“Let them eat cake”?!

Marie Antoinette is out of the SCA period. She also never said this, but the myth is larger than the truth.

Unfortunately, we have officials in the SCA who think they’re untouchable, and as a peer of the realm it is imperative that I call a spade a spade.

Leslie is the current secretary of the SCA, she is also the wife of John Fulton, known as John the Bearkiller, the Society President. Because N E P O T I S M is period.

This is in response to the recent brouhaha which isn’t worth repeating here because if you aren’t following the latest political upheaval that has absolutely NOTHING to do with filling a board with privileged royal peers who want nothing more than to stunt advancement in DEI and maintain the status quo in such a way they make the entire Baby Boomer generation look progressive you aren’t going to get it.

But let’s break this down: This is not “vaguebooking”, for one, it’s a direct commentary and breach of confidentiality that either pertains to the the amount of letters the BOD received regarding the Wistric vs Baldar sanctions, or, the amount of people who were able to watch the BOD meeting recently via Zoom. (I have been informed that they throttled the attendance for that but can’t confirm it.) This is not peerlike. This is at best: petty, salty, and a little trashy. I am an expert at all of those things so I can call it when I see it.

Now, everybody at this point knows that the BOD is nothing but a walking closed book that won’t even answer Freedom of Information Act requests, so the fact that the First Lady of the SCA decided to make this post is sort of hilarious, considering she assumed nobody would know what she was talking about. But we also need to focus on another thing:

Mr. and Mrs. President of the SCA are PAID TO DO THESE JOBS. Guess what I’m not paid to do? Write the BOD. It’s not that I don’t want to, or don’t think about it, it’s that whole, “Full time PhD student” thing. (wherein I’ve been told I need to start dissociating myself from the SCA because it’s a bad look. CAN’T IMAGINE WHY.)

Oh, and did you hear my husband died from cancer in March? Yeah, he did. I was going to make a larger memorial post about that once I regained some spoons, but here I am, making a post about this, because I know my blog has a wider audience than her public FB page, and the SCA BOD page as a whole. So needless to say, those of us with real lives outside of the SCA may not actually have the energy to sit down and author a well-dictated and polite, professional letter to the BOD. (And your letters SHOULD be professional, people. I mean it.) I’m exhausted on my best days. I’ve spent the last few months crying, cleaning, studying, and watching my spouse decline as cancer ate him alive. The SCA has not exactly been at the top of my list.

However, Bearkiller was once a great ally when I had my own run-in with Baldar a few years back wherein he essentially made “Final Solution” jokes on my FB page regarding Democrats, so you know the quality of human this man is. Oh, the BOD did nothing then, either. They slapped him in the wrist for his religious coronation but because he used his mundane name and the conversation was in a mundane context, it doesn’t matter if the then-King of Trimaris showed his swastika.

I’m disappointed in Bearkiller. I’m disappointed in his First Lady. I’m disappointed that those of us who made the choice to put our lives first are essentially being made fun of because we aren’t “activist” enough for a club we pay $50 a year for because we don’t have the luxury of time.

I’d ask for their resignation, but let’s be real, the proud never give up the throne. The medieval answer is usurpation, which is a lot better than what Marie Antoinette got.

I know many folks are thinking of leaving. That’s your choice, but what I do recommend is stay. They WANT to push away those that don’t agree with them.



My Accessibility Porter Idea

Switching from the overly volatile current SCA zeitgeist, I received from questions from folks interested in my porter idea. Here goes.

A few weeks ago on FB, I posted this:


“Accessibility porters need to be a more common thing at SCA events.

While there are always good gentles that will help folks carry things, having it as a regular fixture for those that need assistance setting up/tearing down would really help make in-person events more appealing to members of the populace that have mobility constraints, age-related or otherwise. A lot of folks, me included, like to pretend like we’re still young and spry and not full of some form of degenerative joint disease and fibromyalgia, so we won’t ask for help. Instead of asking, it should just be offered at gate. Create a corps of porters that volunteer for shifts much like any other gate position.

I think the way Trimaris has the drive-up sign-in gate at some events is super beneficial here, because then that eliminates the need for the individual needing assistance to have to get out of their vehicle to request aid.

When you talk about inclusion, including the disabled shouldn’t be last on the list.”

I do know that some kingdoms have an actual “accessibility porter” office wherein their job is to help make events more accessible, so this is not to be confused by that. Names can always be changed, and “porter” sounds better than “event bell boy”.

