I don’t always post about my really real for real life here on this blog, because this is a place for the research I wish to share with like-minded folks. However, this being relevant to my SCA life, I thought I could share a bit about generally crazy our lives can get.
First and foremost, a disclaimer: I haven’t been a military wife for that long, and I met Geoffrey when he was still on shore duty. As far as things are going so far, I’m downright spoiled. This is all going to change in about a year, but I don’t have much to say about it yet, other than that there is a potentially big move involved. We did move from Rhode Island to New Hampshire this year, or rather, he moved last fall and I joined him in the winter once I finished my degree, so I already got displaced from my home of 11 years into a totally new, and entirely less urban-convenient area.
Geoffrey is an active-duty submariner. That means for the most part [but not always], his home base is going to be in New London, CT. This makes us already percentages more stable than the majority of military families. Subs can be moved, though, such as up to a shipyard for repairs, which is what put us in Portsmouth, NH for the time being. This worked out well, since I was accepted into the University of New Hampshire for my MA, which is just 20 minutes away, and thanks to the Navy, I was given in-state tuition.
On the SCA front, of course, this had us switch baronies from Bridge to Stonemarche here in the East. Being in Bridge for over a decade and knowing everyone for so long made this probably the most difficult part of the move. Not that I didn’t know folks up here in Stonemarche, but it’s just not the same. Different events, different sites, the idea that we would have to drive more than an hour to our “local” events that seemed stupidly flabbergasting thanks to the New England mentality we both disgustingly adopted. (Yeah, um, here in the East, aside from Tir Mara, the Canadian Provinces, we’re REALLY spoiled when it comes to events being close. We’re more population than area, and still, Montreal is only 4 hours away. Halifax or St. John’s, on the other hand…)
Then comes the questions: How involved do we get when we know we’re only here for 2 years? How attached do we stay with the baronies to our south? How is our mundane workload now going to effect our eventing?
Oh, that last one is a doozy. With Geoffrey being on a submarine now and not on shore, despite the fact that it’s up on blocks and full of holes, means that he has to work more on base, and leave is harder to get. We had a hell of a spring into summer. Especially with the odds of a deployment around every corner. Pins and needles. He started taking every weekend off for events, figuring that Pennsic wasn’t an option, but once that changed, again, he put in for the 2 weeks of war, and we were good to go.
This is when the really fun stuff happens.
We knew he was up for Chief. Things were working in his favor for promotion, and we had a feeling that this could be it. And well, it was. We found out that he made E-7 while sipping iced coffees at Cafe Merhaba, while I waited to work the State Dinner. I watched him hold back emotions so much that tears welled in his eyes…and of course, you know, I footed the bill at the Cafe. What I didn’t know, however, was that in the Navy, making chief is more than just a big deal, it comes with 6 weeks of very high stress training, called induction or indoctrination or simply “Chief Season”. Some call it hazing, and some say that it’s not what it used to be, all I know is that both of our phones started blowing up. They wanted him back as soon as possible. He told them that this wasn’t happening. There was no way, even if we left early, we’d still need a day to drive and a day to unload, putting us into the weekend anyway. I watched as Geoffrey’s relaxed vacation turned into moments of anxious stress, and I kept saying that if he wanted to leave early, we could. At this point I was done teaching my classes. I couldn’t fight because I sprained my ankle 2 weeks prior (that’s a whole other story) and I was generally having a “meh” war. But he insisted we stay to help break camp, and even stay with the freehold I’m apart of in the hotel on the way home. And honestly, I’m glad we did, because he hit the pillow and passed the hell out. There’s no way he would have made a 10 hour drive home. No.
So we got home from Pennsic around 5:30pm on Sunday August 10th, and he dropped the trailer in our parking lot and went, “I’ll be back in a bit, I need to run to base.”
…So that bit? That bit took til 10pm. The car and trailer were still loaded. This is when Anna’s stress levels started to soar. My sewing machine, my inkle loom, OUR THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF GARB were sitting in space bags in tubs on a trailer, in a parking lot, with a ripped tarp that was strapped down so tight I couldn’t undo the knots myself. And it stayed like this for a week. It took Geoffrey falling out at PT due to dehydration for him to get an afternoon off so we could actually try to do things. This was Friday, we had been home for 6 days, and naturally, it had POURED during the week, so I was constantly freaked over the condition of the stuff, and you know, the condition of my husband, who had decided to stress so much he wasn’t staying hydrated enough. If it wasn’t for me feeding him, he wouldn’t have been eating enough, either. It was only his first week, but because he missed several days while we were at Pennsic, they were running him ragged, and my stress only compounded every day seeing him drag ass, and seeing our stuff get soaked. On top of that, I had to make a flag for the CPO selects on the base in 2 days. Which I have to admit I am most proud of (thank you, Wonder Under and the marvel that is iron on anything!) But at least this promotion means that he isn’t going on a fall deployment [as of right now]. So there is THAT [maybe]. *phew* [don't hold your breath.]
