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

Anna goes on Pilgrimage, Part 2: The Himation

I’m using the generic term “himation” ( just “garment”) here for the overgarment shown in my source fresco. At the time, a delmatikion would have had the long exaggerated sleeves you see in my court garments. This appears to be a lesser gown. “Chiton” could also work, being a generic term for “tunic”, heck, it could also be “kamision”, but for the sake of ease, it’s himation for this one.

I basically copied what I saw, only using a different pattern than my usual to achieve the effects seen.

I mostly cut my garments simply, to allow for as much fabric as possible with minimal effort, basically, conspicuous consumption at its best. But for the common Byzantine folk, that would not have been cost effective. Fabric was woven narrowly, and garments were usually pieced much more than I do. So I went with that in mind, and cut narrow body panels, with sleeves and full side panel gores to allow for the width I needed for comfort. The connecting seam results in a nice guide for potamioi, should I be applying them. Tim Dawson has this pattern in his “By the Emperor’s Hand” book, and it’s also seen in contemporary Persian styles.

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My cutting layout. Note that the body panels are folded lengthwise, and the sleeves are folded along the top.

And to add to my misery (and authenticity), more Byzantine whipstitchings for all of the contrast work.

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But the combo really looks sharp. And SOOOO much better belted because of the blockier shape from the seam placements. I really do not personally enjoy the aesthetic of the elongated sides because of the straight grain, but the fresco and other sources show this as a common feature, so I replicated that. This can be avoided by cutting gores on the bias. The seam placements look sharp, though, and it is so much easier than inserting a gusset, but definitely not as easy as a rounded underarm as I normally cut.

I belted it using my hand-tooled leather apprentice belt with my Syrian buckle. After hiking with it (forthcoming post), I think one of my normal cloth or woven belts would be more comfortable. Of course, I had to test the sleeves.

And voila, the clothing was done.

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And here’s the source fresco again as a refresher.

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Next post: BAGS AND FOOD.

Anna goes on pilgrimage! Part 1: The “Midwife” Esoforion

Next week at a Trimarian event called “Corsair’s Heart”, Mistress Mayken van der Alst is coordinating a Medieval Hike! I decided that this sounded more in my wheelhouse than an entry into the Birka Garb Challenge, so I chose to go full bore and see what I could come up with.

The short answer: A middle/working class Byzantine ensemble that would be comfortable for hiking in. The hilarious thing is that I don’t own anything lower class, or uh, casual.

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But for real, in period, in persona, I would have been carried to Jerusalem in a litter, or rode in the back of a carriage. If I was “roughing it”, I would be on my own horse. Walking? Bah!

But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to walk, and wear and carry something that I could walk in, comfortably.

Better start at the bottom. Layer that is.

In my searching for *sigh* casual Byzantine, which, by the way, not that easy, I found a Cappadocian fresco that is contemporary to my period. Here, a midwife and Salome bathe the infant Jesus and his rippling man-pecks of the Divine.

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Fresco is located in the Dark Church, Goreme, Cappadocia. 11th Century.

Everything here seemed perfect. You have women working, wearing clothing indicative of an arid climate that would have been passed through to continue to the Holy Land. The colors are great, and my favorite part? The Midwife’s SLEEVES:

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Hot diggity, they’re tied behind her back!

I determined it was either one of two things: A guard that was slung over the shoulders to allow her to pull her clothing back and away for midwifery duties, or, slits in a tunic designed to do this, again, for her profession. Both are plausible, of course, but I decided to test the theory on a tunic, as it’s also supported by some of the work Dr. Timothy Dawson has done with kavadion/gambesons whereas the underarm is open, and the padded long sleeve can be pinned back for more movement.

This is what I came up with.

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The base pattern for the esoforion (undershirt), is the Manazan Caves Tunic, which I’ve used before for some shirts for the hubby here. The reasons I decided to go forward with one of these for myself were: A; The high collar is good for protecting against the elements. B: The extant tunic is contemporary to Cappadocia, but not in the same location. The Manazan Caves are in present day Karaman, Turkey, and the Dark Church is in present day Goreme. This is a distance of about 270km. That doesn’t mean that these settlements weren’t in contact, and it’s still close enough for approximation of Cappadocian fashion. C: The long gore construction of the Manazan find would work well with allowing a ton of ease and slack on the arms for slits in the sleeves.

So, with my pile of 3.5oz natural linen, I set off on an adventure. I determined that the sleeves would have to be longer to pull this off, but since that was a Persian trend that had trickled into Byzantine fashion and stayed, I had no qualms with some potentially droopy sleeves. I also ended up hand-sewing the entire collar, and all openings/hems. There are only 6 machine sewn seams in the whole thing, not bad. I do want to do an entirely hand-sewn one of these, and I have the fabric to do it, so I figured this would be good practice. Plus, as I mentioned in my previous blog post about this tunic, hand sewing the collar construction is a must, anyway. It just won’t work right with a machine. Good thing too, because after the couple days it took me to complete the collar setup, I returned to the machine, and promptly sewed a full stitch through my left index finger, INCLUDING THE NAIL. Typing hurts right now, but it’s healing. I guess that’s a sign I should keep on my hand work practice.

So much whipstitching, man. The Byzantines loved them some whipstitch.

I decided on the arm slit placement after basting the side seams together, and looking at fit. Each slit is 8″ out of the front seam that connects the gore. I then cut the basting, turned in a hem, and it was done. Zero fuss, and zero fabric waste or odd cuts into the garment.