The gist of this would to have a corps of volunteers that sign up to do this like any other shift job at an event. You show up and put in your hour or two. The general idea would be to assist folks that need an extra hand lugging their SCA lives with them into events. Be it camping, A&S display, armor, etc. I can be for mothers will small children, elderly with mobility needs, etc. It does not have to be just “the disabled”, of course. Sometimes having that one extra hand to carry a chair makes a world of difference for somebody like me when I go solo. It would be request-based, with gate offering porter assistance at check-in. This would make sure the volunteers don’t get overworked and spread too thin, especially since not everybody likes strangers touching their belongings. Set up and breakdown help can also be requested in advance based on availability of porters, but to avoid a queue or shorthanded staff, it cannot be accommodated day-of.

I figure for smaller events, having 2-4 per shift would be good. Larger would command 4 or 6 or even 8. (Even numbers allows for better tagteaming.) Wagons and dollies can be made available if there’s the budget for it. I have a folding wagon I purchased at Walmart a few years ago that has helped immensely, and porters can also bring their own supplies. Breakdown would have a similar request system. “Roving” porters can also be a thing during peak setup/breakdown times as well.

Benefits:
1. Folks who are currently on the fence about coming to events because of a shortage of hands or mobility issues will have one less thing to worry about.

2: This is an excellent way for newcomers and teens who don’t mind doing some work to meet some established members and build connections.

3: It’s an easy way to give back and help others.

Potential Issues:

1: Impatient members being rude to porters, or abusing and bogarting the service from people who actually need it. Which supervisors need to make sure doesn’t happen. Honor system still stands: If you REALLY don’t need the help, you don’t ask for it. Likewise, they aren’t caregivers, just schleppers. Individuals who need more specific care will have to bring their own caregivers. It’s just too much of a liability otherwise.

2: Porters potentially missing key event moments like court and feast.

3: Weather hazards need to be taken into account. Porter safety is as important as everybody else’s. If the weather is too inclement, the service will be suspended until the weather passes.

Nothing is without issues, of course, but I think that I want to give this a shot organizing it at an upcoming SCA event I can actually go to, maybe. Or see if I can coordinate it here in Trimaris even if I cannot go. I definitely think this is a good kingdom to start in, as a lot of our population is aging (Save your Florida jokes for another time.)

This is obviously too much for a HUGE event like a war. I also need to figure out a way to keep tabs on folks that need aid without labeling them in a way that creates stigma, such as having those that requested aid to bring in their gear send a text message to the supervisor porter when they are broken down and ready to go back to their vehicles, or more likely, send somebody to the gate.

The important thing is to keep this simple. This is not abled bodies for hire to do any bidding, this is “I am physically incapable of bringing in all that I require and I need a hand.”

“You haven’t updated in a while, are you okay?”

The short answer is “YES!” I am okay!

I never really settled into living in Atlantia. In fact, I generally hated the region of Hampton Roads. Nothing against the people of the Barony of Marinus, who were awesome for the short time I was there, but after getting turned out for a ton of jobs, I decided that it was time to do something for myself.

I am back in Trimaris.

I am in the Barony of Wyvernwoode, my ancient and venerable stomping grounds, and have embarked on my PhD at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

THLord Gieffrei is remaining in Norfolk to finish his naval career, and I will remain supporting him from 800mi south. He wasn’t really around at all for my MA in the East, or even when I lived in Caid, so this is nothing new for us. In fact, we do better when apart. My immediate family is still in the Tampa Bay area, and out of the schools I applied to, USF offered the most funding and the best track for what I want to go into in order to further my work with museums and public history. If anything, the Pandemic has taught me that it’s important to be near those you care about, and I did not have that in Virginia. Jeff was out a lot, I barely knew anybody, and frankly, I’m very burned out of this whole “Navy wife life” BS. It was time for the Byzantine Girl Summer, so to speak. (You know, my almost-40 year old “girl” self.)

Needless to say, I am BUSY. I am in 3 classes in addition to working as a grad assistant. I do still plan on making it to a few events here and there, but with COVID being so badly managed here in Florida, and the SCA’s adoption of an “honor system” versus mandating vaccines, I don’t see myself out much until things change. I am fully vaccinated (House Moderna!), and I am masked and exposed to germs daily on campus. Not to mention, the SCA’s continued bad acting in the face of issues including white supremacy, sexual assault, and even D&I issues (though I applaud the D&I staff and office), I just can’t grok with the game right now. Things need to turn around.

I know there’s a lot to be said about a new peer sort of backing off after elevation, but it’s more common than people think. The system is designed to wear us down, and I am not tolerating it, nor am I allowing my associates to tolerate it. I haven’t even posted about my elevation ceremony itself yet, because I was so damn burned out from it all I ran completely out of steam and didn’t want to blog about anything at all.

