January 29, 2011

Mead, mayhem and a flooded viking tent: Steff Metal visits the 2011 Taupo joust

Concerts & Grog Fests, Steff, Tr00 Metal Life

CDH and I spent a typically rainy NZ summer’s weekend hanging out in Taupo – the giant crater lake in the centre of the north island, for those of you not in NZ – at the 10th Annual Taupo Joust. This is NZ’s biggest medieval festival, where jousters come from all over the world to compete and the reinactment community rocks up to hang out in tents, cook animals over an open fire, and generally get up to medieval mayhem.

Being part of a HEMA group (that’s Historical European Martial Arts), CDH and I don’t do any reinacting, but a few of our friends are in some local groups (rival groups, as it were) and this is the last year the festival will be held in Taupo, so we were keen to go down and have a look. After visiting the Mittelaltermarkt in Hamburg and some incredible living history villages in Scandinavia, we weren’t expecting much, but were so plesently surprised.


Replica viking tent, complete with carved poles and hand-stiched canvas. And a cow. I have the coolest friends. (photo I De Jong)

Three of the coolest chicks we know are with a Viking-era re-enactment group. They made a replica viking tent, spending months carving each wooden pole with ship and knotwork designs. Then they hand-stitched the whole thing, and made a table and stools. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We spent most of our weekend hanging out here.

These guys were hanging out right next to ANOTHER Viking-era re-enactment group, where another couple of friends were hanging out. One of their guys spent the week building a longhouse. It wasn’t as good as some of the longhouse replicas I’ve seen in Europe, but, to be fair, the dude built it in a WEEK. And, when the campsite flooded, it provided much-needed shelter and warmth for some rather bedraggled vikings.


It was rather wet

One the first night we rocked up, we hung out, drank mead, met some old friends and made some new ones, and then, when we left to go to our motel, it started pissing down. And it didn’t stop till the next morning, which was great for all the people coming to the festival for the day, but for the poor folks camping, it was a bit miserable. All our friends were sorta warm and sorta dry in the longhouse, but the tents were rather flooded.


Samface huddled inside the longhouse. That fish hanging from the ceiling kept slapping everyone as they walked past.


CDH and some viking wenches

Despite this, we had a fun day. I spent a long time talking to people about making mead (going to a mead-making workshop soon, yes!) and tasting mead. I am now fully stocked up on mead. We saw my beautiful friend Lucy dancing, a lady with bright-colored flags, and ate some samosas. It was brill.


An old friend of mine from uni plying his trade in the re-enactment encampment

The swordfighting is very different from what we do, but it’s all about scoring points (a bit like modern-day fencing) and putting on a show for the crowd. It’s always great to see kids excited about historical stuff.


Sword fighting



The one disappointment was the lack of seriously awesome medieval festival food. There was no meat-on-a-stick or giant garlic breads or pork-stuffed bread-pockets or strange fruit-towers like there was in Germany (I think we spent about 60 Euro on food ALONE in one day at that festival). There were hot chips and samosas and sweetcorn fritters. It was a bit of a letdown :( We went out for dinner at a lovely local pub and I had a rather amazing venison pie with juniper berries, which totally made up for the meh food at the festival.

We met up with a dude from one of our clubs who runs a sword shop and CDH brought a new sword – it has the clover-leaf handles, so people keep calling it a claymore, but it’s not, as it’s a two-handed sword, and not a polearm. We’ll be sharpening it and having a “test-cutting” party at some point in the near future. I haven’t got a photo of it but it’s very pretty.

It’s great to know that even all the way down here, in the corner of the world perhaps furtherst from the European tradition, there’s a community of people who think this stuff is just as cool as we do. We both got quite inspired by the living history aspects – we’re taking a metalworking class together this semester and are hoping to make our viking friends a tripod fire stand.

Have you ever been to a medieval festival in your country? What did you think? Do you do any kind of re-enacting / historical european martial arts / living history / LARPing?

