Omphaloskepsis: “Real Life Comes First”

Today, on that Other Social Network, I noticed a group dedicated to a century drill of service. For those not knowing what a century drill is, it’s 100 days of combat work, whether it be at a pell or with another person. It’s a good use of bettering yourself as a combatant. It also works well for A&S, too. (a similar thing in the modern world is the practice of Inktober, of which I’m planning on doing this year.)

Service, well, I have a harder time accepting this sort of discipline for a service-related activity. Here’s why I think this, and why I think there are better ways of supporting volunteerism across the Society (and out of the Society, too).

To better clarify what the century drill of service looks like for this particular group, it involves creating a log-in and then doing 10 minutes per day of SCA service for 100 straight days. with the caveat of “If you miss a day doing service, your 100 days starts over again.”

So, here’s why I have some problems with this.

The biggest aspect of this is that while we often say things like “GPA before SCA,” “real life comes first,” or “we’ll be here when you get back,” many SCAdians don’t actually mean this. We question someone’s devotion to the hobby if someone has an attack of life! If a person cannot attend certain events, especially if they’re on a service track, they are snubbed for not giving their whole being to their kingdom, their local group, or to the Society itself.

Story from my life: I was principal herald of my kingdom while my mother had been diagnosed with leukemia, and even though she fought well, I had to make some tough decisions, with the toughest being that of taking her off of life support the day of a Crown Tournament. Most people in my kingdom knew what was going on, and even though I had made appropriate plans to cover for emergencies, the expectation of following through on kingdom duties was still there – the job still had to be done.

I remember being asked when I’d be coming back to events mere days after the funeral – I was still not done mourning! Some even mentioned that they felt that I needed to give more service to the kingdom just to “get over” my mother’s death. (By the way, I think this a poor way to start any healing process. Taking time for oneself is not a bad thing, especially over major life changes like this.)

Now, while I came back, albeit a bit sooner than I should have, this is not an appropriate way to handle another member’s attack of life. Nor should we hold their brief disappearance as a reason to exclude them from orders. (now, if you’ve been gone for over a decade or so, there’s probably some discussion on that, but that’s probably for another blog entry.)

So, point the first: let’s actually let people have breathing space between their hobby life and their home life. If people need to concentrate on getting a degree or caring for a family member or just need brainspace that isn’t filled with medieval life, then we as an organization need to be okay with that, and we need to recognize that people can and will do things that aren’t the SCA and it’s a perfectly acceptable way to spend their time. Their loyalties to the organization won’t magically disappear because they’re off at a LARP or a comic con or cleaning their house. Priorities will shift and that’s perfectly okay.

The other reason why I think logging one’s service in public is a bad idea is less related to time needed away from the Society and more of a personal standpoint. My faith tradition has a saying about prayer being that of “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

The same goes for service.

Sure, there’s types of service that are very public. Examples can be that of being principal herald, serving in a Society office, or always doing a particular job. There’s absolutely no problem with that. Let me repeat: yes, you can do service in a very public way, and it’s okay. It starts being not okay when in your execution of the public job is making life more difficult for others in the Society.

At the same point, though, there are some service activities that can be done in secret. One of the jobs I did for a crown was go on order of precedence dives and pull up awards for individuals going to certain events. The only other person (besides the crown and me) that knew I was doing that activity was my Pelican – and that was fine. I didn’t log the activity as sort of a merit badge rubric point, but rather did it because the job needed to be done. (and admittedly, I love going on order of precedence dives because there are always interesting data points out there. . . but I am also a nerd when it comes to things heraldry.)

In short, I did the job because I found it fun, and that’s really the point. If we are to play the SCA for fun, then our fighting, our creative expressions, and our service needs to be fun. (I mean, I know plenty of people who can make literally crappy jobs like mucking out the portajohns fun, so . . .)

So, rather than posting what service a person does on That Other Social Network, perhaps, just perhaps, we just need to concentrate on the quality of service a person does. If they took a break from the SCA, would that service be missed? If that person is burnt out on service, are we giving them space to be themselves outside of a service-type activity?

If so, then we are building an organization that is safe for volunteers. Until we 1) give people space to grow and learn both in and out of the Society, 2) recognize that service doesn’t have to be public for it to be just as valid, and 3) recognize that doing service for the joy of serving, not as a merit badge rubric point, we’ve got a lot of room to grow.

For more information on volunteer management and how to put those tools in your service toolbox, please check out my handout from KWHSS ’19 and my article from the KWHSS ’17 Proceedings.

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Posted in SCA, SCA Philosophy, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, volunteer management | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Omphaloskepsis: Consent

Housekeeping notes: this post is going to be dealing with some really heavy subjects, including sexual assault and a lot of boundary crossing. If you are uncomfortable with these things, it is perhaps best to not read this post. Additionally, this post is not to condemn or villanize the SCA as a whole, but rather to encourage a spirit of deliberate conversations about where we want out of future participation and participants in SCA culture. TL;DR: sexual content, description of sexual assault.

So, let me set the scene a bit. I was maybe in the SCA for about a year at the time of this particular incident. I was so new that I didn’t have my AoA quite yet, and well, I hadn’t quite come to accept the full splendor of a full Byzantine sartorial riot. I had maybe been to a handful of events in that time period, and was simply soaking in all the things that the SCA had to offer. There I was: I was at one of my first SCA events – a lot had happened already that night. Went through gate, set up my very first nylon tent, had already started to immerse myself into the medieval mindset for the weekend, and did what seemingly every Calontiri did, which was sit around a fire pit, singing Calontir songs.

