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Intro to Annihilation

Medieval weaponry ran the gamut from heavy and crude to honed and sophisticated. At the beginning of the Medieval era, which spans approximately 400 A.D. to 1400 A.D., weaponry was primarily divided into four categories:

1. Weaponry for personal protection and for obtaining food.
2. Weaponry used by unmounted soldiers.
3. Weaponry used by mounted soldiers and knights.
4. Weaponry used for attacking a structure.

Personal protection weapons were whatever the intended victim had access to. This could be a sword, bow and arrow, or a cast iron frying pan.

Unmounted soldiers served a liege lord who usually provided their medieval weaponry. This included an assortment of hand-to-hand combat weapons including:

Bow:
This is a similar in design to the bows used today except for the materials used.

Longbow:
This is a bow except on a larger scale and began to be used around 1100 A.D.

Crossbow:
This is a particularly deadly weapon. The bow is affixed to a stock and has a trigger mechanism that releases the arrow. Because of the use of a mechanical trigger and tension, a crossbow can shoot much farther and with much greater velocity than either a bow or a longbow.

Quarterstaff:
A quarterstaff is simply a long, stout pole that is tipped with iron and usually measures between six and eight feet long.

Spear:
Similar to the quarterstaff except with a larger, sharper head.

Battle axe or Poleaxe:
The battleaxe was actually a medieval weapon, not another name for the MIL or her offspring. This formidable weapon consisted of a of a hammer, a spike and an axe combined into one weapon and affixed to a shaft. It began to be used around 1300; with a slightly different configuration, it was also used by sailors who were boarding vessels as well as butchers who were slaughtering animals.

Mace:
Another weapon to be used in very close quarters, the mace is basically a large club but with a spiked head affixed to it, with beginnings around 1250 A.D. This weapon will either kill you or make you wish you were dead.

Flail:
One of the oldest known weapons, a flail is a long pole with a free-swinging bar attached to one end.

Halberd:
This weapon of choice showed up toward the end of the Medieval era and consisted of a spike, a cutting head like an axe along with a beak that was affixed to a shaft.

Caltrop:
Yet another very old weapon, the caltrop is an iron base with four spikes and is designed so that one spike is always sticking up. It is documented to have been used prior to the eleventh century and one or more were thrown under the horses hooves when in battle.

War hammer:
With varying handle lengths, the war hammer was designed to inflict damage directly to the target and was simply a shaft with a head attached. Later versions included a spike.

Baton or Irish Shillelagh:
Basically a long wooden club.

Pike:
A pike is similar to a spear, with a long shaft and a pointed head intended to stab or pierce another being.

Billhook:
Commonly called a bill and many other variations, it originally was designed as a combination of a knife and an axe with a hook attached. The hook was effective in grabbing reins and the blade was very effective at dismemberment.

Weapons used by the knights and for attacking a structure will be covered in another post. Suffice it to say that they were no less deadly than those used by the foot soldiers and had the added ferocity of being delivered from horseback.

An Overview Of Medieval Life

There are so many things we take for granted in our lifestyle: indoor plumbing and running water, central heat and air conditioning, comfortable vehicles to get us from point A to point B, as well as an incredible assortment of  consistent, quality food.

In medieval times, which is the time frame of approximately 400 A.D. to 1400 A.D., none of these things were even thought of. Even the royalty and nobility, although their lives were considerably easier than the lower classes, had a lifestyle that we would consider very labor-intensive and difficult.

Many people died from common illnesses like the flu, due to lack of medical attention and the primitive medical skills of the time.

The majority of the day was spent trying to survive the day and plan for food, clothing and housing for the next days and weeks. Although toward the end of the  medieval period there were more merchants such as bakers, candle makers and leather workers, in the earlier centuries of this time period, each family or tribe maintained their own gardens, raised and butchered their own livestock and poultry, for those who were fortunate enough to have livestock for meat, tanned their own leather and wove their own cotton, linen and wool fabric.

Trees had to be manually felled and sawn in order to have lumber for the homes,  barns and other structures, as well as for furniture. Wells had to be manually dug in order to have water, which was drawn up by the bucket and carried into the house, where it was heated over an open hearth for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and doing laundry manually.

In smaller houses, one fireplace served to heat the entire home. In larger homes, two or more fireplaces provided warmth but also required at least twice the firewood, which had to be manually chopped, without benefit of a chainsaw obviously.

