Reenacting – Medieval Reality? The Science of the Middle Ages

medieval lore, medieval history, medieval creatures, medieval reenacting, bartholomew, anglicus

In any historical society authenticity is always the goal. We’re not here to portray a fantasy realm of elves and gnomes, but yet in the authentic medieval mind fantasy and reality can overlap. As an example dragons, which have been officially declared fictitious, were simply a scientific fact. The existence of dragons wasn’t just merely proven, but also explained through eyewitness observations of the creatures throughout the world by a vast array of people of diverse cultures and geography. To deny the existence of dragons was like denying the existence of yourself; an outrageous and ignorant statement.

Perhaps the best source for researching this fascinating aspect of medieval reality is in the works of the English Franciscan Bartholomew Anglicus. Bartholomew’s writings hark from the mid-thirteenth century and quickly became an immensely popular scientific textbook for the next two hundred or more years.

My historical persona, Lothar Von Degen, being well educated at the University of Trier, would most likely have purchased one of the then ten available printed editions for his studies. Perhaps he might have been considered intellectual to discuss the griffins that breed in the mountains of Hyperborean and protect a massive wealth of gems and precious stones?

Did you know that elephants collect herbs to cure their sick and raise their heads to pray to their god? Hyenas change gender every year, and sometimes dragons quench their burning thirst by flying with an open mouth against the sails of ships to catch the cold wind.

Modern science knew all these facts well, and the general populace thrilled to learn. Such information, not being a 20th/21st century interpretation but rather the actual thirteenth century accounts by learned men, can do much for us as historical reenactors to understand the medieval mind. Oftentimes the dry history books we read miss these interesting and socially influential beliefs that were held common in their day.

The true challenge of authenticity lies in the ability to distinguish the true medieval lore from the modern fantasy-theme view.

“If the sky falls, we shall catch larks.”
-common 15th century English proverb.

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