Real Name: Renee Schmutz-Sowards
SCA Name & title: Lady Rannveig “Hraejshvelgsneys” Alfvinsdottir
Years in the SCA: Active since 1996 / Anno societatis 30, so…wow…26 years now!
How did you find out about the SCA?
When I was 13, I went for a bike ride to the park one morning and never came home. The local SCA group was having a demo in the park that day, and I was completely enthralled. My Mom recounts that when she tracked me down, she found me happily munching away on Lady Granias almond and rose water cookies while peppering the Joseph the Blacksmith with about a million questions. I was a rather indifferent history student, so when my parents saw me excited about something educational *and* history related, they were pretty much all for it!
Where did you start, what was your first event?
I started out with the Canton of Glenn Iaurinn in the Mid-Realm. Sadly, I don’t remember what the name of my first event was. However, I recall the actual event itself vividly. It was at an old church camp, down some holler. Just a small day event, but it seemed magical to me! The pomp and circumstance of court, the clothes, the fighting, the people! One of the biggest “Wow!” moments of the day was being invited to meet Rurik and Elspeth, the (then) Prince and Princess of Æthelmearc. (I was very awed!) The other highlight was wandering out to watch the archery and immediately being taught how to shoot a bow by Lord Brad (aka THL Brada AEthelwald)! Archery continues to be a big part of my life, and I fully credit Lord Brad for getting me started that very first event! (Now, for added fun, consider; this was my first event. My second event was…Pennsic!)
What is your persona? Technically Viking, BUT…
Why did you pick this persona?
I picked my name and persona when I was 14 years old, exclusively because Viking girls could wear pants. I was solidly in my “grunge/hacker” phase and couldn’t fathom the idea of wearing long heavy skirts, let alone bodices or corsets! However, it wasn’t too long before I was lent an Italian Renaissance gown to try out, and from that moment on I was all about that pretty-princess-dress life! I don’t think I wore pants to an SCA event for years after that!
Around that same time, I started sewing and really found my passion in studying and recreating the multitude of historical garments that fall within our time period. So, while I identify as Viking, you are just as likely to find me in anything from pharaonic Egyptian garb to late Italian court gowns, to men’s Elizabethan, to Ottoman or Mongol. My dream is to have one perfectly period head to toe outfit for every time period and culture that catches my interest!
Do you have any group or household affiliations?
Essentially growing up in the SCA, I’ve wandered my way through a double handful of groups and households over the years. (Including at least one *semi*-respectable pirate ship? To be honest, that was during my college-aged years, there was pan juice, and it’s all bit hazy now ;)) I eventually settled down with the Barony of Blackstone Mountain and as a part of Sir Alonzio’s house, the Peacemakers.
Tell us a little bit about your life outside the SCA.
Well, I married one of my house brothers (much to Sir Alonzio’s early consternation! lol). THL Hrafn Inn Trausti (AKA James) and I are nearing 16 years married, and we have one kiddo who has been so steeped in the SCA since day one that they still get a little confused that not everyone’s family does medieval stuff as part of their regular lives. Out in the real world, I am an Information Specialist at my local library, moving a few years ago into our Genealogy Department. It’s been a learning curve…all the history here is so darn RECENT!
The sewing skills I’ve learned, courtesy of the SCA, have played a big role in my life outside the Society. I ran my own small alterations business for several years, although I eventually stepped away because it was getting a little *too* successful and not leaving me time for much else. I am now quite happy to have the freedom to sew at a leisurely pace, and to work with brightly colored linens and brocades again, and not white bridal satin!
What SCA activities do you or have you participated in?
My biggest “thing”, and what I am probably most known for, is sewing. I’ve often joked that I am mostly here for the clothes! I also love embroidery and have recently started carving stamps and block printing fabrics, which I find slightly addictive!
Archery has been a constant theme in my SCA life. Starting day one/event one with target archery and later historic crossbows (back in Ye-Goode-Olde-Days I was a part of the crossbow conspiracy! #IYKYK).
A few years ago, I decided, somewhat on a lark, to give combat archery a try. I figured it would be a one and done thing to mark off my bucket list. However, much to my continued surprise, I love it! I am even now eagerly awaiting the day I can work my way to the front lines of the next big bridge battle!
Cooking is a big joy I get in the SCA. I cooked my first lunch at a small event in Mid-Realm when I was 15, and since then I’ve feast-o-crated or been part of kitchen staff on a semi regular basis. My Dad and I shared a love for weird foods and experimental recipes, and I’m not sure you can find a better outlet for that sort of thing than an SCA feast! A few years back I tried to count up all the feasts and events I’ve cooked for out of curiosity, and it was around 20. Certainly not as many as some of our Kingdoms truly great cooks, but I am still rather proud of that! I spent a lot of time in my teens and twenty’s serving feasts and water-bearing. Both are things I still really enjoy when I get the chance, although these days I am more often in the kitchen or in the battle.
I was also proud blood-sucking-merchant-scum for a few years back in the day (despite Fredrick the Balds despairing over my haggling skills). In fact, I still see garb or accessories I sold out and in use occasionally at larger events!
Tell us a little bit about your SCA experience (jobs, offices, duties, etc.)
I’ve never held an official office in the SCA, but not because I’m un-willing. It’s simply worked out that because of either my age when I was in Mid-Realm, or citizenship status once I came to Æthelmearc, that I’m not able to hold most offices. (I was declared a citizen of the Most Glorious Kingdom of Æthelmearc in 2003 originally, and then re-declared just a few years ago, but alas have lived just outside her borders for most my life.)
