The Gathering of the Hunters – Saint Eustace Celebration

12049267_1041899552521974_4214658516203275861_nLast Sunday we saw what might have been the very last day of summer this year. Sun and clear skies, but with that fresh crispy air autumn brings. A perfect day to spend outside and in a medieval setting celebrate all hunters patron saint Eustace.

IMAG8490The 20th of September was the old feast day for Eustace. It felt good and proper to celebrate him on the right day, just like last year. We had chosen a beautiful place for the hunters to meet, as it is described in the hunt books.

Cloth was laid out in the grass. Everyone brought a little something to eat and share with the others. Some ate standing, some sitting and some laying on the ground, leaning on their elbows. The four dogs present mostly ate running, with a mischievous look about them and their prey of stolen food clasped between their jaws.

12039520_1041899892521940_2162597831576072395_nJohan claims that this must have been a problem experienced by the hunters back in the 14th century and that we therefore must not omit to reenact the ordeal of having food stealing dogs around. I’m sure his wolfhound Boudica agrees heartily, satisfied with her catch of my very expensive piece of Gruyère cheese.

Johan had made his first attempt on a classic medieval “standing crust” pie, filled with liver of deer as a traditional hunters “umble pie” or “humble pie”. The story behind the name and how humble pie is connected to hunters need a post of it’s own. I hope Johan will also share his experience of making and tasting it, as well as the recipe.

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The umble pie and the cheese.

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Boiling sausages in beer before grilling them.

Even with the loss of my chunk of cheese (which I ought to have guarded better) I needn’t starve. The hunters had brought plenty of food and shared generously. We had sausages boiled in beer and then grilled over open fire, sweet pastry’s spiced with cinnamon and several different types of pie.

In the afternoon when all the hunters were properly gathered and fed, we went on to our playful competition in more or less hunting related games. We began with explaining the purpose of the actual gathering of the hunters as it is described in the huntbooks.

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Searching for fumes.

The hunters gather up to plan the hunt in detail, it is basicly like a early brunch meeting before the actual hunt. Some hunters who have been tracking interesting prey in the nearby woods now return and report their findings to the master of the hunt. They were expected to gather “fumes” along with a stick broken in such a way that it could be used as measure of an individual animals track.

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Karin and Sannah found fumes of fox.

New readers of our blog might not know what “fumes” are and neither did some of the participants of our hunting feast. Fumes are animal dung. The hunters gather fumes in their hunting horns, carefully stuffed with grass so that the fumes won’t fall out.

The fumes must be presented to the master of the hunt. He will then analyse their quality, shape and texture along with the size of the matching footprint before making a decision on which prey the hunting party should go for.

To us this might sound strange, but the judging of the fumes was a crucial part of the preparations before a hunt. Now when you know this and look at the pictures below you’ll see what most overlook . On all of them there is a man showing a handful of little brown balls to the huntsmaster, the most important part of the picture. (Click on the them to enlarge)

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Hunters getting ready.

We sent our hunters out divided in two teams to search for fumes. It didn’t take very long before they came back to present them to Johan and me as masters of the hunt. Both teams demonstrated true commitment to the cause and the spirit of the competition. But I must admit that I was surprised by the diversity and amount of strangely shaped shit brought back to us!

The first team presented a pile of something that looked like horse dung, claiming that it was from a very big deer or possibly some kind of unicorn. But unicorns only poop rainbows and medieval Christians didn’t eat horse (and definitely should not hunt them). Therefore the other team presenting fumes from what might have been a fox was deemed winner.

IMAG8502So much for the reenactment, the rest of our games was mostly for fun. We had a quiz with tricky questions about the medieval hunt, a horn blowing competition and my favourite – a philosophical feud on which hunt that’d be the nobler one – the one with dogs or the one with birds of prey. Find out the correct answer in this post: Flea pickers and dogturds!

For grand finale we had the two leading participants Karin and Sannah choose one of the dogs and compete against each other in a search for a hidden sausage. (It must count as some kind of hunt, don’t you think?) Bets were placed on the dogs and then the competitors were off.

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Sannah – the proud winner of this years hunting games

The race was over in seconds and far from even. I’m proud to say that it was my Basilard that led Sannah the final steps towards to her glorious victory in this years hunting games. Her price will be delivered as soon as it is ready, a custom made T-shirt with our blogs’ logo on it.

After the games we returned to our feast to have some more pie, wine and cheese. In an attempt to make our merry picnic relate to our patron saint, I asked Johan to tell the story of saint Eustace. I would have done it myself if I’d only remembered it, but that is exactly why you have feasts in remembrance of saints – to refresh ones memory of their martyrdom. 😉

For next year, I think it could be fun to do some sort of simple play to act out the story of the saint. It is a nice medieval tradition and I’m sure that’d make it easier to remember.IMAG8473

This was our second feast of St Eustace and even if the event was not as big as last year, those who came had a good time.

