Nobody, not even your SCA bestie, or any academic, has to fork over their research to you for the asking.
Putting your research out there for free comes with risks of plagiarism and those potentially capitalizing off of your hard work. While plagiarism is, of course, abhorrent, and anybody who outright steals information, images, and other research to make a buck off of it is just fucking shitty, SCAdians and other reenactors are by far the biggest culprits out there and I am not afraid to throw you all under the goddamn bus about it.
“But you have to share with me.” Somebody asked, “You’re one of US!”
What does that even mean? And I do share, this entire blog is me sharing. I embargoed my Hittite for a while because I actually had people, when I mentioned I was going to give it a shot, tell me that they were ready to basically make whatever I put out there without a second thought, or, try to steal my thunder first.
When somebody tells you they are working on a major project, you RESPECT THAT PROJECT. You wait for publication, be it on a blog or social media for free, or in print. You provide citations and contact information when that research is made available. You do not pass it off as your own, you do not take somebody else’s documentation and turn it into your own A&S project, and you do not, DO NOT, try to make patterns off of it and sell it as your own (You know who you are).
A freely shared project is still the intellectual property of the owner, and and those that choose to not embargo should not be embarrassed or have to pursue litigation because somebody outright stole their work. I had to have a paid account on Academia.edu for some time because I had a SCAdian steal my research and try to pass it off as their own while at university. The person has since left the game.
All creators, be it hobbyists or academics, have a right to withhold research for publication until they are absolutely ready to share, and I am going to start recommending that all SCAdians consider waiting to share anything, even pictures on social media, of works in progress. It may sound counterintuitive to the educational aspect of the society, but creators should not have to worry about poachers.
I’m very excited about my upcoming projects, but since I am in the position for academic publication, I cannot share anything about it. I will also be embargoing my dissertation completely until it is also in a position for publication.
I look forward to being screamed at by Le Ancien Regime SCAdiens on Facebook for this.
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.
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.
This is more of a cautionary tale than an actual report of what went down.
Long story short: when you’re a very popular person in the SCA, there’s a good chance that not everybody who wants to get into your vigil tent is going to get in. This is at least thwarted with the usual in-person festivities of a party-like setting with snacks and drinks to sate visitors while they wait.
You get no such thing when your vigil is online. This can make some people a bit cranky that they have to sit around in a Zoom waiting room. I received no major complaints in my direction, other than Facebook messages of, “I fell asleep/I waited too long/I wanted to get dinner/I didn’t want to sit in garb all night/etc.” But that didn’t stop me from feeling bad about it. We did the best we can under the circumstances of hinky tech and overloading rooms. Please keep this in mind as the society as a whole continues to navigate this time of weird should you end up in another digi-vigil.
This is how it went down:
Originally, I was to sit in a tent in a friend’s backyard, at least, to emulate the idea of a larger in-person vigil. There was a nice selection of snacks and drinks for the local crew, and the incense and candles I purchased from an Orthodox Monastery here in the states as part of my almsgiving plan (see forthcoming post about ceremony.) I had my icon of St. Michael the Archangel, a 3D printed bust of Empress Ariadne from the Louvre, and my Tampa Bay Rays ball cap (hey, it was the playoffs and I was missing the game!) with incense and candles as a table nearby. I had printed fabric of Empress Irene from the Hagia Sophia as my backdrop. It was going to be -pretty- and -medieval-.
Except that no matter what we did, the internet refused to comply with me being outside. So, as the waiting room filled up, I couldn’t let anybody in. We hastily relocated me inside to the dining room. The ballcap was lost in the shuffle, and by the time it was found in the dirt outside, the Rays were losing that game to the Astros.
Once we finally got going, I only got a few visitors in before the first major crash happened. It took a bit to rebuild the queue, and Master Herman had to stick around as a tech support presence in the vigil room the entire night to stop subsequent crashes, of which there were two more. But as long as he was “in” there, the room stayed open and we didn’t have to start a new one. In order to help, Mistress Maol created a breakout room for guests to be able to chat in, and other rooms formed as well from what I heard. All I know is that I sat on a wooden chair from 7:30pm to 12am and my legs were none-too-happy about it. Something else to think about. The plus side to having control over who was coming in and out of my room was that I could run to the facilities as needed and get a leg stretch when I could. Something that would have been a bit harder in-person if there was a massive line building.
