The Ancient Art of Whacking People

The Ancient Art of Whacking People

(A blog from Damien Fegan, image from Abbey Museum Library)

You may be excused for thinking that combat at the festival is simply just whacking people with heavy steel objects. Not quite: stabbing, slashing, barging, tripping, buffeting, punching, kicking and the odd head butt also have a part to play. The steel objects in question are also not as heavy as you might imagine (see the blog on ‘He who hath no sword’).

As someone who has spent decades trying, sometimes successfully, to hit people with swords, I can give you some insights on the process involved.

First Point: Most importantly; the combats are not predetermined or choreographed.  Combats performed on stage are choreographed as you need exactly the same outcome for every performance; it is very different on the tourney field.

Second point: The combatants are trying to hit each other with accurately weighted but blunted weapons. They are however not trying to hurt each other, which can be problematic when you are playing a high speed, full contact sport that involves hitting people with weapons.  If you can imagine playing Rugby with axes you are getting on the right track.

Now before you decide that you are going to grab a wood-splitter from the shed and join in, you need to read on.

Third Point:  Training- lots of it! The combatants are trained to control their fighting and will have trained for months if not years before you see them fighting in public. They are also wearing a lot of armour, though conversely they are also trying to hit their opponent where they have little or no armour to gain victory.

Fourth Point: There are rules, admittedly not a lot of them, but there are definite no-go zones for whacking with weapons. Think of where you don’t like to be hit, yep, there and the face and neck are out of bounds. The head however is a target as it is protected, a bit, by a steel helmet. Most combats use a system where a fully charged blow delivered to the body results in you losing the fight. From personal experience I have found that when all you can see out of your visor is grass or sky it is a good time to yield the fight. A worst case scenario is when all you can see out of the visor is grass or sky and then darkness or grass, sky, grass, sky, etc. In either of those cases you have most definitely lost.

Fifth Point: The fighters are not, or at least should not be, trying to injure each other.  Hopefully you walk away from a combat with nothing worse than the odd bruise but more serious injuries such as concussion, fractures, dislocations, sprains and the odd puncture can and do occur. These are treated seriously by the fighters as there as great level of trust needed between them as they want to go home in one piece and not be carried home on a stretcher or worse yet, in a bucket!

Final Point:  Yes it hurts!

You’ll see quite a bit of whacking with weapons at the festival this weekend, so don’t forget if you have a weapon, you need a permit!

 

Debut headline event – Hólmganga!

The Viking Holmgang

In modern times,  in order to settle disagreements, we are accustomed to expensive court room battles that sometimes carry on for many years.  But in the olden lands across medieval Scandinavia, squabbles and disputes were much more swiftly dealt with.  There was no call for extensive evidence gathering, no pleas or articulate rhetoric from highly paid counsel.  If your hard won Viking honour was threatened in any way -real or imagined – all that needed to be done was challenge your adversary to a ‘first blood’ or ‘to the death’ duel, and order would be promptly restored.

In those precarious times, Viking vengeance – to restore the honour of the insulted or injured party – demanded financial compensation or, failing that, your good family name could be defended in blood.  This was because, of course, the Norse gods and in particular, Tyr, the Viking god of justice, honour and courage, always ensured that the ‘right’ man won.

For the medieval Scandinavians, there was much worse fates than death as described in Odin’s poem Hávamál: 

Deyr fé, deyja frændur,
deyr sjálfur ið sama;
en orðstír deyr aldregi
hveim er sér góðan getur.

Cattle die, friends die
you yourself die;
One thing now that never dies
the fame of a dead man’s deeds.

Rules of the Holmgang

Holmgang tournament The Abbey Medieval festival

Holmgang Tournament – Image from Staraya Ladoga Stellari

Holmgang tournament Abbey Medeival festival

Holmgang fighting ring – Image from Staraya Ladoga Stellari

Literally translated as ‘small island walk’,  the Holmgang was a formal dispute resolution process of one-to-one combat within a clearly defined fighting ring, and had precise rules that varied across different regions.  The only consistent rule across medieval Scandinavia was that opponents had to agree on the terms for their particular duel.

Social status was no protection against the Holmgang and all weaponry was allowed, although duel opponents were expected to have matched weapons.  The first strike came from the challenged party, after which it was a bloodthirsty ‘free for all’ fight to first blood or death, which is somewhat disturbing to consider was amicably agreed at commencement.

There will of course be no mortal combats at Abbeystowe, but one-on-one fighting will be spectacularly on display with an expected 60 contestants battling it out to defend their good names.  The tournament will run in a randomised fashion with combatant’s names drawn out of a Viking bag and placed into the round with another combatant.  The winner of each round shall be redrawn for the next round until concluded.  Combat rules are loosely based on historical rules and each duel is to be fought with three ‘lives’ – each life is represented by a shield.  Once a combatant has taken three lethal strikes, or are declared too exhausted to continue, they are disqualified.  Taking the guidelines of Kormak’s saga as inspiration, the 2018 Abbey Medieval Festival Holmgang fighting ring will be laid out with ox hide or a cloak and hazel wood staves planted in each boundary corner.  When finished the area was known in medieval times to be ‘hazelled’ and resembled a modern boxing ring.

A Holmgang champion will be awarded at the conclusion of the festival on Sunday afternoon, so to experience all the excitement of the heroic Holmgang, book your tickets here:

(A blog from Staraya Ladoga)

The do’s and don’ts of feasting (Part I)

Today on Medieval Eye for the Modern Guy we look at the do’s and don’ts of feasting.

A few rules of thumb as you prepare yourself for the upcoming Abbey Medieval banquet.

What to Wear

We shall of course not even suggest to lecture the Ladies on what to wear as their fashion sense should always be beyond reproach. Gentleman however may require some discrete coaching on what is expected at a banquet and what are definite medieval faux pas!

