Steigerwald knives had a load of goodies on display:
Peter. Now what I can safely say is that I would not have been able to forge my first sword had it not been for my two favourite Peters, the Abel and the Johnsson one;-). This is the former, and we had a chat and a beer and many a discussion and some healthy laughs, too, for he is a nice guy to boot. He again gave valuable input, and I daresay he deserves another drink next time:-D.
Die Klinge", a small, but excellent knife shop in Dortmund city. To say he is a nice guy does not exactly meet the point;-), for he has a kind of humour that can only be compared to the subtlety of a chainsaw massacre, but that´s alright with me :-D as you all know full well. If you come into a knife shop and are greeted by a action figure of Mama Bates and Chucky it must be a place worth visiting after all:-). Markus currently has a new project going on with staged seminars and asked me if I´d care to join in with a workshop or two. We´ll see what happens;-).
In fact, the expo was a hotspot of scientific research and learning. Herbert Schmidt was doing a very great lecture on Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), while the students of his school did a great job demoing the cutting capabilities and principles of guard and attack in many demoes. Talking of which, often it was not the success, but also the failure that was very impressive, for it made well clear that the skills involved in European swordfighting were highly complex. I was listening intently, for it was not easy to understand all the aspects. It did not quite help that Olaf stood by my side the whole time ranting about how he would smash up the swordfighters with his billhook and that they were all sissies. I can tell you, I was a bit stressed out, for I tried to be respectful and polite, but at the same time simply wanted to get the meaning of the lecture given. I am normally not one for ranting about something like that on the web, too, and I do not mean any disrespect or offence to Olaf, but it makes something very clear: That there´s a difference between fantasy re-enactment and historical research. Not that I want to belittle fantasy re-enactment, everyone should do what he´d like as long as he does not voluntarily harm anyone. And wanting to learn is not for everyone, either. But when I look back along my life, the happiest and most rewarding moments I had, apart from the ones I spent on my mountainbike riding along impossible ridges at lake Garda or in the Alps or through silent and solitary woods, were those at the university, when after a long day in the library you finally came across that one word or sentence in a dusty book that simply fell into place. When you got a tiny glimpse of the truth.
The students involved had of course interest in the martial aspects of swordplay, but also did a very sound demo of the research involved. It´s not about smashing your opponent to pieces (even if I trust each and every one of them to be more than capable to do that), but a responsible line of learning with a most deadly offensive weapon that at the same time stands for a psychological archetype. A sword is a very essential piece not only of our culture, but also of our psychological landscape. In the same way that the use of axe and knife has shaped our very hands and motoric and sensoric interaction, the sword has shaped our archetypical psychological landscape. And, as I would like to put it, by studying it, you might get a tiny glimpse of that hidden truth. It is not an aspect of an academic guy being better than one who is not, but an aspect of self-respect and pride in the humility of being a student of life. For I find I deserve to know more than I know now, and deserve to be a better human being next year than I am now. Everyone deserves to. But since I cannot care for everyone, I simply decided it was about time I´d do what I want, and that is getting a glimpse of the truth. And the sword conveys that meaning.
JT Palikkö not only is an extremely accomplished master of swordsmithing and knifemaking, but also a great and funny chap to boot. In fact, it was mainly some weird jokes we traded:-D.
On we went to the booth of Maihkel. Now Maihkel is another artist and great human being, always smiling and with a calm and steady air about him. He had many lovely art knives on display. Certainly not my piece of cake, for I tend to abuse my knives a lot, but that´s all my fault really:-).
Time was on short supply, so we just traded some friendly talk and one more smile, and off we were to my absolute highlight of the show. Having met Peter Johnsson, one of the premier scholars and craftsmen in swordsmithing, last year, and having written to and fro one or the other email, I can safely state that he has inspired my life. Unfortunately time´s ALWAYS on short supply when we meet, and a thorough discussion would take us way too far for the limited time. I have thoroughly studied his theories on sword physics, and to say I am inspired would not do it half justice.
We discussed this matter, and Peter again explained his theory that medieval sword physics, following the same principles as masonry and architecture, were designed to do exactly that. Following a kind of sacred and symbolic geometry, the sword was not only becoming a most deadly offensive weapon, but also a means of enlightenment, deeply embedded in a ritualistic canon.
What we talk about here is a philosophy dating back to philosophers like Thomas von Aquin, and, keeping in mind the other scriptures of that time, a philosophy that was called the "Solomonic master key" or "master´s sigil" in Christian natural philosophy. Musical harmony, astronomy, theology, art, medicine, law and alchemy as natural philosophy all followed these principles in order to gain "precision, subtlety, higher understanding and deeper reckoning" (Hanns Schmuttermayer, Fialenbuchlein, ca 1480, quoted after www.peterjohnsson.com).
