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Freitag, 28. August 2015

The xiphos concept and Satsujinken-Katsujinken

Okay, you have watched this video already...;-), and it´s just for starters. This project is more and more fascinating me.

In Myles Mulkeys poem about the sword forged by Petr Florianek for the exhibition "The sword-form and thought", taking place at Klingenmuseum Solingen, there is a strong emphasis on the civilizational aspect of defending the mead hall, and thusly the hearth fire. In an unfathomed world of wild woods and mountains, wild animals and creatures that are less than man but more than beast, of Evil and savage beings lurking at the forest´s edge, respite is only found in the "comfort of home and kin/ the house of music/ song of lyre / the gleaming joy of bright hearth fire".

In Beowulf this respite is assaulted by exactly this representant of the savage forces of the wild, Grendel, a being that is more and less than human, belonging to the wild. In classical Arthurian romance from Chretien de Troyes to Wolfram von Eschenbach, there is always a kind of double - loop - structure with the Arthurian court serving as an anchor point; the hero comes from the civilized world to the court to venture (aventiure: what comes to the hero) out into the wild. The wild is a place where giants, hermits, fairies and trolls live. Grendel belongs to that sphere. He is a troll, so to say, even if he is not called that name in Beowulf, for it is a Northern Scandinavian word. There is a strong etymological connection of the relatively modern word "troll" to the ancient word "þræll", thrall. A Thrall was a member of society which had not the same rights as Jarl or Karl. In some cases, the þræll slaves captured on raids, but it is almost safe to say that even more so the þræll were formerly free men who were sentenced to thraldom due to debts or other transgressions against the laws of society. þræll had next to no human rights whatsoever, and they were very much subject to the capriciousness of their masters. Some few of them might even have led a life with not as many hardships and could become free again by working hard, but more often than not they were just like slaves. They had no right of bearing arms, severe restrictions towards housing, food, and even sexuality and could be killed without further ado. It is safe to say that some of them preferred to hide in the woods to become outlaws. They were "skóggángr" not because of a sentence, but to remove themselves from the hardships of thraldom. This trade is of very much questionable bargain, for they had to flee the company of their fellow humans and had no part in human society anymore. This made them very dangerous to human society; deprived of their humanity, they were no longer obliged to follow the laws of man. Their life must have been even harder than that of þræll in society, and despair must have been their constant companion.

Lacking weapons to succeed in survival in the wilderness, they either had to develop skills and prowess or steal from the society they had to abandon, or both. This is one aspect of the "troll" that endangers society. Even in modern internet language, a troll is someone who defies the cultural consent, e.g. in internet forum platforms. But there is more to the troll than just the sociological and historical aspect. Trolls were associated with sorcery (gáldr) and witchcraft (seidhr), so much in fact, that some curses worked in an indirect way; to curse someone you had to insult the trolls in his name to inflict their revenge upon that person.

Given that some þræll in fact were "imported" from Sápmi, and enslaved from the indigenous Sáami peoples with a strong background in shamanism (which in fact, is the very essence of galdr and seidhr, as in divination, the lore of potions and rituals to reach the other world), it can be argued that this might give further evidence to this theory. Also, the Sáami people are genetically distinct in the whole of the North and thusly look different, too. So there is another aspect: A xenophobic impulse to demonize an obviously different kind.

This historical ground might have paved the road for the mythological spice. In Norse mythology, there was the antagonist race of the Gods, the more primeval giants, powerful, but demonic forces. The Gods were the ones civilizing the wilderness by building Asgard, Midgard and Utgard and the nine worlds, but they were not responsible for the world tree, Yggdrasil, nor what lay beneath. The worlds of man and Gods were constantly threatened from outside: In the Iarnwíd (iron wood) around Asgard (and Midgard), out (út) side the circle or orchard (gárdr) there lived the jótunar (jótunn) or thursar, the giants and trolls of old. Given that mythological grammar always takes place in "illo tempore" (THAT time) in contrast to the "haec tempore", the actual time and in "illo loce" (THAT place), myth always mirrors reality and the other way round. What now becomes a most intriguing aspect of this process is that this is not a one-way street, and follows fractal logic. So what happens in "illo tempore" sees a manifestation in actual time. Along these lines it was possible to build the actual Babylon by driving an iron pole into the soil to fix the would-be, potential Babylon to the earth of every day life by "nailing the Tiamat (snake of Chaos)" (Mircea Eliade). So Asgard is a symbol coinciding the act of building Asgard in the wild by tricking the frost giants out of it with the act of building a home in a hostile environment. Now comes into play what I would like to call a dualistic coincidentia oppositorum; for troll and god are two aspects of the same process or state of being; one, representing the untamed, hostile wilderness and the other the order of human society. I personally believe that troll and god are psychological aspects united in one.

