Donnerstag, 21. Mai 2015
And even if I normally don´t carry that much bulk around, I noticed that a big blade might come in real handy when camp tasks are calling, such as firewood splitting and the preparation of it, preparing food and even carving and other chopping tasks. Plus, okay, I admit it, I am a big boy too;-).
So off to the smithy it was to make me one. I like the fact that it is a tool in the first and the weapon aspect is secondary. It was the weapon of the simple people and served them well every day as a tool while being a worthwhile companion when the going went bad.
I also like the fact that forging one is a great challenge, and I want to get better in swordsmithing as well, so, hey, I thought, what better exercise than that?
The yew handle is treated with my own version of violin finish:
1 grain Mastix or Dammar
1 grain Daemonoropos draco (dragon´s blood)
1 grain turpentine resin
1 grain beeswax
1 teaspoon boiled linseed oil
ca. 3 cl isopropylen or ethanol or other until the whole mess is soluted.
I also used the concoction for tanning the carving.
For me it was quite the joy to make this knife and I hope it serves him very well in his scripture work.
Mittwoch, 13. Mai 2015
Loreley, a beautiful sorceress.
We set up tent and went for a stroll around the city to smell the roses. What became apparent at once was that Bacharach is a most spellbinding city, beautiful with its ancient cobwork houses and old wineries and a castle overlooking the town. What became apparent at the second glance, however, is that the city is ill. Many showcases in the streets were dusty and empty, many houses withered, many shops yawned empty. Working in a city marketing, I have learned to notice decay when I see it. And I noticed something else. There is a railroad track cutting through the town like a hatchet, with noise emission at a level that would normally not be permitted elsewhere. On the other bank of the river was another railroad track screaming at the sky. Now Bacharach is a city making a living from wine and tourism. I have seen no industrial sites in the vicinity. That amount of noise emission destroys tourism in the long run. Now the ever - present issue pops up, being that "we have to do trades and economy, in order to have a prospering business output, don´t we? And so we need logistics.". But tourism is business, too. Noise kills a town that is more than a thousand years old, not business. It´s plain old greed. One could easily dispatch goods on another way-if the railroad companies had cared for the tracks in the ´80s and ´90s elsewhere. But due to lack of interest they did not invest. No way to change it, and why does this guy here rant about it in the first place?
A good friend of the magic troll´s, nicknamed Romulus, organized the fair. Originally from Bacharach and now living near Wurzburg, he called up traders and musicians and walking acts to make up a great event, taking place on a lawn near the Rhine river. I do not know how much he charged for it, but I daresay it will not be more than peanuts compared to the effort. He is an avid reenactor and musician, someone who dresses up funny on weekends, believes in strange things such as fairy tales and tries to save his hometown with what he can do. His friends were an integral part of the fair, and while some of them actually got some money for it, many of them just joined in.
There is a lot of solidarity in the re-enactment scene. No, don´t get me wrong, it´s not a pink fluffy unicorn palace all the time. There are people there, actual people with actual problems, but it´s freaking me out a bit, that nearly all of the people I have met in the last months are great individuals, and in stark contrast to common practice in this our oft-quoted society, they tend to care a bit more for each other than is customary. They like to laugh and sing, good food and drink, care for their families and friends and for the most part, form a community, even without a standard or an organization. Special people are integrated without so much of a second thought.
Back to our little stroll, we were desperately looking for some food, but fact was, there was a lot of great advertisements;-). So we roamed and discussed, and we met with Hajo the beggar and his woman. Now Hajo is a great person wh, until we finally went into one pub in hope of a meal. It turned out it was 4 minutes after 9 pm, and the kitchen closed at 9 pm, so no food really. But we were more than satisfied to meet up with Dirsidh and Dodo, whom we meet frequently on re-enactment fairs all over Germany. We had a Weissbier (enough carbohydrates for an evening, you know;-)) and a nice chat.
Then it was off to our smug little home for a good night´s rest, to greet the new day. At first we went for the grocery store, primarily to get some coffee and other less important victualies;-), back to the campsite to lower the blood level in our caffeine, and then, eager to get to the fair, we dived into our gear and off we were. We crossed the finish line of some forgotten run or race and passed by the most beautiful of all dog poo heaps and then...