Obviously a gentleman would never dream of sitting down to dine in polite company in armour. The same goes for carrying weapons such as axes crossbows etc. After all you are going out for an intimate dinner for 300; not a family reunion. Daggers are an exception as they are simply too dainty to be considered a weapon and the jewelled hilt just cries out to be accessorised. The only weapon you will require is your rapier sharp wit (having a few trusty armed retainers ready outside with a fast getaway horse can be handy if your rapier wit gets you into trouble)

A few hints for the truly fashion conscious; rusty armour is out; shiny silks, fine furs and brocades and damasks are in. Don’t be afraid to mix your colours or go with a simple parti-colour for a striking effect by dressing with one side white or gold and the other red or blue.  Bareheaded is so common so hats are also in this season but if you really want to stand out try a circlet of silver or gold to accent your luxurious locks, and it keeps them out of your food. Furs are always in but they should be artfully tailored and not look like you are still sharing them with the animal. Also don’t be disappointed that no one believes a great hunter when you have a sheepskin draped over your shoulders.

The best maxim is coats bright, hose tight, furs exotic, hats amazing, codpiece outlandish, manners polished and smile dashing and you can’t help but be a hit with the ladies and a threat to your peers.

Image source: Pinterest

Tools of the Trade

It goes without saying that to dine properly you will of course require servants, but if you are travelling light you should still have the following:

  • Spoon ( silver or gold preferred)
  • Knife (small and sharp)
  • Napkin (white linen, silk is so overdone)
  • Bowls ( clean, precious metals or decorated ceramic are acceptable)
  • Cup or goblet ( silver or gold always acceptable though venetian glass is trending right now)
  • Finger bowl with warm scented water (for hand washing not plunge bathing)

These items can be used individually, sequentially, in combinations but NEVER all at once.

Instructions for use

Spoons are for eating pottages, soups and deserts which are placed in your bowl, never in your hand or neighbour’s hat. The knife (definitely not your dagger) is used for cutting your food into dainty morsels (gobbets) which you then pop into your mouth with your fingers. Whilst some foods can be taken on the point of a knife (not soups) it shows a definite lack of breeding to do so and gobbets of food should be eaten with the fingers (your own).  Don’t hack at your food with your knife like you are running late for the Crusades and don’t want to miss out on all of the fun and taking an axe to the roast, or your neighbours, is definitely a big no.  A two pronged fork is acceptable for pasta and shellfish but don’t flash it round like some nouveau rich burgher out to impress his boorish urban friends. Some also think it is stylish to use a spike to place food in the mouth; but ask yourself if a fork is doubtful how can eating with half of a fork be acceptable?  Your napkin is to be used for wiping your mouth, fingers and utensils. Keep it classy and simple and remember that eating with your fingers never goes out of style.

The Abbey Medieval banquets take place on the 30th June and 7th July and there will be no better place to put your medieval manners into practice.  Get your tickets here.

By Damien Fegan

 

 

 

Swords – an introduction to sharp pointy things!

He who hath no sword,

(let him sell his garment and buy one.  Luke 22:36)

No item in medieval history excites as much curiosity and misinformation as the Sword. Light, well balanced and deadly, a medieval sword was not the slightly sharp crowbar of popular myth. A typical single-handed sword weighed generally between 700 g and 1.5 kg at the most.  As a comparison a 1 litre carton of milk weighs 1kg: if you are strong enough to put milk on your breakfast cereal unaided, you could easily lift a sword. Most swords had a tapering double- edged blade, a crosspiece to protect the hand, a grip and a pommel below the grip to act as a counterweight.

Feeling groovy?

Many swords feature a groove or grooves running down the blade. Called the Fuller, this strengthens the sword by adding multiple curves into the profile of the blade, making it lighter and stronger. The groves are not, repeat NOT to:

  • make the blood to run out when you stab someone. Neatest correct entry does not necessarily win in battle!
  • reduce suction! A sword is steel, not rubber, suction is not a thing to worry about
  • inflict more dreadful wounds
  • allow air into the wound. Exposure to air is rarely fatal.

The sword was the most versatile, expensive and prestigious of weapons of the middle ages. It could be used to attack with cut, slash or thrust and could also to defend, though swords were designed to be used with a shield until the introduction of two handed swords in the 1300’s. This coincides with the development of plate armour, as it is a good idea to have a bit of extra protection if you are can’t stop incoming nasty things with your shield! The medieval two handed sword generally weighed under 2.5 kg; often much less.

Whilst the giant 10kg sword of popular myth would make an impact on an opponent, actually hitting them with it, without popping your shoulder, elbow and wrist joints might prove difficult. It is not so much a matter of having a sword light enough to swing for hours on end rather than being able get your sword where you need it in the split second that it needs to be there!

Swords at the Abbey Medieval Festival

The weapons used by the re-enactors at the Abbey Medieval Festival generally only differ from the originals in the sharpness of their edge. Swords were rarely razor sharp, not because they could not achieve a razor edge (after all what did they shave with?) but because a thin razor edge would blunt immediately on contact with a hard surface such as armour or another sword. A sharp chisel edge was preferred for most swords; if you have ever plunged your hand into a box of old tools and come into contact with the business end of a wood-working chisel, you can appreciate how devastating a chisel edged sword could be.

It became customary to use blunted or “plaisance” (pleasant) weapons in tournaments; though believe me, the experience can only be considered pleasant when compared with being hit by a sharp sword.  During the Renaissance it became customary to “foil” or blunt and cover the tip of a rapier when practising your swordsmanship, which is a sensible precaution if you want to keep your friends.

Don’t forget, if you are planning on bringing along your favourite (steel, wooden, foam, cardboard, big, small, indifferent) sword to the festival this year, as well as your ticket, you will need a weapons permit so that we can keep everyone safe. Click here to apply.

