Creating a Persona: Chunks of Time

History is chunked up into periods of time. Usually, when doing an over-view, it is broken down into centuries (like the 13th) or into large scale movements (Renaissance) or into governments (Reign of Basil II) or into cultures (Roman, Eastern Roman).  Last week I discussed several possible starting points for persona development.  This week, let us talk about Centuries as a means of measuring history.

Start with a century, say the 13th. Much happened during that century. And, because the division of time into centuries is random in relation to events and movements, there may be elements that begin in the century before, or begin in the 13th and end in the following century.

A person living in a particular place and time is shaped by the culture, government, religion, and even by the food supply. All of these can be studied by themselves, and when hunting books on these topics, most will cover a lot more time than your one century. In fact, you may find only a paragraph or two that directly addresses the 13th century!

This is when we learn to look to earlier periods, knowing that if we can document, say, a particular food, as having been grown locally or imported, and eaten 100 years before, there is a good chance that our persona may know of it and eat it.  But if the food, say Brussels Sprouts, did not develop until the 15th century, you can safely say your persona did not eat it in the 13th century.

Or, considering Byzantine garb, looking at fabrics that might work, we can document roundels that line up in neat rows both vertically and horizontally, to the 10th century, but offset rows of roundels do not show up until late 11th or 12th century.  Our 13th century Byzantine could be found wearing either.  Museums are fabulous for researching this.

Books will not usually focus on your century alone. Most books on a narrow topic will cover a wider time period. However, getting the bibliographic information and a photocopy of the sections useful to you, stapling them and hole punching for a notebook, is a fast way to start your documentation.

Many people have chosen a century and had a wonderful time developing a persona based on that narrow bit of time.  Perhaps you are one of them who will.

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!

 

UPDATE: Fermenting Cabbage

The first attempt at making sauerkraut by the means of a possible in period recipe was a success. The initial kraut was shifted from the fermentation crock to containers for the refrigerator after 3 months fermented. They further aged in the refrigerator as they were used up.

The flavor improved over time even in the refrigerator. Initially the sauerkraut was too salty and not as sour as I like. Each successive container we opened to use was less salty tasting and more tangy. So there wasn’t anything we did not end up enjoying.

Evaluation of how it tasted initially led to the conclusion that my use of the salt was heavy handed and would be better if I went lighter in my next attempt and if I were to allow it to ferment longer in the crock before placing in the refrigerator.

My reading about the history of cabbage has taught me that the firm tight heads of cabbage we enjoy now are a more recent development. “Heads” of cabbage in period were looser. So for the next batch of sauerkraut I selected a different kind. I have no idea what it is called but it is darker, smaller heads, and the outer leaves spread away from the head as they mature, thus leaving only the center tight. I think it is also a modern variety, but just not the common large heads I usually see in the stores.

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So currently there are THREE crocks fermenting on my desk. Thyme and whole peeled cloves of garlic went into each crock. One crock also received whole cumin seeds, another received sliced, peeled, fresh ginger, the third nothing extra. Cabbage was sliced very thin, almost shaved, and mixed with less salt than last time and squeezed until liquid began to form. I packed each crock with the wet salty cabbage and pressed it repeatedly with each handful to pack it as tightly as I possibly could pack it. Folded whole cabbage leaves were used to cover the contents, then weights were added to hold it all down. A 2% brine was mixed and pour over everything until even the weights were covered.

And we wait.

Book Review: COOKING APICIUS

COOKING APICIUS, Roman Recipes for Today by Sally Granger, published by Prospect Books, ISBN 1-903-01844-7, is a book for DOING.  I’m so glad I purchased this book. The author has been involved with Apicius on a larger scale in an academic tome that I want badly, but was too expensive for me. So I took a chance on this smaller and much less expensive book and am THRILLED!

The recipes are clear. There is a marvelous section at the front of the book about the history and what various items were and how they were made and used.  Then she gets into the cookbook section. Here we are given insight into techniques that were period and the modern methods that will give similar results with less effort.

I can see myself cooking from this book and not telling my family that they are eating a recipe from the first century AD!  How cool is that?

Yes, for a person wanting to cook more authentically for early period, I very highly recommend this practical and delightfully informative little book!