Feeling tired, I went back to my tent, but was way laid by a fighter pulling me into the shadows, speaking sweet, seductive words. Words of “I’ll fight for you,” “I’ll make you a princess,” and “you’re beautiful,” all words my geeky, gawky, somewhat romantic naïve self wanted to hear but had never been told in earnest. Kisses tasting of alcohol peppered my face and lips, and while I felt desired, I was in already in a relationship at the time and didn’t think it appropriate to be in this position and said so to the man kissing me.

The kisses didn’t stop.

I had to push him away, but he squeezed me closer and in places I was very uncomfortable with and when I finally broke out of my shell-shock of silence, I knew I needed to be elsewhere.

It thankfully didn’t go past that point, however, I was pretty mortified. I did put on a brave face, determining to be as pleasant as I could the next day.

When I waved at him in greeting the next morning, I was ignored. I saw his significant other next to him and knew that by her presence, those questions, those words that he told me the previous, would never be fully-formed realizations. It somewhat crushed me. Admittedly, I was not in the best relationship at the time, and that certainly didn’t help, but many new people in the Society often have their own ideations of a rather romantic sense of Chivalry and The Dream.

And so, I remained silent about what happened to me that night, struggling with processing the information and what that would mean for my own path. I was aware of other people being shamed for being open about what happened to them by other people and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

As my time progressed in the Society, I saw him become a Peer for his work in the martial field. I had hoped that what happened to me was an isolated occurrence, but as I am finding out now, was not.

I am disappointed and saddened at finding out that his behaviour continued and I am further disappointed that this particular man, who is now a Peer and someone marked as someone to emulate, has yet to figure out that his behaviour while drinking was affecting the rest of his Society experience. And I am saddened with the thought that we are still having to have a discussion about consent and boundaries, especially when it comes to sexual autonomy and other people’s bodies. Of course, I wish I could say this was the last time something like this happened to me with another SCAdian, but alas, I cannot.

Perhaps I have Thoughts.

While it is certainly true that while Peers are people and people are fallible, therefore, Peers are fallible, perhaps, just maybe, is it also be true that Peers have a responsibility to be an example of someone to emulate behaviour in and out of the Society? People are going to mess up. Peers are going to let people down. It is how they recover from the mistakes that they make that’s the important part.

Also, if you think that by not being a Peer precludes you from not behaving as best as you can towards others, guess what? It doesn’t.

The Society is dealing with a slew of a lack of respect towards other people within our group. If we are going to push past this, we have a responsibility to be better.

I’m going to do my best on my return from my current exile from the Society, whenever that is, to try and be better towards calling out the behaviours in as kind and as gentle as a way as I can. If the Society is to survive, we have to leave it better for our future generations, much like we have to leave our campsites better for those who use them after us.

It also means that we have got to learn how to accept that other people have boundaries, whether they be sexual, emotional, or even physical, and learn to work with people, but to also extend grace when people invariably mess up on those boundaries. Of course, if repeated incidences of boundary breaking occur, then discussions with either the offending party and/or appropriate kingdom officers need to occur as soon as possible. We need to be better about hearing the word “no” and knowing what enthusiastic consent is. I touched on it briefly here, in a discussion on consent in A&S circles, but the thing is, the concept of consent applies everywhere, in everything we do.

And I want to remind people that if you are uncomfortable, I am a safe space. I’ll urge you to seek out help (and probably give resources), but definitely will support you.

Posted in philosophy, SCA, SCA Philosophy, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Text: Adelaide Sarsfield’s Calon Cross

Our Minister of Youth has done a bang-up job at taking care of the youth of Calontir, and when I was approached about writing the text, I said yes. (Also, I love writing scroll texts, and often wish I could write more.)

It’s based on the letters written by Henry VIII to Cardinal Wolsey, and while Adelaide has a 14th c persona, not a 15th, the language of letters didn’t change so remarkably. (Also, thanks to my friend Alys Mackyntoich, who publishes all of her scroll texts to her blog, because that helped a considerable deal with this text.)

The text itself is written in Middle English, so there are some bits that look different (and actually read different) to eyes that are used to reading Modern English. (words like behoveful (meaning requisite, necessary, pertinent, appropriate, proper), tendershippe (meaning favor, regard, esteem), and circumstaunt (meaning accompanying).