It is now one full week since we have been home. The trailer and car are now empty, and the majority of the contents that need to go back into homes here in the house are now sitting in my living room waiting to be washed or hung back up, and are emanating a smell that is akin to campfire and Old Spice deodorant-infused man-sweat. Where’s Geoffrey? Geoffrey is in Boston, playing on the Constitution (!!!) for a week. I’m probably the only Navy Wife that is more geeky about this than all the guys are, especially since on Friday they get to take her out onto the water, and I can’t go, sit on the pier, and cry in jealousy. I got $40 for laundry, Oxyclean, and a kiss, and he’s gone. Of course before that, I had to press his dress whites, sew on patches to 2 new sets of NWUs, even breaking a needle and having it fly up my nose. No, I’m not making that up. The pointy end of the needle FLEW INTO MY NOSE. If it wasn’t for my nose ring, it probably would have hurt a lot more than it did. The words I uttered are already circulating the world and causing pearl clutching as far as Siberia. I assure you. I never did fine the pointy end. I keep blowing my nose wondering if it’s stuck. For those that don’t know, it costs servicemembers A LOT OF MONEY to maintain uniforms. I probably just saved us $50 in patch-sewing alone. That’s clearly $50 I can use on fabric. Clearly.
..And now he has to buy all new uniforms, and I get to re-patch all his other sets of NWUs.
So, he’s gone all week. That gives me a chance to FINALLY un-Pennsic the house, a week later. Catch up on the rest of my sewing work…a week later, and generally attempt to finally decompress and make sure he can come home on Friday and relax. Then I have one week left before I start a whole new degree at a whole new university, and he’s not through with this until the 15th of September.
I Love you, muffin. <3 It certainly will be an interesting 2 more years of sea duty.
The Propoloma: A headdress of the Zoste Patrikia and other high ranking women in the courts of Eastern Rome
Kyria Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina, OM, OBT
One of the more difficult aspects of studying Eastern Roman dress for the SCA is locating suitable headwear outside of the typical veil and circlet that seems common place, and easily mimicked from iconographic depictions of female saints, and especially the Virgin Mary. I have just started to scratch the surface of ceremonial Roman dress, but so far I have been able to uncover some rather unique pieces that may begin to open the door into more complex appearances for Eastern Roman personae to try.
The zoste patrikia was a title held by the chief attendant or lady in waiting to the Eastern Roman Empress. It literally translates to “girded-lady patrician” but is often translated into English as “Mistress of the Robes.” It appears to have been given only to extremely high ranking ladies in direct service to the empress. She was not only the head retainer for the empress, but also the head of the court of ladies, the wives of other high ranking patrician men in the court of Byzantium.
As was tradition with the Eastern Romans, ceremony heavily accompanied any augmentation in rank, and with ceremony, came elaborate new costume. Ioannis Spatharakis, in his monograph, The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, gives a detailed footnote of the ceremony, as described by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos in De Cerimoniis, while explaining the details of a manuscript depicting the installation of Anicia Juliana as patrician:
“In the church of the Theotocos of Pharos she received from the despotes a delmatikion [dalmatica], a thorakion [ecclesiastical pallium, similar to a chasuble], and a white maphorion [hooded veil]. In the Pantheon, wearing the thorakion and the delmatikion and carrying the loros [heavy gold wrap] and the propoloma [trapezoid hat], she received from the enthroned emperors the kodikellia [codex], which were later blessed by the patriarch. Because she was wearing the loros and the propoloma, she was not able to prostrate and kiss the feet of the despotai, as she did when she received her costume, but she bent slightly and kissed their knees.” 
This article will focus on the design of and wearing of the propoloma. This particular style of the hat is described as being in use as early as the 10th Century, but appeared to have had its heyday during the 11th and 12th Centuries, which allows it to fit perfectly into my persona. It appears to have taken the shape of a trapezoid, or upside down cone sewn shut on all but one side for the head. It may have been covered in silk, and then decorated in a variety of ways.
