REMINDER: Our King and Queen, Tindal and Etain, invite all youth fighters of Æthelmearc to present themselves at Crown Tournament tomorrow morning in the Shire of Misty Highlands, there to contend for the Kingdom Youth Combat Championship!
Youth fighters should plan to be in armor and ready for inspection between 9:00 and 9:30 am. Youth fighters who need to authorize should be ready at 9:00 am. The Youth Combat Champion’s Tournament will begin at 10:00 am and end at 11:00 am.
The championship will be decided by a bear-pit tournament to allow youth fighters to get plenty of bouts in. Their Majesties will choose up to three champions, one for each age division, depending on the number of youth fighters competing in each division. The champion(s) will be the youth fighters who most impress Their Majesties with their chivalry, courtesy, and prowess, regardless of points earned in the tournament.
There will be *limited* amounts of loaner equipment available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more information see the Crown Tourney event page on the Kingdom website.
A morning Court will be held this Saturday, October 17, at King and Queen’s Rapier Championship, in New Bedford, the Barony of Smoking Rocks.
The Eastern Crown Herald has reported that the plan is to hold the court as close to 10:30 am as possible.
Filed under: Announcements, Rapier Tagged: court
An excavation to recover a Mark 1A Spitfire which crashed in the Cambridgeshire Fens during a training flight on November 22, 1940, was suspended when a fragment of human skeletal remains was found. The excavation began on Monday and was slated to last a week. Permission was only granted because the pilot’s remains were believed to have been recovered in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Before excavation can continue, the coroner must examine the remains and give the all clear.
Spitfire X4593 of the 266 Rhodesian Squadron Royal Air Force piloted by Harold Edwin Penketh was flying with other Spitfires over the fens when he suddenly broke formation and entered a precipitous dive. According to witnesses, the plane seemed to make a partial recover at around 2,000 feet above the surface, but it quickly turned back into the dive and crashed, hitting the ground at 300 miles per hour with its nose down and tail up. Pilot Officer Penketh was unable to deploy his parachute in time and was killed. He was 20 years old. A later investigation in the wake of the disaster determined that the cause was a physical failure of the airplane, possibly of the oxygen system. The RAF sent a recovery team who worked for a week to find Penketh’s body in the wreckage. The pilot’s remains were sent to his home in Brighton.
The exact location of the crash was lost over the years. It was rediscovered this August when archaeologists from Cranfield University Forensic Institute did a geophysical survey of the area. The Spitfire crashed in Holme Lode in the Great Fen, a waterlogged, peaty environment ideal for the preservation of organic materials. When it hit the ground it created a large crater that immediately began to fill with the water, so the unique preservative powers of peat were at work from the very beginning.
With the fenland water table rising and this year being the 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain (July 10th – October 31st, 1940), archaeologists were keen to recover whatever they could from the Spitfire as quickly as possible. Excavation began on Monday, October 5th, led by Oxford Archaeology East with the help of volunteers from the Great Fen Archaeology Group and from the Defence Archaeology Group, an exceptional initiative that teaches injured servicemen new professional skills in field archaeology. The volunteers used metal detectors around the crash site to locate any debris that may have been scattered in the crash. Every find was flagged and scanned so that a complete 3D model of the site can be made which will allow experts to better understand the angle and impact of the crash. The team hoped to recover key parts of the plane, like the its Rolls Royce Merlin engine, its armaments, that would add more information to the greater picture.
The peat was stripped in spits and on the second day the team uncovered the impact crater just over two feet under the surface. By the end of the day they had recovered some engine wiring, a piece of the fuel tank and the pilot’s headrest. On the third day they found ammunition, two more pieces of the fuel tank, part of the engine starter motor, the cover for the pilot’s headrest and part of the cockpit which was deliberately broken open by the RAF team who recovered P/O Penketh’s body. On day four they found the rest of the engine starter motor, one of the Spitfire’s lights, the pilot’s leather helmet in very good condition and the fragment of bone that immediately stopped all work.
The coroner has now given the go-ahead to continue excavation. Friday will be the last day of the dig.
The Oxford Archaeology Flickr page has a wonderful collection of photographs of the dig arranged in albums, one for each day of the excavation. You can also read a daily roundup of discoveries on the Oxford Archaeology website. A selection of finds will be on display at Holmewood Hall on Saturday, October 17th, and the dig is being filmed by the BBC for a program that will first air on November 8th, Remembrance Sunday.
Last month’s discovery of a hoard with a name scratched in the pot in Bulgaria was a first for me, but that’s just because I didn’t know about the hoard of Republican Roman silver denarii discovered in the 1960s in the archaeological site of Cosa, near modern-day Ansedonia in southern Tuscany.
Cosa was a Latin colonia founded in 273 B.C. on a hill overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a small town of about 13 hectares enclosed by a wall built out of massive polygonal limestone blocks between 273 and 264 B.C. The wall was studded with 18 square towers and three gates which opened onto the main streets of the city. Cosa was designed on an octagonal grid system modified to accommodate the rollercoaster topography of the town: two peaks with a valley between. An arx (citadel) was built on the highest peak inside the walls. This was the religious zone whose most ancient temple was the Auguraculum where auspices were taken. Two other temples were built in the 3rd and 2nd centuries, dedicated to Jupiter and Mater Matuta. The temple of Jupiter was replaced in the second quarter of the 2nd century with the Capitolium, a temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, Minerva) modeled after the one in Rome.
From the Capitolium a broad street leads straight to the civic center of the town, a long rectangular piazza accessed by a monumental arch built around 170 B.C. and flanked on three sides by porticoes and surrounded by water channels. This is where you find Cosa’s main public buildings: the forum, the Comitium Curiae where the popular assembly met to vote, pass laws and hold court, the carcer or public prison, the Forum Piscarium where cisterns were built to hold fish for the city’s market. From 197 to 150 B.C., the forum saw a burst of development with the addition of eight commercial atria with shopfronts opening on the piazza, central pool and side rooms. A colonnaded basilica for judiciary use was also built during this period, as was a small temple possibly dedicated to Concordia.
The northwest sector of the city was the residential neighborhood. In the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C., most of the houses were a standard size — one block each — with living space on a second storey and modest garden space behind, both floors surrounding a central atrium. About 20 of the 248 private homes were double the size. They were reserved for the decurions, the city senators. In the early 1st century A.D., larger, more luxurious homes were built next to the forum. They are characterized by fine mosaic floors and frescoed walls and an extensive garden. The house of Quintus Fulvius is one of these luxury homes.
Cosa was sacked around 70 B.C., possibly by Tyrrhenian pirates like the ones turned into dolphins by Dionysus when they tried to kidnap him. The town was rebuilt under Augustus Caesar and was occupied at least until the 3rd century. By the early 5th century, it was in ruins. Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, a poet of the late imperial era, mentioned it in the elegiac poem De Reditu Suo documenting his sea voyage home to Gaul from Rome in 416 A.D.:
Then we descry, all unguarded now, desolate Cosa’s ancient ruins and unsightly walls. ‘Tis with a qualm that I adduce mid serious things the comic reason for its downfall; but I am loath to suppress a laugh. The story runs that once upon a time the townsfolk were forced to migrate and left their homes behind because rats infested them! I’d sooner believe in losses suffered by the Pygmies’ infantry and in cranes leagued solemnly to fight their wars.
There is archaeological evidence — pottery, post-imperial construction — of a very reduced human presence in Cosa even after the urban legendary plague of rats, but even that stops by the 7th century at the latest.
The American Academy in Rome began excavating the ruins in 1948, reaching the larger homes in the mid-1960s. The domus had been partially reconstructed in the 1st century B.C. and two pottery fragments from that period were found with “Q. FVL.” inscribed on them, leading archaeologists to hypothesize that the owner of the pottery and the house it was found in was one Quintus Fulvius. The house became known as the House of the Treasure because the excavation unearthed a pot filled with 2,004 silver denarii from the Roman Republic buried in the pantry next to the kitchen.
The oldest coins in the hoard date to the end of the 2nd century B.C., but most of them date to the first third of the 1st century B.C. with the newest ones from 74-72 B.C. They’re in exceptional condition, almost uncirculated, so they must have been buried soon after they were struck. That suggests they went into the ground around 70 B.C., a key date for the town of Cosa. It seems Quintus was stashing his savings to keep them out of pirate hands before fleeing the city, only he never returned to dig them back up.