We must have done something right because I’ve heard that some of our friends in St Huberts Rangers housed their own celebration in rural central New York, inspired by us. Inspiring is the best we can hope to be and I already have plans for next years celebration.

/ Emil

(See more pictures in our Facebook album from the event!)

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The second feast of St Eustace

Foto 2014-09-20 15 56 57Summer is singing on it’s last verse. If you feel that you haven’t seen much activity from us this season, we hope to come to terms with that before it’s over. We have a few articles coming up and in a month from now we will be celebrating all hunters patron saint Eustace, just like last year. On his feast day the 20th September we invite our friends to a hunters picnic with fun and games in a medieval setting.

Foto 2014-09-20 15 54 50The concept of our St Eustace celebration is basicly the same as last year (more about that here). We will be having a feast for hunters outside, resembling “The gathering of the hunters” before a Great Hunt.

The Great Hunt was a big affair. To me it seems to have been highly regarded both as a sport and social event. It is this kind of hunt that most of the period huntbooks are concerned with. Many people and dogs were involved in a Great Hunt, so it had to be prepared the day before, if not several days ahead. “The gathering of the hunters” takes place where the hunters meet to coordinate and do the final preparatory work before the actual chase.

In the books we see this gathering described as a feast, and this is also how it is depicted:

Edward of Norwich, Master of game

[…] 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 broad 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 […]

c38_616Now, this was what we want! People eating, drinking and having fun! Encouraging others to get out, use their gear and have some fun is always on the agenda for us.

Foto 2014-09-20 16 34 38If you read our blog because you are in to medieval clothes or crafts but new to reenachtment and living history, our hunting picnic is a good place to start. It will probably never be quite this uncomplicated again: Instead of a crowd with curious tourists there will be other reenactors welcoming any novice. There will be no need to bring lots of heavy gear, no sleeping outdoors, no walking for miles in thin leather shoes. No fighting or actual hunting will happen, so no weapons needed. And weather is hopefully kind on us, at the least no snow expected this time of year. In other words – if you don’t know us to well but still read this, you are extra welcome!

An important ingredient of reenactment besides eating, drinking and having fun is the element of education. Learning new things about the subject at hand for reenactment, or sometimes passing your knowledge on to others. This is why we will be presenting our Hunting Games, a playful competition where knowledge about the medieval hunt is rewarded and hopefully also conveyed.

IMAG2527The competitors of last years Hunting Games was put to many a test as we in accordance with the medieval huntbooks sent them of in search of “fumes”,  fresh dung from animals in the area who might be interesting to hunt (more about that here). We also had them do a simple quiz on medieval hunting and divided into teams debate the question “Why do we hunt?”. The best use of classic rhetoric and medieval reasoning was deemed as a winner. For grand finale, the best of the best was set to challenge each other in sounding the hunters horn.10635871_10152625159850708_1425179991131912415_n But I must not reveal to much of our plans for this years celebration. So without further ado – I welcome you to celebrate the feast day of St Eustace, all hunters patron saint!

/ Emil

For further information, please check the Facebook-page for the event.

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A feast for hunters

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As autumn is moving in we thought that we needed to connect with all our friends that has seen us out and about reenacting hunters. We also wanted to show people how easy it can be to gather in medieval a setting, and at the same time encourage those that has not been into reenacting in this way before to join up.

Of course, we also wanted to show some part of the medieval hunt, and also educate our fellows around this subject. The choice soon fell upon ‘The gathering’. This is the place where the hunters gather and wait for all the preparatory work before the actual chase. The great hunt, the hunt that was mostly praised and the hunt most huntbooks are concerned about, was a big affair.  Many people and dogs where involved. It was usually prepared the day before, if not several days ahead.

In the books we see this gathering as a feast, and this is also how it is described:

Edward of Norwich, master of game

[…]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 broad clothes all about upon the green grass, and set divers meats upon a great platters after the lord’s power.

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In the pictures it sure looks as described.

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 […]

Now, this was what we wanted!
People eating and drinking and having fun!

We decided to make the learning part of the event as a game. A three part game where two parts are team based and the last one was individual within the winning team.

The feast begineth!

As we gathered all the participants took their roles seriously, broadcloth was layed out, spreadsome ate standing, some sitting and some on their elbows. armbågarEven laughing was done. There was some games going on in the background as we waited for all to gather. The always playful Alex had a whole bag of more or less demeaning games to throw upon us. One of these where ‘The three blind beggars and the pig’ – originally played with three blind beggars and a pig of course. The winners price was traditionally to get the pig for him/her self. Even during medieval times this game was played with people just miming the roles.

When all had gathered and had gotten something to eat to still their hunger, we decided it was time to start the games.

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Announcing the beginning of the huntgames

The first game!

