What is behind the Medieval Thing?

As a vendor this weekend at the Trinity Medieval Feast it was my second exposure to a subgroup of people who either raid the costume shop for the most amazing Medieval outfits, or they sew/build/tool/craft their own.  And i would have to say that over half of the crowd friday night and 2/3 of the crowd saturday were bedecked in 10th-13th century reproduction gear.  So what is behind that?  I surveyed some of the attendees and thought you might find their responses interesting:

  • “I am an english professor, and fell in love with Chaucer, and the writing and history of medieval England.  Their customs, their way of interacting, the classes, and the chivalry is fascinating, and sadly not so present these days. I like being a lord in the court, possessing knowledge, wealth and position if but for this night.”
  • “In the modern world i am a pediatrician.  I spend a lot of time being very serious, and focusing on the care of my patients.  This is my opportunity to find my alter ego, and perhaps enjoy being something and someone i am not in real life.  So that explains the serving wench outfit.  It also is kind of a break from the crazy modern world we live in.”
  • “We have done this event for 5 years running.  We first attended at the invitation of friends.  They have stopped coming, but we like the activities… the skits, the music, the sense of a time in the past, which is highlighted by the beautiful surroundings of the cathedral.  Wow,  we just think it is grand fun to step out for the night in a wonderful and far from ordinary way.”
  • ” History – it is all about history, and historic accuracy.  My costume has taken me years to collect, to perfect, and it is period accurate.  It is a small way of interacting with history.  I am very glad that our modern world allows us to peer back there, but not stay in those times.”
  • “I like the drama, the boisterous and rowdy interactions.  That is not me nor do i even think i could live with communications like that.  But for a glimpse of time it is fun.”
  • “Fundraiser – it is really all about raising funds so the music department can continue their great works with the brown bag lunch programs, and special musical talent.  We love the arts here at Trinity, and we love to see expressions of creativity especially when it leads to a successful fundraiser like this.”
  • “It is the opportunity to eat with my hands, to break bread like they did back in the day… no forks, no spoons, no utensils… just what God gave us to use… our hands.  Its a bit sloppy, but it tastes amazingly good.  Well, maybe it is all in my head, but i really like that experience.”

I was so impressed with the desire of some people to really find reproductions of period costumes.  Some people poured huge investments into their outfits… the guy with the home made armour, clanking in weighing an additional 50-60 pounds with it on.  The woman with the reproduction juliette caplette she made from scratch, and the many swords on holsters.  Crowns, tiarras, and the like people invested in headdress.  From the poets caps, to the friar’s myter there was a vast diversity of creative people.  And then there were those who wanted to show their creative skills, but were not into medieval, like the couple that dressed like star trekkies, and the guy with the steam punk get up.

Why was i there?  A friend, and fellow artist, Linda Zolton Woods, invited us for the second year in a row.  This year i planned carefully what i would add to our normal fare to draw the eye of those medieval focused folks… and hair combs, and tiarras sold, along with a lot of soap, and the sugar scrubs.

We did have a theme though… lavender, rosemary and thyme were hot sellers… followed by dragons blood and orange clove.

The social scientist in me enjoyed analyzing people, and it did seem that there were some people hiding behind the medieval trappings to just be able to cut loose from their normal, conservative selves for that evening.

Whatever the reason, it was quite a shift from normal life.  I equate this to friends who do Civil War reenactment… a healthy fascination for a period of history, and a hunger to be doing something.

All said, it was interesting.  And while soap is not a medieval idea, our 21st century medieval feast goers loved it.