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EX LIBRIS

Meet the Reenactor Groups 2016

EX LIBRIS

libris

Ex Libris is a Living History group which, as it’s primary focus, presents the middle and upper class peoples from Western and Central Europe, between 1375 and 1415. They have other areas of focus as well,  which include but are not limited to: late Antiquity and the Great Migrations, through to the Renaissance. They strive to present high quality individual historical impressions with a focus on education, living history and experimental archeology. This group and its members are looking to understand the medieval period by researching and recreating the fashions, cuisine, art and lifestyles.

While they are a small group, their activities include, but are not restricted to; research, practice and demonstration of historical martial arts, equestrian skills, religious practices, music, cooking, costuming, metal, ceramic, leather, and wood work, and other skills appropriate to the subject. Ex Libris has performed at medieval fairs, like the Abbey Medieval Festival, as well as participating in small private events, lectures and demonstrations. Several of their members write blogs and contribute to other medieval pages.

Ex Libris is made up of several experienced and dedicated researchers and re-enactors, with a combined experience and knowledge of over 50+ years. What they lack in size they make up for in in enthusiasm and dedication to history.

What will you see when you come into the Ex Libris camp?

libris

A hive of activity with and smiling faces ready to answer all your questions. Ex Libris has two unofficial mottos: No. 1: “No one goes away without having their questions answered”. No. 2: “Have fun!”

When you meet Ex Libris, you not only come away with a deep sense of their passion for history, but their excitement and dedication is infectious.

This camp is a must for all guests at this years Festival!

STILL more to come on the Reenactor groups

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Medieval Strawberries

A Brief History of the Strawberry of Medieval Times

strawberries

Though cultivated strawberries are enjoyed far and wide today, the strawberry did not always enjoy such wide-spread favouritism when we look back to Medieval times.

The wild strawberry – Fragaria vesca is an aggregate fruit, a sweet and edible member of the rosaceae (rose family) which flourished freely during the Medieval Period. The humble Fragaria vesca is smaller than today’s cultivated strawberries, it abounded in woods throughout Medieval Europe, but was not cultivated until the late Middle Ages and went undocumented until the 1300’s.

 

A Medieval History of the Humble Strawberry

 

  • To the medieval peoples, the strawberry represented righteousness and perfection, strawberry          designs were oft carved into altars and around the tops of colonnades and pillars within cathedrals and churches to symbolise these revered traits.
  • Similarly, medieval artists depicted the Virgin Mary with strawberries to symbolise perfection and righteousness.
  • Fresh wild strawberries plucked from the plant were primarily consumed by peasants, they were thought not to have been eaten fresh by nobility as unprepared, raw food was oft looked upon with suspicion – the upper classes believed eating fresh fruit was dangerous.
  • The upper classes would only indulge in strawberries when boiled, baked, or cooked into such tasty treats as strawberry pudding, or in pottages, a primitive type of cookery enjoyed by all classes of medieval peoples. Pottages included such dishes as thick soup, porridge and stews.
  • This sweet was served cooked, boiled, or baked at important events during the Middle Ages to bring about peace and prosperity.
  • Pregnant women of the Medieval Period avoided eating, or touching raw, or cooked strawberries due to superstition – they feared their babies would be born with strawberry-shaped birthmarks if they were to come into contact, or nibble anything containing Fragaria vesca.
  • The strawberry was used as a medicinal herb as Fragaria vesca was believed to ease sunburn pain, relieve skin blemishes, brighten discoloured teeth and cure various digestive ailments such as diarrhoea, digestive upset and gout.
  • For a number of years during the High Middle ages in the 12th century, Abbess Saint Hildegard von Binger announced strawberries were not fit for eating as they grew on the ground where toads and snakes likely crept over them. Local political figures heeded her words and made similar statements discouraging the people from consuming them, amongst Europeans, this belief held for many years.

 

Strawberries in Medieval Norse Mythology

 

The strawberry was associated with the goddess Frigga, patroness of matrimony and Oden’s wife. In Norse mythology Frigga gave strawberries as a symbol to the spirits of young children who had died in infancy who would then ascend to heaven hidden within a strawberry.

The strawberry was also connected to Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and ruler of the afterlife field Fólkvangr, where half of those who die in battle end up in the Nordic afterlife (the other half reaching Valhalla). The strawberry was one of her symbols and her sacred food. In Norse myths she is depicted as knowledgeable and powerful, a captivatingly beautiful mistress to the gods, a mother, a sister, the daughter of Njörðr and wife of Óðr.

