Creating a Persona: Starting Points

Persona Development– where to begin? The answer to this question is amazingly diverse.  It begins with, “what do you like?” and “what do you want?” and everything else will follow.

Case: a lovely member of the SCA is into spinning and weaving. She finds a particular period in which the methods and materials are well documented and dives into a new aspect of her passion for spinning. She learns to card weave to produce her own trim, which she is careful to match fiber to fiber so that everything shrinks at the same rate. She studies period methods of dyeing the fiber. She gets a small period correct loom. She makes some garb to go with this persona.

Case: a gentleman takes up the practices of Chivalry. He goes to fighter practice, loves it, and makes his own armor.  He stays with it, wearing the same simple t-tunic he sewed first. However, he discovers a book by Dr. Timothy Dawson titled, ARMOUR NEVER WEARIES SCALE AND LAMELLAR ARMOUR IN THE WEST FROM THE BRONZE AGE TO THE 19TH CENTURY.  He is hooked on lamellar armour.  He creates his own armor and that requires some new garb. He discovers Sartor, a fabric company that recreates period fabrics and gets a piece of brocade from his period and culture and uses it to trim his “court garb”. Suddenly his persona has begun to develop!

Case: a young college student comes to a garb session and sits down with some books that trace clothing styles through various time periods and cultures.  She spots a dress. THE dress, that dress that she wants bad enough to buy linen instead of cheaper cotton, and spend hours sewing.  The DRESS sets her time period and culture. From there she learns about the foods available and how they were preserved and joins the cooking guild. She even hunts down some herbs that were commonly used by her persona and grows them in pots on the window sill of her apartment.


The photos are by Anna Maleine and were taken at the Laurel’s Prize Tourney in Ansteorra. This is the artisan Murienne Corbeau discussing her work with Mistress Kaitlyn.

My last case is me. I am fascinated by the writings of Early Christians.  In grad school the course was Patristics. The Cappadocian Fathers were incredible to read and fascinating to learn about. I wanted my persona to read, and to live where she could read early Christian writers like these.  So, Eastern Roman, 10th century during the reign of an emperor powerful enough to secure the borders and create peace enough for a reflowering of learning and art.

Geography, Culture, Art, Clothing, Armor, Method of fighting (rapier is later period), Equestrian, Fiber Arts, Ethnicity, Gardening, Cooking, Metal Working, Wood Working, Chivalry, Knights, Education, Books, Authors, Artists….the starting points are as varied as the amazing people who enter the SCA.

Have fun!


Awesome Byzantine Related References

Ate with Society for Creative Anachronism friends this weekend and had marvelous conversations with wonderful people. References came up during our conversations which led to my promising links and book references to each of them.

I will begin with the blogs for Byzantine clothing I like best.

Anachronistic and Impulsive: Anna’s Rome: A View of Ancient Rome and Byzantium in the Current Middle Ages

This is an absolutely awesome garb blog by a member of the SCA (a Maunche) who has just completed her dissertation on Byzantine Garb.  Her focus in her garb is just past my period, but she also does Ancient Roman, and knows her stuff.  I can say that because I have read so much that I know that she knows her stuff.  So, for Roman or Byzantine, this is the blog I send friends to read.

Then there is the blog by another knowledgeable lady of the SCA. She is an EARLY period Byzantine, so her persona and work tend to pre-date my period of Byzantine, but again, I send friends to this blog because she knows her stuff. Even more fun, she goes beyond garb into arts and sciences.

Konstantia Kaloethina

Konstantia Kaloethina is a Herald in the SCA, and makes jewelry. Really pretty jewelry that she generously describes and shares about on this blog.

Both of the above blogs are my favorite garb and etc. Blogs for Byzantine. I read them as soon as they post!  You can also find both these ladies on Facebook where they share a page they call BYZANTEAM.  I prefer the page BYZANTINE ARMY because the scholars there are amazing at sharing references (academic papers)  I would never find on my own, which I print out to read later, and am filling notebooks with, so I don’t lose them. They also are wonderful at locating the artwork and images for everything imaginable. I get more general clothing information from BYZANTINE ARMY,  than I do from Byzanteam.

I think I have shared these two blogs before on my blog. But I wanted to put them in the same post.

A Third website I like is better for male garb than female, is LEVANTIA.  This web site is general, and not as deep as I would like. His books are better than his web site. Still, he has interesting ideas, and strongly held opinions based on years of re-creating the culture for demonstrations and SCA.  His is one of those blogs that fits my short list of those I send people.