Beautiful colours, beautiful smells, woodsmoke, food, incense. The sound of real folk music:
and okay, the sound of other someoneses hooting and pooting into a camping toilet with a bag on one end at a sound level like a starting jetplane with another one doing insult to a drum the size of a cartwheel with as much rhythm as a Dada poet on steroids;-). But since we took it as a bowel massage, that was fine with us;-), too. But blimey, I simply can´t remember their name...;-), must´ve been blown out of my ears;-).
I had forgotten the memory card of my camera, so you have to live with what someone made who actually knows her trade on the photo gallery of www.mittelalter-seelenfaenger.de for more impressions.
We met with a lot of very, very nice people. Hajo, Dan, Romulus, Tini, Maria, Jacob and Nadja of course, Renate, Sigi, Ben and Tina, and a lot of strangers sitting under a plane tree. We relished in great food and Morroccan tea and mocca, and in no time we felt earthed again. We met with those people, and we showed to each other what we had made since last we met, told a tale of where we´d been and shared our joy and grief. And it´s funny; you meet as strangers and part as friends, and with many of them it´s absolutely okay that you only meet maybe one time a year, for you always continue where you´ve stopped last time. It started to rain hard. But when it stopped, there unfolded the bridge of the Gods:
And another strange thing happened. Some had complained about the rain, some (ähem;-)) had talked rubbish (BÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖN!!!!!), but as the rainbow appeared, there were a lot of silent smiles on the faces of everyone around and a frenzy to get a photo, and a lot of talk of awe and inspiration.
It got dark, and there was a fire show going on. We watched in awe, once again, and sipped a mead beer and talked to some more lovely people. We moved from the booth of "Heiter bis Folkig" to the tavern, had some more beer. It was amazing with a capital "A" (pun intended;-)) that Romulus, even though he had the whole organization on his shoulders, found time and energy to have a beer and play and make some music with us. We had a chat and some songs together, and we just let time flow beneath us while the Rhine joined in with its own song, oh-so-ancient, and oh-so-wise. Stars came out bright and piercingly light and frosty starlight sang above us and above those ancient hills and the stream that has seen the aeons. They say it guards an ancient treasure. They say the treasure is cursed.
But the gold in our mugs and glasses and the silver of the moon and the stars and the velvet in the voices of those musicians were treasures we took home to keep.
Back to the tent we realized it had somewhat lost its structure;-) and it had been somewhat soaked inside, but no harm done really. It was a cold night in a wet sleeping bag, but I had made some pushups and situps beforehand and snuggled deep into it with extra clothes on, so I became warm no less with the hours;-). The magic troll was a bit scared of me in the morning, for my face looked like a wet loaf of bread afterwards:-), but that passed quickly with some fresh air and a hot coffee;-D. Funny, as I write it I can still smell that lovely smell of the ancient alcohol stove I brought with me, and the boiling water and the instant coffee in my Kuksa... and I love the memory. In fact I will thrive on it for years to come.
Sunday saw us visiting the booths and talking for a good while to Siggi and Renate, two most excellent characters. Siggi is an experienced blacksmith, and Renate makes wonderful hand-dyed wool and spins her own yarn. It would go way to far to delve deeper into everything we talked about, but it was simply great to be with them.
As was meeting with Steffen and Dipali from Lanarius Handspinnerei, two more lovely people. Steffen is re-enacting a medieval scholar and makes his own Hippocras, a spiced wine after the recipe of Hildegard von Bingen out of twelve herbs and was like "HHIIIIPPPOOOOOCRAS TASTING!!!!!FREE!!!!HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPOOOOOOOOOOOOCRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSS TASTING!!!!1!11!" most of the time;-D. I had made him an actual, left-handed "penknife" (no photo yet, but I hope to provide one soon!), a knife used in the medieval ages for preparing the goose pens used for writing, and "the father";-) had made a woodturned hornbeam handle for it. Actually we got the impression he liked it a bit, and he gave us some bottles of this, his wonderful concoction. We talked a bit about how not all was grand in wonderland, too. You might get the impression that the re-enactment scene is a fairy´s wet dream come true, but it is not. When the magic troll met with Stefan and Dipali at Freienfels medieval fair, there was a couple coming to the booth stating they were
Now this is always making us a bit suspicious, and it turned out they were from a fascist esoteric order named the "Armanenorden" (insert sound file of someone throwing up), and yap, those things exist in the re-enactment scene and, yap, it´s getting me a temper, so to say. Having talked to some of those individuals, and being constantly faced with the need to explain myself why I try to scientifically treat the topic of runeology, I must say it makes me furious. It is the one thing you can do to make me want to whack the shit out of you if you join this order and try to convince me to do the same. Sadly, I don´t, but sometimes I think hard about that Ganghofer quote "Sometimes it can be satisfying to give a stinker a thorough spanking". It makes Steffen all the greater a person that he did not but simply threw them off his booth. The culprit is, yes, there are people like that in the re-enactment scene also. As I said, it´s no wonderland where pink fluffy unicorns graze the rainbow. But people don´t get overly excited. They throw them out and that´s it. They deserve no place and they are a side phenomenon at best, and many folks join forces to fight rascist scum like that in a non-violent way.
