reenacting is for you. You can talk with fellow members, observe interactions with MoPs and perhaps even have your own. Have fun and be friendly to both fellow participants and to MoPs, laugh a lot and offer to help where needed. Thank people who help you, and talk to MoPs. If you do not know the answer to a question, admit it and don’t feel bad about it. Refer the questioner to someone who does know the answer, and learn the answer yourself! And above all, remember that as a reenactor, you represent all reenactors!

The experience at an event may be very enlightening and, hopefully, enjoyable. And perhaps, after this experience, we may embrace you as another experienced fellow reenactor!


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!


REPRESENTING THE HOBBY

A few days ago, while getting ready to make a right turn, I was interrupted by someone in the left turn lane who peeled out and made a right-hand turn in front of me. The car had a big sticker on it, proclaiming the driver’s political views, and it occurred to me that I was tempted to be unfair and ascribe such selfish, illegal motives to all his fellow believers.

Then, as I made the turn safely, I mused that anyone with a sticker on his car was setting himself up as a representative of his cause and was almost honor bound to behave in a responsible manner. They are the representatives, whether they like it or not, of all people who share these beliefs. Then I expanded it to t-shirt slogans and logos, and before I reached home, I had expanded it as I do so many things to living history.

Let me step back for a moment. When someone is wearing a uniform of any sort, I consider him a representative of everyone wearing such a uniform, and I often hold him to a higher standard than others. For example, if I see someone in a police uniform, I hold that person to a higher expectation than I do someone in civvies. I expect him to help, of course, but I always expect him to be friendly and not to use that uniform as an effort to receive perks. If he behaves in a privileged, jack-boot manner, it leads to my wanting to avoid all persons wearing police uniforms because they are loose cannon.

But uniforms, in my mind are not just police or military or the such. For me, the costume that a reenactor wears is a uniform. I see someone in historical clothing–no matter what era–and I expect them to behave in a certain manner, to have certain standards and to represent, for better or worse, all reenactors. Not merely in their actions but in the quality of their interpretation. If he is wearing sneakers or sunglasses or the like—unless, of course, that such is appropriate for his impression—it is tarring how folk see all reenactors. If he is either unwittingly or knowingly farby, he is telling every onlooker, I’m doing this for cosplay or a lark, and I really don’t care whether it’s right as long as I’m having fun!

There are those who say, of course, that a society or subculture should be judged by the best representative. I can’t agree. If the reenactor is gracious and kind, helping a non-reenactor, making certain that kit is exemplary and accurate…all that is forgotten by one rude, inaccurate reenactor. If a person thinking about getting into reenacting sees a lousy impression, he might think, “So that’s all I have to do!” I love the saying that an AWI reenacting veteran said: “What is permitted is promoted.”

How stringent are you about your actions and demeanor when you’re in your reenacting kit? How stringent are you in creating appropriate kit? I know that when I wear or make a bit of reenacting kit, how it will be received and perceived by others is always in my mind!


WHO CARES?

In a recent Facebook post, featuring some extremely farby gear that I found hilarious, there were some snarky remarks. One person—who owns the group and who loves claiming that a fantasy LARP is a reenactment society—wrote: “Stop complaining. Who cares?”

Earlier responses laughed at the gear if it was being passed off as accurate. After this gentleman made his statement, many people told him in no uncertain terms who cared. They beat me to the punch!

You see, as a matter of fact, anyone who is interested in doing serious living history cares. We have dealt with that before that I care, and many of my friends care. It is my feeling that any good living history is going to be educational and not merely entertaining. Saying that you are doing living history implies a responsibility and a contract. The responsibility is that you are telling the truth, and the contract is a personal commitment to see that this responsibility is fulfilled! If you do not feel these, then there is nothing the matter with being involved in a fancy-dress party, in a drama of some sort or in a fantasy LARP; the only thing wrong to my mind is to characterize it as living history, reenactment or any kind of accuracy! But if you are doing what you consider living history

