This site is an online reference for re-creational medievalism, which involves making a sincere effort to reproduce the lifestyle of a race or region of the distant past. I am interested in researching and re-enacting life as a member of the Fifth Century (AD/CE) Irish Celtic nobility. If you found this page without checking my index page first, you will find more information there. Individual sections of this site may be linked to or reproduced for non-commercial purposes (including SCA events and publications), as long as proper attribution is included.
Works cited included in the clothing bibliography.
Echna's Celtic Garb Accessories Page
From discussions with others, it seems that women commonly wore a woven belt of some sort, while men wore leather. Card or Tablet weaving was a common method of creating woven belts - directions for this can be found elsewhere on the web, including the Tablet Weaving Archive. I have created a supplementary page to the handout provided at the Archive. I have notes on an example of a leather belt worn by British Celtic women of roughly the same time period that I can try to describe here. It looks to be about two to three inches wide, with a narrower (one inch to two inches?) strap laced through slighly oval evenly-spaced vertical slashes in the wide belt. The whole is held closed with a standard belt buckle. I am having a similar belt made for myself, and I will provide an image when it is finished. If that description is not clear, it is a narrow belt interlaced through a wider belt. It looks like there might be holes punched into the exposed sections of the narrower belt, or, perhaps belt mount fittings attached, in any case, it appears that bags/pouches, sheathes, etc, are to be buckled through the narrower straps whenever possible. I am looking at a rough sketch from someone else's research, when I find a better source I will update that as well.
For a leather belt, men have at least two styles to choose from - either a wide front that buckles in the back, or, a standard front-buckling type. The long leather belts with a simple ring on the end, to be knotted at the waist are *not* proper to Early Irish times, that is a much later, more "mass production"-based medieval style. For the wide front belt, use a leather weight-lifting belt for inspiration. Tool it, decorate it with brass studs and Roman-style belt mount fittings, and otherwise have fun ornamenting it. A front-buckling belt should be tooled and decorated along the leather strap, and have a buckle engraved with appropriate Celtic ornamental patterns.
Everyone says they WANT "period" shoes, but often high price tags or sizing problems mean they decide sneakers or loafers will be good for another season. The "quick and dirty" way to find period boots is to use modern examples that are similar to older styles. A common source of boots among the Tuatha de Bhriain (the group I associate with) is to use one of the many styles of moccasin sold by companies like Minnetonka. One of the members of the clann is willing to make me a pair of ghillies (bog shoes) with thick leather soles to protect my feet. Two sources that look useful for someone else wanting to make their own shoes or boots would be the generic Footwear of the Middle Ages and the Celtic-specific Making Early Period Irish and Scottish Shoes. There are also simple directions on my Tips and Tricks page. Last is a page with a JPEG ghillie pattern to enlarge on a photocopier.
Shoe SUPPORT is a whole different issue. While you can make a simple pair of leather covers for your feet, these will not provide the same support, shape, and padding your feet have become accustomed to in modern/mundane shoes. Most people take their arches for granted - until they're gone! Dr. Schoels makes a whole line of support pads designed to fit in dance slippers and other thin-soled footware - like ghillies and Roman sandals (including a rubber insert, a blue gel insert, etc). Alternately, buy shoes that look "period" (even if only at a distance), but, have modern soles built in. Some links to sites that offer these styles are included in the merchant list.
Pins and Brooches
There were basically two ways to close garments in the 5th century in Ireland. Sew them closed, or pin them in some way. Buttons were not popular until much later, and even fastenings like toggles-and-loops or lacing were not pupular or in use with Celts. Fasteners are needed (depending on the styles) for the brat, and the shoulders of sleeveless leinte (male and female).
One way to fasten garments is with a modern copy of a fibula - which is a Roman fastener that looks like a giant safety-pin. These are frequently sold in fabric and sewing stores as "kilt pins". Drizt is a sewing notions manufacturer that can be found in better stores from coast to coast in the United States.
Another option is to use a penannular (open-circle) or annular (closed-circle) brooch. These are the typical Irish cloak-pins you may have already seen as part of re-creational activities. Both are tricky to work with as far as fastening material, so, I will try to provide diagrams at a later date. Almost any metalworker at events should offer penannular brooches for sale - or be willing to make them on request for a small fee (as little as $5-$8 each for "dress-weight" versions in brass or copper).
Historically, metal accessories were made of gold or silver. There were significant deposits of precious metals in Ireland. Additionally, bronze was very popular amongst nobles. White bronze was particularly favored. Sterling silver jewlery is usually fairly affordable. If gold is out of your range, brass is a suitable substitution (and occured in period). Standard and white bronze are available, usually from somewhat limited sources. If you build up a relationship with a jeweler or metal-worker, you might be able to convince them to work with "better" metals at a more affordable rate than the general public. Consider substituting gold-filled stock for regular gold, or either type of bronze for gold. You might even be able to buy the raw materials yourself through mail order, saving even more money.
