May 12, 2011 – From April 29 to May 1, 2011 a Dark Age Festival took place at Bad Säckingen in Southern Germany. The organizers, the worldwide dominant traveling organization of festivals of this kind call themselves MPS, which stands for Middle Ages – Fantasy (German: Phantasie) – Spectacle.
The response was incredible, which gives us a good reason to reflect, why the Middle Ages are so popular and why museums can’t benefit a little bit more from this trend.
The poster of MPS. Photo: KW.
How do you define Dark Ages?
Yes, we all discuss, when exactly the Middle Ages started and ended. But dates do not matter, at least to most of the visitors of such a festival. Middle Ages simply signifies far far away: no technique, no state, simple life and terrific wear.
Dressed in fancy garments everybody feels to be somebody special. Photo: UK.
Disguising is part of the fun for every fan of the Dark Ages. In Germany exists a Dark Ages scene. It consists of the gothic scene, of those who are dressed in eerily beautiful black dresses and have painted their faces white. There are those, who have acquired their knowledge about the Dark Ages through fantasy movies, and those, who just like to leave their everyday wear in the wardrobe.
Nobody asks for authenticity at festivals like this. Photo: UK.
Authenticity does not matter. It is just important that everything looks exotic and sexy…
Dark Ages is just a question of definition. Photo: UK.
… and that you can make a good profit with those skewers, medieval oven potatoes, schnapses and …
An interesting selection of swords. Photo: UK.
… impressive swords. Walking the “medieval” market you will realize that profit is more important than authenticity.
The “medieval” band Saltatio Mortis. Photo: Michael Müller.
Who cares? The visitors love the show. And the Dark Ages are far away at least, when the “medieval” band Saltatio Mortis is playing their songs. You can check it yourself. If you want to listen, click here.
The Alemanns serve as a model for this group of visitors. Photo: UK.
On the other hand you will meet visitors, who know exactly the models of their disguise. They have chosen a tribe and a certain period. This group from Swiss Solothurn has selected the Alemanns of their region as their model.
They told me that in the beginning they just were caught by the “Dark Ages”, but then they started to research and they continued. Maybe this is the secret. Maybe we should concentrate our museum tours on participation not only when children are concerned. Maybe we should offer the possibility to slip into a personality, to identify with this person and to forget everything about the boring daily routine.
In the end we have to accomplish the feat to confront the role-play with the real past. We have to explain that there were great difficulties in the Dark Ages, too. Of course I am not sure that visitors like those of the “medieval” festivals are willing to hear of these facts.
An own festival currency. Photo: UK.
Of course there is a numismatic aspect of the Dark Ages Festival. They have created an own festival currency: the golden crown featuring “medieval” pictures like dog heads and logos.
A modern moneychanger. Photo: UK.
The festival currency can be swapped for euros at the moneychanger’s table.
Golden half crown. Photo: UK.
There are 5-euro, 2-euro, 1-euro and 1/2-euro crowns; and every year two new emissions are issued.
This is important, as MPS wants to seduce their visitors to collect. Since 2009 these crowns have been on the market and they will stay until 2016. All visitors, who are able to show all issues at the end of this period will take part in a lottery. Their participation will cost a lot of money: one golden crown corresponds to one euro. If you collect all denominations of all issues for 8 years, this will be a substantial amount. And we shouldn’t forget, that there will be a lot of collectors starting their collection, who will have forgotten it in 2016.
Coin edict of the 21st cent.
And now we are really in the Middle Ages. The owner of the market makes money by supplying and withdrawing a currency. And of course, a system like this needs coin edicts.
If there is a Dark Ages Festival next to you, we warmly recommend to visit. It will be instructive.
More impressions from the festival, you will find here.