Medievally speaking, what gets your creative juices flowing?
Is it getting your hands dirty making stuff?
Is it figuring out how things were done?
Delving into the when and where and why of medieval life?
Is it learning something you didn’t know before?
Is it learning more about something that intrigues you?
If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, consider teaching at Æthelmearc Æcademy and War College, hosted by the Shire of Ballachlagan (Wheeling, WV), on June 11.
So far, we have 25 classes (that’s 31 class-hours!) scheduled, on these topics: Bardic, Brewing, Clothing, Dance, Embroidery, Heraldry, History, Metalworking, Research, SCA Life, Scribal, Youth Track, War College — Fencing (for a listing of class titles and descriptions, please visit the Æcademy website).
But sadly, there are NO classes (yet) in Cooking, Equestrian Arts, or Fiber Arts. If you’ve never taught at Æcademy (or if it’s been a while), no problem! It’s easy to register — Just go to the Æcademy registration page and supply the requested information about yourself and your class.
If you’ve never taught a class (or have taught but are still a bit nervous about teaching), I have a solution! On Saturday of Æthelmearc War Practice, from 3 to 4 pm, I’ll be teaching a class called “Documentation to Class,” which will give you ideas to turn what you know into a successful class.
If you have signed up to teach at Pennsic, consider teaching at Æcademy as a “dress rehearsal.” Teaching in June will give you time to fine-tune your class. Plus, the feedback and experience will boost your confidence.
As a part of the SCA 50 Year Celebration, the History Display section is sponsoring a Story Corps project to record interviews on people’s experiences in the SCA. The idea is to preserve our collective history in a storytelling format. Our staff of three can’t possibly canvass the Known World recording interviews, so we need your help.
Download a pdf of the instructions here on how to record and submit an interview. You can use any device from a smart phone to a professional camera. The video files and release forms will get uploaded to a DropBox folder, edited and finally played in the History Hall during 50 Year in June.
Each story or interview should last from 3 to 5 minutes. It’s a brief story, not a lengthy bardic recitation. Some ideas of what we’re looking for in a story:
– how you got started in the SCA
– a particularly inspiring moment
– how you got started with a particular art or science
and so on.
Have a look at the instructions and post any questions in the comments below. You can also contact me or Deborah Hooper or Ethan Dicks directly with questions. You can also email the staff .
Please cross post this message and files as many groups as possible. Thanks in advance for your help!
Gunnar Sigurdsson, OP
SCA 50 Year Story Corps
In the opening years of the 11th Century, a monk, living at Wiltshire Abbey, constructed a flying machine and leapt from one of the abbey’s towers. Fantastically, the monk, named Eilmer of Malmesbury, did not die, but soared like a bird. A hundred and twenty years later, the historian William of Malmesbury recorded the following lines:
“Wherefore a certain Monk of our Monastery, by name Eilmer … was a man learned for those times, of mature age and in his youth had hazarded an attempt of singular temerity. He had by some contrivance fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for true, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze on the summit of a tower, he flew for more than the distance of a furlong.  But, agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by awareness of his rashness, he fell, broke his legs, and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure his forgetting to provide himself a tail.” 
The abbot forbade Eilmer from ever experimenting with flight again, and thus human flight was curtailed for centuries.  But, dear reader, do not think of Eilmer’s attempt as a failure. The tower Eilmer launched himself from is no longer standing, but the present abbey is of a similar height: 25 meters. Local legend states that Eilmer landed in Oliver Lane, some 200 meters from the present day abbey. An impressive first attempt. The flight might have been longer if not for the wind. “But William says that Eilmer flew “spatio stadii et plus,” or more than 600 feet,” before falling.” 
So, Eilmer either glided 200 meters straight into the ground, breaking both of his legs on landing, or flew for 200 meters, lost control and fell from some height and then broke both of his legs. In either case, quite impressive, and quite inspiring. The flight of Eilmer was told and retold by historians. First by William of Malmesbury  who would have had access to the abbey’s records and would have spoken to people whose parents or grandparents might have seen the flight with their own eyes.
Helinand quotes William verbatim in the 1299 “Chronicon,” as does Alberic of Trois-Fontaines in 1241. Vincent of Beauvais re-told Eilmer’s story in 1250 in “Speculum.” In 1352 Ralph Higden, in his Polychronicon, renamed the monk Oliver due to a mistranslation. Henry Knighton and John of Trevisa, did write about “Oliver’s” flight in their histories. Roger Bacon did not mention Eilmer by name, but in his discussions on human flight wrote, “Such devices have long since been made, as well as in our own day, and it is certain that there is a flying machine. I have not seen one, nor have I known anyone who has seen one. But I know a wise man who has designed one.”  Personally, I think that that is a mistranslation: there is no evidence of any medieval flyers during Bacon’s life  and the final line, of the quote, might have been “But I know OF a wise man who has designed one.”