As to how extreme you want to be in requiring provenance, is more or less up to the individual and to the society whose Authenticity Regs he has promised to uphold. In some extreme cases, if there are not three physical artifact that exists, it will not be allowed. But in other instances, there is a degree of compromise, If something is not out-and-out incorrect and is based on interpretation, or if financial or hygienic limitations are restrictive or if the period practice is just dangerous and unsafe, then generally a one-step link, where a single logical leap of intuition is allowed (although most reputable societies require that this variance be approved or modified by an Authenticity Officer). For example, hemp might be used for trousers, though dark black hemp would not be. If any derivations or compromises are are made or used, then admission of this fact must be made to all MoPs and certainly to any participants. Rebated weapons are compromises, though even the most extreme probably do not want people to head onto the field to use sharpies against each other. The compromise should be elucidated and explained if necessary (perhaps as a warning to MoPs who want to imitate it). It is honorable at the very least to acknowledge the compromise, to state what was actually used and why the new variation is being used. As far as I am concerned, such an explanation is essential!

Creating an inaccurate physical presentation to the MoPs is roughly analogous to entries in books which are presented as hard fact but which are not backed by any proof whatsoever, no resources or provenance. It is likely to be anti-educational even if the interpretation is correct. But in many cases, it is an attempt to perpetuate certain comfortable mythologies or cozy commonly held inaccuracies.


SKIN ART

A reader looking into the histories of tattoos must realize that they were not known as tattoos since that is a Polynesian term that originated in the eighteenth century in a journal by Captain James Cook (it is one of two words in the standard English lexicon that comes from Polynesian sources; the other is taboo). Tattoos were indelible pigmentation inserted under the skin and were before 1760 known as markings, incisions, pricking or even painting. We see samples on the “Iceman” Ötzi, in China, in Egypt, Japan and, of course, Polynesia.

Tattoos were used by the Celts, by the Anglo-Saxons and by the Norse. Ahmed ibn Fadlan’s description of the marks on Rus Vikings is well known, and tattoo enthusiasts have come up with an exaggerated history of their use that takes the slightest indication and expand it immeasurably. For the most part, these tattoos were symbols of heathen faith, and there was a steady attempt by the Church to get rid of them, though that never seems to have been complete.
What were the tattoos for? Apparently as magical symbols, as medicinal marks, for identification and for the same reason that many tattoos are applied nowadays, because they’re cool art. Were they part of the sex life or considered sexually attractive? Probably so, though you can never tell since they are not generally talked about.

What did the tattoos look like? Well, we have those on the body of Ötzi, which predates the Viking Age quite a bit; and we have the ambiguous description by ibn Fadlan, that the Viking males were covered from “fingernails to neck” with dark blue or dark green “tree patterns” and other “figures.” Whether this was actual flora knotwork or runes remains uncertain, so we do not know what tattoos were worn by the Norse!

It is interesting to note that some folk—particularly prudes and modern tattoo-removal doctors—insist that the Norse had no tattoos. The ultimate truth, perhaps, will not be revealed until we find a flash frozen Norse Ötzi!


TRANSPORTATION

The most prevalent form of transportation during our era was by foot. This was not only inexpensive, but most people never traveled more than ten miles away from home! Skis and skates (both used with ski poles) were known for balance and propulsion across the snow and ice in the North.

Asses, Horses and Mules

Other animals were used for locomotion, no doubt. Dogs and goats were used to draw such things as buggies, carts and sleds, both then and in later times, but for the most part oxen, asses and horses were used to pull waggons and perhaps carts. When it came to riding, asses and horses were predominantly used. We can see them being used in illustrations such as the Bayeux Embroidery, the Oseberg Tapestry and the picture stone from Gotland.

Saddles had an ancient pedigree, and the invention and dissemination of stirrups in the eight century made riding on the beasts more convenient and led to mounted warfare (soldiers used their mounts to travel to a battle site before then, but then dismounted for combat, sort of like dismounted cavalry later. These were sometimes very ornamented and like the horses themselves were an indicator of wealth and social status.

Prior to the introduction of the larger Arabian horses and the development of palfreys in the eleventh century, the horses were primarily small. Hybridization and breeding changed the size of the animals, and today the closest horse to what was used in the early middle ages is probably the small, intelligent and agile Icelandic horse. No other type of horse has been allowed on the island, and any Icelandic horse that leaves the island or that is born elsewhere is not allowed to return.