The other option we employed was the digital vigil book, which can still be found at www.annasvigil.northernarmy.org. As of this point, 2 weeks after the fact, I still haven’t read it because I’ve been so busy working on our next military move to Virginia, so all SCA is in the backseat until I know our lives aren’t going to shatter along with our TVs again. I’ll get there when I get there. My online presence was coordinated by Master Richard leHawke from the East Kingdom, since it didn’t require anything local.
Here’s my list of Digi-Vigil Pros and Cons:
-Easier to sneak away for breaks.
-Being able to see friends from all around the world, and not just who’s at the event. I had several from Lochac (Australia), who were sharing their morning cup of coffee with me.
-You can record it and keep it forever.
-Except for your local crew, nobody gets snacks.
-Tech can, and will, go down.
-It definitely pulls you out of the medieval experience.
To conclude, here are some tips to help those that are leading up to their own virtual events that I can only give because things broke on my end. Hahahaha, er…
1: TEST YOUR TECHNOLOGY. Do a tech week in advance. When we did our tech week, we thought a different router would help. NOPE. Get this worked out before you sit down.
2: MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA EVENTS FOR THIS. We referred everyone to the Trimaris Populace Facebook page. Bad idea. A Facebook event would have been better, and we ended up doing that the next day for the actual elevation.
3: BE PATIENT. Jeff kept going, “Semper Gumby” to me, over and over. But when your husband is used to nothing going right in the Navy, and you have generalized anxiety disorder, maybe consider medicating instead. >.<
4: REMEMBER TO EAT AND REST AS NEEDED. You are not strapped to the chair. Scream for snacks, and actually don’t take a visitor for a few minutes so that you can consume said snackery. I did not. I was HUNGRY when we left, even with a plate of food there. I did eat it, mind you, but probably not as much as I should have.
5: MAY I SUGGEST A NAP BEFORE SITTING UP ALL NIGHT? Oof.
Next post: A Peerage in the Time of Plague, Part 3: “Hey, remember I’m still a classicist!” Pouring a Libation to Poseidon.
This entire year has been rough on all of us, and the lack of in-person SCA events has definitely taken a toll on the organization in many ways. No, virtual events are not the same, and likewise, a virtual elevation to a bestowed peerage won’t be either. I’d like to think I did the best I could considering the circumstances, but I also admit that I was considerably comprehensive in having a solid ‘In Case of Peerage’ plan. (I will be making a post about that concept separately.)
This series of posts talks the method behind my madness of my 3 weeks from announcement, to vigil, to virtual elevation, and how my small bubble here in Castlemere pulled everything off in record speed.
And also, how everything that could explode, DID explode, and did so colorfully in only a way that I could manage.
After the shock wore off, I realized I had a lot of work to do. The original plan was that it would be me in my wedge tent with the computer, sitting outside of our townhouse for vigil, and figuring something out for elevation. Thankfully, the Castlemere Bubble came to the aid, and decided this would not do. It was coordinated to be in a member’s backyard where there was space for everybody to social distance, but allowed for an actual proper looking site with a tent, hors d’oeuvres table, and likewise space for an outdoor elevation the following day as long as weather cooperated. It was short notice, but it was going to be now, or at a time when I could fly back to Florida from Virginia safely. Master Herman had already coordinated ethereal courts, so it seemed like a good crew to work through the elevation protocol. Their Majesties Trimaris were super flexible with whatever we needed, which was also super helpful.
Fortunately, I had a solid plan of what ceremony I wanted from De Cerimoniis (The investiture of a girded lady patrician/zoste patrikia) and the approach I wanted to take as far as regalia and appearance went, so that saved me a lot of grief. An additional post on the ceremony will follow this one.
This post is about the Garb!
