A Peerage in the Time of Plague, Part 3: The Libation Ceremony

Sorry about the delay in getting this last piece up. I relocated from Trimaris to Atlantia for yet another military PCS, and we’re still trying to decompress having done this just before the Holidays.

The morning of my elevation, still weary from my vigil, I got up relatively early with a plan. As my area of SCA focus isn’t just Byzantium, I felt the need to go back a thousand years and change to pay homage to the old gods in a way that would best suit them, and myself.

I chose October 17th for a reason, it is the Festival of the Khalkeia in the Hellenic faith. It honored both Athena and Hephastus as gods of art and crafts, so it seemed fitting to pour a libation to both of them. But, because of the nature of my husband’s very mobile career choice and our upcoming move from Trimaris to Atlantia, I new better than to make Poseidon jealous.

So I got dressed in one of my archaic chitons I wasn’t afraid to get a little salty, put on the Roman glass necklace I had made a few days before, a reproduction Hellenistic bracelet with dolphins, and a Greek perfume made by Lady Dugu in Northshield. I poured off the last of my hibiscus mead, a fan favorite, into a terracotta amphora, and made Jeff drive me to the beach on base at Mayport where I knew it would be less crowded than a public beach a few blocks south.

It was cool, and windy, and the people there didn’t seem to care that a crazy lady wearing a Greek dress showed up on the sand. Children were playing with their dogs in the surf as the parents watched them cautiously from the shoreline with their morning coffee. We picked a spot close enough to the mouth of the St. Johns River and the major waterway in/off base and Jacksonville as a whole, so that the surfers weren’t nearby. It was quiet for the most part, save the giggles of children and the roar of the waves.

So I dropped my shawl, took my hair down, grabbed the amphora, and walked right into the Atlantic Ocean up to my calves. It was there that I poured my offering to the ancient gods of art, crafts, war, and the sea.

I did get a bit photobombed by a large shipper coming out of the channel, but Jeff did what he could to avoid it for the most part. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to pull this off.


Next up, Part 4: The actual elevation ceremony.

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.

Award of Arms scroll for Lady Petra de Cilicia

I’ve done some translation before for scribal work, but I never really get the chance to play wordsmith. So when the husband of a friend receiving her AoA at Birka this last weekend asked me and the other ladies of the house to help, I got excited. Her persona is Spartan, which makes things surprisingly difficult as written Spartan anything is scarce. There’s only 2 recorded Spartan poets, and they were entirely chronicled by later authors. In this case, I was able to find some Tyrtaeus quoted by the Roman author, Plutarch, in “The Life of Lycurgus” from The Parallel Lives, and some snippets of awesome from his section on Spartan sayings in Moralia.

This is what I was able to come up with, with notations in brackets:

Phoebus Apollo’s the mandate was which they brought from Pytho, [Pythian Apollo was a  Spartan patron god.]

Voicing the will of the god, nor were his words unfulfilled:

Sway in the council and honors divine belong to Edward and Thyra, [King and Queen of the East.]

Under whose care has been set Sparta’s city of charm;

Second to them is one, Petra de Cilicia.

Who swift in foot, aides our Hoplites of Eastern Shores,

Supporting the armies, and the love of her husband unwavering

and thus, the understanding that a helmet is for personal protection,

but the shield is common good for all. [The court laughed a lot here, I wish they didn’t. The quote is serious.]

And by this duty, our king, our queen, and council

Name on this day, Lady Petra, and award her arms for her to bear alone.

Duly confirming by vote this unperverted decree

Declared six days before the month of Eleusinios, [Eleusinios is approximately the Spartan month of February, named for the Eleusinian Mysteries, another cult that the Spartans revered.]

Before the great council at Market Day at Birka, [Spartans were huge into councils.]

Koino̱nía Étos Forty-Nine. [‘Koino̱nía Étos’ is Greek for the Latin ‘anno societatis’ or, ‘in the year of the society’.]

For anyone interested in Spartan society, I highly recommend the above sources by Plutarch, and also Herodotus’ Histories.


Plutarch: “Sayings of the Spartans” from Moralia:

Plutarch: “Life of Lycurgus” from Parallel Lives:

Herodotus’ Histories:

The illusive Dover dress debunked.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people emulating this look from the “Byzantine Fashions” Dover Coloring Book by Tom Tierney and “Ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Costume” by Mary G. Houston.

dover1 dover2

First of all, I want to say I have no issue with the images presented by Dover. They usually do a good job, but they have a hard time backing up their sources. When asked about that particular clothing style, especially the belt, I had no idea what their source was, and upon asking others, I got a lot of shrugs and odd statements such as, “Oh, the book says it’s a princess/prostitute/ancient Roman goddess.” Which only led to me getting more confused.

I’ve had the Tierney books for a while, both “Byzantine Fashions” coloring book and the paper dolls of Justinian and Theodora, which are adorable. They do provide a pretty solid idea of Byzantine styles based on artistic record. So don’t knock them, but don’t run off with them as a primo source, either.

This particular style intrigues me. Mostly because it’s almost always done with a V-neck. This seems wasteful, especially for the opulent, fabric hoarding Byzantines. So, I ran a brief Google search on “Bamberg textile” and…


Well that wasn’t very difficult to find. I yanked it right from Wikipedia. The note on the image reads:

The so-called “Bamberger Gunthertuch“, a Byzantine silk tapestry depicting a Byzantine emperor on his triumphant return from a campaign. He is crowned, bears the labarum and rides a white horse. Originally identified as Basil II (by A. Grabar), it is now accepted that he represents John I Tzimiskes on his return from the campaign against the Rus’ in Bulgaria. He is flanked by two female tychae, who personify Constantinople’s two demoi, the Blues and the Greens. The one on the right offers [possibly] a crown, and the one on the left a triumphal toupha headdress. The silk was acquired by Gunther, bishop of Bamberg, in 1064-5, and re-discovered on 22 December 1830 in his grave. The silk is now on display in the treasury of the Bamberg Cathedral.

Well, there you have it. They aren’t princesses, they’re political parties.


Now, moving on. What are we looking at here as far as clothing goes? This is 10th Century, so it’s 100 years prior to my period (not that it’s ever really stopped me or anyone else in the SCA about being anachronistic with their anachronism.) And what I see, instead of any sort of fitted short sleeveless tunic, is the trusty stola. A woman’s garment that was somewhat carried over from the Classical period, only cut like a classical tunica, or “Roman Rectangle” as my friends and I like to call it. Here’s a Coptic-Byzantine stola:



You’re looking at an insanely simple garment. Almost tabard-like in nature, with minimal decoration. The ones depicted by the ladies in the textile fragment only have trim on the bottom, and it’s short enough to show off ornately decorated tunicae underneath, which seemed to be a popular look. This would explain the heavily gathered appearance on the Bamberg piece.  After trying a stola for myself before, I can see why women would rather opt for the look portrayed in the Dover books, it’s a lot more flattering. Yeesh.

As far as that double hanging belt thing goes…uh…it doesn’t look like anything depicted in the textile at all. The woman to the right is wearing a belt, but that looks more like the end of a buckled belt than any extra ornamentation, and they certainly don’t have the spacing shown in the Dover illustrations. So that’s something that is certainly open to interpretation as far as design goes.  I also really like the pink pallas, as I have a pink palla. 😉

It’s hard to say exactly if this was a commonly worn fashion. Much like the sideless surcoat debate, it may have been something only worn for ceremony and therefore depicted in art, or, as is common with Byzantine motifs, it’s hearkening back to the classical period of Rome. Either way, I hope that women looking for more information on this dress style have at least been able to get what they’re looking for from this little blurb. 🙂