The amount of money was significant, but still relatively small potatoes compared to the vast sums that passed through the hands of Rome’s richest citizens. Cornelius Nepos reports that the wealthy but frugal Roman banker Titus Pomponius Atticus (110 – 32 B.C.), a close friend of Cicero’s, spent 187.5 denarii a day to keep his household running. A Roman legionary in the late Republic made 120 denarii. A family of four would spend 90 denarii a year on food. A hundred years later in Pompeii just before the eruption a slave cost 625 denarii and a kilo of bread cost 1/8 of a denarius. Savings clearly went a lot further in Cosa than in the big city.
The American Academy in Rome collaborated with the Superintendency for Archaeological Heritage of Tuscany to build an archaeological museum on the site in 1981. The Archaeological Museum of Cosa exhibits the most significant finds excavated from the public buildings, private homes, the port and the necropolis outside the city walls, but until September 20th of this year, the coin hoard was never put on display. It’s a security issue. This handsome masonry structure that could pass for a domus if you squint at it suits its ancient setting very well, but there’s no budget here for impenetrable glass cases, high tech security systems and 24 hour guards. Quintus’ kept his money safe for 2,000 years by burying it in the pantry; the museum is not about to break that streak and hand over his treasure to modern pirates. It does plan to create replicas, however, that will be exhibited alongside the model of Quintus’ home just like the real coins were last month.
Excavations of the site picked up again in 2013 after a long hiatus, and this time digitization is a priority. An international archaeological team is not only documenting the dig and blogging about it with infectious enthusiasm, but they’ve also photographed the entire museum collection and laser scanned a selection of artifacts to create 3D virtual models of them. They’ve also created an ambitious 3D virtual site tour so that people from all over the world can be super jealous of their fascinating work in paradisiacal surroundings.
By Maestro Filipo De Sancto Martino aka That Guy Phil
Secluded in the woods on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, in the jewel of Æthelmearc known as the Shire of Heronter, I mixed a jug of Manhattans by candlelight some ten feet from where a great friend sat vigil. It’s Harvest Raid, baby. It’s an afternoon, two nights, a day, a huge feast, and a wake up at one of Æthelmearc’s premier events. It’s an exclusive SCA getaway. Your social directors out-do themselves every year by cramming as much fighting, fencing, thrown weapons, archery, entertainment, food, drink, and socializing into every minute in a rustic camp cut out of thick wood on the shore of a beautiful lake. For a SCAdian it doesn’t get any better than this outside of Cooper’s Lake. Frankly, if Cooper’s Lake had a VIP campsite secluded from the rest of Pennsic with the best scenery and facilities tailored to a discerning limited and lucky few; Harvest Raid would be that VIP site.
I digress, but that’s what I do.
My apologies for being late on this assignment. The lovely estates of the Casa De Martino and my beautiful family within were more appealing than writing. I did find myself engaged in the great works of the changing demands on one’s lands as the seasons change. So before some would fear that a man who once published thousands of pages be stymied by a short report, or that a man who laughed at people who mocked his ability to spell or use grammar correctly would now hide from the spotlight of a blog, I shall once again put medieval-sounding cliché to work and pound this out like a blacksmith striking a red hot ingot.
I digress, but that’s what I do.
This year was very special as it hosted the Coronation of Their Majesties, Tindal and Etain.
The last courts of Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle, which spanned from Friday night to Saturday morning, were very impressive and set the pace for the magic that was to make up the whole weekend. Friday night saw two separate courts.
The first took place in the dark of night in the illuminated Fencing Pavilion where Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle sent Baron Benedict Fergus atte Mede to vigil to contemplate elevation to the Order of Defense. The second court took place soon after on the stage of the Main Lodge where first Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle inducted Baron Tadhg Sotal Ó Néill into the Order of the Gage. His Knight, Duke Maynard Von dem Steine, and his Pelican, Duchess Líadain ní Dheirdre Chaomhánaigh, placed the medallion around his neck. Watching this was THL Ian Kennoven, who was retaining for Their Majesties. Was this a mere coincidence? I think not. Prepare for a classic ambush in court. To his surprise, and only his surprise, he was called before them and became even more surprised when the Order of the Chivalry was called forth to take him off to vigil. And yes, my friends, this was only Friday night. It was relatively early Friday night as much Vigil style activity, snacking, socializing, and cocktails prevailed. I did mention mixing Manhattans in a large glass jug.
A ten-thirty AM Saturday court meant a leisurely Harvest Raid breakfast. Yes, they serve breakfast. Coffee, oatmeal, French toast, and good company in the Main Hall made a good start for the day. It’s nice to settle into the day’s activities without being rushed. I hate running from troll to have to find a changing room and a place to stow the gear while I sip back the rest of my Tim Horton’s black coffee in its glaringly non-period coffee cup. I hate dashing about spilling coffee while saying quick hellos all the time knowing I’m making myself later than I want to be. No worries, mate. This is Harvest Raid. I have time to be social while chilling as if I were in some European bistro.
Court was awesome. TRM Timothy and Gabrielle gave some great people some well-deserved awards. Check out the court report when it comes out. It was grand. I’m not mentioning any names, but one guy’s head became so swollen with pride that his head no longer fit the Court Barony Coronet the King had made with his own hands. You have to be careful, some of these awards can go to your head. The elevations of now Master Benedict Fergus Atte Mede to the Order of the Master of Defense and that of now Sir Ian Kennoven truly portrayed the personalities of each man. They were well done and very inspiring.
During the court, the Oracles of Delftwood appeared to share great cryptic visions and to warn TRMs Timothy and Gabrielle that their time was running short. I believe there were promises of rivers of blood, locusts, and general old school natural disaster doom theory paradigms and such. It was very well written and performed.
The Oracles of Delftwood would appear a few more times as court progressed from the end of TRM Timothy and Gabrielle’s court and segue into the Coronation. The guards, retainers, seamstresses, and court personnel were thanked for their hard work during this reign and were released from duty. His Majesty then released His beautiful, gracious, and generous Queen Gabrielle from service. At as many Coronations as I have seen, this moment is always emotional for all involved.
The Heir, Sir Magnus Tindal, came forth to claim his right to the throne. His Majesty expressed great joy that the Prince would be succeeding him. Kingdom officers stepped forward to confirm Prince Tindal’s right of succession.
With that, King Timothy removed the crown from his own head and placed it upon Tindal making him the 37th King of Æhelmearc.
His Majesty Tindal then called for His Inspiration to join him.
Reclined regally upon a lectica, Princess Etain was carried into court surrounded by an ornate procession of oracles, warriors, retainers, Roman banners, and more. It was a spectacle to behold. The Roman presence was carried off so very well. It was a pleasure to see SCA theatrics merge with pomp and circumstance. Note to you readers out there, it is truly appreciated when people go that extra mile to bring the show to life. The newly established court took positions around the dais. Kingdom officers and the Peers of the Realm all came forward by Order to swear fealty. All the usual traditions and procedures were followed, officially launching the Reign of Magnus Tindal and Etain, Augustus and Augusta Æthelmearc.
Within moments of morning court ending, all SCAdians present launched themselves into the daily activities. Court chairs were pulled down quickly and list ropes soon replaced them. Industrious people of Æhelmearc hustled armor bags, bows, axes, and knives here and there heading towards their various places of play. I sipped on my drink and took in all the enthusiasm and building anticipation and delight in activities about to begin. I was inspired and went to lunch. Don’t judge me. I wasn’t the only one because that line for the sideboard was long. I had never seen the Main Hall that packed for lunch. Considering court had just let out as the food was hitting the tables, may have had something to do with that. Socializing may be the SCA’s greatest activity. The tabled bustled with “top notch” greetings and conversations. It was good to see people enjoying each other’s company. We are truly a social organization.
This day hosted the Kingdom Heavy Championship and another leg of the Æhelmearc 500. During Evening Court, Their Majesties called forth the top five finishers in the Heavy Weapons Championship. They named Duke Duncan Von Holstern the winner and new Kingdom Heavy Weapons Champion. Sir Byron has an excellent account of the tournament and finishes here.
The Æhelmearc 500 (aka AE500) is an ongoing bear pit series now running over a year. The bear pit goes on until one fighter has amassed fifty wins. All the points that each fighter achieved that day are tallied with previous scores from the previous AE500. Duke Maynard reached fifty points first that day and leads in the series’ total point score.
Harvest Raid is legendary for its huge feasts. Duke Cygnus set a bar that many still try to reach. This year’s “feast with out limits or bounds” was prepared by Margaret of Enniscorthy and her staff. There were many fine dishes and everyone walked away full. At one point we needed to bring people back to the tables exclaiming, “We know you are full and cannot eat another bite. You can’t imagine that more food would be coming, but we remind you, ’This is Harvest Raid.’” Some would say that her best dish of the night came out last and that was a sumptuous Goat Stew and some very nice Pork roast.