I started my elevation planning shortly after I received my Eastern Maunche in 2014. When I started to see fabrics and trim I wanted to incorporate into an eventual ceremony, I bought it and squirreled it away. This saved my butt, because we decided to turn around a fast elevation from announcement since our next military permanent change of station is imminent. While it would have been nicer to have had the time to devote to rich embellishments and friends pitching in for the full shebang, Etsy has a treasure trove of sellers from India who work exclusively in recycled sari borders and materials for crafters around the world. Leaf motifs are very common in Indian designs, and it’s relatively easy to find something extremely passable for Byzantine bling, which is why I support the use of recycled saris for simple beginner or camp-grade SCA Byzantine. This is one of those cases where working smarter and not harder pays off.
Plus! It is SUPER PERIOD to procure materials via import and varied guilds for a Byzantine, . Please do not murder yourself, your household, and your friends making insanely embellished clothing when buying materials is more authentic!
For my vigil, I actually just wore the chiton I made for my Vestal Virgin. It saved me time, and seemed oddly fitting.
Since I had the materials set aside regardless of geographic location, I decided to go forward with my plan for a full 3-layer ensemble that consisted of the body linen (esophorion), underdress (kamision), and dalmatic (delmatikion). Fortunately, I got lucky with highs in the 70s, so I didn’t feel totally melty.
I rarely wear the standing collar esophorion, but I figured that for what was such a high court event, I needed to suck it up, comfort be damned. My body linen was constructed out of linen gauze — This sounds more romantic and lovely than it sounds. The fabric is beautiful, but it is hell to work with. Even the parts where I would normally hand sew entirely on the collar construction, I resigned to use machine, because my stitches were just not working the way I needed them too. The fabric pulled, warped, and did whatever it could despite careful cutting, frequent ironing, cursing, and candle lightings. I have no pictures of me wearing JUST it, because of the sheerness and my own modesty. the collar ended up being too big, so I pulled the placket over more to get a better fit. I think next time: NO gauze, and eliminating the Manazan collar construction for a shoulder seam split, and see if I can achieve a closer fit. Length is to my calves, and the gores go into the arms in the Manazan exemplar.
This was a simple tunic dress construction based on my preferred pattern with side gores and a rounded underarm from the “Persian Style Tunic” at the Met. The fabric is an orange linen twill from Sartor, and the trim was cut from a brocade I have in my stash. Collar is self-faced and tacked down with a blind hem stitch, and the cuffs and hem were whipstitched into place. Main seams were all machine for time crunch reasons. I had to wear something orange, of course, even if you can’t see it at all under the delmatikion.
I decided to use a different construction on the delmatikion than I normally would, in an attempt to stretch the fabric a bit more for a wider garment. It really didn’t work, and caused more frustration in application of the faux-tiraz bands on the sleeves. This is what I get for trying something -new- for the sake of authenticity, rather than going with my preferred fit. There’s more than one way to cut a garment, I just wanted to drive myself batty, I guess. Rather than having triangle gores from the waist, I have trapezoidal ones that come down from the sleeves as I did with my pilgrimage garment. This actually creates a great vertical seam that would work for potamioi embellishment, but that is out of period for my impression. This style DOES allow for keeping the hems very even, if you’re like me and end up with random excess length in places as a result of bad math. Fortunately, the collar neckline with the shoulder seam keyhole is something I’ve done a few times at this point. It creates a nice clean line at the neck when embellishment is elsewhere.
I constructed the sleeves first, as they would be the most time consuming with the lining, followed by the neckline, and the hem facing. After that, it was basically putting puzzle pieces together and closing the side seams into a finished garment. The neckline, trim, and hem were all hand-finished.
The main fabric is a silk brocade from PureSilks.us that has ridiculously long weft floats on the backside. This made it uncomfortable to sew by either machine or hand. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to line an entire garment. I just lined the sleeves, and I still have floats that wanted to come out. The hem where the roundel silks are turned up? Oh boy. It looks like it’s FRAYING. I will have to apply some kind of fall or facing on the inside in order to control it for future wear, I just didn’t think this through, and you know, you’d THINK with LAUREL ELEVATION GARB, I would have paid more attention, but nooooooo. Murphy was well and truly sewing with me the whole time.
