Juggling toys and stilts.
By Iago Gallego de Chantada
Yes, stilts are period. Western european ones tend to have the footrest
coming forward of the raiser, leaving the raiser sticking into your knee
joint space. Most stiltwalkers now use Chinese stilts, where the foot is
beside the raiser. The difference is like the difference between steel and
nylon strings on a guitar, they feel strange to start with but one fairly
quickly makes the adjustments. JuggleArt, in Melb, is selling expensive
stilts made to the european design, as well as the chinese type.
One illustration of 'stilt-walking' has a performer walking on their hands,
using swords as stilts. IMHO, This would be extra-ordinarily dificult!
Period juggling toys vary by period and area - but we have records of Roman
jugglers using swords, shields, pila (sp?). Samuel Rid's (1612) manual on
Juggling only mentions balls. I've always assumed fruit in season. Marginal
illustrations (circa 13-15th C) suggest plate spinning was big. Somewhere I
once saw a woodcut of a woman juggling daggers (I think 5). Sickle juggling
also makes it into the margins.
I've never seen, or heard of, fire manipulation in our period - but burning
some-one to death as a party trick is described in a life of Alexander the
Great. (it went wrong - been there!)
Diablolos and cigar boxes are reputed to be period toys. They were in the
east, but when they got to europe is moot. Club juggling, as done by most
modern jugglers, is way OOP, as it is derived from the 19th Century fad of
club swinging as a muscle exercise. Also moot would be hat manipulations
(mostly they require a stiff hat) and Mexican Nestling Cups. Devil Sticks
and Flower Sticks are period in China, but again, I do not know when they
got to Europe. Ditto: meteor Bowls (aka 'the Hubcaps From Hell').
Sources: Books of Hours are good. Samuel Rid's 'Art of Juggling and
Ledgerdemaine' (1612) was apparently largely pinched from an earlier work -
Ulric knows more of this stuff. Both are mostly texts for conjorors, rather
than jugglers per se. I'm told there is a wealth of Byzantine material
(which was a much more civilized area until the Normans arrived) but I have
not seen it.