Anton the Kyng and Yseult the Quene to Adelaide Sarsfield, right trustie and righte welbelovid wee greete you well. We recommande you with all owr hart to the children of Calontir and the Known Worlde, and thanke yow for the grette paynes and labour that yow do dayly take in the bysyness and maters of those great of spirite and small of stature. And we commande, desyre and instruct yow to take summe pastyme and comfort from yowr labour, to the intent that yow may longer endure to serve us and our Reaulme. Surly yow have so substancyally orderyd maters wythyn yowr sphere that lytil or nothyng can be addyd; indede we are well contendyd with what order yow have mayde in all maters to whych yow sett yowr hands, shewinge therbie yowr great love and loyalltie towardes the Crowne and children of Calontir, which wee accept most thanckfullie from yowr handes. And further, desyryng, wantynge and wyshyng that the valew, esteeme and tendershippe in whiche yow are beholden be made both perficte and manyfest to all persouns of whateuere estate, Wee have theerfore thoughte it meete and behoveful to give, graunt and bie thees presents lettirs convaye untow yow admittance into the Ordre of the Calon Cross, with all circumstaunt benefetes, avauntage, profits, pryvyleges and honnours, and we instruct and commaunde our heraulds to attende fourthewyth to þe circumstauncis of the sayd Order. It is so accorded that We permytteth said Adelaide to wear the badge of sayd Order, to wyt, Or, a cross of Calatrava within a bordure purpure. Given under our signet at our mannor of Cúm an Iolair the 27th daie of July in the 54th yere of the Societee.

Modern English Translation:

Anton the King and Yseult the Queen to Adelaide Sarsfield, right trusty and right well beloved we greet you well. We recommend you with our heart to the children of Calontir and the Knowne World, and thank you for the great pains and labour that you do daily take in the business and matters of those great in spirit and small of stature. And we command, desire, and instruct you to take some pastime and comfort from your labour to the intent that you may longer endure to serve us and our Realm. Surely you have so substantially ordered matters within your sphere that little or nothing can be added, indeed, we are well contented with what order you have made in all matters to which you set your hands, showing thereby your great love and loyalty towards the Crown and children of Calontir, which we accept most thankfully from your hands. And further, desiring, wanting, and wishing that the value, esteem and tendership in which you are beholden be made both perfect and manifest to all persons of whatever estate, We have therefore thought it meet and behoveful to give, grant, and by these presents letters convey unto you admittance into the Order of the Calon Cross, with all circumstance, benefits, advantage, profits, privileges, and honours, and we instruct and command our heralds to attend forthwith to the circumstances of the said Order. It is so accordere that We permitteth said Adelaide to wear the badge of said Order, to wit, Or, a cross of Calatrava within a bordure purpure. Given under our signet at our manor of Cúm an Iolair the 27th day of July in the 54 year of the Society.

Posted in calon cross, ceremonies, ceremony, court, herald, heraldry, later period, SCA, scroll text, service, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Omphaloskepsis: Burnout sucks.

“Konstantia, where have you been? Why have you not been blogging so often?”

I’ll tell you.

Burnout sucks. For many of us, the SCA is everything we do.

It was certainly that way for me for a while. My social life was entirely the SCA. I moderated groups on That Social Media Site for the SCA. I did all of my art projects . . . for the SCA. I’d drop everything and do only the SCA. All of my relationships within my avocation had to do with the Society.

I have to tell you: that schtuff is exhausting.

And, as I’m learning, really not that healthy. Lots of impostor syndrome and wondering if you’re ever good enough. When something in your life becomes that all-encompassing, it’s time to take a major step back, especially if it’s not making you happy.

So I did. I took . . . rather, I’m taking a major break.

I’m still here, but I’m taking care of me. I’m not at as many events. I don’t comment on SCA things as often on That Other Social Media Site. (I mean, I still do, especially when I get summoned, but, it’s less of a priority.)

In fact, I’m going to KWHSS this year (next week!), teaching two classes, and then, who knows what I’m going to do next? I’m painting more modern stuff. As much as I love the medieval, I need a break, otherwise, the SCA won’t hold the magic that it once did.

I learned some important things – like knowing to just go do something not SCA-related. And while most of my friends on That Other Social Media Site are SCAdians (and I still ask SCA-related questions), I’m playing board games and doing other things. It’s okay to take a step back. I learned that if I’m rubbed so raw by things in the Society that it’s probably time to go do something – anything – else.

In short, the SCA is not the end-all of activities. It’s absolutely okay to go do something else, and not everything you do has to be done through an SCA lens. If you’re fighting that rubbed raw feeling, go do something else. Anything.

Also, in case you’re wondering – this blog isn’t going anywhere. There’s still plenty to explore and to find; but I’m just going to be a bit more slow about posting things about my findings – I’ve got a board game to catch, after all.

Posted in about me, about this blog, burnout, Retrospective, SCA, SCA Philosophy, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Let Me Google That For You: How to Use Internet Tools to Research Effectively

In my post Experimental Archaelogy and Social Media, I talked about the concept of provenance, and why it’s so important to historians of all levels. This post, though, will go a bit further in showing that there are tools available to all of us in properly determining where the original post comes from.

I was an early adopter of Pinterest, and used it to do a lot of preliminary research. What I love about Pinterest is that everything is very graphical and there are lots of photos and pictures, and it makes it easy to just group things together on individual boards. What Pinterest is not good at, however, is provenance. It can be difficult to find the original post, or the links could be broken, or any number of things. This is where another tool in my arsenal comes out to play.

Let’s start with this pin. It’s a beautiful piece, and it looks period. However, we’re missing a few bits of critical information. One, the post doesn’t link through, and two, there’s no information about the piece’s provenance.

When researching, it helps to have the information about the piece – what it was used for, what it was made out of, the techniques that went into making it, and even where it was found and when it was dated to. If you’re wanting to best figure out if an artifact dates from a particular time period, it helps to have all of that information.

So, Konstantia, (you might be asking), where do I get information about something if the only thing I have is a picture?

