I was extremely excited when Kolfinna Valravn asked me to write the text for Valgard av Mors’ Laurel scroll, and even more excited when I found out she was basing it on the Franks Casket (full details here!). I knew that Mors is an amazing smith (making the Franks Casket, with its depiction of Wayland the Smith, even more appropriate), but she had a few additional suggestions: skulls are good, and make it metal. In addition, the space we had was quite tiny, which I love – I love space constraints that require me to write something perfect for the individual in as few words as possible. Since we were in my happy home of Anglian artifacts, I of course had to write alliterative verse; since I had been reading more alliterative verse in the last few months, I had a much better sense of where I could bend the constraints of the form in the process. Once I latched on to an opening phrase and a few specific images, the poem sprung almost fully-formed, only needing some minor editing and adjusting to make sure the flow was as perfect as possible.
I was quite excited when Lady Esa inghean Donnchaid announced the Atlantian Persona Development Challenge, as I love challenges that give people an opportunity to expand their in-depth historical knowledge while creating things! You can read more about the challenge itself here, as well as see the displays as people complete items.
The challenge itself spans the spring-to-fall reign (April 2 to October 1) and requires that four objects be completed over the time. While the idea is to display at four events (two Coronations, Crown, and Pennsic), the projects can be works-in-progress until the final event.
For this challenge, I am focusing on my 7th-century Northumbrian Anglian persona. I have recently been doing a research deep-dive into Anglian garb, so I hope to use this as an opportunity to expand my wardrobe in a more accurate manner.
This page is my landing page for my entries. Below, you will find a description of each item I plan, with regularly updated pictures and links to longer posts (once they exist!).
Item 1: Winingas
Winingas, or leg wraps, are commonly seen in Migration-era Scandinavian men’s outfits (“Viking”) as well as later Saxon men’s garb (11th century). While there is little physical evidence regarding any leg coverings in 7th-century England, men must have covered their legs with something, and winingas are as likely as anything. There’s also a possibility that women wore winingas under long skirts in cold weather. While I primarily do women’s garb, I do have plans to make a masculine kit, and winingas will be useful in cold weather for either.
For weaving, I plan to use the Romney fleece that I processed in 2019 and spun in 2020. In 2020, I dyed half of the yarn with indigo (which is chemically indistinguishable from woad). I plan to use the undyed as the warp and the dyed as the weft. For weaving, this blog post may end up being quite useful.
Item 2: Ring Pouch
I made a ring pouch for my fate garb, but it doesn’t go with most of my garments. For this, I would like to model the pouch off historical ones that had a leather outside and weft-faced lining.
Item 3: Dress
In my Anglian garb deep-dive, I’ve been hypothesizing several different dress constructions. I plan to make one for this project.
Item 4: TBD
I have several ideas for my final item, but I will reveal that as I progress on the other items.
Esa inghean Donnchaidh was one of the first people I met in the SCA, and the memory of our meeting is engraved on my heart. We very quickly found out that we shared many interests (including dance, Scotland, the 14th century, and “early period” Britain). She’s also a fantastic researcher, doing masters-level (or higher!) research in her free time on women’s health and menstruation (you can check out her blog here and her website here). As a newcomer, she made me feel seen, welcome, and safe.
So when her Laurel, Beatriz Aluares de la Oya of the Spanish Seamstress, asked if I could find the time to write the words for Esa’s Golden Dolphin scroll in a tight turnaround, I thought I would rather gnaw off my own arm than say no.
Since the exemplar was from the Aurora Consurgens manuscript, specifically of “Bleeding Woman in Zodiac” / “Zodiac Menstrual Cycle,” I knew it was time for some iambic pentameter again! That said, the Aurora Consurgens manuscript is from the 15th century, slightly earlier than other recent scrolls I’ve written for, so I decided to use rhyme royal, a seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter with an ABABBCC rhyming scheme. Bonus: Geoffrey Chaucer first used this in the 14th century!
The poem itself has many nods and winks to Esa’s work, deeds, and path in the SCA. I am not going to explain them here, as they are for her pleasure to enjoy and discover.
The final scroll was calligraphed and illuminated by Baroness Ingegerd Kastanrazi.
O Venus, shining morning star, your light
Cannot be curtly dimmed by sun or moon.
Your curving path inscribes a divine flight,
A warming sight, a wondrous heavenly boon,
That reddens, flickers, blazes. Your face festoons
The midnight sky with glowing mystery,
Luminous bleeding generosity.
This wand’ring star has brilliant earthly twin
Whose arduous work illuminates the shade.
With labors long in stony broch and glen,
Heavy tasks she welcomed, refined, and weighed,
Service, wisdom, and truth bound and displayed.
The wise women know worth in blood and bone:
Esa inghean Donnchaidh their beloved own.
For love of Esa are these words proclaimed,
From Stierbach’s gates throughout the kingdom decreed.
Justice done by gentle Eckehard and Jane
Who thus award, as sages have agreed,
A lady who aids in spirit, word, and deed.
Th’ Order of the Golden Dolphin awaits
Esa, newest member, to celebrate.
Done November 20th, A.S. LVI, at Holiday Faire.
I was touched when His Majesty Eckehard asked me to write a memorial poem upon the untimely passing of Duchess Denise Duvalier. While I had not had the honor of meeting her myself, her reputation proceeded her, and I wanted to write something that honored her and her legacy and gave comfort to those left behind. Because I also knew that the poem would be read before a tournament (originally the Rose Tournament at War of the Wings, then rescheduled to Crown Tournament), I also wanted to keep it short so that no-one was overcome before competing. I hope that I did her memory honor.
To saddened hearts and aching souls we sing
Of sorrow slowly walking in our midst.
From loss and love does grief and mourning spring;
If tears should tender flow, do not resist.
We sing of tireless heart and thoughtful hand
That brightly bore the crown with grace in bloom
And planted joy and warmth across the land.
This royal Rose was plucked unkindly soon.
May mem’ry last forever and a day:
Cherish Countess Denise Duvalier.
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 fif and 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:
- http://crab.rutgers.edu/~pbutler/aslyre.html was helpful for figuring out how to glue on the boards
- https://literaryworkshop.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/building-an-anglo-saxon-lyre/ gave me a starting place for buying strings (though I would definitely purchase them singularly next time!)
- http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Articles/lyre/To%20Make%20a%20Lyre.htm had some good information on construction and finishing, and while I didn’t use any of this information in my construction I was glad I reviewed it
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.
On Returning Home
a new poem in the style of Old English alliterative verse
for Poeta Atlantiae 2021
upon the Coronation of Eckehard and Jane
When Hakon hábrok was placed on vigil to consider joining the Order of the Chivalry, I joined the Worthies to speak as a member of the populace. I was deeply honored to be asked to deliver this speech, and since Hakon is also a bard, I had to give it in verse. The verse itself is fairly loose Old English alliterative verse; I played with both line-length and alliterative structure to best suit the message.
From Ealawynn Maeru, alias Ela –
Gracious greetings, guests and friends.
Peers do plead their pieces of wisdom,
but I proclaim proudly for the populace.
What should the chivalry show us in deeds?
What weighs more worthy than wielding arms,
swift swords swinging ably,
all adversaries overwhelmed in battle?
No – a knight must be more—
prowess is purely part of the whole.
So what should the chivalry show us in deeds?
Listen, with silent lips and unlocked ears.
Contemplate, consider, and consult counsel;
weigh wisdom and wield caution.
Ignore self-interest; favor insight—
then speak, and lead.
This calling of chivalry is an arduous quest.
Many folk fail this formidable task.
But Hakon hábrok holds these!
Contemplation, counsel, consideration, and discernment:
if these uncommon attributes are the essence of chivalry,
then I call Hákon hábrok “knight.”
Elevate him to that order promptly.
The populace praises it as proper and just.
At the end of 2020, Korrin Valravn organized a scribal trading card exchange, with the cards being sent out in January 2021. I decided to submit a capital “D” from the Book of Kells, folio 85v.