Mistress Ekaterina Volkova steps down as Sylvan Signet. Photo by Lady Christina Mary Lowe, called Jinx.
I look back on my term as Sylvan Signet of the Glorious Kingdom of Æthelmearc in wonder. Through the position I have met and worked with some of the most amazing and talented artists in the Known World.
This started 5 years ago when Duncan von Halstern and Ilish O’Donovan said “Sure, let’s hire her” when my name was presented to them to take over for the Retiring Gillian. They have the first of my thanks. I also give thanks to all the Royalty that I have served under: Christopher and Morgen, Isenwulf and Rosalinda, Andreas and Kallista, Khalek and Branwyn, Maynard and Liadain, Timothy and Gabrielle, Tindal and Etain; and Titus Germanicus and Anna Leigh. I learned a great deal from all of them and hope that they too feel that a friendship has formed.
But I could not have done the job without my various deputies. To Marija Kotok, Giana di Aurelio, and Sthurrim Caithness, who at some point stood as my drop deads, I told you I wouldn’t do it. To my education deputies Giana and Yvianne, thank you for coordinating classes for Heralds and Scribes. To my Pennsic University Coordinator Matilda Bosvyle, you were a godsend, thank you for helping to increase the reputation of the scribes of our Kingdom. To Filippo and Anna Leigh, who were my fund raising deputies – because of your works we were able to host the known world at Pennsic. And to Giana and Juliana Rosalia Dolce di Sienna, my webministers, thank you for the work you did to make our website better.
Also a big thank you to my Heralds, Master Brandubh and Master Kamishima – thank you for being the Yang to my Yin in making court happen smoothly and being a sounding board when I needed.
To Kayleigh MacWhyte, Marguerite Louise Gingraix and Augusta Weyfare – fellow Signets who helped me at times throughout my terms.
A big thank you to Baroness Alexandra dei Campagnella, who agreed to take this job after me. I know I leave the office and its people in good hands.
And finally, a thank you to the ones I could not have done this without… my scribes. I am awe at the skill, talent, dedication and generosity that you have all shared. The scribes of Æthelmearc are the Kingdom’s true jewels. These fine folks have produced 1599 scrolls in the last 4.25 years. They worked under all kinds of pressure, usually short notice being the biggest. They were given an average of 37 days to make unique one of a kind scrolls (more often than not, it was closer to 15 or fewer days) to help make someone’s special moment even more special. These are the unsung heroes that deserve the praise and rewards for my term. No matter how long I am gone from the office I will always think of you as MY scribes. I can only hope that I was able to serve you well.
To the Kingdom of Æthelmearc, my home and the best Kingdom a person could hope to live and work in, I thank you for being you and appreciating the scribal arts as strongly as you do. Don’t forget to thank your scribe.
Kingdom Twelfth Night featured an amazing array of Arts & Sciences activities. Here’s a report on the highlights, submitted by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
At Æthelmearc Kingdom Twelfth Night, in the morning court, the office of Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences passed from Mistress Alianor de Ravenglas to Master Fridrikr Tomasson av Knusslig Hamn, assisted by his lady, Mistress Orianna Fridrikskona. Master Fridrikr and Mistress Orianna, both from the Barony of Thescorre, have stated that their goals in the office are to promote the Arts & Sciences within Æthelmearc, expand the opportunities for artists, scientists, and artisans to practice and promote their crafts, and to support the on-going mission of the Æcademy to provide educational opportunities for all of Æthelmearc.
Master Fridrikr swearing fealty as Kingdom Minister of A&S. Photo by Master Alaxandair O’Conchobhair
Lady Teresa Alvarez with her Sycamore scroll. Photo by Mistress Hilderun Hugelmann.
Their Majesties wore some beautiful new clothing to Their Twelfth Night celebration. His Majesty, King Titus, was arrayed in an intricate German Landsknecht outfit with slashed and interlaced breeches in red, black, and white, made by Lady Madeleine de l”Este.
Her Majesty, Queen Anna Leigh, drew all eyes in a beautiful green wool German gown crafted by Lady Teresa Alvarez, who put over 120 hours into embroidering the stunning bodice and sleeves with flowers in white silk. She based the gown on a portrait of Kunigunde Stammbaum der Babenberger from the Babenberg Family Tree triptych at Klosterneuburg Monastery (Hans Part, 1489-1492), shown below. The embroidery on Her Majesty’s gown, farther below, is Lady Teresa’s own design – she used a stylized edelweiss flower because the Babenberg family was from Austria. Lady Teresa was inducted into the Order of the Sycamore at court that evening for her skill in costuming and embroidery.
