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Medieval Season is Coming

It may be roasting hot outside, but in our hearts we’re already sitting around campfires at medieval events, wine cups raised to good mates as we embark on great days of medieval enactment in Queensland, New South Wales, and, who knows, maybe beyond.

It’s the time of year for mending and waterproofing and getting a head start on projects that we know still won’t be completed until the night before the first event.

At Blackwolf we’ve been sorting and organizing, collecting scattered bits and pieces that never seem to end up where they’re supposed to, making sure all our medieval stuff is in one place so we can decide what to keep, what to change, and what is best moved to the pile of What Were We Thinking.

It’s an exciting time.

Plans for this season include shelter from the sun for the in-camp demonstrations, replacing worn out ropes and broken tent poles, and finishing the 12th century quilt used in the Duc’s tent.

blackwolf tent

There are splendid medieval medicines to make and delicious brews to brew, robes to finish and copious amounts of research to complete for a new demonstration we’re planning.

Medieval chairs are being built, wall-hangings designed, and weapons polished and protected from rusting by summer rains. Combat training will begin anew and a renewed interest in archery has prompted the gathering of arrows and bows and setting up of targets on our farm.

It’s going to be a great medieval year. 🙂

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Preparing for Medieval Season

It’s been quiet on the blog, but absolutely bustling on the farm! Our group has all sorts of medieval projects going on as we get ready for our first medieval event the end of April.

Sue is growing coffee beans and perfecting her skills at roasting coffee beans over an open fire.

Adam recently made a curved medieval shield and a leather coat of plates.

Shaun has been working behind the scenes to upgrade our blog.

I continue to expand my medieval folk medicine display. This week I started growing valerian root so I can make concoctions that soothe and relax. Soon I’ll harvest my comfrey to make poultices (and tea for my gardens) and will start drying sage, rosemary, and thyme for teas for winter.

We have a lot of sewing projects going on. I’ve made a Bedouin baby hammock (so cute!) and will be starting on a medieval quilt this week. I’ve spent a lot of time researching medieval quilting techniques and traditions, and am excited to make my own version that reflects the culture and time period of Blackwolf.

I’ve also been learning to dye fabrics from our Viking friends in Ulveflokk. You can read about that here: Dyeing and Feasting with Vikings.

Robbie has been painstakingly making a 12th century bed for us out of a bed he found at a second hand store. He’s been carving and whittling, sanding and planing, staining and hammering and it’s coming together beautifully.

Once it’s complete, we’ll pile on the mattress and feather bed and take measurements for the linen sheets and quilt I’ll be making.

Although sleeping on the ground at medieval events has been an adventure, both of us are looking forward to good night’s sleeps in our gorgeous medieval bed.

Once the bed is finished, Robbie will be making tent poles for our new tent. We hope to have everything finished by the 23rd so we can set up camp as a dry run with all our displays and demonstrations in place before our first event. It will be a lot of work, but so much fun.

What projects are you tackling?

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12th Century Shields: More than Defense

On Saturday Blackwolf joined several of our 12th century and Varangian friends to put on a medieval demonstration at the Caltex Family Fun Day at Fort Lytton. It was a great, relaxing day that afforded us time to interact with the public and get in some good visits with our friends. It was excellent to finally be able to get caught up on each other’s medieval projects, personas, and backgrounds, sharing interesting tidbits from our historical research and great tips on where to find the necessary tools and materials needed to make our garb and encampments as historically accurate as possible.

As the Blackwolf scribe and chronicler, I also got the chance to interview several combatants from the Templars and Companie of Knights Bachelor about their 12th century shields.

In the 12th century in Europe and the Middle East four shields were in use: heater, kite, round, and buckler.

Each had its own attributes and was chosen based on the armor being worn and whether the combatant was on horseback or on foot.

For most combatants, their shield was like a business card, the heraldry (ie – colors and devices) revealing who they were and where they were from.

The heater shield below is owned by an Englishman from the Knights Bachelor, John Topping (aka Renouf), and is a scarlet dolphin rampant on a gold field.

This heater shield is also from the Knights Bachelor, used as a practice shield by Gavin Chandler. It only bears the colors of its owner, not the devices. Shields in medieval times were expected to only last through one battle, so the beautifully made ones would be saved for battle and not wasted in practice combat.

This heater shield is different from the others. It is a Templar shield and bears no devices at all, just the black and white colors of the Templar brotherhood.

“There is standard heraldry for the Knights Templar,” explained Templar Lawrence Mason. “We are all brothers, all equal, and there is no hierarchy. All the kit is set up so any of the brothers can pick it up and use it.”

The only exception to the rule was on the shield of the Templar Master. It bore a white cross set on the black field.

As mentioned above, each style of shield had its own attributes and was chosen based on the armor being worn and whether the combatant was on horseback or on foot.

For example, if the combatant had a full face mask to protect his face, he could use a shield with a flat top. However, if he wore an open helm without a mask, he would want a shield with a rounded top to provide greater protection to his face.

If he wore leg armor, he could wield a shorter shield, but without leg armor, he’d want the length of a kite shield to protect his legs.

The kite shield below is one used by Gavin Chandler from the Knights Bachelor, displayed by his squire, Philip Hanson, and provides excellent coverage from shin to shoulder.

The round shield, pictured below, although much smaller than the kite shield, would also provide excellent protection. The farther away from the body it is held, the greater area of protection is provided. And the steel center proved an excellent weapon when thrust into the face or against the arm of an opponent.

The buckler is the smallest of the shields, but it is no less effective. Used almost in a parrying role, it can effectively deflect sword thrusts and slashes and prove quite destructive when slammed against the fingers, wrist, or forearm of an opponent. “It traumatizes the arm and sends the muscles into spasms,” explained Gavin Chandler.

In medieval times, shields had a strap that went around the neck and shoulder of the combatant. This allowed the warrior to comfortably carry the shield on his back when not fighting, then easily sling it into position when danger arose. The strap also acted as a pivot and weight-bearing point, enabling the fighter to swivel and swing the shield as needed without the full weight of it on his arm. Even the lightest shields become heavy after a few minutes of fighting. Carrying the shield on their backs also provided back support for the combatants, forcing them to walk upright instead of slouching under the heavy weight of their armor.

Combat in the 12th century was dangerous and could be lethal, but its purpose had changed from slaughter to ransom.

“We want to disable and capture, not kill,” explained Philip Hanson. “Prisoners make money.”

While the flat of a sword could be used to disable an opponent, a shield was also effective. A swift blow could quickly render an opponent senseless allowing him to be taken prisoner and ransomed for a tidy sum to line the coffers of the victor.

“Cash is power,” Chandler said.

For more information on 12th century shields, contact any of the groups via the following links:

Templars

Companie of Knights Bachelor

Blackwolf

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A Little Blackwolf History

Blackwolf are a 12th/13th century Crusader group traversing caravan routes. In Crusader times, supplies from overseas often failed to arrive when needed or if at all. It was too little, too late.  Blackwolf are Crusaders of different nationalities, using the guise of a Bedouin caravan to make up the shortfall of weapons, supplies and horses needed to continue the Crusader presence in Outremer.

We chose the 12th/13th centuries because this was a fascinating time of great upheaval, progress and change in weaponry, food, medicine, and textiles, and we explore and present that to the public. The Crusades brought many food products to the West: rice, coffee, sherbet, dates, apricots, lemons, sugar, spices such as ginger, melons, rhubarb and dates. Other products were mirrors, carpets, cotton cloth for clothing, ships compasses, writing paper, wheelbarrows, mattresses and shawls. Other new concepts were chess, Arabic figures 0 to 9, pain killing drugs, algebra, irrigation, chemistry, the colour scarlet, water wheels and water clocks

Not all Blackwolf are combatants, we enhance our camp each year with new crafts, trades, and skills.

Blackwolf is based south of Toowoomba, Queensland, although some members live in Brisbane and Ipswich.

Blackwolf are committed to:

  1. Entertain and educate the public via practical medieval life basics, their food, traditions, way of life, beliefs and necessary guild skills of working in wood and metal.
  2. Discuss, evoke interest, inform, dissuade from erroneous beliefs and myths, thus educating the public via the mindset of mediaeval times.
  3. Blackwolf don’t talk to visitors, they engage with them.

As always, we endeavour to provide an authentic, historically accurate campsite, within the constraints of the 21st century.

Our Authentication Process:

At least two or more verification samples, with visuals if possible.

Authentication is set out under the following headings.

LOCATION: This is the location where the authentication is located (title of book, website, etc).
AUTHORITY: Author or group responsible for location.
BRIEF: Brief outline, description or extract from location.

Since archaeology, forensics, and other areas of research are constantly revealing more about medieval life, we try to consistently study and review our authentications to make sure that what was true five years ago is still born out by current finds.

In the weeks ahead we’ll be sharing aspects of our research to explain why we wear what we wear, eat what we eat, and do what we do.

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Uses for Peppermint in Medieval Medicine

Fragrant and invigorating peppermint was brought to Europe by the Romans, who grew it in their gardens for medicinal purposes.

Its high menthol content made peppermint ideal for treating cold symptoms. You can add a handful of fresh leaves to a bowl of hot water and breathe in the vapors to clear nasal passages and help you breathe easier. You can also add peppermint essential oil to a chest rub to help treat congestion.

Peppermint was used as a digestive aid, drunk as a tea to calm upset stomachs. Only drink one or two glasses at a time though, or it can cause nausea.

Headaches plagued the ancients as well as us, and peppermint is effective at reducing symptoms. Dilute pure peppermint essential oil and rub into the temples and neck to ease headache pain. Be careful not to apply near the eyes or they will be irritated and begin to water.

Peppermint was also used to soothe skin irritations since it has lovely cooling qualities. Add it to bath water and soak irritated skin.

Nowadays we use toothpaste infused with peppermint. In the Middle Ages, peppermint leaves were dried and powdered and used to white teeth and keep breath fresh. They work just as effectively now.

In the Middle East, medicinal cordials called Sekanjibin were used to treat a variety of ailments. Made of water, sugar, vinegar, and herbs, such as peppermint, the cordial was diluted in hot or cold water creating a delicious drink that also eased symptoms.

As with all herbs, peppermint is powerful and affects each body differently. Experiment with small amounts to make sure your body doesn’t react negatively before progressing to full doses.

What is your favorite way to use peppermint?

For more medieval remedies, click here to order a copy of our medicine woman’s book: “herb & spice: a little book of medieval remedies.”

DISCLAIMER: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The author does not take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider. Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Again, before undertaking any course of treatment or therapeutic technique, the reader should seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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