The roundel silk is a samite from Sartor. I only had two yards of it, so I knew that it had to be trim, plus, that many roundels on purple would be well and truly presumptuous to the throne, and while wearing purple when being invested into a high office was fine, there were still limits on the types of fabrics one could get away with.
Sleeves are bag lined in a lavender-white shot silk dupioni.
The trim was a lucky find on Etsy from a sari shredder in India. I was able to get 9 yards of it shipped via DHL quickly, so I had it on hand when I got to this part. They did have green leaves, but when I saw the orange, there was no turning back
Maphorion and Zonarion:
Nothing special to see here, but I needed a plain white maphorion, or hooded/semicircular veil, and a new belt, since, well, all of my belts are green! The maphorion should be stiff, so I used pure white silk taffeta versus linen or dupioni as my previous attempts. It ended up wrinkling too easily, so I wonder if adding the eventual fillet for the kharzanion will help it stay in place better.
I’ll go more into this with the following post on ceremony, but I chose to mimic the investiture of a Zoste Patrikia because of the extra bling involved, because WHY NOT? The Zoste was the only woman permitted to wear the loros aside from the empress. Plus, it just made sense to be invested as a “mistress of the robes” when elevated as a costume and material culture laurel.
I outsourced the construction of all of these pieces to very caring friends and the husband who were happy to take the burden off of me while I screamed at my silks.
The loros was constructed by Lady Margaret. We were able to come up with a simple pattern on graph paper to aid her in getting the measurements right. It’s a golden silk taffeta, with more amazing sari trim from the same dealer as the orange leaves. It is deliberately longer in the back than the front which allows me to hold it, or pin it to the front of my garments. This served as my “robe”.
The medallion is in the form of a thorakion, or body chain. This typically signifies the holder of an office. After checking out some extant chains full of fancy openwork, The Norman Husband cast the chain links in pewter using a 3D printed original that was used to form a silicone mold. The results were unreal. 60 links total were made that portrayed my heraldic dolphin, initials in Greek letters, and the laurel wreath. As a consolation prize, he also made me a cookie press from the same rendering.
The medallion itself was also 3D printed using our resin printer to emulate intaglio carnelian. Unfortunately, he ran out of time to make the silver setting for it, and the aluminum wire bezel failed. (Watch for this blooper during the ceremony in the next post.) C’est la vie when you only have three weeks to pull it off. While Gieffrei is learning the intricacies of openwork and lapidary, it will be after his retirement from the Navy before he can devote significant time in working in these techniques. Until then, I think the use of modern technology to pump out affordable, good looking jewelry is a great option, especially for newcomers who are daunted by more advanced hand techniques, or for people who can’t afford more authentic pieces from our amazing artisans (who are worth their prices!).
Propoloma and kharzanion:
Mistress Christine was kind enough to take on the burden of my propoloma, which was trimmed in fancy, but heavy, beaded leaf trim that was another killer Etsy find, and set amethyst cabochons for baronial coronet “pearls”. This is a more 12th Century than 11th Century style, but the single stripe of leaves from corner to corner didn’t have the same aesthetic.
The kharzanion, which is a specific type of praipendoulia worn between the veil and propoloma, were put together by Gieffrei, and are constructed of pearls, chrysoprase, and amethyst, with glass leaves. For the elevation, I attached them to the hat to eliminate a step, but they should be hung from a fillet that keeps the veil in place. If they didn’t have leaves on them, I probably could have worn them on a band, but hindsight et al.
The earrings in my first whole were made for my by Maestrina Chiaretta di Fiore as an elevation gift, based on Byzantine examples. She even used a thicker wire to make them more comfortable in my stretched holes. My second holes had museum replicas from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The fillet I did wear was in place to pin my veil. Since it already had leaves on it, I didn’t want it to be presumptuous of a wreath so it was hidden. The band itself was cut from the longer bands worn by Mistress Ellisif for her virtual elevation earlier in the year, another event that took place because of an impending military PCS, since she didn’t have the time to make me a new one after her OCONUS move to Drachenwald. We’ve decided that this could become a tradition, and the next poor soul who is dragged from post to post and elevated to the Laurel will also get a piece, and so forth, and so on.