All clothing for every member of the medieval family, from undergarments to heavy cloaks, had to be handmade and hand sewn, as did all the sheets, towels, and bed covers. Mattresses were typically like very large pillows and filled with feathers or straw and covered with many layers of handmade blankets, if you were lucky enough to have blankets, or animal furs for warmth.

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic in your air-conditioned car, or have a brief power outage that interrupts your favorite show, or have to run to the drug store for cold medication, just be thankful you’re living now and not in medieval times!

Gorgeous Gorgets

Unless you’re a reincarnated medieval warrior, or perhaps portraying one, you may be unfamiliar with a gorget.

Although the term is applicable to the animal kingdom as well, for the purpose of this blog, a gorget is a piece of medieval armor that was designed to protect the throat. The reasons for this are obvious. Even though other areas of the body need protection, the torso and the head/neck area are the  most vital. Loss of a limb doesn’t necessarily mean death. Loss of the head…well, that’s pretty much a final curtain call.

The gorget had a simple beginning as a steel collar that was worn under a breastplate and backplate; it served to bear much of the weight of the armor as well as providing protection for the neck. Many gorgets had straps for attaching the armor to them. It was also important to have a backing and some padding on the gorget so that the steel did not chafe or cut into the skin and neck.

As medieval times evolved into the era of the renaissance and medieval armor became sturdier and more  sophisticated, gorgets became primarily ornamental and were highly decorative; they were worn more as adornment than for protection.

Surprisingly, gorgets are still in use as articles of personal protection. They continued to be worn by the British and French soldiers into the nineteenth century. The Germans used them until the twentieth century and gorgets are still worn by the Mexican Federales, as well as various other national armies, and often indicate the rank and/or position of the wearer.

Small, decorative gorgets have sometimes been used as amulets and worn around the neck. These items of personal adornment have been found as far back as 500 B.C., according to archaeologists, and their use spans many continents, including North America and the Native Americans of North America.

What On Earth Is An Inkle??

Inkle is an odd word that originated in the early 16th century and has had many spellings down through the centuries. According to Dictionary.com, inkle is a linen tape used for trim, or the linen thread or yarn from which this tape is made.

An inkle loom is the mechanism on which these trims are made. Traditionally, inkle trims were made on large floor inkle looms, but recently, table models have become popular.

The tabletop models are less expensive and obviously, more portable. The downside to the table inkle looms, however, is that they generally weave a shorter and narrower piece of trim.

Inkle loom weaving has seen increased popularity due to the interest in the medieval and renaissance  lifestyles. This craft can usually be seen at renaissance faires and SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) events.

Although inkle loom weaving is a fairly simple process, it does require a degree of precision in order to produce a quality, finished piece of trim. Additionally, those interested in learning this skill would benefit from researching the topic beforehand, so that they are familiar with proper threading and tension techniques.

Aside from the inkle loom and thread, a shuttle is the only additional item needed to start weaving on an inkle loom. Some vendors provide a free shuttle with the purchase of one of their inkle looms.

Traditionally, linen thread was used to weave inkle trim. However, many other types of threads work well and can greatly increase the variety of trims that can be made. Woven inkle trims work well as belts, as trim for garment edges, etc.

An excellent demonstration of the weaving process on a floor inkle loom can be seen at http://www.graphicenterprises.net/html/inkle_loom.html

Realizing My Dream

Today I have realized a long-standing dream of mine — to have my own website where I can sell the handcrafted wood and leather items that I so enjoy making.

My site isn’t quite finished but I was too excited to wait any longer. I’ve been an avid woodworker and leather worker since I was in high school, and at the risk of sounding unhumble, I’m very good at both of these things. I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from taking raw materials and creating an item that is not only functional, but beautiful as well.

My specialty is medieval armor and leather goods as well as inkle looms, which are used for making trim for garments. I’m active in the Society for Creative Anachronisms (or SCA) and so am very into the medieval lifestyle.

I’m constantly amazed at how easy we have it today compared to people who lived in medieval times, when just surviving from day to day was really an accomplishment. Not only did they have to make their own clothes, but they had to weave the fabric to make the clothes, and grow the cotton and shear the sheep to make the fabric. Truly amazing!

I hope you’ll stop by my site and take a look at it.

Until next time,

The MadScot

MadScotWerx.com