Dawson seems to have done most of the legwork on this hat, as there is not an English translation of De Ceremoniis available to do primary source research from Constantine’s perspective. He discusses that although the hats were usually white, it appears that in one manuscript, purple ones were seen. This may indicate that these women may have been members of the extended royal family. He also brings into account on his Levantia website that the padded headroll seen in earlier artwork, including the Ravenna mosaics, may have been the predecessor to the trapezoid propoloma. So for those who have an earlier period persona, we simply need to take a look at the bust of Anicia Juliana to get a glimpse at the earlier hat style.
(Photos taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March of 2014.)
Anicia was born in 462, which puts her occupation of zoste patrikia during the reign of Anastasius I, two reigns prior to Justinian I. So it is arguable that her attire could be considered that of late Antiquity of the very late Roman Empire, rather than “Byzantine” in nature. However, a similar style was worn by Theodora’s court in the mosaics at Ravenna:
The first thing I noticed immediately on this particular bust was not the layered look at the top, but the gathering in the back at the base of the skull. This reminded me immediately of the Cap of St. Birgitta, a style that was popular in the 14th century:
Naturally, there is no reason why this cap could not be older in origin, and this marble bust may just show a similar cap being in use as early as the 5th century. At least for the over cap, the under cap is a bit more perplexing, especially with the pucker going on at the top of the head. It is highly unlikely that is a hair part, considering the detail given to the rest of the statue, in addition to the same look of the layered “turbans” on the mosaic, so my belief is that it was two separate pieces, but how they created that gather on the top is still a mystery to me. It is something I do plan on exploring later to help those with early period personae.
But how does a re-creator or reenactor transfer the wearing of this type of hat into their hobby? Well for one, this is a hat of station and rank. In the SCA, some kingdoms have sumptuary laws, the East Kingdom, where I reside, does not. However, I like to take into account the “what would my persona do?” clause when it comes to my clothing choices. My persona is well-developed, but not everybody else’s is, nor should they have to be. It is absolutely a personal choice on how much thought you want to put into your persona, and what you want them to wear. In the case of portraying a persona from a culture that has strong sumptuary laws, such as the Eastern Roman Empire, and especially if you reside in a kingdom that has laws about what one can wear on their head regarding their own rank, this is when the re-creator needs to take into account what he or she wants to wear, or should be wearing, for the holder of their awards.
In the case of the propoloma, I would recommend that nobody holding anything less than an Award of Arms wear this hat. A woman who would have received this hat would have already been of high patrician rank, and even though the title of lady may or may not convey this, it would be unfair to say that only peers or grant holders/court baronesses would be permitted to wear it as well as far as the game we play goes. I made my first one from looking at the Tom Tierney coloring books, which have proven to be rather inaccurate the more that my studies continue before understanding that it was a hat of rank. However, I feel that it would make an excellent choice for something akin to a cap of maintenance for a Pelican, or wreath for a Laurel, as the SCA simply does not hold a candle to the intense pomp of Eastern Roman ceremony. But by bringing pieces of these ceremonies into the SCA, bit by bit, we can help enrich our game even more, and introduce others to a new and exciting part of Roman culture they may have never otherwise known about.
Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.
Kazhdan, Alexander. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York: Oxford 1991.
Garland, Lynda. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204. Abington: Routledge 1999.
Spatharakis, Ioannis. “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts,” Byzantina Neerlandica 6 (1976): 145.
Dawson, Timothy. “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, edited by, Lynda Garland, 47. London: Ashgate, 2006.
Dawson, Timothy. A Woman of the High Aristocracy,” accessed August 13, 2014. http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/zoste.html.
 Alexander Kazhdan, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, (New York: Oxford 1991), 2231.
 Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204, (Abington: Routledge 1999), 5, 245, 264.
 Ioannis Spatharakis, “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts”, Byzantina Neerlandica 6, (1976): 145.
 Timothy Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” in Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Ed. Lynda Garland (London: Ashgate, 2006), 47. Dawson cites De Cerimoniis by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, the 1837 Latin edition, which I am currently translating into English.
 Ibid. 48.
 “A Woman of the High Aristocracy,” Timothy Dawson, accessed August 13, 2014, http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/zoste.html. Also gives his interpretation of what a complete outfit may have looked like.
In between sewing way too much, and horrifying Pre-Pennsic Panic (tears, there are tears. I know I’m not the only one.) I’ve made a couple things that have been totally new to me, and therefore I feel the need to share them with people looking for Roman and Byzantine stuff here, that aren’t going to find it in this post. (Sorry.) However, I do hope you find inspiration for working outside of your comfort zone and exploring new projects.
First thing: I made a belt. Seriously! I have an apprentice sash I made from faux silk and fancy stitches, but I can’t wear that all the time, so I needed a sturdier leather belt for times I need to carry a pouch or bum around not in Byzantine. This was an adventure. My husband has leather working experience, and I figured he would just do it for me. NOPE. He made me do it while fielding a tapestry of profanity so thick it’s probably seen as smog over the Boston area. Here are some pics of my experience.
