Saturday, March 8, 2014

Kudrun on Mars

Sometimes "class" is not the proper word for a sharing of information. This weekend I was able to participate with the Barony of Nordskogen at MarsCon. A hotel room was converted into the Great Hall of Nordskogn by means of banners, tapestries, benches, and gentlewomen in seemly attire. Period food was laid out on the board, and an atmosphere of quiet calm contrasted with the frenetic atmosphere of much of the convention.
One of the beverages we served was sekanjabin, a syrup of sugar, water and vinegar, sometimes flavored. Una Duckfoot had made many jars of the syrup using apple cider vinegar and mint tea, and since I had had the most experience with the beverage, I was the mixer and interpreter. Rosanore encouraged people to try this drink-that-didn't-come-from-a-can. 
Humans (including a 21-month-old acrobat), demi-humans, Klingons, and vampires were introduced to the virtues of sekanjabin.  I was lucky enough to chat with the Con's featured author, Esther Friesner, who had traveled in al-Andalus, the source of the 13th-century recipe for the drink. Her description of the deserts of Spain, where such a drink would be life-saving, reminded me of summer SCA camping events.
Here's how I make it:  Bring to a boil 1¼ cups of water and 2 cups of sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Add ½ cup of white wine vinegar, and simmer the mixture for about ½ hour. Throw in as much fresh mint as you can submerge in the liquid and let cool. Then strain out the mint. (Running warm water through the extracted mint will give you a few test servings.)  The syrup stores indefinitely.  To serve, mix syrup with water in a ratio of 1:5 to 1:10, according to taste. Serve warm or cold.
More information can be found here and here
Flavor variations I've tried include pomegranate, lemon zest, orange zest and warm spices, raspberry ginger... whatever.  Using honey instead of sugar (or with a reduced amount of sugar) is expensive, but worth it.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hats Revisited Again

British Library Stowe 17
When the Provost of the Stellar University of Northshield (SUN) announced that she hoped for classes on headgear, I knew it was time to dust off some research into the 13th century hat that I'd done for the 2006  Known World Costuming Symposium
It took more than dusting.  My sources in 2006 were books, including the "history of costume" books by Norris, Planché, Köhler, and Houston, and several less useful but more modern ones.  This time I was able to visit websites of the Morgan Library, the British Library, national libraries of the Netherlands, France and Austria... I lost count of how many. With their online publications I was able to pull together about 1000 pictures of 13th and early 14th headgear, focusing on the one worn by the model in the picture.  The pictures included several media, including cathedral statuary, which aided interpretation of the painted media.
This headwear, known in the literature as a coif, touret, turret, filet, pill-box hat, pie-crust hat, and coffee filter hat, had several variations during the period of its popularity  (between 1183 and 1416).  What dating was available provided a nice bell curve, peaking around 1250. The sides of the hat might be parallel or flared to varying degrees. It might be tall enough to hide the top of the head, or the head might poke through. The hair might be braided, and fastened behind the neck, or, more frequently contained in a solid or net caul. It was almost always white. The hat was almost always worn with a barbette, or chinstrap.
Though the 500 pictures of the "real hat" (as opposed to similar-looking crowns, or other types of head covering) are hardly a scientific sample of all of the evidence, I feel very confident that the people in my class have a clear idea of what "the 13th-century hat" looks like.  (And I now call myself an SCA CSI.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Timey-Wimey Stuff

Thomas More's clock
With Winter Solstice exactly one week away, the Shire of Rokeclif was kind enough to let me pack them into the TARDIS for a look at time in period.  A "day" in Kudrun's time was the time between sunrise and sunset, which was divided into twelve hours. Though there was no period way of measuring the minutes, each hour today was about 45 minutes long. (If I were really in Scotland, each hour would be 35 minutes.)

We read calendars from books of hours, and tracked the names of the days of the week and the months.  We looked at fourteen different dates when "Happy New Year" was an appropriate expression, and decided that May 1 was our favorite.
It was a challenge to describe period timekeeping without resorting to the conventions we're used to -- the 60-minute hour and the 60-second minute. What was it like in period to switch to thinking of time "of the clock"?  (Check Chaucer's Parson's tale prologue for the intersection of two ways of time-telling.)
At least we didn't have to try to reconcile the solar and lunar years, which was a challenge for Julius Caesar, Roger Bacon, and Pope Gregory. And no, we didn't attempt to calculate the date of Easter.
(We did learn that my cursor was as good as a laser pointer for entertaining the cat.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Aristotle renews his SCA membership

Falcon's Gate, the college subsidiary of Falcon's Keep, invited me to chat about persona. We had a lively discussion, partly because of the delicious brownies that provided a sugar high. Aristotle provided what structure we had, but as we chatted about aspects of medieval "thought" we detoured into bits of my class on period maps. Garb questions also abounded. Thank you, Falcon's Gate, for a delightful evening of geekdom.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Maps revisited

I had an opportunity to rerun my class on maps (from April 2013) for the Shire of Rokeclif. We took the whole afternoon (and had a potluck afterward) so there was more time available, but there were kids in a class that was originally intended for adults. So I added some kid-friendly activities, such as using toilet paper tubes and pricked paper to make constellation maps, which the kids could project on the walls of a dark room, and magnetizing a needle to make a compass.   Sam added the directions for our Northshield compass rose.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A&S 50 Gathering at WW

The twentieth incarnation of Warriors & Warlords, Northshield's largest event, occured on the weekend of July 13. There was fighting and dancing, foodie competition, three bardic circles, and, between Smiths' Row and the Authenticity encampment, enough A&S to impress even the most jaded observer. (The local paper had a beautiful color spread featuring many activities, including my first attempt at blacksmithing.) So I wasn't worried that people were doing Other Things when I hosted an A&S 50 gathering. There were a couple actual challengers, plus several who were just there for the shade. (I tried to draw them into the fold.)  It was still a great A&S event.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to be Dahrien

Many of you know Master Dahrien Cordell. One of his many talents is to create contrafacta instantaneously. I believe I recall him filking a song as the song itself was being written.  Since he took my name in vain in creating publicity for Bardic Skirmish, (formerly Border Skirmish, a Northshield/Midrealm event) I thought I'd get even by teaching a class in filking. It would contain a bit of background in SCA history and in period contrafacta, but the point would be to write a song, using "a tune we all know".
There were only a couple problems.  One is that most of the people who attended, including Dahrien himself, had already mastered the fine art of filking. The other is that Mistress Eliane's class was scheduled for the same time in the same 12x12 foot sunshade.  So we pretty much had a great conversation on the bardic arts in general, and then jumped headlong into a game of Bardic Kubb, which involved knocking sticks over by throwing other sticks at them, and coming up with bardic performance with any successful toss by the other team. (If you want a better explanation, ask Dahrien.  It was great fun.)