Ahead of Their Time — Early Attempts at Modern Weaponry

Military History Now

Jan Zizka, a 15th century Czech military leader who led a rebellion against the powerful Catholic Church, was a brilliant commander in spite of being totally blind. Even with this considerable handicap, Zizka did have the vision to foresee the invention of the tank 500 years before the advent of modern armoured warfare. As reported previously on this very blog, as far back as the 1420s, Zizka came up with the idea of mounting archers, arquebuses and even cannons on armoured horse-drawn carts and rolling them into battle. He called his contraptions “wagon forts”. [1] Zizka wasn’t the only one from the distant pass to envision the weapons systems of modern times. There have been a number of military innovators throughout history who developed early versions of some of the more revolutionary fighting machines of today. Here are a few of these remarkable inventions.

Bombs Away
History records the…

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Grey Matter

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era.

Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.


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Don’t be Sloppy – Guardia Alta Edition

Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

While researching for a class on Bolognese-Dardi terminology, I looked at this picture. I didn’t just see it, something about it caused me to actively look at it.


Notice how his blade is about 15 degrees from center. Now look at mine:


Pretty sloppy, isn’t it? For literally a decade I thought it was just laziness. But look at his quillions, they are traverse not forward. And his palm is turned forward so that the true edge is to the outside.

Look Good…

Marozzo isn’t just some random master at arms hired to teach peasant soldiers, he is a refined instructor of knights, noblemen, and the upper crust of merchant society. They come to him not just to learn how to use a sword, but how to look good doing so.

They don’t want to walk into a fight looking like they are already worn out. It is ok if…

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The Cutting Drill – Part 1

Ready, Set, Unsheathe

Do you know what the cutting drill is? I’ve thrown the name around in my posts maybe once or twice, but have actually neglected to clearly define it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I had described it on this blog at all. Apparently I have – sort of, anyway: Week 1 – Swords Are Heavy. About half-way through that post I start to describe the first version of the cutting drill I learned. Further into the beginner’s course this was expanded on and named the cutting drill (although we still only knew the first half of it). It is an exercise that, as the name implies, is for practicing your cutting technique. We usually spend at least a few minutes on it in the middle of every class.

The first half of the cutting drill can be summed up like this: cut down from the right, cut…

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The Cutting Drill – Part 2

Ready, Set, Unsheathe

As said in part 1, it’s time to go beyond the old “cut-cut-cut-cutting drill”. Since we happen to be three beginners and three experienced students, each beginner gets a sort-of personal instructor for this class. The first exercise we do is described below.

The defendant (me) takes the posta di finestraguard. It literally means “window guard”, and I guess I can see why.

This is a funny sort of guard. Instead of having your weight on your front foot you shift it on to your back foot (the right), but you keep facing forward. Your arms are crossed on the right side of your head and are holding the sword up in a horizontal position, so that the tip of your sword stares your opponent in the face. I’ve seen others use this guard, but this is the first time I try it. It takes a few moments…

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Fiore Longsword – Works of Richard Marsden

Medieval Anachronisms, Part 2: Tournaments

A closer look at what the Chiseldon cauldrons are made of

British Museum blog

High magnification image of one of the cauldrons

Quanyu Wang, scientist, British Museum

I am a scientist specialising in metalworking technology, particularly in relation to non-precious metals such as iron and copper-alloys. The scientific examination and analysis of the Chiseldon Iron-Age cauldrons is a key aspect of the investigative process as a whole and is crucial in supporting our understanding of them.

For the Chiseldon cauldrons I have been examining the microstructure of the metal under very high magnification in order to see its composition, deduce how it was worked and explore manufacturing techniques. Some of the questions I will be trying to answer include: ‘How were the cauldrons made?’, ‘Were different components from an individual vessel made in the same workshop?’, ‘Were the same parts, such as the iron handles for different vessels, made from the same metal stocks’ and, perhaps the most important question of all; ‘Were the cauldrons made especially for burial or collected together…

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Bede’s ‘Wilfaresdun’


I suppose this qualifies as one of my occasional ‘non-Scottish’ blogposts as it doesn’t deal with places or events in Scotland. There is, however, a slight Scottish connection, because the main event referred to here marked a significant milestone in the career of Oswiu, king of Bernicia, whose realm included parts of what are now Lothian and the Borders.

