Tag Archive | SCA

Teaching in the SCA: the class that taught me how to write the Legendary Women of World History Series

Many of you know that for over 20 years I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreation group mostly centered in the United States and Canada that focuses on the time period between 600 and 1600 CE.  I was known at first as “Anne de Lyons” when I played as a student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (SCA chapter: Shire/Barony of Mag Mor, Calontir), but quickly shifted to a nuzhen persona once I took Asian history courses at UNL.

sands point demo 2009

As my life took shape I eventually took up my passion for birds and made it part of the SCA in 2006 while living in Brooklyn, New York. Now known as “Biya Saman,” I focused my research on both falconry and aviculture in medieval China, engaging in a four year long research project asking “what happened to the Derbyan parakeet” that were often talked about in some of the great poems of the Tang Dynasty.

In 2010 I completed my research and had the opportunity to present it in Chicago at the November “Royal University Midrealms” event.  Here is that course entitled “Talons and White Crests.”

Talon and White Crest class handout

Why is the class important?  Because ultimately it taught me how to organize my research into a smooth, easy to understand narrative.  It is the beginning of my narrative history approach and the way I approach and write each Legendary Women of World History book.

Not everything from my research made it into that class of course.  There was much I could not do. But the point was to teach students who had no background in Chinese history, language or culture; no background with parrots or the quirks of living with them; and no background in falconry as practiced in either medieval Europe or Asia.

When teaching students with absolutely no experience or background in your subject, I find it helpful to use a narrative method, to make it all about the story which is exactly what you find in the above course and in each Legendary Women of World History biography.

As I came to do with the appendices of my books, I deferred technical information to my class handout.  Open up the handout from the above link and you’ll find I really explain how parrots and birds of prey are different (and yes, people often don’t know even the most basic differences between them).  Deferring the technical stuff allows me to focus on the story and maintain clarity.

 

Talons and White Crests was an important step in learning how to write the Legendary Women of World History.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd Análisis De La Escena: Vestuario

gwenllian-three-acts-espanol-web

Ya disponible.

Traducido por Andrés Sotelo Soria:

Buen día y bienvenido seas a tu viaje como recreador, actor o productor de una de las Obras Teatrales de las Mujeres Legendarias de la Historia Mundial.
Como historiadora, me apasiona la historia. Adoro pocas cosas más que ver una obra de teatro del periodo correcto en la que se representan de forma exacta los vestuarios. Pero, ¿qué se puede hacer si tienes poco presupuesto o si vas a montar las obras de “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd” o de “La Emperatriz Matilda”? ¿Qué pasa si no tienes años de experiencia en investigación de vestidos medievales?

La siguiente es una guía general para las producciones de “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: Un obra en tres actos” y para la reconstrucción general de personajes del siglo XII:

ANÁLISIS DE LA ESCENA: VESTUARIO

A menos que se especifique en algún otro sitio, los personajes usan atuendos comunes del siglo XII

MUJERES: vestidos de túnica que llegan hasta el suelo y los primeros briales conocidos, ambos usados con cinturones largos que se ajustan fijamente alrededor de la cintura. Los briales (cuando se usen) se atan de lado. Las capas se usan en la noche y durante los meses de invierno.  Las galesas usan una continuación de la antigua capa envuelta y asegurada con un prendedor llamada “brat”.

bliaut-1bliaut-patternas-veils

HOMBRES:  camisas de túnica que caen hasta la rodilla y pantalones sencillos. El cinturón está amarrado fijamente a la cintura. Las capas se usan en la noche y durante los meses de invierno.  Los galeses usan una continuación de la antigua capa envuelta y asegurada con un prendedor llamada “brat” La jerarquía tanto de los hombres como de las mujeres se muestra a través del tipo de tela y los adornos con bordados elaborados a lo largo del escote, las mangas y dobladillos en los dobladillos de la ropa usada por la realeza. La joyería también establece la jerarquía con anillos elaborados y gargantillas llevadas por los ricos y poderosos.  Nota:  los collares de librea (los cuales se posan de forma plana contra el cuerpo en vez de colgar libremente en el cuello) se usaron por primera vez en el siglo XIV y, por lo tanto, están fuera de este periodo.  Vestuario especialPrólogo: el fantasma de Gwenllian usa un brial de color azul pálido con rosas blancas y narcisos amarillos bordados a lo largo del dobladillo.  Es el mismo vestido que usa Gwenllian en el Acto I, Escena VIII.