In the darkened candlelit hall there is magic. The tables are full, the smiles are broad and the stories and laughter flow as freely as the drink. Plate after plate of joy is passed around. I look at the head table and see the Crowns of Æthelmearc. It is all as it should be. There should always be Crowns at Harvest Raid. It just seems right. It’s a noble and legendary event. The children eat a little and then scamper off to play with their new friends. The raised hearth behind my head becomes a perch for small children. Gwendolyn the Graceful walks from table to tale entertaining each with a song. Lodthin Viccarsson and my wife Cordelia discuss each dish. Life is good.
A special treat came from Sir Ian Kennoven who presented to the Crowns of Æhelmearc with an exquisitely ornate and tasty treat. Upon a festively decorated table of fine ornate linens did Sir Ian present a hand made sugar tower filled with candied almonds and two small siege weapons. He invited His Majesty and His two awesome children forward to take turns shooting the mini ballista and catapult at the tower.
The crowd cheered and laughed over the amazing spectacle. When the walls came down, the children came forth and collected broken sugar walls and almonds in bare hands and ran to their family tables to show their spoils of war. It was truly a grand and generous gesture by one of Æhelmearc’s finest.
The children were a big part of the weekend. It was good to see the children playing together at their own games and at a few pre-planned activities. Harvest Raid is a beautiful site and it was great to see the kids playing hide and seek along the wooded paths by the chapel and playing by the lake. His Majesty and His children took time to launch homemade ships into the water. It was nice to see the children be children and enjoy the day. The children were called up during court to receive gift bags, which greatly occupied them. It was fantastic to look outside the hall windows to see the children sprawled upon the patio enjoying toys and treats from Their Majesties.
Harvest Raid is all about the woods, the lake, the Main Hall and the campsites. The Hall where people come together, the fields that hold great tournaments and the wooded paths that free the soul. It is so scenic and in so many ways so surreal. You find yourself so removed from everyday life that what you need to do thousands of miles away drift away like the smoke from campfires. There is something magical about walking from a camp down wooded paths to field with a cloak for warmth and a lantern for light. I have found great peace walking through areas where the moonlight is cut by thick spider webs of tree branches. With an ornate axe at my side and cold ale in my mug I find something lost now found enveloped with in this primordial atmosphere. I am so deep in the moment all worries are cast asunder. I hear the crackling of a bonfire in camp. The laughing and boasting of my friends cuts the cool air and echoes over the lake.
We have been fortunate to camp in the same cabins, in the same spot, for over a decade. Many of the faces have changed through that time. Life calls out to many in different ways and takes them in different directions. They are not forgotten as we tell their stories. We recall past Harvest Raids and share memories of tournaments, great feasts and greater friends. We tell of the boar hunts, and the running of the bulls. We talk about what had better games, the Plague Party or the Viking Party. It was fifteen years ago that my Knight, Duke Maynard was knighted by King Cygnus. We happily recalled his vigil, which included fighting bouts against all comers including the Black Knight who took no blows, vows of silence, and more. We remembered other vigils like that of Sir Tristan. Fifteen years ago I proposed to Cordelia, my beautiful wife and best friend. Many good things have happened in those woods by that lake. So many good times and good friends that it is a mandatory yearly pilgrimage for my family and me.
It’s Harvest Raid, baby, and it doesn’t get any better than this.
A rare original drawing of Tintin by Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi, better known as Hergé, has sold at auction in Hong Kong for $1.23 million. The India ink and gouache drawing depicts Tintin and his dog Snowy riding in a rickshaw on the streets of Shanghai while a police officer keeps a watchful eye on them. It’s the third of five single-page drawings included as color plates, the first color elements in a Tintin book, in the first edition of The Blue Lotus, published in 1936 by Casterman. The drawings from this original Casterman edition are highly prized by collectors because The Blue Lotus is considered the first masterpiece of the Hergé oeuvre. In fact, every other surviving original drawing from The Blue Lotus is in a museum; this is the only one in private hands.
It’s not a record for Tintin art. That was set in May of last year when a double page of Tintin and Snowy vignettes sold for $3,434,908. It’s not even runner-up. That title goes to the original cover art of Tintin in America which sold in 2012 for $1.6 million. It is arguably a more historically significant piece, however, because Hergé included actual historic events in The Blue Lotus that had happened only five years before the publication of the volume, and because of how thoroughly researched this story was compared to his earlier outings.
When Georges Remi first began drawing Tintin comics in 1929, they were serialized in a newspaper called Le Petit Vingtième (“The Little Twentieth”). It was the children’s supplement to Le Vingtième Siècle (“The Twentieth Century”), a conservative Catholic newspaper published in Brussels whose editor, Abbé Norbert Wallez, was an outspoken nationalist, fascist fan of Mussolini. He was so ultraconservative that in 1940 he supported a Belgian political party that embraced Nazi occupation with open arms and after the war was tried and convicted of collaboration. Wallez’ ideological positions are what drove the first three volumes of Tintin. He saw Le Petit Vingtième and Hergé’s dashing young reporter as propaganda tools to spread his anti-communist, colonialist and anti-consumerist message to the youth of Belgium.
Wallez told Hergé what to write starting with Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (spoiler: the Soviets are bad), published in serialized form in 1929 and 1930, and followed by Tintin in the Congo (spoiler: the Congolese need white Belgian daddies to take care of them like the childish simpletons they are), published in 1930 and 1931. For the Tintin’s third outing, Hergé got to pick his own setting — the United States — but Wallez insisted he treat the subject with the paper’s far-right agenda which at the time held American-style capitalism, consumerism and increasingly mechanized industry to be as dangerous to the Belgian way of life as Soviet collectivism. Hergé wanted to focus on Native Americans, depicting their exploitation and rejecting the violent savage stereotype while still managing to make them look like gullible marks. Wallez won the argument, and most of the volume is about Al Capone, gangsterism and the literal meat-grinder of American industry with just a subplot about a Blackfoot tribe getting tricked into trying to kill our hero.
All three of these stories are problematic, to put it mildly, with the last two still causing waves today because of the stereotypical depiction of indigenous peoples. Tintin in the Congo was recently subject to a lawsuit because of its painfully racist images of the Congolese, and Tintin in America caused an uproar in Canada just a few months ago.
The fourth book, Cigars of the Pharaoh wasn’t a single pre-planned story, but rather part of a long mystery adventure à la Agatha Christie serialized as The Adventures of Tintin, Reporter, in the Orient starting in December of 1932. It was divided into two books for publication by Casterman, Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus. While Hergé had done some research for Tintin in America — read an ethnographic compendium of Indian tribes, visited a museum, meticulously copied Blackfoot garments from period photographs — The Blue Lotus was a whole new kettle of fish.
Chinese characters had cameos in Soviets as torturers and in America as would-be Snowy eaters, and a certain Abbot Léon Gosset wanted to stop Hergé from resorting to the same ugly stereotypes in a story set in China. He was a chaplain at the Catholic University of Louvain who had Chinese students under his tutelage. Since the students were made to read Le Petit Vingtième in class, Gosset reached out to Hergé asking him to maybe meet an actual Chinese person and learn something before tackling the subject.
Hergé was game, and Gosset arranged for him to meet two of his students, one of whom, Zhang Chongren, introduced Hergé to the traditional Chinese art and calligraphy that would influence the Belgian artist for the rest of his life. Zhang contributed some of his own artwork to The Blue Lotus, and Hergé believed he was so important a contributor that he should share credit as co-author. (Casterman disagreed, obviously. Hergé snuck Zhang’s name in several panels on shop signs.) Hergé also contacted scholars of Chinese history, read books by contemporary Chinese authors and learned about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria from the Chinese perspective which would become a key plot point in The Blue Lotus.
The end-result was an indictment of European cluelessness about and interference in China and of the Japanese occupation. It infuriated the Japanese, who are depicted as the bucktoothed bullies that would become so familiar in American propaganda during World War II, nearly causing a diplomatic incident. The Chinese, on the other hand, accustomed to being the ones depicted as opium-addled brutes in Western fiction and media, loved it. Through his wife, Chiang Kai-shek invited Hergé to visit China as his guest in 1939, but the war made it in impossible.