We talked about how we had a task to fulfil, namely to inform people how it really might have been. It can be a theory at best, but the only thing one can do is trying to keep the complete idiots and ideologists out. Reenactment is science. Of course, no one will yell at you when you are just doing LARP or costumed BBQ camping. But most of the people I have met on the fair and in the last months doing re-enactment are well aware of their responsibility. One example that is often quoted is that the swastika, the use of which is not allowed in Germany, is far older than the Nazi symbol, and dates back to the bronze age. In my opinion, it would be far better to inform kids and adults about the true provenience of that symbol, which, when seen purely from a semantic and morphological point of view has no rascist implications at all, but was presumeably a symbol of luck, than banning it. The forbidden fruit always taste best, so to say. I am well aware of the fact that this symbol now has a history that does not enable taking the ban from it, and I am certainly no Nazi, but I guess the point is made. Noone could, for instance, call the early Scandinavian culture rascist. Evidence speaks against it, be it reports by ancient Arabian and Jewish traders or the finds of Oriental goods as far up as Birka and Oseberg, ranging from water boilers, rings with "Allah" inscriptions, to silk and embroidery and even Buddha statues. And still, there were tablet-woven bands found which showed a swastika. Of course, what I want to make clear, is not that I have an answer, but, as usual, I have a question.
But I personally believe that by feeling how a tunic fits, how a seax chops and hippocras tastes, you can come closer to the truth. It´s a lot about sensations you feel, that re-enactment thing. It is a lot about responsibility, and the taking of it, about, well, love, and social contexts that work in a world far removed from the actual, but no more in a society powered by a greed that shatters 2000 years of history to smouldering ruins.
All too soon all was over, and again we prepared to gather up our provisions for the long and arduous train ride back, when Jakob came around and went like "I hope you join us on our drive back?".
Guy, if you read this, this is primarily for Nadja and you, and the others of course. You are escapists and dreamers and you talk as much rubbish you need a helmet to listen;-D. Cling to being like you are. And never cease dreaming, and living your dream!
Mittwoch, 6. Mai 2015
It was that time of year again, and Unrest, Nick, Olaf and all the others kept calling what to do next;-). So we hitched car and train and whatnot to meet at the Klingenmuseum Solingen for the annual highlight of the year: The knifemaker´s exhibition.
Unrest fetched me with his ticket at Hagen railway station, and we took the train to Wuppertal Vohwinkel, where we had the privilege to see a lovely and well preserved art nouveau entrance and waiting hall at Vohwinkel railway station.
Steigerwald knives had a load of goodies on display:
Peter. Now what I can safely say is that I would not have been able to forge my first sword had it not been for my two favourite Peters, the Abel and the Johnsson one;-). This is the former, and we had a chat and a beer and many a discussion and some healthy laughs, too, for he is a nice guy to boot. He again gave valuable input, and I daresay he deserves another drink next time:-D.
Die Klinge", a small, but excellent knife shop in Dortmund city. To say he is a nice guy does not exactly meet the point;-), for he has a kind of humour that can only be compared to the subtlety of a chainsaw massacre, but that´s alright with me :-D as you all know full well. If you come into a knife shop and are greeted by a action figure of Mama Bates and Chucky it must be a place worth visiting after all:-). Markus currently has a new project going on with staged seminars and asked me if I´d care to join in with a workshop or two. We´ll see what happens;-).
