Esa inghean Donnchaidh was one of the first people I met in the SCA and a dear friend, so I was thrilled when I heard that she was going to receive her Laurel. While I unfortunately was unable to attend the glorious event, I was able to contribute in a small way by writing an introduction to court for her. This was then translated into Scots Gaelic by Naran Noyon, who heralded her entry for her elevation.
The evening star rises, heralds last light of the day. Sun strikes wave-washed islands, inflames sanguine Brodgar, Stanness, and sleeping Maeshowe. See striding forth from stones’ heart broch-builder’s blood-borne kindred, a sea-eyed advocate and true-tongued teacher, scholar of Caithness and the womb’s ways, the esteemed and beloved Esa inghean Donnchaidh.
Scots Gaelic Translation
One of the faults in my education is my lack of Scots Gaelic, so this translation was wonderfully done by by Naran Noyon. The text below is not his final version, and any transcription errors are mine; I hope to update this post soon with the final version that also includes the correct diacritics. As a translator myself, it was exciting to have someone translate my words, and I hope to hear more about his translation choices.
Reul an Fheasgair ag eirigh, A gairm solas mu dheireadh dh’en latha, Buailidh grian eileanan air am fliuchadh le tonnan, ‘Cuir teine ri Brodgar fuilteach , Staness ‘s Maeshowe nan cadal, Faic Ise, A tighinn gu dana a-mach a cridhe chlachach, Fior nighean Bhroch-togalaiche. Bean-tagraidh le suilean-mhara, Tidsear na fior theanga, Ban-Eolaiche Ghallaibh ‘s Doighean machlaig, Gaolach, Urramaichte. Esa Ingean Donnchaidh.
Kolfinna Valravn is one of my favorite people, period. In addition to being an amazing artist, Kolfinna is unfailingly kind, thoughtful, and giving; she thinks of others, and then does something tangible with it. She is always working to make others’ lives better, even when “on a break”. Of course I had to help with her Golden Dolphin (GoA service award).
Ollamh Lanea gathered a dream team for this scroll: Bran Mydwynter was our designer, Aurri le Borgne was the “illuminator” (which, in this case, handled substrates, engraving, and assembly), Lanea wrote the beautiful words (of course!), and I was in charge of calligraphy… and spinning and weaving.
Yes. I got to spin and weave for a scroll. Even better: I got to spin and weave for a scroll for Kolfinna!
You see, Kolfinna loves the Bronze Age, especially the Egtved Girl. Bran knew this, and designed a scroll that incorporated the Egtved Girl’s spiky belt plaque, corded skirt, and a runic plaque (the research behind the runic translation ALONE is incredibly impressive, let alone the piece as a whole, so please go read about that now).
But first, let’s talk about the calligraphy.
The plaque for the calligraphy was made by Aurri out of a piece of pergamenata attached to thin wood and then spraypainted, giving it an excellent metallic sheen. I had never done calligraphy for a scroll without tracing, so I was incredibly nervous (I hadn’t traced the calligraphy for the Apprentice’s Manuscript, but if I messed up with that I could scrape it or start a new folio if needed). I spot-tested to see if an eraser hurt the base paint, and it didn’t seem to, but I was worried enough about reducing the sheen that I decided to minimize erasing as much as possible. I really didn’t want to freehand this, though, as I was terrified I would mess up the spacing.
Thankfully, Bran had made a layout with the runes that was almost the exact size of the plaque. After discussing with Aurri, I resized it slightly in Procreate to increase the margins so she had more flexibility with attachments when assembling, and then I went old-school carbon-copy-transfer tech: I rubbed the entire back with a pencil, placed it carefully onto the plaque, and then traced over it with a mechanical pencil to transfer the design to the surface.
Since the original runes had fairly regular line weight, being incised, I tried several different tools to paint the runes, including about a dozen different paintbrushes and a tool only known as the dottifier. After some trial and error, I settled on using a crow quill with acrylic paint.
This was incredibly satisfying to do, and I am quite smug about how well it turned out. I also don’t think I can call myself a baby calligrapher anymore.
I did the initial research and spinning for an Egtved skirt in 2020 (in fact, I kept bugging Kolfinna with info about it as I was researching and spinning for it), but I’ve been stalled on the actual creation process. However, because of this, I was immediately ready to make a small sampler for the scroll! Because I plan to weave a full skirt soon(ish), I’m not going to go particularly in depth in this section.
