Thursday, September 8, 2016

Renaissance Magazine Newletter #1

Why Vikings Raided

The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the Eighth Century.

These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles. But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity.

Previous research has considered environmental, demographic, technological and political drivers, as well as the palpable lure of silver and slave and why these forms of wealth became important at this stage.

Dr Ashby said: "I wanted to try to discover what would make a young chieftain invest in the time and resources for such a risky venture. And what were the motives of his crew?"

In research published in Archaeological Dialogues, Dr Ashby argues that focusing on the spoils of raiding is to ignore half the picture as the rewards of such voyages consisted of much more than portable wealth.

Dr Ashby says: "The lure of the exotic, of the world beyond the horizon, was an important factor. Classic anthropology has shown that the mystique of the exotic is a powerful force, and something that leaders and people of influence often use to prop up their power base. It is not difficult to see how this would have worked in the Viking Age."

The acquisition not just of silver but of distinctive forms of Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, and Celtic metalwork were tangible reminders of successful sorties, symbols of status and power, as well as calls-to-arms for future raids. Many of the large quantity of Christian artefacts found in Scandinavian contexts (particularly Norwegian pagan burials) escaped melting and recycling, not because of some form of artistic appreciation, but because they were foundation stones for power, and touchstones in any argument for undertaking military activity.

Dr Ashby says there was also a clear motive for joining raiding parties rather than blindly following their leaders. Raiding activity provided not only an opportunity for violence and the accumulation of wealth, but an arena in which individuals could be noticed by their peers and superiors. It was an opportunity to build reputations for skill, reliability, cunning, or courage. Just as leaders of raiding parties stood to gain more than portable wealth, so too their followers could seek intangible social capital from participation.

"The lure of the raid was thus more than booty; it was about winning and preserving power through the enchantment of travel and the doing of deeds. This provides an important correction to models that focus on the need for portable wealth; the act of acquiring silver was as important as the silver itself," Dr Ashby adds.

Renaissance-themed Richmond Days featured a medieval encampment with a comedy show, educational demonstrations and belly dancers

Two men wearing suits of armor, swords in hand, faced each other in a roped-off ring on the waterfront before beginning the clash.

The battle only last around a minute or two, but the crowd gathering around the ring still cheered on the clangs of the steel on steel as the medieval re-enactors demonstrated what a fight to the death would have looked like several centuries ago. The goal of the fight, as well as the other demonstrations by the medieval re-enactment group, was to educate. But that doesn’t mean the swordsmen don’t try or that wearing 85 pounds of steel is an easy task.

 “The blows are still real,” said Andrew Jefferson, one of the fighters. “Some of them do not feel good.”

The sword fight was part of the Richmond )ME)  Days’ Renaissance theme. Jefferson, a martial arts teacher who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, came as part of his Renaissance fair comedy act, The Corr Thieves, but he also participates in sword battles.

The primary group at the waterfront event, the Brotherhood of the Arrow and Sword, does medieval re-enactments at Renaissance fairs around New England…

After three years at the Woodstock Fairgrounds, the Oxford Renaissance Festival  will no longer be held in Oxford County.

Next year, the fourth annual festival – known for its international jousting and live action role-playing tournaments – will be relocated in Dorchester at their fairgrounds from June 24 to 26.
Organizer Greg Schuurman said the festival will move 20 minutes down Highway 401 to another county mainly because the Dorchester Fairgrounds (Ontario, Canada) have less asphalt, concrete and buildings.

“There are multiple reasons, but the main reason is, aesthetically, the grounds are set up more for a festival of our kind,” he said. “When you look at the grounds, it gives you more of a Renaissance-style feel.”

The fledgling festival, which was challenged by particularly wet weather in 2015, is also still struggling with attendance. Since Dorchester is closer to London, Schuurman said his hope is the festival might attract more people from that area.
“Our ultimate goal is to grow,” Schuurman said.

However, he said the festival, which organizers hope will break even this year, will eventually find a home in a local forest…

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