Acto I, Escena II: El lodo cubre las capas y las botas de Hywel y el príncipe Gruffydd.

Acto I, Escena VII: Gwenllian usa un bello vestido y una capa bordada.  Su cabello pelirrojo está perfectamente trenzado y cae sobre su espalda.  Una diadema sencilla de nobleza oculta su verdadera posición social como la hija del rey.

Acto I, Escena VIII: Gwenllian usa un brial de color azul pálido con rosas blancas y narcisos amarillos bordados a lo largo del dobladillo.  Lleva sobre su cabeza la diadema real de una princesa de Gwynedd sobre su cabello trenzado descubierto.

Acto III, Escena I: la dama de compañía pone una capa gruesa sobre el vestido de túnica sencillo de Gwenllian. Los sirvientes colocan una armadura pesada sobre el príncipe Gruffydd sobre la cual atan una capa gruesa.

Acto III, Escena II: la armadura del príncipe Morgan, su ropa y su cara están cubiertos de sangre, lodo y hollín.

Acto III, Escena V: los granjeros usan túnicas y pantalones viejos y en su mayoría raídos. Gruffydd ap Llewellyn usa una armadura modesta y está armado con armas de calidad. Morgan y Maelgwn llevan una armadura y armas finas.

 

Twelfth Century Costuming: General Guidelines for “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts”

queenly-12th-century-ensemble

Fit for a 12th century queen! Heavily embroidered bliaut, cloak, veil, coronet, and wimple.

Bore da! Good morning and welcome to your journey as a medieval re-enactor, actor, or producer of one of the Legendary Women of World History Dramas.

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from either “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd” or “Empress Matilda of England” stage dramas? What if you don’t have years of expertise researching medieval gowns?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of 12th century characters/personae:

WOMEN: Floor length tunic dresses and early stage bliauts, both worn with long belts that are knotted secure around the waist. Bliauts (when worn) are side-laced. Cloaks are worn at night and during the winter months.  A continuation of the ancient wrapped and pinned style of cloak called a “brat” is worn by the Welsh.

 

bliaut-1

A simple bliaut showing the side lacing.

bliaut-pattern

A simple bliaut pattern

as-veils

Anglo-Saxon veils and wimples (600-1154)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most adult Anglo-Saxon and  Anglo-Norman women in this period wear veils and wimples on their head, neck, and shoulders.

MEN:  Knee to floor length tunic shirts and simple trousers. Belt is knotted secure at the waist. Cloaks are worn at night and during the winter months.  A continuation of the ancient wrapped and pinned style of cloak called a “brat” is worn by the Welsh.

 

For both women and men rank is displayed through the type of fabrics worn and ornamentation with elaborate embroidery along the neckline, sleeve, and hemline on the hemline of clothing worn by the royals. Jewellery also establishes rank with elaborate rings and necklaces worn by the rich and powerful.

 

Note:  livery collars (which lay flat against the body instead of hanging freely from the neck) were first worn in the 14th century and therefore are out of period.

 

Special costuming suggestions for “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts:”

Prologue: Gwenllian’s Ghost wears a pale blue bliaut with white roses and yellow daffodils embroidered along the hemline.  This is the same gown Gwenllian wears in Act I, Scene VIII.

Act I, Scene II:  Mud covers Hywel and Prince Gruffydd’s cloaks and boots.

Act I, Scene VII: Gwenllian wears a beautiful gown and embroidered cloak.  Her red hair is braided neatly down her back.  A simple circlet of nobility conceals her true status as the king’s daughter.