In fact, the expo was a hotspot of scientific research and learning. Herbert Schmidt was doing a very great lecture on Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), while the students of his school did a great job demoing the cutting capabilities and principles of guard and attack in many demoes. Talking of which, often it was not the success, but also the failure that was very impressive, for it made well clear that the skills involved in European swordfighting were highly complex. I was listening intently, for it was not easy to understand all the aspects. It did not quite help that Olaf stood by my side the whole time ranting about how he would smash up the swordfighters with his billhook and that they were all sissies. I can tell you, I was a bit stressed out, for I tried to be respectful and polite, but at the same time simply wanted to get the meaning of the lecture given. I am normally not one for ranting about something like that on the web, too, and I do not mean any disrespect or offence to Olaf, but it makes something very clear: That there´s a difference between fantasy re-enactment and historical research. Not that I want to belittle fantasy re-enactment, everyone should do what he´d like as long as he does not voluntarily harm anyone. And wanting to learn is not for everyone, either. But when I look back along my life, the happiest and most rewarding moments I had, apart from the ones I spent on my mountainbike riding along impossible ridges at lake Garda or in the Alps or through silent and solitary woods, were those at the university, when after a long day in the library you finally came across that one word or sentence in a dusty book that simply fell into place. When you got a tiny glimpse of the truth.
The students involved had of course interest in the martial aspects of swordplay, but also did a very sound demo of the research involved. It´s not about smashing your opponent to pieces (even if I trust each and every one of them to be more than capable to do that), but a responsible line of learning with a most deadly offensive weapon that at the same time stands for a psychological archetype. A sword is a very essential piece not only of our culture, but also of our psychological landscape. In the same way that the use of axe and knife has shaped our very hands and motoric and sensoric interaction, the sword has shaped our archetypical psychological landscape. And, as I would like to put it, by studying it, you might get a tiny glimpse of that hidden truth. It is not an aspect of an academic guy being better than one who is not, but an aspect of self-respect and pride in the humility of being a student of life. For I find I deserve to know more than I know now, and deserve to be a better human being next year than I am now. Everyone deserves to. But since I cannot care for everyone, I simply decided it was about time I´d do what I want, and that is getting a glimpse of the truth. And the sword conveys that meaning.
JT Palikkö not only is an extremely accomplished master of swordsmithing and knifemaking, but also a great and funny chap to boot. In fact, it was mainly some weird jokes we traded:-D.
On we went to the booth of Maihkel. Now Maihkel is another artist and great human being, always smiling and with a calm and steady air about him. He had many lovely art knives on display. Certainly not my piece of cake, for I tend to abuse my knives a lot, but that´s all my fault really:-).
Time was on short supply, so we just traded some friendly talk and one more smile, and off we were to my absolute highlight of the show. Having met Peter Johnsson, one of the premier scholars and craftsmen in swordsmithing, last year, and having written to and fro one or the other email, I can safely state that he has inspired my life. Unfortunately time´s ALWAYS on short supply when we meet, and a thorough discussion would take us way too far for the limited time. I have thoroughly studied his theories on sword physics, and to say I am inspired would not do it half justice.
We discussed this matter, and Peter again explained his theory that medieval sword physics, following the same principles as masonry and architecture, were designed to do exactly that. Following a kind of sacred and symbolic geometry, the sword was not only becoming a most deadly offensive weapon, but also a means of enlightenment, deeply embedded in a ritualistic canon.
What we talk about here is a philosophy dating back to philosophers like Thomas von Aquin, and, keeping in mind the other scriptures of that time, a philosophy that was called the "Solomonic master key" or "master´s sigil" in Christian natural philosophy. Musical harmony, astronomy, theology, art, medicine, law and alchemy as natural philosophy all followed these principles in order to gain "precision, subtlety, higher understanding and deeper reckoning" (Hanns Schmuttermayer, Fialenbuchlein, ca 1480, quoted after www.peterjohnsson.com).
It can be supposed that the theory is based on Pythagorean principles and philosophy, and at once something fell into place while we talked. Can it be that, just as well as the sword connects to the body when taken to hand, something happens on a deeper, more psychological level?
