Inspiration #8, A Woman From Birka

In the eighth issue of our inspiration we will look at Belarusian reenactress Olga Mazenkova who is a member of Naglfar historical reenactment club (КИР Нагльфар) and whose historical name is Alvitr. I’ve been exchanging letters with Olga for some time already and I know she takes her reconstruction seriously, has studied the sources and for example makes her own silver wire and threads, which she uses to make outstanding tablet-woven bands.

Olga figures as an inhabitant of Swedish Birka in the second half of 9th century. Her costume consists of a T-shaped underdress made from undyed linen and a blue linen apron braced with oval brooches of the P27A type. This type of brooches was found in five Birka graves – Bj 385, 462, 559, 646, 657. Outer clothing consists of a woolen caftan hemmed with a woven woolen thread and fastened with an equal-armed brooch (reproduction of the find from Bj 637). Olga adds that these replicas were made according to the work of Inga Hägg (Die Tracht. In: Greta Arwidsson (ed.). Birka II: 2. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde) and Agnes Geijer (Birka III. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern). As there were no shoes found in Birka at the time of our discussion, she wears replica of shoes from York, England.

There is also a fire-striker (replica of a find from the grave Bj 456), scissors (replica of a find from the grave Bj 464), a needle-case ( replica of a find from the grave Bj 515) and a key (replica of a find from the grave Bj 758), hanging from brooches on ring chains. Around her neck and between the brooches there are beads (of glass, filigree silver, cornelian, quartz and amber) based on finds from Birka, silver fittings (small shield pendant and a coin) and jingle bells. Her hands are decorated by closed bracelets, which replicate bracelets found in many Scandinavian depots, and rings being a replica of rings from the graves Bj 932 a 531. On Olga’s head there is a blue silken scarf fastened with a thin tablet-woven strap of type B21 according to a find from the grave Bj 943. On her ears there are earrings made according to a find from Birka, which are analogic to some Polish finds (Olga refers to the book Birka V. The Filigree and Granulation Work of the Viking Period).

The pictures were taken by Irina Ramitsan.

I would like to thank Olga Mazenkova for granting me permission to use her photographs and for detailed description of her costume. Here we will finish this article. Thank you for your time and we look forward to any feedback. If you want to learn more and support my work, please, fund my project on Patreon or Paypal.

13. října 2020

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