This history is part of the reason the Paris auction house Artcurial chose the drawing from The Blue Lotus for its first Hong Kong sale, because it has a particular appeal to Chinese buyers.
By Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope
Many SCA members have scrolls that were given to them when they received awards from their Baron or Crown, or when they won a competition. But how much do you know about the work that went into making that scroll? It’s probably more time-consuming, costly, and complex than you think.
To give concrete examples, I will use the Master of Defense scroll I did for Maestro Orlando di Bene del Vinta last spring, with thanks to Maestro Orlando for giving his permission for the use of images of his scroll.
The first step is when a scribe receives an email from the Kingdom Signet offering him or her the scroll assignment. For confidentiality purposes, the Signet usually doesn’t tell the scribe who the award is for at first; she asks if the scribe is willing to take an assignment, and may give them a general category of assignments available. For example, not long ago I volunteered to take an assignment for a local event, and then was asked which of several awards I wanted to do. I was not given recipient names, just the types of awards – Fleur, Sycamore, Cornelian, etc. Scribes will sometimes ask the Signet to assign them scrolls for their special friends, or if the Signet knows about relationships the scribe has with recipients, they may get assigned those scrolls, but it’s just as common for the scribe to know nothing about the person for whom they’re crafting the scroll. Once the scribe accepts the assignment, they are provided with the recipient’s name, the award, the reason it’s being given, and any other details the Crown has provided or the Signet has available.
Experienced scribes who know multiple styles of illumination and calligraphy will usually try to match the scroll’s time and place to the recipient. This involves leafing through books or scouring websites for suitable manuscripts until the scribe finds the design that appeals to him or her and is best suited to the recipient. This can take several hours or even days; sometimes scribes will fall down a rabbit hole looking for the best fit, or just get caught up in the wonder of all the beautiful manuscripts out there.
Some scrolls, usually peerages or backlogs, may involve discussions with the recipient since the award isn’t a surprise once the award or a Writ is given. When I did the Knighthood scrolls for Sir Byron and Sir Ariella, I asked about their general preferences, sent them links to multiple manuscript pages that matched their requests, and let them choose the design they preferred. Some people still prefer to be surprised, of course, but I really prefer to make sure I’m doing something that the recipient will like. Negotiations with the recipient for these scrolls can take days or weeks.
The manuscript pages below are just three of the 16 options that I provided to then-Don Orlando for his consideration, based on his preference for 16th century Italian. He chose the third one, from the Rangoni Bentivoglio Book of Hours, which was created around 1505 in Bologna, Italy.
The next step is for the artist to gather the supplies and equipment needed to create the scroll. Depending on the level of award, the scribe’s finances, his or her relationship with the recipient, and other factors, the scribe could choose any of multiple media. Even assuming the scroll is the traditional paint on paper style (as opposed to wood or rock carving, embroidery, engraving, stained glass, or other less-typical media), the scribe needs to select whether to use watercolor paper, Pergamenata (a type of vegetable parchment that mimics vellum), or the much more expensive parchment made from goat, sheep, or calfskin. Some artists grind their own pigments while others use gouache from a tube (and many do both, depending on the scroll and their time constraints). The scribe might use gold paint or 24-karat gold leaf. Using the most expensive materials, a single scroll on vellum with gold leaf can cost the scribe as much as $100. Even for scribes using plain paper and paints, the investment in supplies can be substantial as a typical scribal toolbox contains $50 to $100 worth of paints and equipment. While scribes have sometimes received donations, most of the time they bear the entire cost of making the scroll.
For Maestro Orlando’s scroll, since it was not only a peerage scroll but also the second Master of Defense scroll to be given in Æthelmearc, I wanted it to be special, so I scoured the Internet and found some lovely goatskin parchment for only $40 through Guild Mirandola. I already had gold leaf, walnut hull ink, and period pigments, so I decided I would use only period materials for the scroll. The picture below shows just a few of the tools and supplies I used: gold leaf, a tumble-polished amethyst burnishing stone, period paints I had previously ground and stored in small plastic containers, brushes, pen holders and nibs, and a small bottle containing the walnut hull ink.
It took about 10 days for the parchment to arrive, and when it did, I was dismayed to receive it rolled in a tube. So I had to press it under layers of many books in a humid area for several days to get it to lie flat, then taped it to a heavy cardboard backing.
Now the scribe is ready to begin working on the design of the illumination. Different scribes have different ways of doing this. Some scribes will place a printout of the original inspiration page on a light table under the scroll paper and trace all or part of the design, while others will sketch freehand. Many will do some combination of the two. Sometimes, a scribe will not directly copy a single page from a manuscript but instead pull elements from multiple pages of the manuscript or even multiple manuscripts of the same style to create a completely new design. Even when a design is a close replica of its inspiration, it usually needs to be modified to incorporate things like order badges and recipients’ arms. Depending on the complexity of the design, and whether the scribe is tracing or drawing freehand, sketching can take anywhere from an hour or two to several days.
When I could finally begin sketching, I starting by ruling off the dimensions of the finished scroll since the parchment was an irregular size, and marking the major blocks of the design in pencil. Like most scribes, I always make sure the finished scroll fits in a standard sized frame to reduce framing costs for the recipient.
Then I could begin sketching all of the elements of the illumination. This took several days since I was sketching freehand. Also, I needed to adapt the design to incorporate the badge of the Order of Defense and the badge of the Kingdom, as well as Don Orlando’s arms. Here’s the final sketched version.
Once the sketch is complete, most artists will go over the pencil lines with ink. Some use modern tech pens while others may use very thin metal dip pens called “crowquills.” This cleans up the design and clarifies it for the artist. After the ink dries, the pencil lines are erased. Again, depending on the complexity of the design, inking can take a few minutes or a few hours.
Here’s Don Orlando’s scroll inked.
Most scribes calligraph (or write the words of the scroll) before painting the illumination. This is done in case a serious error or “typo” turns out to be unfixable, in which case if the artist has to start over, not too much time is lost. Minor errors can usually be fixed, but sometimes a really major issue can make the scroll irreparable. Calligraphic errors have, alas, existed from the start of the written word; medievals even had a “patron demon” of typos, named Titivillus! So, doing the calligraphy first ensures that serious errors don’t result in throwing away a completed painting.
Of course, before doing the calligraphy, the scribe must have a wording. In Æthelmearc we have a lot of leeway to write creative scroll texts, and there are guidelines available on the Kingdom Scribal website as to the required elements. Some scribes are good with writing texts, but others are more comfortable having someone else “wordsmith” the scroll text. That can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
The amount of time it takes to calligraph a scroll is highly variable, based not just on the length of the text but also the scribe’s familiarity with the hand. I always do a test run on tracing paper before putting pen to the real scroll, mostly to make sure the words will fit and fill the page in a pleasing way, and that the calligraphy is the right height proportional to the border. That means I do the entire text twice for every scroll. However, if the hand is one I’ve never done before, I might need a couple of days of practice to get it to the point where I’m confident I will do it well, and only then can I begin doing the test version. Before calligraphing, the scribe needs to either rule guidelines in pencil or place the scroll on a light table with guidelines behind it to ensure that the text is straight and the letter heights are consistent. After the calligraphy is dry, any penciled guidelines are erased. A typical scroll for which I already know the hand will take me one to two hours to calligraph, including the test run and then the actual scroll.
If the scroll is going to have real gold leaf on it, applying it must be the next step. Gold will stick to many paints, so you don’t want to paint the scroll until the gold is done. Gold leaf is attached to the page by painting an adhesive known as gesso, or size, to the areas to be gilded. The gesso is left to dry for at least an hour; more typically for several hours or a day, depending on the humidity. Humid weather can prevent gesso from drying at all, which can seriously delay the scribe; dry weather can prevent the gold from adhering to the gesso. I once had a peerage scroll whose gesso refused to dry for an entire week during an especially hot and sticky summer, and I had to resort to taking the scroll someplace where there was air conditioning! Once the gesso is set, the artist cuts the gold leaf to the size of each section of illumination, breathes on the gesso to rehydrate it slightly, and applies the leaf one section at a time, rubbing it gently to make sure it adheres properly. After it’s affixed, the scribe uses a soft brush to remove excess gold. It’s often necessary to apply multiple layers of gold to achieve full coverage. After the gold has set, typically at least overnight, the scribe then uses a polishing stone called a burnisher to buff the gold so it both adheres fully and also shines up nicely. The scribe must also clean up the edges of the gilding, since excess gold will make the illumination look ragged. I usually use an Exacto blade to scrape excess gold from around the edges of the illumination. Again, depending on the complexity of the design and how cooperative the weather is, gilding can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a week or more.