Now let us conclude: The troll represents the untamed wilderness. In a world where wilderness reigns supreme, this is a threat to mankind. By myth and by magic, by cunning and craft, man strives to preserve "the gleaming joy of bright hearth fire". The troll, who stands outside of human society, threatens the delicate balance and therefore has to be extinguished.

I recently read a most excellent article on the martial arts and zazen concept of Satsujinken-Katsujinken. Roughly translated from Japanese this means "a sword of life-a sword of death" or "the sword that kills, gives life". This is somewhat difficult to understand. In short, it is exactly what Myles says in his poem:

"(...)the one respite
Found by men
Is the comfort of home and kin;
The wooden walls
Of carven hall
Of roof and rafters raised up tall,
The house of music,
Song of lyre,
The gleaming joy of bright hearth fire.
(...)
Bold heroes must
Make safe that place
Holding monsters in grim embrace.
With bare hands
And their wills alone,
They could not hope
To return home.
And so the smiths
Did labour long
To craft the lute
Of raven song;
They forged a sword
And clad it in
Moonlit silver and ember gems.(...)" (Myles Mulkey, Béado-Léoma, 2015)

The ritualized centre of the "gárdr" was the hall, the "house of music", but this was not all about this building. In the hall there was spoken justice, tales of lore were told, tradition was kept, alliances were forged. It was the very centre of civilization, and civilization was crucial for the survival of the kin and families. It was crucial for life. In Beowulf, Grendel kills every guest of Hrothgar, the prince of the Danes. So he threatens life, as the trolls and the creatures of the night in Myles´poem and in the concept of Petr´s sword. Satsujinken is the sword that kills. In order to preserve life, the opponent, the creatures of the night, the demons of the wild, have to be killed off, fended off, so that life can be defended. Thusly, the sword that kills, preserves civilization, and thusly, gives life.

But a sword that kills to preserve life, still kills. The question in Zazen now is, is it legitimate to kill 100 bad guys (which would be legitimate in that line of thought) in order to preserve the lives of 10 innocent people? Or, is it legitimate to sacrifice 10 innocents to preserve the lives of 100? And, what is Good and what is Evil?

Let me now look at it differently. Nowadays, the story just goes the other way round. We have one of the most complex civilizations in history. Crops are genetically manipulated, there is little wilderness left. Many wild animals died out because we "fended them off", "defended ourselves", killed them. Wolf and bear and birds of prey have been routed because they endangered our civilizational asset. But the scale is turning; by doing so we completely messed up the ecological balance. Even the sword, which was replaced first by the gun and then industrial killing machines, machine guns, tanks, rockets, now is belonging to a subconscious part, to the wilderness we strove to rout. But killing this off only leads to more killing, and we killed the stories and tales of lore and the mead hall together with wolf and bear and troll.

Wolf and bear and troll were feared in ancient times, but also respected in the early period of civilization, when the mead hall was an actual respite. Later on, killing them became a sport. Christianity gave many princes and champions the legitimation to rout what did not fit into civilization; head prizes were paid for the killing of wolf, bear, man and "troll". Everyone and everything that or who did not fit into the gárdr, had either to bend to fit the scheme or was killed. This is not necessarily due to the actual gospel, but more often than not might have its roots in the fact that most people were illiterate and just sought a legitimation to live out their violent mindset or even their fear, as it is still the case. The "go forth and multiply" and the assumption of power over the Earth in my book was never meant to be THIS way. But the wine is spilled, the deed is done, the wench is pregnant, so to say. The sword, that much is safe to say, no longer is the symbol of our time. It is tank, and whip, and credit card. The sword has been discarded into the wilderness in the back of our minds, together with cross and Bible, tale of lore, wolf and bear and troll and fiend, God and Giant, magic, even science. Mammon reigns supreme and the end justifies the means. Grey Gods rule from the top story of temples of glass, gold and concrete, grey gods of their own devices decide the ins and outs of life and death, with scarce mercy and with jaundiced eyes they survey this world for bargain. They calculate loss and bargain, and nothing more. They are not evil, but they stand opposed to the concept of good and evil. They are not black nor white but strive to bring an eternal grey. They do not mean any harm. They destroy life in itself.

The bad news is-they are us.

What we have done is irreversible. We have destroyed an entire world of life while we thought to preserve life. The question is not who is the bad guy anymore, but when or where we were going amiss.

I personally would say that we have to accept that there are two worlds, and both are absolutely necessary for our survival. To wield the sword that gives life we have to accept there has to be a balance. We have to be troll and warrior, fiend and defender at the same time. We have to be balanced ourselves. We have to be coincidentia oppositorum, sic et non, yin and yang.