So this is what I have done instead:

-Lost 30lbs by watching my food intake and working out. Kettlebells, yoga, and Body Groove have changed my life. I’m working on my next 20lbs.
-Returned to Taekwondo after a 15 year hiatus, and will be pursuing my next black belt degree.
-Applied to, and was accepted to, 3 PhD programs. USF being funded enough for me to live on my own.
-Bought a new car! Nothing that special, but hey, new cars are always nice, right?
-Took a total break from sewing aside from masks, and SCA related art, and sold half of my fabric stash.
-Enjoyed reading fiction again.
-Reconnected with my best friend of 30+ years (no he’s not SCA, and never will be.)

This doesn’t suck.

Do I miss my SCA friends and family? Of course I do. Every day. I miss camping. I miss events. I miss the old normal as much as everybody else, but the New Normal is what we have, and we need to accept it and adapt to changes, be it Pandemic-related, or cultural. The SCA is stuck in the 1970s when other similar organizations are moving into the 2020s. When those who dislike change to the point they become a viable threat to the game bounces, they start a new SCA clone with blackjack and hookers, and none of this looks okay for somebody like me who is entering the dreaded enemy of the SCA: Academia. They don’t care what game I play. They just see the press releases, social media posts, and take the next step.

I will be back. I want to come back, but I want to see changes first:

I want a vaccine mandate. If the Boy Scouts can do it, so can we. If you’re going to be an ass and bring up “freedoms”, allow me to remind you of the preamble of the US Constitution: “Promote the general welfare.” Full stop. Get over it.

I want white supremacists GONE. Not coddled, not “well they just have a difference of opinion”, no, Get them. The fuck. Out of. My Game. And no, not “Conservatives”. Most of my household is _conservative_. They also are pro-vax and anti-Nazi. Get with it, “conservatives”.

I want sexual assault investigated swiftly, safely, and any assailant removed from the Society IMMEDIATELY. No beating around the goddamn bush. “Oh but the BOD…”, the BOD can also change procedure.

I want a better environment for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members. I want to see more inclusive events and development opportunities for non-Western European personae. This is already going well, but we can do better. I also want people to understand that “inclusion” does not mean just BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals. Seeing the social media reaction to the D&I office sponsoring a session on active duty military made my blood boil, and almost made Jeff quit entirely.

Likewise, I want SCAdians to realize that my husband’s job takes precedence over events and commissions. Asking for a commission from Jeff a month or so before we PCS or he deploys and then pitching a fit when he says no is not a good look and bluntly, we’re sick of it.

I want our bullying policy to be revisited and less able to be weaponized. Yes, I’ve been bullied, but I didn’t say anything because the person at the helm held more power than me, and we all know how that works in the end. All it takes is for me to snap back at somebody on social media, and then, snap! I’m the bully. If I defend myself against sexual assault, I can be kicked out as a bully. Think about that. Since the day I was elevated, I’ve had frequent attacks on Facebook wherein my posts are repeatedly reported for bullying and hate speech if I speak out against certain individuals and their behavior. (Getting banned from Facebook is now my Stupid Peer Trick.)

The SCA needs to not lean on Facebook so much. It is a flawed platform that allows for abuse of reporting and algorithms to control speech from all angles. It makes it harder to determine who are actually missing stairs, and who is just getting piled on for dropping an F-bomb. Unfortunately, it’s also the best platform as far as discussion groups go that isn’t Discord. That is a problem in itself.


When the SCA does better, a lot of us will come back. Until then, don’t be surprised if you don’t see me much until Jeff retires, or I’m done with school. I certainly don’t plan on attending Pennsic for a while.

Does that mean you shouldn’t contact me? Absolutely not. Please email me. Please message me. I know I owe a couple of folks silk banners (military movers did not play nice this last go around and things…yeah things. I need to replace lots of things.) I still want to share my wealth of knowledge with everybody, but my brain is elsewhere right now. I still care, maybe I still care too much, and that’s the point of this rant.

I just think we can do better, and I’ll be around.

The Earthquake You Felt Was Real

On Saturday, September 26th during the Ethereal Court of their Majesties Trimaris at Village Plague, I was sent forward to contemplate my elevation to the esteemed Order of the Laurel.

My vigil will take place on the evening of the 16th of October, and my elevation the following day, on the 17th, which also marks the Hellenic Festival of the Khalkeia, which celebrates craftsmen under the patronage of Athena and Hephaestus. (The 18th is the anniversary of the Battle of Dyrrhachium, but we aren’t going to talk about that.)

This will be a virtual event, with only a small team present here in Castlemere to make this safe and socially distant. More information will be posted as I receive it.

Break time.

As of this point, I am taking a step back from the SCA for a duration of time yet to be determined. I will still show up at some events, but current politics, coupled with exhaustion due to drama and other issues has driven me out.