I have, regardless, always tried to be an active and helpful member of my local groups. I have been on staff in some capacity for nearly every Blackstone Raids since 2001, as well as many other smaller events over the years.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a team of seamstresses who worked on a historically accurate suite of clothes for Their Majesties, Gareth and Juliana. That was such a fun experience! It was really neat getting to be a part of something at a Kingdom level and to work alongside such talented and knowledgeable artisans and seamstresses!
When you started in the SCA what goals did you have? Oh gosh…what were 14-year-old Rannveig’s goals? Probably “Do all the things!”
What are your goals now?
Hmmm.…About the same! Part of the SCA that I have always loved is the encouragement and invitation to try your hand at all sorts of different things. Because of the Society I’ve been able to try blacksmithing, armoring, glass work, carving, woodwork, weaving, archery, as well as so many other things that most likely I would never have had the chance to experience if it wasn’t for people in the SCA saying “Hey, you want to try this? Let me show you how.”
In that same vein, I think another goal is to BE one of those individuals welcoming people to come try things. I really enjoy the opportunities I’ve had over the years to help people learn to sew and get more confident in their abilities to pattern and create clothes that they love and feel-good in. I’d really like to find ways to do more of that.
What was the most intimidating thing you encountered in the SCA?
Court etiquette, no doubt! All the bowing, and the titles, and those big shiny hats! I recall one early event being introduced to a local notable and just completely freezing up. No words came out of my mouth at all! I was mortified! Someone once told me “If you see a shiny hat, you have to bow or curtsy” …well, for a long time I mastered the art of never seeing a shiny hat, for fear I’d somehow mess up! I could dodge royalty like it was my job! I still feel like I’m bumbling my way along most the time. However, I have learned that a semi-decent curtsy, a pleasant smile, and a clever herald to do the talking for you will carry you through quite a few situations!
After the unexpected shutdown ends, what is one thing you would like to accomplish in the SCA?
Just one thing??? I thought we established the goal was ALL the things! Ok, fine. Hmm..one thing. Well, I’d love to be War Queen. (Hrafn…*nudge nudge, wink wink, hint hint* J) Barring that, I think teaching more. Finding ways to do more hands on and in person, “Let’s make a thing” style teaching. We used to have semi-regular sewing retreats down our end of the Kingdom, and I rarely worked on my own stuff because I’d spend the whole weekend helping others with their projects, and I loved it. I’d like to find ways to have that again.
What advice would you give to a new person in the SCA.
I would tell someone new that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, even if you love every minute of it, and that they shouldn’t feel rushed or obligated to do or be everything right now. The Society can be gloriously overwhelming. Even more so these days with all the inter-webs and the social medias. I’d tell them to feel free to do as much, *or as little* as they feel like. That’s a great thing with the SCA, you aren’t expected to be perfect in every aspect, or any aspect, right off the bat. Or ever. Dabbling here and there is fine. Show up, wear a tunic, have fun. If you find something that fascinates you and you enjoy, awesome! But take your time, enjoy the journey, and don’t feel rushed.
If you magically woke up with an SCA talent you do not already have, what would it be?
Dancing and musical skills. Don’t get me wrong, I love court dancing, and will enthusiastically participate. But I am not what one would call graceful on the dance floor. Alas, I have zero natural rhythm. I’ve even managed to ‘vivat’ off beat during court.
If you had to join the SCA in another “era” (1970, 1980, etc.), what “era” would you pick and why?
Honestly? None. I think I’m very lucky to have experienced the SCA in the mid-90’s/early 00’s. There was a real blossoming of the quality and ability to lean into the educational and historical aspects of the SCA, while still having a good dollop of the freewheeling creativeness that was an integral part of the Society’s earliest days. We now have so many amazing resources and avenues of research, plus an almost unprecedented access to knowledge that didn’t exist for most people before. And the works that our members are creating, and the depths of study they are reaching, and sharing are mind-blowing.
However, and this is purely my own mental block and not because of anyone else, I often find myself paralyzed by indecision because so many resources are out there and accessible now. I find it can feel like our collective standards and expectations have risen to the point where I almost feel beholden to make every project a “big in-depth” project. I find I worry that if it’s not 100% researched and documentable, is it still worth making? And often I really miss the freedom of making cool things that look the part and bring me joy.
(Side rant: Ya know…back in my day the whole of the internet could be printed, yes printed, in one book called the Internet Yellow Pages, and the historic costuming section took up two lines. TWO. These days you do one google search and you have access to whole museum collections of primary sources! Kids these days have no idea how good they have it!)
Don’t be modest, what award or honor would you like to receive above all else and why?
The Golden Mirror. I feel that often times it’s the people around us at events that really sell that feeling of being in another time, and I love historic fashions and all the details that go into making what was a costume become “just clothes”. Being honored with the Golden Mirror would mean that I had, in some small way, helped others experience that magic feeling of being in different place and time, even if just for a moment. That would be a pretty amazing thing.
If you could pick one thing you would like to see more of in the SCA, what would it be?
Equestrian! I know there are places in the Known World where it’s really common, but despite the fact that I am a born and bred Kentucky girl, I’ve never been around horses. I got to visit with the horses and watch SCA jousting for the first time a few years ago at War of the Wings, and oh my gosh it was just the Coolest Thing Ever! More war-horses!
Interested in participating in Populace in Focus? Find out how below:
Participate now – find out how!