It is hard to understand, but it´s time to lay down the sword. It´s time to take up the sword and fight to the death. It´s time to kill and hate and love and give life. It´s time to inflict wounds and heal wounds-but it is also time to inflict only those wounds we can heal, to take life only if we can give or have given life. The hands of a king are the hands of a healer...

Phrases at first glance, well, and contradictory ones. To understand this we have to realize exactly what we have done; and I personally have the impression that our mistake was to kill off ALL of the wilderness. With no wilderness there can be no respite, without darkness there can be no light. At least humans cannot tell the difference. Without being able to tell the difference, there is indifference. Indifference is a grey void. So, by killing off all the wilderness around us and in ourselves, we also killed the gleaming joy of the hearth fire, and we extinguished even the roaring dragon fire of the forge, and the sometimes violent flame of poetry and knowledge gained thereof. Without all of this, there can be no hero, no sword, no song, no smith, no birth, no life.

So we can assume that this our cherished civilization threatens the very centre of life. Paradoxically, it should not be called "uncivilization", for it is civilization that threatens itself. We need Satsujinken-Katsujinken in order to restore it. Civilization is not an enemy. The parody we have made of it is one, but there is no one to blame but ourselves.

My personal line of thought along the lines of trying to solve the problem is what I like to call "Skóggángr" (hey, I have a midlife crisis, so I must be allowed to found a sect of my own, don´t I ? *ggg*). What I mean by this is, that ancient knowledge learned by tale of lore is not dead. It is alive in fairy tales and sagas and manuscripts from the medieval age, in children and old people, in love and lust and joy, in the forest and the green, in traditional bushcraft and housekeeping and homesteading and martial arts, in crafts and arts. We just have to learn to live anew. This goes as far as learning to walk naturally again, to eat food we are made to eat, to wear clothing that does exactly what it should, namely clothe one and not tie one down like a webbing load restraint assembly, to speak, and dream, and sing.

Béado-Leoma not only is made for trolls. It´s made for ourselves. It is a chance. Xiphos is the "piercing light", the motto of the exposition. Four swords have been forged. Four swords were born from fire and the dark soil. Four piercing lights shine in the darkness. But five fingers hold the handle of the sword-birth, life, love and death. Where is the thumb?

Jake Powning found the words of Ursula K. Le Guin:

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky. (Ursula K. Le Guin)

for his beautiful sword he made for the expo. To me, it hits the nail on the head.

Only in silence the word means to me, that while we have access to myriads of therabits (and pieces, pun intended), and there´s always someone talking, we cannot hear the word anymore. We need silence in order to hear what matters, in the world, but more so in ourselves. We have to listen closely to the wilderness within and the bright hearth fire, to troll as well as god.

Only in dark the light: Anyone seen the stars in a big city recently? In order to see the stars, we need a dark sky without light pollution. Working for a city marketing I am well acquainted with the term "territories and spaces of fear", meaning dark places where Mr. Boogeyman MIGHT lurk. In order to prevent Mr.Boogeyman from doing us harm, we light everything with glaring lights, to an extent that we destroy the ecosystem with it, shortly said and vastly abbreviated. But the dark still remains, and if the lunatic Mr. Boogeyman can´t shoot you in the dark, he will just as well do so in the light. We are weak, and instead of getting stronger, we bend the world to our desires. But we pay dearly for that, for we can´t see the stars anymore.

Only in dying life: Oh, we play at being immortal. Our medical science is vastly superior for those who can afford it. We pay for it, and our doctors are bought and paid for; but they market their products, and we pay with fear. Will that virus kill me? Will that flu be my end? Better take some antibiotics... blimey, doesn´t work anymore, virus has adapted to it. Of course, that´s not all there is, and if I am sick, I visit a doctor, if I cannot help myself anymore. But fear is our constant companion. Death walks with us every day of our lives. It gives valuable council, but fear makes us constanly gibber on endlessly like "bibbybabbabubbu" in order to silence death. The bad news is, it won´t shut up just because we want to. And so we fear even more.  And our betters tell us in order to be deprived of all fear we just have to abandon our dreams and beliefs and passions and affections, for they are dangerous, and we confuse sedation with peace.

Freedom is not being without laws. Freedom never is free. It is lonesome, and there is an empty sky to be crossed. But only then we can live our truest light. Only then we can forge our inner sword, our dragon´s spine, our pillar of fire, our tree of life. Only then can we fly.

Only then are we legitimate to take up the sword. Yeah, we WILL fall. We will do worse than we intended. We will make mistakes, we ultimately WILL die. We will be sad. We will be lonesome, and bitter, and hurt. We will be faced with our dark side.