Knives are as important and yet overlooked a part of re-enacting as boots. Any Celtic re-enactor who has some level of social status should have a knife with their gear. Even a poor Celt should have one for general usefulness. Knives can be used to eat with, as a camp utility blade, as a light hammer (with the right sort of pommel), as a conversational piece, and even as a gift, token, or favor.
I'm not certain about early period carrying practices, but, in a sheath on a belt is usually a safe bet to carry almost any short blade! A boot sheath MIGHT be appropriate if you wear calf-high ghillies or Roman sandals. Try to pick out a knife style that conforms to local (within the sphere of where you generally re-enact) weapons laws. While most law enforcement types are usually understanding as long as no one is hurt, accidents *do* happen, and you don't want to be facing serious charges over the difference between a single and double-edged knife.
Given the changes in the (American) political and social climate since September 11th, I'd be a bit more cautious about appearing in public with a knife on my belt. If at all possible, don't add it to your body till you're out of public view, and no matter where you are, always make sure it's "peace-bonded" (tied with cords or laces so it can't be removed from the sheath). The police used to be quite friendly to me when I wore a peace-bonded knife on my belt in the past (and wandered into "public" locations like convienence stores), but, that has since changed.
Styles appropriate to the fifth century are difficult to find from inexpensive sources. One idea is to use an antler-handled form of a late period Scottish knife, the Sgian Dubh. While this is not a perfect match, it is generic enough looking to pass. The small wood-handled knives with the same name are *not* an appropriate choice.
Mail Order Sources
- Gaukler Medieval Wares is a lovely site with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Roman accessories (pins, belt buckles, earrings, others). Some are simple and inexpensive, some have a bit of a higher price tag, however all are reasonably affordable.
- Multi-Media Artisans make hand-worked copper and iron brooches, torcs, and pendants. The prices are on the lower end of the scale (the torcs were $50 last time I was there) good for someone just starting out.
- John Rose - an individual merchant with copper and bronze accessories. Again, inexpensive but useful. This is the only source (I could find) for authentic-looking brass needles. The eating set is also very useful.
- Tattershall Arms - a source of an antler-handled Sgian Dubh.
- Dream Shoes (with boots included on the site) - these shoes aren't really period looking, but, one or two pairs will pass at a distance, and they have modern soles and padding for easy walking.
- Museum Replicas has a wealth of quality reproductions (many on the pricey side, but most items can be seen as investments), including belt buckles and blades.
- The Mystic Caravan - many (most?) of the items displayed on this site are cute New Age/Wiccan-Celtic paraphenalia. Some judidicious searching will reveal authentic reproductions, and realistic interpretations of period items. Look for St. Justin of Cornwall products, among others. Request the catalogue for even more items than are displayed on the pages.
- The Crafty Celt is a site with *top* reproduction-quality accessories (mostly jewelry). Their price tags are surprisingly affordable.
A good source of interesting and moderately-priced jewelry and pins is Master Ark (Bill Guse). He works mostly in bronze and white bronze, with a silver item or two. I particularly recommend his "bow fibula" (a small functional fibula about an inch long) and "Visigoth fibula" (a heavier and more ornate pin). Both are sized to be worn to pin the shoulders of your garments, as opposed to the heavier cloak pins most merchants sell. A small "shield fibula" was also recently added to his line. He features several totem/symbolic animals (wolves, ravens, boars, etc) in inexpensive pins/pendants, and other peices. Master Ark is THE merchant I would recommend for finding pins and brooches appropriate to pre-Viking Irish re-enacting. While the styles are not 100% Irish, they're much closer than the later disk or dome brooches most people buy, and which were a later Viking Age style.
Master Ark (Bill Guse)
P.O. Box 258
Iemez Springs, NM 87025
I purchased a beautiful bronze penannular brooch at a Science Fiction/Fantasy convetion. It appears to be a representation of a "Green Man" figure, although I may have my Celtic symbolism mistaken. At any rate, I paid $35 for it, and I love it. I thought I would post some information on how to contact the artisans, in case you're interested in similar castings.
Honeck Sculpture (Butch and Susan Honek)
7271 Kenwood Drive
Jackson, Michigan, 49201
Suggested by Carolyn Priest-Dorm:
- Treasures of Early Irish art, 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D. : from the collections of the National Museum of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, Dublin / exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ... [et al.]
Published in New York by the Metropolitan Museum of Art [1978, c1977]
- Treasures of Ireland : Irish art 3000 B.C.-1500 A.D.
Published in Dublin by the Royal Irish Academy, [c1983]
- Irish art in the early Christian period, to 800 A.D.
Author: Henry, Francoise.
Published in Ithaca, N.Y. by Cornell University Press 
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Updated: Sunday, November 02, 2003