Act I, Scene VIII: Gwenllian wears a pale blue bliaut with white roses and yellow daffodils embroidered along the hemline.  On her head she wears the royal circlet of a princess of Gwynedd over her otherwise uncovered braided hair.

Act III, Scene: Lady in waiting puts a heavy cloak over Gwenllian’s simple tunic dress. Servants put heavy plate armour onto Prince Gruffydd over which they fasten a heavy cloak.

Act III, Scene II: Prince Morgan’s armour, clothing, and face are covered in blood, mud, and soot.

Act III, Scene V: Farmers wear old and mostly worn out tunics and trousers. Gruffydd ap Llewellyn wears modest armour and is armed with quality weapons. Morgan and Maelgwn wear very fine plate armour and weapons.

Excerpt: Princess Anyu Returns (Enter Anyu Wen)

Princess Anyu Returns digital cover web

It’s finally here!  The final chapter to the Peers of Beinan Series!  Released on 1st February, 2015, Princess Anyu Returns tells the story of Princess Anyu’s exile on D425E25 Tertius and of her return home to Beinan to face the murderous and very treacherous Lord Yelu.  In this scene from chapter two, Enter Anyu Wen, you are treated to a Firefly-influenced opening followed by the introduction of a very dangerous alien.

————————

Music filled Anyu’s ears as she wandered the mall, light, rhythmic and sweet with the familiar sound of shawms and flutes.  As if in a dream of the home she knew existed no more, Anyu drifted towards the sound.  In the center of a large open space near an escalator, a small troop of performers dressed very much like Beinarians danced and played the sweet music.  Recognizing the dance, Anyu put everything down and joined the forming circle.  Memories swelled.  Her feet knew the steps, transporting her and surprising the performers while the crowd of shoppers applauded.  As the song ended, she disappeared, collecting her belongings once more.  One of the dancers, a man with brown eyes, jet black hair, and apricot skin followed her, “Who are you?”

Anyu turned and faced him, “I beg your pardon?”

“You appeared and disappeared as if from nowhere.  I have never seen you before, yet you knew the steps to our dance.”

“Everyone knows that dance,” remarked Anyu casually.

“Not in this time and place, they do not,” countered the man.

Comprehension filled Anyu, “Ah!  You must be of this Society for Creative Anachronism that people told me about!”

“I am.  My name is Seo-jun.”

“Strange name.”

“It suffices. So what are you doing here?”

“Shopping.  New dress,” motioned Anyu at the fabric of her dress.

Seo-jun raised an eyebrow, “With a heavy pack like that and a basket of food?”

“Sure, why not?”

Seo-jun’s eyes changed from brown to metallic blue, his voice lowering, “You are not from around here.  As a matter of fact, you are not from anywhere near here – not even this galaxy.”

Anyu tensed and instinctively raised her hand to her hip, forgetting for the xiao-shir that her sword was buried in her pack, “Who are you?”

Seo-jun grabbed her arm, “Let us take a walk, Princess!”

 

Seo-jun dragged Anyu to the parking lot outside of the mall.  Forcing her onto the back seat of his black two door Ford Fiesta sedan, he threw her belongings into the car hastily, spilling out one of the kolaches from its basket.   Suddenly a dark-haired and grey-eyed man wearing white trousers, a white t-shirt, and white linen blazer leapt out from behind a nearby station wagon, his laser épée humming fiercely, “Let her go!”

Seo-jun laughed, “Why?  You cannot harm me!” To prove his point, Seo-jun concentrated; the doors on the sedan locked with a loud click.  Anyu tried to pry open the locks; they would not budge.

Understanding her life was in danger she quickly found her sword and drew it from her pack as the man stepped towards Seo-jun with his laser épée.  Closing his eyes and controlling his breath, the locks flew open.  Anyu rolled onto the ground to safety. Lifting a finger, the stranger threw all of Anyu belongings out of the car including the stray kolache which rolled in its protective plastic sandwich bag until it hit Anyu’s pack as Anyu found her feet.

The man with the épée advanced on Seo-jun, “You will leave this world, Seo-jun.”