Freyja drives a chariot pulled by cats and cries tears of gold. She is associated with beauty, fertility, love, gold, war, death and a type of Norse shamanistic sorcery.

 

The Beginning of Strawberry Cultivation

 

Strawberry cultivation began sporadically in early 1300’s France, mostly within home gardens. Then in 1368, King Charles V had 1200 strawberry plants planted in his Parisian gardens at The Louvre blanketing it in a sea of red. This was followed a few years later by the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy planting a four-block area of land on their estate near Dijon with strawberries.

This humble, sweet member of the rose family came to prominence later on in the 16th century around 1560 during The Renaissance. King Henry IV’s physician Bruyerin-Champier reported English ladies had grown very fond of the strawberry and were cultivating these plants at home and indulging in strawberries and cream.

The wild strawberry was also used in medieval cooking to make strawberry wine, strawberries and cream, strawberry jams, jellies and strawberry shortcake, the

Aside from being revered as a tasty edible, the strawberry itself and depictions of the strawberry in myth and art served a number of other uses during the Medieval Period.

 

Visit Moreton Bay Region to Celebrate the Strawberry

 

The Moreton Bay Region is home to several commercialised strawberry farms, and this August 2016 locals and visitors to the region are invited to celebrate this favourite aggregate fruit at the region’s annual Strawberry Festival hosted by Sandstone Point Hotel on Saturday 20th August from 11am into the evening.

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JANISSARY BARRACKS

Meet the Reenactors 2016

JANISSARY BARRACKS

janissary barracks

Janissary Barracks (‘Yeniҫeri Ocaği’) Historical Re-enactment Group Inc. was formed in 1999 and incorporated in March 2004. This group aims to:

  1. Foster an environment in which the members can research, adopt and re-enact medieval Ottoman lifestyles.
  2. Provide a common meeting ground for those who are interested in the history of the medieval period of the Ottoman Empire of the late 15th century.
  3. Support educational activities concerning medieval lifestyles with particular emphasis on the medieval Ottoman world.
  4. Provide a means of liaison with other groups and individuals dealing with medieval Ottoman culture.

The Janissary Barracks group have actively participated in the annual Abbey Medieval Tournament every year since 1999. This group holds a unique and important place in this Tournament as it brings a Middle-Eastern flavour to a mainly European based tournament atmosphere, and highlights the importance of one of the major empires of medieval times, which is otherwise not usually well represented in re-enacting.

Over the years since 1999, the Janissary Barracks group have expanded their activities to include Ottoman Turkish oil wrestling, traditional folk dancing and cooking. Presentations are made on other aspects of Ottoman culture including history of weapons, coffee and costumes, with a more recent strong emphasis on traditional military archery. Group members can demonstrate techniques using re-curve bows which established the Janissaries as an elite fighting force.

Janissary Barracks things to do in the encampment

Come and see the Janissary Barracks encampment and participate in activities such as the Turkish Oil Wresting and traditional folk dancing. 

Buy your tickets to the Festival today!

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Blackwolf

Meet the Re-enactor Groups 2016

BLACKWOLF

 

It was a feature of medieval warfare that armies tended to live off the invaded land, foraging wherever they could. In Outremer, the Middle East as we know it today, crops were grown and gathered around the water sources. Controlling the water sources and supply routes meant that you controlled the land.

Invading forces attempted to set up supply lines but often in Crusader times, supplies from overseas failed to arrive and often was too little, too late. Supplies had to be easily transported, not spoil and all fresh meat herded “on the hoof”. To alleviate this, Blackwolf – a 12th-13th century Crusader group – traversed the caravan routes, posing as Bedouin Traders, trading where they could, often preying on opposition caravans for vital supplies.

blackwolf reenactor

Blackwolf were a mixture of European nationalities, local Armenian, Christian Arab, and mercenaries from the plains of the Danube, the Magyars and Kipchak. Any who would join Blackwolf to further Christian interests. This mix of nationalities demonstrated differing garb and customs, and, they use this to reflect a variety of cultures and traditions for the public interest. Some Blackwolf members are combatants, whose principal function is the crash and bash of medieval combat. They are also finding ways to enhance their camp each year expanding crafts and skills such as medieval medicine, Bedouin coffee ceremony, Bedouin cooking and cheese-making. Also adding bone carving and linen production from growing flax. The Bedouin tended to rob wild bee colonies where honey was used as a “currency” and the wax was used to make candles.

