Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Maile Shirt in European Tradition

The hauberk is a shirt of maile, commonly known as chain mail. Usually reaching to the mid thigh it had sleeves of varying length. A shorter version was referred to as a haubergeon but either terms are applicable to a wide assortment of variants found around the world used by most iron using cultures.European maile was created by interlocking riveted rings of mild steel. In the western tradition it was fabricated using the 4 in 1 pattern.

History attributes the Celts as the originators of chain mail as documented by the Romans when they expanded their empire north into Europe. The Romans adopted their version of maile armor called the lorica hamata that remained in active use with the legions and auxiliaries for at least six hundred years. It was the empire that spread the use of maile throughout the Mediterranean basin and central Asia.

The earliest surviving example of maile was found in present day Romania and was dated to the 4th/5th century BC. It is a testament to the efficiency of maile that it remained in service for so long only being supplanted by the advancement of plate armor in the 15th century and the use of gunpowder by the 16th century. As a defense against slashing and cutting weapons maile was extremely effective, did not hinder movement despite its weight and was durable. If links were broken they could be replaced easily. Maile, like swords, became legacy items passed down generations.

It is perhaps the Normans who are mostly associated with the resurgence of maile in the 11th century as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. During the migration period after the fall of the Roman empire much of the infrastructure to create maile, (which was laborious, tedious and expensive), was abandoned to all but the wealthy or nobility. Not only did the Normans issue maile to their soldiers but they also modified the traditional dark aged byrnie maile shirt by adding fuller sleeves, additional length to protect the upper legs of cavalry and began the use of mail coifs under helmets for additional neck and head protection. Thus began the second golden age of maile in Western Europe.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Rum - Bumbu

I know I usually focus upon middle shelf rums that make decent working class sippers but circumstances of late have given me the opportunity to try some rums above my weight class. Thanks to the Bills and Browns I managed to win the football pool this past week so figured a specialty/top shelf rum was in my future.

While browsing the NSLC specialty rum table it just happened that the product specialist was doing some stock rotation and asked if I had tried the Bumbu. I had not so I was told to stay put while a sample was retrieved from the office.

The nose radiating from the plastic sampling cup was sweet.....something familiar but tantalizing elusive.

"Caramelized banana" was the response to my hesitancy and was the a-ha moment. Take a ripe banana and saute with a generous scoop of real butter. Add a little bit of cinnamon and you have Bumbu.

It was familiar as the tasting notes remind me of a sweeter version of Plantation's Original Dark, itself a blend of Barbados, Guyana and Jamaican rums. No doubt they share a lineage.

Bumbu is a product of Barbados.....

"....masterly blended by hand from island rums and native spices from across the West Indies...."

The bottle is substantial, embossed and unique in a antique way. Not only corked but a real cork that I had to use a corkscrew to open...and proceeded to break. Might need to revisit wines to work on my technique.

In the glass the spiced rum shows a brilliant amber with a pleasant mouth feel, little heat and an easy finish. The fact it is only 35% alcohol /volume lends to it's easy drinking nature. Make no mistake this is a sweet rum.

A specialty rum it is currently at the NSLC for $59.99. Tad bit sweet for my tastes but it sure is delicious. Dangerously so even if it is only 35% by volume.

Medieval Liripipe Hood Modifications

A few years ago I had purchased a medieval chaperon hood with an extended liripipe. Made from 100% wool it was well constructed but didn't quite fit me comfortably or the way I would have preferred it to wear.

What is a Liripipe? A Liripipe was an early Middle Ages chaperon hood and cloak combination that included a long tail off the back of the hood. The length of the tail varied and there is some debate as to the purpose; simply a fashion statement or, as I am inclined to believe, a built in scarf depending upon the length of material. Seems logical and when the cloak across the upper torso needs to be snugged tighter in cold or wet conditions using the tail to wrap around one's neck is effective at keeping out the weather. Any period show or movie worth it's salt usually has characters in some type of hood and is usually one of the few things they get right in terms of historical accuracy.

One of the benefits of being between jobs is having time on my hands to do some house keeping before I get back out there in the real world. Wintery weather and the loss of power this morning meant I had the opportunity to grab the Liripipe and sewing box to finally attempt some modifications.

I had a couple issues; the cloak was not quite wide enough to fit my shoulders and the hood was very large even for my fat head while clad in a hat or helmet. To address the cloak I separated the panels by about three inches then sewed the exposed edges to create a series of inverted "V's" along the bottom hem. Not only is it historically accurate but allows the mantle to expand and better drape the width of my shoulders.


As for the hood I simply folded back the perimeter by about two inches and sewed it in place within the interior of the hood. It satisfactorily addressed the adundance of fabric hanging over my face while still allowing lots of room for caps, maile or padded coifs or helmets. A side benefit was it created a stiffer hem line that kept the hood in place more effectively.

Much better!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Celesta - The Archer's Helmet

Finally got around to purchasing an archer specific helmet to add to my medieval kit. I prefer the bascinet which better fits the historical time frame of my gear but opted to purchase the celesta simply due to availability and price. Known as the archer's helmet it was a simpler variant of the sallet that was preva!ent in the15th century and used through out Europe.

Archer's were typically the poor cousins of the medieval battlefield in terms of pay and armor but their lot had improved by the 1400's. By the 15th century veteran archers and crossbowmen often had basic armor usually a mix of gambesons, mailes, coats of plate, jacks, brigadines, helmets and some plate. It could be a mixed bag of protection either inherited, scrounged from the battlefield, purchased or granted by the Lord's armouries.

It was always a matter of balance between protection and mobility. Archers and crossbowmen were expected to join in melees during a battle but also needed to be less restricted in both vision, hearing and movement to facilitate their prime purpose of loosing arrows or bolts into opposing cavalry or men at arms.

The celesta helmet offered archers a decent level of head protection without restricting vision as it did not offer cheek or neck protection like it's predecessor - the open faced bascinet. The stylized upturned tail was generally smaller and less pronounced than the sallet but afforded some rear neck protection from downward strikes from horseback.

In design the celesta was quite basic which probably was intentional as it would be easier to produce and less expensive. I am not sure if they would have had integrated suspension systems included or if wearers would have simply relied upon and used padded caps and/or coifs of padded cloth or mails.

In terms of comfort my celesta is fairly lightweight being constructed of 18 gauge steel. Historical examples generally would have been more robust using 14-16 gauge steels. When combined with a padded cap and maile coif the weight increases but remains surprising comfortable.Vision and hearing remains unobstructed and does not interfere with drawing or anchoring the bow.