Today was belly-dance class so I didn’t get home in time to do any serious A&S. I did do a little more research on the late-Merovingian/Carolingian antler salt holder I will be making for my White Wolf Fian project. You can see a picture of my model here: T shaped antler salt container. I will need to buy a big piece of antler. The largest in my collection is about half the size required to make this object, which is 15 cm in length.

I also spent some time considering options for how to close the ends. I think it would have been some sort of plug in antler, bone or wood, pegged into place. The smallest hole, at the bottom, may have had a smaller plug in the first, so that only a small amount of salt would pour out. I doubt that the plugs would be easily removed, although one would need to be removable in order to add more salt. A cover of leather might also be an option for the smallest hole, though I can’t quite decide how it would be attached to all those peg holes without letting the salt escape or get damp.Theoretically, metal might also be an option, but since this likely held salt, metal would corrode over time. I’m also considering ways to suspend this, as it was most likely worn hanging from a belt.

There are no obvious wear marks, no grooves, and no holes carved for suspension. Other examples do have them.

Medieval Dressage

Since I have my riding lesson tonight, I have decided that today’s 100 Days of A&S challenge is researching dressage.

The first thing I learned was that much of what we think of as dressage today is actually quite modern, but there are some elements that predate the Middle Ages, and others that appeared in the Renaissance. The best article I found on this was “A Brief Outline of the History of Dressage: Xenophon to Antoine de Pluvinel”, by Dr. Thomas Ritter (2009).[i]

The oldest written source that includes elements of classical dressage is a treatise by the Greek general Xenophon (430 – 354 BC). His On Horsemanship includes a few passages on the development of an animal for those riders wanting  “a showy, attractive animal, with a certain grandeur of bearing.” Xenophon insists that the rider has to win his horse’s friendship and willing cooperation. “For what the horse does under compulsion, as Simon (an earlier writer, whose work has been lost) also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer. There would be a great deal more ungracefulness than beauty in either a horse or a man that was so treated. No, he should show off all his finest and most brilliant performances willingly and at a mere sign.” He describes simple equitation (“It is a good thing also for a rider to accustom himself to keep a quiet seat, especially when mounted on a spirited horse.”), but also more advanced concepts of schooling, including collection and passage:

“What we want is a horse with supple loins… That is the horse who will be able to plant his hand legs well under the forearm. If while he is so planting his hindquarters, he is pulled up with the bit, he lowers his hind legs upon his hocks and raises the forepart of his body, so that any one in front of him will see the whole length of the belly to the sheath. At the moment the horse does this, the rider should give him the rein, so that he may display the noblest feats which a horse can perform of his own free will, to the satisfaction of the spectators.”[ii]

He gives instructions on seat, with legs quite straight and using the thighs to grip (riders did not use a saddle). The upper body above the hips should be as supple as possible. He then gives instructions on starting at the walk, then moving into a relaxed trot, the timing for giving a cue to canter on the left lead, and exercises such as the Volte (circles) to build suppleness in both sides of the horse. Riders are reminded that the horse must be collected (ie working from their hind ends) at the turns because it is safer and easier on the horse. The rider’s posture and even reins are noted as being key to having the horse steady, so neither horse nor rider fall. I get feedback on virtually all of these things at every lesson.

Xenophon’s approach to riding and training seems to have been largely forgotten until he was rediscovered in the Renaissance. On Horsemanship was published in Florence by the mid-16th century. The earliest known English edition was translated by John Astley and published by Henrie Denham in London in 1584.[iii]

The next book on horsemanship was written by King Dom Duarte I (1391 – 1438) of Portugal. His little known book “Livro da ensinança de bem cavalgar toda sela” – The Instruction of the Art of Riding in Every Saddle – was published posthumously in 1438. Sadly, Dom Duarte wrote only seven out of sixteen planned “recommendations” for riders before he died of the plague.