Black Wolf

Blackwolf have chosen to portray these Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures in their encampment because this was a little known and unexplored aspect of medieval life. The 12th-13th centuries is a fascinating time of social upheaval, progress and changes in thinking, trade goods and textiles. If nothing else, exposure to eastern trade, medicine and foodstuffs, even the game of chess, did much to renovate Western Europe. There is a great interest in medieval life, what they ate, what they wore and what were their customs so Blackwolf seek to present this to the public in an authentic and enjoyable manner.

 

Check back for more on “Meet the Reenactors 2016”

Buy your tickets now to meet these groups in person!

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Winter is Coming – and how medieval people dealt with it!

Here in sunny Queensland one could argue that it never gets very cold during winter, so what did those who were in seriously cold winters wear to stay warm and survive?

Some might argue that they simply didn’t keep warm! Houses weren’t warm as they are now, as heating wasn’t very effective, and tended to smoke up the house. People tended to wear lots of clothing, as the cold inside could be the same level of cold as outside.

For the lower classes, the outer layer tended to be made of wool, with the under layers made of linen. These linen garments were washed occasionally, but it was unusual to wash the woollen layers. The smoke that was almost a constant feature from the fires seemed to permeate the outer layers and act as a sort of deodorant, to help stop everyone becoming too smelly.

Cloaks, mittens and woollen hats were also worn to keep warm, but shoes were often a luxury! Imagine not being able to afford shoes in snowy weather!

The wealthy were able to line their clothing with fur to keep warm, a luxury the poor could never afford. The use of fur was covered by Sumptuary laws, which governed who could and could not wear particular fabrics, veils, and other things like that. Even who could eat what!

Farm families typically lived in a cottage which had one big single room, in the middle of which would be a hearth for the fire. Above the hearth was a hole in the rood for the smoke, and ‘hanging chimneys’ may have been used to help guide the smoke. The windows in the cottage were usually also unglazed, which led to houses and cottages being rather draughty and chilly.

Wealthy families were better off though, as they had less draughty building and more furnishings to trap in heat. The personal attendants of the lord and lady were sometimes able to stay in their sleeping quarters, wrapped up in a blanket on the floor where they could absorb some of the heat from the fireplace. The lord and lady, and their families, also had heavy blankets, feather mattresses, fur covers and wall tapestries to help block out breezes and the cold, and those with four poster beds were able to use the heavy curtains to trap in heat to keep even warmer.

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A Brief Overview of Kirtles

The kirtle is a garment worn by women through most of medieval history and was the main garment in their wardrobes. It went through stages of being worn as a simple overdress is the 12th and 13th centuries by common and wealthy women, and was also used as an undergown. In the later 14th and 15th centuries, it became the main overdress for commoners, and an undergown for the wealthy, being worn under cotehardies, sideless surcotes and houppelandes. 1

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the kirtle was a floor-length and loosely-fitted gown, and had long, tight sleeves. The wealthier women would use more embroidery on their gowns to help denote their status, and the mantles that they wore may be lined with fur, to further enhance their status and display their wealth. 2

 

The kirtle became more close-fitting as time went on, and in the 14th and 15th centuries they were generally either laced or buttoned closed. We can deduce that laced kirtles were intended to be worn under overgowns, as it would be too expensive to have buttons on a gown that would be unseen, and lacing would create a smoother silhouette. It appears that wealthier women would have lacing at the back of their kirtles, as they would have had assistance with dressing. Buttoned kirtles were generally worn as overgowns, as they could convey the wealth of their owner better. 3

Even later still, they could be constructed by combining a fitted bodice with a skirt whichwas gathered or pleated into the waist seam. This image shows a woman wearing a kirtle over her smock, c. 1626. 4

There are so many variations on the kirtle, that it’s difficult to pin it down and say ‘yes, this is it’. Especially as they’re not always called kirtles, the terms cote, cotte, tunic and gown can all be used as well. This leaves us with room to create something that is elegant, stunning, or simple, depending on our tastes (and sewing ability!) What do you think of this clothing item?

1 http://www.revivalclothing.com/newcolorsandsizes10th-14thcenturylinenkirtle.aspx
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1200%E2%80%931300_in_fashion
3 http://rosaliegilbert.com/kirtles.html
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirtle
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Medieval Medicinal Herbs : Wound Herbs

Following on from Monday’s Medieval Surgery post we are pleased to present an offering by our newest guest blogger who has presented us with a list of  3 really useful medieval herbs which are still found in many house-holds nowadays.