I’m so glad you asked that, Gentle Reader.

Let me introduce you to the concept of the reverse image search.

Like Google, which finds things by keywords, reverse image search looks for similarities on photos, indexes them, and when you need to look for the object by photo, you can see where the photo was used previously. I generally use TinEye.com, which is easy to use, though there are others, like Google, which also works decently well.

Copy and paste the image (or you can also download and upload it to the search), and then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get some responses. Very lucky me, I got some results (only two), but I was able to see where the rest of the links were. In this case, the Pinterest links actually led me to another board, where it was linked to the actual piece, found here.

Now, not all image searching is this easy. Sometimes, it can still be fraught with difficulty, and sometimes, even the image search ends up with sites you don’t want to go to. (For example, one of the Byzantine belts I was researching [the Branko belt] ended up with image searches going to a white supremacist’s website – which I emphatically did not want to go to. It’s another pitfall of medieval recreation and reenactment that I am emphatically against, but definitely something to be aware of.

TinEye is also great when it comes down to sorting saved images from a million years ago and you can’t remember where you found them. (I have an entire folder of pictures on my computer that I’m in the middle of using reverse image search to figure out where I downloaded them from.)

My point is, using the Internet to research is not a bad thing. Many of us in the Society can’t afford to go travel internationally, and the Internet and the images we search for help make our world a bit smaller.

We still have to think critically, know that some images may still not be completely possible to find, and if found, may involve some ethical sourcing of research material. It’s our job to use our tools wisely – and when our tools point us in a direction, it’s also our job to use our brains well, too.

Posted in how-to, musings, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, tutorial, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Andrixos’ Herald Extraordinary

When Brigida, Gold Falcon Principal Herald, asked me if I wanted a crack at a scroll, I asked who it was for and I jumped at the the chance. You see, Andrixos (or Drx, more familiarly) wrote both my Calon Cross and my Court Barony scrolls, and it’s always fun to get people back in the nicest way possible.

So, I reached out to my Byzanbestie Anna to write the scroll text, with Brigida’s assent.  I mean, if you’re gonna do a Byzanblowout, let’s go full Byzantine.

Meanwhile, I started searching for Byzantine miniatures from Drx’s time period.  I’m fairly early, Anna is middling, and Drx, well, is right in the middle of us.  Knowing this, I waffled between a couple of manuscripts, and landed on the Madrid Skylitzes.  It’s a bit later than Drx’s persona, but it covers much of the time period his persona lived in.  (Also, it’s one of the most complete pieces of Byzantine illumination from the middle era of Byzantine life, so. . .)  Anna and I had the discussion that Drx was probably going to kill us, his Imperial Ladies, for this, but it would totally be worth the death for it, so, yeah.

Anyway, so I started work on the scroll.  The extant piece is written in Greek, so I did some transliterating.  (It’s not the best option, but as I don’t speak Medieval Greek, nor did I have time to get it translated, it was my best option.)  So, if it had a “F” sound, I used the Greek letter Φ, and so on and so forth.  Again, not the best option, but the aesthetics of the Greek was an important thing to me.

So, once I had the text laid out, I went in with the darkest brown ink I had, which was Noodler’s Kiowa Pecan.  If you look at the scans of the Madrid Skylitzes, the ink is more of a dark brown, not black, so, I went with what I had at home.  (Also, the Kiowa Pecan is a nice strong brown that is close to the ink and I didn’t have to buy more art supplies, so, go me.)

One thing to note about writing in a text you’re unfamiliar with.  Go.  Slow.  Seriously.  I screwed up a couple of times in ways that I was not able to scrape and fix.  It happens.  It could have happened less if I had slowed down considerably.

Anyway, so I found the perfect marginalia for the scroll.  I am digging the trumpets, and all of the Byzantine side-eye.  So, I used it for the basis of the marginalia on Drx’s scroll.  Instead of a red platform, I did a purple one with a cross of Calatrava (post period, but it’s one of our kingdom’s symbols) in FineTec (Coliro) gold, with the name of the kingdom in Greek, resembling the patterning on the extant.

As I worked on a smaller piece of perg than the extant (the extant is about 11″ x 14″, give or take – I used a 5″x7″ because it’s what I had at home), the details aren’t as crisp they are in the extant.  My 20/0s still got a workout (I love those brushes).  I think in the future, working on a piece of perg that’s the same size as the extant is the way to go.  On the other hand, I’m a lefty, so there is always a chance things get smeared past all recognition (and those are harder to fix for me sometimes).

I love working in details in scrolls of people and things that would be important to the recipient.  Drx, of course, is no exception.  So, I made sure that his wife, Countess Fionna (in the yellow and hearts) was in the scroll.  I also made sure that Brigida was represented, as well as Anna and I, as a sort of signature on our end.  (Look for the teal and the orange.  Can’t miss us.)  I’m not happy with the fewer figures in Drx’s scroll, but again, I think if I had added more, it would have been too difficult to make out all of the people.  (another point added for using the same size perg.)

Drx, welcome to the Herald Extraordinary club.  I’m so glad to have you be a part of it, and I’m so glad I got to do this for you.

Here’s video of it being presented in court.

