RECREATING BRITISH CULTURE FROM 950 TO 1066 CE

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Frequently Asked Questions

Regia (pronounced rgia, with a short e and a hard g) Anglorum is a living history group formed in the United Kingdom in 1986. In the past few years, it has been brought to the United States by George Johnson. The Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Pennsylvania branch is known as Furder Strandi. It attempts to accurately recreate the culture of the British Isles from about 950 to 1066 CE . As such, members portray Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and other Norse, Normans and any other ethnic group which lived in or passed through the British Isles at that time. Regia Anglorum is accurate and serious living history, like American Civil War and English Civil War reenactments. The main difference is the era portrayed.

Are there any differences between Regia and these other Dark Age living history?


Not really. While there are minor deviations in standards, customs and expectations among all living-history organizations, they are all basically similar. Groups reenacting a specific era usually have shared rules so that they can play together. Guests from similar organizations may be invited to a Regia event as long as they match or exceed Regia accuracy standards. If there is a fee levied for attending the event--such as for food or for site rental--it will be the responsibility of all attendees.

Do you have to be a member to go to Regia events?


In the United Kingdom, membership--permanent or temporary--is required for insurance reasons. In Furder Strandi, potential members are welcome to attend up to two events as long as they meet or exceed Regia standards. Membership is encouraged and is required for regular participation and access to Furder Strandi or Regia resources.

Is Regia primarily an educational organization?


No living-history group is exclusively educational. Entertainment, socialization and experience are also a part of the culture as well. Whether the a group primarily does demos for the public, events for participants or any combination thereof, the primary purpose of any legitimate living-history organization is educational.

To whom does Regia direct its educational activities?


Most living-history groups are devoted to educating either participants exclusively or both participants and spectators. Regia is no exception. Its primary purpose is to educate the public, although participants must be educated as well in order to educate the spectator properly.

How important are historical authenticity and accuracy?


Whether it is called accuracy or authenticity, getting all elements of our impressions (the historical portraits we try to paint; in some groups, these are also known as personas or characters) correct is an all-important facet of our impressions. We do not wish to mis-educate or to mislead. If anyone wants to portray or present something controversial, they must find at least two examples (from primary sources preferably) of its use in period and apply to the Authenticity Officer (AO) for an exception to the rules. As our founder, Kim Siddorn says, "Our basic tenet is Authenticity. To this end we will not portray any image, support any ideal, or make any item of kit which we cannot provenance from contemporary sources. This sometimes requires us to re-evaluate how we look and why we make or wear certain items, and to alter them or our habits to hone the image we depict." We attempt to be as accurate as we practically and safely can, and we undergo regular voluntary inspections to make certain of that.

Hold it. You have official Authenticity Police?


Not at all. We have authenticity Officers and inspection, but you must remember that we might reject the item inspected but not the person with the item. The AO will advise you how to correct flaws and insures that participants present a high level of accuracy to the public. Agreement to inspections for accuracy is a pre-requisite for membership, and anyone who does not agree to this stipulation should not join Regia. However, these officers do not seek to tear down the efforts of members, and do not resort to denigrating them personally and not offering any suggestions. The AOs are trained for their positions and seek to maintain Regia's standards, not to build themselves up by tearing someone else down.

Does Regia allow tattoos, piercings and other body modifications?


Although both Norse and Anglo-Saxons (at least) apparently had tattoos, that is the only thing we know. We don't know what designs were used, what colors they used and so forth. Therefore, until we find a frozen Norsemen with extant tattoos (like the Iceman for an earlier time), we have to ask that no tattoos be visible. Cover them with a bandage if necessary. Women had ear piercings, but any other visible piercings must also be hidden or the rings removed. Other body modifications can be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Are necessary medical prosthetic devices allowed?


Pills, inhalers and similar modern medical artifacts should be kept out of sight, but the idea that accuracy forbids their use is specious. So is the idea that rampant disease and poor dental hygiene are required for accuracy. Prostheses and canes should either be hidden or replaced by appropriate accurate alternatives. In some cases, such as wheelchairs, they may be used outside the ropeline but should be restricted and hidden within the ropeline during public hours. A few devices, such as oxygen masks, are so necessary that they may be allowed with permission. All exceptions are reviwed on a case by case basis. As said before, do not confuse convenience and comfort with necessity.

What about eyeglasses?


Obviously, spectacles may not be worn inside the ropeline during public hours. As noted in a Regia essay on spectacles, "One of the most controversial parts of any serious living history endeavors are eyeglasses....From ancient times, magnifying lenses--generally crystals or curved transparent goblets filled with water--were used to help with fine work, to start fires and to cauterize wounds. Workshops manufacturing these lenses have been found from Gotland to Constantinople. However, these were large, heavy, unwieldy and only minimally transportable. The modern concept of spectacles was invented in the later thirteenth century." Contact lenses are permitted, and eyeglasses are allowed outside the ropeline and outside of public hours. Do not participate in any activity which is unsafe for you without corrected vision, and keep corrective lenses hidden but nearby in case an emergency arises.

How important are matters of safety?


Very important. As Kim Siddorm says, "Our awareness of safety is high and it is the only matter which takes precedence over authenticity in our work." Obviously, we do not want to injure or, God forbid, kill our friends and fellows. We do not impose medieval hygiene. We do not use sharp-edged weapons. Every encampment must have a modern fire extinguisher in prominent view (hidden by a red wool bag by common convention). Some concessions and compromises must be made, although we do ask that all participants remain as authentic as possible within the ropeline during public hours.

What do you mean by "ropeline" and "public hours"?


Regia, like many other living-history organizations, places a ropeline between the members of the public (MOPs) and their activities. This is primarily for safety reasons. "Behind the ropeline" is the area, then, that should remain totally accurate. Public hours are those times in which the area within the encampment must remain accurate and may not be farb or farby (non-period or inaccurate). Therefore, a person can be farby--smoke a cigarette, use an aluminum cane or spectacles--outside the ropeline during public hours or even within the ropeline outside of public hours. Before public hours begin, the area will be inspected to make certain that nothing non-period is showing (non-period materials may be kept in tents or containers outside of the public view). Conversations behind the ropeline during public hours need not be period--note that most people in Regia do not do first-person impressions--but should be about the period or related to the period in some manner. Therefore, a conversation about a film about the Dark Ages would be appropriate to discuss with a MOP; but a conversation about the latest episode of "House" would not be.

What cultures may I portray in Regia?


Members commonly portray Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Anglo-Scandinavian, Cymry or Norman, although any culture that had a documented presence on the British Isles during the century before the Conquest is allowable. Furder Strandi does ask that your first set of accurate clothes be Anglo-Scandinavian, but this is because of the group's cultural identity, and after that set of clothing, members are free to make clothing from any other appropriate culture. In fact, some events, especially in the United Kingdom, are specifically for one culture or another.

What if I am interested in another culture and time?


You are encouraged to find an organization which encompasses your interest. They all exist. Regia has a fairly narrow scope and fairly rigid rules. It is not for everyone and does not pretend to be. Were there any chivalry and pageantry, or was the era all rough-hewn Vikings and other barbarians? While certain cultures of the era did not feature the facets of chivalry and pageantry that many associate with the Middle Ages, others did. For example, the Norman knights "already delighted in colour and glittering metal, carried banners of their own design and shields painted with devices that proclaimed who they were and where they came from" (David Howarth, 1066: The Year of the Conquest, pp. 121-122). Calling Vikings or other Norse "barbarians" is scarcely correct, either, for they were part of a very sophisticated and artistic culture that ran afoul of Christian propaganda, and it is the propaganda that has come down to us as fact.

Is combat choreographed or competitive?


Rebated-steel combat is neither, although it has elements of both. Sheer strength may not always help, but speed, agility and skill do. While the outcome of the combat activity (for example a specific battle) may be scripted, the means to the end are not.

What is required to participate in Regia combat activities?


The most important requirement is obedience to the rules and regulations for Regia combat. Warriors must have sufficient training and be authorized by the National Training Officer or deputy to participate in martial activities. Such an officer must also approve both offensive and defensive weapons. Edged weapons must be rebated steel, meaning that the weapon will have a blunt edge and no sharp parts. Accurate kit must be worn during martial activities, and the accuracy, appropriateness and safety of any armor worn will be inspected--along with the fighter's authorization--before a combatant is allowed on the field. Steve Etheridge, Regia National AO, notes "that the person striking the blow is responsible for the safety of the person struck. It is never a case of 'tough luck--you should have worn armour.' Never. Fight well and fight safely."

Are you saying that Regia has no minimum armor requirements?


It is. Training is valued over armor, and unsafe or overly aggressive fighters are not allowed on the field. While Regia has no minimum requirements for armor, there are recommendations such as a mail coat, a helmet and leather gloves (not accurate, but safe). A beginning fighter must first learn the spear, the most common Dark Age weapon--possibly along with a shield and a short arm--and then graduate to other weapons. Kim Siddorn notes that "Despite our competitiveness, Regia's safety record is first class. Although the occasional bruise or graze may be suffered, it's a great deal less hazardous than playing rugby." Chris Boulton adds, "To 'require' indicates a likelihood of injury. Training should result in safety. One should, ideally, be quite safe to take part in combat in just a tunic. If one isn't safe to do this--there's something wrong with your training."

Does Regia practice or encourage any of the "gentler arts"?


Again quoting Kim Siddorn, "We are not purely a combat society and have come a long way from the old hack and bash image associated with many re-enactment societies. There is always a certain glory to be found in recreating and reliving famous and the not-so-famous battles of times past - but they are not the sum total of history. They are specific points in time which were interspersed by long periods where the people living then, got on with their normal existence which is equally fascinating." There are, however, no arts competitions or rewards. Everyone is expected to attain a certain level of skill in their presentation of the arts they practice, and members pursue the arts for the joy of reenactment.

How old do you have to be to participate?


Children were parts of nearly every era of history! While some activities, such as combat, require the participants to be at least eighteen, children are more than welcome at events. Babette Colburn, one of our members, has two children whom she brings to Micel Folcland events. She says, "It's a wonderful opportunity not only to teach your children about living history, and thus create a rich learning environment to keep them interested in history throughout their school career and beyond (and even become living historians themselves!), but it will teach you much about how families lived and worked in our time period. Taking them to events and teaching them hands on about the Regia time period offers them so much more than they would get from reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a dry lecture in a classroom. Education, is after all, the main focus of Regia."

Do my Children need to wear kit too?


Children have to obey the same rules as anyone else, so if you want your children to be with you behind the ropeline, they do have to be in kit. Children of the Regia period wore pretty much the same clothes as adults did, with the exception of babies, who wore swaddling clothes, in some cases up to the age of one, to "make their limbs straight." Colburn adds, "However, hygiene and safety are more important, (swaddling them for hours without changing them is not good for the baby by any accounts) and if your baby hates being wrapped up, or is too old for it (when they are mobile), swaddling bands are probably not the best clothing for them. I've seen babies wearing a simple tunic or dress, simple pants, and a linen or woolen blanket to cover up the modern diaper. Most children in Regia do fine in an oversized tunic or dress that will last a few seasons, pants or leggings, and a cloak if the weather warrants it. Simple shoes can be handmade or purchased from a shoemaker. We don't recommend that little ones go barefoot, even though they did in the Regia period, since safety is paramount."

Is there anything for my children to do?


That will of course depend on their ages, but well-behaved children are always welcome with their parents. Coburn says, "There are a number of toys and games that were found in archaeological digs. Toys included a wooden boat, wooden swords, wooden horses and the like. Games included tafl ('viking chess') dice games, and physical games like wrestling and knattleikr (a Norse base-ball game) were all played by both children and adults. Games such as wrestling, tag, and hide and seek span eons. And of course your children can help in the multiple tasks behind the ropeline." The more children who are present at events, the more there will be for them to do!

Are pets and other animals allowed at Regia events?


Just as all eras included the presence of children, so did all eras include animals, although they were often working animals rather than what we would today regard as pets. If you want to bring a pet to a living-history event you should make certain of three things. The first is that the pet is of a period breed. The second is that the event's site welcomes animals (or at least the sort of animal you want to bring). The third is that the pet will be well behaved. Not well behaved most of the time; any pet which cannot behave 100 percent of the time, under normal circumstances, should not be brought to any living-history event. The owner is responsible for the pet's actions, period. Under most circumstances, it is best if pets remain at home.

Does Regia use heraldry?


No, because heraldry was devised after the period we re-create. This is not to say that heraldry-like devices were not employed, but such use goes back to ancient times and was not heraldry. As noted before, nobles of the period did adapt various standards, pennons and banners which contained personal devices. They did not always follow the rules of fourteenth-century English heraldry, although some basic rules of heraldry are common sense. Designs must be kept simple and appropriate. The fact that the device might be registered elsewhere does not automatically allow its use in Regia. There is no registry which approves their design and use.

Do participants adopt period names?


Yes, but members of Regia do not always assume first-person impressions, and many members are known primarily by a modern name. Period names are taken from primary sources, but there is no central registry which approves their use. One participant may have several names, depending on the ethnicity and class that they are portraying at the current time.

Can I be high class, get awards and use a fancy title?


In general, no. We are attempting to portray the ordinary person of the time. Regia does have special titles which are both historical and awarded by the High Witan (the main council of the Society) to reward accomplishments. However, as Kim Siddorn notes, "Regia is not much into titles, awards and resounding personal names. We take a very pragmatic view of life and bear in the forefront of our mind that we are just modern people re-creating a visually correct image of people, costume and things our ancestors would have known well. Pretence of honours would just make us uncomfortable."

Do you stay away from politics and religion?


While we aggressively prohibit modern political and theological expression on the ropeline during public hours, we encourage, and in fact stipulate the portrayal of period political and religious belief. The word "reenact" includes the phrase "act." We are actors, and our impressions do not necessarily portray our personal beliefs. Especially, religion is essential to our understanding of the Middle Ages, and any attempt to minimize it--for a pc reason or to prevent argument--gives an utterly facetious view of the period. If you cannot divorce your present religious thought from that which must be portrayed in an authentic historical period, you may need to play elsewhere.

Do you decide impressions by gender and race?


In a word, no. However, for cross-gender impressions, we ask that you look like the appropriate gender. If an MOP asks, "Why is there a woman warrior?" you may well be asked to butch up or to change impressions.

Is there an opportunity for socializing and making friends?


Certainly. There is plenty of time after public hours or even during the event for participants to socialize and to become friends.

Isn't authenticity expensive?


It can be expensive, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. Look for bargains in fabric, and you'll find that simple Dark Age costume is less expensive than many other time periods and certainly no more expensive than the equipment you need for many other hobbies. Choose a class that you can afford and concentrate on making a good presentation.
Many thanks to Folo Watkins for the above content.

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