History and the SCA

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This section is going to include a lot of my handouts for classes I’ve done in the SCA, and if I can find them on the computer, some of the full length booklets.

First, a bit about me and history:

I always liked history, from reading about knights and mythic heros, to watching Richard Green’s “Robin Hood” on TV as a small kid, and any other sword swinging movie I could catch. I especially loved everything Egyptian and Greek, and probably didn’t get into the Middle Ages as much until I discovered the SCA.

In 1974 (Anno Societatis Eight) I joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, taking the name Arastorm the Golden. Arastorm is an Anglo-Saxon, living in the 6th century. As years passed in the “mundane” world, time passed for Arastorm as well, paralleling my wedding, children and other life events. I decided that 1974 (AS8) was the year 574, and has continued on so that it is now 614. (Not that the Anno Domini designation was used until Bede developed it a century from “now”, but most people won’t understand if I say it’s been seven years since Ceolwulf fought the South Saxons.)

Hlafdige is the Old English word for Lady and is pronounced lady. Hlaford– lord- means bread-winner; Hlafdige means bread-maker.  The only other Old English rank for females is Cwen (queen). While in the SCA I am a court Baroness, and a countess, I prefer using the appropriate 7th century title Hlafdige.

Over the years I’ve held almost every office on a local level, cooked or organized over 60 events, published several news letters, organized the first East Kingdom Armorial, and with my husband, Ælfwine, got the SCA started in NH, and served as Crowns of the East Kingdom in AS 14. Our Household, Stormgard, was started in AS 9, and has ranged since then from 5 to 35 people, now running around 10, and being situated in Stonemarche (New Hampshire). Nearly four decades of study has left me with much more knowledge of Anglo-Saxons that is conceivably useful.

The kissThis picture is from AS 9, when Ælfwine and I were young, much prettier, and so in love. While he lived, I continued to look like that in his eyes. I guess some other people remember me that way because they keep thinking my daughter Willow is me! These days I am older, stouter, and less likely to leave my own period,  but still have a taste for the dramatic.

On the “fun freak” vs “authenticity freak” question, I’ve always thought finding how they used to do stuff was ridiculously fun, whether recreating an outfit or a recipe, or showing that something we always used to think was authentic was actually screamingly not. Making fun our ourselves is a great joy. What ever happened to making up songs about each other?

While the SCA probably has focused of most of my research on the Middle Ages, especially the 6th and 7th century, my passion for history includes Ancient History, Classical, and most periods up to Modern. Aside from Dark Ages England, I’m also fascinated by the Greek Dark Ages, pre-history, and the Roman Era. My focus is on daily life, more than battles or politics, I can see the SCA influences there.

Not surprisingly, I have studied religion and magickal practices from every period I can find, witchcraft in all parts of the globe, right up through the modern period. Having lived through a lot of it, I delight in studying and teaching about the development of the Neo-pagan movement. Both in that an in the SCA I’ve been able to observe how the very “facts” change from decade to decade- always in the name of getting closer to the truth. I do, indeed follow the history of magick and witchcraft right up to the present.

I also concentrate on the history of portraiture, (something said to have disappeared during the dark ages. I don’t believe it could have any more than psychic talents disappeared because they were no longer fashionable. The question is, what probably perishable form did they take of which we’ve lost track?

History is technically the story of mankind as shown in writing. Much of what we know about the Anglo-Saxons comes through archeology, so I use both combined with any other area of study that can add to our knowledge. I much prefer a multi-disciplinary methodology in almost any area of study. My SCA experience has convinced me that actually trying things is the best way to check them. For example, while many books were still suggesting that the wide tweezers often found in Saxon graves were part of a toiletry kit, Ælfwine and I became convinced that they were more likely companion pieces to the strike a lights, to hold flaming tinder to one’s kindling.

Similarly, I theorize that the double brooches that are the hallmark of the Migration period costume had a religious importance, because as I’ve studied Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, “Viking”, and Icelandic dress, I note that the double brooches, which occur over many centuries and lands, tend to disappear from graves about one generation after the country converted to Christianity. We know little enough about the heathen religions, but even less about women’s cults. Not only were the records kept by “the winners”, Christian clerics, who had no interest in preserving knowledge of pagan religious practices, but there is a good chance that the male contemporaries of the women wearing them were unaware of women’s rites. That’s how polytheism works.

 

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