The Return from Pennsic: The SCA versus the Navy.

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.

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Us at Palio di Stonemarche. Being all matchy Italian rennie and stuff.

VERSUS

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Us at the USS Constitution for a sailor’s re-enlistment ceremony and probably the worst hair day of my life.

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.

No pressure.

I Love you, muffin. <3 It certainly will be an interesting 2 more years of sea duty.

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The Propoloma: A headdress of the Zoste Patrikia and other high ranking women in the courts of Eastern Rome

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.” [3]

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.[4]

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Anna Radene wearing the propoloma during her occupation of zoste patrikia in 1070

 

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Possibly Irene Gabras, wife of St. Theodore Gabras. Who did not serve as zoste patrikia.

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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.[6] 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.[7] 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.

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(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:

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The original cap.

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When worn.

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.

 

My horrid first attempt at a propoloma 30lbs ago.

 

Bibliography:

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.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Alexander Kazhdan, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, (New York: Oxford 1991), 2231.

[2] Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204, (Abington: Routledge 1999), 5, 245, 264.

[3] Ioannis Spatharakis, “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, Byzantina Neerlandica 6, (1976): 145.

[4] 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.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 48.

[7] “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.

I MADE DIS. (Things I don’t normally make that I just made.)

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.

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IMAG2367 Practicing with the tools and my thingy at the end of the belt.

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I managed to do this with the knife. Somehow. I impressed Geoffrey.

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The idea I came up with. I went with thingies and Apotropaic amulets (Evil Eye). Very Levantine that fits not only my persona, but the Syrian belt buckle I got. I have no idea if it was used on belts in period.

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Dyed green outside on my sunny deck full of pine needles, and potted herbs that attract things that will sting you.

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After it was dyed and sealed, I used hide rejuvenator to lube it up and moisturize it. It absorbed two full coats. Oof.

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Geoffrey attached the buckle, and done!

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Here’s the buckle in my green hands.

 

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:

The plain red linen banner simply cannot do.

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.

With the waterbased resist applied on the designs. Next time I want to use the rubber gutta, I think it will work better.

And painted! Loaded with mistakes, YAY!

It’s currently making a lovely door screen as it finishes drying.

 

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. ~_~

Facebook Group for Pennsic Classes

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.

Group link:

AΔΣ’s Pennsic Classes
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1448455932095583/

 

Please feel free to join in advance for when the fun begins.

Idle Musings, Part 2: On the Wearing of the Color Purple

In more of my pre-Pennsic Procrastination, additional thoughts have chopped their way into, “gee, I should be sewing right now” time.

 

Namely, this:

 

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.

 

Idle Musings: On favorite court moments.

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.

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Receiving my AoA in 2010.

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Geoffrey receiving his AoA in 2013, looking totally unsure of what just happened to him.

 

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.

 

 

Auntie Anna’s advice on how to dress for Pennsic.

This last weekend at Palio, and on Facebook, I’ve been asked on what’s the best way to clothe thyself for 2 weeks of camping on the Allegheny. After my last couple Pennsics, I’ve started to create a system of clothing that works for me. I used to bring everything I own, which ensured not running out of clean clothes, but I realized I was still wearing a lot of the same things over again in rotation than wearing, well, everything, so this is what I’ve been contemplating.  Note that everybody has their own unique system, and there’s no real right or wrong way to do Pennsic, okay, well, there’s plenty of wrong ways, but here’s assuming everyone comes prepared. The only way you’ll really figure out what works for you is trial and error.

In the Anna Method, you have 3 categories of Pennsic garb, not including the mandatory outerwear like cloaks because you’ll need one: 1: Court/Nice event garb. 2. Casual stuff. 3: Camp slop. Some things will carry over a bit depending on the day, how hot, how cold, etc. I always go for the full 2 weeks, so I tend to need more. The issue is that a lot of my stuff takes up some bulk, and there’s only so much room in the car. Space Bags are a wonderful invention and help a lot, but it’s not infallible to reduce space once you get there. So rather than bringing everything in your closet, put more thought into what you’re actually going to wear.

For example, here’s my thought process:

Court wear: No bliaut, it drags on the ground. Turkish has pants, good for cooler party nights, Bamberger Gunthertuch outfit is a yes, bring the gold dalmatica just in case and also something to bead on. Ghawazee coat outfit for hitting the Bog with. No apron dress this year, focus on being in persona.