I am happy to continue to field questions and will be actively monitoring my site until I feel fit to return to my research for the society’s purpose. Until then, I am going to be focusing on my mundane research for upcoming conferences, and consider moving forward with my PhD.

Consider classifying your garments into different levels of “dress”.

This is definitely more of an aristocratic tradition than a lower class tradition, though I assume that well-to-do merchant class Byzantines may have had a tiered wardrobe.

While doing research, you may find annotations or information for clothing known as “undress”, or “court undress”. Before you think you need to get nekkid, look at the context. It’s somewhat antiquated, but the concept of “undress” is the lowest level of acceptable dress. Not really your pajamas, but something you could be comfortable being seen in, while out for a meal in the palace with friends, or maybe the emperor if the occasion is not a state one.

Basically, court undress is your business casual, while full court dress is your best of the best ceremonial-grade garments. In between could be half-dress, your “cocktail hour” attire, or something you would wear to a weekly liturgy at your local basilica, a gathering at the palace, or a less formal court. Coronation? Easter? Christmas? A marriage? Get your good stuff on, non-optional.

It’s no secret that I love garb.  I sew a lot, and probably own way more than I actually need to. My reasoning, or at least, what I tell people, is that you really can only get better and learn to understand new patterns and shaping if actually get the needle out. Another reason, is that stratifying my Byzantine collection is important. I’m still working on it, and developing more “undress” for myself as an aristocratic woman.

For example, my 12th Century outfit? This is not for everyday wear. This only gets trotted out for special occasions, namely coronations, and fashion shows because it’s just so extra. This is court dress. The propoloma elevates it.

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But then, you have my 11th Century set which I made for my thesis. Is this court dress? Well, the mantle certainly kicks it up. But it’s not the highest ceremonial dress. Why? I’m not wearing a propoloma, I’m in a fakiolion instead. Could I wear this to court? Yes. Probably not for a coronation, or for Easter/Pascha ceremonies. But this would be acceptable for an event where fine dress is required. It could even be undress if I lost the mantle. That is more or less adding an air of piety to cover my shoulders for the divine liturgy. If I added a propoloma to this, it would be court dress without question. This is a good example of half-dress.

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True undress?  Probably more along the lines of this look. I’m in a minimally decorated wool delmatikion, with a plain white veil. I still have jewelry on, as I am aristocratic and need to wear some wealth, but this was Festival of the Rose out in Caid in February of 2017, and not a major event like Coronation or Crown Tournament. I was comfortable and completely dressed, I just don’t have a full body picture.

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A good source for a woman in aristocratic undress would probably be the Theodore Psalter, which Tim Dawson references for similar reasons in “By the Emperor’s Hand”. Here, the woman pictured in well dressed, but not weighed down by ceremonial accouterments. This is something more along the lines of what I should be wearing regularly (when it’s not as hot as the surface of the sun outdoors.)

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I do have a couple older linen delmatikioi I should try wearing more beyond Pennsic when I’m not melting down here.

Another level, though I am unsure if this is truly an aristocratic woman or not, is from this miniature in the Menologion of Basil II. I like this because it doesn’t have the long angel sleeves, and clearly has a short-sleeved esoforion beneath it. However, I’m not sure, exactly, who she is. Is this the empress in her “casual” wear because of the red boots? Is this a middle class woman? Either way, it’s another form of undress. My guess if she is aristocratic, or the empress, it’s very much of a “It’s warm out, and I’m keeping to myself” type of clothing. It’s still pretty ornamented, and red is not a cheap color. Of note is the fact that it is clearly an emergency situation with the “bad omen” in the sky, and her head is uncovered outdoors. Lots of questions!

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Anyways, I hope this post helps people think a bit more about building a tiered wardrobe. It’s definitely something I need to put more thought into working on for myself.

 

Exhausted and homesick, but not giving up.

I left the East Kingdom on Memorial Day weekend in 2016 for Caid.
I left Caid for Trimaris in January of 2018.
Three kingdoms in three years, and not without scandal.

I normally don’t post dirt or personal feelings much on this blog. I prefer to have it reserved exclusively for my research and helping others. But sometimes, helping others and performing a service isn’t just steering them down the path of Byzantine goodness, it’s also helping them navigate this crazy life that is the SCA, because as Yoda said: Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

A hobby is not much of a hobby if it starts controlling your life.

Here’s the rub: This isn’t going to be a pleasant post for me to write, but I’m at the point where I need to play SCAdian Kool-Aid Man and bust through a wall. Much like it wasn’t easy last year for me to come forward about my battles with mental illness and the SCA, I need to come forward and discuss how the last year has taken a toll on myself, my marriage, and my want to participate in the SCA.