Portrait of Kunigunde Stammbaum der Babenberger courtesy of Lady Teresa Alvarez.
Queen Anna Leigh’s embroidered gown. Photo by Mistress Hilderun.
The Æthelmearc Sylvan Bard Competition
After the morning court, six performers vied for the honor of becoming Sylvan Bard. Pictured below are the competitors along with our Monarchs: Lady Bugga Bilibit, Master Ruaidhri an Cu, Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful, Her Majesty Queen Anna Leigh, Lady Cairdha Eilis O’Coileain, His Majesty King Titus, Master William de Montegilt, and Lady Aibinn Mhor Inghean Rioghbhardain.
Sylvan Bard competitors with Their Majesties. Photo by Mistress Hilderun
The competition, which was hosted by the outgoing Sylvan Bard, Lady Alianora Bronhulle, and past Sylvan Bard, Don Orlando di Bene del Vinta, featured three rounds. In the first round, entrants were asked to perform a piece on the theme of Courtly Love. All of the bards chose to sing; some did period pieces, others sang filks or original compositions. Then in the second round, the performers were given an hour or two to write a new piece on a theme chosen by the Crown. The competitors gathered in a circle around Their Majesties to learn in secret what that theme would be before going on their way to scribble madly.
Baroness Gwen reciting a sonnet for Don Orlando for his birthday. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope
Only when the second round performances began was it revealed that the bards were told to write their new pieces on the numerous knightly virtues of… Don Orlando! His birthday had been celebrated only a few days earlier, so Their Majesties bade Don Orlando sit on the steps of the stage so that each bard could perform directly to him.
The competitors were also required to choose a different performance medium from the one they had used in the first round, so for Round 2, most recited poems or told stories, many of them humorous in nature. There was a rhyme improvised on the spot by Lady Cairdha and a “doggerel” by Master William that was greeted with much laughter:
Don Orlando comes from far away
To celebrate with us his natal day,
‘Tis of his knightly virtues I would sing,
But I must choose just one! So says the King.
He sings of courtly love and such,
And eager ladies seek his touch.
Of chastity, Orlando is sans peer,
And so no ladies his amours must fear.
But truly chaste, he does rebuff
Their pleas and sighs and even tears,
Because he knows, though it be tough,
Once a king, always a king,
But once a (k)night is enough.
Master Ruaidhri. Photo by Arianna
Master Ruaidhri an Cu then followed. Although he lives in Atlantia, Master Ruaidhri had received permission from Their Sylvan Majesties to join the competition. As he began his second round entry, he said that since he did not have enough time to compose great verse (with an aside of “Damn you, William!”), he’d fallen back on the old Scottish plan of drinking heavily. He then told a story of Don Orlando having taken a vow of temperance, but being gifted with alcohol by an unnamed Baron who Master Ruaidhri admitted was, in fact, present in the room. Baron Gunnar of Endless Hills and Baron Ichijo of Blackstone Mountain, who were sitting together, looked at each other, laughed, and said “That leaves only the two of us…” In the story Master Ruaidhri recounted, the unnamed Baron repeatedly tempted Orlando by sending him gifts of various types of potables, at which the Baron’s wife complained to her husband that Orlando would do the Baron bodily harm for such insults. In the end, though, the unnamed Baron told his wife that it would be fine, as he had put Baron Ichijo’s name on the gifts.
Lady Bugga performed an interpretive dance in honor of Don Orlando’s humility while reciting verse interpersed with singing, for her Majesty Anna Leigh had informed the competitors that she would look with favor on such performances. Indeed, later during a brief intermission in the evening Court His Majesty commanded a round of interpretive dance in the middle of the hall, which was later dubbed a Mosh Pit.
Mosh Pit of interpretive dance during the intermission at evening Court. Photo by Master Alaxandair.
Lady Aibinn told a story of a young man who sought the definition of valor, which he learned was to slay a dragon. So he went to where a dragon was reputed to be, but found only a woman. She told him the dragon was away, but demanded various things of the man before consenting to be “saved. “ This took many years, as each time the man returned the following year with the items she requested, the lady insisted on more, culminating in a requirement for his allegiance. The man then requested her name, which she told him was Valor. As the man swore his fealty, night fell and the lady transformed, revealing herself to be the dragon. The man paused, said, “A knight is sworn to Valor” and completed his oath, at which point the dragon was vanquished, and the lady reverted to human form and departed the dragon’s lair with him forever.
Baroness Gwen then recited a sonnet on the theme of honor, extolling Don Orlando’s skill with both his rapier and his voice:
In January, winter’s frost doth bite;
The wind whips cloak and cuts through woolen hose.
Yet to the season one was born who fights
With blade as sharp as any wind that blows.
It flashes, ever dancing, but fear not,
For honor guides this fencer, and no foe
Could e’er complain of one excessive shot,
But merrily unto their deaths they go.
And afterward, he’ll sing us songs most sweet
Of knights and ladies, love and chivalry,
Or something of less lofty goals, of cheats
And vagabonds, and joyful ribaldry.
Therefore, Orlando, think this no mean trick:
We honor you, and not upon you pick.
At the completion of the second round of the competition, Their Majesties selected three finalists to continue to the third and final round: Baroness Gwendolyn, Master Ruaidhri, and Master William.
Don Braennan. Photo by Arianna.
Master William sang a humorous filk to the Song of Shield Wall in which a group of men struggled to erect their Pennsic camp’s sheetwall against various impediments, only to finish just as closing ceremonies began. Master Ruadhri performed an original piece called “The Wrath of the Bard” about the perils of offending bards, while Baroness Gwen sang more than twenty spellbinding verses of her own composition about the story of Tam Lin.
After the finals, Lady Alianora announced that Don Braennan MacEarnan, called the Misguided, had arrived at the event too late to compete, but still wished to sing, and Their Majesties granted his request. Don Braennen then performed “Tom O’Bedlam” about the residents of Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane in London. His singing ranged from lyrical to disturbing and creepy as he feigned a variety of mentally ill people, at one point even crawling on the floor. It was a memorable performance.
Their Majesties announced at Court that evening that They had chosen Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful as Their Bardic Champion. Baroness Gwen was invested with the baldric of her new office.
The new Sylvan Bard, Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful. Photo by Arianna
Their Majesties thanked Their outgoing Bardic Champion, Lady Alianora Bronhulle, for her service, then before she could escape, They seized her and inducted her into the Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc for her skill in the bardic arts.
Lady Alianora Bronhulle, newest member of the Order of the Fleur d’Æthelmearc. Photo by Arianna
Yet More Arts and Sciences!
In addition to the Bardic competition, there was a performance by the Sylvan Singers of the Shire of Sylvan Glen, directed by Don Orlando di Bene del Vinta. They sang an array of choral pieces including We Be Three Poor Mariners and Since First I Saw Your Face, then were joined by members of the Debatable Choir in performing three Yuletide songs.
The Sylvan Singers. Photo by Arianna.
At the evening court, Baroness Ekaterina Volkova, Sylvan Signet, announced the winner of the first round of the Scroll Blank Challenge, in which the scribes of Æthelmearc were asked to submit illuminated borders to be used for Kingdom award scrolls. THLord Ishiyama Gen’tarou Yori’ie submitted the highest number of scrolls: 59 painted blanks, all on documented Japanese designs. The Scroll Blank Challenge will continue, with the next collection point happening at the Festival of the Ice Dragon in the Rhydderich Hael on March 21st.
THLord Ishiyama. Photo by Arianna.
Baron Rauthbjorn Lothbroke won both the Queen’s Choice and the Period Brewing competitions at Twelfth Night. He also contributed to the Taster’s Tavern organized by THLord Madoc Arundel and Lord Kyoshiro Kumagai, working with the Kingdom Brewers’ Guild. The Tavern offered gentles over the age of 21 with ID the opportunity to partake of potables donated by the brewers of the Kingdom. The Tavern was a big hit, and many gentles are looking forward to Debatable Lands Twelfth Night on the 17th when THLord Madoc will host a second such tavern.
Baron Rauthbjorn with his prize scrolls, both calligraphed by Lady Lara Sukhadrev. Photo by Mistress Hilderun.
Event goers then retired to an elaborate and tasty feast prepared under the direction of three different cooks:
— Master Gille MacDhomnuill was responsible for the First Course (lunchtime);
— THL Byrghida Zajacszowa was in charge of the Second Course (mid-afternoon); and
— Master Thorsten Christiansen Ronnow directed the preparation of the Third Course (evening).
The host of servers needed to serve all this food was ably managed by Baron Meszaros Janos. As the kitchen’s “point person,” Dame Bronwyn MacFhionghuin was responsible for non-cooking duties: keeping track of guests’ food allergies, preparing the feast booklet and table menus, and ensuring the kitchen ran smoothly.
The Children’s Feast was prepared by Lady Maacah Sitt al Galb. For more information on how the feast was designed, see the article “Q&A: Savor the Feast at Twelfth Night, No Waiting!”
Another amazing item that debuted at the Twelfth Night feast was a baldequin designed and built by Baron Robert of Sugar Grove with furnishings by THLady Jacqueline de Molieres.
Baldequin by Baron Robert and THL Jacqueline. Photo by Mistress Hilderun
Congratulations to the Autocrat, Mistress Alicia Langland, and the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais, for hosting a truly wondrous Twelfth Night!
To make it easier for our nonCanadian friends to attend and pay for the event, we have been approved to use ACCEPS for our registrations.
We would also like to extend an invitation to all heralds and scribes to teach at the symposium. The class proposal form is now live on the website as well. You may also send an email to email@example.com if you would like more info or to propose a class.
Over the years, there has been an excellent relationship between the heralds and scribes of our two kingdoms, and we are very much hoping that many of our friends from across the border will make the trip to teach, share, and learn. We are very much hoping to see many of you this coming June!
Both aspiring and experienced scribes can learn a lot from looking at actual period manuscripts. Every day more and more medieval books are digitized and made available online, and many websites offer the ability to zoom in and see fine detail close up. Here are some wonderful sites for seeing a wide array of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that can provide scribal inspiration for years to come.
The British Library site offers not only complete manuscripts, but also detailed information on the time, place, artistic style, and provenance of each manuscript, along with a very robust search function that lets you narrow your results with great precision. Want to find Arabic medical manuscripts from 1000-1100, or Italian Books of Hours dating to the early 15th century? This is your site.
British Library Manuscript collection
DMMapp is the granddaddy of manuscript sites. It offers a map of the world with links to specific libraries’ or museums’ collections. Click a link to browse the selected location’s offerings. Bonus: it’s also the home of the “Sexy Codicology” Blog, with a link to their Facebook page. Its weakness is that each site is distinct and separate, so there’s no way to search all of them by keyword from DMMapp. The quality and ease of navigation of the sites is also highly variable.
Digitized Medieval Manuscripts site
The Getty Museum recently made many of its books available as free PDF downloads, including several about its collection of medieval manuscripts. Examples include Elizabeth C. Teviotdale’s “The Stammheim Missal” and “Flemish Manuscript Painting in Context: Recent Research,” edited by Elizabeth Morrison and Thomas Kren.
Medieval Writing has a huge amount of information about medieval paleography (the study of writing) including snippets of calligraphy from many different manuscripts. Use its Index of Scripts to take a guided tour of styles ranging from 4th century Roman to 16th century Humanistic. One of its best features is the ability to mouse over samples from period manuscripts and see the words printed in modern text as shown below, which is tremendously helpful in figuring out unusual or hard-to-read letter forms.
The Medieval Writing site shows you the words when you mouse over the calligraphed text
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, like the Getty, offers some of its books on medieval art as free downloads. Use the search categories on the left to narrow the list of options. Examples include “The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry” by Timothy Bates Husband, and “The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500–1200” by the Museum.
The National Library of Wales has a small collection, but it’s one of the few places to find Welsh manuscripts like the Book of Llandaff, the Laws of Hywel Dda, and the Black Book of Carmarthen, which is one of the earliest manuscripts written in Welsh.
Trinity College of Dublin has a number of period manuscripts, but none more famous than the magnificent Book of Kells; a portion of folio 2r is shown below zoomed in close. Use the “By Dates” search feature to find manuscripts at Trinity College dating to SCA period.
Closeup of a page from the Book of Kells, housed at the Trinity College of Dublin
The Vatican Library recently announced that they will be vastly expanding their collection of digital manuscripts over the next few years, so this is a space to watch! Use its Advanced Search feature to search by elements like Beginning and Ending dates, though navigation is a little clunky and sometimes frustrating. When you find a manuscript, click the book icon next to its name to see the actual pages. Clicking the manuscript’s name displays a very brief description of the manuscript including its date, size, and name.
Is there a site for scribal inspiration that you love which isn’t on our list? Post a link in the comments!