6 Comments on “Mead, mayhem and a flooded viking tent: Steff Metal visits the 2011 Taupo joust

Iris de Jong
February 1, 2011 at 11:57 pm

If you’d come around to the Norseman camp, Sat afternoon, you would have seen (and had a chance to taste) a WHOLE lamb on the spit.

February 1, 2011 at 10:25 am

That tent is awesome. Did you get to wear your medieval dress?

We have some medieval faires in Argentina, quite small ones compared to this, and organized by small medieval reconstruction groups. We have no support from any institution. Instead they give us trouble, by for example by banning all sort of combat, even soft combat, if the festival is held in a public (ie open, like a park) place, or canceling the booking of said public place in favor of some other event just a few days in advance. Also, it is very hard to hold an event in a public place without recieving the visit of people that intend to steal or make trouble. That’s how everything goes around here. Meh.

But we have fun. There are some great artisans who make gowns, armor, weapons, drinking horns, etc. music and dance groups and a lot of mead and beer (though in some places it is not allowed to sell alcohol) And since we’re not a very large group we pretty much know each other, by sight at least, so you always see familiar faces.

Recently someone has opened a medieval village for events and once every few months a faire is held there, but the admission is very expensive. Admission to regular faires is usually free or has a very small fee for charity purposes. They’re not usually held in summer (too hot for medieval dressing and also a lot of people go away on vacation) so I’m eagerly waiting for march/april.

Emily Bleak
January 31, 2011 at 9:05 am

We have RennFaires here in New England, but let me say – they are NOTHING compared to this. Ours are more like knight-and-wench themed shopping malls with the occasional stage show and yards of beer.

There’s a SCA event that happens every year called War that looks a little similar to this, but on a grander scale – I’ve heard it described as “Burning Man for history nerds,” so someday I’ll have to find my way halfway across the US to get there. Until then I’ll just live vicariously through you and your friends and your awesome tent. :D

January 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Thanks for answering that for me. I admit to being more of a dabbler in the subject, so Im always interested in finding out stuff like that from people who know what theyre talking about. I think one of the reasons I enjoy Folk/Viking/Pagan metal so much is because I enjoy stuff like this.
Also, sword week sounds cool, I hope you decide to do it

January 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

Hey Steff, quick question for you. Ive always enjoyed medieval history, particularly anything to do with weapons and armour. Your comment about the claymore has me curious. I was always under the impression a claymore was a two-handed scottish sword with that very distinctive “V” shaped crosspiece with the clover design on the ends. (
If Im reading your post correctly it sounds like I was wrong, so what is a claymore? Does it have more to do with the length and weight than the actual design?
Also do you have any books you would recommend for someone who likes to read about this stuff

January 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hi Rob – I’ve been doing a bit of research so I can properly back up my statement, and have come to the conclusion that it seems we’re both right.

In the Gaelic, “claymore” just means sword. There are two main types of Claymores – the two-handed and a basket hilt, as well as a backsword and a couple of possible others. The use of the swords and the terms in Gaelic seems to differ depending on area, period and dialect.

The majority of museum pieces are so much longer than what the medieval systems consider “perfect” length, that they’re not really swords, but more like polearms. There’s an argument (and a valid one) that those giant swords were for parade, and I think in a lot of cases, that’s true. But there are significant textual evidence that many of these swords saw actual battle, leading many people to believe that the Claymore (or what we modernly term a claymore – the “claidheamh da laimh”) was more of a polearm that a sword in the true sense. The sword we brought, being perfect length and not based on any particular historical example, is shorter than most examples of a Claymore and is used as a sword – so, to many swordy people, it’s not a Claymore, despite looking like one. A lot of the places that sell medieval weapons make them this size, though, because they’re a popular, easily-recognisable weapon and a lot of re-enacters like them.

It’s still debated, and you’re not wrong in your definition by any means. As for books, I will SO get back to you on that one, so I have the time to make a really decent list. I’ve been thinking of doing a sword week on the blog for awhile.

Comments are closed.