Medieval Medicinal Herbs : Wound Herbs

Comfrey; Symphyrum officinallis.

Comfrey has been used for millenia. Photo by Warwick Halse Jnr.

Comfrey, as early as the Dark Ages has been commonly known as “Knit bones”, is one of the most beneficial, of all the “Old Herbs“.

 

 

A Perennial, it  grows to a height of 600-900mm when in flower.
Displaying a beautiful Blue flower, it will ramble across you garden. If allowed to it will become a rampant pest. We accept that it’s country of origin was China, and that it was traded down the “Silk Road” maybe as early as Roman times.
Comfrey was most commonly used as a poultice or a herbal tea, for breaks, bruises, sprains, and internal hemorrhaging.   Young leaves can be added to a Medieval Salad, or fritters. It will thrive in most soil conditions, and is a valuable addition to any compost heap.

Lady’s Mantle; Alchemilla vulgaris.

Lady's Mantle graces many homes and gardens today. This was a popular and useful herb in Medieval times. 'Photo by Warwick Halse Jnr.

The French called it “Pied de Lion”.   A perennial – while this plant is small in stature at 300mm in height, it produces a ‘Major flower and plant of Alchemy’.  This herb is claimed by ‘Venus’ for all women, given that it benefits them most. It was widely used for its drying and binding virtues, and is an amazing wound herb.
Known to help women who have overcome ‘Flagging breasts’, making them smaller and firmer, both when taken internally and applied externally. Again we see the application of a known Medieval herb, as a herbal tea, and an ointment, or poultice.
One of the most endearing features of ‘Lady’s Mantle’ occurs when the dew alights upon it, staying for many hours in a most delicate way. This wonderful herb will grow in most soils and conditions, both in shade and full sun.

Yarrow; Achillea millefolium.

Yarrow is a herb oft used in medieval times. Photo by Warwick Halse Jnr.

Yarrow, with its botanical name,  is linked to one of legends’ greatest heroes. It is said of Achilles that he tended the wounds of his men.  Hence, most of its common names are linked back to war:  ‘Herbe  Militaris’; ‘Soldiers Woundwort’; and amusingly ‘Devil’s Plaything’.  During the Medieval period it was a herb connected with the casting out of witches, and at one time dedicated to the Devil.
Having strong antiseptic qualities, this herb is good for the stomach, kidneys, skin and heart, and as a salve, external wounds. This herb was also known to the Chinese, in ancient times. With 49 Yarrow stalks being a form of divination, connected to I Ching, or Book of Changes.
A perennial herb, growing to a height of 600-900mm. That likes a generally rich moist soil, and loves the full sun.

 

Guest Blogger:  Warwick Halse Jnr.

{I am a Re-enactor with many years of experience attending the Abbey Tournament. Over a long period I have enjoyed several incarnations in re-enacting. In ‘Saga Vikings’ I was a Skarld. During the same period, I was also ‘Lion Herald’ with Knights Order of Lion Rampant. After several good years there I have moved on to ‘Elite de Coups’ as Baron Christian Christiansonn, of the Danish court of King Valdmar IV Attadage (mid 14th century). I maintain a close relationship with ‘Traders of Freiol’ a great Viking period traders group and many other amazing re-enactors here in Queensland.

In my other life, I am the manager of “CREEC” nursery (a small community nursery), at 150 Rowley Rd, Burpengary, 4506. Phone; 07 3888 9285, e-mail; creec@bigpond.com . I have over 20 years within the Queensland Nursery Industry, and now have a strong commitment to the environment, and educating the general public in the many advantages of using Australian Native plants.
My close friendship with Justin Webb, also involves School Shows, and other public performances. Outside of re-enacting, I enjoy surfing, fishing, hunting, being a 5 day a week gym junkie.  My greatest pleasure comes from the people I meet, the ideas I am exposed to, and the wonderful friendship that are the “Silver” lining in my life.}

 

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Birds of Prey at the Abbey

Birds of Prey and Knights go together don’t they?

Marie and Sabrina ready for the Birds of Prey presentation at the Abbey Medieval Festival/The medieval knight  of popular media is usually dressed in shining armour, upon a fiery steed, jousting and riding off into war and gallant adventure or committing wicked atrocities to the defenceless common folk but not often is he pictured with a hawk on his glove.