Posted in Byzantine, calligraphy, calontir, ceremonies, ceremony, court, herald, heraldry, illumination, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experimental Archaeology and Social Media

So, it’s been another week of a post being shared on That Social Media Site of purported 14th century Byzantine garments as they make the rounds. . . again. They’re beautiful, well-crafted, and the photos look like they’ve been taken from a museum of sorts. The fabric looks right, and there’s plenty of bling. So, that means they’re Byzantine, right?

Well, not quite.

One of the pitfalls of being a hobbyist researcher is that there’s a lot of photos out there that look right.

Sourcing our research materials, especially for cultures that may have a lot of lacuna (or gaps), like Byzantium, mean that we have to look at everything with a grain of salt, but also making sure that we’re filling in the gaps in our knowledge in the most logical way.

So, back to the post that was shared. So, let’s look a bit more closely. Note that there’s nothing backing up the information that it’s Byzantine, or even that it’s a contemporary piece from Western Europe. In fact, there’s no provenance. Provenance is a caption which tells you what a piece is, when and where it’s from, and hopefully what museum it resides in. (Which, if it’s in a museum, you might be able to see it somewhat up close!)

The post has a simple assertion that it’s Byzantine from the post authour, who also doesn’t have any form of research authority (like they’re another researcher) or any other form of academic rigour behind the assertion.

Unfortunately, we can’t take this simple assertion that these garments are Byzantine at face value. Research means being able to go down the rabbit trails as far as we can go until we have an answer and being able to look at that answer with a critical eye. So, let’s keep looking at this critically.

Thankfully, there are a few quick sources to look at. One place to start is looking at other art pieces from the specific time period and general location. (this means no Victorian redrawings!) Examples of this include iconography, psalters and other books, mosaics, and statuary. This can be difficult, especially when dealing with cultures that had periods of decline within their art forms. (Still looking at you, Iconoclasm.) Another thing to be aware of is that much of the media that’s in the list here is in two dimensions, so how a garment may have draped may have been up to the artist to figure out. We might also have descriptions of garments. If we’re really lucky, we may have an extant garment or two to look at.

Unfortunately for a lot of Byzantine clothing researchers, there’s not much in the way of extant garments. What we do have are a handful of Egyptian garments from the 6th and 7th centuries, and then threads and other fragments from later pieces, so many of us have to rely on the method involving art or contemporary writing, which adds a lot of difficulty.

So, let’s break this down. The assertion is that the clothing from the post is from 14th century Byzantium. Let’s do a quick dive into Wikipedia to see a few famous names. (because within period, that’s who was largely being documented.) We can also use this method to look up art pieces from the time period.

Of note: Wikipedia is a great launching pad. Do not go to Wikipedia as your first and only source, though! Because Wikipedia is edited by others in the world, it means that the articles may not be written by experts in the field, and at any time can have information replaced with completely incorrect information. However, Wikipedia and Wikimedia does have a treasure trove of other sources. The scan below is a Wikimedia Commons piece, and I love that I can get a close-up view of a piece I’d have to travel to Europe to go see – which is sadly not in my budget right now.

Dem sleeves, though.

Good news is that we do have some 14th century art to look at. This particular example to the left comes from the Lincoln Typikon (which dates from the 14th century), and while some of the ink and paint has flaked off, we can see the patterns of the fabric. We can also see that the garments for both Constantine Palaiologos and his wife, Eirene, don’t really resemble the cuts of the clothing from the post from That Other Social Network. A lot of the patterns look right, but Eirene’s gown is kind of a shapeless sack with huge sleeves, in comparison to other dresses.

This is pretty damning to the assertion from the social media post.

So, if it’s not Byzantine or even from the 14th century, what are the garments from the social media post from?

Well, the post from That Other Social Network features garments from the Palio di Legnano, a modern folk event or reenactment that takes place annually in Northern Italy the last weekend in May, commemorating the battle fought May 29, 1176 between the troops of the Lombard League and the Holy Roman Imperial Army of Frederick I, known as Barbarossa. (The HRE was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire, but that’s for another post.) Check out the link above for some gorgeous costuming, but remember that these are the equivalent of costumes for a Renaissance fair here on our side of the pond.

Many of us love using social media to share our research and to inspire others to check things out, and I love that we can do this. On the other hand, we have to remember to look critically at what we’re posting (or sharing). If it doesn’t look right, it’s okay to ask for provenance. If the details don’t make sense, question it! Part of researching means to ask the questions that may not be getting answered.

And lastly, if you aren’t sure, tell people you aren’t sure about it. I would rather see someone trying to make an attempt in researching an item and say, “hey, I am not sure if this is right,” than someone passing on completely incorrect information with an air of authority. We’re all learning. I’ve made bad research choices, and I learned from them, and hope that by writing this post, you’ve got a chance to make some better choices in the future.

Posted in Byzantine, clothing, how-to, illumination, influences, later period, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

SCA Philosophy Question Ahoy!

Since November 28, 2017, I’ve been asking my social media friends list (which, yes, comprises mostly of SCA folks) questions about SCA philosophy, SCA personae, and the like. Sometimes, the questions may have been a bit pointed, and sometimes, well, it’s curiosity. I know I’ve repeated some in my questions (as I’m going through the list), so I’m removing those duplicates, but there are some rather closely linked questions that are just different enough that they’re staying. I’ve finally decided to compile these questions here for others to take and use for their own use. Please enjoy.