By Damien Fegan

Win a VIP experience for 8 people!

Win a VIP experience!

Competition now closed!

Everyone has to agree that the nobility and royalty had it good during the medieval era.  After all, if you were poor, nobody cared and it wasn’t called the Dark Ages for no reason. So who would like to have a little taste of the good life – medieval style.

We are offering you the chance to win VIP experience for you and 7 other people.  Worth $2000 this is a fantastic way for you to experience the Abbey Medieval Festival royally!

Here’s what you have to do –

  1. Click here and fill in your details,
  2. Submit
  3. Done.

We have made it easy for you because, after all you could potentially be a VIP!

Don’t miss out and please pass on to your friends!

(T&Cs for competition)

What to expect in the VIP area!

This is what you can expect expect to enjoy when you visit the Abbey Medieval Festival as a VIP.

  • The best parking on site, especially for people with kids and prams, older people or those that simply don’t want to walk.
  • Undelayed entry to the festival via the ‘VIP only’ gate – no queues included with your VIP experience! (follow the instructions carefully on your ticket!)
  • Exclusive access to the VIP only area all day – wander in and out at your pleasure!
  • Our hosts serve food and beverages throughout the day, including morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea (no alcohol before 10.00am)
  • VIP-only entertainment
    • Opportunity to meet this year’s line up of jousters,
    • Enjoy some henna from Karvan Saray (a group representing an oasis on the Silk Road, near Damascus) 
    • Witness a Shuvani dance show (Shuvani Carnivale Historique is a  vibrant and colourful troupe of historical re-enactors, performers and merchants who pay tribute to medieval nomads of the Silk Road that migrated out of India a millennium ago).
    • If you feel like a walk around join our volunteer Jess on a VIP tour to a number of groups including Historia (multi period group of re-enactors, artisans and museum professionals), Cottereaux (A mercenary group that portrays life in a siege mercenary company)  Rafnheim  (a Germanic Iron Age group representing a period which pre-dates the Viking era, offering an exclusive opportunity to join in a children’s workshop and an adult’s workshop!)
  • VIP-only seating at each joust, with the best view- and don’t be shy to grab yourself a lance-tip as a souvenir!
  • VIP only amenities – again, no queues (Thank Goodness for that!!)
  • Opportunity to meet and greet the jousters, and special photo opportunities!

 

So, don’t miss out, click here for your chance to win this amazing prize.

 

Banquet

The Peacock Feast

A medieval feast can seem a bit strange to modern sensibilities. Food is served in removes, which are miniature multi course meals in their own right and the choice of fare can often limit choice of supplier: unless of course you live in an area where the local Coles stocks porpoise and beaver. Then,  there is all of the ritual which could turn an intimate thirty dish meal shared with a few hundred of your closest friends into a full blown theatrical production.

Enter the Peacock.

The Peacock Feast

During the later middle ages there arose a tradition of taking vows during feasts, generally at the urging of the host. Feasts were the perfect venue for young, and young at heart knights to be urged to greater and greater deeds of glory. After all there were chivalrous companions to urge you on, beauteous ladies to impress and alcohol, which then as now, helps make the impossible seem quite achievable. These typically were not your typical New Year’s resolution type vow such as promising to drink less and exercise more, watching your diet etc. but full on deeds of valour such as holding ground against all comers in a joust at the low end, to liberating the Holy Land at the upper end of the scale.

The best time during a feast to take one of these vows; the chivalric ones that were likely to get you killed, was during the presentation of the subtlety. The presentation of the subtlety was the high point of the feast. As could be expected they were anything but subtle and could take the form of a rare and fantastic beast, a confectionary sailing ship or if your budget is slightly larger you build a castle wall out of roast poultry and garrison the towers with roast deer boar and goats!  The ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie’ was actually a thing though the birds were presumably inserted into the pie after it was baked. Once the pie was, very carefully, cut open the birds would fly out singing to the delight of the diners. Possibly because live blackbirds are not an approved food additive this tradition has sadly been in decline at dinner parties.

A more subtle subtlety was the presentation of a bird, such as a swan or peacock, which had been roasted and then its skin, which had been carefully removed and roasted separately was stitched back on; complete with feathers.  Prised for their majesty in the case of the swan or its display, in the case of the peacock they made perfect subtleties, especially given the relative scarcity of fresh unicorn.

The Peacock Vow

The first Vow of the Peacock was in fact fictional, a tale written in 1312 by Jacques de Longuyon which introduces the ideas of the Nine Worthies of Chivalry (more about which in a later blog) and more importantly for now the practise  of using the presentation of the subtlety to swear an oath. For the potential medieval hero, presentation of a magnificent subtlety at a feast was the perfect time to make outrageous vows as it had all of the necessary ingredients:

  1. Large gathering of your peers and superiors
  2. Chivalrous companions
  3. Lots of wine
  4. Ladies to impress
  5. Heralds, jongleurs and minstrels to immortalise your vow
  6. Lots of wine

De Longuyon’s poem struck a chord and life quickly took to imitating art and we know of several similar vows being undertaken at later feasts involving Audubon subtleties including vows taken on peacocks, swans, herons, pheasants and even a sparrowhawk. It seemed hardly was a bird out of the oven before some gallant had slapped a hand on it vowing loudly to do or die.

For our Feast of the Peacock, the magnificent subtlety will be in form of a large peacock cake displaying its plumage as it is served to the high table. Whilst it will not contain real peacock that does not mean you cannot make a heroic vow when you catch sight of it.  Just remember though, you will be held to your vow!

In case you are wondering peacock is overrated as a delicacy as it tastes much drier than swan, but if you think the time is right in your life to commit a vow, get your banquet tickets here.

Blog by Damien Fegan

Women in History - Ladies at the Abbey Medieval Festival

Something for the Ladies!