I wore one necklace, a replica enkolpion, or reliquary cross. Rather than show the crucifix, it portrays the Virgin Mary, and possible an artifact of the Marian Cult, which was huge in Constantinople as it was the home to her relics. As my persona is very superstitious, and believes in the power of Mary versus Jesus (this is a heresy, btw, but a common one), this was a solid choice for low-key authenticity points.
Some pictures of me during the test wear, and from my elevation!
Next in the series: How we broke the internet during a virtual vigil!
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.
So. Part of blogging a process as you go along means it’s harder to hide mistakes. Mistakes are a natural process of life, and as such, I hate them. But, as part of a learning process, I’m not sugar coating this post. I made some booboos, and learned that Florida humidity is unkind to the icon gilding process.
The icon process is pretty specific. You breathe an open-mouthed hot breath on the bole to create condensation, and the loose gold will adhere. It’s basically a form of water gilding with mouth moisture. (ewww.) But, this is symbolic of the breath of God, it’s also super period. After yesterday, I may have to cheat for the few years I’m down here.
I grew up in Florida, so the heat and humidity aren’t any sort of surprise. I don’t think I’m as tolerant of it as I used to be after living in New England and experiencing seasons, and living in perfect-almost-all-the-time Southern California. I learned how to gild in New England. I used fake composite gold in Rhode Island, but had graduated to real gold in New Hampshire. In retrospect, all of my icon work up there was during the winter. In California, I only gilded the halo of St. Nicholas, but I remember it being almost too perfect.
And now, I’ve returned to Hell Incarnate, and failed to prepare myself for the difficulty that awaited me. Anyways, here’s some pictures.
First thing first, I burnished the bole on the halos to a high sheen. I screwed up here. Twice, on both icons. I either pushed too hard, or it wasn’t set up right, because I ripped up spots of bole on each one and had to put more down, and let it set. This would bite me for the rest of the day.
Once I succeeded, I prepared the gold leaf. The easiest way to do this is to use wax paper to catch the leaf versus trying to use a gilders knife. At least, that’s the way I was taught?
Once the gold was transferred to the wax paper and cut, all I had to do was breathe some hot air and slap it down, right? No. The first piece I used didn’t adhere at all. Naturally, I don’t have pictures of this part, since I was super perplexed, and then it became a fight. Then war was declared. And what is supposed to be a meditative, relaxing art for me turned into digging into the trenches and not coming out of the room until I had this gold down, dammit.
This was probably not the best approach. What I SHOULD have done, was troubleshoot via the internet and the scribal community.
While I was getting frustrated, I must have spittled on the icon a bit, or too much condensation built up, and gold went down ONTO MARTIN’S FACE.
I honestly assumed that with the extra humidity, regardless of central AC, that the gold would be wanting to stick to literally everything, and I would have had the opposite problem. It wanted nothing to do with it. The equilibrium between the temperature of my breath and the board, or the amount of water in the air and my breath, must have been off. Boards do absorb water, which leads them to warp with age, so it was suggested after my Facebook venting by a Trimarian scribe that I should put the board in the fridge for a while next time, to see if I can dehydrate it and cool it off, and get more condensation.
After the first round. I went downstairs, had some tea, and attempted to re-center myself. I didn’t take pictures of the gold on the wax paper, I wish I had: It was terribly patchy. And while it’s normal for it to come off in smaller pieces if I’m focusing on an area, it was doing that the whole time. I was getting bubbles and oxidation I had never seen before.
After my break, I figured enough time had passed for me to go ahead and burnish Martin’s halo. NOPE. It started great, and then the leaf just started coming right up, and exposed the bole. I gave up, regilded his whole halo, and decided that was enough handling of that icon for the time being.
I went back to Michael with a new plan of attack: Tenting the halo with the wax paper as I breathed on it, and then slamming the gold down quickly. It seemed a bit violent, but it worked. I didn’t dare attempt to burnish.
For comparison, here’s Nicholas, who I gilded in California. Practically no blemishes, and a thickness nice enough to press a design into even on my rough, homemade board.