More than a century passed after Dom Duarte’s death before the tradition of classical equitation was resumed. The economic, political, cultural and artistic center of Europe had moved to Italy during the 15th century. Aristocrats from all over Europe sent their sons to the academies in Naples, Rome, Ferrara, Florence, and Bologna that were set up to teach dance, fencing, and classical literature, as well as riding. Perhaps the most famous riding master of the time was Federigo Grisone who taught at the academy in Naples. His book “Gli ordini di Cavalcare (The Rules of Riding)” was published in 1550 and translated into most European languages. It was the first manual on manège riding, the ancestor of modern dressage. Grisone’s treatise and the riding masters trained at his riding academy in Naples, Italy, spread the practice of the art of manège riding to courts throughout Europe. [iv] Grisone’s book was translated into English by Thomas Blundeville in 1560; it was the first riding manual in English.[v] Clear cues, keeping straight, and using circles, all show up in the translation of a few sections that I was able to find.[vi]

Grisone, widely considered to be the founding father of classical equitation after the Middle Ages, already recognized the importance of the trot work for the training of the horse. The goal of the trot work, according to Grisone, is to make the horse straight and light, with a soft mouth and a good rein contact, which is the basis of his entire method. He wanted the rider to carry the rein hand low, and he emphasized the importance of connecting the base of the horse’s neck to his shoulders. This allows the rider to align the horse’s hips and shoulders. Grisone followed Xenophon in his emphasis of the importance of the horse’s correct posture and the rider’s correct and effective seat. Similarly to Xenophon, Grisone recommends training with gentleness and patience, but unlike the former, he condones excessively harsh punitive methods when the horse resists. He used harsh methods to subdue the horse, using severe spurring and harsh bits (of some of which he was the inventor). Other examples of his cruel methods include placing live hedgehogs under the animal’s tail, punishing a horse by placing a cat strapped to a pole under its belly, and forcing the horse’s head under water to the point of near-drowning if it showed any fear of crossing water.[vii]

Cesare Fiaschi, a contemporary of Federigo Grisone, founded a riding academy in Ferrara in 1534. His book “Trattato dell’imbrigliare, maneggiare e ferrare cavalli” (Treatise on bridling, training and shoeing horses) appeared in 1556. Fiaschi was the first author who mentioned the importance of a steady rhythm and tempo: “without tempo and rhythm nothing good can be accomplished”. [viii]Fiaschi wrote that “it seemed necessary that the good rider recognize the nature of the horses he wants to train” and that the rider “should always proceed with reason and with a good temperament in everything he does”, a point of view that is reminiscent of Xenophon’s philosophy. Fiaschi was also an authority on farriery and his book on the subject remained in use until the 19th century.[ix]

The next important authority who greatly influenced the course of dressage was Giambattista Pignatelli (c. 1525 – c. 1600). The Portuguese author Carlos Manoel de Andrade (1790) credits him with discovering the gymnastic value of riding circles on a single track. The work on circles of various sizes is the centerpiece of bending the horse in motion, which helps to unlock the horse’s abdominal muscles. It also plays an important role in developing straightness, as well as equal suppleness in both directions, and the engagement of the inside hind leg underneath the body mass. [x]

One of Pignatelli’s most famous students was the French écuyer ordinaire de la Grande Écurie du roi, Salomon de la Broue (c. 1530 – c. 1610). De la Broue was concerned about protecting the horse’s mouth and started the training of his horses with a snaffle bit. He is the first author who mentions flexions of the neck and poll. De la Broue believed that the lightness of the horse’s mouth has to come from the overall posture and steady rein contact with a vertical head position.  The right level of even contact in the mouth allows the horse to balance evenly on all four legs and keep straight.

The last, and possibly greatest, of the Renaissance horsemen was Antoine de Pluvinel (1555 – 1620). Pluvinel studied under Pignatelli from the age of 10 until he was about 16. In 1594, Pluvinel founded the Académie d’équitation, which was located close to the French royal stables. His treatise on riding was published in 1623 under the title “Le Maneige royal”. A second version, with an improved text, entitled “L’Instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval” appeared in 1625. Today, Pluvinel is probably most famous and admired for his emphasis of treating the horse as an intelligent being and teaching it with kindness and gentleness. The following quotes illustrate his philosophy: “But in so far as the perfection of an art lies in the knowledge of how to begin it, I am very well advised in this regard, to teach the horse his first lessons, since he finds them the most difficult, in searching for a way in which to work his brain, rather than his thighs and shanks, while being careful not to annoy him, if possible, and not to rob him of his gentleness: since it is to the horse as the blossom is to the fruit, which, once withered, never returns.”