There is something for every Lord and Lady at the Abbey Medieval Festival and this blog features a few special items designed to pique the female interest.  Women, Ladies, Maids and girls – both medieval and modern minded – look, listen and laugh – you are in for some eyebrow raising subjects!

Be…witched

This presentation given by Order of the Dracul takes place on Saturday only and delves into a very dark period in the dark ages.  From the early decades of the 14th century until 1650, continental Europeans executed between 200,000 and 500,000 witches, 85% of whom were women. The character and timing of these executions and the persecutions which preceded them were determined in part by changed objectives of the Inquisition, as well as by a differentiation process within medieval society. The ‘witchcraze’ answered the need for a redefinition of moral boundaries, as a result of the profound changes in the medieval social order. The fact that these executions and the accompanying demonological theories enjoyed widespread and popular acceptance can be explained through the anomie which permeated society at that time.  This sobering presentation will discuss the intellectual cognitive background for the witch hunts, and separate fact from fiction.

Medieval Fashion Show

For the best-dressed dames and damsels out there, this year’s costume competition is a must.  The competition is held on Saturday (only) and is open to patrons  aged 16+.  Applications close on July 8th, please see conditions of entry.

Neither will you want to miss the medieval fashion parade from the Society of Creative Anachronism.  Take a tour through the transition of fashion from early period through to the late medieval period as our models  display the evolution of fashion influenced by construction techniques, politics and status.

Music and Dance

Bardic Harpress – Raven Lamont of Women in History will deliver a performance of musical storytelling accompanied by her Irish High Headed Celtic Harp.  In addition, the Shuvani Carnival Historica have a dance show that tells the story of 500 years of migration from India to Europe through beautiful dance and movment.  Additionally, you are very welcome to join the Shuvani as they teach you Circle Dance workshop as they teach their favourite simple circle dances.  No experience necessary, if you can walk you can do this!

Grown ups only…(R18+)

As modern Australian women can openly bemoan their grievances, one can’t help but wonder about the ladies of medieval times and how they managed their private issues. A hilarious talk  brought to you by Historia flings the doors wide open on the subject and exposes the very secret sex lives of medieval women examining the intimate details of women in society and in the bedroom.  For mature audiences only.  Additionally you might be interested in the Order of the Artisans and Kindred Spirits (OAKS) and their presentation ‘Medieval Missed Conceptions’ (also rated 18+) as Lady Merewin has a realm of myths, truths, missed truths and sheer unadulterated lies revolving around the methods of avoiding pregnancy in medieval times.  Prayers, lemons and confusion regin as tools for contraception during this era.  Entertaining and interactive, this lecture is suitable for adults only.

Workshops

We are constantly looking for ways to get you more involved with our festival and to facilitate a deeper and more personal experience.  These workshops are a wonderfully creative way to bring history to your finger-tips, engaging body, mind and your medieval spirit.

Laid-and-couched embroidery workshop

Description: Laid-and-couched embroidery is a quick and easy method of decorating fabric with yarn; it’s most popularly known as the method used to produce the Bayeux Tapestry.

Time: 10:30am – Day: Saturday and Sunday – Cost: $5

Making a paternoster workshop

Description: The paternoster was the predecessor to the rosary and was a must-have accoutrement, worn by both peasant and noble.

Time: 11:30am – Day: Saturday and Sunday – Cost: $5 (paid in cash on the day)

Fringes and tassels workshop

Description: Fringes were used to finish off the end of various household fabrics, and tassels were a popular form of decoration.

Time: 2:30pm – Day: Saturday and Sunday – Cost: $5 (paid in cash on the day) –

Application to join the workshops is here, and they are offered by Oltramar, a 13th century crusade group base in St. Edith’s Village. The fee is to cost of the materials and is paid directly to the group on the day.  Each workshop is limited to eight people and a waiting list will commence once capacity is reached. Please remember we would love to see your photos!

 

Book your tickets to this year’s festival here.

 

Lords at the Abbey Medieval Festival

Something for the Lords!

There is something for every Lord and Lady at the Abbey Medieval Festival BUT if ever there was a festival demonstrating male prowess, strength and survival skills, this festival could be described as a very male expression.  My Lords…we have tried to pick a few to summarize ….but you simply have to see them all.

Tournament of Strength and Skill

Located in the Castle arena, this competition is hosted by the Company of the Phoenix with entrants hailing from various re-enactment groups participating at the festival. The Tournament of Strength and Skill is a medieval obstacle course designed for training for the field of battle and to test the combatants’ physical prowess. Made up of obstacles to test a number of important skills that a combating Lord would require on the field of battle such as speed, balance, strength, ability to vault a horse and accuracy with a spear, lance and sword.  You can’t possibly watch this and not engage your male competitive spirit.

War Machines

While this is not a performance, you do not want to miss Cottereaux’s ‘Behemoth’, the largest functioning medieval Trebuchet in the southern hemisphere.  It will showcase its firepower twice a day. A Trebuchet (French trébuchet) is a  medieval siege engine of catapult or stave sling design, and functions by the use of a swinging arm to cast a projectile. The traction trebuchet, also referred to as a Mangonel,  first appeared in Ancient China during the 4th century BC as a siege weapon. During sieges, heavy stones were cast sometimes with oil and fire to damage castle walls and while it would be very tempting to use the Trebuchet to hurl naughty little Lords afar, the Sheriff would not encourage this practice.

Battle displays

Travel back in time to the Dark Ages (Byzantine era) by taking a stroll through the Commons where Jorth Gar – the New Varangian Guard is located.

The Byzantine Emperor Basil II formed the Varangian Guard to act as his elite personal bodyguards.  Membership initially consisted of the fierce Rus Vikings, however after 1066, the ranks of the Varangian Guard swelled as mighty Saxon warriors sought membership.  The rewards were lucrative and their reputation was legendary.  It was not easy to join the Varangian Guard as their battle skills were exceptional.   Prospective members not only had to pay to join, they had to prove themselves worthy often by a show of combat skill against existing seasoned veterans of the elite Varangian Guard.

