Using the hunters horn.

The sound of the horns and the barking of the dogs, the excitement of that experience, is often described as the most joyful thing in hunting. 1176193_10152147330522926_384463484_n

Communication with the other hunters is most important use of the hunters horn. In the medieval huntbooks different signals are described that should be sounded in different phases of the hunt. You blow a certain signal when you are going out on a hunt and another when you are riding back home. There is a signal for when the game is sighted or the hounds are to be released or to call them back and finally after a kill you blow the “mort”.

What not everybody knows is that the horn also plays an important role before the hunt, used in a way that may seem strange to us today. The huntbooks describe how some hunters are sent out in advance to track up animals and suggest appropriate game.

NamnlösThey return to the merry gathering of the hunters and report their findings to the Master of the Hunt, informing him about where the animals are, what their tracks look like and bring back fumes for him to judge them by.

When found, the fumes are stuffed into the hunters horn and he seals it with some grass to keep the fumes from falling out.

Here the hunters are seen pouring “fumes” out of their hunting horns. Judging by the shape, size and quality of the fumes from different animals, the master of Hunt decides for the most appropriate game.

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Hunter pouring fumes out of his horn.

Edward of Norwich teaches us in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century, how a to know a Great Hart by the Fumes:

“I shall teach you to know a great hart by the fumes of the hart, for sometimes they crotey in wreaths, sometimes flat and sometimes formed. Sometimes sharp at both ends and sometimes pressed together.

If he find the fumes that are formed and not holding together as it is from the beginning of July into the end of August, if they are great and black and long and are not sharp at the ends, and are heavy and dry without slime, it is a token that it is a hart chaceable.

If the fumes are faint and light and full of slime, or sharp at both ends, or at one end, these are the tokens that he is no deer chaceable. If they be slimy it is a token that he has suffered some disease.”

Edward elaborates quite a bit on the subject of fumes so I took the liberty of shortening his advice slightly. Read more about our hunting horns and how Edward of Norwich thinks they should be made here. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video about the use of the hunters horn.

/ Emil

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Making a hunters horn.

Rolands horn

Rolands horn Olifant as seen in Santiago de Compostella

How should a hunters horn look like?  A great hunters horn was traditionally made in ivory, carved decoratively and they are called “olifant’s”, just like Rolands horn Olifant in La Chanson de Roland.

In the late Norse 13th century Karlamagnussaga it is said that Olifant actually was the horn of a unicorn.

If you’d like to see it, you can either visit the famous pilgrim site of Santiago de Compostella in Spain or the Vitus cathedral in Prague who both claim to be in possession of it.

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Hunters with their hunting horns in wide baldrics. Livre de chasse 1407.

My horn is not ivory, nor is it from a unicorn. But it is sort of monumental, none the less. 10635871_10152625159850708_1425179991131912415_n

Johan has carved it beautifully for me and today I finished a new pompous baldric in the style of Livre de chasse. A baldric is the sholder strap in which the horn is carried.

The baldrics in Livre de chasse are often very wide, mostly of a straight cut but sometimes dagged in the edges (as seen above). Both coloured and undyed baldrics appear. Typical for this manuscript is that they often are decorated with what looks like little round-ish metal mounts.

I choose to interpret them as little brass flowers on my baldric. Then I filled up the space between the mounts with a floral pattern inspired by what I’ve seen in period illuminations, picking up the shape of the leafs that Johan carved in to my horn. I’m happy with how it turned out, especially the brass fittings I’ve made myself, stepping slightly outside my comfort zone as a craftsman.

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Johan made his own horn over 10 years ago and has been wearing it on events in Sweden and around Europe since then. IMAG2398The age and patina adds to its beauty, but his baldric is new. The brass letters on it says “venator”, meaning hunter, and “veltrahus” is one in charge of greyhounds.10430477_819255604786371_4273931695073881414_n

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Edward of Norwich teaches us about hunting horns in his book Master of Hunt from early 15th century:

“There are diverse kinds of horns, that is to say bugles, great Abbots, hunters horns, ruets (trumpets) and meaner horns of two kinds. That one kind is waxed waxed with green wax and greater of sound, and they be best for good hunters, therefore I will devise how and in what fashion they should be driven.

First a good hunters horn should be driven of two spans in length, and not much more nor much less, and not too crooked neither too straight, but that the flute be three or four fingers upper more than the head, that unlearned hunters call the great end of the horn.

And also that it be as great and hollow driven as it can for the length, and and that it be shorter on the side of the baldric than at the nether end. And that the head be as wide as it can be, and always driven smaller and smaller to the flue, and that it be well waxed thicker or thinner according as the hunter thinks that it will sound will sound best.

 And that it be the length of the horn from the flute to the binding, and also that it be not too small driven from the binding to the flute, for if it be the horn will be too mean of sound. As for feweterers and woodsmen, I speak not for every small horn and other mean horn unwaxed be good enough for them.”

I’ve also written a short article about the medieval hunters use of his or her horn. Johan is as always one step ahead and provides an informative video.

