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.

 

“This Kingdom Is Too Darn Hot” Party presents: Pharaonic Egyptian.

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On our previous, “Why do I live where the sun melts my face” episode, I designed the Archaic Chiton and Archaic Himation for those that needed less fabric than Roman could provide, but still look glam. I’m pretty much kicking most of my Roman pieces to the curb for this. I feel more at home as an Archaic Greek for an alternate summer persona. Probably because it allows me to be more of a peacock in line with my Byzantine primary work when those heavy layers are unsuitable. This gives me time to work on my academic work with Byzantine dress, while keeping cool with simple sewing projects I can bling out extravagantly with trim and bezants.

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I mean, look at this extra.  I even had someone give me the braids despite my hair being unnaturally pink.

When it became clear that the weekend of Trimaris Memorial Tourney was going to be facing record breaking heat, I wondered how little I could wear, and still look put together. I feel like my Iron Age peploi/bog dresses/war tubes are just not okay enough outside of running around the field at Pennsic or working around camp. When my husband, who is known for his gingerness, is packing his Roman tunica and shorts and bottles of sunblock instead of his usual two layers of linen, you know what’s up.

Amenhotep Sa Amenemhat has been pretty inspiring with his work in the Bronze Age, predominately his impression of a New Kingdom Egyptian priest of Amun. He suggested I take a look at Egyptian, and I sort of sneered a bit. Really, the most common Egyptian look that women in the SCA attempt is the strappy sheath dress. I have no issue with it, because I’m a fan of supportive garments, I just have my own body image issues that are stopping me from tailoring my own. When Caid announced that their upcoming reign would be Egyptian, my friends from Calafia got in contact with me for sources, so I jumped onto the SCA Egypt group on Facebook and browsed through the files section, which I found out was pretty comprehensive on options outside of the strappy look.

I openly admit to not looking too deeply into Egyptian textiles. It’s not really my “thing”, though there’s quite a bit of overlap between that and some Bronze Age Greek I’ve been reading up on. When a book I have out on Interlibrary Loan, Ariadne’s Threads: The Construction and Significance of Clothes in the Aegean Bronze Age by Bernice R. Jones, cited images and contemporary extant pieces from Egypt that looked to be well-fitted tunic dresses of sorts versus the straps, or the oversized bag-tunic, I decided to look closer, and followed through to Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, where a fast skim was able to make the idea of a bag tunic more doable for my personal tastes.

The bag tunic itself was worn by both men and women, and there were a variety of cuts and pleating styles done with it. Most artwork shows women wearing slim fitting clothing, in reality, this may not have been the case. The bag tunic could have been quite wide, and when belted under the bust, created the wide top. I’ve played this game with wide Roman chitons that required double belting. No thank you. I want part of the “less is more” idea, here. I had a remnant of 27″ wide natural colored linen and a free afternoon. Why the heck not?

The construction is exactly the same as a Roman man’s tunica, or at least, the way I make them. I folded the fabric in half the short way, and formed holes for the arms on the sides. The neckline is based on the bag tunic found at Tarkhan, where it is nothing more than a vertical slit, versus a Roman boatneck style. Other tunics show keyholes, so there was some good variation going on. This image from University College London gives a good diagram, and also shows the inclusion of fringe. I did not fringe my linen, though I was seriously tempted to do so.

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Click through to visit the UCL site, which showcases several extant Egyptian pieces.

My cut:
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I finished the hem of my garment with a slit for walking, and an inkle trim that has been sitting on my loom for the better part of two years. It reminds me of pieces found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, and was given the thumbs up by Amenhotep when I asked for advice.

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When I initially tried it on, I was first a bit twitchy about the low cut of the neckline, but had to remind myself that this was far from a modest society. That wasn’t as much of the issue as it wanting to slide off of my shoulders, though. This was rectified by adding a tie to the back, which Vogelsang-Eastwood mentions in her book as a technique done on women’s clothing.

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I also tossed together a necklace with some beads I had in my stash, mostly leftover from my previous Bronze Age foray into Mesopotamian garb. The turquoise is ceramic, but not real faience. The red is genuine carnelian, and the cowries are also real, and took a bit of finagling with jump rings to turn into viable pendants. I stacked this with a carnelian necklace I made for my Mesopotamian project and still have, because it’s all real stone and worth a pretty penny.

The finished look on my dressform:

Of course, I still needed to cover my hair. What better than the quintessential Egyptian kerchief? A wig was not going to happen in this heat, and I’m a fan of veiling and covering when out in the sun, because scalp sunburns are awful. This gives the added bonus of protecting the back of the neck as well. It’s basically a half-oval with trim used for ties. Based on ones found in Tut’s tomb. The blue is accurate to one of the finds.

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An extant kerchief from Tutankhamen’s embalming cache, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click through to visit link.
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Me in my own version. Wondering if I’m going to be thrown from Nefretiri’s balcony.