The re-enactment group Jorth Gar will present a series of single combats and heroic fighting.  In their day, the warriors of the Varangian Guard needed to acquire and maintain their skills and learn new technology. This combat display is a crowd engager and demonstrates the variety of weapons and fighting techniques available to the Varangian Guard.

You will be in awe of the Varangian Guard.

Turkish Archery

You’ll have heard of the ancient tradition of Turkish Oil Wrestling, which is a huge crowd favourite of the festival, not only for its display but for it’s historical accuracy and it also is one of the five tournaments of the festival. Traditional Turkish archery will not disappoint you either.  This performance demonstrates the use of bows and arrows in various traditional ways such as during the times of war and peace. The Turks were very effective in using bows and arrows shooting very accurately in a variety of situations. The demonstrations will include use of whistling arrows for game and communication purposes, shooting in attack and retreat situations (singly or as a group)Boys Skirmish at Sephoria

Watch different Crusader groups combat at Skirmish at Sephoria (on Sunday only in an army format), shooting down in to a well or down from the top of castle wall, speed shooting and other demonstration of various Turkish shooting techniques.

There’s something for everyone at the Abbey Medieval Festival, after all , learning is not just confined to the young.  Find out more about what’s on a this year’s Abbey Medieval Festival, and get your tickets here.

 

 

Children at the festival

What’s there for the Kids and Families?

Kids at the Abbey Medieval Festival (Imaged: BCroese)

A fun-day out with the family is so important and therapeutic today and we are acutely aware that Mums and Dads are very selective with their down-time choices.  Families work hard, endure difficulties and challenges – perhaps different to what medieval families had to endure – but nonetheless –  both visible and invisible trials are surmounted each day by children and their families.  So kicking back and bonding with the members of your inner circle is very important.  To include learning and fun is a must-do – from our perspective – and we hope that this year you’ll see that kids are the winners!

Immersive Edu-tainment for the Family

The festival interweaves very unique opportunities for families to come together, wind-down and indulge in vivid and colourful imagination .  This is just what kids love and want and as adults, this is where we can really learn from our kids – fun is therapy. It makes us feel better.  No explanations necessary.  We promise you, there’s fun to be had at this festival.

Image by DdeGroot

So what do we have in store for your children this year?

  • Kids of all ages will clap, cheer, and laugh themselves silly when Domino the Jester takes the stage. Get ready for fantastic feats of juggling, brilliant balancing and mystifying magic. 
  • Josh Croall – Juggler Extraordinaire – will be doing two demonstrations at the start and end of children’s entertainment block at the Pageant Wagon.
  • Also at the Pageant Wagon, the Abbey House Troupe will tell stories of medieval legends for children. Led by a narrator, the troupe will act out scenes from King Arthur, Robin Hood and St. George and the Dragon.
  • If you have ever wondered how a turban is tied, this is your chance to find out.  Karvan-Saray, a 15th Century Syrian group, will show you how to keep the sun off your head – Bedouin style- exactly how the desert dwellers of the Middle East have been doing with ease for centuries. You can find this taking place at the Village Green, 11.00 Saturday and 1.00pm Sunday.  Karvan Saray will also be holding a Drum Basics workshop from 1.00 – 1.30 in their encampment.
  • The Norviks – a Viking group – can show you how Viking children used to amuse themselves, demonstrating a range of Viking games and a boat-talk if you’d like to find out about ‘Fafnir’.
  • For the older kids,  those interested in the evolution of medieval garb, why not take a tour through the transition of fashion from early period through to the late medieval period as models display the evolution of clothing influenced by construction techniques, politics and status.  They will never complain about their school uniform again!
  • And the most hilarious of all, the Gurning competition, celebrating funny faces and all things silly.  Make your way to the Friar’s Folly tavern at 1.30 -2.00 to face-off in making faces!
  • Straya Ladoga will host a viking cloth Doll Making Workshop in their encampment from 12.00-12.30
  • Shuvani will show you how to make Peg Dolls and you also have a chance to meet the Cobb Horse also in their encampment between 1.00 and 2.30pm
  • Additionally, there are camel rides, a very exciting puppet show, and…..you’ll find a viking toy-shop presented by children for children in the Traders of Frojel encampment.

So, we think you will agree, the kids will have no problems finding their favourite entertainment at this year’s festival.

Kids Dig It!Medieval Family Fun WEEK!

This is where the fun gets serious!  A week-long of children’s activities themed on medieval daily life takes place from 2-6th July at the Abbey Museum.  You could travel back in time somehow for these experiences, or you could just come to Caboolture’s award winning Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology to join in all-day activities including the Abbey signature events – the Archaeological Digs and Archery.  New this year will be Make a Poppet, Page training and for two mornings you’ll have the chance to take part in Archery Skirmish.  You will also find medieval combat, needlework and illuminating letters masterclasses and there’s a costume competition with a prize each day!

And if all this is too much, parents can hang out at the Abbey Cafe.

Tickets can be booked here:

 

Animals of the festival

Animals of the Festival

The significance of animals in the Middle Ages

In comparison to our lives today, life in the dark and middle ages was not easy.  Peoples’ routines revolved around the seasons – which would signify whether or not they had food – but hand-in-hand for the people that lived during those centuries were the animals that served them.  Animals served as transport, hunters, food and companions and played a very important role.

We think that this year the animals deserve homage! All of the critters including the monstrous and mighty right down to the meek and minuscule.

From the animals essential to life and survival such as chicken, bees, sheep, goats, swine and cattle; the hunting and herding dogs, the draft animals that carried food and supplies  and then on to the horses that carried people on their travels and into the hunt and to war…. Animals served a huge role in the lives of their owners.

