Friday, July 22, 2016

Why woad?

I've seen a lot of posts recently relating to woad, so I've decided to do a little miniseries. In addition, Etaine na Preachain and I will be doing a class on modern applications for woad at Preachain's Pennsic Early Period A&S Day on August 10, 2016.

So.... many of the posts I've seen recently related to folks trying to find "alternatives" such as modern make up or modern body paint. Why find an alternative when you can use the real thing? First and foremost, I'd like to say that processed woad that can be used for body paint is pretty readily available at Pennsic. If you don't go, it's easy to ask a friend to pick you up a few balls of woad from the Liminers Guild for $4 each. I'm still looking for an online source and will add it here when I find it.

What is woad?
Woad is made from the woad plant (Isatis tinctoria). Woad is one of the original sources of blue dyes. The plant is native to Europe and has been gathered and/or cultivated by humans since the stone age.

How is the pigment in woad derived from the plant?
The leaves are chopped up into a fine paste, formed into balls, and left to dry for about four weeks. Then, it was sprinkled with water and allowed to ferment. The resulting balls are then powdered, and for use as body paint, mixed with water or whisky.

Historical Evidence for Woad as body paint
According to historical accounts, the Britons "dye their bodies with woad, which produces a blue colour" (Caesar, Gallic War, V.14; also Pomponius Mela, III.6.51). In ancient times, it seems to have been used as a ceremonial accompaniment to battle, whether to intimidate foes or paint symbols of protection.

Some scholars also speculate that the plant was believed to have magical properties, based on its medicinal applications- the ability to staunch bleeding and anti-bacterial properties (Carr, 2005). Such properties would have been ideal for a body paint worn into battle!

Modern Uses
In modern reenactment, it is used before battle to beautify and to unify, and to allow the artists to put love in the form of art on to each warrior before a battle. It is used before we have ceremonies, to signify the importance of an occasion and connect us with our ancestors. The act of applying woad is an act of art in and of itself, in which the artist strives to use the natural features of the body to enhance the woad.

Many fiber artisans who spin, dye and weave their own fabrics still use woad as a dye to achieve shades of blue and/or indigo.

Next up in the series: Processing Woad to Create Body Paint


Monday, June 27, 2016

A new foundry, more casting, and Pennsic prep

This weekend, we worked hard to get ready for Pennsic and complete a few other projects.

I was working to pressure wash our tents to prepare them for being water-sealed again.

Murdaigean and Pandishar also rebuilt the forge. We also finally got our casting sand, and so they couldn't wait to try it out:

Here's the final products, so far:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Red Branch Update

So, we made it back from Gulf Wars. Since then, without at least one truck among us, it has been harder than ever to make it to events. We did make it to Highland River Melees however, where we held a Red Branch Fundraiser Lunch.

First, there were some hilarious and awkward moments buying supplies.

Then we set up for lunch. We had so many happy customers. We'll be back next year, for sure! Here's our setup.

Later, we heard that the feastcrat's volunteers had bailed, so Chase and Ceanag headed over to help out. After we got everrything put away, Murdiagean did some woad....

All in all, a productive weekend, and we couldn't be more thrilled with the new friends we met. Next up: road to Pennsic, replete with tent repairs, tabard making, and casting!

~Ceanag an Craobh Dearg, Warlord of Red Branch

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Red Branch Gulf Wars

This Gulf Wars marked our first event at which we had our own Red Branch Camp. Getting there was quite a challenge, given that my truck blew a head gasket only 2 hours from DC. We all 4 loaded our stuff into another truck, and were on our way the next day.

Thanks to the generosity of our sister clanne, Crawhere, who gave a generous portion of their land to us. Here are some pics:

We also fielded 2 fighters and 2 waterbearers. We fought town battle and ravine battle. Here's a pic:

The day of the field battle heraleded rain, and was also St. Paddy's Day- we had planned to go to New Orleans for a day trip. However, given that heavy storms were predicted, we chose not to do our daytrip, and instead spent the day trying to "batten down the hatches".

Turns out, no amount of "battening" prepares you for an F1 when you're in a tent. Here's what it looked like:

Friday found all battles canceled and the four of us working to pick up the pieces. We got most things dried outand pre-packed before more rain came, then we headed up to the long hall. There, we spent the evening in song, and serving tasty meats and more to all who came to the long hall that evening. 

We packed up and headed out Saturday morning, stopping for a quick good-bye meal with some of the Crawhere folk at Cracker Barrel before truly hitting the road.