Welcome to the

Shire of Flintheath

Greetings, and welcome to the SCA shire of Flintheath!

We are the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (S.C.A) in the Principality of Insulae Draconis within the kingdom of Drachenwald. The general geographical coverage expands most of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and a bit of Bedfordshire, get in touch for further information to locate your local group.

The shire is comprised of living historians with interests in armoured & rapier combat, archery, arts & Sciences and much more, feel free to contact us for more.

As we are building and launching our new website, more and interesting content will be released often. Until then, enjoy and feel free to look around.

Yours in Service,
Lord Nero Lupo
Seneschal of Flintheath

The S.C.A is a non-profit, educational society dedicated to researching and recreating the Middle Ages in the present.

News & Updates from the Shire

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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/04/09/tryathon4/). This week's challenge: calligraphy. Have a go at some of our arts and sciences! We are also continuing some other activities online - get in touch if you'd like to know more :).

Today, rabbits are highly associated with Easter: a connection that appears to have originated among German Lutherans; the Easter Bunny was first mentioned in writing in 1682 as a German tradition. While there seems to have been no special connection between Easter and rabbits during our period, rabbits frequently appear in medieval art. Usually they are shown in hunting scenes, but they and other animals also frequently appear in scenes showing animals performing human activities.

A particularly notable trend with rabbits in medieval art is the "rabbit's revenge", where rabbits are shown armed and attacking the humans and hounds that normally hunt them. This is generally interpreted as part of the general medieval enjoyment of role reversal and social upheaval, also seen in traditions such as the Lord of Misrule at Christmas. It may also have simply been an enjoyable absurdity!

Images:
A Religious Procession of Rabbits - Gorleston Psalter - BL Add MS 49622 f. 113r
Three Rabbits put a Man on Trial - Smithfield Decretals - BL Royal 10 E IV f. 60v
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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue.

Today is the first day of Passover, one of the major holidays of the Jewish calendar. Antisemitism was rife in Europe during our period, but alongside the many Christian manuscripts that have survived there are also some Jewish works, including Haggadot, which give the order of the Passover Seder.

The oldest surviving illuminated Ashkenazi Haggadah is the Birds' Head Haggadah, made in Southern Germany in about 1300 and now on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It's so named for the colourful illustrations showing Jewish historical events and people performing the Seder practices, in all of which Jewish people are shown with bird-like heads and non-Jewish people are shown with no faces at all.

There are numerous theories for why people are drawn this way in the Birds' Head Haggadah, of which the most prevalent is that it was an attempt to circumvent the prohibition on making images; many other surviving Ashkenazi manuscripts from the 1200's and 1300's also show humans with animal heads. There is also a theory that the illustrations were caricatures drawn by an antisemitic artist, but this is not widely held because such art would presumably not be acceptable to the Jewish patrons of the book. A further theory is that what appear to be birds' heads were in fact the heads of griffins, since similar lion-eagle-human hybrids appear frequently in Jewish iconography.

Other surviving Haggadot include the Rylands Haggadah (Rylands Hebrew MS. 6) and the Barcelona Haggadah (BL Add. MS 14761), both of which were made in Spain in the 1300s. Both are highly illustrated, although unlike the Birds' Head Haggadah the human figures are shown as fully human in both.

Image: Pages from the Birds' Head Haggadah, showing the baking of matzah.
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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our in-person combat practices due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/04/01/tryathon3/). This week's challenge: proper care of your weapons (or kitchen knives). Have a go at some of our arts and sciences - the more child-friendly crafts from the last couple of weeks are still available!

Blacksmiths occupy an interesting place in history and mythology. Most mythologies have a divine or divinely skilled blacksmith, including the Anglo-Saxon Weyland, after whom Weyland's Smithy in Berkshire is named: it was said that a horse left at the site with a groat (a small silver coin) in a hole in the rock would be shod by morning. The oldest stories about Weyland in Germanic mythology - especially the Poetic Edda - are unfortunately not as wholesome.

During the middle ages, a village smithy was a staple of every town and blacksmiths made and repaired tools, horseshoes, and other metal goods, mostly from iron since steel was expensive until the industrial revolution; it was common for a tool such as an axe to be mostly made of iron with a steel cutting edge welded on, to reduce the amount of the more expensive metal required.

In the SCA, we still have metalworkers, and many members have forged their own knives and other tools. Don't try that at home unless you have a safe setup for a forge, but if you want to get in touch we're always happy to discuss the craft!

Images:
- Knife made by a member of the Shire (that1beardedgent on Instagram)
- Blacksmith at Work - Book of Hours - BL Harley 6563 f. 68v

Further reading: The Lay of Volund (Weyland): en.wikisource.org/wiki/Poetic_Edda/V%C3%B6lundarkvi%C3%B0a Rated PG!
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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices until at least after Easter, due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/03/23/tryathon-week2/). This week's challenge: medieval food colouring. Have a go at some of our arts and sciences!

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, and as anyone who knows JRR Tolkien's works will be aware, he was heavily influenced by ancient and medieval European myth and legend, including works such as Nibelungenlied and Beowulf: These are epic poems which even at the time they were written were set in a far-off past.

Beowulf, written in Old English sometime before 1000 AD (since this is an estimated date for the one original manuscript we have) is often held to be the first work of English literature. This manuscript may be a reduction to writing of a poem which was previously passed down orally or may be an original work based on existing legends and folk-tales, but the result is a powerful and beautiful melding of Scandinavian tradition with the Christianity that was taking root at the time of its composition, along with themes of kingship and honour, all bound up in a great story of man and monster.

