Chop Suey Day

Sorry about missing writing last week; last Wednesday, when I was on my way down to ECT, I suddenly remembered that it was Wednesday, and I’d completely spaced it. Since I got back I’ve been playing catch up, and deciding to just go to sleep at night rather than finish the letter, so it’s late. The good news is that very little happened between the sixteenth and the 22nd (to me, anyway) so this letter shouldn’t be too long. 

The weather has been hot- ranging from comfortable summer weather to “OMG, I have sweat in places I don’t want to think about! My brain has melted, run out my ears and we could to cook pancakes in it!” -levels of heat. On a more pleasant note, the phlox are blooming again- I think flowers that come back are lovely, and phlox smell good. They were just beginning when we got back from the war, but now there are masses of pink and white ones. Wildflowers that are blooming include the jewelweed, goldenrod, purple loosetrife, although the queen anne’s lace is passing, and we didn’t see any black eyed susans this year.  Nor blue asters. Well, things come and go in cycles.
What happened last week?
There was Brough-ha on line about the King of Trimaris being accused of being a white supremacist. The Laurels in the East put a letter out supporting diversity in the SCA, by which I think they meant showing resistance to bigotry. I can’t help comparing this to the last Brough-ha, the “Swastika incident in the SCA where a king stepped down because people cried “Nazi” when he wore some authentic trim that included a fyrfot (warped swastika), and people said he should have known that that would upset people. That he didn’t is pretty clear, and I’m not thrilled with the idea that people can be punished and reviled for assuming that an authentic piece of craftsmanship is going to trigger fear and rage. (“You’re kidding, right? You’re not? I’m sorry, here, I’ll take it off.”)  I think it’s hard to predict what’s going to upset people. Sure, avoid Nazi insignia, but when the artist copied a 8th century artifact, I will believe that that’s what was uppermost in his mind. In this more recent case, the king doesn’t seem apologetic, but it’s hard to tell three kingdoms away. The accusation of white supremacy is an easy thing to make, but hard to prove.
This spring, after the last time, the BOD rewrote the guidelines, talking about diversity, and the SCA president wrote:“The SCA Board will not tolerate or allow groups or individuals who practice, display, or encourage hate, racism, or discrimination to damage our organization and participants.” I expect that’s true, nothing that will damage the organization. (Really, can you see it? I think you have to really look for it if you aren’t standing beside him!)
But supporting diversity sounds pretty wussy, like we allows white supremacists if they don’t act out within the SCA. Not tolerating Nazis isn’t intolerance, it’s being cautious. I don’t see why people can’t see the difference between not wanting to associate with people whose beliefs are scary, and other people wanting to remake the world to suit them even if it harms other people. Those things seem worlds apart to me. You don’t let them get in power.  I signed the letter, but I’m not sure it really means anything. Someone said it was  “Schrödinger’s Medievalism”: you can’t tell which is it until you get more information, and that’s nearly impossible to figure out which, (and the process of finding out might change it?). Having just gotten back from the East Coast Thing, a celebration of those who follow the Norse Gods, this is not only a question for re enactors. If someone’s wearing a Thor’s Hammer or Runic jewelry, or sporting tattoo with a Viking design, are they historical reenactors? White Supremacists? Fans of Viking metal music or the TV show? My best guess is that if the runes are on the confederate battle flag, I’d go for white supremacist. But then I think of the “Frog Prince” of Meridies at Pennsic 5 who had a frog on his stars and bars, and they marched singing “I wish I was in the land of cotton, ribbit, ribbit.” For some they may think of it as simply an aspect of their culture.
On the other hand, I experienced the Little Black Sambo story as lovely, rhythmic children’s story with the young (POC) hero outsmarting the big bullies (tigers). When I googled images just now I was rather appalled by the nasty, demeaning images I found. I can honestly say that I was ignorant, but not willfully ignorant, but I had no idea how bad it was, and now feel pretty sure I’ve said some stupid things based on that ignorance in the past. I don’t think we need to hold people responsible for what they didn’t know, but judge them by their reaction when they find out. Like the first king.
I’m inclined to jump on the bandwagon of the people who are down on the Meridian king and say the SCA doesn’t want white supremacists taking over. We’ve seen what happened to police departments when they’re successful with that (luckily, the SCA doesn’t have guns). But at the same time, I don’t want to simply say “white supremacy is bad”, and therefore anyone accused of it must be bad. I spent most of the summer reading about the witch trials. They figured anyone who makes a pact with the devil is bad, but I want to see some evidence other than a simple indignant accusation before we “start burning women”, tossing people out of the organization, or whatever.
(I guess I got my rambling done up front this week.)
