WIP: Current Skills and Class Topics

The SCA is a hobby of hobbies, as I have been told by others, and boy is it true.  I know I can get caught up with so many interests and goals that I sometimes feel paralyzed with choice.  I have a full set of clothing I am happy with in terms of being period accurate, material accurate and fit.  I have some individual pieces that I have mixed feels about that I use from time to time.

While I certainly need more functional items in general for events, I’m also itching to submit something for A&S competitions…but sometimes I just don’t record my process, love the item, and immediately start wearing it which make it hard to submit.  So I need some more rigid goals.

Right now I am teaching myself some basic weaving.  I picked up a book, tablet cards, wool, and a shuttle and began teaching myself tablet weaving.  It’s been going well but every time I put the project down for the day…I screw up the next few turns when I pick it up again.  So every 6-8 inches I screw it up royally.  My friend, Lady Anne d’evreux, lent me an inkle loom of hers so I can see if using a loom, rather than backstrapping, might help me with the flips and twists that I seem to encounter when I stop weaving.  As much as I wanted to work with backstrapping, I think for the sake of my sanity this is a moment where my “period stick up my butt” needs to be removed.

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The first few inches.

Weaving, while I am not sure will be my thing, is probably the only thing that will get me some of the patterns and prints I want to work with.  I’d love to graduate to a warp weighted loom to make larger panels for clothing, but starting small is probably best.  I also picked up a book and some sticks for sprang, so in the near future I’ll work on that.  I have a modern bit of stretch fabric on one of my archery gloves that I think I am going to removed and replace with a little sprang for a nicer look.  I am also considering a long, rectangular hairnet to get a certain effect.

 

I’d like to finish the two tunic dresses I have in various states of done-ness. One I put in gores…which I have decided really aren’t period for me but I am loathe to undo the 10+ hours to sewing on it.  The other just needs to sleeves adjusted. I’d also like to make at least two more peplos-type dresses and use some tablet weaving to either finish the ends (woven into the fabric) or just be lazy and border it with some decorative stitches.  If sprang works out I suspect a pair of sprang pants for warm weather to cut down on the “chub rub” is in order as well.  I never feel comfortable wearing the dress with bare legs, and while the medieval linen shorts I have work out fine for now, I am wondering if sprang shorts/capris might be even better…

I also cannot seem to decide wtf to do with my hair.  I try a new style pretty much every event with varying feelings on it.  Determining easy and comfortable Gaulish hairstyles that can be done with my modern bob is proving to be a pain.  I can live with clip-in extensions, but it’s the part after that leaves me wanting to gouge my eyes out.  Also the sources for pre-Roman Gaulish hair is pretty much nil…which is super unhelpful.  I could probably just tease the dickens out of my hair and leave it down, but you couldn’t pay me to wear my hair down in warm weather.

As for research topics, I am hoping to start teaching a class or two come summer or fall this year.  The two topics at the head of the list are:

  • Body Part Votives in Provincial Gaul – mostly about body part votives which are thought to be used as a spiritual form of medicine practice.  This would be a NSFW topic as a great many of the votives are genitals and relate to venereal disease.  I would likely have to reference votives in Greek, other areas of the Roman provinces, and even into the Middle East, as the practice itself is rather global, but the focus would be on Gaulish material items and the methodology around determining their usage.  If you ever wanted to say you had a class on a literal box of dicks, this would probably be it.  I feel pretty comfortable working with clay so I’d love to recreate some of the votives not only for a class display but also for an A&S entry.  I figure a paper, A&S entry and class brings the topic full circle.  My only hold up is that I am lusting over a few books that are just out of my price range ($150+) that I know are pretty much a requirement for me to feel like I am up to date with my my info.  I JUST missed a votive exhibit at Bard this past year, so I am a bit salty.

 

  • Curse Tablets – Curse tablets are items created with the intent of harm or justice.  These items are often deposited with the dead as the messenger to the gods, or sometimes even placed with the remains of someone to be cursed into their afterlife.  While curse tablets can also be found independent of burials such as at shrines or in lakes/rivers/streams, being stuffed into an urn is often how we find the best preserved one.  These are common throughout the classical world (and even in pre-colonial North America!) and are fascinating to read…festering wounds and boiling organs anyone?  As an informational class this is pretty simple and has the option for it also being a “how to” class seeing as they are usually made of sheets of lead or metal, carved into with the a nail, rolled, and then the nail is struck through the roll.  This could also fall into the “write a paper, A&S entry, then teach class” category.  I have another friend who is thinking about teaching a class on devotional items that I hope will consider doing a back to back with me.  I think having a class of items of devotion followed by items of cursing has a nice round path of mystical intents.