But the hero walks into the darkness wielding the flame. He wields the flame of life even when he deals death. There is nothing simple anymore, and in order to find your appropriate master these days, you have to be a master yourself. But walking the way has no alternative. And things will find themselves, and everything will fall into its place. Oh, no, it will not necessarily be all good. But there will be stories-if we tell them. There will be drawings and paintings-if we paint them. There will be wild love-if we live it. There will be stars-if we dare to walk out alone into the night.

And, maybe a long time from now, we will find a tiny spark of the hearth fire beneath the ashes of grey, and maybe with our flesh and bone we can kindle it anew.

I wished it should not have been in my time, but it is idle to wish. What I wish is without relevance.

But still, there is this spark waiting for me.

Isn´t it all a great adventure?;-)

On the bench-slicey springy spring steel things

Now this is something of a challenge. Friends of ours had asked for some really thin blades for re-enactment camping, as thin and slicey as it would go and stronger than usual. Hm. Wait... I daresay there´s something.. can´t put my finger on it... erm... HOWDAF***???

I grumbled a bit, thought and mumbled, grumbled some more and set off to work. I figured spring steel would be best suited for the task, with a triple quench dynamic tempering, meaning slowly, deliberately sinking the blade into the quench (heated, boiling lard), and then taking it out to temper with the rest heat from the spine to a blueish hue, resulting in a blade that is not THAT hard (but at an estimated 56 HRC still hard enough). The blade is wider to make for a low profile and will get an even thinner high convex bevel than usual on water stones.
 It was not easy to take a picture of the spine. It´s 0,2mm thick at its thinnest... I am not quite sure how long it will last, but still it´s a fascinating project to learn how to make real knives, not prybars. The question is, where the best compromise will be... projects like this help me to tune in the extremes.
And some knife out of the monster Damascus billet by Matthias Zwissler. It will be a light do-it-all knife with no great frills whatsoever, but I am experimenting with some heat treating techniques. For instance, it´s already normalized, so soft you can easily file it. Still have some work to do on it, but still, I just deep-froze it. It´s not fluid nitrogene, but we´ll see how it turns out;-). I´ll keep you posted!

Harvest time is near...

 It is that time of year again when I tend to get in somewhat of a frenzy. It has been a long time ago that I started to forage for at least part of my food. This means you have to harvest when it´s ripe, obviously. There is an almost spiritual, no, there IS a spiritual dimension to this. You actually live with the seasons and the tides of sun and moon, not with an esoteric mindset, but with a very down-to-earth feeling. If you don´t know it, it´s hard to describe, but that much I can say that it gives me a feeling of sense and purpose. Sometimes it´s plain stress, but if you hold in hand the fruit of your labour and the grace of the land, it gives you gratefulness and great joy. You know where it comes from, you say a thank you to no one in particular;-), and it´s more than food, or, in this case, drink. Above you can see a balloon of bramble/apple/grape/nettle/cinnamon/ginger mead.
Right to left in that lousy picture: Bramble syrup with rose petals and nettle, Hippocras mead with birch sap, birch sap yeast, Kwaß yeast, porter yeast, honey, sloe, grape, apple, brambles, rasperries, hawthorn leaves, flowers and berries, wild strawberries, elderberries, stinging nettle, ground ivy, elderflower, violets, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice, galangal, some very few juniper berries and reduced tartarus plus some secret ingredients;-) (all of which are legal!;-)). The hippocras mead I made after recipes from Konrad von Megenberg, Hildegard von Bingen, Theophrastus Bombastus Paracelsus von Hohenheim, Edward Kelley and several other manuscripts from the high medieval ages to early modern times (Johannes Staricius, Andreas Tenzelius, etc.), valuable input by our senior blackmithing master, Kazakh Russian Viktor Paukow, plus some of my own humble experience;-). It was a right fuss to get something to read about this drink, I can tell you. Other than that I messed up with the clove, I have to be careful not to drink too much from it!;-)

It´s certainly a winter drink, reminding you of many long days of sun and radiant warmth, good for your health (blood circulation, against fever, flu and bronchitis, is de-cramping and thusly works for menstruational problems, too, relaxes the tonus and simply warms you up, and if you drink three cups it also works as a ... ummmm... erm... stimulans;-).

Fruits of my labour I am a bit proud of, for I am learning a lot by it. There´s a lot to do these days, apples ready for the harvest, pears and plums and sloe and elderberries and brambles waiting to be confected and preserved, still some blacksmithing going on and work to earn that prybar of power, whatsitsnamenow, yap, money...;-) I tend to forget...

Summer is nearing its end, and I will be tired in autumn and winter-as it should be.