I went downstairs after all of this, and had a stiff drink. This was 4 solid hours of work from start to finish. While one should take their time, that seems a bit excessive for simple gilding. The gold is down for these guys, but I need to reassess my approach now that I’m living in the swamp again.
Painting is up next. Let’s hope the threat of cockroaches eating fresh egg tempera doesn’t come true.
Yet another find of women’s bones in a Norse gravesite, and the media blows up that she was a a fierce, Viking warrior before the archaeologists get her in the lab.
It seems like modern men and women, dazzled by the success of Vikings, really want to grasp at anything that comes across questionable websites as truth, that they forget that there’s plenty of evidence of women engaging in combat and more, aside from the legendary Norse shieldmaidens, who were, very much a real thing. Fauxhawks and Game of Thrones costume cast offs not required.
“Yeah, but did women really fight?”
I get this one a lot, being a medievalist and a SCAdian. Women absolute fight in the SCA, we have female knights and masters-of-arms. We’ve had Princesses and Queens that fought and won Coronet and Crown Tournaments in their own right. It definitely is a dream come true for many a girl and those identifying as such. It was, after all, drilled in through their childhood that women were nothing more than damsels in distress locked in towers, as their brave knightly husbands went off to fight the evil baron next fiefdom over.
Yeah, that’s utter crap, based on Victorian subjugation, leading to ideas of women should be seen and not heard. The romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites fueled the fire of an idealized Middle Ages consisting of pointy hats and flowing gowns that fit perfectly over the hourglass corset that they clearly all wore. *eyeroll*
“Wait, are you saying that women went off to battle?”
You bet your bezants they did.
I mean, we all know about Eleanor of Aquitaine, right? Eleanor, the richest woman in Western Europe, married Louis VII of France, and went off on the Second Crusade with a parade of her ladies in waiting. Whether or not she actually rode in bare-breasted like an Amazon, of course, is disputed, but a fun legend, nonetheless. She came home, annulled Louie because she had the balls to leave him for Henry II, and ended up outliving all but one of her children.
Niketas Choniates, in his O City of Byzantium, did compare her to the mythical Queen of the Amazons and had many nice things to say about her. What he said about other Frankish and German women coming in on horseback, fully armored, left little to be desired:
“…But while the emperor governed the empire in this fashion, a cloud of enemies, a dreadful and death-dealing pestilence, fell upon the Roman borders: I speak of the campaign of the Germans, joined by other kindred nations. Females were numbered among them, riding horseback in the manner of men, not on coverlets sidesaddle but unashamedly astride, and bearing lances and weapons and men do; dressed in masculine garb, they conveyed a wholly martial appearance, more mannish than the Amazons. One stood out from the rest as another Penthesilea, and from the embroidered gold with ran around the hem and fringes of her garment was called Goldfoot.” (Choniates, p35.)
So, while Eleanor paraded in like a queen, it seems that her ladies, or rather actual women soldiers, weren’t worthy of the title of Amazon. Ouch. It certainly sounds like there were an impressive amount of women outside of Eleanor’s retinue, as he seems to focus on the Germans, versus Franks. There was enough dealings between both the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, and France, to know they were separate kingdoms.
Of course, this is just the opinion of one man, who was an ecclesiastic, so conservatism was his middle name.
On the other hand, Anna Komnene seems to admire the feats of Sichelgaita, wife of Robert Guiscard, during the Battle of Dyrrhachium as she wrote in The Alexiad. So much, as a matter of fact, she compared her to Athena. (Alexiad, IV.6, page 121 in the Penguin edition.)
Timothy Dawson, in By the Emperors Hand, provides a brief description of women being involved in the defense of the Byzantine Empire in the 12th Century, including a female spy, as written by Theofanes, and archers and stonethrowers who garbed themselves as men, as written by Bishop Evstathios. (Dawson, Plate 8.)
And those are just Byzantine sources, and not even all of them.
