Thursday, December 1, 2016

Medieval American Toys

Toys are a constant throughout history, throughout cultures. While the average child's toy collection has decreased dramatically, (due to resources, and the fact they shouldn't be goofing off as much) they're still around, especially as Christmas gifts, since there's not much farmwork to get in the way of playtime. Toymakers are their own guild, and the greatest toymakers are found in upstate New York, Canada, New England, and the foothills of the cascades, due the proximity of metals, timber and precision crafting.

Stuffed Animals: Teddy bears remain popular from the industrial age, largely because of their simple design, and the name coming from a former American President (And perhaps the one that most embodies rugged individualism.) For this reason among others, Mickey Mouse is the 20th century cartoon character that has endured the best. Sock monkeys are also more popular than ever, as their knitted and makeshift nature are a natural fit with the scale and economy of the medieval world. Other stuffed animals are popular, but not extensive due to the Americas' lack of megafauna. Because of this, the animism of tribal folklore, and the Industrial age's fascination with mascots and anthropomorphisizing, "plushies" made after non-animal concepts like plants, snowmen, and even fire are very common.

Dolls: "Toy soldiers" remain in vogue, naturally modeled after the pikemen found in the largest empire of America. Most are unpainted, much like the little army men, but one can obtain more elaborate and colorful toy soldier at a premium. If one is especially well-off, one can even find a poseable equivalent to a poseable action figure. Spider-Man is the most popular of such types, because toymakers do not have to do much sculpting of the face--even an amateur parent can probably come up with a Spidey toy. Herdsmen make dolls in their own image, with a small clay or wooden head, but the rest of rawhide and felt. The craftsmanship and exotic novelty even have an appeal to traveling dignitaries and merchants, who try to bring one home for their children, and cowboy dolls are made in this same "floppy" fashion.

Dolls for girls are usually in the shape of children themselves, as care of a doll is seen as practice for rearing children themselves.  However, the daughters of nobles will often receive porcelain dolls, some wearing the latest fashion. Dolls called "Barbies" have endured, but they're usually designed with nubile and sexually appealing design, and are definitely not for children. In fact, Barbies are often referenced a shorthand for perverted individuals.

Outdoor toys: Children, and some adults still enjoy athletic endeavors. Whether to play soccer, gridiron, ninepin, or just a game of catch, most balls are leather-bound and wool-stuffed, and generally come in the same shape and size. The focus is on versatility, not specialization. The only specialized ball is marbles, which were popular in the old middle ages, and have made a big comeback. Kites are also very popular, owing in large part to the Benjamin Franklin legend. There are also hula hoops, made from metal or wood.

Vehicles: Toy boats are extremely popular, especially in the communities that inhabit the rivers and coasts. Toy wagons are also pretty common. In areas with a lot snow, toboggans and miniature sleighs are also a "toy", but may sometimes be used for practical purposes. Long gone are the days of toy jets and shiny red firetrucks, but automotive vehicle has curiously remained, if exclusively in toy form; The locomotive. Maybe because it's an icon of the old west, or it being a fixture in popular fantasy stories like "Harry Potter" and "The Polar Express", but toy trains can be a toymaker's pride and joy. They don't circle around the tree or table however--that only happens in fairy tales.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween in Medieval America

Halloween is not an official Holy Day in Medieval America, and is not exactly sanctioned, but it still retains some degree of popularity. As people become more superstitious, All Hallow's Eve is both darker and more necessary, and is usually a respite from the busy harvest season.

Houses are decked with the usual haystacks, pumpkins, and especially cornstalks, and the occasional scarecrows. Decorations are usually not much more elaborate, as resources can't be exhausted for me frivolities. They're usually decked out with agricultural byproducts.

Popular costumes include the usual ghost, devil, and witch outfit, as well as a clown or jester's suit. American monsters like Bigfoot and the Mothman are pretty common as well. Dressing up as a cowboy or pirate is done inversely proportional to local attacks one or the other wage on the local realm. Knight costumes are not roundly popular, as imitating or mocking a knights is a capital offense in many places, although it isn't unheard of for masters and servants to switch as means of fun/possibly deflecting the attention of evil spirits. For this reason, characters from American culture like Batman or the Jedi who have knightly aspects aren't usually dressed as. Spiderman is a more frequent, possibly because web patterned curtains and sheets are frequent this time of year, and easy to make a costume out of when they become worn.

Trick or Treating is only done in large towns, because it's safer there than big cities, but they have more resources than a village. Long gone are the days of candy bars, or even candy corns. Rather we have popcorn balls, pickled fruit, pynades, and for the particularly lucky, candied fruits. If a child is particularly lucky, he or she might get peanut brittle.

