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Ask about wilderness survival, ancestral skills, herbal medicine, and field surgery!

Discussion in 'Research' started by SerpentSun, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. SerpentSun

    SerpentSun Dreamer

    Hello! :) I thought perhaps I might offer advice before asking it of others. There should be a more concise way to list my areas of knowledge, but it's bedtime in my timezone and that is the shortest title I could think of. I apologize.

    There are a great many topics that interest me, but none as much as anthropology and natural history. Ecology, botany, herbalism, zoology, anatomy, psychology....I've been studying it all since I was a small child, long before I knew the proper names for the subjects. Every book I received as a kid was about plants or animals.

    Now I live on and off the grid, a nomadic hunter-gatherer whenever I choose. I go "grocery shopping" just walking down the road. When I visit my family in town, I apply my skills to caretaking and landscaping. Two not-so-different tasks haha.

    Our ancestors knew many secrets, but much has been lost to the centuries. I just claim to know a piece of the puzzle. Any advice I give is for literary purposes only; don't try anything I suggest at home, and don't sue me if you do. The trees bring both tricks and treats.

    Wondering how to distill water? Build a fire in a snow shelter? Treat an injury back in the caveman days? Need something like nerve gas or novacaine, but your story takes place before the Industrial Age? Do you want your survival scenes to be as bloody but brilliant as possible?

    Ask away! :)
  2. I know i'm going to need this thread a whole freaking lot. :p
  3. Eyeofdreeg

    Eyeofdreeg Acolyte

    Say you are in a forest, and all of the timber and grass is wet. Can you still make a fire?
  4. Alyssa

    Alyssa Troubadour

    What are some natural astringents and coagulants?
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Absolutely. Find a dead limb the thickness of your arm or bigger. Ideally, on a dead tree, because you're going to need a dead tree; live trees are useless for campfires. (Cutting down a live tree and making fire from it is wildly inaccurate but a common trope in fantasy. Fantasy authors need to get outside more.)

    Cut the limb off, split it, and shave the very center into matchstick-sized pieces. These will burn if you take pains to not let them get wet.

    Small dead twigs on the lower trunks of trees will often burn if the limbs above them have shielded them from the rain. Here in the Northwest, we find these on the bottom few feet of live fir trees pretty easily.

    Pitch and sap, if available, will also burn, even when wet. Scraping up gobs of sap onto these twigs and matchsticks will make your tinder burn hotter.

    If you have a way to cut up the tree and split the pieces into quarters, you can build the fire on top of a Swedish Candle, and it will burn for a very long time. A Swedish Candle looks like this (not me in the video):

    Again; the center of a dead log is typically dry unless it has been submerged. If you can light the center of the wood on fire, it will burn its way outward, drying much of the rest of the wood as it goes. It will smoke and sizzle, and you'll even see water bubbling out of the wood sometimes, but it will burn.
    lesbiancowboy and DFWriterX like this.
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    lol. Richard Cypher in Wizard's First Rule was a wood's guide and he was legit. It was the first time I have seen that because usually it bugs me. I was pretty much born in the woods and spent a number of years on Search and Rescue and I was shocked by how accurate Terry Goodkind was in a lot of his wilderness skills.
    Malik likes this.
  7. DFWriterX

    DFWriterX Dreamer

    I love this series!! It's one of the best fantasy series I've ever read, the sword of truth is awesome. Glad to know Richard knew what he was doing lol Too bad the TV series flopped!
  8. Mithnen

    Mithnen Acolyte

    If you're setting a story in the equivalent of medieval england, how would they have treated pain. I know they had laudanum and something I've read about called 'nepenthe' but what about mild/moderate pain? Did they use willow bark and how did they use it? And what's the difference between an infusion and a tincture?
    Sorry if I sound like an idiot, but I would like to know.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I'm hoping some of the herbalists around here will chime in, but I can let you know that there was no laudanum in medieval England (for convenience sake we will define that as ending in 1500). Nepenthe is purely fictional.

    Pain would have been treated in a variety of ways, depending on who you were, who was treating you, and the circumstances (including level of pain). There is, for example, a wide selection of cures for headache. For the pain associated with amputation ... not so much. There's a great deal of superficial silliness around the Net on the history of medicine; proceed with caution. The Wikipedia article isn't bad, and the references at the bottom are very good, if you can get access to a university library.

    Medieval medicine of Western Europe - Wikipedia
  10. Mithnen

    Mithnen Acolyte

    Okay, that gives me a better place to start. So, everything I was told by this other person regarding the use of 'nepenthe' was either completely made up or they garnered their information from an unreliable source? Thanks for the article on Medieval Medicine. Were they aware of something called The Doctrine of Signatures or was that later writing? I presume that very often in the case of severe pain or amputation the only recourse was to alcohol? Or is that erroneous too?
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Nepenthe comes from the Odyssey. The word has been applied to something modern but I don't recall what. Do a search and you'll see it.

    Signatures? Not much. While scholars date it back to Galen, I think, but he was not known to the West until the 12thc or so. This is another one that's really more early modern than medieval. This is an example of why "medieval" is not a very helpful term with these kind of questions. It covers a thousand years and entire continent. It's hard to say much that was true everywhere at all times.

    Alcohol? Well alcoholic spirits are another post-medieval. The Middle Ages had beer and wine, and related products. A feller'd have to drink an awful lot. So much that I'd start to worry about the patient vomiting in the midst of the procedure. But this is far from my area of expertise. There are many books on medieval medicine. Yes, you probably only have just this one question and you hardly want to do a graduate seminar on the subject, but even just scanning a couple of full books on the subject may well generate other writerly ideas for you. It's worth considering.

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