And here I am all put together at Trimaris Memorial Tourney, Jeff takes bad pictures, so I found if I make terrible faces, they come out better. While I normally don’t put on makeup when it can melt off, I felt like the application of malachite-green eyeshadow and some black kohl eyeliner was necessary to complete the look. Both are non-toxic modern alternatives to the period cosmetics. Please, do not rub real malachite or lead galena on your eyes when we can fake it safely.

 

Pros:
– One layer and you’re done.
– Throw your hair in braids, pin them up, cover, done.
– Totally non-gendered. Men could wear a shorter tunic if desired.
-The v-neck style can be adjusted a bit to allow for more to show in the back or front. This allowed me to control cleavage, and give my back more “venting”, this was nice and let the usual back sweat evaporate out and cool that spot nicely. It also allowed me to wear a normal t-shirt bra, instead of a bandeau which is what I opt to in my chitons so there are no visible straps.
– Excellent use of a remnant that was otherwise going to just become another Greek chiton. 27″ was plenty wide for me. But this won’t work for everyone.
-Kerchief can be re-configured on your head for a Norse look. I did that later in the day when I was cooking and eating dinner in our camp.

Cons:
– It doesn’t feel much like, “me”. I got that vibe when I was making it more than wearing it. Though I got a ton of compliments for how put together it looked and the simplicity for dealing with the soaring temps.
-My Egyptian-ish sandals are in bad shape and made me gimpy.
– Not a lot of “peacocking” options outside of bling. The Egyptians didn’t really have dyes that worked on linen, so natural and bleached is the way to go.

Conclusion: Will I wear it again? Yes. I may even make another to add into my Pennsic/hot event rotation that has the waist seam. It will be good for waterbearing on the field, especially with the turban covering my head, and me avoiding the need for a floppy hat that usually just gets in the way. I also really want to try one of the super pleated long sleeved tunics with the waist seam. I figure I can easily sun-dry some pleats into wet linen on a hot enough day here in Trimaris, especially with how dry the summer is shaping up to be. Obviously, this technique would would better in Caid, but hey, we take what is given to us. Will I go for the full on crazy wrapped kalasiris look? Eh, that remains to be seen. I’m happy being Greek. 😉

I’ve already decided that my next stop on the Anna and Amenhotep’s Bronze Age Revue will be Hittite, but that will probably have to wait until after Pennsic once things cool down a smidge. Climate between Anatolia and Egypt were pretty different.

Words for Andrixos’ Herald Extraordinary

I was contacted back at the beginning of the year by Konstantia that Andrixos, or Drx, of Calontir Trim fame, was being awarded his Herald Extraordinary by the Principal Herald of Calontir. With their blessing, we took over the scroll duties: I would write the words, and Konstantia would do the illumination on one of her signature “tiny scrolls”.

You can see the final product here  (which features the two of us to the scrolls’ left/reader’s right): https://kaloethina.wordpress.com/2019/04/13/andrixos-herald-extraordinary

Drx’s persona is a bit earlier than mine, so I scoured the internet for sources based on that, and his notability for rallying the Calontir troops at war. The material I chose was a military hymn dated to the mid 10th Century. With a few tweaks, I was able to pretty much keep the meter and feel.

Source material, from Paul Stephenson’s collection of translations available online:

Let us gather together people of Christ
And celebrate the memory
Of our brothers who died in battle
And those who perished in intolerable captivity.
Let us entreat on their behalf.

 They were valiant until their slaughter
Your servants, Lover of Man;
They received
Blows pitilessly
Persevering in fetters;
Let it be that these men for these things
Achieve atonement of their souls, Lover of Man.

 You alone who are without sin,
Took in those
who are your servants,
Illustrious generals ( stratêgous ),
commanding commanders ( taxiarchas ),
Brave soldiers ( stratiotas ),
Judge them worthy of your repose.

My words:

Let us gather together people of Calontir
And celebrate the verbiage
Of our brother who sings us to battle
And those who listen
Let us entreat on his behalf

We the people of Calontir
Your servant, Gold Falcon;
Has received
Petitions mercilessly
Persevering in letters;
Let it be that Andrixos Seljukroctonis for these things
Achieve Herald Extraordinary for his soul, Lover of Words.

You Andrixos who are with song,
Praise in those
who are your contemporaries,
stratêgous, [Illustrious Generals]
taxiarchas, [Commanding Commanders]
stratiotas,  [Brave soldiers]
You deem them worthy of your reverbs.

Done this day __________ at our Spring Crown Tournament, Anno Societatis LIII

Rumor has it that we may be relegated to a convent for this endeavor. I say the only good gotcha, is a nice sneaky one. 😉

 

 

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.

 

Come join me at the Knowne World Costume and Fiber Symposium!

I’ve signed up to teach two classes! A timeline of Byzantine dress, and the care and feeding of museum costume collections, but the more programming, the better.

Come on down (or up, in my case) to Meridies in June and have a nerdy party with us fancy dressed mavens!

Here’s the link to the signup!
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdvayPPRKjLwM3JKjnHQYepGNjYNfTAOZH_yaILNGM_CRcIfQ/viewform