We begin with the words of an Englishman, the Venerable Bede, writing c.730 at the Northumbrian monastery of Jarrow. In Book 3, Chapter 14 of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede tells us that two northern English kings prepared to do battle with one another in the summer of 651. One was Oswine, ruler of Deira, a kingdom roughly coterminous with the pre-1974 county of Yorkshire. The other was Oswiu of Bernicia, whose territory lay north of the River Tees and whose chief citadel lay on the imposing…

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The Role of Filippo Vadi in the dei Liberi Tradition, Pt. I

Galina Krasskove recently responded to my post on patronage. You can read her response at http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/08/pagan-blog-project-p-is-for-patronage.html. You can read my post at http://swainwodening.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/patronage/. I am not going to address her post here as I have already done that in the comments section of her blog. What I want to do here is clear up a misunderstanding. A few people took it to mean from my post on patronage that I do not believe the gods interact with us. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I do think the gods interact with us on rare and special occasions sometimes in big ways. Let me share an experience with you. Many, many years ago, longer than some of you have been alive when I had not been Heathen very long I was still unsure if Heathenry was for me. I could not sleep one night, so I left my bed and laid down on the couch as I would often do when I could not sleep. I fell asleep rather quickly. Next thing I knew I was face to face with a large man with one eye. I knew instinctively that he was Woden. He then took me up on the back of his horse, and gave me a tour of the World Tree. I saw the gates of Osgeard (Asgard), the gates of Hel, the edge of Wanaham (Vanaheim), and many other places. He never spoke a word. I then awoke. It was all so vivid, so real. Ever since I have never questioned being Heathen. Was it real? Was it just a dream? I do not know and feel I am not in a position to say. I do know it set me firmly on the path of Heathenry. There are other times I feel I have felt the hands of the gods and goddesses. I was almost killed in a head on collision once at night about twelve years ago. I pulled out in the left lane to pass a car when headlights came on not more than fifty to seventy feet in front of me. Some idiot had been running dark. The car I was passing pulled onto the shoulder. The fool took the other shoulder. I passed safely between the two. I cannot credit my survival to the other drivers or to myself. I feel the gods were with me that night. I feel the gods and goddesses have gifted me in other ways. I feel I met my ex-wife because of the gods (my ruining our marriage was all my doing), and I feel being blessed with the son of my dreams was too a gift from the gods. My books stem from gifts the gods have given me. I feel the gods have interacted with me.

However, that does not mean I think I was chosen by Woden. I do not see myself as unique amongst Heathens. Indeed, I think most Heathens have had such experiences. So much so that it is nothing really special to say the gods did this or that for me when something important happens. I think it is not an everyday thing. I do not think Woden guides my every move. Indeed, one I think can go years between truly special experiences. But it does happen. The gods do interact with us. That said, I do not think there is anyone alive today that has been especially chosen by the gods. I see no one like Starkad or Sigurd. I see no one who is so blessed that it is clear they have a god as a patron. And that is where I stand. That is not to say that someday Woden or some other god or goddess will not choose someone for something special. We know from the lore, that some people were chosen by the gods and enjoyed their blessings as well as suffered their curses. It is to say that time is not now.

Grauenwolf's Study of Western Martial Arts

Part of Vadi’s goal may have been to show his art as unique, which is certainly how he promoted his work to the court of Urbino. Another possibility is that all of these guards likely originated from older sources. The Bolognese masters also used coda longa (or properly, coda longa e distessa),dente di chinghiale and porta di ferro (but these two terms mean an entire class of guards).Eisenpforte (“iron gate”) and Kron (“crown” – corona) are old German guard names, for the same positions Fiore shows as porta di ferro mezzana (“middle iron gate”) and posta frontale o corona(“frontal guard, called crown”). We have to remember that what we have is a snapshot in time of how the guards look c.1409 in Ferrara, c.1482 in Urbino, and c.1500 – 1570 in Bologna. We have no linking information per se, nor anything on their origin.


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Giving Ancient Masters a New Voice: an interview with Tom Leoni, translator of Fiore dei Liberi’s the Flower of Battle.