While I’ve spun a lot of wool in the last two years, I wanted to spin specially for this project, because I knew exactly the wool to use. Pre-pandemic, Kolfinna joined me at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival for her first ever visit, and she fell madly in love with Jacob sheep (and their two-to-six horns on both sexes). I had purchased a Jacob fleece in 2021, and while the fleece was predominately white (to my disappointment), I thought there may be enough to make the cords of the skirt black. Because I wasn’t quite sure how much yardage I would need, I decided to make the woven base out of white wool; it would be hidden anyway, and extend the amount of wool I had.
Aiming for an 8″-wide sample, I estimated the amount of yarn I needed. I then processed an appropriate amount of wool using wool combs borrowed from Lanea (having washed the fleece last year), then spun up the yarn at ~10 WPI on my wheel. While I was worried about yarn chicken, I actually only used about half the yarn I spun for the skirt sample:
8 yards + 1 yard plied
32 yards (7.1 grams)
Black (weft & cords)
114 yards (127 grams)
14 yards (1.42 grams)
Time for weaving! The Egtved skirt has an interesting construction, where three loops of weft are pulled through and placed on a peg per pass of the warp; as the weaving progresses, two loops are twisted tightly and then plied together into cords. The amazing fiber artist who reconstructed the skirt originally used pegs clamped to a table instead of a loom (which you can see here), but I don’t have a table where I can set up for a long time. Thus, I rigged a semi-portable set-up. I put the warp on my inkle loom, turned my rigid heddle loom upside-down and clamped a peg to its crossbar, and then sat on the floor with my leg between the inkle and the rigid heddle loom. I kept a ruler nearby to make sure that the peg was always 15″ from the warp (especially important to check after taking a break!). As I progressed in the weaving, I plied the cords together using a hand-cranked plying tool to speed the process. As with the original, I tied the ends of each cord in a half-square knot before carrying on.
Once the eight inches were woven, it was time for finishing the bottom of the cords. In the Egtved skirt, the end of each cord has the ends overlapped into a ring, then wrapped with some lightly-felted wool. Instead of combing, I flicked a bunch of white locks, and then threaded the loose locks onto a yarn needle. Using the needle, I threaded the lock through the ends of the loops (to bind them together) before wrapping them around the cords. Instead of wet-felting or friction-felting the ends, I used a modern needle-felting needle (stabby stabby stabby!). Once this was completed, I twined the cords right above these rings with the grey yarn.
Then, I blocked the whole piece. Instead of soaking the piece, I pinned it to the correct length and sprayed it with a squirt bottle, sopping up the extra water with towels. Once it was dry, I wove in all the ends except one, which I left so Aurri could tell the front from the back (as much as there was one).
Finally, I wove in all the ends, and passed it off to Aurri with the calligraphed plaque for assembly.
It truly was a fantastic experience to work on this collaboration with Lanea, Bran, and Aurri; it truly was greater than the sum of its parts. The only thing better was Kolfinna’s reaction when she saw it!
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.
When Aurri le Borgne asked if I wanted to collaborate on an Opal scroll for Ilhuicacihuatl de Xochimilco, I lept at the chance! Ilhuicacihuatl is an incredibly giving person in both time and energy, an amazing teacher (I’ve learned so much from her classes), and a force to be reckoned with in New World studies in the SCA. In short: she’s awesome, and I wanted to be part of creating a scroll for her!
And then Aurri clarified that she wanted me to do both wordsmithing and calligraphy, and I went… okay. I was still considering myself a baby calligrapher, and I knew that whatever was out there was going to be far outside my wheelhouse, but it was worth it! (Also I don’t think I can call myself a baby calligrapher after this piece anymore!).
After convincing myself I couldn’t learn Nahuatl in less than a month and therefore an original language composition was out of the question (for now), I dived into research, looking for both a calligraphic hand and appropriate text. I quickly discovered Bernardino de Sahagún, a sixteenth-century friar and Nahuatl nerd who recorded both cultural and literary information regarding the Aztec people in a Western alphabet (score!). In the time I had, I couldn’t find both a literary text in translation and digitized manuscript, but I found two related pieces: The Florentine Codex, digitized by the Library of Congress and in Bernardino’s own hand, and Ballads of the Lords of New Spain: The Codex Romances de los Señores de la Nueva España, which was probably recorded by Bernardino, exists in one 17th-century manuscript, but available transcribed and translated by John Bierhorst and available for free online. Aurri had found a similar manuscript from Bernardino for the illumination, so we were good to go!
First: wordsmithing. Nahuatl poetry is new to me, and so at this point the most historically accurate I could get would be by cobbling together bits of the translated Ballads and massaging them into something that works for an SCA scroll. I read through the entirety of the Ballads (which aren’t particularly long), and I was struck by both the beauty and cultural resonance of the pieces. Despite knowing very little about the culture, I could still see the significance of multiple items and images (such as gold, jade, and flowers — flowers abounded!); I was moved by how the poetry wedded joy in beauty and sadness at its transience. Because I’m a language nerd, I still had to do a little linguistic digging, so I used the online Nahuatl Dictionary to look up Ilhuicacihuatl de Xochimilco’s name. I giggled at how perfect the name was for her and decided to work it into the scroll text.
The final text uses lines from poems I, II, IX, X, XVIII, and XXXIII in the Ballads:
Friends, let us go sing in Marinus, in Atlantia, on the second Day of Love. Eckehard and Jane have come to string jewels, to adorn with flowers. They value as gold the good service of a heavenly woman from flower fields; her heart and works are jade. Let there be broad plumes and opals: let Ilhuicacihuatl de Xochimilco be inducted into the Order of the Opal. May all know her name, may her flowers not wither. Let’s drink—let’s eat—cacao flowers: our hearts are glad with flowers this February 26, A.S. LVI.
Because I knew Ilhuicacihuatl was making chocolates for the event where this would be received, I had to include “let’s drink—let’s eat—cacao flowers” directly from Poem IX. Also, since the translation by Bierhorst rendered the poetry in a visually prosaic form, I retained that for the scroll text.
Next, the calligraphy! I was really lucky that I had an exemplar from one person, right? Right? WRONG. Y’all, Bernardino couldn’t write an “a” the same way twice in The Florentine Codex. He also couldn’t write the same size twice. Or keep his slant consistent. That said, all of this was a boon to me: I struggle with slanting scripts, and this late-period hand was entirely new to me (and learned in less than a week), so any inconsistencies in my version actually make it more accurate! Ha! An additional benefit was that his handwriting was not too different from earlier batarde scripts, which I had practiced in the past, so all-in-all it was not too difficult a task to handle. My final version was still a little rounder than the original, but I’m still pleased with how it came out.
For the ductus, I tried to use mostly letter-forms from the Nahuatl part of the manuscript; however, I had to fill it out with letters from the Spanish part, as there are multiple letters used in English and Spanish that did not appear in the Nahuatl text. Even with that, there were some letters that are fairly common in English that I couldn’t find in the manuscript (especially K and W), so I had to hypothesize my own letter forms for that based on the original.
To make sure that I got the calligraphy right on the first try, I did a test piece on Bristol using the same nib and ink (I don’t remember the nib size, but the ink was Noodler’s Eel Black). This piece was fairly successful, with only a couple errors but good spacing, so I taped over the errors and simply traced it for the final product.
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.
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.
When Kolfinna Valravn asked me to write the scroll text for Mestra Esperanza Susanna Flecha’s Laurel, I jumped at the opportunity; I’ve admired Esperanza as both an individual and an artist virtually since I joined the SCA, and I was honored to be asked to write words to honor her and her art.
The exemplar that Kolfinna chose was by Caravaggio, which meant I would be looking at late period poetry (I had to write poetry for Esperanza. Had to.). I had already been writing a significant amount of late period poetry recently, especially iambic pentameter. I knew I was pretty locked in with iambic pentameter, but I wanted to change it up slightly, so I decided to go with the Spenserian stanza. This was created by Edmund Spenser in the late 1500s specifically for The Faerie Queene. It provided a good length for scroll text: nine lines per stanza would provide plenty of space in two stanzas, without overtaxing the scribe with verbiage. The form itself is still iambic but more complicated than a sonnet: the first eight lines are pentameter with the ninth being hexameter, and the rhyming scheme is a fun interlaced ABABBCBCC. Having taught this poem multiple times before, I felt comfortable with the form despite not being too experienced in it.
Before proceeding further, hear these words:
The kingdom sings the praise of flowing quills
That smoothly flourishing, depict th’ interred,
Find in darkness and death delightful thrills.
Though dressed in fluffy plumes and gentle frills
No contradictions found in her bright cheer;
‘Tis black and white, the extent of her skill,
With swooping ornaments rightly revered.
Esperanza Susanna Flecha’s worth is clear.
The beauty of her art cannot be writ
With tines and tips in minims fat and lean.
Suitable rhymes and swirling strokes must flit
With brushstrokes painting proper peerage scene.
The will of Eckehard, King, and Jane our Queen,
Marked in pen and ink with gentility,
Is ornamenting her with leaves of green,
Gilding her with fame by royal decree.
All shall know that Esperanza a Laurel be!
Done by Our Hand on November 20th, A.S. LVI, at Holiday Faire in Our beloved Barony of Stierbach.
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 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: