The study and practice of the medieval arts and sciences is the backbone of the society. The beauty, dignity and authenticity of our events is dependent upon our ability to understand and reproduce the things that the people of the Middle Ages considered beautiful or simply necessary.
Generally known as Guilds these exist to encourage the practice of medieval crafts by organising workshops, practice sessions and endeavouring to pass skills onto newcomers. They are always ready to welcome new members whether they be masters at their craft (in which case you can teach us) or mere apprentices (where we try and teach you!). To join a guild simply contact the Guildmaster. All the guilds have a ranking system for their members which can be summed up as follows:
- Member Anyone interested in the craft
- Apprentice A person who can do a simple item in the craft
- Journeyman A person who is learning the craft
- Master A person who is pretty darn good at the craft
- Grandmaster A person who has mastered more than one field in a guild that has them.
As with everything else in our society, titles have to be earned so one rises in guild rank by demonstrating ones ability at the craft.
Oh horrors – you joined the society because of your interest in medieval Nurdle-Funking and there isn’t a guild of Nurdle-Funkers! There is obviously only one thing to do – form your own guild. To do this you will need at least five members so, first off, start getting other people interested by writing articles and holding workshops. Your guild will then need to be chartered so go along to the next event with a principality court and inform whoever is going to herald it that you wish to petition the princess. Your petition should be signed by all the interested parties and state the following:
- That you wish to form a guild of;
- The aims of the guild (promote the ancient and noble craft of... );
- How the guild ranks are to be obtained (have a look at a few other guild charters for examples).
The Monarch will call you forth, examine your petition and, if they believe your aspirations to be worthy, grant you a charter. Congratulations, you now have a guild!
Find below a selection of enjoyable pastimes for your indulgence!
Drama in the Far Isles has something for everyone. Poems and plays can be serious, romantic, comic or bawdy but the emphasis of our work is always on good entertainment. We perform popular pieces of the medieval period and also some written by our own members. Anyone with an interest in performing the spoken word can join the Guild of Performers as an apprentice. Why not join and discover your hidden talents?
Music & Dance
Music making in the society runs the gamut from informal solo singing to rehearsed recorder consort. Under the auspices of the Performer's Guild the emphasis is on the pleasure of live music in listening and the making whether for entertainment, ceremony or dancing. The last named of these is the most consistently enlivening.
The Guild of Gamesplayers has two objectives; to revive authentic medieval games, both by playing them and by crafting the board and playing pieces needed, and to have fun in doing so. A master in the guild should be able to show a good knowledge of various games play and construction sufficent to teach others in the basics. For the truely dedicated expertise and persistence may ultimately bring the title of Grand Master; only achieved by becoming a Master Gamesplayer and Master Games Crafter as well as organising and winning several games tournaments.
The University of Riversmeet
In medieval times philosophy was considered as the most important of the sciences. The University exists, therefore, to promote philosophical debate on period subjects such as proof of the existence of God or whether the true nature of love is eros or agape! Debates are held two or three times a year at revels and the most outstanding debater, if of a high standard, will be awarded the rank of Bachelor in the University. Do join in as formal debate was one of the most important contributors to medieval progress, and can be great fun!
A detailed description of all the crafts practised within the Far Isles would fill a book of its own! So here is but a short selection to whet your appetite.
Dyers, Spinners and Weavers
The guild encourages its members to explore all aspects of the crafts, with particular emphasis on medieval techniques and materials (advancement can be made separately in the three crafts). Apart from the fun of learning and practising the crafts, producing your own cloth teaches you the value of cloth in medieval times and a great respect for the women who spun and wove all the cloth used in their households in addition to their other tasks. A small collection of books is available for loan to members and the Guildmistress can advise on sources for books and materials.
Once a new member has made some simple garb they will want to decorate it. This is where the Guild of Beadworkers comes in! Beads can be used in an endless variety of ways to decorate a costume (by sewing them on) or a body (by making jewellery). The beadworkers aim to promote such variety and decoration by advancement through its ranks in the usual manner.
This guild is dedicated to the ancient and noble art of setting fire to things! If it is burnable, then we will burn it for you (and if it isn't, we'll have a very good try... ) There is quite a call for craft of this kind in a medieval society - cooking fires, torches, candles, heretics, etc. In addition to teaching you how to do it, we will also help you obtain or make the requisite equipment, such as candles, flints, and so forth.
Brewers and Vintners
The main purpose of this guild is the dissemination of information and recipes on all manner of medieval drinks (including the non-alcoholic ones) and to encourage people to try their hand at making them.
Herbalists and Healers
This guild aims to promote interest in all forms of medicines and healing techniques that were available during the period covered by the society (with the exception of those covered by the Churgeons). This covers not just herbalism (whether the study of ancient herbals or the practical use of herbs to treat minor ailments) but would include the manipulative arts such as massage and osteopathy as well as acupuncture. The guild possesses a moderate library of both medieval and modern texts that can be consulted by members by arrangement with the Guildmaster.
There are a surprising number of period cook books available from early works like the Roman cuisine of Apicius and the 13C Baghdad cookbook, through the royal cookbooks of the 14C to the household books of the Renaissance. And what is the point of having cookbooks if you don't cook from them?
The Potters Guild is actively looking for members. The guild will be holding workshops to investigate medieval methods of making and firing pottery (yes you've guessed it lighting great big bonfires), though the use of air hardening clays will be quite acceptable for learning the basics. The guild encourages research into historical pottery and its uses (such as pot at revels) and the Guildmistress will happily advise on sources of books, materials, tools and information on this most ancient of crafts.
Producing armour, whether for use on the tourney field or simply for display, is a combination of many skills including metal work, leather work, sewing and even carpentry! Contrary to popular opinion it does not require a vast array of expensive tools or the strength of an ox (it does require endless patience and some manual skill though).
The Far Isles employs three different schools of combat:
- Motley Wolf - a 'touch based' theatrical fighting style, used mainly for displays. This is the most popular school and perfect for both beginners and experts alike.
- Steel Fighters - a 'touch based' competitive fighting style, used mainly for tournaments. This school requires skill, agility and proficiency with weapons.
- Rattan Fighters - a full contact sport using armour and wooden weapons (for added safety). This school is currently dormant and has next to no active participants.
Trying to recreate something is a lot easier to do if you know what the something actually was! The process of finding this out is called research - we hope you'll end up doing a fair bit of this !
A good place to start researching things is in a museum. These can be very helpful if you write to them in advance or just chat to the curators while you are there. Southampton museum for example let your glorious editor weigh and measure a whole lot of loom weights when he was researching weaving - Remember there is no harm in asking.
The other store house of learning is of course your local library. They probably won't have all the books you want but they can order them for you. For general type information and good illustrations try the childrens' library. Your local university library may also be open to the public - they will have some interesting books !
Finding the right book on the subject you want can be difficult. Try looking in the index of a more general book or looking through the book reviews in back issues of magazines like 'Current Archaeology' and order anything that looks useful.
One final note on research. JUST BECAUSE IT'S IN A BOOK DOESN'T MEAN IT'S RIGHT ! (for example you cannot make Curboili armour by boiling leather in oil as many a history book would have you believe because this would soften the leather not harden it!) one of the nice things about doing PRACTICAL research is that we can try things out to see if the theories could be right.
Moe information about the individual guilds and SIGs can be found in the Guild section.