Casual wear (remember this stuff can double for court wear if conditions are questionable): Blue beaded Byz, Rose Byz, Blue chiton, white chiton for layering, blue stola, rust peplos and Northern Army peplos. Green faux silk chiton if layered over white only because it sticks to my skin like ew. Beige tunic dress and sideless surcoat. Sari and choli for when it’s oppressive and you have to go to court…

Camp slop: Make 2 new Party Saxons (what I call ugly plaid bog dresses) since you gave some to a friend, flannel tunic dress, maybe one more of those for chilly nights, ugly cotton tunic dress with the short sleeves, purple pants, tank tops for grunt work. Sleep dresses.

Fight garb: Fencing entari, Fencing caftan, stripey pants, salwar, tunics.

Shoes: Flip flops, Crocs (you can hose them off, BIG.) Roman sandals, China flats, fight boots.

Outerwear: Cloak, Birka coat, Skaramangion if finished.

Now, this isn’t everything that will be on my final list, but it gives an idea of how I try to mentally place my garb, and reduce my bulk, and there’s also things that I can share with Geoffrey, though I tend to prefer dresses over pant or braies.  There’s some camp garb I won’t leave camp in, and there’s some I will stroll around the merchants in if I don’t particularly care who I run into, which is often. This is my vacation, and if you can’t deal with seeing me at my worst, you don’t deserve to see me at my best. I’ll be honest, there are days in camp I just need to put on mundane yoga pants and hide from the world. There are days when I’m just in a tank top and a broomstick skirt, and 99% of the time, I’m barefoot. This is okay, your camp is your space, and your tent is your house. Wear what makes you feel relaxed and comfortable, but still able to do the necessary chores.

Now, the number one consideration isn’t the amount that you bring, it’s planning for what Pennsic will throw at you weather-wise. As somebody who lives in New England, where we are fortunate enough to have all 4 seasons, we tend to plan for all the weathers. Not everyone in the country has seasons, and as someone who grew up in the balmy tropics of Florida, I know half the stuff I wear up here wouldn’t see the light of day down there. You need to be prepared for the extremes, I am not kidding. My first Pennsic, it rained the entire time. It’s been over 100 degrees and dry, there have been tornadoes and microbursts that can severely damage camps, and there can be bitterly cold nights that result in frost on the grass. The majority of the time, you can expect warm temperatures in the 80s and 90s, with a consistent chance of rain. Wet and dry conditions result in lots of mud and dust. The sight is usually good about helping control the dust levels by wetting the roads, but mud is unavoidable, and the ground is saturated in natural iron that gives everything a staining rusty tinge that’s impossible to get out of garb. This is where you need to plan well.

My persona is high Byzantine. I’d be damned if I’m going to wear one of my white tunicae after a rainstorm. Nope. No way. I highly applaud the folks who dress in their persona the entire time, especially the women in late period, because your balls are bigger than mine. I have no qualms with being a slob if it means saving my good clothing.  This is why I wear a lot of classical Roman in the summer to begin with. That, and I tend to get very warm in long sleeves.

Another thing to consider greatly is your sensitivity to the sun. I’m blessed with Italian and Black Irish (Irish folks descending from the moors and Iberian Celts) heritage, so I tan well and have a lower risk for sunburn. Therefore, exposed arms and legs aren’t as dangerous to me as say, my Lord Geoffrey, who is as Northern European as the white cliffs of Dover. So where I can go as Roman or in generic bog dress #42, he has to cover. He’s a Norman persona anyway, so this helps, but we’ve also decided to put him in generic Middle Eastern kaftans made from ugly striped linen like this:

kaftan

Make an oversized T-tunic with the front split. Done. Instant coverup “kaftan”.

Because he can still wear short sleeves under it, as well as straight pants with sandals to control body temperature, without sacrificing his skin to Helios.  Sunblock is still needed, of course, but not by the gallon.

Also, hat. All the hats. If not a hat, then a veil or some sort of cap. Not only is it period, but it’s period for a reason: Your face and your scalp are going to cook. They sell big straw hats at war for about $5 each. They will last you the event, and you’ll look goofy, but it’s better than sun poisoning on your noggin and helps eliminate the need for sunglasses.

floppy

Here I am waterbearing at Pennsic XL: Ugly Bog Dress and floppy hat.

Garb “hacks”:

Here’s some ways to “cheat” at garb for Pennsic to make it a more affordable and comfortable experience.