Lastly, there is this blog: 10th Century Byzantine.  I write here. I need to write more, to have greater discipline and to spend more time sharing my findings so others can benefit. But I like my blog, and its focus.  Someday I hope people will recommend mine with the same zeal I recommend the two blogs above–but I am not there yet. 🙂

These are where I start. Have fun!


A TENT!! I took the plunge and purchased a period-ish pavilion.

Camping in the Society for Creative Anachronism is a widely varied activity. Some people going for high degree of authenticity in their set up and others merely camping out with modern tent and equipment. At last, I took the plunge and purchased a period-isa pavilion!

Like most, I began with a modern tent– large, inexpensive, light weight, and leaky. It had a nice mesh top that, with the rain tarp removed let out the heat which was nice, but it was not great. To improve the entire situation I found I could buy a better rain tarp, and get even less period, or I could buy a new tent– and there are modern ones that are less obviously modern that cost about what I spent on my pavilion, but I wanted more of a period look.

I sat drooling over the tents made by Panther Primitives but simply cannot justify the cost, not on my budget nor with the amount of use the tent would get. They make very good tents though and you can get the poles and other hardware with the tent.  Go visit their web page and see how many gorgeous tents they make and then do a bit of research and you will find most owners rave about how nice their tents are. But over $2000 for a 12′ eve pavilion? I cannot justify it on my income. Drool and dream but not actually do it.

I really want a period pavilion, and if I cannot afford the one I drool over, I needed to find a less expensive option. Enter the solid and more economical Midwest Tent.

Midwest Tents makes a sturdy 12′ round pavilion that will do the job. I will have to make my own hub and poles which is going to be a learning experience for me. I know the canvas, heavy though it is, isn’t the higher grade sun-forger of the Panther Primitives, but it is a good quality heavy canvas. Even better, they now make them with stripes SEWN ON!

This tent is going to get both mundane AND SCA use. Which is how I was able to justify spending the money to buy a “period” tent. I also am looking at my camping gear with an eye toward period looks. I want to be able to camp with the Enchanted Ground people! I want to get into persona and PLAY.

Mine will be white, with blue stripes on the roof and walls. I opted for the less period removable walls because I cannot carry the whole thing in one piece! I was given several choices on the valence and opted to not have the vertical stripes on the valence. This will give me a nice band for painting patterns onto it! I am excited. My looking at art from near period, my choosing stripes is probably not ideal, but I like them, and add the paint to the valence with period designs and it is going to be a wonderful tent to use both for Mundane camping events and for SCA events.

I will be sure to do pictures once I get the tent UP!


I have a number of blogs I enjoy. If you were looking to make a warm covering to wear for Byzantine, this lady’s work on her dissertation spills over into her SCA play and she shares– cool person! Here is the link to her cloak post, which is just the first as she promises more detail later. 🙂

The Importance of Mantles in Middle Byzantine Fashion

Her research gives three types of mantles/cloaks. The half circle that is long(foot to floor), the half circle that is calf length, and the really fancy expensive one(details to come later). What fun! THREE options!

Her focus is 11th Century. As that grew out of the 10th century, if you are careful, you can use that information to help you understand the cloaks of 10th century. Clothing changed, but slowly, and while it is problematic to reach backwards, if you put it with everything you find for 10th century and before, you can see the arc of development and the later helps to clarify the former.

Be sure to bookmark her blog, ESPECIALLY if you are doing 11th century Byzantine. 🙂

Have fun and God bless!

Decorating a Byzantine Tent: Dagging

Decisions, decisions! I’d like some fancy dagging along the roof of my tent, but I am not finding evidence for it in the10th century.  I see lots of color. I see solid colors on the tents for images of Byzantine troops in camp:
AdrianopleConquestByzSoldBGhistory                                                                                Page from the writings of John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These date from later than the 10th century but demonstrate what they considered how tents should look. In this close up we see Byzantine tents as the Byzantine army takes their oaths in preparation for battle.
Byzantine army taking oath before the battle of Anchialus              Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I see solid colors portrayed with decoration at the eaves and along the roof. In images further down, also of Byzantine tents, the colors appear solid, the decoration at the eaves is contrasting, and some tents have decorations on the roof, but not all. Again, I wonder if this suggests ethnic differences or simply the way the artist chose to paint his pictures.