/ Emil

 

Yngve trötts huntingcompetition

emil smyger In concert with Söderköpings Gästabud there is a very popular contest being held.
This is the ‘Yngve Trötts Bågskyttetävling” (Yngve The Tireds archer-competition). This year it had opened up to all medieval projectiles (maybe it was before, but this year it was pronounced). The competition is in the form of a hunt-trail. It is therefore, to my knowledge the only big event actually doing ‘medieval hunting’ in Sweden. It is a very popular competition, having 60 participators from the whole of Europe. Some even travelled here from Iceland, and it usually takes a lot to lure the Icelanders of their island.

So, me and Emil, of course, had no other choice but to pack our javelins and sally forth to glory and odd animal-hunting!

We travelled light, only carrying what was needed and hoping to get covered by our friends tents in case of rain. The Town of Söderköping is very old, the street of Vintervadsgatan having had the same stretch for 1000 years. It was once a centre of commerce in the area of Östergötland (Eastgothia).

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Our six man group: Annie, Suleyman, Johan, Martin, Miriam and Emil. Boudica is photobombing, as usual.

But, back to the event.
The hunt-trail consisted of 22 targets in rather steep terrain. We went out around 10 in the morning and was not back until 5 hours later. We where divided into groups of about 5 or 6. Me and Emil was the only ones not using a bow. We didn’t really have any expectations of getting any points that would put us in the upper field of the points-roosters as the course was set for bows and not javelins. But we did get the permission to go closer if needed when the distance was to long. At each target you fired two missiles. If you hit it with the first one, you got ten points. If you missed and hit it with the second, five. So you could get ten, five or zero points on each target (some had special rules…).

The weapons had to be medieval in both design and making and so was the archers clothes and other gear (or.. in many cases.. medieval-ish) .

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Annie searching for misplaced arrows

The missiles had to stick to the target, they where not to fall off OR to go straight through. Other than that, it was just hit or miss that counted. Where you hit it was of no interest. After that, came the searching of arrows….

Out on the trail!

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Gollum, his fishes and an orc stealing them! Emils spear in the stream missed the party.

During the years this competition have had some different themes. This was reflected by the plethora of diverse targets we encountered out on the trail. There where some regular boring animals, like badgers and boars, 20140830_131640 but also Drollerie animals in the style of the Lutrellpsalter and good old favourites like the killer rabbit from Monty Python and Lord of the Rings characters.

Our apprehension about the distance to the targets where soon abated. The targets where often well inside javelin-distance, and especially if you got to move a bit so you got the steadier footing needed to throw. We did not move more then absolutely necessary to be able to throw though. Making the long distances for the archers, very long distances for javelins. But sometimes we had to cut the distance in half just to have a  chance to be able to throw at all. Some, like a shot over the canal, was not even to think about. But in general, I think that the targets were well placed and that we had a decent chance to partake with our javelins. Some targets where even easier with javelin than bow, so I guess it kinda evened out a bit.

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On the trail (Photo by Annie Rosén)

We mostly throw javelin in the best conditions. Level ground, we choose the distance, the target is not obscured. Throwing it in the field is something else. The ground was never even, it was always uphill or downhill. Sometimes even so steep you where throwing from above the targets. The footing was perilous and there where seldom room to throw with the whole body. It was a very good experience, and very educating. I found myself over and over thinking “what did I just do? That’s not how you throw a javelin”. And then I did it again… and again. One might say I was a bit off my game and one might be right. That I had just re-shafted the spears and not had time to practise with them before I started might also count into the mix… But these are excuses, the sad truth is that I SHOULD have hit several more targets then I did. I just wasn’t good enough. Most throws went low and short. Probably I tried to throw AT the target when I had to adjust for distance and aim ABOVE. This is something I learned for one thing. I also learned that bows are vastly superior as hunt-weapons compared to javelins, and this helped me to convince me that my theory about its uses holds water, so far.

The targets
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Miriam with a good tailhit on one of the drolleritargets (Photo by Annie Rosén)

The targets where handmade from the same things floaters for swimming pools are made of (like poolnoodles and their flat compadres of the water) and then coated and painted. They where very good and sturdy for targets. The range was, as said before very imaginative and fun to see, giving the whole event a loose and fun atmosphere.

At the end of the competition there is traditionally a target for long distance shooting (100 meters =109 yards). Evidently there used to be a mounted knight as target, but since no one managed to hit that, they choose to have a live size elephant this year..  (that they did hit).  But as 98 meters is the current world record for javelins, we didn’t think it worth to partake on that target…

After the competitions the elephant was taken into the camp and had, of course, its trunk 20140831_121841_Richtone(HDR)turned into a beer hose. Just like they would have done in 14:the cent.

Our thoughts about the event

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Fieldrabbittarget. All rabbits that fell down counted for 5 points. But if you hit Gerorge the ermine, you got zero.