And when all of my seasons have passed, I hopefully will be tired and content to sleep, too.

Dienstag, 18. August 2015

New bushcraft knife from salvaged steel and wood

 This is a new knife project that is almost entirely courtesy of the woods and the deep earth; it is forged out of ancient spring steel with a carbon content of roundabout 0,75-0,9%, and presumeably nothing else. How funny this is if you are accustomed to modern spring steel with its relatively coarse (yet normally fine enough) grain, is illustrated by the story of its making. When I first tempered the blade I treated it quite conservatively, as I always do. If you don´t overdo it, it´s even better for the blade if you quench and normalize it one time more. It turned out soft, or so I thought. Knives from this old steel always tend to feel fluffy while they actually are not. Okay, I thought, there´s enough carbon in it, so I lost a bit of a patience and treated it like "bam", not quite gently. Culprit is, it was too brittle, so when I tested it, the tip broke off. It then sat in my drawer for a while until I thought, well, there´s still enough of it left, make it work.

At a recent hammer - In at Kai´s (by the way, thank you again, bro!), I reworked the blade and did some heating the blade. I simply wrapped a wet rug around the handle and heated the blade until it showed a golden hue. Then I ground the edge line and spine line down a bit and redid the edge bevel, and here it comes.
Blurry pic, I know... but you can see there´s a hollow forged in for balance. The blade now comes in at 90 mm. The handle is made from ancient bog oak from an ancient mine in the Muttental and is some 150 years old, put on with modern mosaic pins. The steel is approximately 100 years old. I like the fact that all materials were given by the woods and earth which will be its natural habitat.

I will make a clipper sheath for it, and it´ll be ready to rumble...;-)

Mittwoch, 12. August 2015

New projects galore-on the bench

I was in a bit of a forging frenzy, so here they come:

Top to bottom-blank for a project knife, Zwissler monster Damascus, snack knife blade (2mm spine thickness) and pendant knife from Hendrichs-Damascus (15N20, 1.2842), and knife blank from monster Damascus by Matthias Zwissler... I´ll keep you posted...;-)

On the bench these days - a viking shrubbery lore;-) knife from steel I found in the woods

 Now this was a most interesting find. On a recent stroll through my backdoor woods;-) (NO!PUN!INTENDED!*ggg*) I found a piece of steel, somewhat crescent-shaped with something like a tang protruding from it. It looked as if someone had disposed of a knife in the middle of the forging process. It was rotten with rust, and a strange blooming sort of rust characteristical for high-carbon steels and had some strange jingling, ringing sound when I hit it to a stone so I thought I would rescue it and do something with it. I had called Willy and offended him (sorry, dude, again!) if I could book a smithing tutorial with him to take care of the judicial problems I was faced with at the smithy at Volker´s. To make double sure, I also called Volker, and I was surprised, for he offered me some conditions I still have to contemplate. Bad ones, but still, it´s a smithy...

So off to Witten after a long time again. It wasn´t easy for me to swallow my pride again (and again, and again, and again), but flesh will not last, but steel is eternal. I had this piece of steel that had waited for me for a long, long time, and that wanted to be a knife, no, it screamed to be one. It was not easy to forge, being a high-carbon (spark analysis was like a fireworks...) one and me not wanting to ruin it all;-). But, following the pre-form that long - forgotten anonymous smith had given it, I made a knife from it. The steel is somewhat strange, in that it showed a distinctive pattern after quenching. At first I heat-treated it quite conservatively resulting in a less than ideal temper. Testing it, I realized it had an abnormal amount of flexibility so I pushed the envelope a bit. Still it felt soft in the edge... until I chopped brass and antler with it. Weird. 
 
 The blade tapers towards the tip... The handle will see quite a lot of work still of course. It´s made from reindeer antler and a brass bolster plate.
If you look closely you can see a hint of the pattern that showed. The blade measures in at a "highly illegal" ;-) 14 cm, but I will make a sheath and a case for it that locks. It will come in handy, for it is well balanced and without any stropping whatsoever is already bitingly sharp. It will make a good bushcraft and re-enactment knife, I guess.

My thanks go to Willy without whom this knife would not have been possible, and to Volker, even if I still have my grave reservations.

I will keep you posted on the progress and of the name-finding process...

Donnerstag, 6. August 2015

Helluva knife blog;-)

I recently came across this very great knife, tool and skills blog:

https://nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com/

In it are featured many aspects of Scandinavian knife- and tool culture. For instance, Pasi Hurttila shows you how to forge a hatchet with a lot of valuable input:

https://nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com/2015/07/19/forging-a-hatchet-by-pasi-hurttila/

I was also very fond of a great tutorial on a woven birchbark knife sheath:

https://nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/tuohi-birch-bark-in-finnish-culture-by-eero-kovanen/

https://nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/tuohituppi-birch-bark-sheath-a-tutorial-by-eero-kovanen/

The blog offers a clean homepage and a logical navigation via the wordpress system. It offers a lot of interesting features on knifemakers, blacksmiths, agricultural tools, bushcraft supplements as pouches, bags and sheaths and offers tutorials on half-forgotten techniques, very informative and well-structured tutorials by accomplished craftsmen.