-Sew/purchase your garb in natural fibers only. That means linen, wool, and cotton. Linen above all, because it will keep you cool, keep you warm, take a beating and wash well. Wool will keep you warm but doesn’t wash as well. Cotton is good depending on the weave, but it won’t take a beating. Quilting broadcloth is garbage, avoid it if you can and spend the money on better quality fabrics like homespun cottons, or, you know, linen. However, flannel tunics are a great way to have snuggly warm dresses and tunics for the chilly nights in camp

-Bandeau bras under bog dresses and classical garb. I got a pack of them from Amazon for like $15.  No straps, and tight enough support to hold the girls in without the dreaded Roman sideboob. I have a 36D bra size and they still fit.

-Shorts.  Yes, ladies, I’m looking at you. Not everyone has a thigh gap, and I myself am an accomplished victor of chub rub chafing which ruined a war for me. You need bike shorts or compression shorts under your dresses. You could make short braies, also, which I’ve done, but seriously…protect your thighs. Shorts and Gold Bond after a shower. Don’t ignore this advice. I’ve also heard that Body Glide is a great product to help with this (and under the boobs) as well as an antiperspirant, which doesn’t work for me. Ripping up your thighs is a great way to ruin your event.

-PJ pants. This is a great way for guys (and ladies!) To have legwear for cooler nights and days without wearing jeans or making tons of pants. They’re usually cheap at stores like Target and come in colors and all sorts of fun plaids that could pass off as something Celtic or Viking, even though everybody knows you’re in PJs, because a lot of people do it. These make great “camp slop” for when you want to save your nice stripey pants for a higher profile day. Scrub pants can also work, but don’t wear blue scrubs, that’s what the Cooper’s staff wears.

-Crocs. I think they’re ugly, too, but after I watched campmates hose off their shoes after a muddy night and before they got in the car to go home, I became a believer. My winter boots are Crocs, and they’ve worn lots of mud here in the spring events. Plus, Crocs come in other styles that aren’t so…Croc-like. This doesn’t mean don’t bring better shoes for nights you want to go out, or for court and such, but after I’ve destroyed, and I do mean DESTROYED, flip flops and China flats at war, I’d rather just invest in these ugly things and have my feet look like duck’s feet if I can hose them off.

-Buy packs of underwear and socks when you get there, you’re going to need these because you may throw out more pairs of socks than you think. I don’t care how much you pack from home, BUY MORE.

-Leave a bag of clean mundane clothing, shoes, and undies in the car. You’ll thank me later.

Okay, what the heck is a Bog Dress?

A bog dress is a peplos, plain and simple. Just like the Romans made them. They were worn throughout Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe and they’re an excellent way to make cheap hot weather garb. I separate my Roman dresses from bog dresses by calling them my Party Saxons, mostly because I’m wanton to pick out the most horrific plaid homespun cottons at Joann’s for them and blinding my camp. This of course, isn’t necessary, and I’m just not terribly a nice person. :) I do recommend making them out of the homespuns though, even if they’re horrific, because you’re only paying $4 a yard, don’t need much fabric, and if they get wrecked beyond a washing machine or repair, oops, into the dumpster they go. You can also make them shorter and feel like Artemis for those extra sloggy days.

There’s a couple different ways to make them, usually you’ll see the traditional style with the flaps in the front and back, but I’m starting to move away from that and just making a tube to pin at the shoulders to conserve fabric, as my Roman ones take up the entire bolt width and cut lengths. I also found this great pattern by Alfrun online, and she pleats the tops to make it more fitted and use less fabric. I’m going to try this style for this year’s war: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/a-wandering-elfs-journey/sca-standards-the-bog-dress

 

 But what about stuff other than garb?

I have a friend of mine who I camp with who has done this way more than I have.  So quite a few years ago, she made a site, called Pennsic 101, that will get you through the basics. It is dated and does go back to before cellphones were the norm, but it’s still a great starting point.

http://www.angelfire.com/folk/pennsic101/

There’s also plenty of other guides available to check out, just by running a search.

Here’s Master Liam St. Liam’s guide on 10 must-do things at your first Pennsic:

http://liamstliam.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/ten-things-to-do-at-your-first-pennsic-or-really-any-pennsic/

 

So as you can see, there’s no shortage of information out there to help newcomers. I hope I was at least able to give an idea on how to plan your clothing.