And horizontal stripes for Muslim’s tents during a siege:
Assedio di Messina 1040         Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Note in the images above and below here that the Muslims are shown with round shields and the Byzantines with those long pointed bottom shields. I wonder if this is just the artist or if it represents an actual common difference?
MadridSkylitzesFol97raDetail              An Arab emir’s tent from Skylitzes via Wikimedia Commons

There are not enough images from enough sources for me to make a solid conclusion, but these images certainly suggest that different groups decorated their tents differently. Most notably that the Muslim tents are portrayed as having a much stronger horizontal decorating motif, where the Byzantine tents are more often solid colors limiting the decoration to the roof and the band where the roof and the walls connect in the illustrations. In the Arab Emir’s tent, there is a striped sort of look to the way the large panels are colored, again, wondering if this suggests that there were vertical stripes as well as colored panels and a decorative lower edge?

Here is one of a Byzantine siege of a citadel from Skylitzes:
Byzantine Trebuchet Skylintzes
Close-up of image by John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This image repeats the solid colors, and gives the additional information on bows and the variations of tent shape found in a Byzantine camp. Looks like both sides wear the same helmets, and use the same bows. The shield shape used by the soldiers in the citadel is the same as used by Byzantines in other images.

Then another of Byzantines re-taking a city, this time Antioch:
Fall of Antioch in 969             Skylitzes via wiki commons

I see no sign of fancy dagging along the upper part of the wall where it meets the roof, bands of contrasting color, but no dagging. I wanted dagging but cannot find evidence to justify it– so far at least.

I need to find another source of images. 🙂


Lighting in 10th Century Byzantium

Revisiting the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and the Byzantine & Christian Museum of Athens, today we shall take a look at methods of lighting which would be typical for the 10th century in Byzantium or Eastern Rome.

In the Dumbarton Oaks collection there is a 10th century glass hanging lamp. It would have needed a wick holder, which would likely have been of brass, to hold the wick, it would have been filled with olive oil, and was common enough that it shows up in an icon of St. Luke. The chain is attached by eye-bolts set into holes through the glass. The Dumbarton Oaks, lamp is the only one of its kind still intact. The book LIGHTING IN EARLY BYZANTIUM published by Dumbarton Oaks has excellent images.

Over in the collections of the Byzantine & Christian Museum there are several clay lamps which, from the sheer numbers that have been found, and the common motifs carried by so many, were likely used by nearly everyone, even if they also had the wealth to own lamps made of metals.  Of particular interest are the hanging fish lamps, and the smaller table lamp with fish decoration.

This metal version (image from Wikimedia Commons) with the Chi Rho would have been very common in clay and this shape was common with all sorts of Christian motifs; the chains indicate that it could be hung as well as set on a table:

Oil Lamp Christian Symbol.jpg
Oil Lamp Christian Symbol“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Wikimedia Commons.

Another Favorite Museum: Byzantine & Christian Museum of Athens

I have a new FAVORITE museum: The Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens Greece. Not reading Greek, I am limited to exploring images or sticking to the English language page. Still, for exploring the culture of my persona and characters, this is a thrill to find on-line.

I found this lovely museum page thanks to this image:
2141 - Byzantine Museum, Athens - Byzantine ceramic ware - Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Nov 12 2009              By G.dallorto (Own work) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons


The pottery, in the pictures is listed as 9th-13th century. I could use this, and mug with the two small finger loops (seen in another image), as the basis for feast gear for an SCA: Society for Creative Anachronism event.

Lighting could be via a lamp like THIS. LOVELY! I like the two fish on a line.

Or THIS lamp. Note the loops for hanging the lamp and the fish coming out of the fish’s mouth to hold the wick.

HERE is a pretty gold buckle I would not mind using on a belt!

All in all a delightful museum!

Byzantine Tents

I love the idea of a vardo-type conveyance, but so many events relegate them to an area away from the tents, which puts me off a bit as I am incredibly introverted and prefer to attend events with my local group.  So, I reverted to looking at tents.

