The war is over.

The reenachtment of the Battle of Wisby 1361 in August last summer is now long gone and its winter outside. But it is time for me to take up my writings again, to summarise the event and to look into the future. This upcoming weekend the Swedish History Museum launches a brand new exhibition: Medieval Massacre – the Battle of Gotland 1361. Me and others from the Battle of Wisby crew will be there.

Historiska museet

Picture: Historiska museet

In May 1361, King Magnus IV of Sweden writes a letter of warning to the burghers of Visby:

“… some of our enemies are conspiring … to attack your area by force of arms and a strong army …”

On 27 July that same year, the mercenary troops of Danish King Valdemar IV Atterdag kill 1,800 Gotland farmers. Men, old folk, youths, cripples – they all die in battle outside the city walls of Visby. Their corpses are thrown into mass graves.

Extensive archaeological investigations of the graves in 1928-1930 and modern science have provided new knowledge of what happened. And so the historical event lives on. We can also discover parallels with conflicts through the centuries. All the way to our days.

But many questions still remain unanswered…

Come with us to the summer of 1361!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3V24SF64fU

A Swedish tv show about popular science sent an episode this week including a lot of material from the reenacted Battle of Wisby this summer. For another three months the episode will be avaliable here, starting from 29:09/58:07.

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Today we remember the Battle of Wisby, 27th of July 1361

Today it is exactly 652 years since the battle of Wisby, 1361. As it says in translation on the memorial stone on the place of battle:

“In the year of the Lord in 1361, on July 27, fell in front of Visby gates in Danish hands, these buried Gotlanders. Pray for them.”

The memorial stone for Battle of Wisby 1361

The memorial stone for Battle of Wisby 1361

Today I think of the serious aspects of reenacting a battle. This is my hobby and I engage in it because I think it is fun and rewarding. But regarding the Battle of Wisby event, it comes down to the fact that many, many people died that day, in the grass (close to) where we play.

Picture: Olle Sahlin 2011

Picture: Olle Sahlin 2011

I think today is also an excellent day to look back at the first reenacted Battle of Wisby, back in 2011. We only have another week now to go before it is time to raise the camp outside the city walls again. It is time to get yourself and your gear together (yes, that goes for me as well). I hope you will find this inspirational!

If you want to know more about what reenactment is and the work behind Battle of Wisby, have a look also at this amazing documentary. (You have to turn on the subtitles yourself, just click on the square icon to the right)

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Little red riding hood

Today I proudly present a new quest writer, another hard working member from the team behind Battle of Wisby – Anna.

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Anna

I’m Anna. When I’m not busy with the Battle of Wisby email, trying as best as I can to answer all of your questions and filing applications, I’m making the odd extra garment for Visby. I’ve thought about this one for a long time, – a small, red woollen hood lined with fox fur.

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This is the hood toile, the pattern.

I have a hood pattern that Maria gave me, for one of those super-tight hoods that you can barely slide back off your head while it is still buttoned. I have made several, but never lined one before, so this time I cut it a bit more generously to accommodate all the extra bulk.

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All pieces of the hood cut out in the wool fabric.

Most of the time, I just buy random fabrics, like candy, and have no idea what they will be used for. The notion of a huge wool stash (and the knowledge that you have more material than you will probably have time to use up in a Very Long Time) is oddly pleasing, and most likely primeval too. This is my inner cavewoman sitting back with a sigh of relief, now that she knows she has enough of, eh, everything, to survive the winter…

Other projects you dream about long before you find the right materials, and my latest one is a bit of both – a small 14th century red woolen hood lined with fox fur. The red fabric I bought with this exact hood in mind. The fur comes from my mother’s old 70’s coat, which has long outlived its original use, but nevertheless has warmed me through a series of very cold winter LARPs back in the 1990s. The body of the coat will be trimmed down and used to line a dress – the sleeves were just large enough to be made into a hood lining.

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It can be difficult to get the lining fit just right with the outer fabric.

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Black silk lining on the inside of the hood where the buttonholes are tor be placed.

Pinning facings into place took a million needles!

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The yarn for my embroidery was dyed with madder by my friend Elin.

Here I’ve started to hide the fold around the face opening with an embroidered
braid made from yarn plant dyed with madder. Read more about this neat finishing technique in this blog post, or in my tutorial. Tip: when braiding, pin the work in progress to your pants to keep it in place in your lap while you’re working.

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Cloth buttons in the same red fabric.

Read more about how to make your own buttons here! First I meant to use brass buttons to the hood. I bought a fistful of nice brass buttons at an event in Morimondo, Italy. But before I started to make holes that would accommodate the metal buttons, I realized they would not provide enough friction to keep the hood closed – there is a lot of strain on them since the hood is so tight. I ended up making ordinary cloth buttons instead.

