Thursday, November 12, 2015

Knowing the Known World

Bute Psalter
Had I known that I was going to buy a house during the preparation time for this class, I might have considered something smaller. However, this was the Stellar University of Northshield, so I had free rein to be as geeky as possible in a two-hour session!

Knowing the Known World is an overview of many of the differences in perspective between the modern world and the medieval/renaissance world.  Time, space, nutrition, politics, art, philosophy... lots of stuff.  Some of the subjects, such as the post-period seven-color rainbow, the realist/nominalist debates, and the theory of the four humors were discussed in previous classes. Other topics, such as the heirarchy of minerals, and Charlemagne's observation on bilingualism were new.  Some, such as the changing role of the individual were barely touched on... stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Happy 800th Birthday

This June we celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the "Articles of the Barons", a document which, with considerable editing, became the "Magna Carta" or "Great Charter".  Since the theme of Hvitskogar's "Over the River - Part Fork" event was the Magna Carta, I thought an introductory class on this great document might be in order. Beginning with the 1066 death of King Edward the Confessor I reviewed some of the issues that beset the English Crown and people, such as legitimacy of rule, ballooning taxes to pay for foreign occupations and wars, complete disregard for the lower classes, and the notion that the English Crown would bow to no other authority, sacred or secular.

I'm glad things aren't like that today, thanks to this charter and its successors.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gnomes - Short and to the Point

A challenge was issued at Bardic Madness XXV to present a work that used proverbs to prove a point. I had been playing around in psalters, trying to see if the marginal illustrations had any connection to the text.

What did I discover?  Aesop's fables!

Apparently, from around the 11th through the 14th centuries, there were books of sermon illustrations written to help priests put a little more punch in their sermons. They drew from many sources, which included popular sayings and proverbs, the legendary lives of the saints, and the fables that are usually attributed to Aesop.

I tried to give an overview of how some of this material (some of which had roots in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, and India) had come to be in Psalters and books of hours, and how proverbs could indeed be used to prove a point.

I must say, this project was overwhelming in the best possible way. Every rock I turned over provided loads of little critters proclaiming earthy wisdom.  I'm so glad I had a deadline, or my bill at Amazon would have been enormous.

I put the text of my PowerPoint talk on a page here on Blogger. I haven't formatted a true bibliography yet.

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.)