The Abbey Medieval Festival attracts over 30,000 people across Australia who make the annual pilgrimage to Caboolture, Queensland for two-days of non-stop feasting, music, dancing and drama of Medieval era. And this year – we honour the Animals too! 

Honour the horses and hounds

The bloody hand-to-hand warfare that raged across continents throughout the dark and middle ages is owed just as much to the horses as it does to the men that fought in them.   Arabs outmanoeuvred their enemies in the desert on camels and horses, Vikings knew to make a beeline for the stables during raids in order to maintain their mobility on land  and European warfare owed much to the horses, mules and donkeys that carried them into battle and carried their supplies.

Medieval Greyhounds“We’ve got dogs, horses, goats and even chickens from the Dark ages and the Middle ages; we have animals that hark back to the Viking age; we’ve got Arabic dogs and horses that have changed little over time and we have a wide range of Medieval dogs, horses and chickens found during those times. We even have some of the oldest documented types of dogs represented, the Irish wolfhound, the greyhound and the Saluki” says Joust co-ordinator,  Paula Winkel.

Two Irish wolfhounds will feature at this year’s festival. Paula says there were depictions of this type of dog in manuscripts dating back to the pre-Christian era and historical accounts of “large rough coated hairy dogs  guarding houses and hunting wolves that had a close resemblance to the Irish wolfhound”.  Irish wolfhounds were highly valued for their large size and strength, and ownership of the swift Greyhound was restricted to nobility.

Unlike today, when breed and look are all-important factors, animals were usually differentiated by their use, their region of origin or their type and rather than by breed.  For example, Horses in the Middle Ages were described as “chargers or Destriers” (war horses), Courser (fast  racing horses) “Palfreys” (riding horses),  and “Sumpters” (packhorses).  And dogs that hunted by scent were called “Lymers” and Dogs that hunted by sight were called “Greyhounds”, “Aulants” were hounds that went after bigger game, and the “Mastiff” was a heavy set dog for really big game and for guarding,  and the “Kennet” were the smaller hunting dogs.

Birds and beasts and bees……

Falcons and hawks will feature at this year’s festival along with a range of dogs, horses and poultry that will see festival-goers having the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the birds and beasts. And look out for the bee-keepers, the humble buzzing bee makes an inaugural appearance this year.

Medieval Bee Keeping

Medieval Apiary (Image from Pinterest)

Paula says the key to hosting Australia’s most authentic re-enactment festival is fastidious attention to detail.
“We’re purists, we want this to look, sound, smell and feel as much like the Middle and Dark Ages as possible,” she says.

“Animals are key to that and a whole lot of detail and research into designing the Medieval costumes  for their handlers,  the type for fencing and cages, right down to the leather gear for the horses and dogs.

“Yes it’s slightly obsessive referring to manuscripts to make sure we get every detail correct; but there’s also a lot of satisfaction that goes behind making the attire to fit us and the animals perfectly.

“The festival is all about fun, adventure and history. So, travel back in time and have a blast.”  Located in Caboolture, The Abbey Medieval Festival, run by the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, will be held on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July at 1-63 The Abbey Place, Caboolture.

Get you tickets online here!

(Blog in conjunction with Paula Winkel, Abbey Medieval Festival Joust Co-ordinator and  Moreton Life magazine)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteering – Give it a go!

5 ways you can benefit from volunteering

Some people might think that if you volunteer, you waste your time because you don’t get anything out of it and it’s only for people who have nothing to do!

Actually,  that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Are you missing something from your life and you don’t quite know what? Are you an ‘all work and no play’ type of person but find it hard to wind-down and keep a hobby?

Volunteering is a great way to add to your life, build up resilience and feel like the person that you really want to feel like.

Get active!  Get alive!   and get that feeling of satisfaction that comes with doing good.

We have some wonderful volunteers at the Abbey Medieval Festival, some of whom come back to us year after year.  This might explain why!

 

What contributing to your community can do for you!

  • Are you between jobs? – use your time to volunteer and keep your skills up to date
  • Are you recovering from illness? If you can’t commit to a full time job yet, use your time to volunteer and build up strength and stamina until you are fully fit again
  • Are you new to the area? Consider volunteering to make friends and contacts to help you feel connected with your community
  • Put that  smile on your dial – where it belongs! – There’s nothing like giving to make you feel better
  • Oh and here’s one, if you are fed up on on-line dating……why not give volunteering a go to see if you can meet some ‘real live’ people.

 

Volunteering for the  Abbey Medieval Festival is and incredible experience.  It’s not just fun, it’s educational.  Applications are now open – apply here!

Abbey Medieval Festival 2018

2018 Abbey Medieval Festival Hero

The face of the  Abbey Medieval Festival 2018

Festival Hero

(Photo by B Croese)

(Photo by B Croese)
Who is our 2018 festival hero?

Introducing Mr. Blair Martin, a multi-award winning Brisbane based actor, speaker, broadcaster, writer, director, entrepreneur and ‘Something Else’!
In 2018,  Blair will celebrate being the voice behind the microphone, the Master Herald at our annual medieval event and the announcer of all things… important or not… for the last two decades.   He is also the Steward of the Hall at both medieval banquets keeping the esteemed guests, the Lords and Ladies and Very Important People,  well entertained throughout the evening with his droll humor and witty wit. His extensive medieval knowledge, his spirit and pizzazz has made him a legend to many visitors to the Abbey Medieval Festival over the years. With a character that’s larger than life, a stature that leaves you in awe and admiration, the face of this 29th festival is truly our hero and has been for quite some time.

Festival Hero and ‘Something Else’!

Born and raised in Rockhampton, Blair has many strings to his artistic bow ranging from wildly colourful comic characters, MC services, and innovative corporate concepts and events including the Abbey Medieval Festival.  Blair is a also mastermind  for his ability to recall the most arcane list of facts, figures and quirky stories, and these are by no means limited to  medieval tid-bits.  Blair was a champion on the Australian production of the TV quiz show, ‘Jeopardy’, and in June 2007, Blair became the 6th Grand Champion of the hit Channel 9 quiz program ‘Temptation’.  In 2014,  Blair won one of the inaugural gold medals for the Trivia competition as part of the bienniel Pan-Pacific Masters Games on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and backed that up with a second gold medal in the same division at the 2016 PanPacs.

In various previous lives, Blair worked as the public face of many projects and jobs ranging from cinema usher to hotel receptionist and his talent for training, team-building and motivation of others, was and remains his personal brand. In 1993,  Blair started his own business called ‘Something Else Entertainment

Without a doubt, the Medieval Festival wishes to acknowledge and thank Blair for his creative  and dedicated services since 1998 and we recognise, also without a doubt, that every year, he just gets better!  He certainly is ‘Something Else’!

Thank you,  Blair. We appreciate you!

 

To Joust another day…

joust

To Joust Another Day…

The trumpets blare and the crowds roar as mounted knights make their way into the arena.  Their armour glints as it is caught by the winter sun and their banners flap in the breeze announcing the colours and heraldry of each rider.

Then, the pageantry and ceremony over,  the knights prepare themselves and their trusty steeds for the first joust of the Abbey Medieval Festival 2017.

The first two knights enter the arena and present themselves to the crowd.

The air is charged with excitement and anticipation, the cry goes up from the herald and the thundering horse charge down the centre list with knight, lances extended before them staring determinately towards their opponent.

 

How does the point system work?

When two knights joust each other, it’s called a “pass”.  At the Abbey joust each knight will generally do three (3) passes against each opponent and the points they score will accumulate over the weekend. At this year’s Abbey Medieval Festival joust there will be ten (10) knights jousting for honour. So there will be plenty of action for visitors to see. The Abbey joust works in a round robin-so every knight has the same chance, and gets the opportunity to joust against all their fellow knights!

So we all want to know – what can a knight hit with their lance to score points?

The shield!!!         Yes!! Best option!

The head?              Nooooo (not at the Abbey joust!)

The torso?              Yes!!!! Second best option-the armour is there for a reason!

Below the belt?   No no no!!

The horse??          Never!!! Knights would rather injure themselves than hurt a horse!

 

Scoring points:

1 point for a touch – the lance hits the target area but didn’t break-marshals will often check the tips of such lances to see if they have deformed or carry paint marks from the shield.

2 points for a break – one piece has broken off the lance.

And every jousters favourite…

3 points for a shatter! The lance has broken into two or more pieces! Stuff flies everywhere and the audience roars!!!

So, what about knocking a knight off their horse? Well, at the Abbey joust- knights don’t really get extra points for that.. as you would imagine it can be quite dangerous and of course we want our knights to joust another day.

On some occasions, you see true chivalry and knightly virtue in action. One knight might offer their opponent a “mercy pass”, this is where a knight will ride down the list (that’s the area where the joust takes place) without their lance and presenting their shield clearly to their opponent… now that is what we call brave!

In addition to an afternoon devoted to jousting at the Friday joust tourney on  7th July, at the Abbey Medieval Festival there will be four jousts on Saturday and four on Sunday at 10.45 am, 12:15 pm, 1:45 pm and 3:15 pm.  Ensure you get to see this sport of kings and purchase your tickets on line or at the Festival.

 

Banquet

What’s NEW to Abbey Medieval Tournament?

Whether you’re new to the Abbey Medieval Festival or are familiar with the tournaments and attend every year, this year is set to be bigger and better than ever! This blog will keep you updated as the program develops and we hope it will serve as a reference to keep you informed.

What’s new in 2018

The Banquets

The  ultimate medieval experience – this year, patrons will have the pleasure of hearing the melodic tones of our harpist Raven Lamont; while they partake in authentic medieval h and washing prior to an evening filled with sumptuous food and enchanting performances. Our theme this year is around Peacocks, and please read our blog telling all about this subject to find out more.  The banquet experience is something that you will think and talk about for a long time – you have to do it at least once!  Wondering what’s to eat and drink?  Wonder no more….Menu 2018 and Banquet Beverage Menu.

The Holmgang

This year, along with existing four tournaments of the festival (namely the jousting, the Turkish oil wrestling, the tournament of strength and skill, the Archery), a fifth tournament will be added. Presented to you by Staraya ladoga (Stray Dogs), this group which is based around Brisbane re-enacts the periods from 900-1000AD, Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages.

This year, along with existing four tournaments of the festival (namely the jousting, the Turkish oil wrestling, the tournament of strength and skill, the Archery), a fifth tournament will be added.

Presented to you by Staraya ladoga (Stray Dogs), this group which is based around Brisbane re-enacts the periods from 900-1000AD, Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages.

The Rus Vikings from Staraya Ladoga offer the opportunity to observe the aspects of life of a bygone era and demonstrate influences gained through trade and the exploration of their surroundings.  Their campsite displays traditional Rus Viking style tents, cooking hearth with period equipment, woodworked items including seating and chests made from patterns in archaeological Viking finds. Activity at the campsite includes traditional Viking activities—tanning of hides using traditional natural tanning methods, longbow archery, cooking and craft activities. Evenings are spent feasting, carousing with copious quantities of ale and mead, music and Skaldic verse. In between performances, the Stray Dogs work on clothing research and construction by hand, shoe-making, armour and weapon production by hand and social get-togethers. And this year, they present  – The Holmgang!