The Freelancer

Tom Leoni is well-known in the Western Martial Arts community as a researcher and translator of Renaissance Italian fencing texts. His The Art of Dueling (2005) brought the magnum opus of the famed 17th century sword-master, Salvatore Fabris to an English-language audience for the first time. Now out of print, used copies are eagerly sought, often commanding ridiculously high prices on Ebay or ABEBooks.

In 2010 and 2011 Tom expanded on his investigation into 17th c swordplay with Freelance’s Venetian Rapier and Ridolfo Capoferro’s The Art and Practice of Fencing, thereby making the complete “holy trinity” of Italian rapier available in clear, concise English. In 2010’s Complete Renaissance Swordsman: A guide to the use of all manner of weapons, Tom stepped further back in time, opening the doors to earliest surviving text of the Bolognese school of swordplay, which contained a vast curriculum of weapons.

But before joining Freelance…

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The Role of Filippo Vadi in the dei Liberi Tradition, Pt. I

(c) 2010 Gregory Mele, Chicago Swordplay Guild

When I teach at workshops and seminars, I am often told something along the lines of this:

I’m surprised that the man who co-authored the reproduction on De arte gladiatoria dimicandi doesn’t work more with the hallmarks of Vadi.

It’s a fair question, and suggests that in 2001, when I was working on my edition of Vadi, I did not yet have enough understanding of the larger dei Liberi tradition to separate Vadi’s brilliance from the marketing hype aimed at securing him a position at the court of Urbino. While Filippo Vadi defines his art as “newly made”, and specifically draws attention to several supposedly unique features, a study of his work against Fiore dei Liberi’s shows that this is a bit of clever marketing on Vadi’s part. As such, Vadi’s value is not in the tweaks he provides to the mainline of…

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Ostara – Eostre – Eástre – Austriahenea

Ostara - Eostre - Eástre - Austriahenea

Hail Eostre!
Spring has come to the Southern Hemisphere!

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Fáfnismál – “The Ballad of Fafnir”

Sigurth and Regin went up to the Gnitaheith, and found there the track that Fafnir made when he crawled to water. Then Sigurth made a great trench across the path, and took his place therein. When Fafnir crawled from his gold, he blew out venom, and it ran down from above on Sigurth’s head. But when Fafnir crawled over the trench, then Sigurth thrust his sword into his body to the heart. Fafnir writhed and struck out with his head and tail. Sigurth leaped from the trench, and each looked at the other.

Fafnir said:
1. “Youth, oh, youth! | of whom then, youth, art thou born?
Say whose son thou art,
Who in Fafnir’s blood | thy bright blade reddened,
And struck thy sword to my heart.”

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Biarkamol hin Fornu – “The old Lay of Biarki”


The old lay of Biarki.

1 “Awake, arise, rally, friends!
All ye foremost athelings of Hrólf!
Awake not to wine nor to your wives’ converse,
but rather to Gondul’s game of war.”

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Baldrs Draumar

Baldrs Draumar

1. Once were the gods | together met,
And the goddesses came | and council held,
And the far-famed ones | the truth would find,
Why baleful dreams | to Baldr had come.

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Mad tattoo-idea!


Thick Black Line

Thankfully the Blue Moon has now passed so hopefully things will swing back towards “normal”…whatever that is!!


…Once in a blue rune, ahahahahaha!!……Ran out of Time!! Tom brought some much need sanity to the shop!

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Two masterpieces of classical sculpture survive 2000 years under the sea

Aristotle, Greek tourist guide

Happy 40th anniversary, Riace Bronzes!

Riace ARiace B

On August 16, 1972, Stefano Mariottini, a Roman chemist on vacation in Calabria, was dive fishing in waters just 26 feet deep off the Ionian Sea coast of Riace, Italy (the toe of the boot) when he saw what appeared to be a human arm in the sand. It was so realistic he thought it belonged to a dead person at first. On closer inspection he saw it was attached to a statue on its side and that there was another statue on its back lying next to it. He alerted authorities and police divers returned with oxygen-filled balloons to carefully lift the statues out of the seabed.

Crowds flock to the bronze as it's recovered from the sea, 1972

The find caused a sensation. Very few ancient bronzes have survived because they were frequently melted down in later eras for their metal. Most of the Greek bronzes we know of no longer exist in their original…

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