Saturday, November 8, 2014

Officers' Day

Officers Day in Northshield is a semi-event, intended to help officers learn their job, or decide if they want to hold a local or kingdom office. We don't do any re-creation of the middle ages -- we wear street clothes, and eat pizza rather than feast. But we tackle the mundane work of making the Society work.

I taught two classes. One was "Autocratting 101".  I've got several events under my belt -- from little one-day localish events with a pie as the site fee, to half of a Known World event in August 2014.  I shared a few tips, especially about calendaring and publicizing the event. I also compiled ALL the expected reports, and where to send them, or where to fill them out online. Since a piece of paper full of hyperlinks was rather silly, I posted the list on my group's web page with live links.

I sort of fell into leading "How to avoid burnout in small groups".  We started by filling out the seneschal's Domesday report, answering the questions with "Cards Against Burnout" -- yet one more adaptation of "Cards Against Humanity".  After playing with these cards for a few minutes, nobody was reluctant to share their experience and insight. I don't know if any flames were put out, but we had some good laughs, and that, in my opinion, is one of the best medicines against burnout.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gods and Mortals

Bardic Madness had a theme of "Gods and Mortals" this year, so Kudrun presented an overview of some of the Christian saints who help us (meaning 13th-century folk) bridge the gap between ourselves and the Divine Mystery. It was my intention to help people find the right saint to intercede for them, since some show a particular affinity to certain occupations (like Sts Crispin and Crispinian, patrons of shoemakers), or locations (such as Cuthbert, who insisted that his bones be interred at Durham), or diseases (such as St Fiacre... you can look it up).  I was able to introduce some of the saintly stories that Tertullian considered to be "old wives' tales" (like St Thecla, who baptised herself in a pool filled with vicious seals who were supposed to kill her). I also pointed out some of the scholarly saints, such as St Bede, who reformed the calendar and charted the tides, and St Isidore, who wrote a 20-volume encyclopedia. There was a little skepticism expressed over St Adalbert's two skulls (one claimed by Prague, another by Gniezno) and over St Wilgifortis' instant growth of a beard.  (Wilgifortis' father had her crucified because she refused to marry a rich heathen man.) 
Despite the PowerPoint slides shown behind my head, the class was taught in persona, except for two saints whose cultus didn't grow until after Kudrun's time. (How can one resist St Wilgifortis?)

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.