The amazing thing was not that one monk managed to fly for 200 meters, some 1100 years ago, the truly amazing thing was that it took so long for another European to make another attempt. 
“There is, however, no evidence that memory of Eilmer’s feat helped to stimulate the new burst of speculation and experiment about aviation which occurred in Italy in the later fifteenth century. Even before 1449 the engineer Giovanni da Fontana rejects the idea of ascent by hot-air balloons as too hazardous of fire, but expresses entire confidence that human flight can be achieved with mechanical wings. Indeed, he has thought of making some himself, “sed aliis distractus occupationibus non perfeci.” Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of parachutes and flying devices are well known but none appears to have been constructed. The evidence that in the 1490’s Giovanni Battista Danti of Perugia flew in a glider over Lake Trasimeno has as yet emerged in no document earlier than 1648. But we must assume that when, in October 1507, an Italian named Giovanni Damiani, who in 1504 had been appointed Abbot of Tungland, a Premonstratensian monastery in Galloway, garbed himself in wings made of feathers, took flight from the walls of Stirling Castle, plummeted, and broke his leg, he was inspired by experiments in his native land rather than by Eilmer’s example. Damiani sardonically announced that his error had been to include hens’ feathers in his wings, since hens have more at scratching in dunghills than for soaring to the heavens.” 
 220 yards
 Woosnam, p3-4
 Jones, p132
 White (2), p98
 “Gesta regum Anglorum”, 1125
 De secretis operibus, cap. 4, in Opera quaedam hactenus inedita, ed. J. S. Brewer (London, 1859), p. 533. For the date, cf. S. C. Easton, Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science (New York, 1952), p. 111 – quoted from various sources
 The Iranian philospher al-Jauhari, died in a similar flight attempt in Khorosan, sometime between 1003 and 1008 and there is evidence of men flying while strapped to large kites, in China, around the same time.
 White (2), p103-4 Bibliography
“Mystery Files – Leonardo da Vinci”: National Geographic. TV Program. Season 1, Episode 8
“Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.” TV Program. Season 1 Episode 5. The Philosopher
Anderson, Roberta; Bellenger, Dominic. “Medieval Worlds: A Sourcebook.” Routledge, 2013
Huitson, Toby. Stairway to Heaven: The Functions of Medieval Upper Spaces. Oxbow Books. 2014
Kealey, Edward J. “Harvesting the Air: Windmill Pioneers in Twelfth-century England.” University of California Press, 1987
Lienhard, John H. “The Engines of Our Ingenuity.” Episode 3: “The Flying Monk.” Radio program; produced by Houston Public Media.
Lienhard, John H. “The Engines of Our Ingenuity.” Episode 1142: “Legend and Flight.” Radio program; produced by Houston Public Media.
Paz, James. “The Falling Body of Eilmer the Flying Monk: Religious Belief and Technological Innovation in Late Anglo-Saxon England.” King’s College London. London Anglo-Saxon Symposium 2014
Sharpe, John. “William of Malmesbury’s Chronicle of the kings of England. From the earliest period to the reign of King Stephen.” London, H. G. Bohn. 1847. Archive.Org: Digitizing sponsor: Northeastern University, Snell Library.
White, Lynn, Jr. (1) “Medieval Religion and Technology: Collected Essays.” University of California Press, 1978
White, Lynn, Jr. (2) “Eilmer of Malmesbury, An Eleventh Century Aviator. Medieval Religion and Technology.” Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978, Chapter 4.
White, Lynn, Jr. (3) “Eilmer of Malmesbury, an Eleventh Century Aviator: A Case Study of Technological Innovation, Its Context and Tradition. Technology and Culture.” Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring, 1961), pp. 97-111 The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology
Woosnam, Maxwell. “Eilmer, The Flight and The Comet.” Malmesbury, UK: Friends of Malmesbury Abbey. 1986
This is the first part of a two-part article re-printed from our friends at the East Kingdom Gazette.
The East Kingdom Gazette asked Count Jehan de la Marche, eighth King of the East, for memories of some of his early SCA experiences. He sent us this first installment with the note that it is written from memory and others may well remember events differently.
Count Jehan fighting in a Freon can helm, soft basketball elbow and knee pads, and hockey gloves. He is using a mace nicknamed “Feather” which was made by Duke Andrew of Seldom Rest from a hickory axe handle and a roll of toilet paper plus lots of tape. It weighed between 4.5 and 5 pounds.
I witnessed the beginning of the Pennsic Wars (which has often been retold wrongly). Cariadoc had moved to the East and been named the Ambassador to the East by the reigning Middle King Iriel of Branoch. At MK Twelfth Night, Cariadoc came back and recited a long poem of his own composition inciting war with the East — I recall he mentioned that the border barons (meaning me) wanted war, and the poem ended with “My word is war.” and we all banged out tankards on the table and shouted “War, War, War!” and King Iriel gave the War Arrow to Duke Cariadoc to take to Rakkurai, who was Shogun of the East at that time.