We had front-row seats to Caid’s “Trimgate” when we were leaving for Trimaris. Our last event was the coronation with the ill-woven trim. I didn’t see the blatant swastikas until after pictures were posted, because the day was rather joyous. The newly-crowned royals were well loved and it seemed like we were going to miss something fun. And, here I was, driving across the country when the hivemind went into overdrive, and those I knew from other Kingdoms were pinging me directly for the dirt. I admit, at first I got sucked right in. I was driving to a place I didn’t want to live. I was miserable and tired. I had no furniture and replied to Facebook posts via phone. I posted things, and then I backed up. I got reminded by others that I needed to focus, and I did. I stopped answering DMs, I started dispelling false accusations that were flying across my feed so fast I couldn’t stay on top of the fact-checking, and I slipped away from conversations that were getting heated and allowed the kingdom I was leaving to take matters into their own hands, which they did with grace, and without me getting in the way or being some weird third wheel to satisfy the hunger of a pack of wolves half the world away chomping at the bit for juicy drama. When all was said and done, that debacle was all and all a result of bad theater. Yes, go ahead, get mad at me: Bad. Theater. Bad choices were made, bad answers were given, bad accusations were being made. None of which, by the way, deserved death threats in response. I hate that knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been at the receiving end of them before in my mundane line of work and it’s usually the ultimate show of immaturity and lack of class. And, also a great way to get the FBI on your ass.

So, that’s how my 2018 started. I shook that off, and tried to make the most of being in Trimaris. I still should have made my husband make a hard turn back at Albuquerque.

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I’m not going to go into the entire saga that was last year’s summer reign in Trimaris. I’m not even going to post names so that search engines pick it up, but, like the Caid Coronation, I had front row seats, again, to the very religious Trimaris Coronation, which used the same ceremony structure as I did for the Eastern Coronation that same month. The words for how I felt watching that train wreck don’t exist. I wanted to chalk it up to Inter-Kingdom Anthropology, but when you get warnings on people the first week you live in-kingdom, the Spideysense tingles a bit hard, and I should have seen all this coming.

Anybody who is friends with me on Facebook, knows I’m actually some sort of fire elemental with a temper like Mt. Etna and enough heartburn for everybody. I also have zero tolerance for BS.

It was -my- Facebook page that his former majesty of Trimaris decided to use as his proving ground for baseless Nazi “jokes” a year ago. And I woke up to a barrage of DMs that made me wonder if somebody I knew died. Seriously. I was asleep the entire damn time, and it was my non-SCA friends who were in the fight.

Sure, blame it on them for instigating all you like, which I got, from a lot of people. Hell, I was victim-blamed enough myself, even from people I thought were my friends. And while I have a lot of friends that run the gamut of political opinion, I’m not a fan of the current hard right. When you start “joking” about treating liberals like Holocaust victims, I don’t care what kingdom you’re from, what your job is, or even if you’re Her Majesty Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you’re toast. I am going to nuke you from orbit, and rightly so.

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And sure, you may come in here with your whataboutism and go “But Anna, what about the Alt-Left, they’re all ANTIFA and COMMUNISTS, AND SOCIALISTS AND-” And I will knock you down with every book on my shelf in the form of Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition citations.

…So now’s a good time to talk about what I do. I’m a historian. A real one. Not just a hobbyist. Some of my projects from my previous employer have involved working directly on the cause and effect of fascism and anti-fascism movements in 1920s-1930s Italy and Germany. So when somebody plays the wingnutty crap on my social media, I tend to get a wee uppity. I can also go into a lengthy discussion on the differences between Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and other examples of Communist regimes because that comes part and parcel with this whole focus on mid-20th Century history that I was doing for a while. (Hilarious for a Byzantinist, I know, but research and historical method don’t change. I also had excellent courses on this period as an undergrad that allowed me to have a springboard.) This is something I know A LOT about, and I also know that it hasn’t been communists sending me death threats.

What this king said was bad. What he was posting on his own account was bad. I didn’t even remember friending him, or why he decided to target one of my threads that specific day. It’s over now. And then Pennsic happened, and then the BOD did their thing, which is still a contended issue.

And then I was nominated to the Board of Directors, and am currently sitting on the list of other nominees wondering if my time is going to come around. It’s a thankless job, and people will hate me for it. I know I can’t go in there with an agenda, and nor do I plan to, but if my voice can be the slightest hint of change, then so be it.

Gieffrei and I refused to attend a single Trimaris event from then on out. We spent our entire last spring prepping for Pennsic as our only SCA involvement, which worked out, because I’m also a member of other clubs and it was nice to see something else for a change. I was reached out to by many Trimarian peers, and while they are all wonderful people with the truest intentions in mind, our hearts were broken. We wanted to be done. We wanted to get our citizenship back in the East, and go forth with that.