We think it was a very well run event. Even if we, lazy buggers that we are, had not given much effort to gather information, we easily got in on everything and got all the information we needed, when we needed it. Its not easy to have 60 people running around in the woods shooting at stuff, but the group system (that built on trust, as each group counted their own points) worked very well. Clumping together of groups is usual in these things, but it rarely happened once the filed was getting spread out over the trail. The targets was smart, fun and well placed. The difficulty seemed well-balanced and the special targets (moving ones, special rules ones and so on) added spice so it did not get repetitive.

The organisers was very friendly and welcoming. You really felt that they where glad to have you there, this also set an atmosphere of fun and of not taking things to seriously, witch is always refreshing in competitive events.

And how did it go?
The best got 220 points. I got 45.

/ Johan

Something more about Javelins?
see our little film.

The Manuscript Challenge: A boar hunters outfit.

This post is about the making of my new outfit, my answer to The Manuscript Challenge. I’ve done an interpretation of the dog-handler in a boar hunting scene from “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”, the King Modus manuscript from ca 1370.

I admit that this outfit is well within my comfort zone and not very different from what I already have in terms of gear. But I like how it looks, it fills a gap in my wardrobe and I thought that it could be fun to interpret something exactly from a picture in my favourite medieval hunting book. In this way I can be sure that what I’m wearing are things that are meant to go together and hopefully well suitable for the activity depicted.

1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_nAs you can see, this hunter is wearing a tight liripipe hood (the making of it is described in detail here) and matching hoses with fashionably pointy toes. Like many hunters on foot during this period, he is not wearing any shoes. That might lead us to suspect the hoses being soled with leather. Tiny stripes on the horn suggest that it could be carved decoratively and the thin baldric is crossed below the waist. He is also wearing a thin black belt.

The hunters blue kirtle is very well fitted and buttons down the front, probably also on the sleeves. It has a generous cut over the chest to achieve the masculine Gothic ideal, a muscular “dove-chest” contrasting the narrow waist and straight fit over the hips. The kirtle on my manuscript picture reaches to mid thigh where it ends with a softly dagged edge.

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To short and to tight!

I made the pattern myself, fitting my toille in front of the mirror. Being a bit to eager to get started, I made two stupid mistakes. Firstly, I didn’t take any pictures of this step of the making. Secondly, when I had stitched the kirtle together and dagged the bottom edge, all by hand, I realised that I had cut it to short and a bit to tight to begin with. I looked stupid with my breeches (linnen underwear) showing to much and it would be hard to do any hunting with dignity in such a tight kirtle. (Admittedly, I have no ambitions of really doing any real hunting or anything requiring dignity at all. But I’d prefer if it didn’t show to much. 😉 )

I had to insert a gore in the middle back to expand the fit over the hips. The first dagged edge was sacrificed. I cut it off so that I could add an extra piece of fabric, following the lines of the pattern and lengthening the whole garment about 25 cm. When that was done, I had to re-do the dagged edge, now wider. All this was about three extra days of work, re-doing things I knew I should have done from the start. In the end I had a kirtle that was a slight bit longer than I had planned in the first place, but it looked very much like my original picture.IMAG2278IMAG2279It is bitter and tedious work, mending up a mess you’ve made yourself. But once I got the length right, I celebrated my victory by turning my attention to things I actually enjoy doing: details like buttons, buttonholes and pretty edges. The thin woad blue twill was a dream to work with and I hand stitched everything with silk or waxed linnen thread.

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Curvy cut over the chest and a pretty tablet woven edge in silk.

A strip of linnen lining the inside and a tablet woven edge on the outside strengthens the buttonhole edges. I used silk yarn in the same woad-blue for the weft and ended up with 63 buttonholes all in all. 10 in each sleeve and 43 down the front. The buttons themselves look like little blueberries…

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Slowly getting there, still a few more buttons to go…

The kirtle is deliberately cut with a light curve over the chest and has medium size “grand assiette”-sleeves with a gore inserted over the shoulder in the back. This allows for maximum freedom of movement in arms and shoulders but still gives a nice tight fit. I also added a small standing collar because I like how it looks. It doesn’t show on my manuscript-picture because of the hood, but low collars like this one are seen on other pictures in King Modus.

Egen1I finished the whole kit just in time for an event this past weekend. I’m so happy with how it turned out, but also surprised by the princely 10479940_10152625157110708_7587428764304000842_olook it gives me. The kirtle look so much more glamorous than I expected! But as I’ve worn and torn it during this weekends adventures, it starts to feel more like me.

Johan carved the horn that I carried with the rest of the outfit. I love how it is decorated with winding bands of wine leafs, happy hares and playful greyhounds. It has got a characteristic smell of tar, beeswax and gunpowder that I wouldn’t mind having as a personal signature scent.

I made a simple thin baldric for my horn but have already started to work on a larger and wider one to be more elaborately decorated, in the style of Livre de Chasse. (More on hunting horns is hopefully coming in a later post.)

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Photo: Annie Rosén

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Photo: Annie Rosén

So this is it for my first manuscript challenge. It was fun and intense to make the outfit, all hand stitched and with extreme attention to every detail. Slightly challenging to correct my mistakes by enlarging the pattern for the kirtle at such a late stage and lots of extra work, but not very difficult.