Camels and elephants, while known in other cultures for providing transportation, were almost certainly not used in Northern Europe, though these animals might have been used as modes of transportation when the northern Europeans were in the Mid-East. The offspring of an ass and a horse, the mule, has an ancient pedigree and was no doubt used this time. The Old English word for a mule was mul while the Old Norse was múli, indicating that the hybrid was used in those cultures.

Four-Wheel Waggons

This was a common design that dated both to earlier times and to later. The waggons were plain in some cases, but they could also be carved and decorated. See, for example, the waggons in the Oseberg tapestry, as well as the one found in that burial.

The waggons were large and cumbersome, able to carry large loads but were drawn by oxen and by horses, not by human power.

Sleighs or Sledges

Especially in Scandinavia, sleighs appear to have been popular. In many aspects, they were similar to waggons, being used for both transportation of people and goods, pulled by draft animals. The popularity of sleighs might be indicated by the presence of four separate sleighs in the Oseberg burial. Three of these were carved and decorated.

Ships

The “Viking ship”—the drakkar, the knarr and other sorts designed for special purposes—was important enough that it gave the name to an entire era. It was the most advanced technology of the time; the Viking Ship was exemplified by its low draft (generally no more than three feet when loaded), was swift (as swift under the right conditions as modern racing yachts), moved in both directions (which allowed quick raids) and was propelled both by oars and—the thing that made the ships really unique—wind. The clinker construction—where boards were laid atop each other, made water tight with caulking or rags, and this method of construction seems to have created an airfoil kind of effect.

The design was developed by the Norse and copied by many other cultures, some related to the Norse and some not. The ships seen in the Bayeux Embroidery are examples. Earlier designs did not use the sail as well as the Viking ship did. There are many examples of these ships, for example the ship used in the burial at Sutton Hoo. Some earlier and later ships were propelled by slave power at the oars, but the oarsmen on Viking ships all appear to have been freemen.

The predominance of Viking ships was overtaken when cogs started to be built in the early new millennium. In earlier combat, the ships were brought together, and warfare ranged over the ships in pretty much the same way that land warfare was waged. The higher towers of the cogs meant that ships drawing close to each other could engage, throwing rocks and shooting arrows down from the towers. The Viking ships tried to get the best of both and started to build towers on their decks, but they succeeded only in creating ships that were easily toppled. The cogs were predominant by the twelfth century. Viking-style ships were still being built, and they are still built today, but they are no longer the size of the stereotypical drakkar or knarr.

The cogs were phased out by the development of gunpowder and the use of cannon on shipboard. The new ships were more in the style of later galleons.

Two-Wheeled Carts

Two-wheeled vehicles were most frequently seen at this time, mainly for poorer people, since they were less expensive. Some define carts as conveyances that are propelled by only human labor, and carried timber, vegetables and other goods. See, for example, the June illustration of the Julius Work Calendar; this cart might well not be human-propelled, since we see oxen waiting nearby as the coach is loaded.

Chariots were popular in many civilizations early than the Viking Age, including the Roman, but had largely fallen out of use and popularity by this time, although once again semantics and definitions are important.


PERIOD LEATHERS

That is, leathers which are appropriate for Viking-Age reenactments is a fairly straight forward subject. For the most part, leathers of the period were brain, alum or vegetable tanned (tawed is a term used to describe a hide tanned with fur kept on one side) and were not specifically dyed another color, so the leather as generally brownish or a light tan. There is an indication that some of the leather found in York was dyed or painted red, but this remains controversial. It is safer just to assume that the leather would not be colored, and it certainly would not be colored black even though finger oils, consistent wear and use of the leather will darken it into a fine patina.

It is sometimes difficult to find these leathers nowadays. Certainly chrome-finished leathers is more frequently found and is less expensive but at the same time is more anachronistic. Its use should be avoided unless you get special permission from your Authenticity Officer to substitute the chrome-finished leather for what should be used.