Our minds were actually changed at Pennsic by the then-heirs to Trimaris, who heard about my issue, and took the time to hear us out. We’d go to Fall Coronation, and see how it went. Honestly, I really enjoyed the break we had. I was gung-ho active in Caid for 2 years, and I needed a nap.

Jeff, on the other hand, being fresh off of a sea duty, wanted to hit everything he could before he got back to a boat and I didn’t see him again for another 3 years. I obliged him. I decided that we could start reentry by checking out the baronial chancery. I could get back into scribal, and he could meet others. This ended up getting him into scribal extremely hardcore, and he went from painting blanks with my gouache to taking off with my dry pigments and making his own paints for use on pergament in the span of about 2 weeks. My head spun.

We treated ourselves to a trip back up to the East Kingdom for Birka this last January, and it was a nice, fun, change of scenery. But I also found it made me dreadfully homesick upon coming back down to Trimaris after a scant 2 nights away in the frozen north. Jeff fulfilled his dream of chartering the Royal East Kingdom Moneyers Guild while living 1500 miles away, and I enjoyed catching up with friends.

Inter-Kingdom Anthropology between the East and Trimaris is pretty substantial, way more than I experienced in Caid. Every event down here is pretty much the same: you go to one of the three most commonly used sites, and there will be cabins/tents, fighting, fencing, something A&S, and a feast, so the scenery doesn’t really change. This is what works best for Trimaris, and I’m simply making my observation as an outsider. Coronation and Crown are 4 hours from where I live in the kingdom, and are at the same site, so you’re guaranteed to make that haul 4 times a year. My parents live 2 hours from site, so we’ve been able to work from there for a day trip until this weekend when we actually camped it. It’s a nice summer camp site, but provides little opportunity for the populace to bust out their good garb for coronation. If the climate won’t make you want to die in it, the dust will destroy it. It’s a minor detail for those that have lived down here their whole SCA career, but for someone like me with a closet full of fine silks and wools just waiting to be moth bait, it’s depressing. This isn’t anybody’s fault but my own, of course. It’s my wardrobe, and my variety of experience. It’s the price I pay to be a Navy spouse, you could say, but it doesn’t make me any less homesick if anything for the ability to wear something other than linen I can throw in the wash from my Pennsic wardrobe. Hell, even using the term “homesickness” is somewhat ironic in this sense, considering I grew up in Florida.

We were very much welcomed this weekend at Coronation, and apologized to frequently for last year’s explosion. But I still feel distant, and foreign. I’m not sure if the pilgrimage to Birka did this, or not. I think it was the concurrent ongoing of East Kingdom Coronation and getting those notifications popping up across social media at the same time I was elsewhere that may have done it. It’s hard to watch my friends assume the thrones of the East when we’re not in striking distance enough to help. When we can’t go to the events we were so accustomed to, and were looking forward to attended again before the Navy invested me as Baroness of the Alligators. It’s not that we’re not having fun, we are, and simultaneously can’t wait to leave in order to form the strangest collective of feelings one can feel at once. The folks we’ve fallen in with here in Castlemere are our kind of tribe, so at the very least, if we don’t make it down to the Crown site again, we can still have a good time up here.

I’m sure a lot of this is exacerbated by my inability to find work, my daily struggle with depression and anxiety, and my new friend fibromyalgia, who moved in several years ago, but didn’t get a name until recently. It’s making camping suck, which for me is horrid, beause I love camping events, I love our tents, and now I’m dreading being a physical burden on my husband and household at Pennsic should I have a kicker of a flare. I felt like hot garbage for a fair chunk of coronation, but did my best to not let it show. Nothing some Tylenol and a few cups of magic grape juice couldn’t at least distract me from.
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I also feel that the political climate being what it is, the upheavals across the society being what they are, are also a driving factor in my exhaustion. It did me little good to have last year drudged up again at Coronation, though I wholeheartedly accepted each and every apology given to me, because it is right to do so.