 

  • Barren Women in the Ancient World – As a woman who has no interest in having children of her own, I find a distinct disconnect with a lot of the history of women when it comes to the Matronae for my own period.  I suspect I would feel this way regardless of what persona I would have picked.  In a more modern Pagan thought process, some people re-assign the “Maiden, Mother, Crone” life cycle to “Maiden, Warrior, Crone,” and again I don’t fancy myself a warrior by any means.  To quote my husband, “The only battles I want to encounter are margarita hangovers.”  For so many cultures the focus on identity for women surrounds having babies, but what about those that couldn’t or didn’t want to?  What role did they play?  This is not something I know a great deal about right now but it’s something I would love to investigate.  I know that Roman women who were widowed, unmarried or barren could not be handed down property unless specifically named in the dead’s “will”.  I also know that many barren women went on to hold spiritual roles in the communities, but this couldn’t be their only outlet for prestige?  I will have to dig more into this.  The previous two topics are the ones that will most likely get actively worked with this year.

    Plenty to work on, read up on and put into practice for the time being.  I will need to take a look at my available sources and decide whether votives or curse tablets should be my first goal.  Spring is here so I need to get working if I want to make a Summer Atlantian University deadline.

 

 

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Food: Bacon and Fish Soup

This recipe was taken from “Prehistoric Cooking” by Jacqui Wood which is a great jumping off point for Iron Age recipes and available foods, especially in the UK.  She did years of experimental archaeology on food which is a combination of the use of paleoethnobotany to determine foods available and diets of ancient people as well as the act of using that information to experiment with making edible items.

Things you might learn while doing experimental archaeology, which is learning through living IMO, is that many of the Iron Age bread recipes are best cooked (and more quickly cooked) as bannocks rather than straight up rolls or bread loafs.  That sleeping and bathing in a torc is feasible.  Or that horse hair sleeping rolls are pure gold whether it’s winter or summer.  These are some things you can only learn by doing and experiencing.

While my focus is more on the continent, many of these foods were available in both places, barring some plants which are not a fact in this specific dish.  I would place this recipe in: entirely reasonable for Gaulish consumption.

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Recipe as shown: Bacon, leeks, smoked fish, milk, cream, chives, and salt.  Fry the bacon, add leeks to the grease.  Cook until tender.  Add fish and cover with milk, slow cook for about 30 minutes.  Add cream, chives and salt at the end.

Since I am a consistent and steady lady…I eyeballed everything.  I would have likely used every cooking pan in my kitchen for the sole reason to drive myself insane with cleaning dishes.   All cooking adventures usually ends in our kitchen looking like a greasy tornado touched down, said NOPE and went on it’s way.

However, I convinced myself that as an Iron Age lady, I can’t be bothered with multiple cooking implements.  It was all going to be done in one pot: it was glorious.

This recipe was not entirely the result of careful planning as it was the result of actually having most of the ingredients on hand.  The only item I had to seek out was the smoked fish, in which case I looked for smoked herring without complicated additives: so just fish and salt.

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All ingredients above, just ignore the butter.  Butter just appeared out of no where and photo bombed everything.  Bad butter!

After the ingredients have been assembled and the butter dismissed it was time to cook.

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Bacon cooked in pot.

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After bacon cooked and grease from bacon was released, I added the chopped leaks.

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Bacon and leeks cooked down.

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Add the smoked fish and milk to the batch.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.

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After about 30 minutes I added a little cream, stirred it all up, and served it.

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Finished meal.

This came out very well and got the picky-husband seal of approval.  My husband is one of those guys that is always happy to try new things, but has been generally disapproving of historical recipes.  This one was a hit.  It was great with a little bit of bread for dipping.  I eat mine with a glass of beer which really added to the experience.

This is a heavy and high calorie meal.  This took about 10 minutes of actual work from me and 30 minutes of waiting for things to cook.  I would absolutely consider this for camping events as both a period and easy to make meal.

An adjustment I might make is the drain the bacon grease from the bacon and leeks before adding the fish and milk.  The grease would slowly separate and lay on the top of the dish, which might not be visually appealing for others.  In the interest of time and simplicity on a site I would leave it and just stir it well before serving.