It is far easier to find out where leather would be used during the period. In the earlier days, leather and fur were commonly used for clothing, but this had mostly died out by the Viking Age and is today the province of bad cinema and worse reenactors. Leather was commonly used for ropes—which were not part of the outfit—and for shoes, for belts (men’s belts were invariable half an inch to an inch wide) and for other straps, although there is some indication that leather was used for trousers. Some translations of Ælfric’s Colloquy, for example, the translation used by Kevin Leahy in Anglo-Saxon Crafts, notes: “I buy hides and skins and repair them by my skill, and make of them boots of various kinds, ankle-leather shoes, leather breeches, bottles…”

The use of leather for smiths’ and other craftsmens’ aprons is logical, but no artefacts or literary evidence has been found for such usage!

As to whether leather was used beneath byrnies, it is hard to say. In fact, it is hard to say if anything was used as padding beneath byrnies at all, whether it was mere a padded gambeson, a firm layer of leather or fabric or a quilted gambeson. On the other hand, it little matters because whether the fighter in period wore a gambeson or not, the gambeson should be hidden beneath the modern reenactor’s byrnie and should not only be viewed with difficulty but virtually unseen at all. What this means, very simply, is that when the reenactor removes the byrnie back at the wic after the combat, the public should not see the gambeson if such a thing is worn!

An essential work from the York Archaeological Trust, Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, is available for a free download.//  //


DEALING WITH MoPs

MoPs are “Members of the Public,” and Micel Folcland has long developed and used a series of 10 general rules for dealing with them in conversations:

1

Do not bring modern conveniences behind the ropeline unless they can be hidden or disguised—and are! This includes spex, communication devices, plastic cutlery, modern drinking or eating receptacles such as styrofoam plates or plastic bottles and modern furniture such as a folding chair or a twentieth-century style chest. Many MoPs will notice this and make a pointed remark about your farbiness or, if they say nothing will be wondering what else is being lied about.

2

Learn to smile even when you are not feeling like smiling. Be friendly, even if you are not feeling friendly! Do not be afraid to steer the conversation toward light-heartedness and humor, but never disregard the question!

3

Do not use vulgar language, especially when children are around. If you must use a period term that is seen as vulgar or obscene today—we are, after all, dealing with Anglo-Saxon terminology in many instances—explain that this was an historical term and considered appropriate and polite at the time.

4

Use out of period history and historical incidents only in relation to what is known about period history.

5

When doing an activity, explain the process and the technology and do not let the MoP think that he is breaking in on your time and activity. Miss Julie keeps her weaving activities simple so that she can answer the MoPs’ questions without screwing up what she is doing! In the same way, MoPs are often interested in period foodways, so you should never refuse to talk with them merely because you are eating or drinking, though you can comment on what you are eating or drinking. Never offer any food or drink to a MoP!

6

Treat every MoP respectfully, and answer any questions graciously. MoPs—and their interests and curiosity—are why we are doing this, and we must never treat them in an off-handed and demeaning manner!

7

Tell the truth. Do not make up facts. If you do not know the facts, admit this. If someone else at the site has the knowledge, refer the MoP to him or her. Since listen to what that person sys so that you can answer the next questioner!

8

If anything in your kit is not thenty—for example the quality of the metal in tools or weapons, the quality of fabric used for an accurate fashion or something from an earlier time or a higher culture (unit regs allow people to have one such item)—admit it!

9

Do not discuss political or religious theory except where it deals with the Viking Age. We are a Not-for-Profit entity, and we are forbidden to participate in contemporary political and religious matters. Do not contradict or debate MoPs in such matters since they often sincerely believe their beliefs are true. Besides which, they have nothing to do with our reenactment!

10

Be polite even when the MoP asserts something extraneous and is trying to teach you the incorrect belief. State the true answer, if you know it—especially when other MoPs are around, listening—but do not argue with MoPs who really believe in what they are saying!