According to Ramon Muntaner in his memoirs as part of the Catalan Grand Chronicles, a well-built Spanish woman donned armor to go fetch herbs outside of the walls of Perelada, when it was under Frankish control during the years of the Spanish March. She was attacked by a French knight on horseback. She unhorsed him with a lance, and forced him to yield. You can find his whole chronicle here: http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/muntaner_goodenough.pdf
Speaking of the Spanish, let’s not forget the Order of the Hatchet, an actual chivalric order for women from the town of Tortosa in Catalonia dated to 1149. Unfortunately there is not a lot on it, as it seems after the initial wave, no further members were added, and the order died with its members. The basis appears to be that women of the town donned men’s armor, and weapons, including hatchets, and basically went to town against the Moorish occupants. The Count of Barcelona was so impressed, he created the Order for the women that fought.
According to this site, the Order of the Garter’s bylaws from as early as the 17th Century, include the origin of the Order of the Hatchet. Velde also lists several other medieval orders for women, including The Order of the Glorious Saint Mary from 13th Century Italy. Martial prowess is not mentioned.
Badassery didn’t stop at just being able to fight, as being able to lead or even wield a pen was just as potent. So if you’re not a fighter, that doesn’t mean you can’t be fierce.
Yeah, we know Anna Komnene wrote her father’s biography (and frankly, she’s my Byzantine spirit animal), but have you heard of Christine de Pizan? Most medieval enthusiasts have, and I know that some students in AP European History had to read her, but if you haven’t, you should. She was well trained in writing and rhetoric, and served as a court writer for several French dukes.
She did no harm, but took no shit.
And I mean none.
In between writing for dukes, composing poetry and political treatises, she completed her magnum opus The Book of the City of Ladies, and its sequel, The Treasure of the City of Ladies. I haven’t read the latter, but the former is pretty well known.
Sure, I could go on and discuss the fabulous things that Christine talks about regarding an allegorical city of the greatest women in history, both real and mythological, but in actuality, The Book of the City of Ladies was written as a direct slap in the face to the men that opposed her, and the idea of women being educated in general.
“Not all men (and especially the wisest) share the opinion that it is bad for women to be educated. But it is very true that many foolish men have claimed this because it displeased them that women knew more than they did.”
I love that line. Because she makes it perfectly clear that she’s not mad at men. In fact, the overarching theme of the book is intellectual equality based on the practice of virtues, rather than feats of strength, and that the wisest men agree with her. Rather, she flat out attacks that its the fools, the uneducated men, that hate the idea of seeing women actually know things. Its as if nothing has changed since the 15th Century. (Yeah, I went there.)
And for those that though Christine wrote just a bunch of feminist drivel (which it isn’t), she was also an authority on arms and warfare! (which you can find on Amazon, of course.)
And this is me just scratching the surface of the more well-known figures. I didn’t even get into the Renaissance yet, with Elizabeth I, Veronica Franco, Sofonisba Anguissola, etc.
You don’t have to wait for archaeological finds for proof. The information you need is already well documented. And while one day we will hit that gravesite or reliquary jackpot, we don’t have to sit on our hands until we do.
Now, go out and be badass, Ladies of the SCA. It’s period.
Sorry this took a bit, I was hoping to get a few more, but this is a good start.
I think I did myself, and everybody, a great disservice by saying I would help with general medieval information. I sat here and derped pretty hard, so, for future questions, please keep them limited to Roman/Byzantine only for my own sanity, and for the sake of the querents getting a decent answer. Questions can be sent to syrakousina -at- gmail.com. (remember to remove -at- and replace with @, no spaces.)
Libby: Do you know of a survey of band weaving finds from 13th century and earlier?
I’m afraid I do not. Since I don’t weave more than an inkle band here and there, it’s just not something I look for. If somebody else sees this, hopefully they can chime in down in the comments to get you where you need to go. You honestly will have better luck in a weaving group on Facebook than I can find you in 3 minutes of google searching.
Nicola: I am a fan of your blog and enjoy seeing your research and the work you do for your SCA persona and the community as a whole. I’m a LARPer over in the UK and was wondering how you keep the veils and layers of headdresses in place. The persona I’m currently playing is from medieval times but practical hints and tips would be very interesting to read about, if you’re willing to write about something a little more off topic.