I started with a 3/4″ belt blank from Tandy, and an 8th Century Syrian belt buckle from Raymond’s Quiet Press…got green dye and Geoffrey’s basic tools and designed a pattern that I felt could work. This was my first time tooling leather, ever, so I just kept telling myself that straight lines were for sissies, mistakes are period, and if anyone needs to get that close to my belt to see my mistakes, they need to buy me dinner, first.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! I ALSO PAINTED A SILK BANNER FOR MY PAVILION!
I have no idea where I find the time for this stuff, but Geoffrey made this pretty finial for the Green Monstah, and said we needed a banner. After me giving him a dirty look for a solid minute, I agreed, and ordered the supplies from Dharma. Fortunately I have friends who have done silk painting before, and the concept overall is very simple. It’s controlling the dye that’s tricky, and understanding that mistakes do happen and not to care that much since it will be up on a pole.
Here is the Green Monstah. It’s in Geoffrey’s colors. I am not a Red Sox fan and hate all things Boston, and he doesn’t watch baseball, but the name was apropo:
So we had to go all out with a war standard. Now, there are rules that need to be followed for displaying heraldry, but the SCA tends to be different than the real world, so the order I did is perfectly fine. Most importantly, your country or kingdom needs to be on the hoist, which is the pole, and then you work out from there. In this case, mine is East Kingdom (populace badge), The Northern Army, Geoff’s Arms, and then mine. When marshalling married arms, the lady is always RIGHT. This means my dolphin is way at the end, but hopefully the breeze catches it enough.
All I have to do now is wait for it to dry, rinse it to remove the resist and excess dye, and then toss it in the dryer. Oh, and attach it onto the pole, of course. It will be sewn onto the casing part of the red linen flag in the above picture so it fits properly.
So there you have it, folks. Anna did stuff she doesn’t normally do and did not kill or maim anyone in the process. I definitely want to try another silk banner with better brushes and gutta, I think it will make a difference in controlling the dyes.
Now if you excuse me, I need drink 3 more cups of coffee, and start sewing even more stuff. We leave on Saturday morning. ~_~
I’m REALLY MEAN when I teach at Pennsic and only give out outlines when I teach my classes. There’s multiple reasons for this:
1: You can’t show up, jack a handout, and then not stick around for my class thus shorting the people who stay a handout.
2: It’s harder to plagiarize me. Yes, it’s happened. Really people, just cite me in your work.
3: It makes you become more engaged in what I’m teaching by following my outline, and taking your own notes for your own benefit. I do pass around supplemental materials and draw pretty pictures on the whiteboard and I want you to pay attention.
4: IT SAVES TREES. If I printed everything I needed for a 2 hour class, it would be a small booklet, and cost me a lot.
However, this has a downfall. Those that want to go to my classes and then can’t get shafted. So I was thinking to myself, “How do I make this easier for folks who can’t make it? You can’t learn much from a boring old handout.”
DING. SOCIAL MEDIA.
I understand that not everyone has Facebook, I apologize, but not everyone has Google + either, and I find the Facebook group interface a bit better for discussion anyway. Therefore, I created a group on Facebook that I plan to fill with all of my class goodies after war, so everyone can jump in, ask questions, and engage in a sorta online class. This is pretty beta, and I hope it works out. If it doesn’t, I’ll just can it.
AΔΣ’s Pennsic Classes
Please feel free to join in advance for when the fun begins.
In more of my pre-Pennsic Procrastination, additional thoughts have chopped their way into, “gee, I should be sewing right now” time.
No! I mean THIS:
That is the shade of what is known as Tyrian, or Murex Purple. The imperial purple of Rome. As you can see, it is NOT indigo, it’s closer to a magenta-red, and it’s actually quite nice.
This was brought up because right now I have enough free linen points over at Fabrics-store.com to do some damage, and wildcherry, a color similar to this purple is on sale. This put me in a conundrum. Do I spend the money and being haughty and make a lovely purple piece of garbery, or, do I let it slide and stay within my persona? The East Kingdom has no sumptuary laws, especially when it comes to the wearing of colors, so I could wear this without any issue on the game side of of things. However, on the Anna side of things is where I question it. Would my persona be in the purple? As an imperial with the rank of lady, it’s likely I could have afforded it, and sumptuary laws did change over time to make it more available…IF you could afford it.