SEX TOYS OF THE VIKINGS

 

Great variation in toys for obtaining sexual gratification has been known for nearly as long as humans have had sexual organs and opposable thumbs. Vibrators, for example, might only date back to no earlier than 1870—with a steam-powered model invented in Britain to treat female genital congestion and hysteria—the manual dildo was invented in Germany about 30,000 years ago and by the Third Century bce, was well enough known that one was featured in a Greek play.
Dildos were, therefore, period and were used almost universally. However, there are no real examples of dildos from the Viking Age, though that might be because people are looking in the wrong place. The Norse chieftain, Ivar the Boneless, is a famous war leader, though the exact character and extent of his illness remains controversial. Some think it refers to skinny legs, some to actual crippling and some to impotency. It is interesting to note that in his grave, “he had been buried with a small Thor’s hammer and a boar’s tusk,” It has been suggested that the tusk was because of his supposed impotency as a substitute for his penis. It is amusing then to think that the boar’s tusk was used as a dildo, though we can of course never validate any such supposition!
The use of other sex toys is similarity vague. “Chances are the archeologists (many of whom lived during the ultra-conservative Victorian era) were just a little too embarrassed to report back to the scientific community that they had discovered the world’s first sex toys.” Manacles and chains were known but were generally assumed to be used for slavery and managing slaves. Since we know that bondage—just like homosexuality and many other alternative lifestyles—was popular before they received names, the chances are that chains and other cords were used for sexual purposes as well.

A good example is that of the whips of the time. Although the whip // http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/61027/unknown-leather-whip-with-wooden-handle-11th-century // is now said by the Museum of London to be a slaver’s whip, it was originally classified as a sex toy used by prostitutes. However, despite being made of rawhide, the whip is so light that its use for herding slaves is a little doubtful, and I think that the original classification might be correct and prudery dictated the reclassification.


BY WHAT ARE YOU KNOWN

 

What name do you use in reenacting? The modernization or Anglicization or the other transformation of Norse names or the original Norse name? The use of the former is rather endemic in many of the books that are otherwise full of vital information. There is an attempt, it seems, to make the modern spellings and pronunciations of the names, probably to make things more comfortable for the mainstream reader. However, looking at any good book, there is often an attempt to compromise between these two. Whereas the name of a person is given in the modern, more instantly recognizable form, the traditional form is given as well, generally in parentheses, a footnote or even an endnote.

A volume that does not go to this trouble should probably not be overly trusted!

Even in the Viking Age, it would seem that many of the Norse were known by different names in different lands. There are a variety of Gaelic names that were used to describe the person—such as Cammán for Sigytuggr—and at the end of the era, after conversion to Christianity, a use of Latinized names as in much of Christendom—for example, an attempt to Latinize Knútr as Cunetti on some coinage. And there is also a tendency to refer to a person by his baptismal name, such as Guthrum of East Anbglia being known as Æthelstan, As a side note, there was often a cycle of names which were used a family (sort of like “Junior” today but in this case usually not succeeding one so named but used every few generations. In this way, ironically, it is similar to the Anglo-Saxon standard of using names with the same beginning sound to indicate relationships within the same family, such as Æthelwulf, Ælfred (generally modernized as Alfred, so modernization not merely a Norse practice), Æthelweard and Ælfthryth

Using a modernized or an original name is up to you. Neither is wrong or right. If you use a modernized name, do you also use original names for friends? While some people might look a bit askance at this—it is after all like referring to gods in a classical pantheon as Zeus and as Mercury—but I am not inordinately disturbed by this. However, it is my feeling that no matter what you use and in what combination, you should know about what you are talking.

Many of the more common names—particularly those that are still used in some form today—have an Anglicized version as well as the original. Many of the more common names—particularly those that are still used in some form today—have an Anglicized version as well as the original. We list a few below, with the variant spelling on the left and the original on the right.

Many of the changes are in duplicate letters

Egil Egill
Gunnar Gunnarr
Hrein Hreinn
Jokul Jokull
Ketil Ketill
Njal Njall
Ragnar Ragnarr
the addition of letters (especially the use of the ending r)

Bork Borkr
Dag Dagr
Finn Finnr
Hauk Haukr
Hrapp Hrappr
Odd Oddr
Ozur Ozurr
accents and letters that are no longer used in English

Frodi Fróði
Jon Jón
Kari Kári
Thorir Þórir
Thorkel Þorkell
Thorbjorn Þorbiorn (there are also modern letters which were not used in period)
Vali Váli
Combinations of the above

Armod Ármóðr
Hord Hórðr
Hrut Hrútr
Ingolf Ingólfr
Ivar Ívarr
Ornulf Ornólfr
Thorald Þóráldr
And in some cases, totally new and totally different spellings were used

Anlaf Ólafr
Canute Knútr
Cnut Knútr
Oleif Ólafr
Othere Óttar
Sweyn Sveinn
Swegen Sveinn
There are variations for female names as well, though there were not only fewer female names that were recorded but fewer names which have been Anglicized.

Aud Auðr
Bergthora Bergþóra
Fridgerd Friðgerðr
Nidbjorg Niðbiorg
Ormhild Ormhildr
Signy Signý
Thora Þora
When you choose a name for your impression, make certain that you have researched the name and know where the name originally came from and how it was original spelled.
(Note: The Old Norse spellings may vary since they are the transliterations by a Latin-letter-literate culture of names from a rune-literate society where several spellings could be inferred from a single word)


Erotic Poetry & Art

You will find no real erotica during the Viking Age, at least in the way we perceive it in today’s sexual culture. It was not written during the time such as it was in later times. However, the poetry and riddles that were common during the time are not exactly polite, reserved and timid. “The Anglo Saxons seemed to love a riddle and, like the rest of us, couldn’t get enough of sex.” The results are winking double entendres bits of humor:

Exeter Riddle 44
A strange thing hangs by a man’s thigh,
hidden by a garment. It has a hole
in its head. It is still and strong
and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
When the man hitches his clothing high
above his knee, he wants the head
of that hanging thing to poke the old hole
(of fitting length) it has often filled before.

Exeter Riddle 54
A young man made for the corner where he knew
she was standing; this stripping youth
had whipped up her dress, and under her girdle
(as she stood there) thrust something stiff,
worked his will; they both shook.
This fellow quickened: one moment he was
forceful, a first-rate servant, so strenuous
that the next he was knocked up, quite
blown by his exertion. Beneath the girdle
a thing began to grow that upstanding men
often think of, tenderly, and acquire.

Exeter Riddle 61
A lovely woman, a lady, often locked me
in a chest; at times she took me out
with her fingers, and gave me to her lord
and loyal master, just as he asked.
Then he poked his head inside me,
pushed it up until it fitted tightly.
I, adorned, was bound to be filled
with something rough if the loyal lord
could keep it up. Guess what I mean.

Speaking of Anglo-Saxon poetry, not just erotic poetry, a fan notes:

The best Anglo Saxon poetry speaks with a directness and simplicity you won’t often find in the sophisticated and cosmopolitan utterances of the Roman poets. And though stark, the Anglo Saxon temper also comes with a rugged humor and gamefulness typical of poetry in simpler and less self-conscious cultures.”

You will not find any erotic prose, though. One major reason appears to be that prose was almost never used for a creative purpose; for example, even though most translations of Beowulf are done in standard prose, the original is poetry. However, the major reason appears to be that this was not done; direct and step-by-step erotica just was an alien concept to the Anglo-Saxons!

You will not generally find erotic or even romantic poetry from Norse sources. This is not because the Nose did not have sexual or romantic desires, but because there was a “fear in pagan times of magical ensnarement of the woman so immortalized by the power of the verses.” In addition, some have observed that romantic poetry—courting a beloved—was unnecessary since”The majority of Viking marriages were prearranged.” There was no need for romantic poetry, and erotic poetry is as far as we know rather infrequent.
So-called erotic Icelandic poetry, often known as mansöngr, was a form of skaldic poetry that was written quite infrequently. The romantic or erotic poems of the Ljóðatal section of the Hávamál are less than erotic or even romantic but are the practical warning verses that might be expected from the Norse:

The love of women
who are deceitful in spirit
is like riding a smooth-shod horse
on slippery ice,
a spirited two-year-old
and one badly trained,
or on a rudderless boat
in a raging wind,
or like a lame man trying to catch
a reindeer on a thawing mountainside.
Not exactly what I would call erotic or even romantic!

In the same way that erotic poetry was well known in earlier cultures and only slyly seen during the Viking age, there is precious little erotic art during this time. Art was often zoological knotwork, and the earlier erotic depictions of Greek, Roman and neolithic art is not easily found. In fact, the earlier favorable view of the heathen and pagan toward nudity, sensuality and sexuality in art was usurped by the Christian clerical dislike of these things, and there is very little depiction in surviving art of this time of sheer nudity except in such cases as biblical appearances of Eve, of the damned in hell and of Christ (who is depicted as semi-nude but who Is certainly not at all erotic?).

This is not say that there was no erotic depictions at all, but much would not today be called or recognized as erotic. For example, the Bayeux Embroidery shows a few naked figures, but they feature rape and are more documentative than erotic; certainly, today rape is considered very non-erotic!

In Viking art, there is a statue of Freyr in which the god is stroking his beard. He was associated with virility, and he was wed to Freyja, the Norse goddess of beauty and sexuality. That beard has been associated by many critics with the penis and virility, so that stroking the beard becomes something else!

The fact that the beard is so considered indicates to me that perhaps what was considered suggestive or erotic during this time would not be so considered nowadays. One has to wonder what things considered erotic at the time might be overlooked today!

[Riddles translated by Benjamin Thorpe]


CHOICE OF TERMINOLOGY

 

There are a great number of terminology that is unique to living history, but there s also terminology that is not unique to living history, that is commonly used elsewhere and which might be wrong elsewhere but it is extremely wrong in living history. Here are three examples.

Authentic

Authentic is often used to describe something that is historically accurate, but it is also often used to describe something that dates from the time. Many years ago, I used the term as carelessly as anyone, but at a display, a young girl asked if the helmet before me was authentic. I said that it was, and her eyes grew wide. “You mean that this was actually worn by someone back then?”

Ever since then, I use the term “accurate” or “historically accurate,” which is what people often want to know. But of course, I still use “authentic” when describing a technology from the time or an artefact that dated from the time.

Anglo-Saxon

The term is used to refer to the English people after the migration but before the Norman invasion. It was used three times in period but in times since, especially in modern times, it is used as a racial epithet meaning white and especially white superiority.. I referred to the Regia scope as Anglo-Saxon years ago; then at a fair, two MoPs saw the sign as they walked through gave me the white power sign and said, “Yeah, keep them niggers in their place.”

Ever since, I have used the term “Englisc,” which is also period but which is not confusing and tells the MoP exactly what we are referring to. I still use Anglo-Scandinavian and Anglo-Norman.

Viking

In period, Viking was a verb that meant sailing out to do trading and/or raiding. It was first used as a noun in English around the start of the eighteenth century. It refers to avocation and not to a nationality and certainly not a race. It is often incorrectly used to refer to Scandinavian culture; I use “Norse” most often.

I still say the Viking Age and refer to pirates of the time as Vikings though.


THE SCALE OF ACCURACY

It should go without saying that there is a scale of accuracy in living-history practices, and it is this scale that I would like to examine today.

If they’da haddit, they woulda used it. The existence of objects—or references in accounts written before the present or modern interpretations or period facts or a desire to believe that fantasy is actually true—is seen by many dabblers in living history as provenance for its existence and use. For example:

•    The trousers of Ragnar Lodbrok (Shaggybreeches) were made of fur coated with pitch
•    Leather reindeer armor is mentioned in a saga
•    Bersarks were a common feature of the Scandinavian culture
•    Shields were elaborately detailed
•    The so-called “blood eagle” was a common Norse torture
•    Viking warriors all wore horned helmets
•    The copper Buddha indicated that there was a Buddhist subculture in Sweden

Unfortunately, there is little reason to justify the existence of many such objects. Most if not all of these are reenactorisms. Even the single physical existence of an object—or an interpretation that such an object or action might have existed—does not provide justification for its wide use. Let us look closer at these cases of “provenance” for wide and justified usage.

Fur trousers has no provenance except in the stores of Ragnar, and there it might be a fantasy or might simply be so unusual that it is not only stressed but giv3es him his soubriquet.