I find it stimulating to work towards a tight deadline with a very clear picture of where you are going, so the manuscript challenge suits me very well. But now when I’m done with it, I think I’ll want to start over again with a new picture of a hunter in another manuscript and go for something harder for my next attempt…

Rather close, don’t you think? If you like my work, please let me know. If you like the dog or her chain-mail collar more, do tell Johan who let me pose with her, and not me. 😉

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  • Estimated time to make this hand sewn kirtle: + 80 h
  • Material needed: Blue twill wool, ca 1,70 meters, plus scraps of unbleached linnen. Sewing thread in silk and linnen, beeswax. The 63 buttons was made of leftover cloth. I had all the material at home when I started.
  • Total cost to make: ca 400 sek / 40 eur

A square hood.

Yesterday I finished the last item in a whole new outfit and I’m so pleased IMAG2068with how it turned out. My new kit consists of hoses, a tightly buttoned blue kirtle, a dashing hood and a hunters horn. All of it will come to good use this weekend when Johan and I have new kinds of awesome planned.

I will tell you all about my new outfit in devious detail, every piece of it, but I’ll start from the top and from the beginning. My new kit began with my love for the look of this hood.

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All the illustrations for today’s post are from one of the first copies of one particular manuscript (ca 1370), “Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio”, meaning roughly “The book of the hunt according to King Experience and Queen Theory”.

It is my favourite among the medieval hunting books I’ve studied so far and that is why I turned to it for inspiration when I needed a new outfit for our upcoming event, The Feast of St Eustace.

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The gathering of the hunters, just like we will do for the Feast of St Eustace.

 

“King Modus” show hunters and falconers in very late 14th century fashion. I especially like the cut and the colour of the hunters clothes.  I think everyone looks very sporty and smart in their tight buttoned kirtles. And then there is this unusually petite buttoned hood… 10513429_10152160197552765_2504682716337842305_n

The hoods in King Modus are very small and buttoned down the front. The cut of the “collar”-part is usually is more square than round-ish and it has crescent-shaped take outs for the shoulders. That means that the hood leaves parts of the shoulder bare. This arrangement locks the hood in place while it also allows for freedom of movement for the wearer.

If riding fast while hunting, I’d not like to have my hoods collar be flapping about up in my face. Because of the narrow cut, these sporty hoods are not so easily caught by the wind. And they sometimes even have small straps under the arms, to secure it further which also makes it possible to wear the hood opened and unbuttoned.

One picture that especially caught my eye features a riding man wearing a brown hood with some kind of edging in a contrasting colour. I have a thing for details, such as extra well worked edges. I immediately decided that I needed to make one exactly like it.

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376)

Brown buttoned hood with edges in a contrasting colour.

There is something about the design that appeals to me. 10334440_10152915768687926_3643521291128983755_nThe extra tight fit, the straps and the neat cut over the shoulders helps to keep the hood in place when hunting, running or carrying stuff over your shoulder.

I interpret it as something very much like medieval sportswear and I love the idea of it.  It didn’t take me long to make one for myself and soon found that it works extremely well in action.

1607093_10152912185057926_1529879692656500492_nJohanAmong other things I’ve tried running and jumping, throwing spears, building barricades, loading and firing a handgun. You can do basicly anything without being disturbed by a hood turning round your neck, trying to choke you.

I cannot claim it to be a hunters hood exclusively, it does appear in other contexts and other manuscripts as well. But I think it fair to call it a King Modus hood, since it is so commonly seen in this manuscript.

To make it I used the mock-up pattern of another hood I’ve made before, but I made it much smaller and tighter. Hunters hood EMIL I also cut away crescent-shaped bits for my shoulders to fit in and added the optional straps.

I used a heavy brown wool twill, the leftovers from making the hoses you see above. This hood doesn’t take much fabric at all. As it is supposed to fit real snug around my face and neck, I added a thin soft wool lining. (And don’t you even think of using linnen for lining a hood. Even if it is soft to touch, it gets cold and wet because the flax fibers keep water.)

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Tablet weaving the edge that joins the outer fabric with the lining.

 

After fitting everything properly together and making sure the lining wasn’t bulging or creasing anywhere, I backstitched it all together with waxed linnen thread by hand, the way I usually do things. Buttons are made by leftover cloth and I did not put them closer together than strictly necessary, as I want the hood to be real fast to put on.

I used a period method for lining that is as beautiful as it is simple. You only get a glimpse of it here where the seam allowance of the outer fabric is folded over the lining. Then it is sewn down over filler threads to make the seam more durable.

Lastly I finished off the edges all around the hood with a tablet woven edge, just like some of the hoods from Herjolfsnes are done. It means in this case that the outer fabric and the lining of the hood is joined with a woven edge. It is sewn on to the hood while weaving, with weft for sewing thread.

My friend Bertus Brokamp made a hood like this some years ago and recently wrote about it here. Check it out for further references, he has done some genuine research!

But what about the rest of my new outfit?

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Once I’d gotten as far as finishing a King Modus-style hood in the same fabric as my hoses I had to change my target picture. I realised that for several reasons, this picture of a hunter on foot with a horn over his shoulder and a dog in leash suits me and my reenacting much better. And the brown hood and hoses are still game!

I only needed a buttoned blue kirtle and a horn. I had all the fabric I needed. So, there I was, contemplating a thin woad blue twill that had been warming space in my fabric storage for years. I had just started to cut out the pieces for my new kirtle when Maria came out and challenged me and the rest of internet to take on “The Manuscript Challenge”.

The manuscript Challenge rules, in short:

  •  Choose one picture from a medieval manuscript, and choose wisely.
  • Publish your picture, stating that you take on the challenge and describe the outfit.
  • Create your outfit according to the wearer’s outfit, as shown in the picture.
  • Let others in on your progress! Upload pictures of how you proceed, blog about it!
  • Ask for help, tips and advice if you feel the need and wish to do so.
  • Use whatever materials or techniques you wish. The idea is to recreate a visual copy of your chosen image.
  • You have one year to finish.

If you’ve followed me so far, you’ll see how well the project suits me and how close I was to finish already when I picked up the challenge. I sure got a head start!

But the glorious goal for me is to re-create not only the clothes but also the picture I used for inspiration, the one with the dog. I’m not properly done until that picture with me as doghandler is published here. The gear is done. I only need a large white dog of the right type and a cooperative photographer. I hope to be able to make the photo shoot happen sometime this week.

Until then, stay tuned and I’ll give you a sneak-peak of my kit…

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/ Emil

Feast of St: Eustace

INVITATION

We hereby invite you all, hunters, nobles, lords and ladies, dog-keepers and local farmers to gather and make remembrance of St: Eustace’s martyrium. In honour of St: Eustace, the patron Saint of hunters, we celebrate his feast day on the 20th of September with a 14th century picnic in the woods outside Uppsala.

This will be done as a reenactment of a scene that take place before a great hunt, the joyful gathering of the hunters. How the gathering of the hunters should be done is carefully described in both period illuminations and texts from medieval hunting books.

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The gathering of hunters.

Here according to Edward of Norwich’s The Master of Game:

The gathering of the hunters

And the place where the gathering shall be made should be in a fair mead well green, where fair trees grow all about, the one far from the other, and a clear well or beside some running brook. […]

 

And also they that come from home should bring thither all that they need, every one in his office, well and plenteously, and should lay board clothes all about upon the green grass, and set divers meats upon a great platters after the lord’s power.

 

And some should eat sitting, and some standing, and some leaning upon their elbows, some should drink, some laugh, some jangle, some joke and some play — in short do all manner of disports of gladness […]

 

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This event is a reenactment of the gathering of the huntsmen before going out on a great hunt. It means that it is a social event and no hunting will be done. However it is a most suitable opportunity to eat and drink together or perhaps engage in playful games on a medieval style picknick. More info about activities during the event will be added later on as participants confirm their partaking.

The celebration of St:Eustace will take place in a beautiful groove of old oaks in Hågadalen wildlife reserve just outside Uppsala (Sweden) on the 20th of September, 15:00.

10590491_10152226647917765_8180709113665583240_nTo partake you will need an outfit probable for late 14th century (1350 – 1420). Our definition of “probable” is not necessarily an entirely hand-made outfit, but of period cut, materials and colours. Modern personal items such as glasses are not allowed, we ask you to wear period equipment instead. Modern haircuts, visible piercings or tattoos must be hidden. Bring your own food and drinks. If you have any questions or are uncertain about the appropriateness of your kit, please feel free to contact us on our Facebook- page and send us a picture.

Confirm your application on the event-page on Facebook. We are looking forward to seeing you in September, very welcome!

/ Emil and Johan

 

The two Saints

The most famous saint of the hunt is St: Hubertus. Although all our videos starts “In the glory of St: Eustace” why is that?

… Well, imaginary questioner, I’m glad you asked.

Sanctus Eustace

According to legend Eustace was born as Placidius in the second millennia and became a general under Trajan, the victorious. One day he was out hunting in Tivoli and saw a hart with a blazing crucifix between its antlers. He prostrated himself before the beast and became christened on the spot, and so was the rest of his family later on.
A series of calamities in the fashion of Job now ascended upon his family and Eustace was severely tested. His trials ended when he refused to make a pagan sacrifice under the rule of Hadrianus. For this he was sentenced with his family to be cooked inside a copper bull, the infamous “brazen bull“.

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Reliquary of St. Eustace British Museum

 

In the Byzantine church Eustace was venerated early on, and during the 11:th century he is gaining cult also in the west.

Abbot Suger (dead 1151) mentions the first relic of St: Eustace in St Denise, France.  In 1260 the Golden legend  by Jacobus the Voragine becomes popular. It depicts the saint kneeling before the Hart, an image of the saint that becomes iconographic.

The feast of St: Eustace is September 20, but as the cult of the saint declined he was taken out  of the calendar in 1969 (the main reason being the trouble of verifying the acta of the saint).

Eustace became the patron saint of hunters and firefighters. He was also one of the fourteen holy helpers, Saints venerated as being close to god and therefore very potent in their intercession. Eustace was believed here to be extra helpful for healing ‘family troubles’.

Sanctus Hubertus
Hubertus lived between 656 and 727 and became the Bishop of Liege in 708. He was of noble birth and as most of the nobles a big sportsman and partaker in the chase. At one time he had a spiritual revelation and went to study under Lambert, a Christian scholar who was to become a saint after his murder. After his teachers death Hubertus went spread the word of God to the heathens in the Ardennes. He was never martyred himself and died peacefully in 727 (or 728). Its hard to find anything about the nature his cult before 15:th century.

In the 15:th century however, in Bibliotheca hagiographica latina he suddenly expropriates the legend of St: Eustace with hart and cross and the whole shebang. Here this religious experience is claimed to be the reason why he travelled to Lambert.

It is not unusual that saints share a story, but it is rather uncommon that they overtake an older saints story.

St: Hubertus is patron of archers; dogs; forest workers; hunting; huntsmen; mathematicians; metal workers; smelters; and trappers, so he seems to have a full plate. In the Rhineland he was also part of “the four holy marshals”.

St. Hubertus or St. Eustace? The illumination has been attributed to both. But judging from the dating, Eustace seems more probable.

 

Why change?
Why does this appear? Why does St: Hubertus all of a sudden acquire St: Eustace’s story?

This is a matter I have no answer to. Perhaps Hubertus was more interesting because he was of noble birth, and the chase was a sport for nobles?

Or it might have been as simple as while the cult of St: Eustace was strong in northern France with the old reliquary in St: Denise and a church formerly of St: Agnes, but redesignated to St: Eustace in Paris, Hubertus was actually from that region. He was born in Tolouse but was bishop in Liege and active in the Ardennes. His family might have had some interest in promoting his cult on the expense of the old eastern Eustace.
These are just speculations, the truth is that popularity of saints seems as fickle as the cut of the cotte in the middle ages.

To sum this up, as we mostly portray the hunt of the 14:th century we use St: Eustace since the cult of St: Hubertus is of a later date.

Our use of saints

Some of you might also wonder about why we use a saint in such a prominent way when we are not active Christians, and certainly not catholic? If anything we are both Lutherans in upbringing.

The use of saints is a part of our reenacting. As religion permeates most of daily life in the middle ages, it would be both hard for us and misleading towards others to leave it out.
/Johan

“Can I wear this?”

I and other reenactors often get questions about how we find information, period pictures for inspiration and if there are evidence in the archaeological material for this or that. This is a huge topic, I’m learning still and I cannot possibly cover it with a single post. But I’d like to share some of my thoughts on it, in order to help you answer the recurring question “Can I wear this?” yourself.

Reenactment is about recreating things as close as we can get to the real thing. I believe it is really important to do your best to achieve that. For me this ambition is what makes it challenging but also fun and rewarding. To get as close to the real thing as possible with your medieval gear, you’ll need to start in the right end. Even if an attempt to research may feel intimidating for beginners, it is much easier to first look for proof among period pictures, in historical sources, contemporary art and archaeological material rather than the other way around.

If you first decide what you want, make it or buy it and afterwards try to find proof that things were actually done that way – you are bound to be disappointed. Working that way is an anachronism based on how you decide what you next fashion item will be in your modern everyday wardrobe. Especially as a beginner at reenactment you need to free yourself of this mindset or you risk finding yourself in lack of evidence and thus have to abandon your project or re-do it.

"Can I wear this?" This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

“Can I wear this?” This illumination from Les livres du roi Modus is my main source of inspiration for my next outfit.

However, finding information and evaluating it is a craft in it self. You have to have some feel for period art expression, knowledge about the geography, religious life, economy, politics and social strata of the society you are studying just to formulate a question. It helps a lot if you have some understanding for medieval crafts and materials, their value and production.

As I hope you understand, it is not possible for anyone to be an expert on all of this at once. That is why we have professional historians, archaeologists and art specialists. I’ve read my share of history and archaeology but it is in no way sufficient to make me an expert. That is why we need our friends, other blogs, museums and a living network of historical enthusiasts. On the left here in our blog you’ll find a list of links to some of the resources we use for inspiration and information.

The best tool for learning is a healthy combination of curiosity and scepticism. In time, you’ll build up a bank of experience and a reference material among period texts and pictures, it does not come over night. So start to nose around, ask others, visit museums, look at pictures and read, but keep up a sound sceptical approach. Never stop questioning what others say, what you see and what you think you know. Anyone can be mistaken, misinterpretations of old are still around and new ones are discovered all the time.

But then how are you ever to know if a source is reliable, if something is appropriate to recreate and right for you? I’ll give you an example of the process of trying to finding out. Let’s say that I’d like to make a new bag for my hunting outfit. I’ve been looking around for a picture to base my bag on and I’ve finally found one. This white little purse, doesn’t it seem excellent for carrying my phone while I’m out hunting? And it appears in a handbook on hunting, Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio from late 14th century. Perfect!

Hunters and falconers fighting.

