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

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People seem to love to define eras very precisely. But then most people love to make definitions and then argue like crazy with anyone who has a different idea. For the most part, the common education system relies on being able to make these definitions.

I suppose that I am no exception. So…

I define the Viking Age as the time when the Viking ship—the drakkar, the knarr and the othwr types—was the greatest weapons of the time, just as the atomic bomb was the greatest weapon of the Atomic Age. The Viking ship was about the foremost of its time, though variations leading up to its invention could be found in many culture prior to their appearance on the scene. They were shallow, clinker-built ships propelled both by sail and by oars. They were quick and maneuverable, perfect for hit-and-run raids/expeditions.

The Viking ship was invented in…well, we do not know. It was probably a developed over many years, and not only is it difficult to say when it was developed, it is difficult to say at what step you could call it a Viking ship. And though many smaller boats today are built on the Viking ship ideal, when can you definitely say that the Viking ship was no longer made except as reproductions. They tried experiments—like a castle such as the cog, which succeeded it, had at its stern and sometimes both ends and never quite worked. But at either end of the timeline, they were not the preeminent weapon of the time…even if the exact times cannot be pinpointed.

Vikings were thugs. Many people try to portray them as bucolic, peaceful flower children who probably wandered around with flowers in their hair. But if you read the descriptions by contemporaries (…the raiding-army became much stirred up against the bishop, because he did not want to offer them any money, and forbade that anything might be granted in return for him. Also they were very drunk, because there was wine brought from the south. Then they seized the bishop, led him to their hustings on the Saturday in the octave of Easter, and then pelted him there with bones and the heads of cattle; and one of them struck him on the head with the butt of an axe, so that with the blow he sank down and his holy blood fell on the earth, and sent forth his holy soul to God’s kingdom.” Anglo-Saxon Chronicle translated by Michael Butler Swanton) and even by their own sagas (“Next morning they found Hálfdán Hálegg on Rinar’s Hill. The Earl made a blood eagle be cut on his back with the sword, and had his ribs severed from the back-bone, and his lungs pulled out. Thus he gave him to Odinn as an offering for victory…” Orkneyin Saga, translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie), they were thugs. Of course, as I have said so many times before, everybody of the time were thugs! It is very hard for me to exclude everyone but the Norse in the Viking Age. For example, the Englisc and the Norse were very similar. Differences were in the details (and that is the source of accuracy, so do not lecture me 🙂 ). So never think the Viking Age just said one side of the struggle was evil!

To be succinct, my definition of the Viking Ages is not the common 783–1066 (the raid on Lindisfarn until Stamford Bridge. After all, there were earlier Viking raids on many less famous locations (Iona and Portland for example) and the Vikings still made raids later (the 1070 claim of England by Sven Estridsson at Humber to claim England and even later), but this is mainly an English definition, and the definition is different in other locations. I like round numbers. For no specific reason, I define the Viking Age as 750–1100. Your definition might—should!—be different!

What started my musings on the matter was a video by The Welsh Viking. It is a thoughtful and perhaps controversial piece. Watch it, think and do not accept what others are stating as fact. What is your definition of the Viking Age?

(Though I disagree with his assertion that you have to be a heathen to be a Viking…)


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

The sign of shears is to move the forefinger and middle finger of your right hand on some cloth, as if to cut it with shears.


I purchased two seax blades—from Germany, one more of a scramseax, a contemporary term sometimes used for longer seaxes. Damascus steel and pretty darned pretty! I won’t go into hilting them, because I did not use a ferrule and just attached the blade to the hilt through a hole driven in the wood. Some note that this is done by heating the tang, but I have personally never been able to heat it enough. YMMV.

However, I would like to speak a little on the sheath for the smaller seax. In fact, the necessity for making new sheathes was one of the reasons I purchased the blades in the first place.

While many people might not believe it, we have plenty of artefactual evidence for how seaxes were carried in the day! I consulted a favorite book, Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York by Quita Mould. Ian Carlisle and Esther Camerom, published by the Council for British Archaeology. It has a variety of shapes that have been found in Coppergate. I already an idea of what shape of sheath I wanted. I considered using a brass edge, as many sheathes of the period were so edged, though I consider that not only a trifle posh but a bit beyond my metal-working skills! I found a shape that I liked and used it, while changing the stitching a little so that I used a chain stitch on the outside, without any wood that the leather covered.

I chose veggie-tanned leather, about .24 inches (2.3 mm) thick. The size of the sheath itself is determined by the length and size. By trial and error—not much by this time—I determined how to cut the leather by laying the shape found in the book against it. I then bent it double and clamped the sides together, punching sewing holes with an awl, Using the two-needle method, I sewed the sheath in a lock/saddle stitch, sewing it with waxed 5 ply linen thread (sinew could be used as well, though you should stay away from cotton or polyester thread). I tied off the ends to make the stitching more secure.

I inserted the knife into the sheath and then dunked it in water so that the leather would shape and constrict. I did learn to be careful clamping, since there is a tendency for metal clips to discolor and streak the wet leather. Make certain there is enough room for the seax to enter and to leave the sheath easily. Oil, while making it easier for the leather to hold the shape, has a tendency to discolor the leather as well.

I finished it off by punching a hole into the sheath where it was indicated on the drawing. I used leather on the first and a hemp cord on the second, then attached it to my belt so that it hung usefully at my side. Wearing it tht way in a modern flding chair dangerously entanmgled it, so using a period stool or bech is more important than just being accurate!

Although YAT has found red-dyed leather sheathes and thinks additional colors were plausible, I did not dye the leather. The leather discolors naturally, assuming a pleasant patina, and I like the effect. Period sheaths were also often decorated with leather carving, using popular designs, so you can use knives or stamps on the finished sheath.


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you need eggs, scrape with your finger up on your left thumb.


Here are a few possible occupations, separated according to gender. Many occupations could be followed by members of either gender, though there were more of one than the other, and. This is only a sampling:


Artist, Painter, Scribe
Bee Keeper
Egg (Wild) Collector
Fyrdsman (militia)
Læce (doctor)
Skald, Scop
Slave (Þrall or Þraell)
Warrior (Professional)


Artist, Painter, Scribe
Concubine (prostition was apparently not found until later)
Læce (doctor)
Slave (Þrall, Þraell or ammmmm)
Camp Follower

The Final Impression

There is no such thing as a final, finished impression. It should always be added to and corrected to depending on research and new discoveries or interpretations. But above all else, your impression and its construction should be fun! So, have fun and good luck!


Primary Questions

These a few standard questions that should be answered as you finalize or refine your impression:

• What is your name?
• Where were you born?
• Do you read and write?
• What is your state of health?
• What diseases have you suffered?
• Are you married? Divorced Widowed?
• Do you have any unique skills or talents?
• How do you get from one place to the other?
• Are there customary talents that are common to your station and class?
• What clothing is typical of your station?
• Do you own property?
• What is your occupation?


There was a wide variety of jobs that were practiced in the early middle ages. Some of the job titles originated or were popular only later, but they were performed throughout much of the early middle ages.

Many of these jobs were trained positions, so that craftsmen specialized even in homes, and persons might identify as a practitioner of more than one occupation. Most were not full time employments, and it is misleading to say most were professions.

In our next installment, we will list some of the occupations. Many occupations were hereditary and even became used for later names though there were temporary exceptions, based on current needs!




What name do you use in reenacting? Is it the original form of the name or atranslation of the original Norse name? Is it a modernization or an Anglicization or some other transformation?

The use of a transformed name 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. If you want a name in its original form, the name that is given in the modern, more instantly recognizable form, you often find that the traditional form is given as well, in parentheses, in a footnote or even in an endnote. If it is not there and you want to use the original name, you should be able to track it down easily on the internet.

The reenactor must also deal with this, and there is no perfect answer. Just be very careful not to mix the names at a reenactment, which comes very close to intermingling the names of Greek and Roman Gods in the same project, a situation that is immediately hilarious in many cases. I prefer the use of a totally period name, but even that becomes questionable because in most cases, it is a modern interpretation that may or may not have been used in period.

When choosing a name, make certain that you know how and why names were constructed, and know the accuracy of the source. While it may be amusing to know the supposed meaning of a name, it is more important to know its origins. The baby-name books which list names and their meanings, however, might be amusing but are generally of very doubtful accuracy and should be regarded only s a starting point for further investigation.

Ethnicity, Class & Nationality

Keep in mind that ethnicity, class and nationality—or the combination hereof—will determine not only your name, often your costume (while styles of costume did not vary from location to location, details did have an effect) and must be considered. The addition of a single piece from another ethnicity or nationality is allowed by most groups, though more than one specific inclusion shoul be seen at single event since the common goal of living history is to represent everyday life. Ethnicity and nationality are also determined by feasability, since the goal for true living history is historic accuracy and not cheap pulp fantasy.

What ethnicity and nationality does not necessarily determine is the skin color. From ancient times, people of different races were easily found in the same ethnicity, class or nationality. Illustrations from the time indicate this, though primary literary sources do not since it was of such little importance to them. Racial prejudices seem to have started much later; at this time, religious prejudices were much more important!


In living history, the term “impression” refers to how a reenactor is dressing, behaving and presenting to the public and to fellow reenactors. A reenactor can create a feasible & believable persona impression. That impression—also referred to as persona or character—tells you how you should dress, behave and present yourself and is, therefore, integral in making certain that your living-history portrayal is not just another fantasy LARP.


By this we refer to how a reenactor presents himself to the public. There are three sorts of these approaches of dealing with the presentation.


This is an acting option where you portray yourself as a person from the time being portrayed. People with first-person impressions cannot give any hint that they know after the time they portray, though they do not have to speak in the common language of the time.


This is more a dress-up than an acting option. While you accurately dress as a person from another time, you do not portray yourself as a person of that time. You know things after the time of you portray and can help to put it all in perspective with the rest of history—even today—when talking to a MoP.


This is a combination of first- and third-person impressions—sometimes also referred to as a ghost impression—where a person usually portray himself as a person of the time but can break into this portrayal to be a modern person if needed to clarify things.

There are some people who say a third person impression means that you really do not need an impression. I disagree vehemently. The impression tells you what you should wear and what you would know. Otherwise, you might wear an eleventh-century tunic, cotton pyjama bottoms, rhinestone sunglasses and Keds, telling everyone you are a Viking…

Historical Impression

Most impressions are of everyday persons of the time, and living history itself usually deals with is standard. Yes, they have a Buddha statue in Viking-Age Helgo, Sweden, but the chances are that not everyone had a Buddha statue!

The exception is when the person portrays an actual person from the time: King Ælfred, Knúdr the Great, Sir Walter Raleigh or Abraham Lincoln for example. These are first-person impressions on high octane, since you must not only be well versed with what an ordinary person of the time knows but with actual biographical data.


I have spoken before of the Cuthbert or Stonyhurst gospel. It is the earliest bound book in Europe that has not been rebound, and it is bound in a modified Coptic manner. I use its binding as a model for the binding of all the books that I have bound.

The cover of the book is decorated with a peculiar kind of decoration that I refer to, with no real documentation, as embellishment. The exact way that the decoration beneath the leather was made is controversial, although recent CT scans indicate the design was done with clay. Cord, wooden carving and seeds have also been proposed, and I chose to believe that cord was used.

I did the design using thickish hemp cord. I positioned it using a foundation. I then covered the hemp with more glue. I allowed it to dry for about a day.

I used a thin leather to cover the cord. It was about 1–2 mm thick, and applying it to the design took a lot of time. Additional glue was placed over everything, and I fitted the leather to the design, pressing and squeezing it tight. The original process was not very tight, and when it had dried a little, I did it again, squeezing it tight around the cord. I discovered that the leather would dry and tighten up. When it had dried, I glued the rest of the cover.

It had a steep learning curve. My first attempts were rough as well as fairly simple. In the time since, It has become more sophisticated, and I have gradually used more complicated designs. I have done more and more, eventually coming up with books for sale using the designs. It has become easier and fun!


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

When you would like cheese, set your two hands flat together, as if pressing.


For Kael Ball whose comment on farb an acronyms caused me to finish this post!

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:


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


Mock combat with foam weapons.


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.

Frog and Feathers

French and Indian.


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.


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.


Member of the Public; a spectator.


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

Ramada Ranger

A reenactor who stays in a hotel instead of camping.


Modern invention that is accepted and promoted as accurate to the period though if it is not.

Retro Research

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


i) The real or imaginary line between which everything should be historically accurate.
Public Hours; ii) the times when the historical accuracy behind the Ropeline must be adhered.

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.


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.

Three-Foot (or Three-Foot etc.) Rule

Something seems accurate at three feet, or any designated distance.


A selection of acronyms not necessarily restricted to a single era! Feel free to contribution new an d additional acronyms!

Acronyms are everywhere nowadays, and many acronyms have vastly varying meanings. These are not necessarily universally used reenactors. But probably should be!

American Civil War
Authenticity Officer
American War of Independence
British Museum
Can’t Really Actually Provenance


Colonial Williamsburg
Early Middle Ages. From the discredited term “Dark Ages”
English Civil War
Living History Exhibit
Master at Arms or Middle Ages
Member of the Public (a MoPpet is a young Member of the Public)
Military Training Officer
Seriously Hideous Inauthentic Trash
Thick As Pig Shit
Viking Age or Albert and Victoria Museum
Viking Middle Ages


Having access to or possessing certain items is essential. Having a loom, a desk or a work table is certainly essential. However, even more essential are those minor tools that can be easily transported and used. The fabled Mästermyr tool chest is an example of a traveling artisan who certainly had to borrow—or construct—a place where these tools can be used.

The following are essential, to be certain and should work for most basic activities, but they are just a start! All these tools were chosen because they were so often seen that they were ubiquitous and small enough to be easily held and transported.



For a more complete list of what tools might be owned, consult the list in “The Discriminating Reeve” to choose what might be of use.


Knife (Large)
Pot (metal or Stone; a tripod or trivet is also recommended, though a temporary surface of some sort can be made with stones)
Spoon (Large)


Cutting tool (Sharp Knife or Shears)

Metalworking Tools



Shears, Scissors or Snips
Spindle Whorl and Stick



Woodworking Tools

Hammer (a Mall type, not a specialist hammer)
Tongs (also known as Pliers)
Wedge (metal or wood)

I have recounted above the basic tools needed for those activities with which I am accustomed. If there is an activity with which you are familiar that is not mentioned here (or a tool for one of these activities you find essential but mentioned here), please let me know!


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you would like butter or fat, stroke with your three fingers on the inside of your hand.


For living in the Viking Age, what would be the essential goods owned by a person?

I would suggest the following:
Tunic and Undertunic (or dress and apron/hangeroc and underdress)
Braises or stockings (unless you are warm)
Some kind of socks if the braises or stockings had no sock feet
A knife
A bowl
A cup

(unless, of course, you want to be a þrall or þraell)

Beyond that, it becomes two different matters. And even some of these—such as the shoes or the cloaks—are dependent on the weather in most instances.

Most would have a belt or sash of some sort, possibly just a length of rope or fabric If you are rich, there is no end of what someone would own. If you were literate—probably a cleric—you would have a Bible and perhaps other books relating to religious thought. Even the poorest of people—even the þralls—might have a religious pendant, a game of some sort and perhaps a souvenir, just a stone that attracted his fancy. Workmen had the necessary tools to do their trade.

The important thing is that all items owned by a person would be from the same culture and of the same cost. There might be an exception—a souvenir or gift—but here I am talking about a single item, and if the item was very expensive, the chances are that it would not be often flaunted!

But not everyone would have such an item. I might well vary from person to person according to taste and what is necessary.

What is the point of these observation? Merely this…

When you are starting reenactment, take pains that everything should be of the same class. Your first outfit might very well be rather primitive. As long as it is accurate in its composition, color and style, it does not matter how sophisticated it is. In fact, having a sophisticated piece of clothing that is cheaply done is often more comical than accurate. When you are acquiring your first set of period clothing—and all subsequent sets as well—you must carefully research and recreate. When determining what your clothing should look like, you should carefully avoid almost every film, most comic books and books by authors such as Iris Brooks, Herbert Norris and Ruth Turner Wilcox. Instead, consult such books as the various Textiles and Clothing books, Þor Ewing’s Viking Costume or Gale R. Owen-Crocker’s Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Good luck, work hard and have a good but accurate time!


Actually give me a bible, but I just did this as a cover for the Folump catalog and really liked it!

Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you would have a book, move your hand back and forth, raise up your thumb and set your hand flat against your chest.


I am proud to announce the publication of a new book, Everyday Early Medieval Life. It is directed toward reenactors, though it may be of interest to non-reenactors who are interested in early medieval history. My background is modern journalism, and I have tried to back up all assertions with citations. Finding these citations was difficult, since they deal with subjects of little interest to many archaeologists, historians and so many “Combat Wombat” reenactors!

It deals with the contents of pouches, the kinds of shoes worn, accurate tentage, accurate furniture and much more, along with notes on what is generally accepted—often referred to as reenactorisms—but is farby to the extreme. Besides the citations, the book includes a bibliography, a complete table of contents, original illustrations, period illustrations, photographs of reenactment sites and photographs of period replicas from my collection. Here are a few photos of pages from the book:

Roland Ambrose. Everyday Early Medieval Life , containing revised, corrected and enlarged reprints of the previously published chapbooks: Not an Anchor but a Mast, Luxuries of the Long House, Drink Until the Tables Are Cleared and Let the Sea-Serpent’s Couch Slip out of Your Pouch. Folump Enterprises; $20. https://www.etsy.com/listing/1059818789/everyday-early-medieval-life?ref=shop_home_active_1&fbclid=IwAR3OJ43aZuemVl3iQ1_hoVTrnhgDqQp86Vet0LdR9acCtaQg-E-YbjXzyrM


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you need a knife, cut with one finger over the other as if carving.


Getting tired of reading about buffs complaining pretentiously that a vendor should be despised because the vendor is selling things that are not a hundred percent accurate and affordable.

Let’s face it, As the saying goes, good reenacting is not inexpensive. Reenacting materials can be inexpensive. And it can be accurate. But getting them both at the same time is nearly impossible unless you are dealing with previously owned materials, with gifts from friends and makers that do not want to make any sort of a profit. Having a vendor who offers moderately inexpensive and moderately accurate merchandise is, no matter what people say, legitimate as long as the vendor does not say that they are all perfect for any reenactor.

The basic thing is that any reenactor must examine all pieces of merchandise according to the accuracy requirements that he adheres to. Generally but not necessarily a society’s regs. These vary from vague and ambiguous enough to encourage new members with the least amount of work to a printed book that explains the regulations. These are taken from the Regiaanglorum authenticity manual and re copyreight Regia Anglorum. We use the terms Encouraged (common), Optional (less common), Allowable (with AO’s permission and provision) and Unacceptable. If an object is Allowable, you must consult with the AO! The opinion of the vendor should not be acceptable for the ratings of accuracy unless it includes photos of extant artefacts or legitimate provenance!

What this means is that almost no piece of kit may be worn on the line or displayed to the public without some modification! When someone complains how farby a dealer is, perhaps you should take a closer look at the situation and see why the buff dislikes the vendor!

Making modifications to insure that a piece of kit is acceptable to the authenticity regs of your society is essential to your shopping. It is necessary. Almost nothing is going to be perfect in the eyes of the buff (and keep in mind that their interpretations of accuracy might not be the same as yours). The cost and time required to make the necessary modifications must be allotted. Snarky descriptions and condescending comments on the vendor must not!

Items Found in Pouches

Much of the following has been taken from “The Great Pouch Debate” by A. McVie, A. NichoIson and G. Waidsom.

There are few extant pouches that have been found, and there seems to be arelustance to say what they contain–if anything remains. Andrew Nicholson noted in private conversation that, “organic survival is difficult.” “Buried Vikings: Excavating Cumwhitton’s cemetery” notes in Current Archaeology 294 that “Initially, all were X-rayed to determine their contents. Then, using the X-rays as a guide, the blocks were carefully excavated, and the objects stabilised, cleaned, and conserved as they emerged from the encasing soil,” but finding these contents is difficult! This page is not finished and may very well be added to and corrected as we received the information.

*McVie et. al. notes, “the citation does no say whether these are human or animal.”

v. 1


One of the best ways to observe everyday life during the pre-Conquest England is neither through an academic book nor a general non-fiction booth nor even a history book from the time. Just as it is easiest to find people were actually doing during time by reading what they were prohibited from doing, wills, charters and other legal documents tell what the people of the time found important, valuable and coveted.

Yet, these are almost never displayed to the public, so vital way to educate them. So I decided to make a few of these documents that could be displayed. I started by researching what the wills, charters and other documents of the time said. For example, in the famous will of Wynflæd, we find out that she valued red fabric, slaves (many of whom she freed after her death) and (European) bison horns!

I found Anglo-Saxon Wills, and Anglo-Saxon Charters to be especially valuable. These books, dating from he start of the twentieth century, contain the original Latin on one page and a translation in modern English on the facing page. I’ve always loved books like this, and these are not exceptions!

I have long done what I call computerized calligraphy, where I use my typographic training to typeset replicas of hand-made calligraphy. So I was able to choose a number of documents and transferred the untranslated Latin to a document, then formatted it to look like a period document. I substituted the names found in the document for names of reenacting friends and even invented names for some of the places, just to accentuate my sense of humor. Printed out on heavy vegetable parchment, they looked nice.

But I was unsatisfied. I bought a sheet of parchment—the vendor suggested goatskin—and cut it into likely sizes. I discovered that there was no standard size for these documents. In fact, they appeared to be size so they could contain the text. Th bottoms were often cut into strips after the turn of the Millennium, so that seals could be attached. Although my calligraphy might charitably be called “hatchet hand,” I discovered that many of the scribes of the time were no more finessed!

When we can hold events again, I fully intend to display some of the computer calligraphy, but I also intend to hand letter some more documents and display them as well and, hopefully when I have enough, can display only them.

In the meantime, I have made four charters for giving out to visitors, with places for their names. They are grants of land, notes of annual gifs and manumission from slavery, hopefully documents that will intrigue the MoPs and encourage them to find out more about a fascinating time!


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

The sign for beer is to knead one hand on the other. Seemed appropriate for the day….


Monastic sign language has been used in Europe from at least the tenth century by monks of the Benedictine Order because “silence is a virtue.” // // It was a method using a hand lexicon to name certain commonplace things without speaking aloud. It is not a language, per sé, like ASL, though very useful. This article was inspired by Debby Banham’s The Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language.

If you would like milk, stroke your left finger with your right hand as if you were milking.


My copy of the Bald Læcebok was among the first of the books I decided to bind. I used the 1863 translation by Oswald Cockayne in the second volume of , Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England.
Although other, later translations are available, this was out of copyright and suitable to be reproduced and disseminated in a bound book. It included the Herbarium of Afuleius which was published in the first volume.

The Bald Læcebok did not include anything about the unicorn horn, though its properties were widely known in the early middle ages. That did not bother me.

Then, while searching for something else, I founded sources for legal narwhal horn. A full horn went for eight thousand dollars. However, smaller pieces were much less from the Boone Trading Company. Narwhal horn was mistaken for a unicorn horn in the seventeenth century, but the Norse and Englisc knew of narwhals, and I am certain that there was an earlier conflation. So I bought a small chunk.

However, if I wanted to display it at event with my læce cist, I also wanted something written to show the MoPs. Just a bit of research, I found the fifth century bce Indica, where Ctesias wrote:

In India there are wild asses not as large as horses, or even larger. Their body is white, their head dark red, their eyes bluish, and they have a horn in their forehead about a cubit in length. The lower part of the horn, for about two palms distance from the forehead, is quite white, the middle is black, the upper part, which terminates in a point, is a very flaming red. Those who drink out of cups made from it are proof against convulsions, epilepsy, and even poison, provided that before or after having taken it they drink some wine or water or other liquid out of these cups.

Reasoning that persons of the middle ages were familiar with the claim, as they were of the writings of other ancients, I slid the quote into the læcebok. Oh, it took a bit of work to make it all work out correctly, that then what else do you have to do during a Plague?