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.

murienne-corbeaudiscussing-headgear-at-laurel-prize-tourney-murienne-corbeau-and-mistress-kaitlyn

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!

 

Resource for 11th Century Byzantine Garb

I do 10th Century, however, there are others, whose blogs I admire, who do earlier and later period Byzantine, and there is a lot to be said about knowing what came before and after my time period.  A NEW RESOURCE just became available over at Anachronistic and Impulsive: Thesis Recap: Moving Onward.

In addition to spectacular photos of the GARB she created to illustrate her thesis for her MA, she has made her dissertation, with the glory of footnotes and Bibliography, available on Etsy for $8 (USD).  It is an electronic download and prints out nicely even if you only have a black and white printer. Color could only be better.

I am all for great reference material to add to one’s collection of Byzantine documentation.

Now if only she would take everything she has done, and perhaps a tiny bit more, and create a book, with Late Roman, Early Byzantine, Middle Byzantine and Late Byzantine sections, illustrated with drawings, sketches and photographs.  She would have the definitive volume on Women’s Garb for the Roman and Byzantine persona in SCA period.

We can only hope. Meanwhile, go read the rest THERE.

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!

Penn Museum Online Collection: Roman items

The Penn Museum online Collection is small but nice for the anyone looking to see Roman lighting and glass. They have a nice example of a glass stopper! This should give you the documentation for a similar stopper. There is an example of pressed glass in the mediterranean collection, and several blown glass flasks and pitchers, which look modern and elegant, and as they are very early A.D./C.E., it could be argued that similar pieces were likely possible throughout our SCA period, at least for the Eastern Roman Empire.

Also useful and interesting is their collection of oil lamps. I had not seen an oil lamp with the wider end curved up. The other examples had tiny molded handles but not all pierced. One interesting bronze version is also present. Something I like is at least one had a comment on the method by which it was made.

These items ranged in date from the 1st century through the 5th as far as I took note in my quick viewing. Quite nice, definitely another museum to keep on a list of places to visit and online collections to check when thinking early period glass and lighting.

I didn’t have time to explore the online collection any further before posting– so if you spot something particularly nice in their online collection, do mention it in a comment.

Mantles

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. 🙂

 

Museums: The MET

Museums are a treasure to the person who loves the study of history and art. Some truly magnificent museums have put out collections on-line; while the virtual museum cannot replace actually going to the museum in person, it provides the person who cannot travel so far.  Here in the United States I must sing the praises of the Metropolitan Museum of Art found in New York city.

I especially like the images that can be zoomed in upon, especially the textiles, until even the weave of the fabric can be seen. NICE!  For example: Here is a medallion of the Eagle representing the gospel of John. If you click on the image, you will get a screen that allows you to zoom in and take a very close look at the stitches in this embroidery. Another example is this Rondel with hunting amazons and a cross.  Again, click on the image and zoom in several clicks to see details in the weave.

Jewelry is where the MET collections shine best. They have a wonderful collection of Earrings, Necklaces, Pendants, Belt Buckles, slides and ends, and Crosses. FINDING what is there isn’t very easy if you are seeking Byzantine, but if you keep recombining search terms you can eventually find some truly marvelous examples to copy.

My biggest criticism of the MET is that searching for Byzantine items is made quite difficult because the 10th century items, such as textile fragments, are all classified as part of the Islamic collection. So when seeking specifically Byzantine and therefore Christian textiles, one must do a general search for Byzantine, THEN use the navigation on the left side of the screen to select Textile Fragments, and then scroll and scroll to find the images that are wanted.  I have not found an easier way.  There ought to be an easy way to specify Byzantine after selecting Textile Fragments.  I also tried to specify by geography and there is no heading for the range of geography that was Byzantine.  It is quite irritating.

For example, to find the Pendant/Brooch with the Icon of the Holy Mother on it, the search must be “Byzantine Jewelry” because if you search “Byzantine” and then select “Jewelry” from the “Object Type/Materials” menu on the left side of the page, you will miss this very typical Byzantine pendant type.  Nor does this necklace with an angel carving on the pendant show up under necklaces, but can be found in the “related items” category.

So when searching, do not trust that the MET gave you every item you wanted even if it fit your search criteria, look under “related items” and do a lot of creative searches. Otherwise you may miss exactly the item you wanted from their collections.

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!