Last weekend- while we were still not totally unpacked from Pennsic, Willow and Kat went down to Pop Cult Anime Con. They seem to have had a good time but sales were not good, which was depressing. Willow is very stressed about how much she owes on her credit card. She is also tired. Stress is tiring.
Let’s face it- since (not getting to) GNEW, we’ve had two weeks of Pennsic, got back and immediately there was PopCult, then I went to the East Coast Thing, this weekend is Harpers, the weekend after that is Kate’s wedding, then the girls are going up to the cabin. Frankly I am not really unhappy that I didn’t get signed up to sell for the Pagan Pride Days this September.
I do hope we get back into responding to reminders to sign up for shows.
The East Coast Thing is a gathering of heathens we went to a few years ago, I think three times. But the girls didn’t like it, and so we stopped going. I’d forgotten until about half way through this year, but the last time we went, no one showed up for one (or more?) of my workshops, and that hurt my feelings. I hate to think I’m that shallow, but I think I am. Maybe that’s why there was only had one workshop at a time this year. In the last couple of years, of course, I don’t drive after dark, (also I still get middle school flashbacks, and I hate going places by myself). So when Janine Marie mentioned on FB that she was going to go, I asked if we could ride share, and she said yes, so I got to go!
 She’s in Maine, (about 4 hours up) and was going to drive here, then I’d drive the 4 hours there. Then this Summer her brother died, so she has his nice car, and she drove the whole way. When we got there I was pleasantly surprised- several people still remembered me, and instead of just being in one of the cabins, they put me in the lodge, which has real beds (instead of kid-size bunks). Luxury! Also ego-boo! Another person who remembered me was Nancy, we’d met at Ecumenicon and Darkover, and she let me put out some heathen oriented jewelry on her selling table. This is the stuff from Maya Heath, Dragonscale, and I was happy to make them available to people who might not otherwise find them. Helping cover the cost of going also doesn’t hurt. I’d love to turn them onto Raymond’s Quiet Press, too, as he has great stuff at great prices. I did notice that most of them are not into wearing “Viking” clothing much. Some do as ritual wear- but they only pulled it out for the big ritual, so clearly this isn’t a thing they feel a great need for. Not that they don’t wear Thor’s Hammers and Valknuts etc. with their jeans and T shirts.
While I was packing I suddenly realized how few “decent” outfits I have. Generally I don’t go out, so I don’t much care what I’m wearing other than am I warm enough, covered enough not to scare the audience, is it big enough? Sadly, over the last couple of years, apparently about fifty percent of my clothing has gotten holes sucked in it by the cat. Being an old fashioned sort, if I like it, I patch it and keep wearing it. Many of my other favorite blouses are stained, such that I shouldn’t really wear them in public. I have plenty of clothes I can clean in or wear when I paint, but not so many I should wear in public. “One only gets one chance to make a first impression.” So I just packed three of my favorite pieces of garb and wore those. I looked magnificent, and if no one else was wearing garb, they complimented it rather than giving me a hard time. I guess I’m just an eccentric old lady at this point.
Some things have changed. Apparently the Viking Games take less time than they used to, although I know there was an archery, and rifle competition, the Kubb Tourney, no more boat races or “sacking the village.” (I think someone got hurt the last time we were there, and I hadn’t realized they’d given that up.) They’ve also given up the Egil Skallagrimson Bucket- a gold painted bucket for whoever vomited the most after the sumble. This was the 20th ECT, and there were several retrospective workshops, looking back over how things have changed. I expect part of that is that many people have stuck around since they found it, and, well, we are aging!
Rick, for example, took it upon himself to bring a golf cart and make it available to anyone with mobility issues. Mostly that seems to have been me. While I’d gotten the steroid shot in my foot for the Plantar Fasciitis, it was still bothering me, and he’d drive me from the lodge to the workshop hall, to the dining hall, to the selling pavilion…. I was quite pampered. Even better, after I got back, it stopped hurting. Apparently staying off it was what it needed to heal up! Thanks Rick!
One thing that didn’t change was that they have a food plan, so I didn’t need to bring anything. This year they didn’t have the venison chili they had when we went before. I always thought that was a sad thing to do to innocent venison. I thought the food was OK, although it was a bit of a trial for many who were trying to go low carb. They had oatmeal (although undercooked) at breakfast, so I was fine. One thing I didn’t care for was their technique for getting people’s attention. Someone with an announcement pounds on the table, then everyone starts pounding. It gets very loud in the echoey dining hall. I didn’t like it and worried that with nearly 200 people, there must be PTSD sufferers, and it must have been hard on them!