Or is it? What is actually happening on the picture…? They are fighting! Some of you will recognize the scene from Johans post about the conflict that seems to have been between hunters and falconers. There was bad blood between falconers and hunters about which was the noblest and most true kind of hunt – that with birds of prey or that with dogs. The bird-like thingy on the whipping piece of string is a decoy for training falcons, a tool for falconers. Here the hunters are portrayed with horns and the falconers are the ones wearing the little white bags.

What I want to say is this – you’ll need an idea of what you are reenacting, who you are in the medieval world and society in order to know what equipment you’ll need. Are you a hunter or a falconer, or in other words – a dogturd or fleapicker? If there is a conflict between hunters and falconers during the time you are reenacting and you want to be a hunter – don’t wear a falconers bag.

You’ll want to be sure to use the right attributes signalling who you are. You should aim for everything to go together in your ensemble of gear. Ask yourself – are you reenacting a man or a woman, poor or rich? When and where? What are your privileges in society and how do you express them? Where do you imagine that the person you are portraying live? What tools or characteristics are typical for your trade?

As I lift my eyes from the first picture of the purse I soon find that the little white bag perhaps could be attributed to falconers to set them apart from hunters. In Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio only falconers seem to wear them. Why is this? Interesting!

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Could it be that his type of bag is signalling the falconer’s trade in illustrations or has some sort of special use for a falconer? Such a hypothesis calls for further investigation. If I’m right, it makes this bag inappropriate for me to wear as a hunter. But in order to start calling this a falconers bag, I’d have to have stronger proof. I’d like to see the connection in other manuscripts as well or have some other attribution of the little white bag to this specific use. But once you start looking, you’ll see little white bags everywhere…

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The fact that not only falconers are wearing little white bags does not contravene the hypothesis that falconers maybe did as a mark of their trade. What I need is proof from other manuscripts or sources that show falconers carrying the same type of bag. The more pictures or historical evidence, the stronger the connection is.

Here is one from Codex Manesse, early 14th century. 721_10151593492456161_1601862695_nI’d prefer to have support from at the least three different manuscripts or other sources roughly from the same period of time before I conclude anything or decide to make something new. As I only have pictures from two sources and because Les livres du roi Modus is late 14th century and Codex Manesse is early, I’ll either have to keep looking or accept that my hypothesis is invalid.

When I started looking around in other sources, I got curious about what the falconers use the bag for. Knowing that could help me find more information and puzzle the pieces together. The little I know about falconering makes me wonder if it could be a easy-access-bag with meaty treats for the falcons? Little purses are commonly pictured in period illuminations and plenty of them are preserved, but they are rarely white. Why is this bag always white? Could it be a bag of linnen? I know that flax is hard to dye with period methods but very suitable to proof with wax and as such for storage of fresh food.

Mind you, it is not always possible to tell what material it is supposed to be just by looking at a picture. Also, don’t settle with a single picture of a funny looking bag found in just one manuscript before you decide to make one just like it, unless you are in to recreating that single scene exactly as it is. Ask yourself what the context tells you – the text that your picture illuminates, if you can read it or have it translated – what is it about? Does this type of bag occur anywhere else? Release your curiosity, start to ask and look around!

lovesmenotHere for instance is a picture of another bag or purse. It is not of the same type as the one I’m looking for but it is a good example of problems you’ll run into as a reenactor. Can I consider a bag like this one for my medieval hunters outfit?

Notice how big it is, almost like a modern backpack. From this period of time, mid- to late 14th century I know not of any others like it in size. Why is that? I haven’t seen everything, so I had to ask others who are more experienced. When I did, I was told that the text that this illumination belongs to is about the trouble that meets a man courting ungrateful and greedy women. Then I notice that the lady has a grumpy frown upon her face. I see the rejecting hand gesture and her very fancy dresses. I guess that she is not happy with her lovers gift, it is not good enough for her. How ever large and valuable, it is not what she wants from him.

From other texts and pictures as well as from interpreting the motifs on purses from the 14th century, aumônières, or alms purses seems to have been common gifts between lovers. I conclude that it is possible that the purse above is pictured as a large one in order to emphasize its importance, illustrating the great generosity of this man courting his ungrateful lady. Enlarging the most important thing in a picture is a common technique in contemporary art during this time but it can be misleading for us who look at the pictures some 650 years later…

To sum things up – as I am reenacting a 14th century hunter, none of the bags in my examples so far seems to be entirely appropriate. I’m still looking for something suitable, but I hope that sharing my searching strategy can be of help for others.

You will not always find what you are looking for and that is my last tip to you, don’t be to sure that you will. Don’t jump to conclusions to soon, look around, compare pictures from different sources and read the texts that go with the illuminations. Question what you think you know and try to see the bigger picture. As you do, you’ll get more skilled at analysing period art and you’ll learn more about the medieval world.

Good luck!

/ Emil

 

Javelin practise

A hot summers day Johan, Helena and I went out to practise with our javelins. If you want to see how it went and hear about our conclusions, don’t miss out on Johans short film.