You need to use bands, and pin the veil to the band. This is a period method, and you can really impress your LARPer friends. I’ve used this guide now for years: http://www.virtue.to/articles/veils.html Now, I’ve made some adjustment since my hair was so short for years, but now I’m growing it out. I’ve found that in a pinch when my hair was in a pixie cut, white cotton headbands you can buy at the drugstore do the job since they really aren’t going to slide anywhere. Now that I have shoulder-length hair, I cap it up first. You can see it a bit here with my 11th Century veil. The cap beneath my veil holds back all of my hair, and then the silk veil is pinned over it, allowing my coronet to just sit on top and not have to be shoved onto my head, or cause more weight. The gentlewoman to my right in the veil is also wearing a cap beneath hers, and you can see the pins better.
Dyonisia: So I have been fascinated with hoods for a while now. I make them and end up giving them away. But i also want to get research information on them. My focus is from 1000-1600. I also am looking for any embroidery that are on those hoods. Any help would be wonderful.
I am also interested in shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at what was shipped and where they were going. I am looking at 1200-1600. Any resources ect. would help.
This is a really really REALLY broad topic that I feel could benefit from narrowing down into a specific time and place so you aren’t overwhelmed. Fashion changes a lot over the span of 500 years, and since you did not give a location, I’m going to tell you what I know regarding my area of expertise. I recommend breaking down your project and focusing on one hood from one place at a time, otherwise, you’re going to be overwhelmed and find nothing.
Disclaimer: I’m not an embroiderer, and as far as my personal scope of research goes, you won’t find much at least in the Byzantine area. They were more into woven designs that were appliqued on. As far as if this applied to hoods, I’m not sure. The Byzantines were not “hood wearers” like you see in the western part of the continent. The one hooded garment that you see commonly is called a “paenula”, a very simple hooded poncho that goes back to Roman times. After the 6th Century, you don’t see it too much outside of iconographic interpretation, which makes me think that maybe it fell out of style in the cosmopolitan areas during the early centuries, but maintained part of the traditional imagery we still have today. The climate in the Eastern Mediterranean is different than say, France, so hooded garments seemed to be pushed to the wayside for turbans, veils, and other headwear. Seeing gold work on turbans was common. The type of design is referred to as “grammata” in the original Greek, so basically golden letters, possibly pseudo-Kufic script. Of course, paenulae may have still been used in the countryside as a functional garment, but most depictions of working class Byzantines show little to no embellishment. Who the heck wants to clean mud off of expensive, time-consuming embroidery?
On the subject of your interest in shipping, again, you need to narrow this down. You have a 400-year timespan, and no specific culture or ports in mind. From 1200-1400, the crusades dominated the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with the Fourth Crusade wrecking the commerce of the Byzantine Empire for the remainder of its existence.
I do love your enthusiasm, but let me give you some helpful research tips to make your massive interests work a bit smoother in your favor. I feel like you really don’t know where to start, which is why you’ve asked me such broad questions, and that’s okay, we all have humble beginnings.
A good rule of thumb is: if your Google search isn’t coming back with anything, narrow it down until it does. “Medieval hoods 1000-1600” is going to probably give you a Pinterest, while “extant medieval hood” is going to give you images of stuff that is still around from museum databases. “Hoods worn in medieval France” is going to give you better answers. Head right to the Met or British Museum websites and look up their collections, they’re here to help! Same with your interest in shipping. This is where getting into the fun journal databases will be a huge advantage. You can even pop over to JSTOR and put in some search terms. I found this article first shot just typing in “medieval Mediterranean shipping”: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1kgqt6m Chances are, you have friends with JSTOR or library access that can help you get the material. If this is something you really want to focus on, it may be worthwhile to invest in an account. Who knows, you could end up getting enough material to write your own Compleat Anachronist! Good luck!
Marc: I found your blog via a search on Byzantine costuming – and noted that you’re up to answering questions about same.
Well, I have a perhaps atypical one: I’m finishing in the details of a story set in early 14th Century Trebizond, and I haven’t been able to put together visually a wedding dress for one of the legendary Trapezuntine princesses. I have some vague piecemeal ideas, shoulder panels covered with pearls, etc. and I can draw a little from Pisanello’s St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, but I really can’t imagine what a wedding gown at that level of Byzantine society would look like – particularly the colors.