A huge change apparently happened three years ago, when rather than having the three largest Kindreds trade off on who was running it, they created a committee from all of them, and so it’s run jointly. At that point they started creating Ves or shrines to the various gods- I should have gotten pictures, but din’t think of it. This is the Odin Ve, and apparently they started with a few to the major gods: Thor, Odin, Frey, Freya, Tyr, and the next year there were a dozen, and this year there were I think 20 something. They are gathered in one area, with a gate where you enter, and people can make offerings to anyone of the gods to whom they feel called. Most of these shrines had at some point or other a ritual for that god, and you could make private devotions whenever you wanted.
In heathenry we often make offerings, of mead, or food, or something specific to that god or goddess. There was, for example, a drop spindle class. Since one learns the skill through practice but the first results aren’t usually that useable, it’s appropriate to donate your practice spinning to Frigga (goddess of spinning), who accepts it as honoring her. They also had a ve for “all the gods” where you could go if your patron didn’t have a Ve, the ancestors, and one for the land spirits as well. I’d picked up some marzipan and made some offerings of that- a boar for Frey, a cat for Freya, a Goose for Frigg; I took Eir some healing herbs.
The final ritual started at Sunset Saturday with some singing (as in the opening ritual) and then a procession to the main fire circle. Someone carried the image of each god, and someone carried the bowl in which libations had been poured, and someone carried a basket in which other offerings had been collected. There were also drummers (not historical, but modern folk like them), and other musicians, many people were keeping rhythm with sticks.  At the fire pit, the God images were set up, then one at a time the gods invoked and the offerings put on the fire, libations poured around the edges. After that, there was a huge party going on until two-ish? (That’s when I finally dropped off.) I’d spent the 11-12 hour on the porch with many of the older folks passing a horn around (sumble) toasting the gods and each other. I think it may have been coincidence but it was also the Full Moon, which I’m sure enhanced the frolicking. 
As I said, since Workshops are my “thing” I went to them all, they ranged from the practical- intro to spinning, and runes, to quite academic (although they had some issues with the computer that should have enabled their power-point presentations which included how legends migrate and Germanic Folk magic in modern Appalachia. I will say that enough of the speakers were academics that I am a bit hesitant to put forward workshops for next year. However I very much plan to go again!
I think the funniest story from the weekend was that one night the water stopped, so the plumbers were there the next day, (the kitchen staff managed to make coffee an whatever else for breakfast by melting the ice in the ice machine!). We cheered as we saw their truck driving away. But that night at supper when we went to the bathrooms, I was feeling warmth- and yes, the water in the tank and bowl was hot. Apparently they hooked up the wrong pipe to the toilets. (The next day it was fixed.)
The following morning they had a neat thing- someone brought small bottles, pre-labeled, so folks could take home some ashes from the offering fire. I thought that was cool. Then we (or rather Marie) drove home. It was wonderful to have someone to talk to, and I quite enjoyed the trip. One interesting thing I noticed, is that while I forgot to grab my EZ pass, there was no cash at toll booths anyway, they apparently take pictures of your license and send you a bill (along with the threat that you could lose your license if you don’t pay).
As I said, I’ve been trying to catch up since then. My computer is not happy. I spent far too many hours in the last few days changing passwords, and trying to make things work they way I am used to them working. I really wish I was better with computers.
I’ve also been thinking about racism, clearly it’s still here, some don’t think it’s wrong, and some don’t realize it’s there. Let’s face it, if your world seems to be “all white”, you have no realization that you are racist. I was remembering the masterful treatment in the musical South Pacific. Here are two people (Cable and Nellie) one who realizes that while he loves the Tonkanese girl, he can’t bring her home to his family, and Nellie, who coming from Arkansas, considers all people of color to be inferior, and is actually revolted at the idea of children of “mixed blood”. Neither of them probably thought themselves racist, until confronted with reality. This show from 1948, shows a totally different part of the “after they’ve seen Paris” idea. I’m sure it opened up whole new ways of thinking for some soldiers and sailors- and others clamped down on their old ways of thinking and just wouldn’t let the new information in.
On the way home I was talking to Marie about the story “Little Black Sambo”, and looked up the images when I got back. I had no idea what others had done with it! But I’m still convinced that we need to keep those stories in circulation. I grew up with the Little Colonel books, Of course the first story had the old Colonel disowning his daughter for marrying a yankee. It was written in 1895. But they got passed that, and if the blacks were all servants, I expect that at that point they were. We can’t chuck Huck Finn who used the “n word”, but treated Jim with more respect than most of the other characters in the book, or decide that kids shouldn’t read Laura Ingalls Wilder books because they show that at the time they were anti-Indian. They were. The little I recall of the Song of the South, it was black and white kids playing together, and turning to the old black guy as the wise elder. Sure there was racism in those books, but pretending that there wasn’t racism, and trying to erase it from history is like denying the Holocaust. It doesn’t do anyone any good.