However, the celebration is geared towards adults, and wealthy ones at that. Costumes, plays, ghost stories. Decadent parties that have taken place of April Fool's Day and New Year's Even (which has become more sacred) as a time to go really crazy. At the end of the day, Halloween is a pastime of the upper classes, and the peasantry are very wary of Halloween. New Israelite almost never practice it, though they're not above using the full moon of October to tell a scary campfire tale.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Belts In Medieval America

On the subject of Medival America's new, or condensed "Grain Belt", I began thinking about other  "belt regions", like the Rust Belt or Bible Belt of industrial belt. Most of these will be defined by the ability to produce goods, though natural and cultural belts do exist. (And it can be said industry can have an influence on culture and politics) To qualify as a belt, they have to fit these criteria.

1) More narrow than not.
2) At least three million people.
3) At least somewhat contiguous.
4) Transcends a single nation state.

So for instance, there's not necessarily a "Sheep Belt" because shepherds make up isolated pocket communities. California has a "Fruit Belt" inside of it, but it's not part of a fruit belt, because its orchards and wineries are largely in one Nation State.

Of the already established belts, there's the naturally occurring Snow/Frost Belt. The Sun Belt may or may not be extant, as eastern and western united states are a lot more separate (than they used to be. There's also still a Cotton Belt in southeast, inland America. (Historically this was sometimes called the Black Belt because of its soil and populace, but this is somewhat obsolete now). There's also a somewhat smaller Tobacco Belt.

The Rust Belt is one of the more famous terms to describe Industrial America. Nobody is going to be manufacturing  cars anytime soon, but jobs can't be shipped overseas, so any metalworking that's done is going to be done at home. The Rust Belt has regained its luster and become a Steel Belt once more, albeit one that only reaches as far as the Grain belt begins.

The traditional Bible Belt is gone, as almost everybody is an avid churchgoer these days, (And if anything, the southern United States are probably relatively more hedonistic) but one should note the tight cluster of District Headquarters for Non-Denominational Church in the Northeast. This may be a new Bible Belt, owing to what looks like a thriving book industry in the Northeast. An inordinate percentage of the population are probably members and thus, literate. And the most read book would be the Bible. Therefore, "Bible Belt" would would not be about the peculiarity of adherence to Scripture, but of reading at all. It's quite possible it would be called the "Court Belt" due to concentration of Supreme Court politics, and that its republican structure means they're not settling their beefs on the battlefield.

Speaking of beef..while the great Plains are no longer the continent, there is a Cow Belt which largely makes up the New Israelite World, although some of it extends into the Rocky Mountains as well.

The Gulf Coast of the United States has three things that are unique to it 1) The practice of Voodoo, 2) The Secretarial States, and 3) Sugar being grown as a cash crop. This means the Gulf can be called all three things simultaneously, but names that may indicate all three would include rather deogatory names like the "Blood Belt", "The Witch Queen Belt" or the "Candy Belt".

Sinkhole Effect

A good way to look at the change in the difference between Industrial and Medieval America is something I like to call the Sinkhole Effect, or the anti-sprawl. As cities become smaller, they support less and less suburbs, and so America, in many places, will resemble its most rural aspects. In colonial times, Maryland largely resembled Virginia and much of the tidewater coast of the country. With the building of Washington, and the chain of major cities like New York and Philadelphia expanding, Maryland eventually became culturally part of the Northeast--and at least in electoral terms, Virginia and North Carolina may eventually follow suit. But megalopoli no longer being a thing, that would recede, and Dixie culture would absorb Yankee culture. (Maryland is still a little bit culturally Northeast, however. This is become the South is not particularly Maritime, and because it's the epicenter of the Non-Denominational Church, it has a lot in common with a region where Church hubs aren't usually more than 75 miles apart or so.

If you'll look at the trade map, you'll see what is now Ohio (a combination of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) has become a breadbasket. Ontario, Illinois/Iowa and Michigan also appear to produce enough grain to trade off surplus grain. In short, this is the Grain Belt of Medieval America.

This map is the Corn/Grain Belt of the United States as it is today. The highest concentration is mostly west of the Mississippi, but it's harder to grow crops out there between the lack of machines and the Herdsmen always coming down on peasants. Therefore the grain belt is moved southeast. (Replacing the rust belt, or least cutting it in half) Grain production is no longer industrialized (And needs to feed considerably less people), so the less, but still decently fertile area around the great lakes is where all the farming is done. This is the sinkhole effect.

Another case is the non-white population. Even the biggest city in Medieval America  isn't going to to be as cosmopolitan as a mid-sized city in Modern America. Immigration to large population centers is going to more likely come relatively locally, than across the sea. Can you imagine a wealthy merchant in Philadelphia saying the Adirondack Mountains aren't sending their best, their brightest, but their murderers and rapists? Asa  result the gene pool is much more homogeneous, though people of color are still plentiful in the South, (Which has a large black in most of its counties, and is adjacent to the Caribbean) Southwest (Which had a much older, non-white population who were there before it became a part of the United States, and the Mid-Atlantic (Where the urban sprawl was so vast, that population was still pretty diverse, even when near-decimated)

Monday, August 1, 2016


American Knight

Black Knight

Green Knight

Light Knight

Moon Knight