IMG_1774Nine neat buttonholes along the edge in front. (For instructions on how to make buttonholes, see this post.

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Finished buttons.

raw fur edge

The raw fur edge on the inside is hidden with another braid.

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The bottom edge of the hood is hemmed with a heddle-woven band.

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Fancy liripipe

The option was “no liripipe” or “really fancy liripipe” so I went for the WTF alternative. There is no way I would turn a hideously narrow piece like this inside out, so I stitched it from the outside and just tightened the stitches a lot to make them disappear into the nap of the wool. It worked, sort of. My main problems right now it that a) all my other medieval clothing is a bit less presumptuous and won’t match the hood – I will have to make more stuff! And b) that the hood itself is so massive that I can’t hear a damn thing while wearing it.

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All done!

Read more from Anna in her own blog – Jungfruburen! Thank you for your contribution Anna, and see you in Visby!

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More banners

We are still working on the banners, Johan painting and me stitching. I think they are coming out nicely, now in colour.

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Finally we go our hands on some real silk dye to paint with.

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You have to just love the shoes! 😉

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St. Mårten has a really fancy kirtle.

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Banners

I haven’t written anything in a good while now, but there have been no rest in the preparations for the event – it is now less than a month to go and there is so much to do! One important thing I’ve been working with is the banners for the battle. Johan is the artist and chief of design here, but I’ve done some pretty neat seams on them and have some more to look forward to. Now, they aren’t all meant to be white but we’ve been out of proper silk-dyeing colour so only the white one for Bro sätting is all done. 😉

No banners or pictures of them from this time and area is preserved, so we have to make up the motives ourself. The first banner is for Bro sätting and has a golden cross on it. Why? Because Bro church possessed a piece of the holy cross, an exclusive relic that made Bro an important pilgrimage during the 14th century. Johan picked up the shape of the cross on the banner from a 14th century gravestone outside Hejnum church in Bro setting during his pilgrimage there in May. (See his film about it here!)

DSC_0075 A “sätting” is an old word for “a sixth” or 1/6. During history the island of Gotland has been divided in different ways. For the BoW-event the organizers have chosen the term “sätting” as referring to a military unit consisting of as many armed men that could be musterd from a certain sixth of Gotland. Bro and Hejde sätting, the ones closest to Wisby, were represented in the reenacted battle 2011.

The settings of Gotland.

The settings of Gotland.

There are no records today of which sättings that really were represented in the original battle in July 1361. But since the Danes came towards Wisby from the west after paying a brutal visit to Öland (the other great island in Sweden) Hejde and Bro setting are the ones who would have been immediately involved.

I gave it my best try.

The seam on one of the banners. I gave it my best try with a tiny needle and the smallest stitches I could manage.

Banners are important matters, not just a piece of fabric on a stick. If you are to follow, fight and stand up for something, maybe even die for it – it must be held in honour. There is a tradition, I don’t know how old, that a banner is so sacred that it must never touch the ground.

Another well documented tradition of much later date regarding banners is that the soldier entrusted to carry the banner should roll himself up in it and die there, should he fail to defend it… Even thou that is not a medieval custom, our banners are to be handled with the utmost care. The three-crowns-banner of Albrechts Bössor (today the coat of arms of Sweden) and the silver boar of Fraternia Militia Carnis are both in fact ceremoniously blessed with holy water by a priest and therefore literately sacred.

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The three crowns Sweden, as used by the reenactment group Albrechts Bössor.

The silver boar of Fraternia Militia Carnis, a 14th century reenactment group

The silver boar of Fraternia Militia Carnis, a 14th century reenactment group

The motif for the next banner we’ve made for the Battle of Wisby is saint Olof, the patron saint of Gotland since he is said to have christened the island around year 1000 evt. He was the first and for a long while the most popular saint in Scandinavia. During his lifetime he was a Norwegian king and he is portraid as a such, wearing a crown and holding symbols of power, the great axe and an golden orb. St. Olof is also the patron saint of farmers. Judging by their simple equipment and the extreme wounds on the remnants of the soldiers, most of the Gotlandic forces during the battle 1361 must have been civilians, probably farmers and simple folk. Therefore St. Olof is a very suitable patron saint for either Hejde sätting or the entire Gotlandic side.

Johan working on the St. Olof-banner

Johan working on the St. Olof-banner

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St. Olof, the patron saint of peasants.