However, I feel like the wearing of purple, to me, as a Romanian (Byzantine), is being presumptuous in rank. If I was bestowed the gift of purple from someone of a higher station, that’s different. If someone won crown for me (highly unlikely situation) then well, yes, definitely. But the purchasing, sewing, and wearing of a purple garment would make me feel like I cheated. Yes, even though I hold the rank of lady, and I have seen period imagery of ranked women wearing SOME purple in their embellishment, they were never clad in it fully like the actual emperor and empress. So even though I may hold a position that allows me to wear it, and I could probably afford the dye, I would limit my purple to embellishment only, rather that entire garments.
Instead, I will play with words. Purpura, in both Latin and Greek, is a funny word. It means both purple AND red, so it’s hard to assume which color was being worn unless modifiers are being given, which they sometimes aren’t. And a good red color, like kermes derived from crushing little insects into dye, was just as expensive as milking murex snails. So I will gladly spend all of my persona’s invisible money on quality crimson and not feel like I’m placing myself higher than I should be while still dressing as a diva. ;) Problem SOLVED. HOMERUN!
This of course doesn’t mean a thing outside of my own persona and kingdom. If you want to wear purple, and can wear the purple, rock that purple.
I need to get work done.
As I’m knee-deep in the pre-Pennsic grind, churning out commissioned garb orders and working out more than I have in years (I’m running again, HOORA—oh my knees!) I often find my mind wandering into just strange thoughts. Sometimes when I get angry, I get these negative thoughts that totally affect my performance, so I’m trying to focus more on happy thoughts and Tinkerbells and pixie dust and all that sparkly crap. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right happy thought to make me fly just yet, but I did start chatting it up during epic moments of sewing procrastination with the other half on what we like the most in the SCA, and court came up.
Not everybody likes court, in fact, I’ve done my fair share of skirting out of courts early, usually for food or “OH GOD THIS IS NEVER GOING TO END HELP.” (If you’ve ever been to Birka? Yep.) So I’m not innocent here. Not by a long shot. However, sometimes it’s the little things at court that makes it totally worthwhile. The point of going is to see somebody you may know get recognized for their awesome, right? So, we thought for a bit, and decided on what we like seeing at court the most here in the East. Obviously, it’s always great to see someone you know and love getting recognized, but what about those folks you don’t know?
A peerage is always great. That’s the epitome of awesome, your SCA master’s degree that can even come with a hood…or spurs, spurs are cool too. It’s always awesome to see somebody be elevated, their emotionally charged ceremony leading up to the moment they swear fealty as a master or mistress of the realm loaded in their new regalia.
And then there’s always the basic Award of Arms, and watching the recipient become totally enchanted at the sight of their first royal scroll and being called Lord or Lady for the first time, and remembering when we were called up there once, blushing, and unsure of how to act in front of royalty.
Then there’s the other awards. In the East, we have one tier of Kingdom awards, called the Orders of High Merit, which are our highest awards (SCA Bachelor’s Degree?) that bestow on the recipient an award of arms if they don’t already have one. I know some kingdoms have both AoA and Grant of Arms level awards, which is kinda cool as well. We also have a variety of unique kingdom awards, such as the Queen’s Honor of Distinction and King’s Order of Excellence that aren’t always given out, those are a lot of fun to see as well.
However, my personal favorite, and I think that Geoffrey was in agreement with me as we sat here on the couch planning and making leather coronets for some friends of ours, is seeing someone receive a court baronage. When you get that, you’ve reached a pinnacle of recognition by the crown that they’re giving you NEW JEWELRY. You get a shiny for your head and you get to be called Your Excellency. Your very excellence made you well, excellent. :D Plus, they’re always a surprise award, unlike a landed baronage which requires an investiture (also cool to watch and a good excuse for a party) so the new baron or baroness has no idea what’s going on, and almost always gets misty, which makes me get misty. That doesn’t mean that the kingdom likes you, that doesn’t mean that a polling order says you’re good enough, that means the royalty REALLY REALLY LIKE YOU! Plus, then you get to ask Geoffrey and I to help make you a leather field coronet, and get surprised again when you see it. ;) It’s becoming one of Geoff’s favorite crafts, even.
Which brings me to my final thought for the evening on the subject, overall, I think being a part of someone’s award, from the AoA through a baronage or peerage, makes it even more special. Because not only is someone you know getting recognized, you personally helped in a way to embarrass, I mean, award them, for their awesomeness. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m slowly getting into calligraphy, because being a scribe puts you in a great position to share the award experience with the deserving parties.
Feel free to comment on your favorite part of court or award given in your local kingdom or barony. :) It’s always cool to see other perspectives.