“In addition to knowledge transfer, what are traits that you find important or valuable in other SCAdians? What are values that you think need to be part of the knowledge transfer that we hold so dear? Please be respectful – this is a philosophy question, so answers can and will vary.”

“In what ways has the SCA affected your mundane life for the better? for the worse? Please be respectful – this is a philosophy question, so answers can and will vary. IKA is a thing. Any attacks or snark will be handled appropriately.”

“If you could go back in time to your earlier self (limit this to the first two years in the SCA), what advice would you give you?”

“What is the one thing that everyone in the SCA can do to improve the Society?”

“What is something you’d like to see more of in the SCA? Why?”

“Pick a knightly virtue. Explain why it is the most important to the growth of the SCA. What steps will you take to ensure it happening?”

“We talk about prowess a lot in both arts/sciences and in martial activities, but not in service activities. What does prowess in service look like to you?”

“What activity do you wish you could hear more people talking about or doing at events? Why?”

“What medieval concept do you find the most compelling in your modern life? Why?”

“Let’s talk PLQs for a second. What peer-like quality do you think is vital in the SCA? How do you know what a PLQ is?”

“What small items do you think your persona would have carried on their person? Do you want to add them to your kit?”

“What gets you excited about a particular event?”

“What is your persona’s favourite holy, feast, or celebration day? How do you think they would have marked it?”

“Heraldry. Why did you pick the items on your heraldic device? Why did you pick the name that you picked?”

“What is the most important award given in your kingdom? Why? (Please flesh out your answers, and please give your kingdom, for context.)”

“If money were no object (or the materials were just dropped into your lap), what sort of activity/art or science would you most like to do?”

“Tokens are often given as thanks or an atta-person. Tell (or show, really) me the about the one that really hit you in the feels. Why does that particular token hit you in the feels?”

“Many kingdoms have arts and sciences competitions and displays. Tell me about your favourite entries that you’ve seen. (no, it cannot be your own entry.) Why those entries? What inspired you about that particular entry?”

“What do you most want to research, but due to reasons out of your control, are you not able to?”

“What is your funniest or most humorous memory in your SCA life? (Make ’em good! I wanna laugh!)”

“Do you consider your heraldic charges to be like a patronus/totemic animal/etc? If not (or so, really), what made you choose your heraldry?”

“What’s your favourite SCA or SCA adjacent song? Why?”

“Who is your favorite historical Mediaeval/Renaissance woman and why?”

“What’s something that you think your kingdom is amazing at?”

“Our hobby can be incredibly expensive. What’s something that someone can do that doesn’t cost a lot of money to do to either get started or to continue doing?”

“What’s the most surprising thing you learned about something that happened within SCA period? Why did it surprise you?”

“Let’s talk food. Talk to me about your favourite feast or dish at an event. Who made the food? What was amazing about it? Why?”

“What classes in the SCA do you get the most out of? What classes would you like to see more of in the SCA? Do you have a favourite teacher?”

“Pick a knightly/chivalric virtue, by any authour. (Lull, etc.) How does this virtue apply to what you do in the SCA? Which of these virtues do you struggle with the most?”

“Hey, SCAdians. Do you blog/dress diary/etc. online? Do you find it helpful? Do you have a link for your blog?”

“The SCA has some legends and apocryphal stories. Tell me about your favourite legendary SCA stories!”

“What grabbed you to join the SCA . . . and how did you make it stick as a hobby?”

“Happy (SCA) New Year! Do you have any resolutions or plans of things to work on?”

“Where does your persona live? What sort of building do they live in? Do they want to live elsewhere?”

“What do you tell people (who are not involved) when they ask about your SCA hobby? Do you describe it to them? Details, please!”

“If there were an SCA Lootcrate made just for your persona, what would go in it?”

“What gets you in the mind frame of your persona the fastest? Is it music? Books? Television? Leave details.”

“So, let’s talk favours and tokens. We get that these are things that people give and wear, but we don’t really get into the reasoning behind them. What’s your reasoning behind wearing/giving them? Do you want to see more of this in the game?”

“What events do you put on your calendar year after year as ones to not miss? Why?”

“If you were to have a reliquary made for your experiences in the SCA, what would you put in it?”

“Do you have a motto? If you do, what is it (with translation, if needed)? Why did you choose it?”

“Let’s talk chivalry. Tell me about a time when you saw a truly chivalrous act. Who inspires you to act more chivalrous?”

“What’s something on your SCA bucket list? Why?”

“What is a physical item you’d like to see more people have in the SCA? Why?”

“Let’s go back to virtues for about half a minute. This is long, but I really want to get into some meat here. One of those lists of virtues I have seen is as follows: prowess, courage, defense, justice, honesty, faith, franchise, loyalty, generosity, courtesy, nobility, humility, and compassion. There are other lists, but this is a decent core list. Discuss: How does your *working* knowledge of these chivalric virtues affect what you do in the SCA? (for those with prechivalric personae, I’d especially love to hear your voices.) Who are exemplars to you of individual virtues? (also, it’s a sneaky way to think of #WordfameWednesday, so ha!)”

“Pretend you are at an event. What would make this thought experiment event a perfect one for you? What activities would you want to see? How long would it last for? Fill in the details.”

“Pick a specific time and place important to your persona, and tell me about the sociopolitical landscape in one pithy sentence. You have ONE sentence. Make it count.”