If you´re into Scandinavian knifemaking culture, bushcraft or just a handicrafts and arts aficionado, go pay it a visit, it´s well worth it!

Viking Bling shopping;-) with the magic troll - flea market galore

 Oh the loot! Oh the loot! How it befits us so cute!;-)

On a recent flea market just round the corner the magic troll and I went for a bimble, not for buying anything, of course. We are both very sensible persons, you know, very prosaic and not at all prone to fall in love with bling and buying our heads off for some goodies.;-)

...errr... no...?!;-)

It was on just about the first booth we came across, that we found a lovely amber chain from raw amber, stuffed tight, and this beautiful dagger with a brass sheath. The guy at the booth claimed it was a Jemenite Jambiya, but some research showed it was of Syrian provenience. A quick check for hardness showed that it was actually even tempered, presumeably forged from spring steel. At the same booth we got the Kauri shells, for free! On another booth we got a silver "Kalevala" moon-goddess pendant, a beautiful interpretation of some Finnish Viking age finds, and an Afghan silver necklace pendant. Those files I got for 2 €, and the beautiful wooden turned container out of true Corse juniper with this lovely high-lustre shellac finish, and the antler cost 5 € total.
 A closeup of the dagger and the sheath, the lunula pendant and the other delicacies:-).
Let me give you some thoughts about it. We talked a lot to the people who sold the stuff, and, treating them with the respect everyone should deserve, we soon learned a bit about their stories. Most were common people selling what was on the attic to gain some space, and some were actually traders doing it for fun. But all of them related to the same problem.

"Most customers nowadays lack any respect. They rummage through the display as if their life depended on it, and like jackals they vomit on what they cannot eat."

 I have witnessed this kind of behaviour myself countless times. And then those "customers" offer ridiculous prices, or throw insults at the trader. Theft is common.

The pictures above tell a story. To us these goodies are cherished treasures, valuable resources and a source of joy. And the stories behind these make them even more valuable to us, as do the people who formerly owned them. Of course did we do some bartering, that´s part of the game, but you can barter without belittling your business partner. It can be quite a fun game, if it is kept polite and nice.

I daresay the people we bartered with were more willing to offer their goods at a lower price because we were polite and nice to them and gave them the feeling that what they did mattered to us (it did).

Many of the traders announced that they will be giving up on it. That would eventually lead to flea markets being only composed of trash sales booth with special-waste-clothes and beeping toy cars.

By being polite and ready to pay a suitable price tag we can do something against this development.

All in all, however, it was a great day with a load of goodies to be had, and we went home with a huge grin, prepared some good food and chatted happily about our treasures no less.

But chance is, this will not be forever.

Montag, 27. Juli 2015

Beado-Léoma, the Battle-light - Swordsmiths, wordsmiths and museum expositions

We are currently working on a very, very fascinating project. Petr had come visiting recently, and we had good fun together feasting and drinking and talking bullshit ;-) (Thanks for totally screwing our minds, Petr!:-) We´ll never get that song out of our heads, and we see mushrooms everywhere...*ggg*) as well as some great in-depth discussions. But what was most intriguing to us that we had the chance to see one of his most recent works of art.


This is the sword beado - léoma (Anglo-Saxon for Battle - Light), a sword in the line of the most intriguing epic poem Beowulf, and a very eloquent incarnation of many Kenningar for the hero himself. For instance, the animal on the pommel, is a bear that stands for the name of the warrior, for "Beowulf" means "bee-wolf", hence a bear. The bees on guard and pommel stand for honey and mead which is served in the hall Héorot, the mead hall of king Hrothgar, where the drama takes place. The sliding piece for the belt on the sheath is carved in the shape of a mead hall with shingles. Those shingles stand for civilization, a roof, that provides warmth and protection from the wild things. The garnets stand for the glow and warmth of the hearth fire.

Now it all becomes wonderfully fascinating, for Myles Mulkey, bladesmith, swordsmith, author and poet had written a beautiful poem that in my opinion reflects the atmosphere best. It will be featured in the catalogue of the exhibition, together with a translation. You can get it here as soon as it´s printed.

The magic troll and myself guided Petr to Solingen and helped him deliver the sword for the oncoming exposition "The Sword - Form and Thought", which will take place at Klingenmuseum Solingen from the 26th of September to 28th of February 2016.

