Four grey hunters

distance greyhuntersThe Point of research 

As we find new information, it is time to implement it. When we found that Gaston say you use grey clothes in winterhunting, as we wrote about here, we had better make ourself some grey clothing. For us this is what reenacting is about. When you find new information you need to upgrade your kit to reflect this. Otherwise…. what is the point of research?

This article is about the use of research and the first one literally written by both of us together. We wanted to share an example of how you can go about to interpret the material you have, how to think around your sources to reconstruct a believable garment. You will never be spot on, so it is always good to know HOW you think as you do and WHY.

For us the interpretation is often based on how the garment falls around the body in the picture. This will give some clues to what kind of textile, how it is cut and what seams that are used. Many people look at the pictures, but don’t really see them. They have a illustration of a person from the age, but they do not see things that they do not already ‘know’ they wore. Another common thing is to explain everything that don’t fit into your picture of the age is to call it ‘artistic freedom’ on the illuminators part, even if it appears in several pictures and from different artists.

Another trend in reecreating is going fancy. Sure, you like to have the tight cottehardi with fifty-eleven buttons. Sure, they where high fashion at the time. But what is the type of character you are actually wearing? Many have very simple cottes, especially when doing manual labour. Not to say that the manybuttoned cottes are not used here also, but how many reenactors dare to make the simple cotte today? Or to renounce from wearing all the nice stuff they have accumulated over the years? We are the same here, we like to use the nice things also. But we feel in our hearts that we should show the simple and common as well.

We scoured our homes after fitting textile, and the books after fitting clothing. Granted, the climate in the books might not be the same as we have. The books are written in France, and Gaston himself lived in Occitania. I don’t really know how winter down there is, but  there might be a difference from Scandinavian winters in cold and snow-depth. The cloth is not very thick though, as we see the garments mostly as a over-garment for functionality. The layer principle is at work here, and our experience tells us that you don’t need thick clothing when moving around in the winter forest.

Emils kyrtil

My kyrtil is partly inspired by two pictures of boarhunters from Livre de chasse, the Morgan library version, folio 83 and folio 84. Kombo 83 och 84On both pictures, most hunters wear greyish clothing, so I assume it is a winter hunt. Both kyrtils are of calf length and very wide, loose-fitting.

F 83 (left)  has a delicately cut S-curved shoulder seam, almost like a grand assiette. It features a puffy sleeve, seemingly cut at an angle by the elbow, possibly also with a narrow cuff making it tighter over the wrist (it doesn’t really show but is an assumption based on my interpretation of how the fabric falls when the hunter is aiming with his crossbow). If F 84 (right) was thought to depict a garment of a similar cut is hard to know, it looks a little simpler, without the grand assiette and it could have another type of baggy sleeve with less fabric in it. Still, they are much alike and on both pictures I notice that the grey fabric folds and drapes very nicely against the belt. That makes me think of an ingenious cut that I’ve seen on preserved 14th century kirtles from Herlofsnes, Greenland.

As none of the pictures show the front of the garment or the cut of it in detail, I decided to combine them with an archaeological find in my interpretation. From Herjolfsnes there is a wide kirtle known as Norlund 63. I think it appears to be much similar in cut and drape to those depicted in Livre de chasse and it is also contemporary with them. 61

Norlund 63 is characterised by its loose fit and baggy S-cut uppeIMAG4346r sleeves with a narrow cuff over the wrist. The most obvious difference to the kirtles of Livre de chasse is that this one has a small standing collar and that it buttons down front with 16 cloth buttons. I went for just a handful of buttons as I don’t need more. In Livre de chasse it is more common to have just a few, rather than a full button row down the front. I really like the collar and as collars appear on other kyrtils from the same manuscript, I decided to keep it.