We need to read the stuff written a long time ago. It’s not just the unconscious misogyny in Nero Wolfe, or Ian Fleming, or Jane Austin, or Shakespere; not just reading about how they managed before cell phones, or central heating. Yes, the stories have lasted because the human element hasn’t changed, but the cultural elements are important. We need to see how people we do relate to could think so very differently than we do, how they took things for granted that we don’t, and let us see ourselves taking certain attitudes for granted. Like learning a foreign language, reading stories written by those in other centuries (as well as other countries) teach us about humanity. It’s painless anthropology. (OK, sometimes it gets uncomfortable.)
I’ve been watching a bunch of Lincoln movies- the recent one with Daniel Day Lewis, the Gore Vidal mini-series from 1988 with Sam Waterston, a History Channel documentary that focused a lot on his depression, I’ve got a few more coming. I find anything more interesting when I get more deeply into it. I was tired that week so sat and finished the favor I’ve been working on for Morgan Kuberry (it’s a latin motto, silk on linen, and the silk ran out on the last stitch! Amazing! While doing that I watched the recent Mummy movie with Tom Cruise. I’d been avoiding it. I liked the Brendan Frazer one, why try something new? But it wasn’t bad. Apparently the director wants to do a whole movie arc of all the traditional Universal movie monsters, and this was just the first; they’re calling it Dark Universe or something like that. Russell Crowe is there as Dr. Henry Jekyll, now the head of a secret “anti-evil” organization. IN the works he’s got the Invisible Man (with Johnny Depp), Van Helming,  and some untitled Dracula, Frankenstein, Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Phantom of the Opera movies. I find myself looking forward to them. Also caught Ready Player One. It’s good, I wouldn’t watch it repeatedly, but John seems eager to do so. We also watched Snakes on a Plane, which is just plain fun, if it has stupid sex jokes and jump scares consistent with it’s genre.
I have continued reading and trying to finish the Witch Trials book (booklet?): I continue to feel that I am not doing any research in primary resources, so it doesn’t count. The girls assure me that reading so much of what others have investigated and bringing it into a synthesis does count, but I don’t feel like it. I suppose my personal knowledge of how magick works may be a useful addition.  Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages, Defenses Against the Witch’s CraftFaith and Magick in Early Modern Finland, and Palgraves Witchcraft Historigraphy. I’ve also dipped into The Magical World of the Anglo-Saxons (and ask myself, could I have done better? Possibly, I’d like to think so, but unless I do it, even speculating is pointless), and also going back to Cloth and Clothing in Early AS England (Rogers). Theres nothing like being seen as an expert to make me feel insecure about how much I know. I downloaded some more of the Palgrave history of magic books on my kindle, including hitting “rent” on one (that’s when I decided to go to bed!)
I will recommend Fantasyland: How America went Haywire:a 500 Year History even though I’ve only read the first section (up to the Revolution). It explores how so many aspects of American culture have combined to make it possible for us to end up with this bizarre situation. Heck, we elected an actor in the 80s, how much weirder is it for us to elect a malignant narcissist two years ago? But once you’ve let the bull into the china shop, once you’ve finally got it out again, it’s going to take a lot of cleaning, and some things are going to be gone for good. The damage to the planet is going to be a big issue, and even if we can work around that, the kids who are living through it will never be able to have childhoods without the stresses they are living under. It’s an ebook, when I’m done I can loan it if you have a kindle and want to read it.
For fun, I’ve been re-reading the Libertas Series by Rosemary Rowe. I appreciate that he uses his wits, and still has to deal with getting old, being low status, and dealing with getting sick and lack of funds. Kindle put the first 8 up very cheaply, and now I have to resist getting the later ones. I also started The Angel Wore Fangs (which I may not finish, it’s a supernatural romance with Viking Vampire Angels, in the modern world), and Strange Practice, the story of a doctor to Vampires and other monsters. . I also decided to reread King’s Eye of the Dragon, good, but not one of his best.
The computer reminds me that I’m up too late again. But I do like the idea that I’m reaching out to kith and kin, sharing my life, and I do like it when people write back. Really, what do we have other than our relationships?
For my older friends, this is a fun bit of “blast from the past” for you:


In the future, it [will be] deemed a great oddity that 20th-century scientists had discovered elementary physical particles but had failed even to consider the possibility of elementary psychic factors. – KURT GÖDEL