In the middle of 2020, I began work on an appliquéd banner of my arms, using a large scrap of green wool (from Ysabeau’s cloak) and scraps of gold and white silk. I handsewed the tube to fit around a hanging rod, wove the strap for hanging out of silk, started embroidering the lozenges for my device, and then… let it languish for a year.
After regarding the banner for a long time, I realized I’d made the base too big for regular usage. Mostly, I was annoyed that I couldn’t hang it well on a door (way too big) and that, for most of the year, the pole was smashing into the doorjamb. I also had the opportunity to see several other people’s banners, which gave me a better sense of what worked (and that my original was incredibly large). I also used several people’s banners to decorate shared space, so I had a better sense for what strap configurations worked (or didn’t).
So, I cut the background down, fixed the tube, cut down the rod, and sanded small divots into the rod for the strap. While I previously had just tied on the strap, this time I sewed it down, with both a wide hanging loop and two smaller loops that could be attached to something else (versatility!). Then, I set down to complete the rest of the embroidery and applique. The lozenges were split-stitch embroidered with faux-silver thread in a knotwork pattern of my design. The horse’s design was adapted from a horse on the Sutton Hoo helmet, embroidered with a combination of satin and chain stitch. The horse and the lozenges were made of one layer of silk and one layer of linen for stability separate from the base, and then sewn on after.
And, because I’m extra, I covered up the applique stitches with chain stitch embroidery on the reverse/wrong side.
While the banner isn’t perfect (it definitely needs a lot of steaming and hanging to stretch out some of the wrinkles!), I’m glad that it’s done, and I’m looking forward to displaying it in 2022.
So things kept happening to get in the way of my properly apprenticing to Ollam Lanea (rainstorms, commitments, a pandemic), so when we finally were able to set a firm date, I lost my mind a little and decided to make her a gift for The Occasion. I decided to make her a book. Not any book — a book that contained two of her pieces, two of mine, and some other important items. Since I chose poems that incorporated our languages, I decided they had to be properly glossed. This is literally my third piece of calligraphy ever, my second with a proper pen, and I learned to bookbind over the summer by half-watching a dozen random YouTube videos. And because I knew Lanea would get a kick out of it, instead of documentation, I wrote a library catalog entry. I told you I lost my mind.
The Catalog Entry
Teach Folcadáin Bó Caitlin MS Ripton A.i
Inconsistently dated to both ~800 and 2021 (?)
The Apprentice’s Manuscript
The present volume contains 4 poems and some additional back matter (a short verse and a single sentence). Two poems, On Kings (ff. 2r-8v) and Song of Amergin (ff. 24r-29v) have been glossed by the original scribe. The glossing of On Kings indicates that the scribe was familiar with the language and attempted to keep a poetic translation in the gloss. However, they also excluded words that were the same in both texts, making it difficult to reconstruct the gloss’s original form. Inaccuracies in the glossing of Song of Amergin indicate that the scribe was not familiar with the language; E. Meredith (2021) has suggested that the scribe was attempting to combine two texts with only the vaguest understanding of Celtic languages.
ff. 2r-8v: On Kings
ff. 9r-15r: On Returning Home
ff. 18r-22v: You Call Yourselves Bards?
ff. 24r-29v: Song of Amergin
f. 31r: Gawain and the Green Knight (?) excerpt
f. 32v: Back matter
Decoration: 5 illuminations, of a horse between three lozenges (f. 1r), a bird (f. 16r), a raven on a pall between three Brigid’s crosses (f. 17r), a great black dog (f. 23r), and a golden winged shoe (f. 30r). There are additional small decorations throughout, most significantly a decorated O on f. 18v.
Irish, Old (?)
Materials: Pergamenata, Noodler’s Eel Black, Koh-I-Noor watercolor, FineTec gold and silver.
Dimensions: approximately 90 x 70 mm. No indication of trimming.
Foliation: ff. 32. There is one modern foliation sequence in the manuscript in pencil.
Layout: written in one column of four or eight lines to a page. All four-line pages contain glosses in a different language.
Script: Half-uncial. While the hand has similarities to the Book of Kells, as do some of the illuminations, the number of errors and uneven lines indicate an inexperienced scribe deeply in over their head.
Binding: Rebound in the first quarter of the 21st century by an enthusiastic amateur using green silk thread, cardboard, linen, leather, and PVA glue.
Unknown; bears indicators of both 8th/9th-century Hiberno-Saxon traditions (especially Northumbrian) and 21st-century Nacirema techniques from Piscataway Nation territory.
This is the story of the Five Calamities of Fiffaru, the Disaster Lyre.
In 2019, my friend Mattheus Dupuy showed up to a local practice with a Germanic lyre. He let me noodle on it, and I instantly fell in love. After letting me borrow his lyre for a bit, he offered to help me build an Oberflacht lyre using instructions from Michael J. King — my first woodworking project! In a day of woodworking, we managed to get the crosspiece cut, the body shaped, and over half of the soundbox hollowed out. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the router slipped and cut a large curve in the back before we noticed. This was the First Calamity. After talking about hollowing the whole thing out and slapping on a backpiece, we broke for the day.
The lyre sat in my garage for nearly two years. With the plague marching the lands, I didn’t have access to the tools to finish it, and over winter I didn’t have a warm space to work on it, either. Then warm weather hit, vaccinations were imminent, and I felt the need to get this sucker done. I had an electrical drill, a coping saw, and pure stubbornness. I had neither a workbench nor wisdom. Despite this, over a weekend I managed to get the majority of the body cut out via strategic drilling and very difficult sawing. Unfortunately, as I started to hollow closer to the lyre’s arms, the lyre cracked where the two arms met. This was the Second Calamity.
I decided to peg and glue the headpiece when this happened, to provide stability (since I didn’t have a proper dowel to peg it with, I sliced up an old bamboo knitting needle). I spent a long time trying to find the best glue for the job, but I couldn’t find any recommendations, so I settled on standard wood glue. After finishing the headpiece, I glued the break, clamped it all tightly, and left it for a week or so.
Because I had limited tools and the structure had already been compromised, I decided to simply even out the hollowing and not even attempt to make the front and back boards flush with the frame.
I used wood glue to attach the soundboards, pressed the whole thing with some handweights, and let it dry.
Around this time is when I discovered the Third Calamity: mismatched holes. I had planned for a six-string lyre. Mattheus gifted me a bridge of bog oak for six strings, as well as a horn tailpiece, which I drilled for six strings. But I did my math wrong, and drilled only five holes in the headpiece, with no space to cram in a sixth. Luckily, I could skip one slot on the bridge, and I was able to fit a seventh hole on the tailpiece so that the strings could still be roughly equally-spaced. Thus, the lyre became a pentatonic lyre by accident.
This was not the only issue involving the pegs. I didn’t drill the whole way through, as I didn’t want them to be visible from the back; however, I made some of the pegs too shallow, and the leftmost one in particular had trouble going in. So, I decided to deepen some of the holes — and promptly went through the back on the leftmost. I managed to not do that on the other four, but this was still the Fourth Calamity.
Before stringing, I wanted to apply a finish. However, I couldn’t find any reccomendations for a finish that were newbie-friendly and non-combustible (hi, linseed oil!), so I decided to just use a mix of mineral oil and beeswax, which I already had on hand for wooden chopping boards.
Finally, it was time for stringing! I had purchased a bunch of guitar string sets, so I chose the best selection of nylon strings from those. I was a little at a loss for how to attach the tailpiece, but other lyres I had used employed either fishing line, fake sinew, or plastic-wrapped wire. I had some of the latter available, so I strung it up, but upon tensioning the strings this snapped, being sliced through by the horn tailpiece (the Fifth Calamity). I tried a few fixes, then took some files to the holes and smoothed them out. I no longer trusted the wire, though, so I wrapped part of the tailpiece holes with silk thread and fingerloop braided a tie. It held.
