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  • The Horse Lady

The Medieval Fantasy

As every good Red Gater knows. there are two sides to our business. We offer carriage rides with our beloved Duke in front, and we offer fantasy photography. For about a year and a half, our fantasy photography has consisted of Shannon, as our very own photogenic and convincing unicorn (Thanks Christina Warrysh). Many little girls have sat along her flank, giggling when she sniffed and blew in their hair.

For most of the last year, I have been working very hard to expand the medieval photography side of the business. We have a closet full of medieval costumes that would impress most medieval castle laundresses, they who saw all the clothing the inhabitants could get dirty. We have jewellery - rings, necklaces, some earrings - the for lady to wear for her portrait. We have tabbards for the knights, tunics for the Lord, and even some clothing for the children.

We are getting ready for our first participation in the Medieval Faire at Osgoode, Ontario this summer, which I understand will also be our last, as there will not be another. We have been preparing like crazy, as our tent must be medieval. We could have built one from wood and linen and linseed oil, but we chose to go the easy route. We bought a modern market canopy and are adapting it. We have gorgeous medieval banners once given us by Roxane Kirkman (thanks Rox) that will dress it up and make it more convincing. And Value Village has obligingly supplied brocade curtains to disguise modern tent poles.

But the best part, the BEST part has been preparing the photo display. I won't give too much away, so attendees can by duly impressed, but I have to say I am really impressed with what we have accomplished in the last year. Gazing over the photos, I see Nathalee as the young princess with her favourite horse. Robb as his Lordship arriving home from a journey, greeted by a wife and daughter and the faithful hound, Schmidt.

Ben as the young hunter in commune with his steed.

Brett as the knight with his child, a few precious moments before he rides away on a journey.

And Joe, the monk, Well met in the woods as he goes about his daily walk through nature. And of course, me. Me with Suzy, the queen with her favourite horse.

It is amazing to me that by wearing the clothing of another time, we can become a representation of that time. A fairly convincing representation. This project has a magic for me. The models are transformed, and the world around us changes, takes us back to a time when we lived in castle communities and lived by the will of our lord and master. Some were benevolent. Some weren't. The medieval era was just as complex, just as real as our own, and by tasting it we are dipping a finger in the water of time and sending ripples back to those who went before.

Whether this venture succeeds or fails, this has been a rich and very personal journey for me. I have put together a story, quite a personal one, of what life was like five hundred years ago. History books and film present a very narrow picture of the medieval era. No doubt these were cruel times, with more disease and less peace. But there was love, there was the comfort of the people you knew and the place you lived. And it's that side of the medieval era we are trying to touch.

There is a whole list of people to thank here. Models, photographers, handlers, and again I mention Roxane Kirkman, without whose help I will still be overwhelmed by a bunch of patterns and a pile of fabric. And of course, as always, a huge amount of the credit goes to Brett. He's not just the muscle around here, although that's substantial, but often a fresh set up eyes, and a genuine interest for the care of the horses.

We would like everyone anywhere in the Ottawa Valley to come out to Osgoode the weekend of July 13-16, not just because we are there, but because the faire has been a cultural phenomenon in the area for 11 years, and it will be disappearing. Come see the birds of prey, the food, the vendors, and of course, the jousting. And come see us. We will be offering digital photographs of interested parties in costume for five dollars. So that you will be bitten by the bug.

The photographers represented here are:

Christina Warrysh

Wendy Cotie

Brett Stewart

Maggie Toner

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