All in all, my winter kirtle is far more based on the archaeological find rather than the pictures from Livre de chasse, but I think it is a fair interpretation as they all are contemporary and of a similar cut.



the inspiration for Johans kyrtil

Johans kyrtil

I found a loose garment in the same book (Folio 83v.), a jaunty loiterer mostly chewing the fat with the other hunters down in the corner. As the cloth I found at home was double-sided, grey and light brown, it seemed like a nice fitting garment. The scene is a boarhunt at winter and all hunters wear shades of grey. I thought the garment was probably very simple and loose. The arms looked straight and I could see no collar. While it was possible it had an opening at the front, I did not think it had one, based on the thought of the simple garment. To get width over the 10898268_10152526556922765_3317232265131267743_ntorso but not over the shoulders, I extended the gores in the sides up to the arm-opening. Based on most cottes construction at the time, I used grand (or grandish..) assietes for the armholes. This is also for the freedom of movement. Grand assietes is superior in matters of movement in a garment. The seam of the arm was left on the underside of the arm though, not on the back as is more common. Perhaps a rear-centred seam would have been a better choice, but I choose the underarm variant to stay with the thought of the simple construction. The edges was left raw.

Using it

As the weather was not really on our side we thought we’d just snap some photos of thejohans grey kyrtils to get this article running. We found a grey tangle of brush, to show why grey might have been a smart move during the defoliage season. Most  woods up where we live are evergreen fir, juniper and pine so green might work just as well at wintertime really… But staying true to the huntbooks we took our grey kyrtils out and posed up!

Johan had a basic cotte under and another more loose on top. The grey came up ontop of that. It kept the warmth rather nice, don’t let the absence of snow fool you, it was a very chilly day. Judging from the picture the arms are longer then the arms of the man wearing it, and then turned up. This was a rather good feature as turning them down kept the warmth over the hands well enough.

20150104_151940Emil had double layers of wool with his thin summer-cotte under the new heavy grey one. The generous cut of the new kirtle made the garment drape just like in the pictures. All the draping and folds of the fabric made little pockets of air, soon warmed by the body. When needing to regulate the warmth, it is easy to just undo a button or two.







So, after we found out that wintertime you wear grey, there wasnt really much you could do but make some grey clothing. These hands on instrutions are rare in reecreating. Most have to make guesses and read between the lines in recreating a certain type of person. When you also see the text mirrored in the pictures showing wintertime hunting (mostly boar) we felt we did not have any choice but to make a set of ‘greys’
greyhuntersBy Johan and Emil.





The books of hunt

We often refer to “the huntbooks” when we write our texts. These are books about hunting written in the middle ages. In the 14:th Century there is mainly three books that concern us, they are also the most well known of all the medieval huntbooks. There are other prominent huntbooks from other centuries, the most important here being The Art of Venery,1327, by the Anglo-French Master of game, Twiti (Twici). Many of the later books draws on this and it is probably the basis of the ones we use the most. Sadly it has yet been unobtainable for us.

The books we use the most are instead;

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio (1354–1376), attributed to Henri de Ferrières

Livre de Chasse (1387–1389), Gaston III (Phėbus) Phoebus, Count of Foix. Various copies with excellent illustrations. Also known as Book of The Hunt

The Master of Game, Edward, Duke of York

Lets take a closer look at them and how they relate to each other….

 Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio

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

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

Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio or, the book of king method and Queen Theory.  This book is attributed to Henri de Ferrieres and it is said that after the big plague in the 50:ies people where concerned that so many had died that knowledge would have died with them. Therefore they set the art of the hunt to text. The second part of the book also contains ‘the dream of the pestilence’. It is written as an allegory where King Modus or Queen Ratio answers questions posed to them. There is also a fair amount of moral and musings about the religious thinking concerning the hunt.

Henri de Ferrieres

The probable author of  Les livres du roi Modus

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

Henri Ferrieres sleeping on a strawmat in the woods

et de la reine Ratio is Henri de Ferrieres. There are some possible persons this might be. The most probable was born in the first decades of the 14:th century. in 1347 there is a note about a Henri de Ferrieres being a captive of the English. In 1369 a Henri de Ferrieres is reported as being commander of the fortress Pont de l’ Arche.  The Ferrieres owned the Breteuil forest north of Paris, a forest mentioned in the book. The author also say he saw  Charles IV hunt as a child. So it seems he was a man that was an active part of the hundred years war. A thing that is verified in some parts of the book (the dream of pestilence is insightful and refers to tactical situations in 1374)


King of pratice

This book is one of our favourites since it is very good at explaining things. There are several copies (21 copies is known) ranging from 1380 to 1486. This means that the book was popular and recopied for a long time. The copies we use is mostly Paris 1 for pictures, the oldest existing copy. We also use the  Copenhagen ex as this is translated into Swedish and interpreted by Gunnar Tilliander, considered one of the best in Medieval French of his time. It has very nice illuminations showing a wide range of hunting.