Given that it’s done with real gold, it’s no surprise that gilding is expensive. Each sheet is hammered very thin but, hey, it’s still gold. A book of 25 sheets of loose leaf gold, with each sheet being 3-3/8″ square, runs $50 to $60 plus shipping, so that’s about $2.25 per sheet. Not too bad if you don’t use too much of it. Don Orlando’s scroll took about three sheets of gold leaf.
I forgot to take a photo of just the calligraphy, but this one shows the calligraphy complete and the gilding in process. The pink portions have been painted with gesso but the gold has not been applied to those sections yet. Notice that gold has been applied to the middle section but has not been cleaned up yet. Overall, the gold looks very uneven and messy, but that will be fixed by adding more layers of gold and then scraping the edges to straighten up the lines.
Once gilding is complete, the scribe is finally ready to paint the scroll. If they already have paints available, they can start painting right away, but scribes who use period pigments may need to grind fresh paint. This typically involves taking powdered pigment and mixing it with water and a binding agent like egg yolk for tempera, glair (egg white), or gum arabic, and then using a glass or stone implement to grind the powder finer while incorporating the liquid into it. Some people use a mortar and pestle, others use a tool called a muller and grind their pigment on a flat ceramic, glass, or marble tile. The amount of grinding required varies significantly depending on the material from which the pigment is made. Vegetable-based pigments grind quickly, soft stones a little more slowly, and harder minerals take the longest time. Some pigments change color as you grind, requiring the artist to check the pigment periodically while grinding to verify that the appropriate color has been achieved.
Painting the scroll is usually a multi-layer process. For most designs, a base coat is applied to the larger areas of the scroll, and then different tints may be applied on top of that, especially if the artist is attempting to achieve a three-dimensional effect. Sometimes paints must be mixed to achieve exactly the right shade for a face or a flower. Limning is the art of shading figures and objects by using a fine hatchwork of brushstrokes. Another technique common to 13th and 14th century French and English manuscripts is called whitework, in which abstract squiggly lines are applied with white (or sometimes yellow) paint on borders or capital letters using a very fine brush. Both of these techniques require a delicate touch and great patience to achieve good results.
Again, depending on the complexity and size of the design, painting can take a few hours or multiple weeks.
Don Orlando’s scroll was painted using only a few colors in period pigments like malachite, cinnabar, yellow ochre, and Naples yellow. Although the original scroll was primarily burgundy red and slate blue, I modified it to green and yellow since those are his armorial colors. First I did the underpainting of the base colors, then added the highlights and lowlights to make the vines and animals seem more three-dimensional. In the left-hand picture, you can see the underpainting in progress, while in the right-hand picture, highlights and lowlights have been added.
Not all scribes go back over their painted scroll with ink to re-outline the objects, and it’s not always appropriate depending on the design. But it’s usually helpful to neaten up the edges of the design with ink after the painting is complete, because even really skilled artists aren’t perfect at “coloring between the lines.”
For Don Orlando’s scroll, not all sections were re-inked because the original inspiration page did not have outlining around the leaves and birds, but the gold border, armory, and some other elements were re-inked for clarity and neatness. Here’s the finished scroll, all cleaned up.
Oh, and scribes who are being kind to the heralds will also type up a “cheat sheet” with the scroll text and affix it to the back of the scroll, so the herald can more easily read it aloud in Court.
You’d think we’re done now, right? Not quite….
Finally, the scribe is responsible for making sure the scroll is delivered to the event where the Royalty plan to give the award. If the scribe is going to the event, this is pretty easy – when he or she arrives, the scribe finds the Signet officer of the day, or the Court Herald, and drops off the scroll. But if the scribe is not going to the event, he or she must either find someone to transport the scroll, or mail it to the Crown well ahead of the event to ensure that it arrives in time. Again, the expense of mailing the scroll is usually borne by the scribe. If the scroll is large or needs to be sent overnight, mailing it can cost as much as $15, and of course the scribe also has to acquire an appropriate container to mail it in.
I was fortunate that this scroll was given at Æthelmearc War Practice, which I was planning to attend anyway, so I didn’t need to mail the scroll. However, given that the forecast was for rain and it was a camping event, I took the precaution of purchasing a frame to protect the scroll from the weather and keeping it in a waterproof case.
Totaling it all up
So, now that you know what’s involved in making a scroll, let’s look at the time and money required of the volunteer who has made this lovely piece of original artwork, customized just for you:Tasks Time Material Cost Assignment 0 0 Research 1 – 5 hours 0 (unless you count the cost of the books the scribe has bought…) Gathering supplies ½ – 3 hours $5 to $100 Sketching 1 – 12 hours 0 Inking 1 – 5 hours 0 Calligraphing 1-3 hours 0 Gilding (if applicable) 3 – 30 hours 0 – $40 Painting 5 – 100 hours 0 – $20 Re-inking 1 – 3 hours 0 Transport and delivery ?? 0 – $15 TOTAL 10.5 to 161 hours $5 to $175
Let’s use the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mean hourly rate for fine artists, which is just over $24/hr. A fairly simple scroll at the lowest end of time commitment as listed above (10.5 hours) would then cost over $250 just in labor. A 100-hour scroll would cost $2,400, again, just in labor. (Thanks to Meesteress Odriana vander Brugghe for those figures).
I didn’t track the number of hours I spent on Maestro Orlando’s scroll, but I’d guess it was probably in the 50- to 75-hour range. Many years ago, I did a very large and extremely complex Knighthood scroll for a dear friend and gave up trying to track my hours about 3/4 of the way through when I was well past the 100-hour mark.
Caring for scrolls
It should go without saying that scrolls need be protected from water and dirt. We are fortunate in Æthelmearc that most of us receive a scroll case from the Signet right there in court after receiving our scroll, but that scroll case should be returned once your scroll makes it home so it can be used at another Court. Of course, you really want to frame your scroll and put it on the wall, right?
For scrolls with gold leaf on them, it’s important to keep the gilding from coming in contact with paper or other objects to which it might stick. One way to do that for unframed scrolls is to place a sheet of glassine over the scroll. Glassine is the glossy paper in which sheets of stamps are sold, so if you go to the post office and buy a sheet of stamps for sending holiday cards, save that glassine sleeve! When you do frame scrolls with gilding, make sure there’s a mat to keep the scroll away from the glass of the frame.
Forget what you’ve seen in the movies – scrolls should never be rolled or (heaven help us) folded. They should be stored flat until they can be framed. Rolling can cause the paint to flake off or severely damage the paper or parchment. Keep them in a dry place, because moisture can also damage the paints or any gold leaf.
Once your scroll is framed and ready to hang, it’s a good idea to put it on a wall that doesn’t get much sunlight. Many paints and inks are not lightfast; my Award of Arms scroll from 1979 is so faded that it’s almost illegible.
Why be a scribe?
After learning all this, you may be wondering why anyone would want to be a scribe! If each scroll takes so much time and potentially costs that much money, why would anyone want to make them?
The answer varies from scribe to scribe, but generally you will find that the scribes of the SCA love doing their art and see their work as a service to the Society. They also enjoy seeing the expressions on the faces of the recipients when they behold their scrolls for the first time.
Sadly, it’s rare that a scribe receives so much as a spoken thank you. In 38 years as a scribe, creating at least 1,000 scrolls, I have been pleased to receive a few thank you cards and emails, and even a couple of small gifts from scroll recipients. So, next time you receive an award scroll, remember that it’s a gift of time and cash as well as beauty from the scribe, and let them know how much you appreciate their work!
Personally, I was delighted and honored to do Maestro Orlando’s scroll for him. He and I had been friends for several years, and I have long admired him as both a fencer and a leader on the rapier field, so I was thrilled when he received his Writ. I was also pleased to have the chance to craft a scroll for a shiny new peerage order – such a rare opportunity comes only once in a lifetime.
Questions? Contact me at ariannawyn (at) gmail.com, talk to your local scribe, or email the Kingdom Signet if you are interested in becoming a scribe.
Unofficial Court Report of the Last Court of Their Royal Majesties King Omega V & Queen Etheldreda IV
Being the Court of Their Royal Majesties King Omega V & Queen Etheldreda IV, held on October 3rd, 2015 at the Coronation of Brennan II and Caoilfhionn II.
