Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back to the "Touchwood Belt"

While I'm working on the mittens and socks for my völva outfit, I figured I should make sure I have a "touchwood" belt.  My new belt is shown to the left of this post.

As I discussed in this post, it seems likely that the "touchwood" referred to in the saga is dried fungus, used as tinder.  I considered purchasing some actual fungus, but figure that I don't really need to spend the money to buy enough to make a belt, just for costuming purposes!  However, I misplaced the felt strip I originally bought for the belt, so I purchased a larger piece of felt in a much lighter shade of brown on Etsy.  I cut three strips from the felt, each a bit longer than my waist measurement, knotted them on one end, braided the three together, and knotted the other end.   Then I pulled on the ends to stretch the braid, making it look a lot less like felt.  To fasten it, one sticks the bigger of the two end knots through one of the gaps in the braid.  

I claim no historical accuracy points for this item, because no one knows for certain that tinder fungus was used for belts in the Viking Age, let alone how such belts may have been constructed or what they looked like.  But the idea of a traveling shamaness having firemakings with her person at all times seems very appropriate.  I should keep an eye out for evidence that shamans in other shamanic cultures made belts out of tinder fungus, though.

It occurred to me, after making the belt, that real fungus shows pronounced areas of darker and ligher color which might be simulated by tea-dyeing the belt.  That might be worth doing yet; I need to consider the matter some more.


  1. What an interesting project.

    I do have to say, the idea of keeping one's tinder as a belt does seem a little odd to me. Tinder must be kept scrupulously dry for it to work (hence why certainly in the post-medieval period, metal tinderboxes were used in much of Europe). I'd rather think if you wore your tinder as a belt it'd risk getting it soggy. Even moist air can make tinder unuseable, never mind actual rain. But then, perhaps a volva could have magically kept hers dry! ^_^

  2. There's a time and a place for accuracy, but there's also a time and a place for having fun. I do think it will look good if you tea-dye it. Tie dying might give you a nice variegated effect.