The Nibelungenlied is a cycle of stories which are related to the stories told in Wagner's Ring Cycle and the Volsunga Saga. It was originally written in Middle High German in about 1200 and is styled as a far more factual story than Beowulf, being about a conflict between humans driven by honour, greed, and revenge rather than man and monster. The cycle of death and revenge told in the poem climaxes in a massive last stand in a burning great hall. The heroes aren't necessarily sympathetic, but they're powerfully drawn and fascinating to watch.

If you're interested, translations of both these works are in the public domain and can be found online.
- Beowulf audiobook: librivox.org/beowulf/
- Nibelungenlied audiobook: librivox.org/the-nibelungenlied-by-anonymous/
- Beowulf text: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16328
- Nibelungenlied text: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7321

Images:
- The Death of Siegfried - Nibelungenlied Manuscript K
- Foleate Initial showing a Dragon - Roman Gradual - BL Egerton MS 857 f.1r
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Sadly, we've made the decision to cancel our combat practices until at least after Easter, due to Covid-19. However, your weekly fun historical posts will continue, as will the Drachenwald Try-athlon (drachenwald.sca.org/posts/news/2020/03/15/tryathon/). This week's challenge: twisted cord. Have a go at some of our arts and sciences!

As the activities of the Try-athlon suggest, though combat is the most obvious aspect of the SCA's activities it's far from the only one. Another activity we enjoy - especially at feast times - is music.

There aren't many secular tunes or songs that survive from medieval England, since these were mostly folk songs passed from person to person among commoners and thus not written down in expensive books or recorded by the church. However, there are some exceptions, such as the large number of verses contained in the so-called Harley Lyrics. One of these is a song about the coming of spring, which opens with all the imagery of flowers and birds that we would associate with the season today:

Lenten ys come with loue to toune,
With blosmen ant with briddes roune,
That al this blisse bryngeth.
Dayeseyes in this dales,
Notes suete of nyhtegales,
Vch foul song singeth.
The threstelcoc him threteth oo;
Away is huere wynter wo
When woderoue springeth.
This foules singeth ferly fele
Ant wlyteth on huere [wynne] wele
That al the wode ryngeth.

This is in Middle English, the same language as Chaucer used, and we can still make out a general sense, but here's a translation to Modern English!

Spring has arrived, with love,
With flowers, and with birdsong,
Bringing all this joy.
Daisies in the valleys,
The sweet notes of nightingales,
Every bird sings a song.
The thrush is constantly wrangling;
Their winter misery is gone
When the woodruff flowers.
These birds sing in great numbers,
And chirp about their wealth of joys,
So that all the wood rings.

(Transcription and translation source: Wessex Parallel WebTexts, www.soton.ac.uk/~wpwt/ ed. Bella Millett, English, Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton)

As the days get longer, we can all feel some kinship with people centuries ago who sang that song!

Images:
- Member of the Shire of Flintheath at Bourn in a Barn 2019
- The above extract from "Spring" - The Harley Lyrics - BL Harley 2253 ff. 71v
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This Saturday, join us for an afternoon of medieval combat on Waterbeach Green, starting at 1pm! The Society for Creative Anachronism supports almost any imaginable medieval craft or art, but we are at our most visible when practicing armoured tournament combat and the rapier dueling of the Renaissance.

There is no charge for attending. If you wish to try either armoured or rapier combat, please ensure you are wearing trainers/boots and long sleeves/trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not wish to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

It's commonly believed that medieval peasants lived in squalor, often in one-room huts in which they scratched a living on a tiny amount of land. However, documentary evidence shows that even as far back as the 1300s this was not the case. Lords of the manor frequently had legal agreements and disputes with their peasant tenants, and the resulting documents sometimes give details of the buildings on the peasants' plots as well as the size of the plots themselves.

In Flintheath, there are records of agreements between Ramsay Abbey and its tenants concerning houses with 420-square-foot footprints. While not large - a little over half the footprint of the average modern house - this is hardly a tiny hut. Some such houses also had multiple floors, and they were well built with wooden frames and wattle-and-daub walls.

Based on accounts from the time, it appears that building a house cost around £3 - about a year's wages for a skilled craftsman such as one of the carpenters building the timber frame.

Image: Add MS 24098 f18v - Book of Hours, Use of Rome (the 'Golf Book') - Calendar page for January
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Weather permitting, practice is on this Saturday at 13:00 on Waterbeach Green. If you're interested in trying out medieval or renaissance combat or want to talk to us about the modern middle ages, please contact us for anything you'd like to know!

There is no charge for attending. If you would like to try combat, please wear secure, closed-toed shoes and long sleeves/trousers. You may wish to bring your own cup/box/groin protection if you do not wish to use the one in the group kit. We have loaner kit that will cover the rest of your needs.

Last week, many of our members were attending the coronet tournament, at which we choose the next prince and princess of our principality of Insulae Draconis. The principality covers Iceland and the British Isles and heavy fighters come from all over the place to compete, each with their consort by their side. All genders can take part and all genders can be consorts; there's no rule that only a man can win the tournament or that couples must be opposite-sex!

The consorts not only inspire the fighters with their support from the gallery, but also take part in an arts and sciences display and contest, showing off the non-martial skills practiced in the society. For example, one of the ladies in Flintheath whose lord was fighting embroidered favours for them to take into the lists.

At the end of the day Prince Avery of Westfall and Princess Zoe of Enstone were duly crowned, and the event ended as many others do - feasting and merrymaking!

Image: Lord Ranulf and Lady Euphrosyne, members of the Shire, at the Coronet Tournament.
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