Seo-jun sneered, “And who will make me?  You?”

“If I must,” confirmed the man, raising his épée and planting his feet firmly to attack.

“Your powers of mind are limited.  Your powers of flesh are even more limited.  When can your kind ever defeat us?” guffawed Seo-jun.

“Perhaps I will die trying,” offered the man.

Anyu raised her sword, taking a defensive position with her strange benefactor, “If he dies, he does not die alone!”

“I did not come here for you, Princess.  But if you wish to die too, I can arrange that.  Pity though; you are worth so much more to me alive – unlike your friend here,” frowned Seo-jun.

“Come now, what would Lady Laela think if she heard you talk that way?  You cannot simply dispose of her favourite pet without provoking her wrath!” cried the stranger sarcastically, his feet instinctively falling into the ritualized martial arts forms of the knights of Gurun.  Anyu smiled, recognizing the steps from countless lessons by Lady Knight Aldris of the knights of Gurun, her feet gliding into complimentary forms in accord with the Gurun style of fighting.  Their two swords – one heritage and one modern – seemed to dance joyfully as they met each other’s eyes.  Two complete strangers yet suddenly comrades in arms.

Undaunted, Seo-jun rolled his eyes, half amused at the irony of a man from the past wielding the modern weapon while the adolescent daughter of Beinan’s conquered queen wielded a heritage sword. It was, from a larger perspective, downright comical while being, from another point of view, rather heroic. “You both surely must realize how useless both your weapons are against me.”

“That has yet to be seen,” challenged the stranger.  “I have never actually attacked one of your species before – but since you obviously are intent on taking one or both of us to Lord Yelu, I see little incentive to not at least try.”  In affirmation, the stranger lunged at Seo-jun with his blade, much to Seo-jun’s annoyance.

Seo-jun deflected the blade with a wave of just one finger, “I am no longer amused.”  Anyu, unaffected by Seo-jun’s telekinesis, glided closer, cutting her blade down and slicing ever so slightly into his shoulder. A few drops of black blood spilled onto the ground, sizzling against the payment acidly.  Seo-jun faced her, his eyes like blue flames, “Unwise!”

Just as Seo-jun was about to throw Anyu into a nearby car with his mind, he observed several native humans approaching their position, obviously attracted by the noise.  A man wearing the navy blue uniform of the State College police department approached cautiously, his firearm drawn.  Seo-jun’s eyes changed back to their brown disguise.  Stepping back towards his sedan, he opened the door, “Very well then, since this place is far too crowded for my taste, let us defer this conversation for another beinor.  I trust you will make peace with your goddesses by then.  I would hate to see your soul trapped around this world.”  Sitting down in the sedan, Seo-jun closed the door, engaged the internal combustion engine, and drove away.

Relieved, the stranger stepped out around a car to turn off his laser épée out of sight of the police officer.  Anyu pulled her sword sheath out of her pack, “What just happened?”

“I would think that would be obvious,” answered the stranger as the police officer reached them.

“State College police,” announced the officer.  “Are you okay?”

Anyu looked at the officer and offered a respective bow, “Yes!  Yes we are – thanks to you!”  The police officer tipped his cap politely before turning back, unwilling to get more involved than absolutely necessary.  Anyu turned once more to the stranger, “Well, now that’s over – did you know that Seo-jun creature?”

‘I do; I did,” admitted the stranger as he re-joined Anyu.

“Who is he?  Perhaps more importantly who are you?”

“That is a long story – to both questions.  I am not entirely certain I know who you are – except that you are not of this world. Why did he call you ‘princess?’”

“I do not know how you know I am not of this world – but he called me ‘princess’ because I am the daughter of my people’s reigning sovereign queen.”

The stranger took off his watch, “This looks like an ordinary multi-function time piece such as local men of wealth wear – but it is not.”  Demonstrating, he tapped the surface of the timepiece rapidly three times.  The display changed. “As I hope you know, all life on this world is kol-based, not silizium-based like we are.  This function scans for silizium-based life.  That is how I found both Seo-jun and you, actually.  All three of us are silizium-based.  But beyond that – all I can tell is that Seo-jun appears to be after both of us – not just me.”

“That name – Lady Laela – sounds familiar. Who is she?”

“Assuming these readings are correct and you come from B345A15 Quartus, also known as planet Beinan?”

“Yes, that is my home world.”

“Mine as well.  Have you ever been to the castle temple of Abka Biya overlooking the Amba Mederi Ocean in Bira Hecen?”

“Yes.

“Do you remember a strange woman with metallic blue eyes who takes care of the temple’s observatory?”

“Vaguely – she did something – scanned me perhaps?  I came to the temple to seek refuge from strange dreams I was having.  She said I was seeing someone I knew in another life – someone named Janus who I later came to recognize as the same soul as this Lord Yelu the Bastard who has no doubt overthrown the Gurun dynasty.”

“Precisely.  That is Lady Laela.”

“You know her?”

“Better than you do – and so does Seo-jun.”

“Who is he?”

“A very dangerous person from an ancient race – Lady Laela’s race actually.  We first met them – we call them ‘The Amur’ – during the Great Migration.  Woe to all Beinarians that beinor ever came.”

“My name is Anyu – Lady Engineer Anyu.”

“You are both a princess and an engineer?”

“Yes.  You find that strange lord…”

“The locals call me ‘Christopher.’”

“That is not your name.”

“No.”

“Why give me an alias?”

“I will tell you my birth name – in time.  This is hardly the place to discuss our world.”

“Agreed.”

“I have a home in town where we can talk more privately – it is not far from here.”

“Lead the way!”

 

Parrots and Popinjays: a Brief Look at the Role of Companion Birds in Medieval Europe

This next article about medieval aviculture comes from my years as Society expert on medieval aviculture in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

 

Parrots and Popinjays: a Brief Look at the Role of

1310s illumination from the Queen Mary Psalter showing a popinjay (Psittacula parakeet) at Christ's right hand and opposite a falcon.

1310s illumination from the Queen Mary Psalter showing a popinjay (Psittacula parakeet) at Christ’s right hand and opposite a falcon.

Companion Birds in Medieval Europe

An Overview to the Role Parrots, Finches, and Doves Played in Medieval History

June 7th, 2012

Medieval illuminations rarely depicted species- specific details as this 1236 illumination of a popinjay shows.

Medieval illuminations rarely depicted species- specific details as this 1236 illumination of a popinjay shows.

When most of us think of companion animals, a dog or cat probably is the first animal to come to mind. What few people realize is just how recently our canine and feline obsession really is, dating back only about three hundred years or so. In the middle ages, nearly all the animals in our lives were kept for practical reasons. Medieval Europeans distrusted cats as agents of Satan. Dogs were raised for specific jobs such as herding, guarding, vermin control (the terriers in particular were bred to kill rats and mice), hunting, and even transportation in icy and mountainous regions. Horses were transportation. Oxen pulled plows and were slaughtered for food. Chickens provided eggs and meat. Sheep were shorn for wool and slaughtered as veal or mutton. Even birds of prey served humans as hunting companions.

But three orders of birds were raised primarily for their companionship qualities: Passeriformes (includes sparrows, canaries, and finches), Columbiformes (pigeons and doves), and Psittaciformes (parrots). These were the primary “pets” of the Middle Ages and Renaissance adored by all levels of society — from the poorest to the richest, and royal down to the poorest peasant.

Birds served many companionship functions in medieval life. Among the most humble in society, the family bird kept women in the household company while engaging in the labor-intensive needs of the home. Whether it was spinning, weaving, cooking, laundry, or cleaning — the family bird broke up boredom by providing beauty, song, and social interaction.

Nobles too kept birds, especially parrots (called “popinjays” before 1500). Noble women and noble men kept birds for very different reasons which are perhaps somewhat predictable. For the men, exotic species of birds were prestige animals through which to display wealth and power. Every royal and every noble man wanted the most rare and most expensive parrot, finch, or pigeon/dove that money and aviculture could produce. By contrast, their wives and daughters kept and demanded these birds for their species-specific social and verbal abilities.

In between, the emerging bourgeoisie pursued parrot aviculture as a means of improving and displaying social standing and wealth. As trade and crafts people flourished in cities, so did their need to show poor and very rich alike that they themselves had risen above poverty; possessing parrots served that function quite nicely, particularly as the dietary and shelter needs of the parrot species kept (in Europe, the available parrots were all from genus Psittacula, aka Asian parakeets, birds adapted to Asian rain forests) required consistent warmth and access to fresh foods and grains.

Medieval Europeans raised four species of Psittacula parakeets before 1500: the African ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameri krameri), the Indian ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameri manillensis), the plum-headed parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala) and the Alexandrine parakeet (Psittacula eupatria). The highest echelons of society had access to African grey parrots (Congo and Timneh subspecies). England’s Henry VIII notoriously kept an African grey.

But the rarest parrot of the European Middle Ages belonged to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (von Hohenstaufen). In 1229, this noted lover of falconry received as a gift a rare bird indeed — at least to Europeans: a white cockatoo from genus Cacatua. Many believe the bird was an umbrella cockatoo, but my reading of Frederick’s “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus” (Art of Falconry) leads to a different conclusion. Nowhere does Frederick provide any detail regarding his cockatoo that applies only to the umbrella cockatoo; details like white and having yellow under the wings applies to nearly all members of that genus. He does not even tell us if the bird had a recursive (curling away from the head) or a recumbent (crest laying flat against the head) crest nor are the illuminations in the book particularly detailed in that respect. So while many believe his cockatoo was an umbrella cockatoo, I don’t see enough in primary sources to identify exactly what kind of white cockatoo it was.
The story of companion birds in our lives is long and deeply entwined with our own histories, shaping our world in subtle ways few people understand. Yet these beautiful and special birds have, indeed, been part of our lives for millennia in symbiosis with us. For our fates and fortunes are deeply intertwined with theirs; when they suffer, so do we.

This story of birds in the middle ages has just began. But one thing is certain: we must stop poaching them from the wild, destroying their habitats, and mistreating them in our homes. Only then may we all find peace and harmony.

Chamomile and English Lavender Iced Tea

Chamomile and English Lavender Iced Tea

Winning Recipe from the Barony of St. Swithin’s Bog (SCA) Tea Brewing Competition at 2012 “Spring Thing”

July 15th, 2013

 

Recipe Used for tea brewing competition at the Barony of St. Swithin’s Bog (Aethelmearc) 2012 “Spring Thing” event:

2 TBSP loose chamomile

1 ½ tsp English (culinary) Lavender

¾ cup granulated sugar

4 trays ice

1 quart cold water

Follow manufacturer instructions or your favorite method for brewing

Makes 1 quart

Medieval Period usage:

Chamomile and lavender were both well known medicinal herbs in period. In her paper, “Medieval Use of Herbs” Mistress Jadwiga Zajaczkowa outlines and documents how dozens of herbs, including lavender and chamomile, were used in period.

Chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla: a short, creeping fringy plant with daisylike flowers. Used in handwashing waters and for headaches. Lawns and garden seats were planted with chamomile, for it ‘smells the sweeter for being trodden on’. Scientific testing indicates that it really may help settle the stomach and soothe the nerves, which may be why it was used in fevers.”

“LavenderLavendula vera, Lavendula spica, Lavendula stoechas: dried purple flowers. Used in food, and in refreshing washes for headaches; a cap with lavender flowers quilted in it kept headaches at bay. Used extensively in baths, as a personal scent and as a moth repellent.”

Royal Genealogy of the Known World SCA

Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism. ...

Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Blazon: Or, a laurel wreath vert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Royal Genealogy of the Known World SCA

This website is a very nice resource for finding out who ruled where and when in the SCA.  Covers all kingdoms and you can display records as kingdom lists.  Very useful for when you forget who ruled when and where or just want to discover the SCA more