For a long time, medieval groups in Queensland have kept to themselves, only getting together at events when responsibilities and commitments kept them from interacting on anything more than a cursory level.
But this year groups are making a concerted effort to get together in “real life” too, meeting up for socialization, medieval projects, and planning sessions.
Over the weekend a few Blackwolf members and a couple of blokes from Companie of Knights Bachelor were invited to join the Templars in making “heater shields” in preparation for their joint medieval tournament at Abbey Medieval Festival in July.
The Duke and Sir Richard are both participating in the spectacle, so they were invited to make shields so they could fit in visually with their Templar comrades. At the last minute the Templars also included Yliana, our medicine woman, making a smaller shield blank just for her. She was thrilled!
The day began by everyone rubbing leather conditioner into the black straps that would later be affixed to the backs of their shields.
The Templars had kindly prepared the shield blanks ahead of time, cutting the shapes, steaming and molding them into the required curved design. Fabric was glued to the back to provide an extra layer of strength, and they were dried and ready for us when we arrived.
With all that hard stuff done, our job was pretty simple: trimming off the excess fabric. It didn’t take Sir Richard long to finish his once he exchanged the dull leather trimming knife for Yliana’s Christmas pressie – a super sharp Italian folding knife.
Next up was painting the fabric backs a solid black. Shields get mighty dirty in combat, and black keeps them looking good fight after fight.
Once the first layer of paint was applied, we set the shield blanks in the sun to dry.
Then we eased the kinks out of our rusty hand-sewing skills and used waxed thread to secure buckles to straps.
Measuring and drilling followed as the straps were fitted to the shields at the exact places we needed them for our left arm measurements.
We used solid copper rivets to attach the straps, hammering them into place so the straps won’t budge even under the fiercest attacks.
Then it was a team effort as Templars Terry and James showed us how to nail thick 4 mm leather onto our shields.
First the leather was wet, then spread over the front, pulled tight to the back, and nailed securely in place. Terry uses long black tacks, pounding them through the shield and against a steel block so a natural hook is formed, holding the leather in place even more securely. Each of us took turns holding the shields in place, keeping them flat against the steel block so the hammer blows would fall straight and true.
Once the leather work was finished, the shields were placed in the sun to dry. This process causes the leather to shrink, forming a tight cover with a smoother finish than even gluing can provide.
While the shields dried, we gathered on the back veranda to feast on grilled sausages on fresh bread, crispy chips, chocolate chip cookies, and cold drinks. It was so great to sit out there in the Winter sunshine with views of bush and river as we talked about medieval adventures past and present.
Then it was time to clean up and head for home, new shields in tow.
Later this week we will paint our shields in our personal colors with personal devices. The Duke’s shield will be in his colors of red, black, and white with the Blackwolf device. Sir Richard’s shield is in brilliant blue with a white lion device. Yliana’s shield will bear the Blackwolf background and her own dragonfly device.
It was a great day out with good mates, and we look forward to our next encounter.
There’s nothing quite so marvelous as waking up on a cold morning to find the fire roaring and the kettle boiling for a cuppa.
In our Blackwolf encampments, a hearty medieval breakfast is an essential part of each day.
Each member has their own wooden bowl, cutlery, and pottery mug that are washed and left to dry on our handmade shelves every night. That makes them easy to find when we stumble out of our Bedouin tent still half asleep.
While Ann fries up massive amounts of smoky bacon and fresh eggs, Sue whips up a platter of crispy fried flat breads and brings out her special stash of dark roasted coffee.
Before long everyone is clustered in the Gathering Tent, cold hands clasped around warm mugs as we shovel in welcome spoonfuls of hot breakfast.
Once our bowls are scraped clean the day officially begins.
Fighters don their armor, the medicine woman sets up her potions and brews, the flax lady arranges her display of seeds, fibers, and linen, and the others bustle about making sure the camp is tidy and ready for visitors. In no time at all the camp is filled with guests learning how to make rope, cheese, candles, medieval remedies, fabric, weapons, clothing, furniture, and food.
How we love it all.
In Blackwolf we encourage each member to pursue their passion, their area of medieval interest, and run with it.
This has resulted in a fascinating kaleidoscope of demonstrations and diversions including horse archery, cheese-making, wood-burning, and bone work. Over the next few weeks we’ll showcase each area, ranging from medieval Bedouin weaving and rope-making to medieval combat and how to make linen starting with a tiny seed.
Today we’re featuring our medieval medicine woman, or, as we fondly call her, The Witch.
Krista is devoted to scouring old books, archaeological discoveries, and the archives of national museums across the globe to uncover the weird and wonderful world of medieval medicine.
Her search has developed into a full-blown passion, and she grows herbs and collects hard-to-find spices so she can make her own recipes based on medieval traditions passed down through generations of healers, shamans, physicians, and apothecaries.
At our medieval demonstrations, she loves sharing the things she’s learning, teaching people how to take head knowledge of herbs and spices into simple and practical concoctions that ease headaches, soothe upset stomachs, and heal wounds.
In response to popular demand, Krista is compiling a collection of her favorite medieval remedies that she has tried and tested and uses at home.
Utilizing ingredients found in nearly every kitchen – honey, eggs, dried fruits, wine – Krista will show how to treat daily ailments in a natural, healthy, and often delicious way.
We’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available.
Next time we will introduce you to another of our members as we open up the secrets of medieval life one story at a time.
Blackwolf is finally unpacked after a fantastic weekend at History Alive: A Journey Through Time.
We loved meeting up with old friends for good talks over cups of mead, meeting them in chivalrous combat on the battlefield, and discussing newly learned medieval skills and knowledge.
It’s so great to share passions and information as we gather under the Blackwolf banner at our medieval Bedouin camp.
From the time we wake up in the morning until we fall into our beds at night, we are busy teaching, sharing, and maintaining the medieval atmosphere of our camp.
One of the ways we do that is by living on medieval fare for our meals. It’s fascinating to us and the public to see what wasn’t available back then (potatoes, tomatoes, and capsicums) and what was (exotic spices, celeriac, and artichokes).
Snacks are essential around camp. You never know when you’ll have a break from the hustle and bustle, so it’s great to be able to duck into the gathering tent for a handful of something delicious to keep you going.
Our table is always covered with an assortment of nibbles such as candied ginger. Not only do these glistening nuggets taste good, they also aid in digestion and calm upset stomachs.
Nuts provide protein and energy: almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, etc. They’re scrumptious and keep us going through long sessions cooking over the fire or charging opponents in the main arena.
Dried fruits are also a welcome part of the snack table, from figs, dates, and prunes to tart apricots and apples dried on a string.
Do you have a favorite medieval snack? We’d love to hear about it!
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.