The pictures speak for themselves. It works. The placement of the uber-long gore makes for a full range of movement, and as you can see, I can still create more slack to go over an outer tunic.

This garment is more than practical for just midwifery. While on pilgrimage, it would be beneficial to cover your skin for sun protection, and the long sleeves still allow for this. But, if I get too hot, or need to cook/set camp/do dirty work, I can tie my sleeves back and be comfortable doing so. Genius.

What’s next?

I’m going to use a tie on the front of the collar this time, versus a button and loop as I did for Gieffrei, because I feel it will allow me to adjust fit and function better during the hike. I can inkle weave a small band easy enough in an hour on my little loom.

Of course, the outer garment is next after that. I’m following through with the color scheme of the fresco, especially the look that Salome is wearing on the right. I have a block printed cotton I will be using for the turban to match the Cappadocian look, as well.

My final touches will be a shoulder bag, and a relic bag for my belt. If I can find out more, I want to research into accurate ankle support as well, only because I’m a chronic sprainer and could use the, uh, help. These will all be completed over the course of the next week, and I’m looking forward to pulling it all together for the hike!

Okay, what was THAT at Birka? My “Romanov Romanova” makes her one and only SCA appearance.

Probably the crappiest attempt at 17th C. Imperial Russian you’ll ever see, but it was coated in bling so it doesn’t matter.

This story begins, as so many do, with the quintessential opening of, “So no sh*t, there I was…” It was February of 2016. I was at a tiny pop culture convention at UConn with some friends who I’ve known in the comic artist circuit for no less than googlety years.

…Yes, I draw, by the way. My first degree is in art, and I’ve been working on and off in the pop culture industry now since 2002. The latest thing I churned out was this Master Chief for my brother-in law. This is not relevant to my post. I just wanted to show it off because I slayed that bristol board.

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Image is watermarked. Please don’t steal art, it’s not nice.

Long story short, I had secured badges for San Diego Comic-Con International, yes, the big one, and I was chatting it up with a friend in our hotel room on a freezing cold night in Storrs, CT. She randomly suggested something along the lines of, “You should totally do a historically accurate Black Widow.” And I only half heard it. So while she was talking about art, I heard “costume for Comic-Con”, and the rest was history.

The kicker was getting in a position to make it before the con. Our move from New Hampshire to California had already been scheduled, and I was in the middle of writing and sewing my thesis. So what it came down to was waiting until I actually lived in San Diego to get started. This would not have been so bad, if we didn’t wait a month for our household goods to come in. When all was said and done, I had 3 weeks to pull it together. I began ordering supplies before I had a sewing machine in my house, and basically launched this project on a Hail Mary.

Since I made this for convention cosplay, versus SCA wear, I decided to focus on the look of the costumes from the 1903 Ball at the Winter Palace, in which the theme was to wear 17th Century court dress. So it was already going to be anachronistic in addition to costumey. I chose the look of the coat of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, sister of Czar Nicholas II, and the kokoshnik from another noblewoman.

 


I shorted the hem of the layers to make sure I wouldn’t trip and fall in a convention center. I used every machine trick I had to save time, and collected plastic beads, rhinestones, vintage beaded trims, buttons with black widow spiders on them, and embroidered patches churned out on a friend’s embroidery machine. In the end, most of the handwork involved was just on the kokoshnik. I threw lace on the forehead instead of beads, because I don’t know how to do that type of beading and there was like zero time to try to learn. The patterns are overly simplified to facilitate speed. I’m pretty sure Russian coats were not made like t-tunics.

I was sewing up to the night I wore it, but it paid off in the end: I was awarded a hall costume blue ribbon from the Hollywood Costumer’s Guild, and got to meet Terry Dresbach, the former costume designer from “Outlander”, who immediately recognized my attempt at a historical version of Black Widow. I didn’t get my picture with her, but I did with others from their group.

Here is a full gallery of the construction and wearing of the costume at SDCC. Note the crazy nuances like my makeup, and nose ring. This was never intended for SCA wear, it’s more like a Las Vegas Imperial Russian.

 

And then the costume got put away in my closet, and came out again for Costume College in 2017, but I didn’t wear it.

And then the 2019 Birka Garb Challenge was announced as “Marvel and DC Superheroes and Villains”, and I was like, “Well, okay. I’m skipping this one. Unfair.” And then I got talked back into it. Originally, I was going to enter as Thanos in full crazy 12th Century Byzantine complete with chased and repoussed “armor” as a loros, and then decided I didn’t want to do that much work. So, I backed out again, in prep of doing the medieval persona hike here in Trimaris in February at Corsair’s Heart, which I figured would give me a better avenue for re-wearable garb.

…And then I got asked to trot this haute mess back out. Since nobody back in the East Kingdom actually saw it in person, I had a few people who really wanted me to bring it. I had even more people who didn’t remember, or know, that I did this, so when I posted a few pics to social media that one was coming out of the vaults, I think it really intimidated a lot of other participants. For their benefit, and my own, I decided I wouldn’t enter the fashion show, and opted in to judging it instead, which, honestly, was so much fun, I would totally do it again. I loved sitting on the panel and admiring all of the entries with the other judges, TRM East, Her Highness East, and Her Highness Atlantia. We had an absolute blast.

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So yeah, if you saw this, and wondered what the frack it was, this is what it was. The ribbon hangs in my studio, underneath a ribbon I won at Arisia 2009 for my first ever Byzantine ensemble. They’re a nice reminder to stay humble. 😉

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