Calligraphy and IlluminationAlke von Ossenheim
Tyger’s CubFiona O’Maille ó Chaun Coille Faolán an Sccreccain
Award of ArmsFiona O’Maille ó Chaun Coille Baron Uther Shieldbreaker
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Nadezhda Voronova
Augmentation of ArmsNest verch Tangwistel Gabriella bas Sera
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Maria Erika von Ossenheim
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Cateline La Broderesse
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Angelina Capasso
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Julianna le Chaluner
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Hayash Tsakime
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Rainillit Leia de Bello Marisco
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Victoria la Picade
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Amarie de Saint Denis
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Azure Brennan
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Etain of the Crown Barony of the Bridge
Queen’s Award of EsteemNo Scroll Ernst Nuss von Kitzingen
GiftCloak Maria Erika von Ossenheim
Court Barony w/ Grant of ArmsSvea the Short Sighted
Filed under: Court Tagged: court
A missive from Fridrikr and Orianna, Kingdom Ministers of Arts and Sciences. [More information about the Kingdom A&S Championship, to be held Oct 31st in the Shire of Angel’s Keep, can be found at aeans.aethelmearc.org. Pre-registration is encouraged.]
After some discussion about documentation & its purpose, we have decided that:
In the upcoming Æthelmearc A&S Championship, documentation will NOT be scored as a separate item.
Documentation will be taken into consideration as part of your entry since your documentation will inform the judges in looking at your work. The extent of your documentation is up to you; however, be aware that the judges will look to your documentation when they consider your work.
If you have any questions concerning this decision, please contact us at email@example.com.
In 2005, the British National Archives released drawings and photographs of Nazi bombs disguised as everyday objects that had been collected by agents of the security service MI5 during World War II. The quotidian objects packed with hidden explosive devices would not be out of place in an episode of Get Smart: chocolate bars, Thermos flasks, cans of motor oil, canned peas, cough drops, lumps of coal, a shoe bomb, and my personal favorite, a tin of Smedley’s English red dessert plums.
(The Germans weren’t the only ones trying to sabotage the enemy with disguised explosives. The British can boast booby-trapped Chianti bottles with the bomb obscured by the traditional straw basket on the bottom then topped with wine, exploding beets and exploding cow excrement.)
MI5 agents intercepted the concealment devices from known Nazi spies and saboteurs, among them Herbert Heinz Tributh, a gymnast from German South-West Africa tasked with blowing up Buckingham Palace, English double agent Eddie “Zigzag” Chapman and French collaborationist Guy Vissault de Coëtlogon. Tributh and his two co-conspirators were caught wandering lost around County Cork Ireland asking random strangers if they knew anybody in the IRA. (Just because they were Nazi spies on a mission to bomb Buckingham Palace doesn’t mean they were any good at it. In their defense, apparently they only got one day of training.) When captured they were carrying four cans of peas packed with explosives.
MI5 was a shoestring operation in those days and its explosives and counter-sabotage unit B1C had exactly three employees: the head Victor Rothschild, scion of the great banking family and 3rd Baron Rothschild, his secretary and future wife Teresa Georgina Mayor, and police detective inspector Donald Fish. None of them were capable of drawing clear and recognizable diagrams of the explosive devices that could be used to train operatives on how to defused then safely. Donald Fish knew someone who could, however: his son, Laurence Fish, a self-taught graphic artist who had worked in advertising before the war.
Rothschild commissioned Laurence Fish to draw the intercepted devices. The letters Rothschild wrote asking Fish to draw, in one now-famous example, an explosive chocolate bar using an operative’s rough sketch as his sole guide, have survived.
“I wonder if you could do a drawing for me of an explosive slab of chocolate,” the letter, written from a secret London bunker and addressed to Fish read. “We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin covering of real chocolate.”
He continued, “Inside there is high explosive and some form of delay mechanism… When the piece of chocolate is pulled sharply, the canvas is also pulled and this initiates the mechanism.”
Laurence drew the chocolate bomb and many more explosive devices. He developed a warm and friendly relationship with Rothschild and kept those commission letters for decades, hidden away in his papers. They were only rediscovered in 2009 after Laurence’s death when his widow Jean Bray was looking through his things.
Of the original drawings, however, no trace remained. Copies were part of the 2005 release, but the hand-drawn diagrams Fish had made were thought to be gone forever. This summer, Victoria Rothschild Gray found more than two dozen of Laurence Fish’s drawings in a chest of drawers in Rushbrooke Hall, the Rothschild estate in Suffolk, England, while cleaning out the house. (It was put on the market by Victoria’s son James, recently wed to hotel heiress Nicki Hilton, in April.) Victoria contacted Jean Bray to let her know of the marvelous find and arranged to give her her husband’s drawings.
There are 25 drawings ranging in size from A4, 8.27 x 11.69 inches (the standard page size in Europe), to A1 which is quite large at 11.69 x 16.53 inches. Bray is thrilled to discover they weren’t destroyed during the war. She’s keeping them in her husband’s studio for now, but she would like them to go to a museum or archive which will honor her husband’s clean and detailed freehand graphics and the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction wartime reality they depict.
Medieval Speech Bubbles illustrated in this picture from Medievalbooks.nl
One of the least-used aspects of history for re-enactors is probably language. In the SCA in particular, it would be impossible to communicate if the Landsknechts spoke Renaissance German to the Vikings, who spoke ancient Norse. If the Elizabethan re-enactors spoke Elizabethan English to the early Anglo-Saxon re-enactors, they wouldn’t understand the Elizabethans even though both are speaking the same root language.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s nothing to be done about how we communicate amongst ourselves. There is still something we can do with the language we mostly all speak, at least to each other, to sound a little bit more historic. Consider, if you will, the following perfectly good, modernly usable, and historic English words:
Hackle (noun). Origins include the Old Norse according to etymonline.com. In Old Norse, hekla was a hooded garment (frock/shirt). The Anglo-Saxon Dictionary Online indicates that ofer-hacele refers to a cope or hood. In Old English the word also appeared as hacele, meaning a hooded coat or cloak. It also refers to the coat of an animal (dogs get their hackles up) or the neck plumage of a bird, according to Yourdictionary.com. Such ‘outer neck/shoulder coverings’ meanings seem to have transferred to the modern fishing lure made of a “cape” of male bird’s neck feathers and also as the metal tool name used since the 1500s, such tool used to comb flax or hemp fibers in preparation for spinning. It resembles the risen hackles of a dog. As a re-enactor you might acquire a hackle for yourself. Or look in your garb chest, where it could be hiding, thinking it’s an ordinary hood.
Cupidity (noun) Contrary to modern usage, the erotic sense of the Latin word (a bubbling up of lust), in Modern English means ‘Overwhelming desire for wealth or possessions.’ It is often used to mean a lust for things, prestige, or power. Occasionally (let’s hope not here in our kingdom), it could apply to a fighter whose lust for the crown overwhelms his or her sense of fair play.
Sleight (Noun or verb). Appears as early as the 12th century, From Old English (sleighthe) and Old Norse (sloegð), meaning trickery or out-witting, this word now means something akin to dexterity in a magic trick (sleight of hand) or a strategy. We could refer to our super-secret strategy for the field battle at Pennsic as sleight, if it involves cleverness or intrigue.
Waif (noun) Etymology Dictionary Online tells is that rather than referring to a thin person or homeless child (which it came to mean in the 1600s), in Anglo-Norman the word waif (gaif) meant lost property, flotsam, or stray animals. Oxford Dictionary Online tells us waif could be referring to the item a fleeing thief throws away. If unclaimed, the property was turned over to the Lord of the Manor. Sounds like the perfect label for an event’s lost-and-found trove! Your Dictionary also tells us that outside our period of history the word’s meaning preserved that relation to the water, as a waif is the name of the pole, pennon attached, used to mark the whale’s body so other crafts knew the carcas was claimed.
Bauchle (noun or verb). Etymology Online tells us that rather than meaning perplexed, as in modern English, the 15th c. word Baffle stems from a respelling of the Scottish bauchle, which meant to publicly disgrace someone, particularly a disgraced knight. Also from the old French bafoeur, which meant to abuse, ridicule, or trick someone. Caledonian Mercury’s website offers the information that the word typically meant a person who had passed their prime, or such a thing that should be discarded, such as an old shoe worn down at the heel. It can often refer to the act of defamation, as well as the person or object. More modern usage points to meaning confusion or a device used to impede the movement of liquid, light, or sound.
For more reading on the subject, and more great ways to medieval size your vocabulary, please visit these sites:
Anglo-Saxon to Modern English translation tool (also works in reverse).
Librarius, the Middle English to Modern English alphabetical listing.
