By Robbie Robinson
The main question people ask us is how did 12th Century people live? What did they eat? Thus, when setting up our group, we set out to answer these questions.
We decided our encampment would be an everyday look at how people lived, how they slept, what they ate. This then, meant a cooking situation, food that was consumed, herbs and remedies they used to maintain their health. Mediaeval times were also times of war as those in charge jostled to increase or maintain power.
12th century people were tied to the land. Without ploughing the land, sowing the crops, harvesting the crops, tending their animals to see them through winter, without these, everyone starved. The Lord needed his peasants to achieve this and the peasants needed the Lord to provide protection and maintain facilities, like wells, pastures and forests, which were a source of food and fuel.
Life then, was hard. Every man carried a staff, and every woman a waister (a stick that came to their waist), to be used as an everyday tool – herding animals, poking holes in the ground to plant seeds and as personal protection. Every child learned to throw stones accurately to bring down a bird for supper or drive off danger. Children began work at age 7, and were adults by the age of 14. Boys also went to war to work around camp, gather firewood and in battle, collect arrows and throw stones.
There was also always a war somewhere, and in order to hold the land a Lord was obliged to provide men to fight for the King. War also provided an opportunity for these men to gain plunder. Blackwolf was a group of crusader mercenaries at large in the Middle East – Outremer (French for “overseas”, the general name given to the Crusader states established after the First Crusade: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli and especially the Kingdom of Jerusalem).
Being people of many nationalities, different cultures, costumes and way of life could be exploited for the public’s benefit. The fact that Blackwolf posed as Bedouin Merchants and Traders gave them the cover to travel at will throughout the land in search of the various supplies needed by other Crusader groups. Often supplies failed to arrive when needed or if at all, was too little, too late. Of course it was necessary to have armed combatants on hand to guard supplies, thus their covert cover was complete.
Having decided who we would portray, the next job was to research and build a Bedouin tent, camel saddles, mobile fire pit and spit – everything within our encampment. There are always travellers, wishing, for reasons of safety, to attach themselves to a caravan. They too, bring enrichment to the camp with their different skills and reasons for travelling with Blackwolf.
It is an advantage to have the old Duke within the encampment. Robbie brings over 35 years experience in enactment and his ability to turn his hand to any metal or wood craft is evident. This has inspired the membership to engage in other crafts, thus bringing to Blackwolf a huge range of interests and abilities.
As we have grown, our ability to be of service to the Public has grown accordingly, given that the 12th/13th centuries were a fascinating time of great upheaval, progress and change in weaponry, food, medicine, and textiles.