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.

Period and Persona: Figuring It Out Part 2

The jump from Pict to some undetermined identity in Gaul was a fairly quick one.  I am convinced that the business of my brain is purely meant to torment me, which means when I don’t know a comfortable amount of information about something: I am going to eat it for three meals a day until I do understand it.

The term “celtic” probably makes you think of ancient insular cultures and people such as the Irish.  However, “celtic” is used as an umbrella terms that casts it’s shadow over a very large area and number of populations. Academically the jury is still out for a decisive explanation of the term depending on specialization, but my education leads me down the linguistic definition of the term.  Which means, rather than limiting the definition to the Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish and a few other smaller groups, it encompasses the linguistically related tribes in continental Europe as well.

While the Picts hold a dear place in my heart and I absolutely adore them, many books I had and began to acquire touched on other “celtic” populations.  As someone who is genetically broken down into Italian, German, Broadly Southern European and Broadly North Western European…I found myself identifying more with the people of the continent under the celtic scope.  I could see in my head little details of the persona forming and it simply wasn’t Pictish.

As I read, glanced over images of artifacts, and considered the finer details of a persona it became very evident that: There was limited information on the non-Roman inhabitant of Gaul that are female.  I feel as if there is a wealth of information for Hallstatt culture but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go that far back even if the beautiful spiral designs were an easily identifiable feature of the culture.  Romans paint a vivid picture but their sources are laced with the agenda of Rome and are only partially a good source. It seemed like these people, especially in Cisalpine Gaul (Roman provinces on the same side of the Alps as Italy) where they adapted rather quickly to Romanization.  Transalpine Gaul(other side of the Alps, think France, Switzerland, Belgium, and some areas of Germany) took longer and held onto pieces of their pre-Roman culture a bit longer.  Even then, crafting an identity for a female in that world would prove to be a bit of a struggle.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

The SCA certainly appreciates an authentic representation of your period and persona, but for those that are new, not a big fan of research, or feel daunted by the task: don’t be.  There is a little something called the 10 feet rule.  If you made a good attempt that passes at a glance, then you’ve done very well.  I would never take a crap on someone’s garb because their tunic uses a cut out of period for them, or because the edges of their clothing are lined in machine stitched banding, hells no, that’s of no issue to me.  I am sure I will mention this in it’s own post at some point but “Don’t be a dick.”

For myself?  I’m going to drive myself absolutely batty in my desire to address a Gaulish persona.  I am going to search for carvings, images, corpses, grave steles, and curse tablets so see if our impression of a woman in Gaul is accurate and if it needs to be addressed and honestly: so far I am finding things that really challenge the image many of us may have for a Gaulish woman.  Like a veiled mitre/peck hat.  What. preference for pulled back hair rather then free flowing and “wild” barbarian hair in certain provinces.  Something the resembles a modern Japanese vest apron…

For the moment I am going for 100 BCE to 100 CE.  This is a highly transitional time period in Europe and in moments of not having enough sources for a specific item I can look to Roman items as a stand in.  As for location I am dabbling with the idea of the province of Rhaetia/Raetia, south western edges of Gallia and southern Germanica Superior.

The only clear thing I see for my persona is that I would be a woman of mixed heritage (Roman and Celtic) which fits with my own Italian and German heritage.  This would put me into a world and culture in transition and would leave me with many questions.

Will I be more Roman or Celtic?

How would a woman identify with the non-Roman heritage of her family and still navigate life in a Roman province successfully?

How can I skirt the edge of Romanization without taking it on fully?

 

 

 

Period and Persona: Figuring It Out Part 1

“All history is biography. – Ralph Waldo Emerson”

While I have been aware of the SCA for about a decade, I didn’t really get involved until February of this past year.  I’ve spend a lot of time mulling over period and persona, which I have found a bit difficult.  Let’s face it, we spend our whole lives learning who we are so having another version of yourself to figure out can be quite daunting.  Joining the SCA is like a second puberty…only less Pro-Active and more blunders in sewing.

Period: In some places on the internet the SCA lists itself as a pre-1600 to 500 CE focus.  However, from interactions with others the only really limit is pre-1600.  Early period and even ancient period personas seems to be welcome and have their groups, but the focus lays within a medieval scope.  However, I can say that visually at events I would put the focus on not only the medieval periods but also the viking age as being immensely popular.

Geography: Europe.  Europe is the focus, however, I find the non-European personas/gear are present at events and welcome.  Generally speaking, whatever I have read for guidelines doesn’t really encompass the mentality within the group which for the most part is: “If it’s your passion: do it.”  Good to know.

Laying down the groundwork for picking out a persona I spend a lot of time thinking about period and culture.  There truly is no period or culture I cannot find myself in love with.  I am a total whore for history so picking just one was like eating just one chip: can’t eat just one.

However, there are some that have that little bit of a special draw for me for a variety of reasons.  My original short list in a notebook I keep in my desk was:

  • Late Iron Age Pictish
  • Merovingian Gaul/Francia
  • 14th Century Italy

However, at present my kit is decidedly continental 100 BCE – 100 CE (pushing towards Gaul, specific region is up in the air presently) but there was a path I took to land here, and even now I am still waffling with my persona as I am approaching picking out a name and heraldry for myself.

As I made a hard list of the periods and locations that enticed me more there were pros and cons to each, and also a varying level of comfort with each.  While I think I have a much better and detailed understanding of the high medieval periods thanks to a better number of extant items: my archaeological experience focuses mostly on Iron Age and Early Medieval North Atlantic Europe.

Late Iron Age Picts:  This focus appealed to me because I spent some of the happiest moments of my life digging Pictish sites in the Orkney and Shetland Islands for a few summers in my early and mid 20’s.  I am also very aware of the limit to the information we have for them and the women who were part of their demographic.  If you laid out “Celtic” artifacts from Ireland to the Alpines I could pick out Pictish items without a problem.  I can see in my head the surviving extant garments (not many but enough, praise be the anaerobic soils of the North Atlantic) and feel comfortable with putting together…a male persona.  There was my hiccup.  While I could draw from some Danish textiles for women, that would beg a question for another post: borrowing from other cultures to fill in an archaeological gap.

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Pictish Stone at Hilton of Cadboll, woman seated top and center.

Pictish Pros

  • Familiarity with objects and textiles.
  • Easy clothing to make and spruce up.  This fits within my sewing capabilities.
  • Stupid amount of reasonably current books in my personal library.
  • Connections to leading Pictish researchers and re-enactors in Scotland and Britain if I need any help.
  • Tons of archery depicted in surviving art with a focus on hunting over war.
  • Cold and hot weather clothing will be easy and comfortable.
  • FLESH PAINTING
  • Tro-lol-lol-lol Romans can’t touch this.

Pictish Cons

  • More material on male objects and textiles.
  • I am the least ethnically Scottish person and don’t feel like I would visually represent the women of that period or culture. The knowledge base is there but I don’t really identify personally with “being” a Pict.

Merovingian Gaul/Francia:  This focus appealed to me on two fronts: History and Short Tunic Dresses(which may not be an accurate portray unfortunately).  The Merovingian  ruling period was a fascinating.  Cultures in transition are complex and really get my brain buzzing.  The Long Haired Kings and their people were a society in flux between the Roman way of life and the newly Christian way of life.  You have Salien Franks, which were neither quite Germanic, not quite Roman, and not quite a native Gaul, but the culmination of what I would consider the three major cultures in Europe for that locations.  It touched on so many beliefs.  The option of be pagan, christian, beholden to the Roman way of life or embracing the new, more medieval way of life approaching…the options were tantalizing.  The surviving material culture was also very strong for women.

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Fancy, pancy Merovingian women’s kicks.

Merovingian Pros

  • A great deal of surviving information and material culture but limited extant images of women that aren’t angels or the Virgin.
  • Vast and varied options for culture flavor (Gallo-Roman and Germanic).
  • Potentially short tunic dresses/pants.
  • Shoes for this period are bomb.

Merovingian Cons

  • I am not the best versed in this period.  I have an extremely general understanding of the Merovingian world.
  • Short tunic dresses, though used a great deal by many re-enactors, are likely a construct of modern wishful thinking.
  • Role of women greatly diminished culturally.  I would love a period where women had more freedom of movement within their society.

14th Century Italy: My family claims mostly Italian origin and genetically this holds true for me.  My family name can be traced back to the mid 14th century as a briefly noble family in Florence and then we disappear from records until the early 19th century where my ancestors re-emerge in commerce and politics (and we have member of our family still in office in Italy today, though I do not know him personally).  Heritage wise, this period holds interest to me.  I could straight up persona one of my own ancestors.  In the mid 1300’s, the plague hits Europe and something incredible happens: women come into their own in both wealth and business as a results of the plague.  A cultural BOOM occurs driving changes in fashions and the lives of women for about 50 years, during which butt-hurt menfolk start laying down guild and sumptuary laws to control our wild uteri from controlling the Christian world.  Also plague, did I mention plague?  FASCINATING.

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Tacuinum Sanitatis School 1370

14th Century Italy Pros

  • Direct heritage to the time period and opportunity to persona one of my ancestors.
  • Plague period, love me some of that plague history.
  • Unique circumstances for women.
  • Plenty of resources for research, most information available.

14th Century Italy Cons

  • I am garbage at sewing, portraying accurate clothing would be difficult as I have no interest in sewing 30-40 gussets/gores into the shoulder of my dresses for optimal fit and movement.
  • Archery could not comfortably fit with this persona.  While there is no rule against it, I have a desire to be able to reasonably fit my activities to my persona, this one would be a stretch.
  • I have no interest in a Christian persona.  The pagan persona appeals to me more.
  • Complex hairstyles.  I can barely handle having a bob.
  • Heavy clothing in summer, long dresses forever, falling over for days.  I sense discomfort and a lot of torn hems in my future.

Verdit: Iron Age Picts have the best math.  I could quickly get some passable and accurate garb together and get active.  This is something I could build upon over time and fit within the most active of my activities within the SCA (archery).

Boom, first event was the Royal Archery Tournament in Bright Hills in April of 2018.

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Driving to my first event, Royal Archery Tournament hosted by Bright Hills, April 2018.  I have since reconsidered face painting.

My specific area of focus has shifted since and is no longer Pictish, but that evolution will be a topic for another time.  Gaul is coming.