As a historian, I am beyond aggravated at these internet memes and “alternative facts” that support and drive white supremacy and Nazism into Medievalism. I want them out of my game and my life. Period. We’re always told that we should let peers do the work of dealing with such affronts, but I say, in this regard, that we’re all peers when it comes to striking down hate and dragging it out of our lives and our game. When we see something, we DO something. Period. We stop bad theater before it starts so nobody gets hurt making a bad choice, we catch bad behavior in action and deal with it accordingly before they ascend to the throne. No more casting the job off on somebody else based on a hierarchy that will get us a latte at Starbuck’s for $5. It is not “social justice” to want a club that has diversity and inclusion, especially when the periods we are representing WERE diverse. (HELLO The Byzantine Empire had an “Office of Ritual Brotherhood”, which may have been same-sex marriage, AND allowed and accepted transgender individuals to join their calling in the orthodox clergy and FFS there were African blacks in Europe that were NOT SLAVES.) There is enough counter-offensive on the internet now with sufficient documentation from us pros in the history biz to stop this cassarole of Nazi nonsense. I have a hard enough time taking them seriously when they show up dressed like Homer Simpson with tiki torches, but I’d be damned as hell if I let my grandparents’ bones turn in their graves further or the legacy of my husband’s career be diminished by allowing them to walk all over my hobby. We are an educational group, are we not? We do what we need to do in order to blare our ZERO TOLERANCE neon sign from on high and nip this junk in the bud before it blooms.

Despite my own exhaustion, I’m not leaving. I’m not going to quit and let the SCA turn into Uncle Hitler’s Charm School for Wayward Jaded White Men. I may be in pain, but I still have a lot of fight left, and if I gotta go, I’m going colorfully, and with lots of company. I’m sick of reading posts by other members who have had their hearts broken.

If my nomination to the BOD goes through, great. I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place. If I’m ever elevated to peerage, great, I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place, but my work should not be limited to if I achieve those positions.

This is going to take a village, a populace, and a knowne world.

Never Again. And not in my SCA.

Because of course a Byzantine would drink incense: Andalusian Sandalwood Syrup

I’ve been slacking in my period beverage making as of late. I’m still brewing mead, and my hibiscus mead just won 1st place in a mundane brewing competition down here in Florida, but as far as recreating a medieval recipe? Total slacker.

I’m very close to making craftsman level in the East Kingdom Brewers Guild (Yes, I live in Trimaris, but I still panel with the East because I can.) and it was suggested that I add more non-alcoholics or medicinals to my repertoire. I’m a fan of the 13th Century Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook for the weirdness and variety of its medicinal syrups, so I decided to give one a whirl.

I used Cariadoc’s translation of the cookbook on his site here:
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Andalusian/andalusian10.htm

The recipe I chose was the Syrup of Sandalwood, and it reads as thus:

“Take two ûqiyas each of red and white sandalwood, and an ûqiya of white manna of sugarcane. Then pound the sandalwood and cook it in rosewater until its substance comes out, and let there be five ratls of the rosewater. Then take the clean part of it and add it to two ratls of sugar, take the tabâshîr and put it in a bag, and cook all this until it forms a well-made syrup. Its benefits are to calm the heat of jaundice, to cut thirst, and to profit in the other ailments and fevers of jaundice. It leaves the nature as it is, without causing retention or thinness of urine. It fortifies the stomach, the liver, and the other organs, and in this it is most extraordinary.”

I mean, why wouldn’t I pick a syrup that was made with one of my favorite incenses? According to this article from the Getty, Sandalwood (as well as rose) was used in the home, but was also a luxury perfume. While we have serious lacuna regarding Byzantine foodways, these culture-adjacent recipes still provide a bit of a hint as to the smells and bells of what the Byzantine Empire could have enjoyed. Even though it’s a supposition, I feel like an expensive perfumed drink would be right up a Byzantine patrician’s alley.

A quick bit of internet research led me to this site for measurement conversions. Al-Andalus would be Maghrib/North African:

https://sites.google.com/site/islamiceconomyuwo/weights-and-measurements/maghribnorth-africa/ratl

ratl = about 2 cups (16oz)

An ûqiya seems to literally translate from Arabic to English as “ounce”. So I went with that.

So let’s break this down into a modern redaction using these measurements:

2oz of White Sandalwood
20oz of Red Sandalwood
10 cups of Rosewater
1oz of Sugarcane manna…

*screech*

What the heck is manna? Manna is basically the sap that extrudes from the joints in the cane, or simply the juice. This is not really all that easy to obtain for the average SCAdian unless you have a cane farm, nor is it something to put into a “bag” as described in the original recipe. So, what I did was cut a piece of fresh cane along the grain (it is very, very hard), and exposed the flesh. Sugar is made from reducing the juice from the cane into crystals, but again, this needs to be in a -bag-. So, after some thought and weighing what I had on hand, I decided to slice up and use 2 full ounces of sliced sugarcane for this project.

1oz  2oz of sliced sugarcane
4 cups of granulated sugar

There, that’s what you need!

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A benefit to living in Florida is access to fresh sugarcane. I got too much, so I will be planting some and see how they do.

But rosewater is best when you make it, versus buying it in the store. How do you make it? Infusing roses into water, of course. Easy peasy. My general recipe is about 1/4 cup of dried roses for every 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat, and let steep for an hour or until the roses lose their color. I recommend putting the roses in a bag or making “tea bags” for them out of coffee filters. It makes cleanup easier and results in less absorption and liquid loss. I made 5 ratls of rosewater, or, 10 cups, with a full cup of roses, and it was plenty strong enough.

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A big pot of rose tea.

While the rosewater was steeping, I following the directions and got to pound up the sandalwood in a mortar and pestle to help it release more aroma and flavor. I purchased chips, versus powder, and I’m glad I did. It made it a bit better for infusion, I think.

I put my smashed incense into a larger saucepan, and added the rosewater. Like before, I brought it to a boil, and reduced the heat to a simmer. The recipe says to cook until “its substance comes out”, but this stuff is so aromatic, my entire house smelled of it, especially the red sandalwood, which is a stronger incense. I gave it a good simmer for 30 minutes, and removed it from the heat. I let it cool until I could handle the pot safely, and filtered out the sandalwood chips using a coffee filter in a funnel into a different pot. Fortunately, most of the chips sunk and stayed in the pot. This made cleanup super easy, where I doubt powdered incense would have had the same benefit.

Into the saucepan I added my granulated sugar with the sandalwood rosewater, and the sugarcane slices in a bag. I measured out my fragrant water and had only 6 cups instead of 10, so I topped it up.

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Sugarcane is very tough to cut, and should be done with great care along the grain.

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Ready to boil!

This is when the fun begins.

When I make sekanjabin, my ratio of sugar is higher than my ratio of water and vinegar, thus, a lower temp simmer does the job in 30 minutes, and you have a nicely sweet syrup. If you go higher in temp and bring it to a boil, you can scald the sugar and make it too thick. I wanted to avoid this. So I brought the entire cast of characters up to a boil, and then dropped it to a low simmer for a half hour. This resulted in no syrup. It was a pleasantly favored  and colored sweetened water. Damn. Where did I go wrong?

Did those 4 cups of water I added back in screw the pooch? What could I do? I let it cool overnight, and woke up to no syrup. I needed to troubleshoot this. I could add more sugar, yes, but it was already pretty sweet. What I ended up doing was going against my initial judgment, and giving it a boil at med-high heat for another 30 minutes, and THAT did it. The recipe says, “cook until this forms a syrup”, and that is what you have to do. You have to observe, you have to be medieval. We get so stuck in our modern ways of cooking with times and measures, that we forget that sometimes you just need to use your eyes. I periodically checked on the boil and watched it reduce. I could probably reduce it more if I wanted, but I decided to leave it be at this point. It was a syrup, not molasses.

The final product is a deep reddish-brown liquid that is pretty opaque.

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Demonstrating the color and opacity of my final product in a Carlo Rossi jug, which is a testament to my refined taste. These small jugs are the perfect size for keeping syrup batches at home before decanting into better bottles.

I let it cool completely, and then spooned some into a glass of water to test it. It is basically a face full of sandalwood with a sweet, nutty, rosey taste. It’s very pleasant. I wouldn’t drink it all the time, but adding it as a sweetener to tea, or as an iced beverage on a hot day, and it could be lovely. It is definitely “Middle Eastern”, and definitely different for those that may not particularly be familiar with floral beverages, but I like it. I think it will panel well, and I’m going to give out some small bottles as gifts along with some of my cinnamon sekanjabin as I never drink all of my syrups. That’s A LOT of sugar, and these are supposed to be a treat, or medicine, you know, in case we need to calm the heat of jaundice.

For those looking for a less-chatty version of my redaction, here it is:


 

Syrup of Sandalwood
An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century
Redaction by Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina

Ingredients:

For the Rosewater:
Water
1 cup dried roses

For everything else:
2oz White Sandalwood chips
2oz Red Sandalwood chips
2oz sliced sugarcane
4 cups of granulated sugar

Make the rosewater by infusing 1 cup of roses into 10 cups of water. Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, and let steep for 1 hour or until the roses lose their color. Discard roses. (I recommend making tea bags out of muslin bags or coffee filters to control the roses better.)

Pound each sandalwood in a mortar and pestle to release additional aroma and flavor. 5-10 minutes of stress-relieving pounding for each variety.

Place rosewater and sandalwood in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Drop to a low simmer and steep for 30 minutes. Filter out sandalwood, and transfer liquid into a clean pot.

Place sugarcane in an infusion bag into pot with sandalwood-rosewater and 4 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to med-high as to have a constant boil, but not one that will cause the sugar to foam and boil over. (This makes a huge mess.) Boil for 30-40 minutes or until a syrup is rendered. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Bottle.

Sugar syrups should keep indefinitely as long as the bottles are sealed. Add to cold or hot water to taste.