The first game is closely connected to the gathering. If we look at the picture above.. there is one detail that most overlook, but is actually the most important part of the picture. And that, is this man at the high table, presenting some brown balls to the huntsmaster.

poopshowingWhat he is doing is presenting the fumes, or poop, of the animal he has found. Judging by the shape and size, the huntsmaster will, with the help of a description of the track, decide the size, and gender of the animal. He will also see how much ‘grease’ the animal have. A animal in high grease was preferred because it was believed to be a sign of god health.

If you look closely at these pictures in the future, you will notice that this happen is all these picknick pictures. The presenting of the fumes was crucial for the hunt.

Jägarna rastarNamnlösThe hunter was instructed to carry the fumes in his horn. Properly stuffed with grass to prevent them from falling out. In the picture above, from Les livres du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, you can see the hunter pouring them from his horn. On the other, From Livre de chasse, you can see how it smudges the tablecloth.

Boldly we set the hunters loose in five teams and soon they where off into the woods and fields to seek out fumes from prey. We had no idea at all if they would find anything, if they would be gone for the rest of the evening or if they would return in ten minutes, frowning at us for making them collect poo at their feast.

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Looking into ditches and field for that just perfect winning poo…..

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Happy hunters with a horn stuffed with grass.

As the hunters started to filter back, they all looked perfectly happy and eager. Most could scarcely wait for all teams to come in before showing their little treasures to us. As soon as all the teams had found their way back, the judging could commence. We had, at the start, no idea what we would consider ‘good fumes’, and was prepared to go with “sometimes no poop is the best poop”. The judging was therefore completely arbitrary.

In the end, we judged the only fresh fumes we got as the winner. As this being the one most likely still around and possible to get hold of. That the animal in question was a sheep, we did not take into consideration…

The winner of this contest got a nice little golden stick, one that they had use for in….

The second game!

Part two was a rather non medieval walk-quiz (tipspromenad) with questions from the huntbooks. The questions had three alternative answers, so there was a one in three chance to get them right.fråga We had chosen the more funny parts of the books as a base for the questions to give our participants a feel for how hilarious these books can be. To see the questions, in Swedish, you can go to our FB album. To answer the questions, we had made a very… medieval looking answering-board, where you put a stick in the hole that you thought corresponded with the right answer. 20140919_145223The winning team had their golden plug, a token that would give them one automatic right answer on a question. But obviously this was to complicated a task to understand since they just left it on the side instead of using it on a question. Thus thinking it would just magically turn one of their wrong answers to a right one, and we let them have it their way. fråga två

The second game resulted in a tie, prompting us to come up with a tiebreaker. In true 14:th century style we let the two teams have a debate on the subject ‘Why do we hunt?’. Both teams came up with a similar explanation, stating mankind’s dominion over beasts, one team quoting the bible and the other the Greek philosopher Aristotele who was in high regard during the Middle ages. As both teams core argument was so much alike, we deemed the team relying on Aristotele the winner because of their skilled use of classic rethorics.

The third game!

The third game was to establish who really was the greatest hunter. So the winning team now had to compete amongst themselves to establish one winner.

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Magnus trying the horn after the competition

The contest was to blow a signal on the hunters horn. We choose one of the simplest signals, “The game is afoot”, blown when the game has been moved by the lymer and is up and running. This is for the rest of the hunters, the start of the chase. They all had to use the same horn, mine, and no one got to practice before. We showed them how the signal was to be blown… and let them loose. Most could not get a sound more then some wet farting, and few could get a note that was clear. Then stepped up, Martin, a member of St Huberts Rangers. He instantly blew a clear shrill note that made our bones shiver and  the crows shriek back. Clearly this was our winner!

The prize was athe hat nifty hat that Emil had made based on the one seen in the good rule. We where in good luck as it fit well on Martins somewhat big head.

 And the feast goes on

As the excitement of the games was reined in, people simmered down and had a joyful time once again. the somewhere around 30 participants dug into the food once more. Forgetting blissfully that those fingers just had been handling excrements of all kinds of dubious animals.more eating As the evening closed in, the dogs started to take advantage of peoples slackening attention. This was something that was most certainly an issue during the medieval times on these gatherings. So for me this was a good part of the event, the participants needed to keep their food safe from the dogs. Because dogs was a really big part of the hunt ( I hope for more dogs to participate next time) foodstealing dogs add to the reality of the event., mattjyvsomething Boudica was very much aware of and made the most of. I think her tally was half a meat, a small pie, some cheese, and this… that might have been some cheesecake.

As evening turned into night the failing light eventually made us pack up and go home. It was a successful event, all those that partook seems to have enjoyed themselves. Hopefully they learned something, if nothing else they learned about new people.

It was also a good event in time, as not much happens at the reenacting-scene in autumn. We like to keep active the year around, so spreading out events is a good thing. The scope of the event, in its pick-nick form was good, since it made the work less for the arrangers. Everyone brings their own things, just like the huntbooks advices.

So, until next time, get out and have your own hunters gatherings!

skål

/Johan

As usual, you can see more pictures at our FB album

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