And while he was not so sure the museum would like the fact he had a poem to go along with the sword, it turned out very well. Dr. Grotkamp - Schepers, head director of the museum, was quite enthusiastic about the sword and poem. In fact, it was great to see all of the staff being extremely motivated around the exhibition, so much in fact that some of them even cancelled their holiday to be able to see the first sword arriving and having a chat with Petr. The only problem was the translation of the poem...

So we offered our help;-).

For free.

Bummer, I hear you say, you are a bunch of punks, what, for free? Nothing´s free, and you could use the money!
 
Let me explain this, for this is not how this thing works. It is not about earning money in this case. It is about being part of a modern hero´s tale. It is about being swordsmith and wordsmith. It is the gathering of the hosts, a muster of wizards and scholars, and it is a very unique thing taking place, something that is far more than "just" an exhibition. Mrs. Grotkamp - Schepers is a dyed-in-the-wool scientist, but I daresay she feels it herself, as does everyone at the museum, as does any smith and poet involved.
 
And for us two it is an opportunity to give the grey god a right kicking up the spine. He takes reign over the souls and lives of men in our society, befouling our everyday life. But this sword and the poem - and the other swords in the exhibition are a whisper from the dawn of time. It is maybe a bit bold to say it is something sacred happening here, but to me it feels exactly like it. But it is nothing like a fancy or a dream. The exhibition is centered around the topic of the xiphos, an iron age secondary Greek weapon. All of the swords in the exhibition are made around this topic. The name means "piercing, penetrating light". 
 
In Myles´ poem civilization is represented by simple but crucial things. The roof of the mead hall, family and kin, the hearth fire, mead and food. The sword is a representant of these things, and, more so, defends them.
 
The sword that Petr has created is a brutal weapon. Its balance is willingly nothing like eloquent. It is straightforward and front-heavy, made to chop off the limbs of an unarmed adversary, such as an evil spirit referred to as "trolls" or "thurses" threatening those simple things of civilization, not for eloquent fencing, but for fighting with brute force.
 
But the culprit is, it´s made to defend, not attack. It represents the hearth fire. In its glow the new life is born, tales are told, and it gives light through the darkness of winter. The hero himself has to wield it. In order to overcome the threat he has to become the threat himself, a brute force (Eliade). He gains supernatural power, but in every hero tale there is a point where he is confronted with his own mistakes, and Germanic lore is full of tragic heroes. But the threat is to be overcome, and the individual does not count.
 
It is the simple things the hero fights for. It is not 300% increase of gain p.a., not the fourth TV and the third laptop. In a world of darkness the hearth fire becomes crucial for survival. Literally speaking, we live in a world that is - in a metaphorical way, of course - not so different from the world of Beowulf. It is threatened by dark things lurking in the twilight, just outside our perception. What remains is the metaphorical hearth fire to be protected, the mead hall and the birthing place as simple things that make our world. It has not changed, but has been obscured by darkness and too much light, by mist and nonsense notions. And it is a sad metaphor becoming true that the bees are dying out.
 
To us piercing light is shod unto the mead hall. To us the tale and the warmth and the company, bees, honey, mead and fire have a place. And the sword should defend it with brutal force.
 
Piercing light is secondary in that it is a secondary weapon, and in that it is the last-ditch resort of the warrior, it requires an all-or-nothing effort, speaking within the confines of the metaphor. And also speaking in the confines of the symbol, piercing light is what we need in order to analyse the threat that befouls our society.
 
We have to give it all or nothing to defend the mead-hall and its hearth fire.
 
Ask again why we do it for free.;-)
 
Cheers to Petr and Myles, lift your swords up high and shake them like wild boars!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mittwoch, 8. Juli 2015

New clipper sheath for my hadseax

 Bit of a blurred photo, apologies for that, but I guess the idea is clear. I love these sheath models these days. Oh, why does he make a modern sheath for a re-enactment knife? - you might ask.
To me it is far more than just a knife for bbq-ing in a costume. A knife to me is an everyday item, and as I also tend to wear the shalwar pants I made for re-enactment more and more, in the woods, but also for going to the grocer´s, because they are practical, I also use this re-enactment knife for everyday chores as well as bushcraft. The sheath makes for a comfy carry, and as the clip does not show at all it might also make for a solution on a re-enactment fair, at least until I´ve made another sheath more suited to the A-factor (authenticity). The sheath is made from tempered , naturally tanned top grain 3mm leather with pitch twine and brass rivet, wet-formed and tempered around the knife. I achieved a hardness comparable to Kydex (and without the downsides) with it, and it keeps the seax in very well, even upside down. I like it.