We could not have wished for better weather for our expedition, this is Swedish summer at it’s best. But with a temperature on about 25 – 30 °C in the sun (77 – 86 °F), you have to think both on what you choose to wear and on how you behave while you are out in period clothing. It is wise to go for thin and loosely fitted garments, as always with linnen underneath and a layer of wool on top, allowing air to flow between the different layers and keeping you dry. Also make sure to protect your head and neck from the sun. Stay in the shadow if you can and drink plenty of water. If you do so, the heat will not trouble you much.

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Happy hunters heading out on a lovely summers day.

My choice of outfit – a straw hat and a simple green kirtle was inspired by these illuminations from Livre de Chasse. I really like the relaxed look of the man with the straw hat, wearing his hoses rolled down. I’d love to elaborate further on what we are wearing but we will get back to the details of our gear another day, in a post about the medieval hunters equipment.

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I like the relaxed look of this boar-hunter with straw hat and rolled down hose!

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A limer wearing a straw hat and a simple green kirtle just like mine.

Telling the dog of on our way out.

Telling the dog of on our way out.

Our targets, one still and one moving.

Our targets, one still and one moving.

I was looking forward to test my new javelin and to work on my technique. You have to aim good and true of course, but for me it is also about getting the throw more explosive  – simply to throw harder.

Today we used two targets for our practise, one of them moving – a piece of a tree trunk suspended in the height of a deer or the like. For practising explosive throws, the tree itself will do fine. For better aim, the moving target pending in the rope is game.

Obviously, when throwing at a moving target, there is no point in aiming where the target is at the moment. You have to interpret its movement and calculate on where it will be when your spear reaches it. To do that you’ll need to study your target well and use your previous experience to extrapolate a decent estimation of how hard to throw and where to aim.

While I’m doing this, I have to find the balance point of the spear, a point where it rests in my hand without tipping back or forth. Then I aim based on my estimation of where my target will be next, using enough force for my spear to reach it in the right time.

With a powerful and flowing movement of my whole body I create the energy driving the javelin forth before letting it go. I try to let it slip from my hand in the right moment for it to go fast and straight to the target.

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Finding the balance point of my new javelin.

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Aiming with my entire body and creating a flowing movement allowing for a high energy throw.

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The trick is to let go in the right time. It’s a hit!

As Johan mentioned in his last post, it is likely that the javelin was used as a bleeder and not for the actual kill. Hunters would try to make the game bleed in order for it to grow weaker, move more slowly and get easier to track down. As you get close to it by tracking and driving it with your hounds, the game does not expect you to have the extended reach that a javelin gives you. The mort, the killing strike, seems to have been done with a sword or dagger in a almost ritualistic manner, not with the spear regarded as a less noble weapon. Bearing this in mind, there is not much reason to practise long distance throws and we kept close to our targets today.

Helena

For Helena, it was her first time handling the javelin.

I had a hard time in the beginning. It wasn’t easy to hit the target, even at close reach. But after a while I worked out how to do it better. 20140712_173023_Richtone(HDR)I found it helpful to have a handful of spears at the ready, so that I could throw one after another in a nice flow before I had to to go and get them back. Doing so, I had time to learn form every attempt and adjust my technique slightly between every throw.

I also noticed that I preferred Johans heavier javelin rather than my new lighter one. His heavy spear was easier to throw with some real force. The next ones I’ll make for myself will be of a more sturdy kind. My new javelin turned out more appropriate for long distance throws, but used so it cut the air nice and straight. As I get more skilled at aiming and throwing, I think I’ll need different javelins for different purposes and distances.

So, practice makes perfect, they say? I tell you, practice craves picnic!

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IMAG1948I had a great time today. The weather was amazing and it was much fun throwing at our moving target. I benefited from the practice – as a novice on the javelin I could really see immediate result. Soon I got both a better aim and a more powerful throw, even if there is room for much improvement still. We will have to do this again someday soon!

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As I mentioned earlier, if you want to see us practise and hear more about our conclusions from today, don’t miss out on Johans short film.

/ Emil

The javelin

Although the javelin is out of fashion on the battlefield in the 14:th century, it still is in use in hunting. Livre the chasse shows javelins being carried while hunting several kinds of  game.
It is somewhat unclear if the javelin was used for actually killing the prey, or more of a ‘bleeder’, hurting game while on the chase so they will bleed out and tire faster, letting the hounds get to the prey and pull it down.

As the mort was usually done with a sword or dagger, I lean towards that theory.
The usual javelin in the manuscript dont have barbs. Barbs would be useful as it keeps the point in the game and the game will be considerably slowed from the shaft. Maybe the purpose was to bleed the game, as the heads are rather wide, and drop the javelin, leaving an open wound, and possibly leave the javelin to be picked up and used again. Blood-trails would also help the hounds to keep on the parfait (the right line, close on the game). We must remember that the chase of the hounds, not the actual kill was often the point of hunting, hunt-descriptions often relaying the thrill of the chasing hounds as the core of the hunt.

This is just speculations about the use of the spear… But since its my blog, I can speculate all I want.  You are also welcome to speculate in the comments, or on our facebookpage.

/Johan