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Interview with Baroness Oddkatla about the Æ Artisan Exchange

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2016-03-06 19:42

Baroness Oddkatla Jonsdottir has been a member of the SCA for about 10 years. She is a costumer and a cook who loves to organize things. She has participated in the East Kingdom Artisan Exchange since it’s beginning and enjoy making gifts or pieces of art for people. Her Excellency started the Æ Artisan Exchange in Æthelmearc to promote the artisans and art of our kingdom, plus it’s just plain fun.

Æthelmearc Artisan Exchange coordinator, Baroness Oddkatla Jonsdottir.

1. What is the artisan’s exchange?
The artisan’s exchange is simply a secret gift exchange. It is for everyone who wants to make a gift for someone using their artistic talents. The bonus is that you get a gift in return. The exchange is primarily for Æthelmearc citizens, but we have members from several other kingdoms also.

2. What is the purpose?
Our purpose is to fill the Kingdom and the known world with lots of beautiful pieces of art, made by our fine people of Æthelmearc.

3. How do people participate?
Participation is very easy. All one has to do is contact Baroness Oddkatla Jonsdottir at Aethelmearcartisanexchange @ gmail . com, and let her know that they would like to a part of the exchange. If they are on Facebook, Her excellency will need them to ask to be a member of the Æ Artisan Exchange group on Facebook. If they are not a member of Facebook, it is not a problem. They can still participate using their email. Unfortunately, if they do not have a valid email address, becoming a participant will not be possible.

4. What are the rules/deadlines?
The deadlines vary on each exchange. The current exchange that I am setting up will be a 3 month exchange starting on or about March 17th, with gifts needing to be mailed by June 31, 2016. The current survey will be open until March 15th, 2016. Here are the rules:

  • Have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.  Your recipient will, in all likelihood, adore it. So, don’t stress out too much about the object.
  • Get your object out on time. Please make sure you get your object out on time.  When you send your item, do not take into account labor costs when pricing your item. It is recommended, but not required, that you get a tracking number when you mail your item. Many frustrations can be avoided by getting a tracking number.
  • Tangible items, please. We want everyone to be happy with their object. If you are someone with musical/bardic/wordsmithing tendencies, please consider that your talents might be better with something tangible in hand. If you are a wordsmith, consider an attempt at a scroll with your words on it. If you’re musical or bardically inclined, consider making a CD or a DVD of your performance (in the event that your recipient doesn’t live in the same kingdom as you) and mailing that to them. The thing is, getting cool stuff is awesome.
  • Mum’s the word. To your recipient, that is, until you send your item(s). We feel that part of the fun is the secrecy aspect of the swap. If you have to ask them a question, have your friendly neighborhood moderators ask them.
  • Make sure you have a working email/Facebook account. We have to be able to get a hold of you in case there is a question. Please check your email (put us into safe sender, if you have to), and please, please, please, don’t be afraid to talk to us if you have a problem, question, or concern. Participants do not have to have a Facebook account, but there will be a group maintained there.
  • Let us know you got your item. If you would, please let us know when you get your item(s). We like pictures. We like seeing you with your pictures. We like seeing you smiling wearing your item (if it’s wearable) with your pictures. So, please, take a photo. For those of you who are working on items (which should be all of you!), take some time to photograph your item before it leaves so you have a way to refer back to it. Think of it as your own personal documentation.
  • It is an obligation. Really, it is. Don’t get us wrong, this is supposed to be fun. But, inasmuch as it’s supposed to be fun, it’s also nice to get something for all your hard work. So, please, if you absolutely have to drop out, please pay attention to the deadline dates to drop out. We don’t want people making items only to find that they’re not getting something in return, because that is not fun.

5. How do people contact you?
Anyone may contact me via email at They can also find me on the Æ Artisan Exchange group on Facebook.

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Categories: SCA news sites

New King’s and Queen’s Bardic Champions

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2016-03-05 19:05

The King’s and Queen’s Bardic Champions were announced today at the event held in the Shire of Owlsherst.  The finalists were Lady Aethelfeid Flied Brewbane, Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, Lord Drake Oranwood, and Mistress Sol la Cantor.  Queen’s Champion is Mistress Alys Mackyntoich. King’s Champion is Lady Aethelfleid Brewbane.

Filed under: Arts and Sciences Tagged: bardic champions

Choosing a Period Pavilion

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-03-05 18:23

Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope talks period pavilions.

As spring approaches, in many Kingdoms Scadians’ thoughts naturally turn to…. Pennsic!

What, did you think we’d say “love?”

Anyway, as you start your Pennsic planning, many of you may be considering getting a period pavilion. Whether you’re getting your first medieval tent or upgrading to something bigger and grander, we have some advice for you.

Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Donnchaidh.

What type of tent should I get?

Every type of period pavilion has its pluses and minuses. Do you want a tent for a family, or a couple, or are you single?  Do you have a lot of stuff like armor and a wood frame bed, or do you plan to just unroll a sleeping bag or blow up an air mattress? Will you spend a lot of time in your tent, or is it just going to be used for sleeping? How big is your vehicle? Are you strong and able-bodied enough to carry poles and lots of canvas? Do you have plenty of friends to help you set your tent up? How much do aesthetics and time period matter to you?

Here’s an overview of some of the most common types of period pavilions you’ll find in the SCA and their pros and cons.

European Pavilions of the Middle Ages and Renaissance:

  • Regent – square tent with a single center pole and typically four corner poles. The canvas is usually one piece for the roof and walls combined. Stability is provided by tension from external ropes on the corner poles. Some have vertical walls while others have slanted walls.
    • Pros: Fairly easy to set up, not a lot of poles to transport, and relatively few tent stakes. You can stand upright in most of the interior since the side walls are pretty high. The center pole can be used to hang things like cloaks.
    • Cons: Because it’s all one piece, the canvas can be heavy. Since there are only four corner poles and no side poles, the ropes need to be tightened regularly to prevent sagging and potential pooling of water on the roof. May not be big enough for a bed due to the center pole. Slanted wall Regents provide more floor space but less area in which to stand up compared to the footprint. Can be stuffy in hot weather since the door provides the only ventilation.

Regent style pavilion with slanted walls and a fly. Photo by Lady Aemilia Rosa.

  • Marquee – rectangular, square, or oval tent that typically involves two center poles supporting a central ridge pole plus numerous side poles. Some Marquees have a single center pole like a Regent but multiple side poles. The canvas is usually in multiple pieces: one for the roof and two to four (or more!) for the walls depending on the size of the tent. Walls are usually suspended via hooks from a rope system attached to the roof and supported by the side and corner poles. Stability is provided by tension from external ropes on the poles.
    • Pros: Lots of interior space, great for families or merchants. Most of it is tall enough to stand upright in. Flexibility in how you arrange the interior, because it can be divided into multiple “rooms.” The center poles and ridge poles can be used to hang things like cloaks or chandeliers (though we strongly recommend against using flame inside a tent). Walls can be lowered to allow air flow on hot days, or set up to have an enclosed sleeping area plus a covered “front porch.”
    • Cons: Lots of poles and canvas to transport. Typically requires multiple people to set up. Take a lot of space due to many external ropes, and the ropes need to be tightened regularly to prevent sagging. Requires a large number of heavy-duty tent stakes.

Marquee tent with a single center pole and fly. Photo by THLord Sheriff Viktor von Murdoch.

  • Round, or Carousel – similar to a Marquee but round. Instead of side poles, the center pole usually has hub-and-spoke construction with poles radiating outward from a ring attached to the center pole about 6-1/2 to 7 feet up, placed in pockets in the canvas roof where it meets the wall, so the tent’s shape is maintained by the tension of the spoke poles. The canvas may be all one piece for the roof and walls combined, like a Regent, or have a separate roof and walls like a Marquee. Some have external ropes while others rely on staking the walls down to keep the canvas taut. Round pavilions are sometimes called “pavilinos” by Scadians as a result of a typo on a website many years ago. Some round pavilions have side poles instead of the hub-and-spoke, in which case they go up much like a Marquee.
    • Pros: Really lovely, these are the archetypal medieval tent many people imagine when you say “pavilion.” Not a lot of wood to transport if using the hub-and-spoke design. The spoke poles can be used to hang clothing or curtains.
    • Cons: The canvas can be heavy to carry if it’s all one piece. May not be big enough for a bed due to the center pole. Setting them up can be tricky, especially on sloped or uneven ground where they may sag and create pockets in the roof for water to pool. Those with no external ropes are especially prone to this. If they have ropes, the ropes may extend really far from the tent, taking up a lot of room in your encampment. Requires a large number of heavy-duty tent stakes, especially if it has no ropes.

Carousel pavilion with slanted walls. Photo by Baroness Leyli Shirazi.

Interior of Carousel pavilion showing the hub and spoke construction. Photo by Baroness Leyli.

  • Wall – rectangular tent that has low side walls and higher ends, with tall end poles supporting an internal central ridge pole, and multiple shorter side wall poles or a sleeve with side ridge and end poles to hold each side up. The canvas is usually all one piece. Stability is provided by tension from external ropes on the side and end poles. This style has been used from the Romans onward throughout SCA period.
    • Pros: Easy to set up, and most of the wood poles are short and therefore easy to transport. They are fairly forgiving of sloped terrain. The ropes on the side poles don’t extend very far out from the tent, making them compact. Lots of room to stand up inside since the slope of the roof is fairly shallow. Flexibility of furniture arrangement because there are no internal poles except at the entrances. Most have front and back entrances, so on hot days opening both doors can provide air flow. Great for a family.
    • Cons: The canvas can be heavy since it’s all one piece. There’s a limit to how long the tent can be and still remain stable since the tension on the side poles from the ropes are what keeps it up and too long a ridge pole could sag in the center.