By this point, I had decided to name the lyre Fiffaru, which translates to Five Calamities (from fifand fær, which pluralizes to faru). Despite being the Disaster Lyre, it sounds pretty good! While I don’t have a performance video of this, please enjoy the first recorded noodling upon it:
Overall, I’m quite proud of Fiffaru, and its name is rather tongue-in-cheek. This was my first woodworking project, and my first instrument! At the end, I have a pretty beautiful instrument that sounds nice and will hold up well as it’s dragged to events, and because of the calamities I now have a dedicated pentatonic lyre. It’s an overall win!
Finally, in addition to the plans from Michael J. King, I found a few additional websites useful:
I was so excited to do calligraphy for the first time! I calligraphed a beautiful scroll blank by Adelaide Halfpint inspired by the Ormesby Psalter (1250-1330).
While I had practiced a similar script (Batarde), I practiced the script from the Ormesby Psalter for this scroll, meaning that I learned a new hand for my first calligraphy! I used standard scroll text, as I didn’t want to hyperfocus on my own words the first time I calligraphed something.
In December 2020, Korrin Valravn arranged a “Secret Shiremate” exchange for our shire. I was excited to receive Ollam Ruaidhri an Cu, a lovely man, dear friend, and fellow bard, as my secret shiremate. We had four exchanges, and in no particular order, I wanted to share three of the things that I made (the fourth were cookies, and there is no evidence left of them).
Ollam Ruaidhri is a generous and crafty person, so I wove multiple yardages of inkle weaving, for him to use or gift (or both) as he saw fit.
The final bands are silk in shire colors (white and green), a semi-symmetrical narrrow weave in wool, a wide and long asymmetrical weave in wool, and a symmetrical weave in wool. I used some of the same wools in all three woolen weaves, which was a fun way to demonstrate the different effects you could create based on warping patterns.
In the survey we had to fill out, Ruaidhri also indicated that he did not have a shire token (!!) and that he liked practical items that fit in a pouch. Obviously, the answer was that he needed handkerchiefs with the shire populace badge.
The handkerchiefs are hand-hemmed linen embroidered with silk. I tried two different techniques for these to create both an outlined and a filled-in badge.
Wrote a poem! Did my first calligraphy! Threw in some illumination from the Book of Kells!
I was sick so the poem wasn’t as dramatic as I wanted it to be and the whole thing was late!
To Cuan, king of considerable worth:
Your bard begs you a brief moment
of time, attention, tolerance, and reprieve.
A report of a birthday reached my ears–
so a chronicle I conceive for the King of Atlantia,
a poem of his prowess, praising his might
with words of wisdom to warn and advise,
extolling the integrity of one .viii. times a king.
But unbidden, an illness attacked my form,
muddled my mind and mystified my pen.
Now my reason returns, revived and hale,
But the moment is missed! Mournfully thus
I weakly write a wish, with all goodwill
of a belated birthday from your King’s Bard.
In fall 2019, I wanted to improve my embroidery, so I drew a knotwork design that I decided to fill using a combination of satin stitch and split stitch. While the knotwork has finally been completed, I still have yet to decide what I’m going to sew it on to.
Battle on the Bay 2019 had an Epona-themed challenge—and as a horse lover, I had to enter something. I was on a huge knotwork kick, and I wanted something soothing, so I combined knotwork, a horse-shoe shape, and the Staffordshire Hoard’s “stylized horse” in this scroll blank. Materials are permanent pen and gouache
I picked up scribal in the fall of 2017, and although I was unable to attend the following Twelfth Night, I desperately wanted to enter the New Scribe Contest. Based on Her Majesty’s whims (Viking persona and a love of horses and the color red), I decided to do an Urnes-Style Horse and Grasping Beast Scroll. I was honored that my scroll was selected as the winner!
Because I wanted a challenging design (and I could not find any digitized exemplars of period illuminations that fit my concept, as Nordic manuscripts are rare before 1100), I decided to base my design on Urnes-style knotwork (c. 1050-1132). I used three artifacts as inspiration:
I decided to adapt one of the Urnes-style grasping beasts into a horse, based on Her Majesty’s whims.The color choices were also influenced by an Urnes-style scroll found online dated 2007; I could not find the name of the original artist. I used gouache and pencil on pergamenata.
As mythird scroll ever, this scroll had many firsts for me:
first entirely original composition for a scroll,
first completed illustrationof knotwork of any kind