An invaluable article that will help you figure out how to understand weirdly spelled words from Chaucer’s England.
The short but glorious reign of Mercedes, Crown Regent of the Kingdom of the East
As their majesties Omega and Etheldreda drew close to the end of their reign they were suddenly called home to their Duchy to maintain their lands. As the heirs could not be summoned on such short notice, their Graces Darius and Etheldreda were left with no recourse but to leave the crown in the hands of the kingdom Seneschal, Mistress Mercedes.
The Dread Crown Regent then closed the final court of the reign. She then opened the first court of her Regency. Crown Regent Mercedes then proceeded to lead the populace in a traditional Ostgardian sing along. At the conclusion thereof she did summon forth and Coronate their Highnesses Brennan and Caoilfhionn as Brennan Rhi, and Caoilfhionn Banri, 96th King and Queen of the East, thus ending her Regency.
So recorded and attested this day, the third of October, Anno Socitatus L.
(Photo by Baroness Cateline la Broderesse)
Filed under: Court Tagged: Concordia of the Snows, coronation, King, Queen
The Æthelmearc Gazette welcomes two new editors – Lady Miriel du Lac and Lord Christian Goldenlok! We asked them both for a few words:
Lady Miriel du Lac
How long have you been in the SCA, and what got you interested?
My friend Magnus de Lyons was the one who got me interested; he suggested that we check some events out as he had participated in the SCA years ago and was interested in getting back into it. I had already been participating in LARPs and related activities so the SCA seemed right up my alley. So I went to my first event with Magnus and never looked back.
What are your SCAdian interests?
What interests you about the Gazette/what purpose do you think it serves for the Kingdom?
The fact that it is so up to date is how it serves the Kingdom the best. It ensures people can be informed right away about what is happening within the Society and Kingdom, even if they are not in a social media group.
What kinds of articles would you like to see people submitting?
Anything else we should know about you?
(Editor’s note: Lady Miriel has indeed dived right in as she will step up to be Baroness of the Hael, along with Magnus as Baron, in December.)
Lord Christian Goldenlok
How long have you been in the SCA, and what got you interested?
What are your SCAdian interests?
What interests you about the Gazette/what purpose do you think it serves for the Kingdom?
I started meeting some out-of-kingdom friends who would get these foreign awards and would want to know about them. And it was there that I saw the Known World as being more than just Æthelmearc. We have an ability, as a Kingdom, to inspire the world. I want to be a part of a team of people that encourages and inspires others.
What kinds of articles would you like to see people submitting?
Anything else we should know about you?
I want to say in closing, that a great honor of my life was to serve in the armed forces, and if any SCAdian veteran needs help, a shoulder, or someone to talk to or someone to make fun of and pal around with, I am your guy.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival is a 12th century painted handscroll by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145) which is widely considered the greatest painting in China. Some scholars have dubbed it “China’s Mona Lisa,” because of its immense cultural hold, but artistically it has nothing in common with Renaissance portraiture.
The almost monochrome (there are some pops of green here and there) ink-on-silk scroll is 17 feet wide and just 10 inches high and depicts the vignettes of exuberant life on the Bian River, which runs through Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song dynasty, during the Qingming Festival. Originally meant to unscrolled slowly by the viewer to enjoy an arm’s width at a time, from right to left, the painting moves from countryside to city and people change with it. Farmers tend their crops and men load their donkeys with wood outside the city so that they can sell it inside the city. Then the peaceful bucolic pursuits shift to hectic, population-dense urban environment bustling with activity: peddlers hawk their wares, fortune tellers tell fortunes, people buy food from street vendors or visit an elegant two-storey tavern, a long-range rice boat transports its cargo on the river. There are 814 people, almost all of them men, 28 different boats, 60 animals (livestock of various sorts), 30 buildings, 20 carriages and eight sedan chairs in the painting.
What there isn’t is any religious activity. The Qingming Festival, held in early spring, is dedicated to the worship of ancestors. People sweep their ancestral tombs and clean temples during the festival, but none of that is overtly present in the painting. The only hint of it is a group of people with willow brooms in a sedan chair who could conceivably have just come from sweeping their ancestors’ graves. There’s debate whether the Chinese title of the work, Qingming Shanghe Tu, actually refers to the festival. The scenes don’t match 12th century chronicles describing the city during the festival at all. “Shaghe tu” means “going along the river picture” but “Qingming” on its own means “clear-bright.” There are several possible interpretations not involving the festival.
In any case, the aim of the painting is to display the prosperity and peace. Most every stratum of society is represented except for the not-so-picturesque beggars, criminals and slum-dwellers. It’s not known exactly when Zhang Zeduan painted it, but if it was after the overthrow of the Northern Song Dynasty by the Jin in 1127, the artist was likely depicting an idealized view of the good ol’ days before Kaifeng was sacked by Jin armies and the emperor captured. Not that it’s literally Kaifeng in the painting. There are no recognizable landmarks, so it could be an ideal city from an ideal time.
The painting has been famous and coveted for 800 years. The first recorded time of many that it was stolen from the imperial collection was in the 1340s and for centuries afterwards emperors would find the stolen masterpiece when estates were confiscated from rich, troublesome nobles. There are more than one hundred seals and colophons (provenance notes) from different owners on the scroll. The earliest is by Zhang Zhu, a Jin Dynasty official, and dates to 1186.
Along the River During the Qingming Festival was a great favorite of the last emperor, Pu Yi, who took it with him when he was expelled from the Forbidden City in 1924. When the Soviet army captured him in 1945 as he attempted to flee the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo of which he nominally ruled, Pu Yi had the painting on him. The Soviets put it in a bank in northern China where it remained until 1950 when it was moved to a local museum. Eventually it made its way back to the Forbidden City, just as it always had, this time to the Palace Museum where scholars announced its rediscovery in 1954.
It has been there ever since, but is rarely displayed because of how fragile and precious it is. It last saw light at the Tokyo National Museum in 2012. Before then it went to Hong Kong in 2007 to take part in a nakedly nationalistic exhibition of China’s greatest artistic masterpieces on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Britain’s return of the island to China. The last time it was on display in Beijing was 2005 in honor of the museum’s 80th anniversary. Now it’s on display again in the Palace Museum for the 90th anniversary, and there are lines a thousand people long waiting to see the iconic masterpiece an hour before the museum opens.
“There’s been so much hype about this painting, so I decided to come early to check it out myself,” said Jacqueline Zhang, 25, who works at a bank in Beijing and came at 5 a.m. to secure a place at the head of the line. She added, “This just shows how easily excited Chinese people can get.”
Past exhibitions of the scroll have attracted huge crowds, but the heightened fervor these days comes as the term “wenhua,” or culture, and the desire to appear cultured have become increasingly prominent in China.
“Now that people have money and social status, they want to show other people that they understand culture,” said Chen Yimo, an expert in Chinese calligraphy and painting.
What a change from the Eliminating the Four Olds. It’s like The Cultural Revolution 2: The Re-Enculturing.
Here’s the whole scroll at a satisfyingly high resolution of more than 38,000 pixels wide. I recommend slowly scrolling from right to left, taking in all the details of dress, architecture, animals (Bactrian camels ftw), ship design, food, to experience the progression the way it was meant to be experienced.
The Friends of Hyde Abbey Garden are not keen on the idea of archaeologists digging up the garden in search of the remains of King Alfred the Great. The garden was established in 2003 above the site in Winchester, England, believed to be the grave of the king.
Our latest roundup of medieval news...
[View the story "Chastity Belts, Mead and Wanted Vikings: Medieval News Roundup" on Storify]
Our photo of the week comes from the 2015 White Truffle Fair in Alba, Italy, which included a historical reenactment. See more images from Giorgio Montersino's Flickr Album
The Kingdom of the East, on 3 October 2015, AS L, celebrated the Coronation of Brennan Ri and Caoilfhionn Banri!
The newly crowned King and Queen heard the fealty of those greater officers of state, landed Barons and Baronesses, and champions before suspending court and sitting in state.
At the first court of Brennan and Caoilfhionn, His Majesty Tindal of Aethelmearc was welcomed, and gifts were exchanged. Their Highnesses Acre made a presentation of a gift to their newly crowned Majesties as well.
Her Majesty Caoilfhionn then called forth Einarr Njortharson, called Billy Fish, and named him the Captain of her Queen’s Guard. Einarr then proceeded to name the rest of her Majesty’s guard force, who were presented with scarves to represent their station.