Wall tent with side pole sleeves. Photo by Mistress Julianna Delamere.

Wall tent at left, Double Bell French Wedge with canopy at right. Photo by Mistress Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen.

  • French Double Bell Wedge – an elongated oval tent supported by two center poles and an internal ridge pole. The tent is all one piece of canvas in an “A-frame” shape with rounded ends. Stability is provided by staking the canvas to the ground. Some have a canopy over the front door that can be raised up on poles, providing a “front porch.” Sheds water well due to the steeply slanted walls.
    • Pros: These are the other archetypal medieval pavilion, with an attractive appearance. Very few poles and a relatively small amount of canvas so they are easy to transport. Since there are no external ropes, the footprint is small compared to other types of tents. Very stable in bad weather. Good for a single person or couple. Sheds water well due to steeply slanted sides.
    • Cons: The canvas can be heavy since it’s all one piece. Requires at least two people to set up since one person must hold the center poles upright until the walls have been staked down enough to provide the necessary tension. Requires a large number of heavy-duty tent stakes. Smaller ones may not have room for a bed due to the center poles. Inside you don’t get a lot of vertical space in which to stand up because of the steep slant of the walls, so the usable space vs. footprint is small. If it has a canopy, the canopy is only useful for sun; if left up in the rain it will allow water into the tent. Can be stuffy in hot weather since the door provides the only ventilation, though some have entrances on both sides.

Double Bell French Wedge without awning. Photo by THLady Jacqueline de Molieres.

 Early Period Northern European/Norse Styles:

  • Viking – A-frame tent with wide wood boards forming a triangle at each end as well as an internal ridge pole and side poles going through canvas sleeves connecting the two end triangles at the ground level. The end poles are exterior to the canvas and referred to as “barge boards.” No stakes or external ropes are required, though internal ropes running diagonally from the center top at each end to the bottom outer corner on the other end are recommended to prevent racking. Sheds water well due to the steeply slanted walls.
    • Pros: Not much canvas to transport. Very stable no matter the weather or terrain due to the wood frame. Easy to reposition if it’s set up in the wrong place – one person on each corner can easily lift it and walk it to a new location. Fairly easy to set up, though it typically requires at least two people, preferably big, strong, tall ones because of the weight of the ridge pole and barge boards (end pieces). Good for a single person or couple. Opening the back and front entrances can increase air flow on hot days. Carving the ends of the barge boards into animal heads makes them look really cool. Sheds water well due to steeply slanted sides.
    • Cons: LOTS of very heavy and long wood to transport. Not a lot of vertical space in which to stand up because of the steep slant of the walls, so the usable space vs. footprint is small.
  • Viking tent. Photo by Lord Darter the Chronicler.

    Geteld, aka Norman or Saxon Wedge – a cross between a Viking tent and a French Double Bell Wedge, this is an A-frame with two end poles and a central ridge pole that runs through a  sleeve, all internal to the canvas. Tension is maintained by staking the walls down. They can have flat ends like a Viking tent or a belled oval on one or both ends. A variant is the Bell-Backed Wedge, which has a bell at the back end and a flat front that can be used as an entrance.

    • Pros: Not much wood or canvas to transport. One of the least expensive tents you can make or buy for its size. Easy to set up, though it typically requires at least two people, one to hold the uprights while the other stakes the walls down. Very stable in bad weather. Good for a single person or couple. Opening both entrances can increase air flow on hot days. Less expensive than some designs due to smaller amount of wood and canvas for its footprint. Sheds water well due to the steeply slanted walls.
    • Cons: Not a lot of vertical space in which to stand up because of the steep slant of the walls, so the usable space vs. footprint is small. Requires a fair number of heavy-duty tent stakes.

Geteld, also known as a Norman/Saxon Wedge, with flat ends. Photo by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.

Other Types of Tents:

  • Yurt – a Mongol-style round tent with wood lattice sides and a hub-and-spoke roof support. The roof canvas is one piece and the walls are usually in one or two pieces, hung from the lattice wall frame with S-hooks. The door is usually a complete frame and wood door structure. Some people stake the roof canvas down at four corners, others run a rope around the outside of the canvas to secure the roof to the walls.The circular shape is maintained using strapping, called belly bands, which can be made of ropes or nylon straps, and is usually hidden inside the canvas walls..
    • Pros: Lots of interior space with no central support poles so plenty of room to stand up and arrange furniture. Great for families. Very stable in bad weather. Tend to be cooler inside on hot days than other tents due to the high roof and vent hole options. Clothing and other objects can be hung from the lattice walls or roof poles.
    • Cons: LOTS of wood to transport, especially with a full wood door and frame, although the lattice typically telescopes down to smaller flat pieces. Can be tricky to set up, requiring multiple people since one person must keep the central ring hub up until all of the spoke poles are in and the lattice must be adjusted to a circular shape as the roof poles are added. May not handle uneven terrain well. The lattice pieces are usually lightweight and prone to breakage, so you’ll need spares.

Yurt with wood door. Photo by Shu Shu Mark.

Yurt interior with canvas wall partly down for ventilation, showing wood lattice walls with belly band straps and roof spoke poles. Photo by Shu Shu Mark.

  • Carport (aka Trojan Horse) – technically these aren’t period pavilions, but they offer the opportunity to look period while being more stable and easier to set up than most pavilions. Carport tents usually resemble a Regent or Marquee, but instead of wood poles, they use an internal framework of metal or PVC pipes to hold up the canvas. As a result, they don’t need ropes, though the roof and walls need to be attached to the pipes with ties. The canvas may be one piece for the roof and walls combined, or multiple pieces like a Marquee with the walls able to slide along the pipes on rings like a shower curtain, improving ventilation on hot days. You can save money by buying the roof from a retailer and making your own walls.
    • Pros: Lots of interior space with no central support poles. Great for families. Very stable in bad weather. Fairly forgiving of uneven terrain.
    • Cons: LOTS of pipes to transport, and the metal ones can be heavy. If you use PVC instead of metal, it needs to be big enough to not buckle in high winds. Can be time-consuming to set up. Not actually period, though if done well they can look convincing from the exterior.

Carport tent. Photo by Master Augusto Giuseppe da San Donato.

  • Fly / Canopy – these aren’t tents for sleeping in, but rather shelters you can place beside your main tent to provide shade and rain protection, especially at your tent entrance. Typically they consist of a roof with no walls. They come in numerous configurations, from a simple lean-to style to a full roof like you’d find on a Marquee or Regent. Sometimes stand-alone communal flies have a wall on one side to provide additional shade or privacy. Flies can be used to connect two tents, providing a sheltered “breezeway” between them. Stability is provided by ropes staking the poles to the ground.
    • Pros: Usually don’t require a lot of canvas or poles.
    • Cons: Not as stable as a tent, can turn into a sail in high winds. Usually require a fair number of ropes and stakes to maintain tension.

Most merchants use Marquee tents due to the flexible interior space. Photo by Lord Darter the Chronicler.

Should I buy a pavilion or make it myself?

I have built numerous pavilions. Making a tent is not for the faint of heart, but it can save you a lot of money. Most recently, I built the Geteld shown above for my son for about $450 including canvas, poles, and stakes. The same tent purchased from a retailer would have been about $800-1000.

That said, if you are not confident of your abilities, it may not be worth the risk. If your geometry and sewing skills aren’t up to the task, you could make some very expensive mistakes. There aren’t a lot of patterns available for making tents, and the ones you’ll find online are often vague and may not meet your requirements for size and width of canvas. You need lots of room to layout the canvas and cut it as well as sew it. You’ll also need a very heavy duty sewing machine. If you try to sew canvas tents on a regular sewing machine intended for making clothing, it might work, but it could cause major damage to your machine. Ask me how I know this….

Teenager cutting out the canvas for his Geteld. Photo by Arianna.

And, of course, for most pavilions you also need the tools and skill to do some fairly simple woodworking like cutting and sanding poles, drilling holes for metal spikes, etc.

Building a Tent

If you are still undeterred, here are some basic things to know before building your own tent:

  • Buy good quality canvas. Do not skimp here, or your tent will not last and will not provide the shelter you need. 10 oz Sunforger canvas, boat shrunk, waterproof, fire resistant, and mold resistant is the top of the line. It’s well worth it. I’ve gotten 18 years or more out of my Sunforger tents. It’s also lighter weight than regular canvas, so it’s not as heavy to carry. This canvas usually has to be ordered online; you won’t find it at JoAnn Fabrics. That said, some vendors offer “factory seconds” that have cosmetic defects but are still structurally sound, which can save you $2-3 per yard. Since even a relatively small tent like the geteld takes 25-35 yards, the difference can be significant.
  • Make sure to buy at least a few yards more canvas than you think you need, to provide leeway for mistakes. Remember to factor in a sod cloth (a strip of canvas at the bottom of the walls that goes under the ground cloth to prevent water from entering the tent) when calculating your yardage.
  • Remember “measure twice, cut once?” That goes quadruple for tents, because cutting wrong could cost you hundreds of dollars. If you haven’t made a tent before, I recommend making a doll-sized version in cheap fabric to verify that you have the shapes right, especially for complex designs like a Marquee, Regent, or Bell Wedge. Don’t forget about seam allowances.
  • Use heavy-duty everything. Size 18 sewing machine needles, heavy duty pins (or you can use binder clips in place of pins). For tent stake loops, I make a strap out of a strip of canvas folded on itself, or you can use nylon strapping. If you need grommets, use large heavy duty camping ones from the hardware or sporting goods store, not the small ones intended for garments from fabric stores. Get long (18″) heavy duty metal tent stakes, not the short, cheap, plastic ones, or your tent will fall down in heavy rain as small stakes pull out of saturated ground.
  • Check local stores but also look online for things like hardware (s-hooks for Marquees and Yurts, for instance). Online may be cheaper per item but if you need a lot of them, shipping can jack up the price when many small objects become one heavy package. On the other hand, if you need 50 s-hooks, you may run out all of your local hardware stores and be in limbo until they restock, so allow plenty of time.
  • Use cotton-wrapped polyester thread. Polyester alone will cut through the threads of the canvas, and cotton alone isn’t strong enough. Also, the cotton wrapping swells when it gets wet, filling the needle holes and helping prevent leakage during rainstorms.
  • Use flat-felled seams to connect canvas panels, for both strength and water resistance. If you don’t know how to sew a flat-felled seam, here’s a video tutorial.
  • Apply seam sealer to the seams once the tent is done to help prevent water from seeping through the needle holes.
  • Get help with sewing it. As you go along, adding more and more canvas, it becomes heavier and heavier and thus harder to control as it goes through the sewing machine. Set up a table on the outflow side of the sewing machine to help support the weight, and if possible, a table behind you to support the incoming canvas, which will flow over your shoulder. At least one other person to help support and guide the canvas is also helpful.
  • Anywhere that tent poles under tension come in contact with canvas, reinforce the spot with either multiple layers of canvas or a piece of medium-weight leather.
  • If your walls are supported internally by ropes, use polyester rather than cotton so they don’t stretch.
  • Walls that are suspended from ropes should have S-hooks or swivel clip-hooks to make it easy to put them up and take them down. You don’t want to have to string D-rings on a rope.
  • For tents that need external guy ropes, if you want a period rope, get manila/hemp or sisal. Use thick rope, at least 3/8″, with 1/2″ preferable on taller/larger tents. Anything smaller may snap. There is also an artificial rope called “Unmanila” that looks like manila but has 6 times the break strength, won’t mildew and rot if packed  damp, and outlasts manila or sisal by years. Don’t get nylon rope, as it stretches.
  • Tent rope slider.

    Build wood sliders for any external guy ropes. If you use slip knots, you’ll have trouble tightening them when it rains and the rope swells.

  • Splice the loops in your guy ropes instead of tying knots. If you don’t know how to splice rope, here’s a great video tutorial.
  • Plan to finish the tent well ahead of Pennsic. You want opportunities to set it up in daylight and test it out over a weekend, where any major issues won’t threaten your fun for an entire week (or two!).
  • If your tent has poles that go through grommets, get some gaskets to place on top of the pole spikes to prevent water from dripping through the grommets and down the poles during rain. You can also create decorative finials using small furniture legs purchased from a woodcrafting store to help hide the tops of the tent pole spikes and aid in keeping water out.
  • Finish all wood pieces with polyurethane to prevent water damage, or use pressure-treated lumber. Make sure they are sanded smooth first so they don’t snag your canvas.

All of this said, your best bet is to do a lot of research, and if possible, get guidance and assistance from someone who has previously built a period pavilion. One great resource is the website of Mistress Mira Sherlock of the Kingdom of AnTir, which has links to over 100 articles and websites on building or buying tents.

Regent style tent at Cooper’s Lake. Photo by Lord Darter.

Buying a New Tent

While you will pay more to buy a tent than to build one, you’ll know up front that you’re getting what you want and it will be professionally made. Reputable companies offer guarantees and provide accessories like tent stakes, poles, ropes, rope sliders, and other related items.

Mistress Mira Sherlock’s website also lists tent suppliers. I have personally dealt with Panther Primitives and highly recommend them, and have friends who have also been happy with Tentsmiths.

Some considerations when purchasing a new tent:

  • Start by deciding on the style and size you want. If you have trouble figuring out what size you need, use a measuring tape to lay out the size you’re considering on your living room floor or front yard and then eyeball it. Make sure to measure any large items you want to put in the tent and verify that they will fit around any center poles. You will be very unhappy if you set up your brand new tent and discover that it’s 3″ too narrow for your nice rope bed. However, keep in mind that your allotment at Pennsic is 250 square feet per person, some of which needs to be used by your camp for common areas, campfires, and walkways, not to mention any exterior guy ropes.
  • Comparison shop, but make sure to keep quality and reputation in mind as well as price. Ask your friends with period pavilions who they bought them from and what their experience was.
  • Order early, because tents take a while to make. Even in less busy seasons it can take up to a month to receive your tent, and if you wait until mid-spring, you may end up on a long backlog list that prevents you from getting your tent in time for Pennsic. Ideally, you want to set your new tent up well before Pennsic so you can do a test run and learn both how to set it up and take it down, and also what arrangement of your gear works best.
  • Have a conversation with the merchant before placing your final order, asking questions about anything you’re not sure of. They can advise you on whether the tent you want will meet your needs, and you can also double-check that you’ll be getting what you think you’re getting.
  • Remember that you’ll need a ground cloth, ropes, and stakes for most tents. A lot of merchants offer these as “set up packages.” Yes, you can use a tarp in place of a ground cloth, but it’s noisy and uncomfortable and kind of ugly unless you cover it with rugs, which will jack up the cost of your tent further. Indoor/outdoor carpets alone can work as ground cloths. Some people use cotton painter’s cloths as ground cloths, and even paint them in decorative patterns with acrylic paint to enhance their waterproofing as well as appearance.
  • Even if you’re buying the tent, it’s worth making your own poles. Poles are cheap and easy to make but expensive to purchase and ship.
  • Consider picking up other accessories like shelves that can be affixed to the side poles on a Marquee or Regent, a tent-stake puller, and a canvas bag to store your ropes and/or stakes.

From left to right: Geteld, Wall, Regent, and Carousel tents. Photo by Mistress Rowena ni Donnchaidh.

Buying a Used Tent

You will often find people selling period pavilions, whether because they are upgrading, downsizing, or just not interested in camping any more. As with all purchases of used equipment, be cautious.

  • Inspect the tent while it’s set up, which will allow you to get a better view of the canvas and poles. Ask the current owner to explain or demonstrate how to erect the tent.
  • Check the canvas for holes, patches, or discoloration. Make sure the sod cloth isn’t rotted (though if it is, it can be fairly easily replaced). Feel the canvas – if it seems brittle, then the tent is probably old and on its last legs. Be especially alert for pinholes in the roof, which can be hard to see but make a huge difference in how dry you stay in a storm.
  • Inspect the poles for wear and make sure they are large enough for the weight of the canvas. Verify that none are warped or dried out and gray with age. If one pole is warped, you can tape it to other straight poles and it will eventually straighten out.
  • Ask if the ground cloth, ropes, and stakes come with the tent. If so, check their condition, especially looking for rot in the ground cloth and ropes. If they don’t come with the tent, you’ll need to factor in the cost of buying those items separately.
  • Educate yourself on the cost of the same tent purchased new. I can’t tell you what is a reasonable price for any given tent since it depends on type, size, age, and condition, but it should certainly be well below the price of the same tent new.
  • If possible, buy from people you know or get references. Most Scadians are pretty honest, but it pays to be sure.

Oval and rectangular Marquee pavilions. Photo by Mistress Rowena.

Caring for period pavilions

Congratulations on your new pavilion!  Now, you want to take good care of it, right? It’s probably one of the biggest investments you’ve made, on a par with a high-end laptop computer or big screen TV. Here are some ways to ensure that your new tent lasts a long time.

  • Do not pack canvas away wet. If you are forced to take your tent down in the rain at the end of an event, set it up in your yard  or lay the canvas out on a driveway or dry grass on the next sunny day so it dries completely. Wet canvas quickly becomes moldy canvas.
  • After taking your tent down, use a broom to sweep off grass, dirt, or dried mud.These can also cause mold or discoloration if left on the canvas too long.
  • If your tent gets dirty, do not use any kind of soap to clean it. Doing so will destroy its waterproofing, mildew resistance, etc. Use plain water and a stiff bristle brush to get the worst of the dirt off, but you may need to be resigned to stains.
  • Store the tent off the floor, and do not wrap it in plastic, which will retain moisture. Some people like to store their tents in rubber totes; I don’t recommend this for the same reason. Placing the folded canvas on an open shelf in a dry area is the best way to prevent mildew and mold.
  • Do not store ropes in plastic, which can cause rot. Instead, store them in a canvas or other cloth bag, or just coil them and place them in an open bin.
  • If possible, store tent poles lying on their sides. Standing them upright is likely to lead to warping.

Merchant tents at Pennsic. Photo by Lord Darter.

Thanks to THLord Sheriff Viktor von Murdoch, Dame Aoife Finn, and Master Brion Donul Gilbert for advice on pavilions for this article. Also thanks to all of the kind gentles who provided photos of their beautiful pavilions.

Categories: SCA news sites

Heraldic Display Competition: Mudthaw 2016

East Kingdom Gazette - Sat, 2016-03-05 17:43

The following detailed information on the Heraldic Display Competition at Mudthaw was provided by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich.

This competition is intended to encourage period and period-style heraldic display. “Heraldic display” is not limited to banners. In period, a person’s armory was placed on any number of personal ad useful items, including household objects and clothing.

There will be multiple categories for entries: Youth (ages 12 and under), Teen (ages 13-17), Novice, Journeyman and Craftsman. Criteria for each category are explained below. Youth and Teens may, at their choice, enter in one of the other categories instead. Prizes will be given for every category in which there are entries. The Baron and Baroness of Settmour Swamp will also be giving out a prize to the artisan(s) of their choice.

Entries in all categories will be judged based on the following criteria:

(1) Heraldic style: Points will be given for the use of SCA-registered or period armory. Extra points will be given if the armory being displayed is good heraldic style. If you are using SCA-registered armory, please be sure to include a note stating to whom it is registered and when.

(2) Period display method: Is this the kind of item that people put heraldry on in period? Is the heraldry displayed on the item in the way period people did it? More points will be awarded for more period methods and motifs.

(3) Artistic merit: Is the item pleasing to the eye? Items that convey a good medieval or Renaissance feel will be assigned more points.

(4) Use of period materials and techniques: As this is an SCA arts and sciences competition, the use of period materials and techniques (or modern techniques replicating period techniques where reasonable) is expected. The more period your techniques and materials, the more points will be awarded.

As to each individual category:

  • Youth (ages 12 and under): Entrants will be judged against other Youth in the same age group. Documentation is not expected. Use of reasonable modern equivalents for period materials and techniques is permitted.
  • Teen (ages 13-17): Entrants will be judged against other Teens in the same age group. Documentation is not required. Use of reasonable modern equivalents for period materials and techniques is permitted.
  • Novice: The Novice category is open to people who have been practicing their art for less than 3 years and have never won an A&S competition in heraldic display. Laurels, Maunches and Silver Brooches (or the equivalent) in heraldry or heraldic display are not eligible for the Novice category. Documentation is not required. The use of reasonable modern equivalents for period materials and techniques is permitted.
  • Journeyman: The Journeyman category is intended for people who have been practicing their art for 3 or more years. Laurels and Maunches (or the equivalent) in heraldry are not eligible for the Journeyman category. Journeyman entries must have documentation. Period materials and techniques are strongly encouraged.
  • The Craftsman category is intended for people who are Laurels or Maunches (or the equivalent) in heraldry or heraldic display or people who have won an A&S competition in heraldry or the art being presented. (For example, Gendulphe won a competition for pottery, and is entering heraldic pottery today, therefore Gendulphe is a Craftsman. Hextilda won a competition for brewing, but is presenting a heraldic surcoat today; Hextilda does not have to enter in the Craftsman category). Craftsman entries must have documentation. Period materials and techniques are expected.

Please note that documentation is required for Journeyman and Craftsman level entries. Even for the categories where documentation is not required, documentation is strongly encouraged and will make the judges very happy. Documentation assistance is available at Mistress Alys’ blog (

Documentation for this competition should address the following issues:

  • Is the device or badge registered by the SCA College of Heralds? If so, to whom? If not, is it actual period armory? If actual period armory, where did you find it?
  • Did medieval/Renaissance people use this method to display heraldry? (For example, is there evidence of heraldry on clothing?)
  • Do you have any examples of this kind of display being done in the way you have done it? (Copies of pictures, woodcuts and the like are strongly encouraged)
  • What techniques did you use to create the display?
  • What materials did you use to create the display?
  • Assume the judges know nothing about your art. What are the most important things for the judges to know about your materials, techniques and methods?
  • What sources did you consult in creating your display?

There is no page limit for documentation.

Filed under: Arts and Sciences, Heraldry

Today is the Pent Literary Arts Deadline!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2016-03-05 09:28

Tonight at midnight (March 5)  is the deadline for Literary Arts category entries for the Pent!

The LITERARY ARTS category consists of the following:

Lit1: Research Paper
Lit2: Musical Arrangement & Composition
Lit3: Poetry & Prose Written Entries

Entries in Literary Arts must be received by the Pent Coordinator no later than March 5. Entries must be sent electronically to carnabyservices at yahoo dot com (email link also here). If you do not receive a confirmation email within 24 hours of sending, contact the Pent coordinator. You may attach your entry as a Word document or as a pdf.

Please make sure your name IS NOT on the entry itself.

Send the following information with your email and use “Pent Literary Entry” as your subject line:

SCA Name
Legal Name
Phone Number
Title of Work
Category Entering

The works will be assigned an entrant number (for blind judging purposes) and then forwarded to the judges. If you are entering the Literary Arts Category, we will automatically pre-register you and assign your general entrant number; this number will also be used for any other entries you have for the event.

General Pent information can be found on the Pent website. You can pre-register for the Pent on the Pent website as well – save some time that morning!

Categories: SCA news sites

Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild About to Grow Roots

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2016-03-04 13:29

Hi there!

Someone started a Facebook Page about herbal and apothecary guild work in the Known World and, after some discussion, it became clear that Æthelmearc didn’t have one and would like a kingdom guild.

Botany is one of those subjects that goes hand in hand with medieval research. Whether attempting to cure an illness, make or dye cloth, or design a garden, plants are always important to our SCA persona.

The Æthelmearc Herbal and Apothecary Guild will be focused on all aspects of plant use throughout the Middle Ages, with the caveat that we include Anachronisms such as modern-day safety and knowledge. We shouldn’t poison ourselves with bracken ferns when it has recently been discovered they are severely mutagenic, right?

I will be at Ice Dragon 2016 and would love to talk with like-minded people about starting an Herbal Guild here in Æthelmearc.
I can also be reached at, and there is an interest thread on the “SCA Æthelmearc” Facebook Page.

I look forward to accomplishing much with you.

Lady Maggie Rue


Categories: SCA news sites

Region 2 Archery Muster April 10th

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-03-03 18:32

Attention All Archers!!

The Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands invites you to a Regional Muster
celebrating Archery, Thrown Weapons, Youth Fighting, and Arts & Sciences at
the Castle home of Their Royal Highnesses of Æthelmearc, Byron and Ariella,
on April 10th. This is the day after Their Coronation. The muster will begin
at 10:00 in the morning and continue until 5:00 pm.

The archery and thrown weapons ranges will be open at 10:00 am and archery from the towers, led by THLord Deryk Archer, will begin at 1:00 pm.

The main archery goal this day is to shoot and submit rounds for the
Gwyntarian Winter Challenge which closes later that week. There will also be
training if we have enough marshals. The Barony’s loaner gear will be

Please bring something for a pot luck. We’re going to be there all day, so
let’s eat. Pop, water, plates, bowls, and utensils will all be provided.

Their Highnesses have asked that you dress in garb for the day.

The Castle address is 755 Stonegate Drive, Wexford PA 15090.

In service to the Barony-Marche and the Kingdom,

Mestari Urho Waltterinen
crossbow1953 (at) earthlink (dot) net

Photo by HRH Byron.

Categories: SCA news sites

The Scarlet Apron Cooking Competition at War Practice

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-03-03 08:36

If you are a baker, join us!
If you are a baker, a butcher, a saucier,
A fry-er, A boil-er, a sugar paste sculptor…
If you love to cook, come add fuel to our fire,
For your passion and skills we want you to show us.
Join us!
Join us!
Join us!

Introducing The Scarlet Apron – a new cooking competition to be held at
Æthelmearc War Practice (May 19-22, 2016)!

This competition is open to any and all comers who have a penchant for the
medieval culinary arts. No matter if you are new to period cooking, or if
it is old hat to you, you are welcome at our table!

The theme for our inaugural year is sure to be a feast for the eyes as well
as the belly – Illusion Food! Anyone wishing to participate must create an
example of such a food from anywhere in SCA-period. This could be an
interpretation of a subtlety that has been described in a cooking text, or
an original creation that can be considered “period-plausible” based on its
design, construction and the materials used to create it.

All contestants should follow these guidelines:

1. The entry should be made and assembled prior to judging – this is not a
competition at which contestants must cook their final product on site.

2. The finished product should be constructed from at least 50% edible

3. The use of period construction techniques, including internal shaping
structures and edible ingredients is preferred and encouraged.

4. The final product should be registered, signed in, and ready for judging
by 11:00 AM on Saturday, May 21. The judging will take place in the Great
Hall alongside the A&S competition. Registration/sign-in will open Saturday
at 10:00 AM. The final judging will  occur between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM,
with the winner announced during court that evening.

5. Contestants should provide a brief written overview (one page, maximum)
of their entry, including their inspiration (if it was based on a specific
subtlety, the original text of its description; if it was based on
something else, then those details), a complete list of the materials used,
and a description of how they created the structure.

6. Contestants can choose to sit with their entry during the judging period
in order to answer questions from the judges and the populace, however it
is not required.

7. Plating and presentation are integral to this competition. Each
contestant will get no less than half of a six- or eight-foot table, which
should be adorned as befits the entry.

Entries have three potential categories to win: Youth (for contestants age
5-12), Populace Choice, and Overall Winner. Cooks of all skill levels are
encouraged to enter!

Any questions should be directed to the competition coordinator, Edelvrouw
Lijsbet de Keukere (, Keirin Lazauskas-Ralff
on Facebook). We are  so excited about this competition, and are looking
forward to seeing the beautiful and delicious pieces of art you create!

Yours In Service,
Edelvrouw Lijsbet de Keukere

Categories: SCA news sites

Savor the Arts & Sciences!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Wed, 2016-03-02 20:53

By Lady Cairdha Eilis O’Coileian.

You walk into the hall…tables filled with every kind of thing ever envisioned by man…you are struck by colors, sounds, scents, textures…gold, silver, leather, and more…beauty as you have never seen…it can be overwhelming.

Whether an Art/Sci display or competition, people can be unsure how to understand the situation before them. In general, we all tend to gravitate toward what we know.  No one has a desire to ignore the work others have done, but we are all drawn to the things most familiar to us and to what we know and understand.  The question is…is that good enough? The beauty of the SCA is it gives us an opportunity to see things beyond what we know…to see beyond our modern experience. It is important for everyone to explore those thing they are NOT familiar with…the new…the unexplored.

Far too often people get drawn into the beauty of wonderfully crafted items of clothing, exquisite and ornate scrolls filled with detailed illumination and precise calligraphy, skillfully and painstakingly crafted pieces of armor, hand-spun and woven creations, and delicate sewing crafts…and yet, there sitting on a table just a few feet away is a humble meat pie or mysterious, bottled liquids. Perhaps you say to yourself, “well, I’m not hungry” or “I don’t want to drink alcohol this early” or even “I’m not sure I want to try this.  Did you close your eyes as you passed the scroll?  Did you not desire to touch and feel the craftsmanship of the garb or armor?  Why then would you pass up the opportunity to experience the skills and hard work put forth by the cook or brewer? One bite will not make you full. One sip will not make you drunk.

I challenge you. Take the time and experience the consumable side of the Arts and Sciences. Do not be afraid to open up your mouth and mind to the world of food and drink. If the artisan is present, engage them. Learn about their craft, its history, its technology. Hear the joy and excitement they have, the very same shared by all of us who play in the realm of Art/Sci. I challenge you to SAVOR the Arts and Sciences!

Categories: SCA news sites

Class Schedule for Hrim Schola

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-03-02 19:35

The Finalized Class Schedule for Hrim Schola which is taking place on March 19th in the Barony of Dragonship Haven (Meriden, CT) has been posted to the event listing on the East Kingdom website.


Filed under: Arts and Sciences, Events Tagged: Arts and Sciences, classes, Hrim Schola

Spring Crown Tournament Letters of Intent/ Tournoi de la Couronne – Lettres d’Intention

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-03-02 18:24
En Français Greetings unto all those intending to enter Spring Crown Tournament, Please be aware that both the combatant and the consort must submit a letter of intent, either through the following link (preferred) or by email to TRH Prince Kenric and Princess Avelina with a copy to the Kingdom Seneschal. If by email, a joint email is preferred. The Letter of Intent must be received by Coronation, April 9, 2016. If using email, the letters of intent must include all of the following information for both combatant and consort: Society name, legal name, address, telephone number, years of residency and be accompanied by proof of membership with membership number & expiration date that is valid at least thirty days after Crown. If both entrants are combatants, then that should be clearly indicated. TRHs also request that combatants bring heraldic shields for the list trees. In Service to the East, I remain Dueña Mercedes Vera de Calafia

En Français:


À tous ceux souhaitant participer au prochain Tournoi de la Couronne.
Soyez avisé(e) que le(la) combattant(e) et son(sa) consort doivent présenter une lettre d’intention, soit en utilisant le lien suivant (ce que nous favorisons) soit par courriel à Leurs Altesses, le Prince Kenric et la Princesse Avelina et en plaçant en copie la Sénéchale du Royaume

Les lettres d’intention devront être reçues avant le Couronnement du 9 avril prochain. Si vous choisissez le courriel, il devra contenir les informations suivantes à propos du(de la) combattant(e) et de son(sa) consort : Nom SCA, nom mondain, adresse, numéro de téléphone, nombre d’années de résidence dans le Royaume et une preuve de membre SCA avec le numéro et la date d’expiration.

Il est à noter que votre membership doit être valide pour au moins 30 jours après la date du Tournoi. Il est important de spécifier si les deux participants(tes) sont des combattants(tes). Leurs Altesses demandent que les combattants(tes) apportent un Écu armorié pour le présentoir de la lice.

Au Service de l’Est, je demeure
Dueña Mercedes Vera de Calafia

Filed under: En français, Events, Official Notices Tagged: Crown Tournament, Letter of Intent, spring crown

Non-Member Surcharge Wording Changes

East Kingdom Gazette - Wed, 2016-03-02 16:50

From the Seneschal and Exchequer’s offices:

Greetings from Mercedes and Ignatia,

We recently attended the Known World Kingdom Exchequer and Seneschal Symposium in Trimaris where the Society Exchequer announced a change in the wording of event announcements. Many people do not like the way that the non-member surcharge has had to be listed in event announcements as it is a bit off-putting. Society recently related an alternate method for listing the fees to address this.  In the East Kingdom, an event fee will now be referred to in announcements as the REGISTRATION FEE, it should no longer be referred to as a gate fee, site fee, door fee or entry fee in announcements or event calendars.

It is important that all Seneschals, Exchequers and Autocrats comply with this new wording on all event announcement, including ones on platforms other than the calendar. The EK Calendar is being updated to reflect this language.
A discount for minors must be listed or you will be required to collect NMS from non-member minors.  A discount on any ‘group/category of adults’ does not avoid the NMS fee requirement if that person is not a member.  In addition, you may NOT ‘comp’ any non-member to attend an event, ever. This includes paying the NMS out of group funds.  The non-member fees will still be referred to as Non-member surcharges outside of the announcements and will still continue to be reported as NMS.   Feast Fees and/or Day Board Fees are still listed separately.

Below are examples of how you may list your event registration fees so that you can avoid the NMS wording that people find distasteful.  For the purposes of the example below X=$10, which represents the cost of the event fee per person (prior to any NMS amount).
Event Registration Fees Pricing:
1.    Adult(18+):    $X+5=  $15  Member:   $X=  $10      Minor(<18): $X-.50=   $9.50
2.    Non-member:    $X+5=  $15  Member:   $X=  $10      Minor(<18): $X-.50=   $9.50
3.    Registration Fee: $X+5=  $15  Minor(<18): $X-5-.50=   $9.50
Adult Members receive a $5.00 discount on the registration fee with proof of membership. ($10)
4.  I am sure someone will come up with another option for stating the fee structure for an event.

Remember these are only examples – the ‘minor’ prices are normally broken into several categories for most groups.

In Service,
Maestra Ignacia la Ciega,
East Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer


Mercedes Vera de Calafia
East Kingdom Seneschal

Filed under: Law and Policy, Official Notices Tagged: Exchequer, NMS

Gulf Wars Road Closings

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-03-01 19:18

Noble Æthelmearc,

The following was just passed along to me by the Seneschal of Meridies. If you are driving to Gulf Wars you should pay attention to this as this
closure does effect one of the major routes south from some parts of Æthelmearc. The report notes that the road could be closed for up to three weeks.

In Service,
Duke Christopher

I wanted to inform the populace of your Great and Fair Kingdom about the
Road Closure of I75 South in Tennessee. As you may already know this, I
just wanted to touch base with you so that those headed south for Gulf Wars
can choose another route to war besides I75.

Here is the report.

Please post this information in those places you deem appropriate to
relieve your citizens from being stuck for hours in slow and standing
traffic on the way to Gulf Wars using I75.

Master Aylwin Watkyns
Kingdom Seneschal, Meridies

Categories: SCA news sites

Going to Gulf Wars? Beware of I-75 Closure

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-03-01 14:45

This article was originally posted on the Midrealm Gazette.

For those of you planning your sojourn to Gulf Wars, please choose an alternate other than I-75. I-75 is closed in Tennessee close to the Kentucky border (north and southbound lanes) for the next several weeks due to rock slides.

Master Aylwin Watkyns
Kingdom Seneschal, Meridies

Filed under: Announcements Tagged: Gulf War

Location Change for Fencing Muster this Sunday!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-03-01 09:48

Hello, all!
Because Cal U’s Women’s basketball team did super well (yay) and is hosting the playoffs, we got moved. We will now be at the Performance Center on Sunday, March 6th, from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. 

There will be a class or two, a White Scarf meet and beat, and melee. Lots of Melee in preparation for the coming War Season. There will be a Academy Tournament is there is interest and time. There’s a lot of things to be done, so I am keeping things slightly loose. 

Aemilia Soteria (Erin Wunderlin) will be running an MOL class or two — so non fencers who are interested (and fencers, and marshals, and MIT’s) can learn more about what they need to know to run tournaments more smoothly. (Even if you are not an MOL yourself, there are things you can learn for when you marshal your own tournament.)

Food: Bring your own, travel to town, or take part in our Tavern Bake sale!  (The Union food options will be closed.)

Parking: If you buy a pass off of us, it’s 5.00/day.  If you park in town and walk, it is free, if you do nor buy a pass they will give you a ticket for $25.00 — since stuff is going on this Sunday, they will be patrolling. There is also a metered lot if you only want to come for an hour or two. (It’s roughly a dollar an hour until you get past three hours, then it is cheaper to buy our pass.)

But Parking is RIGHT next to the Union.  Here is a map.
The map may confuse you — Lot 17 is not listed, but there is a red and black area that is marked for construction. I am using this map because while the construction is all done, it’s really easy to see where you need to go. Lot 17 is the red and black striped area. The Union is encircled in red. 

Use this handy dandy page to get to campus: 

Now, when you get to campus, drive down the main road…you will pass between the two towers. You will eventually have no choice by to turn right, going up a hill.

Lot 17 is on your left. The Union is next to the parking lot, a green roofed, red brick building. Entrance is on the side. Go left. Go past the food court  Do not go down the stairs. The Performance Center is towards the right. 

I hope to see you all there!


Categories: SCA news sites

Arts & Sciences Research Paper #7: Life Before Toilet Paper

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-03-01 09:00

Our seventh A&S Research Paper comes to us from Baroness Charitye Dale, of the Barony of Settmour Swamp. She examines a question that would have affected our personas practically every single day – how did people manage before toilet paper? (Prospective future contributors, please check out our original Call for Papers.)

Life Before Toilet Paper

Ancient public toilets in Ephesus

There are some things in our society that are so basic, so integral to our lives that we cannot imagine going without.  Toilet paper is one of these items.  Since 1857, when toilet paper first became commercially available, we have used it to cleanse after using the bathroom.  This begs the question; what did people use to clean themselves before toilet paper?  This work will provide an overview of what people used to cleanse themselves after defecating in Rome, China, Japan, India, the Islamic states and various areas of Europe between 400 C.E. and 1600 C.E.

Buddhist Precepts for Monks in India
Islamic Precepts for Worshippers
Western Europe

We begin in Rome, in the communal toilets adjacent to the city’s bathhouses.  These communal bathrooms were semi-circular or rectangular rooms containing long benches along the walls, with individual round spaces carved into them.  Running water flowed underneath them to wash away the waste.  According to William E. Dunstan in his book Ancient Rome, “Public latrines, though often lavishly decorated with statuary and singing fountains, proved dimly lit and poorly ventilated.  They became overcrowded retreats for the unprivileged living in multistory tenements lacking toilets.” [1]

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, in his series of letters known as Moral Letters to Lucilius references a sponge affixed to a stick as being used for cleansing after defecating.  In his 70th letter, he relates a tale of suicide in which this implement, commonly referred to by scholars as a spongia, played a pivotal role.  “A captured German, who was making ready for the morning exhibition, withdrew in order to relieve himself, the only thing he was allowed to do in secret and without the presence of a guard.  While so engaged, he seized the stick of wood, tipped with a sponge, which was devoted to the vilest uses, and stuffed it, just as it was, down his throat…”[2]  To date, there appears to be no other specific reference to the spongia in ancient text.

Sources speculate that the spongia would be stored in either a bucket of salt water, or would be placed in front of the public toilet in a stream of running water that ran in front of the commode in communal bathrooms.  These spongia were used by everyone who utilized the public toilets.

The Roman elite used chamber pots or toilets within their own homes instead of using the communal commodes whenever possible.  Instead of the spongia, it is conjectured that they cleansed with rosewater and soft wool while in their homes.[3]
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Buddhist Precepts for Monks in India
We move from Rome to India, where Buddhist monks were fastidious about cleanliness.  So fastidious, in fact, that they had very particular rules regarding the use of the bathroom.  These rules are outlined, in detail, in early versions of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Buddhist canonical for monks.  Each of the seventeen rules were to be followed each time one used the toilet facility.

  1. One should not defecate outside of the cesspool.
  2. While standing outside, one should clear his throat.
  3. Anyone sitting inside should also clear his throat.
  4. Having put aside the (upper) robe on a bamboo pole or a cord, one should enter the place properly and unhurriedly.
  5. One should not pull up one’s lower robe before entering.
  6. One should pull up one’s lower robe while standing on the toilet shoes.
  7. If the place is splattered it should be washed.
  8. One should not groan or grunt while defecating.
  9. One should not wipe oneself with a rough stick.
  10. One should not drop the wiping stick into the cesspool.
  11. If the basket for wiping sticks is full, the wiping sticks should be thrown away.
  12. One should then cover oneself (with one’s lower robe) while standing on the toilet shoes.
  13. One should not leave hurriedly.
  14. One should not leave with one’s lower robe pulled up.
  15. One should pull it up while standing on the rinsing-room shoes.
  16. One shouldn’t make a smacking sound while rinsing.
  17. One should not leave any water remaining in the rinse vessel.[4]

Further evidence to the Buddhist doctrine of cleansing after defecation is found in an anecdote within their guidelines for monks which tells a story of the consequences of not rinsing oneself after defecating:

“Now at that time a certain bhikkhu, a brahman by birth, didn’t want to rinse himself after defecating, (thinking,) ‘Who would touch this vile, stinking stuff?’ A worm took up residence in his anus. So he told this matter to the bhikkhus. ‘You mean you don’t rinse yourself after defecating?’ (they asked). ‘That’s right, my friends.’ Those bhikkhus who were of few wants … criticized and complained and spread it about, ‘How can a bhikkhu not rinse himself after defecating?’  They reported this matter to the Blessed One…”[5]

The monks utilized what they referred to as a wiping stick to scrape feces after defecating.  The stick was smooth and slightly rounded, and was used to remove large pieces of feces before the monks rinsed themselves with water.
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Islamic Precepts for Worshippers
Buddhism is not the only religion that has strict rules about personal hygiene.  Worshippers of Islam had similarly stringent requirements for cleanliness.  The Qur’an is adamant about personal hygiene, which is why it is not surprising that Muslims also had very specific rules when it came to cleansing after defecation.  Abu Hureyrah, companion to the prophet Muhammad, narrated many edicts to the followers of Islam; cleansing after defecation included, between 590 and Muhammad’s death in 632 C.E.  “When any one of you goes to the Gha’it (toilet to defecate), let him take with him three stones and clean himself with them, for that will suffice him.”[6] He also stated, “I never saw the Messenger of Allah come out of the toilet without first (cleansing himself) with water.”[7]

Rules, based on the narrations of Abu Hureyah, are outlined in Qadaa’ Al Haajah.  A redacted set of these rules is itemized below.

  1. When entering the toilet, one should say the A’udhu (isti’adha) and Basmala and then recite a prayer.
  2. When entering the toilet, one should not have in one’s hand anything on which the name of Allahu ta’ala or any verse of the Qur’an al-karim is written.
  3. One should enter the toilet with one’s left foot and exit with one’s right foot.
  4. One should recite the prayer “Alhamdu-lil-laa-hil-la-dhi adh-haba ‘a-nil a-dhaa wa ‘a-faa-ni” when exiting the toilet.
  5. After cleaning one’s private parts, one should cover them immediately.
  6. One should neither face the Qibla nor turn one’s back toward it while urinating or defecating.
  7. One should remove the feces on one’s anus with one’s finger and wash one’s hand. If there are still traces of filth, one should wash them with water.
  8. One should dry one’s private parts with a cloth after washing them.
  9. One should not look at one’s private parts or spit into the toilet.
  10. One must not urinate into any water, on a wall of a mosque, in a cemetery, or on a road.
  11. Cleaning the private parts with stones and similar materials is an acceptable substitute for cleaning them with water.[8]

One will note that the process of cleaning oneself after defecating is specifically addressed.  The utilization of one’s own hand appears to be the preferred method, followed by rinsing and washing the hand.

Japanese wiping sticks. This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at // under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.

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The Japanese, like the Indian Buddhists, used sticks to clean themselves after defecating.  Flat, rounded sticks, called chu-gi, were uncovered in ancient cisterns dating as far back as 750 in the ancient Japanese capital of Nara.  During what is called the Nara Period, between 710 and 784, the capital had 10-15cm trenches dug and water diverted through them, making a drainage system.  Citizens would squat over these trenches, with a foot on each bank of the trench to urinate and defecate; the waste being washed away from the city.  The dirty sticks would be washed in the running water, and retained for future use, or dropped in the trench for disposal.[9]
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Western Europe
In Western Europe, materials available for sanitation varied based on your wealth and social standing.  It is conjectured that rags were used throughout Europe and were the most common materials used for anal cleansing.  Ronald H. Blumer states his work entitled Wiped:  The Curious History of Toilet Paper that clothing too threadbare to be worn would be utilized for anal cleansing repeatedly until it was no longer fit for that purpose as well.[10]  Archeological digs under monasteries in Europe have found remnants of the tattered, holey rags used by monks and nuns for toilet purposes.  Finer wools and linens worn by the elite were used for their sanitary needs once they were no longer suitable to be worn as clothing.

Not everyone used rags, however.  In the household records of Duc de Berry in 1400, for example, there is reference to quantities of flax and hemp being purchased in a raw, unspun state for the express purpose of anal cleansing.[11]  And though few household records like these have survived, literature has.  Toilet humor–also known as scatological humor–is not a wholly modern notion.  La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, written by François Rabelais between 1532 and 1564, was full of scatological humor.  Chapter 1.XIII, “How Gargantua’s wonderful understanding became known to his father Grangousier, by the invention of a torchecul or wipebreech” is a perfect example.  This chapter of the famous work is solely dedicated to the discussion of anal wiping:

“I have, answered Gargantua, by a long and curious experience, found out a means to wipe my bum, the most lordly, the most excellent, and the most convenient that was ever seen.  What is that? said Grangousier, how is it?  I will tell you by-and-by, said Gargantua.  Once I did wipe me with a gentle-woman’s velvet mask, and found it to be good; for the softness of the silk was very voluptuous and pleasant to my fundament.  Another time with one of their hoods, and in like manner that was comfortable.  At another time with a lady’s neckerchief, and after that I wiped me with some ear-pieces of hers made of crimson satin, but there was such a number of golden spangles in them (turdy round things, a pox take them) that they fetched away all the skin of my tail with a vengeance.  Now I wish St. Antony’s fire burn the bum-gut of the goldsmith that made them, and of her that wore them!  This hurt I cured by wiping myself with a page’s cap, garnished with a feather in the Switzers’ fashion.

“Afterwards, in dunging behind a bush, I found a March-cat, and with it I wiped my breech, but her claws were so sharp that they scratched and exulcerated all my perinee.  Of this I recovered the next morning thereafter, by wiping myself with my mother’s gloves, of a most excellent perfume and scent of the Arabian Benin.  After that I wiped me with sage, with fennel, with anet, with marjoram, with roses, with goud-leaves, with beets, with colewort, with leaves of the vine tree, with mallows, wool-blade, which is a tail-scarlet, with lettuce and with spinach leaves.”[12]

By the end of his diatribe, there is seemingly nothing that the young man won’t use.  In fact, when he comes to wiping with paper, he has this to say, “Who his foul tail with paper wipes, Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.”[13]

Though a humorous work of fiction, it does provide insight to what might have been used for anal cleansing.  The author is clearly utilizing the absurd in the name of his art, but it is not unreasonable to take grains of truth from the document.  It is quite likely that leaves, moss, straw, discarded pieces of clothing, etc. would have been utilized by all walks of life depending upon their region and the materials available to them.

It is suggested in numerous works on the subject that leaves, moss, shells, and the like would have been used for cleaning after defecation, though none of these works have been able to provide evidence to support their assertions.  It is not unreasonable, however, to make such a conjecture.  A soft leaf, unspun wool, and straw would have proved to be useful if no other means of cleansing were available.
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While their Western counterparts were using leaves, rags, or sponges soaked in saltwater, and other areas of Asia were using sticks to clean their anuses, the Chinese were manufacturing paper to address their sanitary needs.  There is little written on the invention, manufacture, and use of the predecessor to the modern toilet paper, but there is mention of paper being used in the eliminatory process as far back as the first century.  Joseph Needham, in his collection of works entitled The Science and Civilisation of China, cited that the Chinese used paper made from rice straw for sanitary purposes.  Chinese scholar Yan Zhitu stated in 589 that “paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.”  Additionally, an Arab explorer during the Tang Dynasty, is noted as having stated “They [the Chinese] are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water after they have done their necessities, but they only wipe themselves with paper” in his memoirs detailing his travels to China.[14]

The Chinese eventually began manufacturing a specific type of paper to use after defecation, known as tshao chih.  According to Chinese records maintained by the Imperial Bureau of Supplies, over 720,000 sheets of tshao chih were manufactured in 1393 alone.   The imperial family, however, received “…15,000 sheets, three inches square, light yellow, thick but soft, and perfumed.”[15]  In fact, the use of tshao chih was so prevalent, Zhejiang Province (aka Chekiang Province) alone used ten million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets in 1393 for its population of 2,138,225.[16]

Until the 19th century, paper was made exclusively by hand, and therefore, was more expensive to procure.  It would have been more cost effective to use materials that were readily available, such as leaves and old rags instead of paper.  As paper became easier and less expensive to manufacture, its use for cleansing after defecating became more common and eventually took its place as the preferred method for cleaning in most parts of the known world.  Today it is estimated that modern Americans use approximately 100 rolls of toilet paper per year.  With nearly 390,000,000 people in the US, Americans use 39,000,000,000 rolls of toilet paper each year.
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Bennett, Howard. “EVER WONDERED about the history of toilet paper?” The Washington Post (2009): 1-2.  Accessed 10/27/2014.

Bhikkhu, Thannissaro, ed.,  The Buddhist Monastic Code II. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, 2001.

Blumer, Ronald, H. Wiped:  The Curious History of Toilet Paper.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2nd edition, 2013

Chavez, Amy “From the ditches of nara to the Otohime, a lav story” The Japan Times (2014): Accessed 12/27/2015

Dunstan, William E. Ancient Rome. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011.

Guanglin Liu, William. The Chinese Market Economy, 1000-1500.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press (2015).

My Religion Islamic. “Islamic Toilet Etiquette” (2015):  Accessed 12/28/2015

Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 5, Part 1:  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1954.

Rabelais, Francois; Translation by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty. Gargantua et de Pantagruel: 1653

Schofield, Hugh. “Filthy secrets of medieval toilets” BBC News (2003):  Accessed 10/27/2014

Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. “Moral letters to Lucilius” Letter 70 :  Accessed 02/15/2016

“The Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad at Your Fingertips”: Accessed 02/15/2016

“Islamic Toilet Etiquette“: Accessed 02/15/2016
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[1] Dunstan, William E. Ancient Rome, pg 359.

[2] “Moral letters to Lucilius/Letter 70”

[3] Dunstan, 359

[4]Bhikkhu, Thannissaro, ed.,  The Buddhist Monastic Code II, pg. 108

[5] Ibid, pg. 107.

[6] Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 44 

[7] Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 354

[8] “Islamic Toilet Etiquette“ 

[9] Chavez, Amy “From the ditches of Nara to the Otohime, a lav story” The Japan Times

[10] Blumer, Ronald, H. Wiped:  The Curious History of Toilet Paper

[11] Ibid

[12] Rabelais, Francois, La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel Chapter 1.XIII

[13] Ibid, pg 78.

[14] Needham, Joseph Science and Civilisation in China, Vol. 5, Part 1

[15] Needham, 123

[16] Guanglin Liu, William The Chinese Market Economy, 1000-1500, p 13 Appendix A
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Filed under: A&S Research Papers, Arts and Sciences Tagged: a&s, Arts and Sciences

Pennsic Choir Registration

East Kingdom Gazette - Tue, 2016-03-01 08:30

The following article appeared in the The Æthelmearc Gazette yesterday and is reposted with their permission.  Our thanks to them for sharing this wonderful article.

Greetings, choral singers!

Lady Tangwystl verch Gruffydd of the Barony of Northwoods in the Middle Kingdom has graciously volunteered to serve as Director of a Known World Choir at the upcoming SCA 50 Year Celebration event in June!

If you are interested in participating in the KWC performance at this event, please join the group Known World Choir at 50 Year Celebration for updates and information. You can also get updates on the Known World Choir website.

Please also follow this link to fill out a short registration form.

The earlier you register, the better the Director will be able to plan for the 50 Year setlist and the performance itself. You can change/adjust answers later if needed, so please don’t hesitate to sign up today!

Additionally, those who register by March 22nd* will have an opportunity to suggest pieces for our 50 Year Celebration performance.

*Registration will continue after March 22nd, but after that point setlist will be finalized.

Filed under: Announcements, Arts and Sciences, Pennsic Tagged: choir, Music, singing

Event and Court Report: The College of Three Ravens

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-02-29 20:06

photo by Tiercelin

The Barony of Thescorre’s 38th College of Three Ravens opened on February 20th, with a well-attended series of classes on everything from underwear to death.

Though snow covered the ground a few inches deep, the sun was out and the day was warm. The site opened at 9am, and classes began at 10am, and ended at 4pm. About 150 attended the event, run by Lady Elen Woderose.

A delicious sideboard was cooked by Lady Marguerite de Neufschasteau and the Thescorre Cooks’ Guild, and included stuffed breads, vegetable soup, fruit, eggs and fresh farm cheeses. At the end of the day, many of the attendees sat down to a wonderful dinner planned by Lord Padraig na Féasóige Ua Céileachair, based on period Spanish cuisine.

Mistress Antoinette and a classroom of happy gilders.

For those interested in scribal activities, classes on quill making, gilding, vellum, and several on manuscripts were not to miss.

Clothing enthusiasts could learn about something regardless of their level, from T-tunics to the Greenland Gown, hats to Elizabethan undergarments.

Classes on death, both during and after, filled the schedule with The Honorable Lady Beatrice de Winter’s Bling Out Your Dead class and another on the multiple interments of Richard III, as well as Baron Master Fridrikr’s Draugar class about Norse zombies.

Brewing and Period Foods, Asian Medicine and Samurai Cooking, Cheese and Irish Food kept people’s appetites up, and Fencing, Belly Dance, Equestrian, and European Dance kept people moving.

Elska and Mistress Matilda measure ingredients

There were several classes to engage children in the afternoon, including a roundtable on Service in the SCA for Kids, hosted by Lady Elisabetta de Venetia who grew up doing service, Tudor Soap Balls with Elska and Simon Fjarfell, and Sweet Scents Perfume, also taught by Lady Elisabetta, joined by Mistress Francesca della Rovere. The kids got very messy (and yet also clean) kneading soap and herbs, learned how to make themselves smell nice, and enjoyed every moment.


photo by Tiercelin

One of the highlights of the event was a presentation on Falconry by Lady Marguerite de Neufschasteau, whose teacher brought two beautiful birds to show off: a Falcon and a Cooper’s Hawk.

Falcon and falconer

Her Majesty Etain began the court by inviting the children attending the event to take bags of activities to the back of the hall.

She then invited Baroness Sadira to open her court.

Baroness Sadira asked all those for whom it was their first event to come up and be seen.

She then inducted Lady Elisabetta de Venetia into the Order of the Broche for her art and teaching, and gave her a scroll from a past event.

Her Excellency gave Raven’s Eggs to her “brute squad” for always being dependable and helpful to her.

She then gifted Mistress Alison of the Many Isles with a travel-sized camel, for her willingness to help tote things hither and yon.

The Kingdom Court Report can be found below, but certainly a highlight was the induction of Lady Elisabetta de Venetia, who taught two classes during the day and helped out wherever she could, into the Order of the Keystone. She was brought to tears when her Pelican, Mistress Ekaterina Volkova, gifted her with the keystone of her Pelican, Duke Morguhn Sheridan.

Of the event, Lady Elen said: “We had a good time this year. We had plenty of teachers and plenty of students, and for a schola, that’s what counts, isn’t it? The pleasant weather was a bonus.”

Official Court Report

Documented from the Scrolls of the Reign of Magnus Tindal and Etain II, basileos kai basilissa Æthelmearc: the Business of The Empress’s Court at The College of 3 Ravens, 20 February Anno Societatis L, in the Barony of Thescorre, accompanied by Her Excellency Sadira, Baroness of Thescorre. As recorded by THL Sophie Davenport, Seedling Pursuivant, with the assistance of Baroness Helena al-Zar’qa, Fleur d’Æthelmearc Herald.

The Empress called forth Cecelia Vogelsankino and presented a Sigil to her for all of her help in caring for the Royal children during Their reign. She then called forth the children present and sent them with Cecelia and bags of goodies to keep them occupied during the proceedings.

The Empress then gave Her Excellency leave to conduct her business.

The Empress called for Perote Campbell and presented him with a Sigil. She then recognized Baroness Marianna Pietro Santi in absentia with a Sigil.

The Empress called for Lord Howard Bowman and presented him with a Cornelian for his courtesy and helpfulness with the MoL at recent events. Scroll is a work in progress by Baroness Ekaterina Volkova .

The Empress called for Raibert Wright and presented him with a Cornelian for his courtesy and any years of cheerful training of new fighters. Scroll by Lady Mairghread Stiobhard inghean ui Choinne.

The Empress called for Gabriel the Cheater and Awarded him Arms for being a valuable fighting asset and his willingness to help where needed. Scroll is a work in progress by Lady Arselan Egesig.

The Empress next called for Guillermo de la Cruz and Awarded him Arms for his very helpful nature and conducting himself in a most noble manner. Scroll by Lady Genevote Nau d’Anjou .

The Empress then called for Simon Peregrine. His lovely daughter came forth and explained he was not present. It was then explained that while he has been with us only a short time, he has made quite an impression in Thescorre by becoming the Baronial Archery Champion and is a Marshall in training and thus was inducted into the Order of the Golden Alce. The scrolls are by Lady Vivienne of Yardley and Baroness Juliana Rosalia Dolce di Siena and Tiarna Ard Padraig O Branduibh.

Jared of Thescorre

The Empress next called for Lord Jared of Thescorre and told him how impressed she is with his thrown weapons training and winning the Thescorre Thrown Weapons championship. She then inducted him into the order of the Golden Alce. The scroll is a work in progress by Juliana Rosalia Dolce di Siena and Tiarna Ard Padraig O Branduibh.

The Empress then called forth Lady Elisabetta de Venetia and spoke to her about her unending service, from retaining to serving feast, set up and tear down of events. She was reminded to pay heed to her Pelican and take time to enjoy events once in a while. The Empress then inducted Elisabetta into the Order of the Keystone and her Pelican, Baroness Ekaterina Volkova bestowed her with the ancestral medallion of the household belonging to His Grace Morghunn. The scroll is by Duchess Branwyn ferch Gwythyr.

The Empress announced that Nicholas the Bastard was Granted Arms and inducted into the Order of the Gage at the Valentine’s Day Muster, on February 14, in the Barony Marche of the Debatable Lands. Words by THL Sophie Davenport.

The Empress next wished to see Lady Mairghread Stiobhard inghean ui Choinne and spoke of the beautiful artwork she produces and gives away in the form of award scrolls. She was so impressed that she Granted Mairghread Arms and inducted her in the Order of the Fleur d’AEthelmearc. Mistress Gillian Llewylen of Ravenspur presented her with a medallion and the scroll is a work in progress by Master Jon Blaecstan.

Lady Marguerite de Neufschasteau, who created the dayboard, was gifted with Her Majesty’s token of Inspiration.

That being all of Her business, the court of the Empress was closed.

(all photos not otherwise credited are from Master Fridrikr)

~ Reported by Duchess Branwen ferch Gwythyr


Categories: SCA news sites

Known World Choir at SCA 50 Year

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-02-29 14:07

Greetings, choral singers!

Lady Tangwystl verch Gruffydd of the Barony of Northwoods in the Middle Kingdom has graciously volunteered to serve as Director of a Known World Choir at the upcoming SCA 50 Year Celebration event in June!

If you are interested in participating in the KWC performance at this event, please join the group Known World Choir at 50 Year Celebration for updates and information. You can also get updates on the Known World Choir website.

Please also follow this link to fill out a short registration form.

The earlier you register, the better the Director will be able to plan for the 50 Year setlist and the performance itself. You can change/adjust answers later if needed, so please don’t hesitate to sign up today!

Additionally, those who register by March 22nd* will have an opportunity to suggest pieces for our 50 Year Celebration performance.

*Registration will continue after March 22nd, but after that point setlist will be finalized.

Categories: SCA news sites

Stick a Cork in It!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-02-29 00:06

(A practical discussion of modern bottling methods for the SCAdian brewer)
by Lord Wolfgang Starcke, Guild Master AE Brewers Guild
based on a presentation at the College of Three Ravens

Over the course of my time in the SCA I have seen and heard many horror stories about exploding bottles, popped corks, leaking bottles and other messy problems from gifted bottles or competitions. As modern brewers we share the challenges of transporting fermented beverages with our historical counterparts. The basic problems that need to be overcome are:

• Air must be kept out of the vessel to prevent oxidation.
• The vessel must be strong enough not to easily break, without being so heavy that it cannot be easily moved
• In many cases, the vessel needs to be opened and then resealed.

To be blunt, unless you are talking about a very late period beverage, any form of glass bottle is really not appropriate. The ‘modern’ glass bottle is widely considered to have been invented by Sir Kenelm Digby and was not in general use for the storage or transport of alcohol until well into the 17th century.

Various forms of clay, pottery, earthenware and stoneware jugs and bottles in many sizes and shapes were used throughout our period and beyond. All containers of this type were at least slightly porous and if they were meant for storage or transport they had to be lined with some form of wax or resin or glazed.

Storing fermented beverages in wooden barrels was/is common across all of Northern Europe until well into modern times. Generally the wood was untreated and the barrel would impart different flavors to the alcohol over time. Various woods were used with oak becoming the preferred material by the 17th century or so but many others were used.

Tudor costrel (leather flask) from the Ashmolean Museum.

Leather is typically fairly porous and does not insulate well, so without treatment of some sort it makes a poor container for wine. The Spanish ‘bota bag’ and other equivalents were made by lining an outer leather skin with an animal bladder and then coating the outside with pitch. A spout of horn or bone completes the assembly. Various forms of this have been found and dated back to ancient Mesopotamia.

Most beverages would have been transported and served “still”. Carbonated beer in bottles can be documented to at least the 1500s but was not the general practice. A form of sparkling wine can likewise be documented but the reinforced glass ‘champagne’ style bottles are again a 17th century invention.

So with all these containers, the question remains of how do you keep it closed? The short answer is, any way you can! Surviving examples of stoppers made from wood, clay, grass/straw, rags and cork have all been found. The stopper would then be sealed over with wax, resin, lead or even clay. Although cork was used as a stopper (especially for barrels) as early as the Roman Empire, the ‘modern’ cork as we know it was not in regular use until the 17th century.

Although the ‘flip top’ or ‘grolsch’ cap is very popular with SCA brewers it is a purely modern invention. They first appeared in the mid-1800s.

Bottling as a “Medievalish Brewer” 
(or what does this all mean to me?)

First, I am a brewer not a glassblower or potter. As both head of the Æthelmearc Brewers Guild and an occasional judge in competitions, I do not believe in judging brewers on how pretty or period their bottling is. That said, there is no excuse for entering an unsafe or improperly bottled beverage in a competition.

So what are we trying to accomplish with our bottling?
For the purpose of discussion, I’ve broken down the possibilities into four main categories:

• Storage: we want the beverage to be able to age appropriately without oxidation
• Transport: it has to survive transport to the event without breakage or leaking
• Serving: it needs to be able to be opened and served reasonably
• Presentation: at a minimum it needs to inform the recipient of who made it, when it was made and what is in it.

I am a minimalist when it comes to labels, I often have cases stored with nothing more than a note card stuck in with them. However, when it comes to competition or gifting the bottle should be individually labeled. As a bartender I will not serve something without knowing who made it and ideally, when.

Bottle Selection
There are entire books on what style of bottle and color of glass is best suited to a particular wine, read them if you care! I’ve never noticed any great difference between the shape or color of modern bottles if they are being properly stored. What does matter is that the bottle is structurally sound, clean and that you are using it for the intended purpose. Champagne bottles and several styles of cider/beer bottles are designed to take higher pressures than normal. In general, beer bottles will take higher pressures than wine bottles.

Corks & Stoppering
Beer Caps and Screw tops are both options especially for smaller bottles, with these it is important to use new tops and make sure they are free of damage or defects.

Swing tops are convenient and reusable, but you have to watch for damage to the ceramic top and the gasket will eventually wear out.

Champagne cages & corks: Any beverage you expect to actively ferment in the bottle needs a proper cork & cage to contain the pressure. (As well as the proper bottle, otherwise you have made a grenade!)

Corks and artificial corks can both be used, the key is to use the right size and style for the bottle you are using them with. Natural cork must be checked for condition and soaked before using.

Did I mention size? There are a lot of different sized corks out there, especially when using randomly sourced bottles you need to make sure the cork is the right size. As a hint, if you can get the cork into the bottle without a corker, it is too small!

A lot of brewers like to wax over their corks to improve the seal and prevent oxidation as well as for appearance. While this is fine, there are a couple of things to consider when using wax. Firstly, wax is NOT a substitute for using the proper cork or cap in the first place! Wax will not adequately compensate for gaps due to a small or damaged cork, nor will it hold against pressure. Secondly, all wax is not created equal.

• Beeswax & paraffin are both very soft with low melting points and can just rub off
• “Candle” wax is slightly better but can still be easily damaged
• Cheese or ‘sealing’ wax is the best bet as it will withstand casual abuse.

Hopefully this will help as you bottle for the summer festivals and competitions ahead!

The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby (html version on Project Gutenberg)

The Brewers Guild can be found here or on Facebook here.

Categories: SCA news sites