In Norse society, a Holmgang was a duel, a means to settle a dispute through combat where resolution couldn’t be found through legal talks and negotiation. Social status was irrelevant, a person of any social status could be challenged.  From Onomatopoeia alone, you can guess that this is going to be arduous – the Holmgang – is a Viking way to sort out disagreements.  Practiced by early medieval Scandinavians, in theory, regardless of your social status, if you have been insulted or offended, you can call for a Holmgang.  Examples of disagreement could be over matters of honour, property, legal or to avenge a friend. The duel can take place on a small piece of land, or even a cloak and Holmgangs can end in the death or incapacitation of the other – although the Abbey Medieval Festival Holmgang – will not. Holmgang can be translated to “to go to (or walk on) a small island”, or “island walk”.

The Holmgang was typically confined to the area of a cloak or hide placed on the ground—participants had to stay within this marked boundary.

At the Abbey Medieval Festival, this marks a new tournament, rounding out to five. The Holmgang will be conducted in a round robin cycle—a process of elimination until a combatant is victorious. The winner will be decided on Sunday afternoon where they will be presented with the Armfield Shield and an official Abbey Tournament trophy during the presentation of the champions.

 

Festival Safety

Please keep in mind these festival rules which are necessary to keep everyone safe.

  1. The Abbey Medieval Festival is a licensed venue, and no BYO or consumption of alcohol outside defined areas is not permitted
  2. There is a first aid and medical response team onsite, they are located at the main gate (next to the Public safety Operations Centre), and there are mobile responders throughout the site.  If you need first aid assistance, just talk to the security and safety team or one of our helpful volunteers
  3. Due to recent events, all patrons’ bags will be searched
  4. While the festival encourages our patrons to fully immerse themselves in the medieval experience, we ask that if you intend to bring a weapon (this includes replicas and some wooden items) to the festival that you will need to apply for a permit.  As per 2017 we are charging $2.00 for the permit with all funds going towards the stain glass window preservation.  For further information on this process, feel free to contact the Public Risk, Operations and Risk Manager via riskmanager@abbeytournament.com
  5. Police, Security and Public Safety Officers are on site to provide for a safe, healthy and secure Abbey Medieval Festival

 

Get your tickets now to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the amazing experiences brought to you by the Abbey Medieval Festival team.

banquet

Medieval at home – host your own banquet

HOW TOs for a HOME BANQUET…

When planning to host your very own Medieval Banquet at home there are a few essential ingredients that are not difficult to do and yet will create an experience out-of-time that will wow your guests.

Firstly, the table setting…. What “goes” and what are the “nos”?

When setting a table for a medieval banquet here are a few ideas to enhance the look:

  • Use a plain white table cloth.
  • Candles! Candles are a must because they create a wonderful ambience. Cream coloured candles (sometimes called “church” candles) are available from many discount shops.
  • Wrought iron candlesticks or candelabras look fabulous.
  • Knife – steak knives with wooden handles work well
  • Spoon – an essential (remember there were no forks in Medieval Europe)
  • Plate – now for a plate you may wish to use a simple terracotta platter or even better why not use a trencher – a large flat plate made out of bread, similar to a large flat bread roll cut in half.
  • Don’t forget a LARGE cloth serviette… there is a lot of use of fingers when eating a medieval banquet, so a large serviette is essential.
  • And finally small dishes (pottery) for pepper and salt.

Now the table is set and looking impressively medieval we need to turn our attention to the menu.

Foods not allowed in your banquet at home

Foods that should not have a place on a medieval menu include:

  • Potatoes, corn (maize), tomatoes and pumpkins. All these foods were products of the Americas and were not introduced to the European table until the very end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance.

So what can be included in your menu to make it uniquely medieval? Why not try venison pies, or baked lamb shanks in a rich red wine gravy, or spiced roast pork with pomegranate gravy. Or you could try baked fish with a white wine parsley sauce…

For vegetables you could include candied carrots with cinnamon and honey, baked stuffed mushrooms, buttered cauliflower, green peas cooked in a broth or honeyed parsnips or turnips.

Other suggestions include mushroom and cheese pies, vegetable pastries, asparagus egg tart and assorted cheeses, nuts and fruit.

Forsooth! I forgot the sweets! What delicacies did they eat in the Middle Ages? How about treacle tarts with rose water? You may wish to try pears cooked in honey, wine and spices or baked apple and custard pies.

And finally, what do you drink? There are all sorts of drinks for a banquet – wine, beer, ales, mead, elder wine and cider.

But firstly, before they’re sold out, why not book yourself a ticket to the medieval banquet for the real experience, and then have fun recreating the scene in your own home!

 

A Wayward Sound

A Wayward Sound

 

For more than a dozen years the characteristic sound of Wayward’s hurdy gurdy and medieval pipes has been part of the Abbey Medieval Festival.

The name of the band relates to the portrayal of the wandering musicians of the Middle Ages. Often referred to as “Jongleurs”, these musicians would travel the country playing for nobility and common folk alike. Not under the protection of lord and law these musicians stood outside normal society ― ‘wayward’, but free. They would travel from town to town bearing news and entertaining people by playing music, juggling and acting out short plays and fables often utilising puppets, masks and costumes.

As the festival grew, so did their involvement ― from just wandering the grounds playing music to entertaining at the Abbey Medieval banquets, holding lectures and facilitating workshops.

In line with a true portrayal of Jongleurs, Wayward expanded its performance repertoire to also include medieval street theatre elements ― namely hobbyhorses as well as a giant processional puppet.
The hobbyhorses became so popular with the public, that the Abbey decided to hold hobby-horse making workshops in 2006, asking Ricarda to lead these.

Wayward’s repertoire extends from the early 11th Century to the 16th Century with the main focus on the songs of the French Trouvères and Troubadours and German Minnesingers, who while singing songs of unrequited love, also sang of crusades and the basic pleasures in life ― eating, drinking and the prospect of warm bed. Wayward perform songs in English, French, German, Swedish & Latin.

Check out Wayward’s new CD “Rota Fortunae” on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/waywardminstrels