It can be supposed that the theory is based on Pythagorean principles and philosophy, and at once something fell into place while we talked. Can it be that, just as well as the sword connects to the body when taken to hand, something happens on a deeper, more psychological level?
I have done a lot of research on the AZOTH, the Paracelsian principles of diagnostic and treatment in medicine and magic, and had tried to evaluate the facts and speculations concerning the obscure manuscript "The Cauldron of poesy", a manuscript by an anonymous scribe (featured in Eriu XXVI, in case you ask;-)) and embedded in "Imacallam in Dá Thúarad (colloquy of the two sages)" . When talking to Peter, something fell into place concerning these researchs and his theory. For just like the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci not only symbolizes a proportion in arts, but a relation to the Cosmos, thus does this theory not only represent a proportional geometry, but a relation to the whole. And as I want to state that the psyche or soul, if you like that word better, has an effect on the body, it is quite obvious that the geometry and physics of the sword has an effect on its "metaphysis" (please take note that I mean this in the sense of the word, not the connotation, meaning "Above / behind the physical"), metaphysis in this case meaning the faculties of balance, handling, "feel" directly influenced by the layout. And as the soul or psyche reacts on the physics of a sword, it must be possible to draw a line of agnition between the way the psyche reacts to the layout of an "inspired" sword as I´d like to call it. For in my book there are well - made swords, badly made ones, and "inspired" ones. The latter give the owner or the person who handles them the impression of having a "spirit" or "soul". The observations I have made, while still lacking empiric relevance, hint that this effect is not only subjective, but objective and subject to geometrical layout of the sword. This would in turn indicate that the medieval theory- that geometry is more than just a method of construction -actually bears scientific relevance. In turn, this might imply that the metaphysical aspects of those theories deserve to be considered in a modern way. I have long since suspected that the observations I have made in meditation after a medieval diagram have more significance than being but a fancy of one half-mad outcast:-P. Suffice to say that a crucial ingredient of that diagram is the Vesica, which in turn is crucial to the construction of medieval swords also. And in a symbolic meaning as well in a biological, in a physical as well in a metaphysical way the Vesica has something to do with portraying a correlation between two node points or topological fields. I smell it here, and it has my mind racing in a most positive manner.
I have now neither room or space to spread this topic out, and it will have to wait for a different post. Suffice to say, as intellectual and prosaic one might be, the effect can even be witnessed by a sceptic like Unrest, who´s now moving to and fro the possibility of writing a mathematical program to analyse the theory, be it even to prove it´s wrong;-).
So what we have here is a massive amount of inspiration, and I daresay Peter would like that a lot.
I will go back to the drawing board, so to say. And I very much look forward to the exhibition "The sword - form and thought" , a most revolutionary approach to medieval and modern swordmaking which will take place in the Klingenmuseum Solingen from September 25th. I really, really look forward to meeting the likes of Petr, Peter, Jake, Owen, JT, and all the others in autumn on the selling exposition of swords and related deviant art.
I heard it told (by wanderers:-D) that the motto of the event which is more or less an Arctic Fire event gone "sober";-), will be the forging of Xiphos, "penetrating light", originally the name of an iron age type of sword, but now the concept of a combined effort of the best swordsmiths in the Western world.
So the event will offer enough interesting input for all aficionados, swordsmen and philosophers. In October, it will be followed up by a HEMA martial arts workshop and an exhibition.
After a good hour´s intense talk we went on our merry way. Please do not take me wrong: There was still a lot to see, and of very high quality, but there was little capacity left in my brain. But the other booths I just passed in a hurry and a frenzy.
Gerhard Wieland had his really eloquent knives on display, meticulously handcrafted the "tribal" way.
Andreas Schweikert, whom I owe a lot of valuable input and inspiration. He also forges with little machinery and also does Wootz and Damascus blades. He had these machetes, Kopis and Parang and En-Nep on display. They are made from C 60 steel and well documented:
What can I say?
What an emotional rollercoaster ride. What a hotspot of extremely high quality craftsmanship and quality people. What a frenzy, but also how much inspiration.
Readers of my blog know how reluctant I was to forge my first sword. And even as I did it, I did not like the experience. But I realized one thing that I cannot deny. I am a swordsmith, and cannot help it. I did not call for it. But there are many things now pointing me into this direction. There are many, many thoughts racing through my mind now, and I can´t spill them right now.
But when visiting this expo, many things just fell into place. I cannot thank Peter enough. For offering the gear that clicked into my drivetrain of thought.