I was not present for the reception of the arrow in the East, but I understand Rakkurai duly received and broke it to accept the challenge. Cariadoc stepped up and won the East Kingdom Spring Crown Tourney. (In those days there were no limitations on how long one had to have lived in a kingdom before competing for the Crown).
I did not come to the East until the summer of 1972, when I moved to New Haven, CT to enter Yale Graduate School (working for a Ph.D. in medieval studies, naturally). My first official event was a tournament in the Barony Beyond the Mountain (which at the time was responsible for all of Connecticut), and led by Baron Balin the Fairhaired (later one of the first Eastern Pelicans). I recall that it looked like rain and Mistress Elfrida recited a Norse prayer for rain which she said worked in reverse for her, and apparently it did. The rain held off long enough to get in the tourney fighting. All I really remember of the fighting was that I lost a fight to Garanhir of Ness who was later knighted, and is now the second senior-most knight in Æthelmearc after me.
The next event I recall was the summer Crown Tourney (in those days there were supposed to be three Crown Tourneys a year, though the actual sequence was somewhat irregular). As I said, there were no residency limitations on fighting for the Crown and Cariadoc encouraged me to enter. It was a small field, essentially an 8-man single elimination tourney, I believe. My first round I defeated Garanhir (benefiting from having fought him before). My second round I met a very active young warrior from Duke Akbar’s household (I think the future Sir Ismael). He came out very fast and nearly got me, but I was able to take him after a very brisk fight. The third and final round, I met Shlomo ben Shlomo, whose persona was a Palestinian mercenary of Roman times — he fought Roman-style, with a shield and short-sword. In those days, I always fought mace and shield, so we had a very active fight at close quarters. At one point he narrowly grazed my groin cup, and Cariadoc, who was marshaling, ruled I was still alive though perhaps without the prospect of progeny. I think as the rules are interpreted nowadays, I would have been dead. Then I came charging in — Shlomo went for my leg and got a very hard stroke on my knee as I came in; knowing it was knee, I kept coming and got him a solid blow in the side with my mace. He agreed that my blow was a killing blow, but wondered whether he had gotten my leg first, so the current Seneschal of the East, El of the Two Knives (another of the first Pelicans later), took me into men’s room and examined my leg. I had a very obvious purple bruise on my knee (in those days the only leg armor I wore was a soft basketball knee pad) and he said to me in effect “You’re the Prince of the East, and you’d better get some ice on that leg.”
Count Jehan doing boffer fighting at Pennsic with a member of House Sable Maul, which is led by his former Squire Sir Gareth Kincaid. Count Jehan retired from heavy combat in 2009.
At the feast that night, I toasted Shlomo’s valor and we had a long celebration. I recall a lady singing “Follow the Bonnets of Bonny Dundee” — not quite period, but lively. So we had the curious situation that both the King and the Prince of the East were from the Middle, but we were committed to war with the Middle.
By that time the King of the Middle was Andrew of Seldom Rest and the Prince was Sir Bearengaer hin Raudi (who went on to be a sovereign Prince of Drachenwald when it was a principality, and died some years ago as the senior knight of Æthelmearc).
The “war” itself consisted of a woods battle. The East was badly outnumbered, despite the aid of the Dark Horde led by Yang the Nauseating/Robert Asprin. The battle was a timed event (I think one hour) and so the Eastern strategy was to go into the woods, find a hidden defensible position (largely protected by fallen trees) and hope to hold it till the end of the hour. It nearly worked, as it took most of the hour for the Middle to find us, but the Middle found us with about ten minutes to go. A partly fallen tree formed a sort of natural gateway to the Eastern position, which Asbjorn the Fairhaired held very gallantly for a long time (for which I later knighted him; he went on to become a Duke). Andrew of Seldom Rest speared King Cariadoc and called out “The King is dead!” and I shouted “The King is dead, long live the King” and three Middle knights came over me in a wave, so that was the end of my fight. The last Eastern fighter standing was Alain du Rocher of the barony of Myrkwood (Baltimore) — a large man who fought mace and buckler. He got up on a little mound and held the Middle off as long as he could, but finally fell, and the Middle had won the war. It had rained, so we then spent a long time digging the cars out of the mud.
A treasure trove of online original resources can be found at Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook site here. Spend some time clicking through the sections in the left navigation bar. Here are a few of the delights in store:
Anglo Saxon Dooms (laws) from 560-975. Read the laws of Æthelbehrt (560-616) to discover the fines to be paid for various injuries to others – everything from pierced nostrils, to different prices for various teeth, to bruises: 59. If the bruise be black in a part not covered by the clothes, let bot be made with thirty scaetts. 60. If it be covered by the clothes, let bot for each be made with twenty scaetts. (Hint: Scroll down and print out the glossary first.)