Dienstag, 7. Juli 2015

Twilight treasures

 
 
After work again, and off I was to hitch the bus and drive out. Out into the rolling hills. Out into the twilight of the forest, away from the frantic ratrace and the heat of summer. Into another form of existence...
 
 As the adder sheds its skin, with a look back from the cool shadows, a look with a smile.
 Into a hall where wooden pillars bear a sky of green.
 Twilight is where my name was born, twilight reigns where few men tread, and twilight is the balm that soothes my soul.
 From the deep, deep, dark, rich soil there sprouts a crystal, quartz unfolds its blossoms over the aeons, growing steadily, stealthily in the dark, through veins of rock and subtle life that is thus alien to life it can´t be called.
 Under root and gnarled wood and rock-hard oaken portal it sprouts into the world.
 Beside the trail of deer and mouflon, of hare and fox and snake and lizard, where the tiny mouse fight their fights and survive their adventures, under a sky pierced with the song of the hunting buzzard...
 ...the gold of fae and treasures of the dirt...
 ...connect to each other like a link to link of an iron chain. And as rune to rune the spell of twilight sings into my soul...
 I see unfolded secrets from the deep, I feel unfolded from my debth myself.
 And thus I grow, grow like the oak, the mighty keeper of the gates...
 And thus I fall, like death in life and life in death.
 And so I walked in enchantment of this runic song, walked the hours away until I reached the shed in the woods  where I often sit and sip my tea and contemplate.

And smiled into my wooden cup of forest.

New hadseax with treasures of the deep

 This is a very special knife with a strong historical background. The blade is made from crucible steel I found in the woods and a middle layer of 100Cr6 ball bearing steel, 90mm long making for a great everyday companion. The ferrule is from the new knifemaking supplier in my hometown, Hennes & Mauritz. Oi there, give me a break, was that H&M?

Yap, it was, the ferrule is a fashion jewellery finger ring made from actual bronze.;-) I was quite enthused to find it and had that idea nagging at the back of my brain the whole time. The handle is made from bog walnut from the lake I lived beside for most of my life. The dam had to be repaired, and when it had dried out, I found the wood of a WWII 98k carbine´s stock. After trying to give it to three museums in the vicinity, I simply kept it, and since it was gravely damaged I decided I´d do that swords to plowshares - thing and make a knife´s handle from it. 
 Into the pommel I fitted a blood agate I found myself on the banks of the river Rhine in Cologne. A bit too much glue still...
 The blade has a severe taper from some 6 mm to zero.
 Here you can see that I still have a lot to learn how to forge a three-layer-laminate. To me it is an absolute challenge, even more difficult than to forge Damascus, because it is quite hard to get the symmetry right. Also, when forging Damascus, you can drive out any impurities in the weld in the process, but with a three-layer laminate it has to be right on first try.
Having tested it, I can safely say it´s one of the sharpest blades I have ever forged. The tip got a bit too hot when grinding, so I had to cut off a mm or so, but now it does what it should and more.

What I like best about this knife, while it does the cutting, it is also a constant reminder to me of several things. When I look at it, I remember the moon over the silent lake, the hooting of owls, the flittering of sun on the waves and ripples. I again see what I have first seen in my life-treetops of the pines and furs gently moving in the summer wind, I smell the smell of resin and mould. But I also smelled the stench of gunpowder when I worked on it. The gun it once held had fired a lot and got hot in the process, so much in fact that the smell became a part of the wood. This wood had once been a walnut tree swaying in the breeze. The gun had presumeably taken a lot of lives. When the alliance came to free Germany, the soldier who had used it threw it into the lake. Dark and still, it guarded its treasures and curses of the deep. It is safe to say that the soldier who threw this gun into this lake had been not a big-term Nazi functionary, and if he performed any deeds of heroism, those might well be those of an everyday sort. Might be he killed with a feeling of guilt. Might be he killed with a feeling of purpose. Might be he just tried to survive as best as he could, as most soldiers did and still do. The dark and deep abyss has kept the secret. The secret is a part of the wood, as is the secret of walnut leaves swaying in the wind. There are stories in the wood of children scooping up the walnuts or might be a farmer and many farmers or might be it was harvested on an industrial scale, which is most probable. And just like the wood, the stone in the pommel had also been washed up by the stream, secret in secret and  stories and tales. This is the real power of this knife. It is a weaver of nets, of webs, of dread and dreams and joy, a teller of secrets. It is a key to hidden doors of copper on an iron hill with a golden lock. It remembers the abyss and its secrets but it now lives again, not as a weapon in the first, but as a companion for a dreamer.

And last night when I went for a short stroll into the woods, I heard the cat-owl hoot.

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