Livre de chasse


Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny copy 1407-10

Livre de chasse is possibly the most well known of all huntbooks. No small part of this is that some of the copies sports beautiful, detailed, illuminations (illustrations). It is written in 1387-89 and exists in 46 known copies. The most well known and used are the copy in Musée national du Moyen Âge, Musée de Cluny from 1407-10 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris Ms. fr. 616) and the Morgan library copy, also from 1407.

Gaston Phoebus

Livre de chasse is written by Gaston III/X of Foix-Béarn. He is more known as Gaston ‘Phoebus’, Phoebus being another name for the Greek god Apollon, and Gaston being known for being a very handsome

Gaston 'phoebus'

Gaston ‘phoebus’

man which earned him this nickname. He recorded the three “special delights” of his life as “arms, love and hunting”. Jean Froissart, the author of “Chronicles de France” visited his Court in Pau and was impressed with its splendour. Gaston was born 30 of April in 1331 and died while washing his hands after a bearhunt in 1391.  He had a son, but he stabbed him to death in a quarrel after the son had tried to poison him. Another of his sons, illegitimate, was one of the poor souls that died in the infamous Bal des ardent

Gaston was widely acclaimed to be a great hunter and

a reindeer

A reindeer from livre de chasse

even travelled to the far Sweden to hunt reindeers, possibly in connection to when he was fighting pagans in Prussia. He also fought in the Hundred years war, so it is quite possible he met Henri de Ferriers in person.




Book of the hunt

Livre de chasse is an excellent book, but hard to get hold of a copy as it only exists in French and that is a language I am regrettably bad in. The pictures are very good though and very informative. As the Livre de chasse follows King modus in its layout many of the pictures can get explained in other versions. Also, the Morgan library has some nice  informative text abstracts. We use the Morgan library and the French one mostly.

The master of game

The master of game is a English translation of Livre de chasse made in between 1406 and 1413 of Edward of Norwich. He also added some new chapters of his own and edited it for English hunters (for example he skipped Gastons descriptions of reindeers as he did not think it had any relevance for an English audience)

Edward of Norwich


Edward Langely of Norwich, Duke of York

Edward of Norwich was born 1373 and is also known as Edward of Langley. He was the second Duke of York. He took a prominent part in the hundred years war and served there under both king Henry IV and Henry V. He also took part in some important emissaries to the French Court, amongst one in negotiating the wedding between Henry V and Catherine of Valois. When he was there Gaston Phoebus was already dead, so the chance that they met might have been slim. Edward was only 18 when Gaston kicked the bucket (presumably, as he was washing his hands at the time of his demise). Edward partook at the siege of Harfleur and commanded the right wing at the Battle of Azincourt. At Azincourt he became the highest ranking casualty when he met his fate on St. Crispins day.

Has also was, and this is more to our point, the master of harthounds for Henry IV.

The book

The master of game is a good book, but it is abit more amateurish in appearance then Livre de Chasse and King modus. It is written in a straightforward and matter of factly way. Even if there is some passages that are somewhat rambling in nature. Some parts (the ones Edward was not interested in) is put forward to others (he directs the hunting of otters to the kings otterhunter). For example he does not go into the disembowling of the animal as he say this is more of a woodsmans discipline then a hunters. It has some translation errors from Gastons original, but I think it deserves to be judged as a book of its own. It is after all written by a master of harthounds and therefore an experienced hunter. He would not put anything in there that he did not agree with (indeed there is some alterations to fit English hunters). There is a edition of this book with a foreword by Ted Roosevelt from 1909 that holds a high class. The appendix in the book is a very good read to get started with the medieval hunt. It exists in a on-line version here. I have not seen any pictures from this book.

The books amongst themselves

As we can see the Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio is the first and the one that sets the trend in what a huntbook should contain. Gastons book follow the same pattern, but is more direct in its tone and the Master of hunt is, of course, like Livre de chasse. But all books are written by active and highly valued hunters. We can be fairly sure that what they write is things they agree with and condole the practise of. Edward writes in some places about how things are done, and that he does not think it is good. This shows that he knows what he is talking about (or at least thinks so). Many medieval books are written by clerics that do not always have the practical experience of what they are writing about and therefore might not show a correct description of the actual practise used in the middle ages.

Books of the middle ages where copied by hand. This meant that errors was made. When a copy was copied the error was duplicated, and more errors might occur. This results in that often the book closest to the original is the most accurate. It is good to know what copy it is you are working from, and preferable to know how far removed from the original it is.

How we use manuscript sources.

WE use the manuscripts both as written sources detailing how they where thinking about the hunt and how it was conducted.
We also use the illuminations (pictures) as a source for equipment. These hands on books are very good in a interpretation viewpoint. We don’t have to guess what the pictures show and if it is allegorical or not. The text is explaining the pictures (and the pictures the texts). When you do not have the text available, you can often use the text from another book. As they deal with mostly the same you can identify the stages of the hunt as long as you know the other texts. Correlation between the texts can be done to see changes in the hunting equipment. It is harder to see changes in tactics as you do not know if these show individual preferences or a common overall change. Pictures can be used right as they are, to ensure you get an outfit of a hunter consisting of clothes that was actually worn together. Not to easy to know for modern people and could result in what would be in modern day someone wearing shorts and tuxedo. 1797515_10152160197582765_4688588845508775182_n-e1405598589505

In conclusion

The huntbooks are very fun to read. They are hands on and often rather funny. If one is interested in the hunt it is often a revelation to read them. Getting explanations to odd looking  pictures one have gleaned on the wide interwebz. With such good books, and easily obtained, on a subject I would say that it is very hard to try and reenact the hunt without reading at least the master of game or looking at the excellent illuminations of the Morgans copy of Livre de chasse. If you read those you might even be able to base a whole blog on them….


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.


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.











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














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


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.


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.


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


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.


Finding the balance point of my new javelin.


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


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.


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!





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!







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 song of the bell rope

One of the first medieval hunting techniques I remember Johan told me about is the use of a long rope with bells tied to it. I call it “The bell rope trick”. It is depicted in Livre de chasse, a handbook on hunting from around 1388 written by Gaston Phoebus. The rope is stretched out between two hunters who walk with it across a field to drive up small game such as hares towards the end of the field. There the hares are welcomed by other hunters with a net, spears or clubs.


To drive the game by making noise is in no way unique but I think the bells adds a bit of glamour and makes it look like a lot of fun. I have not yet managed to tie myself a proper net, but Johan did his part last month when purchasing a range of brass bells suitable for the rope. As we can’t legally kill anything, the net is not essential and we thought it worth a try – perhaps we could stir up a few hares anyway?


Stretching the rope with the bells on it.

For this hunting expedition we were accompanied by our friend Helena. One of the advantages of reenacting the medieval hunt over other other aspects of medieval life is that women seem to have participated alongside with men. They are depicted doing the same things as men, often with their kirtles tucked up in their belt to allow for easy movement and without the linnen veil otherwise worn by most grown women during this period. These pictures below are from the same French manuscript, but there are many others and the topic of women hunting will need a post of its own in the future.


Women hunting hare with bow and a club.


A lady spearing a boar.


From the perspective of our game for today, the hare.

We hit the outdoor rabbit hutch field in the late evening when we expected the small game to come out and graze after a really hot day. The field of choice was located far out in the woods. We saw lots of rabbit holes in the ground nearby, so we moved against the direction of the light breeze to try to prevent the animals to get our scent to early on. But once Johan had positioned himself at the edge of the field and the bell-rope was spread out, there was no longer any need for silence. It was time for the rope to sing.

Sadly, we could not raise any hares from the field this time. But just as I had thought, the bell rope sang beautifully in the wind and against the high grass on the field. We all had a try on handling the rope and speculated afterwards by our camp fire on the reason of our failure to find any game.


Johan is also having a try with the bell-rope.

It could be that the day had been unusually hot and that the hares prefer to stay in their hiding places protected from the heat. The field could have been a bad choice for a place to hunt. We have been here many times but only seen tracks of animals here, no actual creatures moving about so we know not their habits of movement around it. Or it could be that we wasn’t as quiet and careful as we should have – after all we are not as skilled as the medieval hunters would have been.

To hear the song of the bell rope for yourself, take a look at the short film Johan made about our attempt to reenact this medieval hunting technique.

/ Emil