Getting a Head

Getting a Head Many cultures, not just the Celts, collected the severed heads of their enemies. Since the real thing is a little hard to come by these days and a pain to store (not to mention heavy to carry around!), we came up with a substitute.

You are going to need some cotton knit material in an appropriate skin color (one of my favorite heads was a blue Pict), some foam wig stands that look like faces-it doesn't matter if their gender is female, you can change that-glue, twine, straight pins, some trim, and raw flax. You can guy flax by the pound from weaving supply houses. If your town doesn't have a weaving supplier, check the advertisements in the back of periodicals like "Threads" for listings. You can also use fake hair, but it is more expensive unless you buy some wigs form Salvation Army, Goodwill, or yard sales.

Let's look at the foam head. First of all, it doesn't have to be a new head. Look for them in flea markets, junk stores and yard sales. It's okay if they are knicked up, they'll be cheaper and the nicks will add character. You will probably want to shorten the neck, especially if it is one of those swan-necked numbers. Cut it with a hacksaw or serrated knife (fig.1). If you want to amend the features to show a particular ethnic group or whatever, now is your chance. You can cut and glue foam features over the ones already there, or you could use something like Sculpey or even putty to form features. Once you've played around with that, cut a strip of material four times the length of the head and about four inches wider than half the diameter.

Cover the back of the head with glue. Lay the head on the material as shown (fig. 2) and stretch and pin to the shape with straight pins. Now put glue on the front of the head. Stretch the material to fit the head snugly. You will have to place straight pins at the corners of the eyes and mouth as well as around the nose to keep the material in place until it dries. Overlap the material at the sides of the head and glue and pin in place. You will have a long loop of material at the top of the head. Tie it in a knot as close to the top of the head as possible, leaving a long loop (fig. 3). This loop will form the 'handle'. Now squirt some glue into the hole at the bottom of the head. Stuff the excess material into the hole using a screwdriver to force it in. When the glue dries, remove the straight pins and you have a basic head. Sometimes the material will wrinkle or pucker on the face; I turn those into raised scars by rubbing them lightly with a dark red magic marker.

"Dead Saxon" look, so we leave ours natural. If you do dye it use Rit dye-try the liquid variety and dilute it in about a quart of hot water. Be sure to rinse it well after dyeing of it will 'run' in wet weather.

To make eyebrows: Run a bead of glue over the eyebrow areas (I usually draw them on with a pencil first so I don't get them crooked). Take a wisp of flax and cut it into ½" to ¾" lengths. Starting at the outside of the eyebrow attach the short lengths to form the brow. Remember that the eyebrow gets thicker and wider as it nears the nose (fig. 4). Let the glue dry and trim the brows up with scissors. If your head happens to have been Persian, you can make the brows meet-a sign of a handsome man!

Now the beard! Cover the beard area with glue (again I draw the boundaries with a pencil first) and glue short lengths of flax (or long lengths if he had a long beard) to the face starting at the chin edge and working up (fig. 6). Then the moustache...

If it is a long one, fold a long wisp of flax in the middle and glue to the face. Do the same thing on the other side. A short moustache can be made like the beard and eyebrows.

Hair: Mark the hairline with a pencil. Foam heads usually don't have ears, so unless you added some initially cover the ear area as well. Run a bead of glue at the hairline from 'ear' to 'ear' at the front of the head. Run another bead about two inches back. Take wisps of flax and fold them in the middle. Lay the fold on the hairline and press down. Press down over the second glue area. Continue until the front of the head is covered. Now run glue along the back hairline as shown in fig. 7. Apply the hair just like you did for the front. When the glue is dry, take the excess flax and gather it around the knot of the fabric. Use some twine to tie it in place. Twist the excess into a rope and twist around the loop to form a handle. If your 'trophy' had long hair, start applying to the flax at the hairline and place the hair down as shown in fig. @. Continue, applying glue strips every 1-2" and then adding another layer of flax. You will need more flax for long hair than for the first method. Cover the 'handle' with some flax.

Now for the grooming. You can make the beard forked like some Norse and Anglo-Saxons; you can braid the moustache and/or beard; you could pull the hair to one side in a Suebian knot--the possibilities are endless. Add a neck torque, a hat, hood or some old chain mail. I usually put a short piece of trim around the bottom of the neck as a decoration. You could get really carried away and gild the features!

Treat your head with respect and put it in a bag or special cloth box. Don't forget to feed it at feasts-always a crowd pleaser! That is of course, if your enemy was a noble and honorable man. Otherwise they make great footballs.

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