I wish we had had more colours, but there will be before the banners are all ready. The next one is a Danish one, portraying St. Mårten or St. Martin as he is also known. St Mårten is strangely associated with geese and that is what you traditionally eat when he is celebrated today at Mårtensmäss in Skåne, southern Sweden. As you know, on and of during the 14th century, Skåne was Danish territory. And as Mårten is a patron saint for soldiers, he is most suitable for the professional soldiers on the Danish side in The Battle of Wisby.

St. Mårten or St. Martin

St. Mårten or St. Martin

St Mårten is pictured as a travelling man (hence the pilgrim hat) cutting a piece of his cloak to share it with a poor man on the roadside. The pirate-apperance is accidental and due to the huge knife the saint is using for cloak-cutting, I guess that will be less apparent when the banner is done… 😉 (And as banners are so sacred, we would never drink such simple whiskey while making them!)

Read more (in Swedish) about the invasion on Gotland 1361 here http://masterbyhembygdsforening.wordpress.com/masterby/projekt-1361/ or here http://www.masterby1361.se/

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A hunters night and morning

As it turned out, we went out for our hunt already late yesterday. The weather report I’d read was a bit more optimistic than the one Johan and Frida had seen, the latter promising rain early Sunday morning. When it rains, the hare hides in its nest and won’t move. That means that we’d waste our time sitting up waiting for ’em at dawn, witch was what the hunting tour and staying out over night was mostly about.

So we decided for a quick change of plan and after work we got our gear together and walked out in the woods at sundown. A hunter must be flexible in his plan, this of course must have been the reality for our medieval predecessors also even if they had other ways predicting the weather than we do.

On our way out, crossing a small bog in full blossom.

On our way out, crossing a small bog in full blossom.

Shoeless Frida.

Shoeless Frida.

I’ve got no problem walking far since I’ve got a really good pair of shoes. Frida on the other hand joined us on other terms, her only pair of shoes gave up during her pilgrimage on Gotland a few weeks ago. Therefore she walked all the way in thin leather soled hoses. Respect! When we look on contemporary pictures of hunters on foot, this is not uncommonly seen. Perhaps the hunters wanted to spare their shoes? Or is it easier to sneak about if you have an even thinner sole than on an ordinary medieval turnshoe?

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The hunter on foot in the foreground is not wearing shoes.

To try to find out if this shoeless sneaking-style is any good, Johan took of his shoes and tried to do it in his bare hosefeet. He concluded that he could sneak twice as good without shoes as with ’em, but I also heard him swearing occasionally when hurting his feet. With this experience in mind, I’d say that it is likely that those medieval hunters pictured without shoes probably have some special task, a role requiring them to be able to sneak more quietly than others in the hunting party? Often it is those handling the dogs that go for the shoeless look…?

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This guy with the crossbow is neither wearing shoes.

In medieval times hunters and maybe occasional shepards were the only ones moving about in the forest. The woods was unfamiliar, roadless, wild and dangerous ground for most people. The deep forest was believed to be inhabited by criminals, outlaws and dangerous creatures – and it was. Our folk lore from the time tells us about a rife fear for werewolves among other monsters, but the fear for predators like wolf and bear must also have been very real.

Today it is quite the opposite. Many of us are used from childhood to trekking, scouting and hunting or just enjoying ourself outdoors for fun. I like the idea of reenacting the medieval hunt because it is so easy to do for leisure. Where we live it is never far to the forest. Most of the year you’ll need to bring no tent or other heavy gear unless perhaps if you’d like to do some more advanced cocking.

Hunters huddled up around the camp fire. Picture: Johan Käll

Hunters huddled up around the camp fire. Picture: Johan Käll

We arrived at our destined camp site by a ready made timbered open shelter late in the evening. We just had time to gather some firewood before it got dark. Then we huddled up around the fire and had our dinner, marinated grilled meat, wine and a nice piece of cheese.

By midnight we called it a day, rolled out our blankets in the shed and tried to get an hour or two of sleep before dawn. I tucked myself in beside Johan and his great wolf hound Boudica rolled herself up against my back. That sweet dog and I, we have something special together! I was glad she decided to sleep with me both because of the flatter in it and because she generously shared her warmth with me.

Up at pre dawn, down by a small pond, waiting to see if anyone will show up to drink.

Up at pre dawn, down by a small pond, waiting to see if anyone will show up to drink.

But it was not long before the birds began to sing and we woke up to a new day, only 3 hours later. The sun had not yet risen, but it was time for us hunters to do just that. The dog, Johan and I left Frida sleeping in camp.

Johan watching out for hares on the move before sunrise, at 3 am in the morning.

Johan watching out for hares on the move before sunrise, at 3 am in the morning.  He is also trying out the shoeless look.