I have done a lot of research on the AZOTH, the Paracelsian principles of diagnostic and treatment in medicine and magic, and had tried to evaluate the facts and speculations concerning the obscure manuscript "The Cauldron of poesy", a manuscript by an anonymous scribe (featured in Eriu XXVI, in case you ask;-)) and embedded in "Imacallam in Dá Thúarad (colloquy of the two sages)" . When talking to Peter, something fell into place concerning these researchs and his theory. For just like the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci not only symbolizes a proportion in arts, but a relation to the Cosmos, thus does this theory not only represent a proportional geometry, but a relation to the whole. And as I want to state that the psyche or soul, if you like that word better, has an effect on the body, it is quite obvious that the geometry and physics of the sword has an effect on its "metaphysis" (please take note that I mean this in the sense of the word, not the connotation, meaning "Above / behind the physical"), metaphysis in this case meaning the faculties of balance, handling, "feel" directly influenced by the layout. And as the soul or psyche reacts on the physics of a sword, it must be possible to draw a line of agnition between the way the psyche reacts to the layout of an "inspired" sword as I´d like to call it. For in my book there are well - made swords, badly made ones, and "inspired" ones. The latter give the owner or the person who handles them the impression of having a "spirit" or "soul". The observations I have made, while still lacking empiric relevance, hint that this effect is not only subjective, but objective and subject to geometrical layout of the sword. This would in turn indicate that the medieval theory- that geometry is more than just a method of construction -actually bears scientific relevance. In turn, this might imply that the metaphysical aspects of those theories deserve to be considered in a modern way. I have long since suspected that the observations I have made in meditation after a medieval diagram have more significance than being but a fancy of one half-mad outcast:-P. Suffice to say that a crucial ingredient of that diagram is the Vesica, which in turn is crucial to the construction of medieval swords also. And in a symbolic meaning as well in a biological, in a physical as well in a metaphysical way the Vesica has something to do with portraying a correlation between two node points or topological fields. I smell it here, and it has my mind racing in a most positive manner.
I have now neither room or space to spread this topic out, and it will have to wait for a different post. Suffice to say, as intellectual and prosaic one might be, the effect can even be witnessed by a sceptic like Unrest, who´s now moving to and fro the possibility of writing a mathematical program to analyse the theory, be it even to prove it´s wrong;-).
So what we have here is a massive amount of inspiration, and I daresay Peter would like that a lot.
I will go back to the drawing board, so to say. And I very much look forward to the exhibition "The sword - form and thought" , a most revolutionary approach to medieval and modern swordmaking which will take place in the Klingenmuseum Solingen from September 25th. I really, really look forward to meeting the likes of Petr, Peter, Jake, Owen, JT, and all the others in autumn on the selling exposition of swords and related deviant art.
I heard it told (by wanderers:-D) that the motto of the event which is more or less an Arctic Fire event gone "sober";-), will be the forging of Xiphos, "penetrating light", originally the name of an iron age type of sword, but now the concept of a combined effort of the best swordsmiths in the Western world.
So the event will offer enough interesting input for all aficionados, swordsmen and philosophers. In October, it will be followed up by a HEMA martial arts workshop and an exhibition.
After a good hour´s intense talk we went on our merry way. Please do not take me wrong: There was still a lot to see, and of very high quality, but there was little capacity left in my brain. But the other booths I just passed in a hurry and a frenzy.
Gerhard Wieland had his really eloquent knives on display, meticulously handcrafted the "tribal" way.
Andreas Schweikert, whom I owe a lot of valuable input and inspiration. He also forges with little machinery and also does Wootz and Damascus blades. He had these machetes, Kopis and Parang and En-Nep on display. They are made from C 60 steel and well documented:
What can I say?
What an emotional rollercoaster ride. What a hotspot of extremely high quality craftsmanship and quality people. What a frenzy, but also how much inspiration.
Readers of my blog know how reluctant I was to forge my first sword. And even as I did it, I did not like the experience. But I realized one thing that I cannot deny. I am a swordsmith, and cannot help it. I did not call for it. But there are many things now pointing me into this direction. There are many, many thoughts racing through my mind now, and I can´t spill them right now.
But when visiting this expo, many things just fell into place. I cannot thank Peter enough. For offering the gear that clicked into my drivetrain of thought.
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