“What clothing do you wear to beat the heat? Do you stay with your time period/location, or do you change it out to stay cooler?”

“What’s your favourite event photo OR favourite photo of you in garb at an event?”“Tell me about something at an event that you found particularly moving or emotional (funny also counts, because we need levity). Fill in details. Tell us a story!”

“Tokens! We’ve talked about them before – but what do you do with them after an event?”

“Sumptuary laws in your kingdom – from sumptuary anarchy to heavily regimented, all kingdoms handle things differently. Do you wish it were different? If so, what would you change it to?”

“Tell me about your favourite feast or inn food. What made it memorable? What made it enjoyable? Who made it?”

“Bling! How would your persona bling it up? (and keep in mind that not everyone’s bling looks like my bling – and that’s okay.) How do you want to step up your bling game?”

“Do you listen to music while you craft or work on projects? What do you normally listen to?”

“Do you have an overarching quotation or concept that keeps your avocation in the Society going? If so, what is it? Is it from a writer in SCA period?”

“Tell me about a time (or event, I’m not picky) where you forgot about modernity and let the environment of the SCA wash over you.”

“How do you display your heraldry? Do you have a favourite way to display it? How about favourite heraldic artists?”

“Share with me the art/sciences of someone in the SCA. What do you like about their work? Why do you think people in the SCA need to know who they are?”

“The Society becomes family for many of us. Tell me about the time where that happened for you.”

“We are not always Serious People. And that’s a good thing. Tell me (or show me) a time where you did a project based on a period exemplar for the SCA (or SCAdian) just to for levity’s sake or to troll someone. Yes, you can definitely post photos, and yes, you get bonus points if you can document elements of said project.”

“When you think of knightly or chivalric virtues (and you get to make the determination on what set of virtues here), who in your circle of people do you think of? You can break this down to individuals or can go with one person. Up to you.”

“It’s autumn (or soon will be – don’t take away my joy)! What do you most look forward to in the latter half of the year? Is it the ability to wear your woollens or your cloaks? The cooler camping? What particularly do you love being able to do in the autumn? Why?”

“Do you have a persona story? What is it? If you don’t have a persona story, why not?”

“High persona events: what do you like about them? What do you not like about them? Do you want there to be more of them? Why?”

“What classes do you wish were taught more in the SCA? These can be classes on service, A&S, or fighting – but what do you wish you could see more of? (Who knows, you may inspire someone to teach one of these classes!)”

“I want you to sell an event in your kingdom to someone out of kingdom. The catch: it cannot be a war event. (so, no Lilies, Pennsic, GWW, etc.) So, why should we come to your kingdom for your event?”

“What’s something your kingdom, principality, barony, shire, canton, etc. do well? Brag on them here! If you have photos, post ‘em.”

“Music: post a piece of music from your time period/location, or something close! Would your persona have listened to something like this, or would it be for another class of person? (additionally, do you listen to something like this when you’re doing something for the SCA?)”

“Who was the first positive person you met in the SCA who either inspired you, made you want to be like them, or helped you out when you first started? And what did they do to help you out? Remember, if you tag them, they may not be able to see this post, so tell them how awesome they are, too.”

“This is inspired by The Physician (seriously, it’s a good movie and last I checked, it’s still on Netflix). How would your persona stay healthy? Who would your persona go to if they got sick? What would treatment look like?”

“Let’s talk books! Is your persona literate? Do they have access to books or a library? How many languages can they read in? What do you think your persona would say about your own personal libraries?”

“Scent memory is a thing. What scents instantly transport you to your SCA happy place?”

“It’s starting to get colder. How do you prefer to keep warm? Do you have a big heavy cloak? How about a Norse coat? How do you stay warm?”

“What’s your favourite SCA movie? (SCA movie, of course, is one that either takes place within SCA period oooor covers the general themes of a pre-1600s themed educational group.) Bonus: a gif from said favourite SCA movie.”

“What’s something you wish people knew more about your chosen time period or persona?”

“Let’s talk A&S projects. More importantly, let’s talk project fails (because sometimes, it’s more the journey than a “successfully finished project”). What project fail did you learn the most from? Which one do you wish you’d never see again? Let’s talk it out!”

“What area of study do you think the SCA could benefit more from? Is there a weird little art/science that few people haven’t gone down the rabbit hole on and you wish you saw more people do it?”

“What makes you or your art, skills, etc. beautiful or unique? Rules for answering the question above: Any variation of ‘I’m not’ will be dismissed. This is an exercise of introspection and elevation, there should be no diminishing of oneself. You should be able to come up with at least one thing. (Stolen, but hey, seriously, put some thought into it.)”

“You have the ability to create a saint from currently living SCAdians. Who are you beatifing, and why are they being sainted? (bonus: what are their miracles? What about their portfolio for reasons of invocation?)”

“Interkingdom Anthropology is a thing. What is your favourite bit of IKA that you’ve learned about in your time in the SCA?”

“What are you most passionate about promoting as part of our modern medieval lives? Why?”

“What’s your favourite part about SCA courts? Is it the chance to work on hand projects? The ceremonies? Do you have a favourite court story?”

“Our lives as modern people are far more transient than our medieval counterparts. When you travel to a new kingdom, do you justify it in your persona’s world, or is it an extension of your modern life?”