Questions: Bead Distribution in Female Graves

Do you ever ask yourself a question, have an idea to the answer, but need more research to be sure of your thoughts?  This is one of those moments.

I am comfortable with being able to say that the ladies of the more Nordic cultures as well as Anglo-Saxon women certainly hung bead strands from should to shoulder supported by brooches.  I also feel pretty good about the hanging of the same items as well as chain for Bronze Age women across multiple cultures on the continent.

But what about Gaulish women before Romanization?  The more I glance, the more it seems pretty clear to me that these were likely bead strands worn around the neck or tucked away as a general personal belonging at the belt line.  Are bead strands worn around the neck rather than from shoulder to shoulder a possible visual facet to bring a little extra authentication to a woman’s Gaulish persona?

Period and Persona: Figuring It Out Part 4 – Name and Heraldry

Finding a name has been a trial for me to say the least.  There is a limit to the books on surviving names for my period and location and they were not the most easy to find.  Many of the lists available for women’s names online are woefully short and poorly cited.  However, after second guessing myself and being a general pain in the ass I think I have settled on either Litta Celori or Litta Argentias.

Initially I hoped to put together a name with my real-life initials and something that sounded similar but wasn’t a fan of many of my options.  There were some I really liked that were a mouthful.  I suspect having an easy to read and pronounce name would help me connect with others better than something like Sennametomara Autriahenae.

All three components come from the same inscription.  Argentias is a genitive singular of an ā-stem of the Gaulish word “Argenta/Argentia” which is the word for silver.  It’s confirmed to be used as a name in several location across Gaul.  Celori has only appeared in one source I can find as a likely a variation of Celorus or Celorius which general accepted as a Celtic to Latin name.  Being that I plan on having a persona of mixed heritage, this works astoundingly well.

Litta is a funny one in which my google-fu leaves me perplex.  It was clearly used in Latin; I have found one other period source located in Iberia; it was also a late medieval Italian name; is a stem for early Germanic names; comes up as both Latin, Spanish and Danish of origin for modern people…this name travels but doesn’t seem to claim an origin to any one period or culture.  Since I have a period use in the right time, region and mixed with Gaulish names, I would say that it would be a win in general.

Heraldry was easier to work with as it came down to making up something I liked that was no used by another.  I got the clear for use of:

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Argent, an anille palewise sable between in fess two coneys sejant respectant azure.

Rabbits are one of my favorite things on this earth (I have three of my own after all) and I wanted something that somewhat resembled Gaulish shield designs.  While there aren’t really Gaulish designs that were legal for use in the SCA I decided that I would vertically turn an anille and get something that reminds me of those same shield designs.

I’ll be submitting this week.  I hope it all goes swimmingly.

Period and Persona: Names

Within the SCA there is a vast wealth of knowledge withing the medieval context.  Had I gone with a later period I would have already known and registered that name a year ago. The earlier you go the harder it becomes.  Gaul, especially pre-Roman Gaul is a tough place to find naming resources that are available to the public and in English. I have been slowly acquiring a small repository of sources.

Some of my “Early Period” friends have me a little concerned about registering a name for myself.  There are few if any known heralds who have a good amount of experience with early, non-Roman names for Iron Age populations in Europe.  As a result some people are outright denied their chosen names due to a lack of familiarity with an obscure period and location.  Hopefully it won’t go that way for me, but I am thinking that if I ever have designs for taking a position, perhaps looking into becoming a herald for ancient persona would be right up my alley.  I would love to help people having a tough time with it.

For those who don’t want to go digging into finding obscure books you have to translate from another language, the three I would suggest are:

Public Databases

S-Gabriel on Gaulish Names

This has a list so limited that the list of names are not why I recommend this location.  This site gives you a general understanding of Gaulish onomastics.  If you have no reference for Gaulish names, this would be step 1.   There are facets of Gaulish onomastics not covered (such as place names being used as personal names), common name elements, and direct translation of a Gaulish name to a Latin variation, or culturally blended names.  I feel that if you follow the suggestions from this site then you will have an easier time registering your name, but the real historical options are much more varied than this site offers.

University of Nottingham’s Celtic Names of Roman Britain Database

Now this is a special little source.  If you are looking for Celtic names from Britain during Roman occupation, this is a great site.  Even if you are looking for names on the continent there is a section that notes whether the name is found in other areas of the Empire.  This is the largest public database for decidedly non-Irish Celtic women’s names.  However, some of these name are name fragments and might be a hard pass for heralds.  Dudes generally get more love in any of the name lists.