I was almost eaten alive by hungry mosquitoes.

I was almost eaten alive by hungry mosquitoes.

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Quietly walking over a field wet with morning dew. Not a slightest hare in sight.

We did a rather good job sneaking around I think, being the first time and all. We were out for about 1,5 hour and saw the sun rise over the fields and the forest. Even thou we were very quiet we saw nothing but a few birds. Yet the woods was magically beautiful and our long walk would have been all worthwhile were it not for all those painfully itching mosquito bites we earned. I was both happy and surprised to be met by a burning camp fire, Frida bright awake and a ready made breakfast when we returned to camp!

A hunters breakfast, 04:30 am.

A hunters breakfast, 04:30 am.

Boudica complaining about no one making her breakfast.

Boudica complaining about no one making her breakfast. Photo: Johan Käll

05:00 am, beginning our long walk back home.

05:00 am, beginning our long walk back home.

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Tiered hunter walking home.

By this one experience I dare not say if I think it true or not what I told you yesterday that Edward Norwich stated in his Master of Game:

The hunter is more joyful than other men, and he is never idle and has no mind for sin as he returns tired and pleased with himself after hunting. Every man that has good sense, knows well that this is the truth.

I know for sure that he/she is very, very tiered after a hunters night and morning out. And I definitely have no mind for sin today, as tiered as I am. So he’s right about that one anyway.

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Preparing to go hunting

I’m planning to go out “hunting” again this weekend, trying to reenact the medieval hunt together with some friends from the Battle of Wisby project. (More about our earlier attempts and the idea behind reenacting medieval hunting here.) I’ve ordered new blades for two spears and as the weather report looks rather promising, I finally took on repairing my thin hunting kirtle.

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One of my favourite kirtels is having a makeover.

I decided to challenge myself to patch it up a bit neater than the blue dress with grande assiettes that I did earlier (more about it here and here). So I tried a new technique that Maria wrote about in her blog some time ago. I think I did well, and it turned out nice! It feels god to have done it the best I can. If you have problems seeing where the fabric was torn before I patched it up, that is exactly what I mean! 😉

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The patching is nearly invisible from the right side, just like I hoped it would be.

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On the inside, you see the patch, but it still looks neat and pretty.

I love to mend and repair my gear, when I have the time for it. I want it to show that it has been used and loved and well taken care of. And it is of course very period to patch and mend, it shows the value of the objects and the work behind producing them.

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I’ve enlarged the neckline a bit and added a nice thin tablet woven edge in blue silk.

And I decided to open up the lower part of the sleeves to make them tightly buttoned. Partly because I think it looks so nice and typically 14th century, and also because I want a good example in my medieval wardrobe on just how tightly the buttons could be placed, each one actually touching the next one. I think I will land on 15 cloth buttons on each sleeve in the end, but I’ve only gotten so far…

6 more buttonholes to go on this one. I'm for once really happy with how they turn out. Maybe the trick is to make them smaller than I usually do?

6 more buttonholes to go on this one. I’m for once really happy with how they turn out. Maybe the trick is to make them smaller than I usually do?

According to the medieval hunting handbook Master of Game written by Edward of Norwich (1373 – 1415) in the early 15th century, a good hunter shall be able to skin his game without turning up or soiling his sleeves, but I still like to be able to do just that. (Read The Master of Game in full text on line here!)

This time it seems that our hunting party will consist of 3 hunters and a dog; Boudica, Johan, Frida and me, but more friends are very welcome to join! The plan is to walk a fair bit carrying our gear, make a camp, do some cooking, and eat a nice dinner. Good food is important, it keeps the spirits high and the hunters merry and strong. 😉

Then perhaps we will practise with bow or javelin, try make some traps and I’ll see if I’ll be able to sound Johans great hunting horn. Again according to The Master of Game, several special series of horn blows were used to communicate different messages between the hunters, helping them to coordinate and plan their hunt over great distances between hunters in different parts of the woods. It would be amazing to eventually be able to do something like that!

Johans hunting horn is huge. When this picture was taken at Battle of Wisby 2011, I only faked sounding the horn for the photographer, but lately I’ve been practising and having some progress.

Photo: Olle Sahlin

Johans hunting horn is huge. Photo: Olle Sahlin

We will stay out over night and try to watch the game on the move at dawn. It beats me now that dawn is really early this time if year. Sun rises at 03:30 in the middle of Sweden right now, but I think this will be an experience well worth loosing some sleep for… And as Edward of Norwich states, the hunter is more joyful than other men, and he is never idle and has no mind for sin as he returns tired and pleased with himself after hunting.

“Every man that has good sense, knows well that this is the truth”

The Master of Game

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