While leather trousers might have been worn as work clothing (in one translation, Ælfric indicates that leather breeches were manufactured), they do not appear to have been armor.

Because many of these are so obviously plot devices in sagas, or misinterpretation of earlier writings. The concept of bersarks, for example, certainly seems not to have dated much earlier than the twelfth century (the object in the Lewis chessmen of a warrior biting his shield) and perhaps no earlier than the thirteenth century). The appearance of the bersarks in sagas—tales written down by Christians for a Christian audience—are both late and obviously plot devices. Reindeer leather—not only notoriously thin but enchanted—is obviously not a practical thing. We cannot assume that every warrior went around in leather armor (enchanted or not) because of its appearance in a saga, but it becomes a reason for many reenactors to wear leather armor. Accepting even the appearance of the enchanted reindeer armor in the sagas as true fact is somewhat similar to embracing ghosts, divination and other supernatural events as the gospel truth since they appear in sagas!

Most shields seem to have had simple geometric designs (see the Gokstad shields) and not elaborate motifs. After all, most shields were apparently expected to serve for a single battle so elaborate designs would only have been temporary and had to be repeated for any later shields.

The blood eagle—the lungs of a living person are drawn out through incisions in the back so that they look like wings—was a discreditrf interpretation of a poetic kenning in a poem of Ivar the Boneless in which the poet marked an eagle on the back of Ælla, his enemy. It was probably a poetic kenning, referring to the fact that he was killed and made likely food for carrion birds, but later interpretations changed into a factual appearance and has continued to evolve so that now salt is rubbed into the wounds to increase Ælla’s torment.

Undoubtedly, the idea of Viking helmets with cow horns first appeared in the nineteenth century, although there is some indication that heathen priests of a thousand years before performed rituals while wearing metal protuberances which could be interpreted as horns, and many people wishing to justify their use of horned helmets will spin this as provenance.

There is little doubt that the Buddha actually exists, but that does not mean that it was commonly found. The Buddha was manufactured in India and was apparently passed from merchant to merchant until it ended up in Holgö Sweden. It seems to have been a unique object in the Scandinavia world, perhaps picked up for sentimental reason and not an indication of the proof the Buddhist faith in the culture and certainly not that everyone went out to obtain a Buddha to be part of the in crowd (the so-called Buddha on the bucket is merely an imaginative interpretation in my opinion).

Many people religiously believe the old trope that something would logically exist—using modern logic—even if such an article has not been found. For some people, especially members of fantasy LARPs, a single occurrence or literary reference is all that is needed to adapt these into their appearances, and the multiple appearance of a unique artifact is not only tolerated but encouraged. To have a whole bucketload of supposedly unique things is considered commendable. One such person said that his personal attempts to “recreate” the culture of the past hinges on the appearance of unique and romantic items. They speak the loudest to him, and they represent what sort of an impression that he wishes to present. He seeks to avoid the more usual and conventional objects and to present unusual items as the artifacts that define that earlier time. It is as though he has been most influenced by popular culture, by novels and film about the era.

I call this trying to find an individual occurrence to justify an existing supposition to be retro-research. For me, retro-research is frustrating and causes anyone who does it to grasp at straws: To read something and then to try to interpret it in the manner that best supports the theory the reader wants to prove.

At the other end of the scale from what I choose to call romantic recreation is a more common convention in living history, that reenactors should be trying to recreate the ordinary life of the time. A person must find at least three occurrences of an artifact or three separate literary descriptions before it can be considered factual and routinely used or done. Determining what are three separate descriptions and not merely a duplication of something from an earlier account or source can sometimes be difficult, but this is one reason that extensive research is essential to good living history!

There are people who proclaim that they hate the authenticity police and want to be able to do anything that is not from the present day or at least common in the present day. There are people who say that unless an object or action has at least three proven and separate instances, you should avoid its use even if some object is needed and the proven article is unavailable, too expensive or dangerous. Many people take up a position somewhere in the center, and I suppose that if I was totally honest, I do as well. But I certainly veer toward the more accurate end of the scale!

What about you?