Yet this was more common than the knight in shining armour.  Birds of prey were an important part of medieval aristocratic life and both lords and ladies often went about their daily duties with a hawk or falcon within arms reach.  These birds played an important role in a triumvirate of animals which also included horses and hounds. Primarily used for hunting, these birds were used as a fashion statement as well as a functioning part of the noble household’s food supply.

Falconry with Flair and Finesse

One is always kitted out in authentic Medieval Costume at the Abbey TournamentBirds of prey were very special to the noble class of medieval Europe. These birds were treated very well, housed, kept, groomed, fed and handled on a daily basis. Some nobles kept their favourite bird with them at all times; by their bed, in church, at tournaments or at feasts and formal occasions.  They were not just enamoured of their ability to hunt, their majestic, proud appearance or aesthetically pleasing design but also of their place in the natural world. Raptors soared above the ground free of terrestrial restraints coming to ground only when to suit their own purpose or when wounded or killed. To the mind of the battle born warrior these birds were their idealistic equal, a mirror image of themselves among the common folks.

Something else they felt was parallel between themselves and birds of prey was that they were unequalled in the art of slaying. That is to say, in the natural world the raptor was greatly feared and respected by other animals, birds and land dwelling prey who understood that a conflict with these creatures would lead to wounding or death, temporary escape if you were lucky.

Respect for the Predator

I was fortunate enough one day to witness this in great example as the following tale recounts:
I was observing three crows, scavenging a space for food when suddenly without warning a small bird, what looked to me a pigeon, fell from the sky, a lifeless mass.The three crows immediately moved to set upon this bird and just as suddenly, with an elegance and grace that spoke of its skill and power, a falcon landed on top of the bird and mantled it, spreading it’s wings over it’s prey and adopting a threatening posture to challenge and ready to defend that which it considered to be rightfully its own.
The pigeon was obviously its kill and as soon as it made eye contact with the three crows, all three scattered to give the falcon space and seeing that none dared intrude on its authority, took to the sky again with its prey. The crows did not for one second dare to rise to the falcons challenge; they understood their place in the natural order of things.

This too is how the medieval noble viewed himself among his social inferiors; dominant and unquestionable, through his social position, and his skill as a warrior.

Birds of Prey in Medieval Times

Birds of prey can be found in medieval manuscripts, carvings, sculpture, paintings and heraldic achievements such as shields, badges and crests. Take for example the heraldry of Sir Justyn Webbe, fictional knight of the 14thC who uses his legitimate family arms today. Upon his shield he bears four peregrine falcons which denote swiftness and loyalty, their gold colour (represented by yellow) denotes faith and obedience.  The falcon was also seen by the church as a symbol of true conversion from pagan beliefs. King Edward III of 14thC England favoured the use of a falcon as one of his primary badges of livery and favour. So as you might deduce, the falcon used as a heraldic device can tell a lot about a man’s character and history.
In the Middle Ages hunting with birds of prey was divided into two groups based on the type of bird being used.
Falconry was the art of flying falcons to hunt for game and hawking was the same art when using hawks or eagles. A falconer was the name given one who engaged in falconry and an austringer was the name of one who went hawking.  Owls were not used at all and rarely kept because of superstition associated with them .
The often-quoted Book of St Albans or Boke of St Albans 1486, has a list of birds and who may fly them as according to social rank. It has been dismissed by many historians as being idealistic at best. Indeed there is much evidence from the Middle Ages to suggest that the proposed list of birds restricted by social rank never existed or was enforced at all.

Authors note: The art of falconry, that is hunting game with birds of prey, is illegal in Australia. The author does not participate or endorse this illegal activity within Australia. The birds of prey used by Sir Justyn are from Full Flight Conservation Centre and are flown not to hunt but for rehabilitation and educational purposes.

Guest Blogger: Sir Justyn
{ Sir Justyn is a professional medieval educator, performer and fight instructor who attends events, schools and clubs, Australia-wide and internationally, bringing history to life wherever he goes.   You can see Sir Justyn’s Birds of Prey from the Full Flight Conservation Centre in the encampment of Eslite d’ Corps, the 14thC Living History group and household of Sir Justyn at the Abbey Medieval Festival.  Sir Justyn, Eslite d’ Corps (EdC) and Full Flight Conservation Centre can also be found on Facebook.  For more information on falconry and hawking visit EdC Medieval Falconry.}