University of Warsaw’s Roman Bastard Database

This is another incredible source.  However, if you are not familiar with Gaulish/Celtic onomastics it can be hard to pull the Celtic bastards from the mix.  You can search via time period and location.  If you are interested in Greek/Egyptian or a Mediterranean blended persona, there is also a wealth of options here.  Visually I could not identify many female celtic names, but there were a few celtic male names altered or blended.

Three sites is not much, especially for the available list of women’s names, but that doesn’t mean the info isn’t out there.  Unfortunately much of it is not available in English, or it was a low-print book that might run you several hundred dollars to acquire.  There are some academic articles available but not all of them are publicly available.

Anything from Xavier Delamarre!

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The current person of interest for Gaulish onomasticcs is Xavier Delamarre who is a scholar in Indo-European Studies, Old Celtic onomastics, and Old Celtic languages.  Unfortunately his books are in French.  In 2017 the latest version of his “Les Noms Des Gaulois” was published and I managed to get a copy for around $40.  I’m slowly working my way through it with the help of translation apps.  This had the largest list of male and female names I have seen in one place, though I have found individual names in others sources not listed in his book.  He has a chapter on the use of “freed/freedom/freed man/ freed woman” related words used in the naming of formerly enslaved Celts.  Much like some enslaved populations over the last few centuries, the Ancient Celts even took on names equivalents to “Freeman”.  That has options for amazing flavor when building a persona.

Touching multiple sources has made me realize just how massive an area these names and cover and how it’s impossible to really have them all in one place.

Articles

Celticization and Romanization of Toponymy in Central Spain, Leonard A. Churchin, 1997

This is something you may not be able to acquire online, but you can if you can get the appropriate database access at a local university’s library.  While this focuses on Celt-Iberian names it does have several dozen naming options available.  What I particularly loved about this article was that it gave many examples of how place names can be used as personal names.  “Mantua” for example is seen being used as both a name for a person while also being a place name for a town in the region.  I loved the names Ariolica, Libora and Soria from this article but I am not going to an Celt-Iberian persona.  This could be great for others though!

Celts and Raetians in the central-eastern Alpine Region during the Second Iron Age: multidiscilinary research, Sima Marchesini, 2016

While this isn’t strictly an onomastics article, it is focused on my extremely specific region and time period.  This is my source for three women’s names for Celtic Rhaetia/Raetia: Vitamu, Pianu, Esumne.  This also sources the traditionally masculine ending of -u used for women, which I found particularly interesting.

Traces of Celtic Population and Beliefs in the Roman Provinces of the Central Balkans, Nadezda Garilovic, 2013

This is of particular interest for Balkan Celtic personas.  While this doesn’t touch heavily on onomastics, there are a few choice names to be found via funerary markers and the occasional tablet or bit of pottery.  Some of these names come off as very Latin but with a spelling noting some Celtic elements.  Surrila, for example, appears in a few different linguistic lists and clearly bridges multiple cultures in it’s use.

Books

Other than anything by Xavier Delamarre there is a book on my wishlist…

“A Corpus of Latin Inscription of the Roman Empire Containing Celtic Personal Names” by Marilynne E. Raybould, Patrick Sims-Williams. 

Someone I know managed to snag a copy and send me some info from it: holy crap.  This is a beautiful books filled with a good number of names as well as a wide variety of naming conventions. YES.  It’s primarily funerary writing that talks about the names, relationships, and sometimes even the professions of the people they denote. However, the publisher only works with mail-in paper purchases and is the most snail of snail mail.  I was hoping to get in a name submission for myself before the end of January but I may be waiting a few months for my copy.  BOO.

Right now these are the sources I am enjoying,  Additionally I am also reading a blog which touches on Astures names and identity which may be of some use to myself or others when looking for a name for themselves.

I leave you with a little humor, a few names you probably don’t want to consider: Mianus, Spenis and Togivepus.  These would be unfortunate.

Period and Persona: Figuring It Out Part 3

As much as I love Roman history, decidedly I going to be working with a more continent Celtic aesthetic.  However, for the sake of having a larger scope for primary sources when submitting information for a name or finding documentation to enter into contests I feel that I need to stick close to a period of time where Roman contact occurred and occupation was immanent.

I thought that I would have pinned my time and location to 1st century CE, “French” Gaul but more and more and I feeling a pull towards 1st century BC Alpine region.  I am personally and originally from a mountain and valley region so this ties in to who am I am in real life.  The Alpine region has a great deal of contact from Roman and Greek people which makes it a great melting pot of cultures.  Seeing as the Celtic people in that region did not have their own written language, they did make use of both Latin and Greek scripts.  This gives me a decent pull of information to gather from.

Rhaetia/Raetia is I am still dabbling with and I think it’s a great place to lay my persona.  it’s very similar to my last name, so if I decide to get a geographical name as a last name (and a herald will accept the documentation for the use of a GN in a PN for Gaulish onomastics) then all the better!  However, this area became a Roman province in the middle of the 1st Century BC which brings back my period by 100 years.  Thankfully, that’s not a massive jump and my current garb and accessories still fits the period.

Additionally this places me into the Iron Age period for the Balkans and Central Europe which is totally my jam. A bonus is the silver jewelry found in the region.  I don’t wear warm toned jewelry and have had to wear some for lack of availability in reproduction goods.  However, silver is something found and confirmed in use for this period and location: I AM FREE TO SILVER IT UP.  As a result, for the holidays I treated myself to a simple silver torc.  No more green neck!

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While it’s visually smaller than I had hoped, it does fit the smaller and simple torcs for a larger period of time and areas (twisted wire with small, domed terminals).  It’s not perfect as it clearly was designed to be more of a choker than to lie on the collar bones, but it’s silver and won’t require upkeep for me.  I’ve been wearing it mundanely to see how comfortable is it and I have to say it’s stellar.

Up next: A lot of talk about onomastics and name selection.

Plausible Food: Passum

When it comes to the food of the celts were mostly have “an idea” as recipes don’t exist.  We rely on latin and greek accounts of food as well as the occasional  break down of some surviving pieces of food.

However, Gaul is a large place with many overlapping cultures.  Today I want to talk about Passum.  Passum, I believe, would be a reasonable wine that some of the populations would have come in contact with in Roman Gaul.  Seeing as the celtic populations loved their undiluted wine, I think that more eastern celts would have had contact with this item.

Passum is a sweet raisin wine thought to originate in Carthage but made it’s way into the Roman Empire.  It was not only drunk, but reduced and used as a sweet sauce in recipes.  Surviving documentation for it come from a Punic farming manual by Mago(unknown date).  Mago’s Latin translation is by Decimus Junius Silanus (2nd century BCE) and referenced by Columella in De Agricultura 12.39.1 (1st century CE).  This fits within my period of interest.

A modern variation of the food is called “passito” and can be found in specialty wine shops.

Additionally, this is considered a “girly drink”.  Polybius, in Histories, Fragments, 4.6.2, writes that “Among the Romans women are forbidden to drink wine; and they drink what is called passum, which is made from raisins, and tastes like the sweet wine of Aegosthena or Crete.”  Don’t worry, gentlemen, there is no shame in passing the time with some passum.

Below is the quick and dirty method of making this wine.  If you brew your own wine, then that’s a whole other step that’s up to you.  This recipe is quicker and take about 4 days.

Ingredients

1 Bottle White Wine such as a Riesling or Moscato

White/Yellow Raisins to taste (I used about 1.5 Cups)

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Gather ingredients and find yourself a pitcher of some kind you will be able to shake or stir.

 

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Combine wine and raisins.  Give it a good shake or stir.  Place aside or in the fridge for 4 days.  You can leave it for longer if you want a very strong raisin flavor.  Mix the concoction every day.

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After several days you will have plumper raisins and a more golden wine.

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It is time to strain the contents of the passum.  I used a mixing bowl and cheese cloth for the first straining.  FYI: you can keep the wine soaked raisins and eat them or add them to a recipe.  I cannot say how long they keep since my husband ate them all immediately. Tasty!

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Since I wanted a much clearer looking batch of wine, I added some cheesecloth to my funnel for one more straining as I bottled the brew.  Coffee optional, but highly motivating for achieving things.

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Passum bottled and ready to go.

This was debuted at Lochmere’s Holiday Bardic this last weekend.  It was very sweet and easy to drink.  It went well with many of the find dishes people brought.  This was simple and tasty, so I think I will make is a staple that I will bring to BYOB events.  Feel free to track me down if you want a taste.