There is clear evidence that the Romans used large round tents with a center pole, and, some say spokes radiating out from the center pole. This is speculation because while the scholars say round yes, they note a lack in the written or pictorial record for the inside of the tent roofs.
Assedio di Messina 1040              By John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

That said, there is abundant pictorial evidence of the round tent from exterior views and many internet friendly places to explore them. For example, Levantia, the blog of Dr. Timothy Dawson re-creator of history and academic, has a wonderful page on tents. On Facebook I frequent several Byzantine oriented pages: SCA Byzanteam where we had a long discussion of tent styles suitable for an SCA persona who is 10th Century and Byzantine and Byzantine Army where the scholarship is delightfully good, and participants give evidence (and sharing images) to support their positions.
Alusian appears before Peter Delyan and the Bulgarian camp              By John Skylitzes (Madrid Skylitzes) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The favored images from the historical record brought up in each discussion and on Dr. Dawson’s web page, are similar if not the same.  Looking on my own via “googling” turned up pretty much the same images. Being that I am not planning on becoming a scholar specializing in research on tent usages in the 10th century, I decided to count the fact that I am interacting with persons far better educated in the field than myself, that it is safe to say the round pavilion with a center pole is an excellent choice.

Panther Primitives Round Pavilion

In modern tent makers there are several who produce suitable tents. I am drooling over the Panther Primitives version. Midwest Tent has a less expensive and serviceable version. Both companies have happy customers. I like the options available with Panther Primitives. (A nice modern option is from Canvas Camp. The entry is low, but it visually fits into a crowd of period tents.)

White is the basic color of the canvas, and some persons use paint to decorate the walls–like the image from Panther Primitives. This has lots of FUN ideas bouncing around my head.

The next nagging question is: Which dagging option for around the top of the tent walls do I want? Which is more likely to have happened in period?

According to my reading (and if I could find the book I would give you the title), tents of the wealthy were heavily decorated, another version of the flashy use of color and design to signify position in society. I will update when I find the book…

Coriander Seed in Sauerkraut

OH WOW!  This is an eye opener, indeed.  I put coriander seed in a fermentation of cabbage and this morning the resulting excess brine was added to breakfast.  This is a one bowl sort of meal, with the steamed veggies and cut up meat mixed together with whatever interesting flavor is available. Today, it was coriander seed brine and cinnamon.   Coriander with cinnamon produces a pungent odor, almost like the smell of a really strong cheese. I enjoyed the flavor to a surprising degree.

So my breakfast, in addition to the lovely probiotics found in the brine after fermentation, was amazingly flavorful.

As this is a fermentation process that was common in the 10th century, and the coriander seed was a common seasoning in that period, and human beings love to eat what tastes really good, and the Byzantines loved strong smells (just research their take on perfumes!), I suspect I just ate a breakfast that would not have been out of place on the table of my SCA persona. FUN!

I apologize for scarfing it down before I thought to take a photo for the blog. MUST improve on my habits!

Why 10th Century and Fermentation of Cabbage?

Why 10th Century? Well, longish story. I used to bake. My beloved husband does not like baked goods. I needed an episodic kitchen thing so I thought about how great grandma made kraut and that tasted way better than the junk that comes in the jar and don’t even mention the canned version!  Anyway, I was asked in a fermentation group why the historical focus on the 10th century, and as my explanation was much too long for a post there, I decided to carry it over here and blog on it.

In my family of origin, I was taught to bake cookies and then later to expand that out into pies. These were the delights I made whenever I had the urge to be creative in the kitchen. Then I fell in love with a whole foods healthy eating focused man who took over the general cooking and anytime I mentioned baking a pie would tell me he would rather eat the berries straight than be presented with them in a pie.  He also considered cookies an entry food to bad eating practices. So what is a girl to do when her ONE creative food outlet is unwanted and even deemed wasteful? In my case, I went looking for something else creative and interesting to make my contribution to the table.

Anyway, I started learning about how to make Sauerkraut, finding first the book WILD FERMENTATION, and later other books on the subject.  Somewhere along the way an author, it may have been the first author, mentioned in passing that Pliny wrote about lactic acid fermentation. Another author mentioned in passing that the ancient Roman legions, when they traveled by land or by sea, always brought with them fermented cabbage because the use of it with every meal resulted in a more stable digestive system when dealing with ever changing food and water sources. They especially wanted the fermented cabbage when heading into the middle east, for apparently the foods going that direction were harder for them to digest.

All this meant that my interest in an episodic cooking project had cross-over with my Society for Creative Anachronism interest in all things 10th Century Byzantine.  It also meant it crossed over into my research for my Historical novel.  Thus was born a passionate pursuit of the history of Brassicas and anything else the Byzantines grew or fermented in the 10th Century.

And the best part?

I have only just begun the journey.