“What sort of catchphrase do you think your persona would have said, or how do you simply explain something that your persona would have done? (Examples: “I put the bling in enabling,” “it’s a colour. It matches,” or “who do you think I am? The help?”)”

“What do you do when the SCA no longer sparks joy in your life? Do you go do something else? Do you do another SCA activity?”

“What is something that you do in the SCA that brings you unspeakable joy?”

“What’s your favourite SCA story? Retell it here if you can.”

“When you do a demo, what sort of thing do you bring to show off what we do?”

“How can we better teach others in how to be better leaders and administrators? Please keep all comments civil.”

“How can more experienced members of the SCA better help out the less experienced? What skills, ideals, etc. would you be willing to put forward to help others? Please keep all comments civil.”

Posted in persona, persona development, philosophy, SCA, SCA Philosophy, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Survey of Byzantine Clothing Class

At Clothier’s Seminar, hosted by the Shire of Cúm an Iolair, I had the opportunity to teach a class on Byzantine clothing from about the 6th century to about the 14th century.

This will eventually be a series of posts at some point, but until then, please enjoy my handout (with a very large thank you to my Byzanbestie, Anna, for her handout on patterns).

You can access my handout here.

Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

Posted in Byzantine, clothing, early period, fashion, later period, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

End of the year project roundup: retrospective 2018

In the closing days of this year, I’m doing a retrospective. (Yes, there’s a few days left, but I’m not sure how many SCA-related projects I’m actually going to be able to get done by then, so. . .)

I started with a fairly short list of things that should have been dealt with. Most of them have been dealt with.

And then, well. I accomplished a lot. I learned a lot about myself in the process, and even though this was a rough year in my personal life, I still accomplished something. (And that is a victory!)

I was not always great at posting things to 12 Months of Crafting, but I posted here. Projects got done. 24 of them, by my reckoning. That’s a lot! I can definitely see where I was able to get the most projects done – the end of the year (though, I suspect having more time to do them helped).

I may do something similar for next year – this format helped keep me accountable.

So, what about you? What do you want to see me write about for next year? I am planning on keeping some of my SCA philosophy posts going, but did you like reading about my projects, Dearest Readers?

Things still to accomplish.

  1. Lined Skjoldehamn hood (Have cut out the wool and am working on getting it lined and assembled.)
  2. Cutting out several Byzantine bone box blanks in preparation for turning into Byzantine box icons. 
  3. Sewing up Byzantine boy garb (PLEASE HELP ME WITH THIS!  I have wool, but I really want something a wee bit lighter for the summer, so . . . waiting to get more linen.  Also just purchased a bit of wool for pants because pants and it was a screaming good deal on wool.)
  4. Creating four Byzantine peerage ceremonies (I’m picking through rather slowly.  There’s a lot of information.  De Ceremoniis is a doorstop of a book!)
  5. Found a second Skjoldehamn hood in my projects that’s getting hemmed up. Not sure where it will end up living.

Things I’ve gotten accomplished!

  1. Painting Aed’s shield.
  2. Secret project scroll #1 (known now as Sir Gawayne’s Augmentation scroll)
  3. Nobelese Largesse Secret Project (blogged about here)
  4. Mar’s Quilt block (which has been presented and photos can be found on facebook)
  5. Wrote Pelican scroll text for Jaida de Leon
  6. New Baronial A&S Champions traveling trophy. (I do want to do some clean-up work on this particular piece so that it’s more comfortable to wear.)
  7. A whole slew of Facebook frames for at least five kingdoms and one principality.(while not a period art, it is a service and probably something I should post.)
  8. Baronial preprints.  (I’ve honestly lost track of how many I’ve done for the barony.  It’s also a blast to work with others on this, too.)
    A bunch of preprints for TRM Ashir and Ashland to use.  And the preprint workshop at Valor helped Their Majesties out, too.  I may have to hold more of these in the future.
  9. Baronial roll of arms project. (this is honestly an ongoing project, but it’s fun to see how far it’s come in the years we’ve worked on it.  We’re up to 86 completed banners.)
  10. Camp banners for Valor.
  11. Creating handouts for Valor’s classes.
  12. Banner for KWHSS.
  13. Nikolai’s Herald Extraordinary Scroll (formerly known as Secret Project Scroll #2)
  14. Imperial Roman clothes and jewellery (I just need actual full-length photos of it)
  15. A bunch of preprints for TRM Xerxis and BelAnna (OMG, SO SHINY.)
  16. YouTube video (which was from a FB live session) on shading.
  17. Painted Dirik von Rosswald’s shield for his upcoming knighting.
  18. Making more casual Byzantine clothing (Finished with the Imperial Roman garb part of it.  It’s starting life as Imperial Roman, and then will be cannibalized for something 4th c. as a part of Operation Cooler Summers.)  It’s going here because it actually got finished as part of the process.
  19. Eynon’s Boga Hirth Scroll, formerly known as Secret Project scroll #3 (text, calligraphy, and art)
  20. A conjugal achievement for Anna and Gieffrei.
  21. Thaddeus’ Achievement of Arms.
  22. Painted Jon Chesey‘s shield (it glows in the dark!)
  23. Count Logan’s Silver Hammer scrolls.
  24. Cormac Mór’s Achievement of Arms.
Posted in project management, Retrospective, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment