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



At its core, living history is a serious recreation of an earlier culture. It is not fantasy LAMP, though many such societies brag about how they are true living and those societies who have written authenticity (I prefer the term “accuracy”) rules are just anal and judgmental. Interpretation of what is “thenty” varies; that is why there are so many similar but different societies, many across varying eras (I call them “Fellow Travelers”). But any living-history society that can legitimately style itself by that name has three things in common:

1 Everything is has “on the line” has a historical inspiration, either an actual artefact from the time or a literary description. Most societies demand two or three instances, which is why most Norse societies are not over run by people with bronze Buddha!

  1. Reenacting equipment are made from historically accurate materials, so that—in the case of the early Middle ages—members are not using cotton, polyester or plywood.
  2. They do not mix different eras or too many uncommon items unless they use items recycled from an earlier era or an expensive, uncommon item is unique and not universally seen if a low status impression is being depicted.

Beyond these matters lies the exceptions of them, and they differ widely. Whether the reenactors have first- or third- (or even second-) person impressions, or even if they talk modern English (or the language of the main surrounding culture) are entirely dependent mainly on the society. But some of the elements mentioned below make it completely not living history, though others have a grey area. . Some are fairly standard and wide spread, such as blank ammunition, rebated combat blades and no lead drinking vessels. We will deal with the extent of these exceptions below. But first, let’s look at the five common levels of accuracy…

Museum-Quality Duplicates

Every object used or displayed is an exact duplicate of an historical object down to how it was made. It is a duplicate that could be found in a museum, and anything that does not differ in any extent—great or not, materiasl, design, tools—that were not used on the original. To a good extent, this is experimental archaeology.

What You See Is What is Accurate

The visible parts of every object used or displayed is an exact duplicate of an historical object, but unseen, interior seams are not necessarily by hand, non-period details—such as grommets—might be hidden and non-period tools are used.

Objects are Inspired by Artefacts

While an object is inspired by an existing artefact, the replica may be made of a different material (but nothing that was unavailable) and different sizes but still has the general shapes and adds no features no features that were unavailable such as rope handles and plastic hinges. The use of things that cannot be provenanced such as leather hinges.

The extent of these modifications are determined by the society’s Authenticity Officer (AO), and any modification cannot be unilateral and must be approved by the AO. In some cases, something that was permitted is now forbidden and must be replaced or just eliminated by a certain time.

Many societies have degrees of innovation, where a practical change is made that is related to an example but possible…but have the AO approval before making or displaying it!

Items Are Medieval-esque

Items are vaguely based on what is true, but it is more important to look neat and cool and almost as if you stepped out of a Mel Gibson film. At this point, it is usually bit uncertain whether it is living history or not.

If They’da Haddit. They’da Usedit if it was Cool

The “reenactor” eschews all research and does what he wants because fancy-dress cosplay is more important than anything else. This is, of course, definitely not living history.

In Conclusion

None of the above are absolute black and white, and every aspect may be fudged, debated and debated. In addition, you and your society has its own standards. Having farby standards is not bad if you and your members agree to it and unless members of your society object to being surrounded by farb or you brag about how thenty it is. However, each should be in your mind and neither ignored nor even considered.


While it is generally assumed that chess was not period for the Viking Age, it had actually been introduced into Europe and, in fact, England, by the middle of the eleventh century. We are told by Snorri Sturluson that “As the legend goes, after a celebratory feast at Roskilde, Canute and Ulf [Þorgilsson, a jarl] argued over a game of chess.” Some insist that hnefatafl was meant, but chess had been working up its way from Rome by that time!

The most famous of the Viking Era chess sets—though it dates from the twelfth-century, sometime after an accepted date for the end of the Viking Age—was Lewis chessmen, which were found in 1831. The chessmen display Norse styles and are splendidly charming! I saw them at a special exhibition in the British Museum, and bough I wanted to buy a set, the sets offered were all plastic. Any sets found in the next few years were either inexpensive plastic or much more expensive thenty materials.

This year, I found a set that was made of plaster. Certainly not as accurate as the walrus ivory used in te originals, but still not plastic. I bought them, and I was delighted by them, as was my wife. There was even two extra copies of the Queen—my favorite piece—so I have it on my desk, and my wife had one on hers. I keep the set in a specially designed wooden chest.

After hugging the pieces for a while, I realized that I needed a chessboard. A standard modern chessboard was not adequate, despite how sophisticated it might be. There were no extant chessboards from most of the middle ages, so I had to go by the boards seen in illustrations from the Crusades. I chose one and made a suitable chessboard. The result was pleasing!

The rules for playing medieval chess differ slightly from those for playing modern chess. A good introduction may be found in https://www.academia.edu/11786901/The_Medieval_Game_of_Chess_A_Guide_to_Play?auto=download .


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 dish, raise up one hand and spread your fingers.


If you were transported back in time for a month or more, what would you bring from the present?

It is not here our need nor our intent to comment on the technology involved in such an action, and so we must take the notion of time travel as a done deal that we do not have to think about. There are certain conventions we should probably note that are so well planned and conventional that you never have to even consider them. We shall therefore make it a convention that any method you use for traveling back in time is accompanied by a mechanism for returning you to the present.

We have to make the leap of faith that there is no language difficulties, though the accents might be amusing. We assume that there is a space about the person of the time traveler which can include material goods and convey them into the past. Let us further assume that you have done enough research to know an appropriate time to visit, appropriate clothing and an appropriate area for your appearance so that you are not appearing as some kind of angelic apparition in the middle of a crowded London street. Appropriate health immunizations (no non-vaxers need apply). Can you have tattoos or other body mods? Let us err on the side of caution for the most part, but even if tattoos were discovered to be common, certain tattoos—such as that of the Tasmanian Devil—should be avoided!

You obviously do not want to bring back any watches—digital or mechanical, large or small—with you, as well as no spectacles. No garments made with modern fabrics, especially artificial, or made with modern mechanical devices, should be brought. Even modern colors, dyes or anything that might alter the progress of time and technology. In fact, there are certain drawbacks to almost anything that could be brought back in time.

If you have a list of historical events: Scores of games, victors of wars and battles, economic trends and the such, intending to make a fortune by betting on things, there is always the possibility that these accounts could fall into other people’s hands and so possibly change the future in a number of different ways, not merely because of the knowledge of future events but because someone might want to change something and so the course of time and construction of the future. (Do you really want to cause a Biff?) Any information about future events would need to be committed to memory.

If you brought back a modern firearm, and it fell into the hands of an inventive and resourceful person, it might engender the appearance of such firearms centuries before they were invented. Even its sheer appearance with bullets could change things even if it were not duplicated.
Bringing back edged weapona in the style of the time but made of modern metals is more innocent, but the quality of the metal might inspire smiths to try to duplicate the technology. While it is romantic, perhaps, to assume that this was the source of the Uhtred swords, it is a dangerous interference with the technology of the time!

For the most part, recording devices—such as cameras, camcorders and even audio recorders and certainly a computer—would be valuable; a person commented that five minutes of video footage from the battle of Hastings would be invaluable, but electric charges and batteries must be planned for and included. Realize that there will probably be no way to recharge an electrical device in the past. In addition, there is the matter that any such device must be disguised in some manner. Having a DVD player or a CD player or any similar device to play footage from the future or from the current time might be seen simply as magic…though that would no doubt create certain liabilities by itself!

In the end, perhaps the best thing you could bring would be a first-aid kit. Not only wold this be protective for the traveller, but many of the innovations would be accepted. If you look at, for example, Bald’s Leechbook. There were many healing devices that were used but not fully understood, so that you would not be changing things from altering the technology, though the use of such medicines might save someone who was supposed to die, so that time itself was changed.

Modern electrical or combustion vehicles would arouse too much interest and no doubt change history. Therefore, you would not want to bring automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles or plans, even if they were painted as or otherwise disguised as dragons. Hoof it or ride on a beast or in a wagon drawn by a beast!

It might be most pertinent to ask what you might bring back to the present. Certain any video, photography or audio recordings you might have made. Perhaps pieces of artwork, jewelry and other artifacts of various types. Complete garments would be invaluable for a number of reasons. These would be a great boon to archaeologists. However, if you have a more materialist and pecuniary motive, it might be just as simple and more certain to return to the summer of 1938 and to buy a few mint copies of Action Comics Number One!


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!


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.


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!


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!


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


Books (codexes)


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)