“I concentrate mainly on exercising his mind and his memory, in such a way that I achieve what I want: so that it is the horse’s mind which I work the most: the mind of the rider must work perpetually as well, in order to detect all kinds of opportunities to arrive at my goal, without letting any movement pass unnoticed, nor any opportunity unused.”

“If possible, one must be sparing with punishment and lavish with caresses, as I have already said, and I will say it again, in order to make the horse obey and go out of pleasure rather than discomfort.”[xi]

Beside his rather modern sounding training philosophy, Pluvinel also advanced the technical, gymnastic side of training over his predecessors. In order to supple the horse more effectively, he worked on two tracks, rode voltes, as well as turns on the forehand in motion and passades around a single pillar. He is also said to have invented the work between two pillars, which is a highly effective tool for suppling the hips laterally, flexing the haunches longitudinally, and for developing the piaffe as well as the levade. These are all moves that have me looking at YouTube instructional videos, as this is a level of dressage I will never achieve on my little horse. That leaves aside the even more complex moves that came later, and are largely seen only at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna today.

Here I am on my girl Fancy at the end of the lesson. Tonight we worked on exercises to ensure a steady contact with her bit, collection, and clear commands so that she would respond eagerly and consistently. Xenophon would have been proud.


Facsimiles and other Sources:

https://archive.org/details/artofhorsemanshi00xeno (full text of the 1893 edition with notes by Morris H. Morgan)

http://www.alvarenga.net/lealconselheiro.pdf (excerpts in modern Portuguese and a facsimile copy in older Portuguese of the full text copied from a manuscript and published in 1843).



[i] http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/history1_p.html

[ii] http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/xenophon-forefather-dressage

[iii] http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/xenophon-forefather-dressage

[iv] https://networks.h-net.org/node/28086/pdf

[v] https://alchetron.com/Federico-Grisone-2582712-W

[vi] http://www.artisticdressage.com/blundeville-quotes.html

[vii] https://alchetron.com/Federico-Grisone-2582712-W

[viii] http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/history1_p.html

[ix] http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/history1_p.html

[x] http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/history1_p.html

[xi] http://www.artisticdressage.com/articles/history1_p.html

Apron Dress

I had planned to write about this quite some time ago. This is a dress that I made for the elevation of my apprentice Eluned, back in February. I wanted to experiment with a slightly more fitted style and lots of gores. I had some leftover pieces from making a panova (Russian skirt – I still need to write up that project too) last year. I didn’t have quite enough to have the nap work all one way, or even enough to make all the large sections without piecing, so I took a very medieval approach of not wasting fabric.

At the top of this, you can see a tiny bit of trim. It was my first attempt to make a tablet-woven belt. I messed it up so badly that I had to cut it off my loom, but there was just enough to stitch as decoration between my brooches. Waste not, want not.



This shows how the nap is different between the gores and the main body. When worn, it doesn’t show too much, so I’m happy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here you can see how I needed to piece one back section. Again, the nap is a little wonky.


I was given a whole bunch of egg whites this week, and they called out to be made into meringues. This posed an interesting challenge, as I couldn’t find meringue recipes except in the Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook, from the 12-13th C. Unfortunately, I don’t read Arabic, so I relied on several different translations. I started with The Medieval Spanish Chef’s redaction (http://www.medievalspanishchef.com/2012/08/cardo-burrero-with-13th-c-honey-almond.html), based on Ambrosio Huici Miranda’s “La Cocina Hispano-Magrebi Durante La Epoca Almohade”, which is a translation to Spanish.

Trabado de Miel (p 135) – Se pone un kail de miel de panel a un fuego moderado hasta que se disuelva; entonces se carifica y se vuelve al fuego, luego se bate con la Clara de veinticenco huevos, si es miel de panel, y si no lo es, con treinta huevos, que se echan a la miel; se bate con una cana dulce hasta que se blanuee y se ligue; entonces se le echo una libra de almendras limpias de su cascara y se sirve, si Dios quiere.

Lucie Bolens, in “La cuisine andalouse, un art de vivre XIe-IIIe siècle” (p 232) offers the following version:

Nougat appele “douceur au miel” – Prends un kilo (1,800) de miel de rayon, que tu mets sur feu doux; quand il est eclairci, remets-le sur le feu, avec le blanc bien battu de vingt-cinq oeufs si c’est du miel de rayon; since n’est pas le cas, il faudra trente oeufs que tu verses dans le miel. Remus avec la cane a sucre jusqu’a ce que to le voies blanchir et bien se lier. Verse alors une livre d’amandes pelees et tu peux servir, si Dieu veut.

The best English version I could find was in Charles Perry’s translation of “An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the Thirteenth Century”, p A-28 in the 1992 edition, volume II of A Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Cookbooks.

Recipe for Mu’aqqad of Honey – Put a kail of comb honey on a moderate fire until it dissolves, then strain it and return it to the fire. Then beat the whites of twenty-five eggs, if comb honey, and thirty if not, and throw them into the honey. Beat the mixture with a confectionery cane until it whitens and thickens. Then throw in a ratl of peeled almonds and serve it, God willing.

After all that, I’m not sure that any of these are baked meringues, and I need something that will keep because I don’t have enough people in my house to eat all the meringues I think I will get since I have at least 25 egg whites. There are 4 egg whites in a half cup, and I estimate I have at least 6 cups to use. Therefore, I have opted to make up a single recipe of meringue shells from my classic Betty Crocker (1964 edition, p 196):

Individual Meringue Shells – Heat oven to 275F. Cover baking sheet with heavy brown paper. Beat 3 egg whites (1/3 to 1/2 cup) and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until foamy Beat in 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Drop meringue by 1/3 cupfuls onto brown paper, building up sides. Bake 1 hour. Turn off oven; leave meringue in oven with door closed 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven; finish cooling meringue away from draft. Makes 8 to 10 shells.

Thoughts on meringues

I can’t imagine making them in the heat of southern Spain, using only some sort of a stick or whisk to beat the mixture until it is stiff. I used a hand mixer for almost an hour and couldn’t get them to stiffen to peaks. I have finally given up and poured them onto baking sheets. Also, they are incredibly sensitive to heat! Those on the lower rack started getting smoky within minutes, so I had to do an emergency rearrangement of my oven racks. I enjoy cooking with a wood-fired oven but would not want to take on the challenge of making meringues in one. I have more egg whites, so will try the honey version with ground almonds, but I suspect it will turn out much more like a nougat than a meringue.






Candied Horseradish

I have far too much horseradish and had been looking for medieval sauce recipes when I came across this treasure.

Source (Libre de Totes Maneres de Confits) CAPITOL .VIIJ.e PER CONFEGIR LO RAVE GUALESCH Pendreu lo rave gualesch e reu lo e feu lo net be ab aygua. E apres telar l eu menut tot, e apres metreu lo al foch ab aygua e metreu hi un bon puny de sall e bulla tant que sia ben mol. E apres treureu lo n e metreu lo en aygua freda .viiij.o jorns mudant tots jorns l aygua. E, com sia be deselat, aureu fussa vostra mell, e, ben escumada axi com dit es, metreu lo ab la mel o axerop e bulira ferm tro que lo axerop sia fet que fassa fills. E a mester en una llr. de rava galesch .j. llr. de mel.

Chapter Eight To Candy Horseradish. Take the horseradish and scrape it and make it clean with water. And then chop it all finely, and then put it on the fire with water and add a good handful of salt and boil it enough so that it is very soft. And then take it and put it in cold water for nine days, changing the water each day. And, once all the salt is removed, have your honey made, and, well skimmed as it is said before, add it all to the honey or syrup and boil it rapidly so that the syrup is done when it makes threads. And for one pound of horseradish one pound of honey is enough. (Vincent Cuenca, trans.)

Daniel Meyers at medievalcookery.com had done a redaction that I tried tonight:


1/4 cup fresh horseradish (approx.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Wash and scrape horseradish until it’s clean and white. Cut into two inch strips about half the thickness of a pencil. Place in lightly salted, boiling water and cook until tender – about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add horseradish and reduce heat to keep it at a low simmer, stirring regularly. If you use chopsticks to stir the pieces around then you can easily test the syrup to see if it forms soft threads. When it does, remove the pan from heat and take out the horseradish pieces one at a time and lay on a wire rack to dry briefly. Coat each piece with sugar and store in an airtight container.

I couldn’t get the soft threads and eventually the syrup just crystallized, but it didn’t seem to matter much to the final product. These candies are surprising. They don’t taste like strong horseradish, though there is definitely a horseradish hint to them. They aren’t sickly sweet, either. I don’t know whether I will make them again; much depends on how much horseradish I can give away or add into other dishes.


The first three days were dedicated to remaking my camicia, yet again. The pattern is based from the one found in Dorothy Burnham’s Cut My Cote, and the neckline is huge! Originally, I simply gathered and stitched it in place, but it didn’t hold. I made lace to trim it, but it was still huge. Eventually my friend Larissa suggested doing sort of a scalloped stitch and then putting on the lace. The stitching pattern would be a double row that looks roughly like this:  ___///—-\\\___///—-\\\___.

There are camicias that might have been made this way:

Top Row: Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga attributed to Raphaello Sanyo da Urbino (1483-1520); Incontro devil spots I by Floriano Ferramola (1480-1490).
Middle Row: Portrait of a Roman Woman by Doso Dossi; Potrait of a Woman by Bernardino Licinio (1525-1530); and Isabella d’Este, 1529-1539 by Peter Paul Rubens.
Bottom Row: Woman with a mirror by Titan, 1514; detail of Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Fede Galicia, 1596.

Some, a least, might also have been made by gathering the camicia in and then stitching a piece of decorative trim over the gathers to hold them in place – this is very much the purpose of my lace.

Anyway, I think that one more day of stitching should finish this project, at last. I almost finished the back yesterday, and I’m pleased that it finally is small enough that it will show above he neckline of my dress. The front requires less adjustment.

Today’s project was painting. Lady Elsebeth holds occasional painting afternoons where a group of us test our skills. This was only my second visit. The last time, I stuck to watercolours because I was too intimidated by the prospect of oil painting. I hadn’t picked up paint brushes in 14 years. This time I was brave enough to break out my paints (well, sort of – some had completely dried up, a few of my brushes were dead, and I had completely forgotten to bring my palette. Thankfully Elsebeth was able to bail me out and be supportive. We all worked on a still life with fruit. For me, besides the challenge of just painting again, I was challenged to work quickly. In the past, I have spent many hours on painstaking tiny portraits. I pushed myself to sketch and paint quickly, so that I had something reasonable to take home after about three hours of painting. It’s not a great picture, but I’m happy that, by the end, I started to remember how to make the brushes and colours work.




The Coronation of Quilliam and Tangwystyl took place in our Barony last weekend. I got to work with Marina on a Catalan feast based on the recipes in the Libre de Sent Sovi. The Libre de Sent Sovi may date back to the early 14th C, but only a single manuscript, from the 15th C, survives. Here we are, hard at work:

Coronation feast

In addition to helping design the menu and cooking, I got to be one the feast heralds, announcing each dish in Catalan. Since no-one seemed to know what I was talking about, I then translated each introduction into Spanish, a more commonly used language. My co-herald, Pesha, then provided the English. This was a lot of fun, as I had the names of dishes in the original Catalan from my 1979 edition (edited by Rudolph Grewe), and in modern Catalan and English in my Joan Santanach/Robin Vogelzang edition.

The other fun thing I did was entering the baronial A&S championship. For that, I made a German lunch with sauerkraut, two kinds of mustard, three variations of pretzel, and bratwurst. I needed two entries, so I also entered the belt I had made for Eluned, with the carved buckle and my first attempt at tablet weaving. You can read more about the belt here: https://siglindesarts.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/tablet-weaving-for-a-special-event/. I had a lot of fun experimenting with different ways to cook the pretzels. They need to be boiled before baking, just like bagels. The big question was around what to put into the water. I was making a Lenten pretzel (ie no eggs and fancy sweets or spices), and traditionally they are often quite pale. However, most people are used to the lye pretzel, and I couldn’t document that with any certainty earlier than about 1839. One baker claimed to get a nice colour using onion-skins in water, so I tried that too. What you see below, clockwise from top left is onion-skin, plain water, and lye water. Getting the pretzels to hold their shape as you pick them up and then put them in boiling water is much more difficult than expected. Overall, it was a good bit of experimenting and I will do it again.