Before court was continued, the populace bore witness to an eerie sight – the ghostly spirit of Kenric of blessed memory appeared to race across the dais, vanishing as swiftly as he appeared.
Their Majesties called forth Elewys of Anglespur. They awarded her arms, making her a lady of their court. She was presented with a scroll by Sorcha Dhocair inghean Ui Ruairc.
Her Majesty then proceeded to call forth the children who had participated in her Children’s Service Initiative. Caleb Patrasso, Emma Lovell, Caitilin ingean Donndubain and Rowyn received tokens for their participation.
The children in attendance were called before the court. Duncan MacKinnon was called forward to run with the toybox, to the delight of all in attendance.
Next Sir Jeffrey was called forward, and despite his unshod appearance, welcomed all to participate in a demo happening the next day.
Jean Paul Ducasse, Baron of Concordia, was called forward. He told the populace about the success of the Populace Badge fundraiser, and was presented a gift for the generosity of Concordia for hosting Their Majesties’ coronation.
Brennan and Caoilfhionn asked for a moment of silence, in memory of the recent passing of Aiden ni Leir.
Drake Oranwood was called before the court. His talent in bardic performance was rewarded with his induction into the Order of the Troubadour. He was presented with a scroll by Katrusha Skomorokh with words by Olivia Baker.
Their Majesties called before them Anne de Basillion. They made her a lady of their court, awarding her arms. She was presented with a circlet, and a scroll by Mari Clock van Hoorne.
Next Brennan and Caoilfhionn called forth Isabel de Bayonne. Her talent spoken of, they requested the presence of their Order of the Maunche. Isabel was elevated to the order of high merit for the arts and sciences, and presented a medallion and a scroll by Elsa de Lyon.
Their Majesties called before them Doroga Veronin. During their coronation ceremony Doroga had spoken for the populace as one without grant nor patent, but they felt the need to correct that he had neither been previously awarded arms. Thus Doroga was made a Lord of their court, and presented with a scroll featuring illumination by Lillian ate Valeye and calligraphy by Nest verch Tangwistel.
Her Majesty called before her Duncan MacKinnon. Speaking of his frequent chivalrous actions, she awarded him with the Queen’s Order of Courtesy, presenting the traditional glove and a scroll by Saerlaith ingen Chennetig featuring words by Lucius Aurelius Varus.
Their Majesties next called forth Rhys Ravenscroft. They spoke of his prowess since moving to the East Kingdom, and called forth their Order of the Tyger’s Combatant. He was presented with a medallion, and a scroll by Jan Janowicz Bogdanski.
Their Majesties Brennan and Caoilfhionn expressed concern with Their Excellencies of Concordia of the Snows. They brought forth a need to sue Jean Paul and Lily for holding too tightly to Magnus Hvalmagi, not allowing him the proper freedom to be recognized outside of the Barony. Thus it was they called Magnus forth, and also witnesses to the crimes – the companions of the Order of the Laurel. Magnus received a writ to contemplate elevation to the order at a date to be named, and received a scroll by Isabel Chamberlaine with words by Toki Redbeard.
Their Majesties concluded and closed their first court. Long Live the King! Long Live the Queen! Long live the People of the Kingdom of the East!
Thank you to the heraldic staff – Master Donovan Shinnock, Master Ryan McWhyte, Mistress Kay Leigh
McWhyte, and Lord Yehuda ben Moshe.
Filed under: Court Tagged: awards, coronation, court report, royal court
Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope reports on the doings at this year’s Archers to the Wald event.
As always, the Canton of Steltonwald’s signature annual archery event provided good fun, good food, and good company. The weather forecast looked unfriendly, with rain and high temperatures only in the mid-50s, but Nature took pity and the rain turned to drizzle, then stopped for good in the early afternoon.
A wide array of shoots were held throughout the day. Master Donnan Macdubhsidhe ran his usual combo archery and fencing woods walk in which fencers and archers teamed up to run the course, or gentles who wished could fill both roles solo. They saved a princess (in the form of THLord Jorundr hinn Rotinn, which caused much amusement) from bandits, fought off evil warriors, and competed with a merchant to complete the course. The team of Maestro Jacopo di Niccolo and Lord Magnus Bastiano di Vigo proved victorious, marking the third year in a row that Maestro Jacopo was on the winning team for this course.
Lord Alrekr Bergsson ran a woods walk in which archers had to defeat evil fairies from the world of Supernatural. The winner of this competition was THLord Juan Miguel Cezar (as some in the populace at court murmured, “There can be only Juan…”).
THLord Deryk Archer ran several competitions: one required archers to hit an apple hanging from a branch to receive various prizes ranging from chocolate to a toy crossbow to a vintage D&D miniature figure. Another had archers shooting at targets based on the Highlander shows, of people’s heads and a fearsome pig. The winner of this competition was Lord Cadan Buri.
Master Alaric MacConnal ran a competition which required archers to shoot at jewels of various colors, shapes, and sizes in cardboard on a large butt. After shooting their first jewel, they had to then shoot another jewel of either the same color or the same shape. They could continue until they hit the wrong jewel by mistake. Most of the day the shoot had a three-way tie of a score of 7, but at the end of the day Lord Takamatsu Gentarou Yoshitaka blew everyone out of the water with a score of 27.
While the wet weather forced the cancellation of both the Thrown Weapons Baronial Champion’s Tournament and the Seven Pearls Archery Tournament, THLady Anlaith ingen Trena was able to run some atlatl practice for interested gentles.
The day also saw contests to choose the new baronial adult and youth archery champions. Twelve archers competed in the adult shoot; in the end Master Urho Waltterinen won over Lady Annora O’Duelaghane by a single point. One of the rounds required archers to shoot images of two zombies and bottles of alcohol in the hands of Don Vigo da Napoli. Unfortunately, one of the archers failed in this task and instead struck the image of Don Vigo in an [ahem] unfortunate location, to much laughter from the other archers (and later, from the real Don Vigo).
The youth champion’s shoot was designed by the outgoing champion, Phineas, and featured characters from the Odyssey. The victor in that shoot was Phineas’ brother, Beren, who dragged the head of the defeated Cyclops into court in proof of his conquest.
While all of the martial mayhem was going on outside, Mistress Alessandra d’Avignon ran an A&S display of Viking-related entries in honor of the Canton’s beloved Countess Aidan ni Leir, who passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of September. There were wool clothes, a Canton banner, and beaded necklaces.
Throughout the day there was a hearty sideboard made by THLady Cionaodh Gunn with assistance from Lord Aidan Gunn, Mistress Ysabell Graver, Master Creature Twinedragon, and others.
At baronial court in the evening, His Excellency Baron Liam began with a moment of silence for the loss of Countess Aidan, then recognized the winners of the various competitions and invested the new baronial champions.
Baron Liam invited the baronial Archery Marshal, Maistir Brandubh o Donnghaile, to address the populace. Maistir Brandubh commended numerous archers who had improved their Royal Round scores over the course of the summer and achieved new ranks, including one new Archer, Arthes MacLeod, and four new Bowmen: Alistair MacLeod, Annora O’Duelaghane, Arianna of Wynthrope, and Ghaliya bint Jusef.
The Baron then called forth THLady Cionaodh Gunn and bestowed upon her a Gold Comet for her many years of service to the Canton and Barony. The scroll was created by Countess Aidan, and His Excellency remarked solemnly that it may well have been one of the last scrolls made by Her Excellency before her passing, to the populace’s sad sighs and not a few tears.
His Excellency ended the court with a moment of silence and a request for donations for the family of Kim Dietz, who was one of the victims of the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon only days before the event. Kim was a member of the Shire of Briaroak in the Principality of the Summits, Kingdom of An Tir. Kim is reported to have stood in front of a door to block the shooter, at the cost of her life. Donations can be made through the GoFundMe campaign set up by her family. Baron Liam further exhorted the populace to be exemplars of those qualities the SCA holds dear and to donate time and funds to those in need as proof of our enduring nobility, in honor of those like Kim who have gone before us.
All photos not otherwise credited are by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.
Soybean farmer Jim Bristle was digging in a field in Lima Township, 10 miles southwest of Ann Arbor, Michigan, when he came across what he thought was an old bent fencepost. It was not a fencepost. It was a mammoth bone. When he realized it was a bone very much larger than any cow’s, Bristle contacted the University of Michigan on Tuesday, September 29th. Wednesday evening, Professor Dan Fisher, director of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Paleontology, inspected the bone and the pit where it found. By Thursday morning he had discovered teeth that identified the bones as belonging to a mammoth that roamed the vegetation rich tundra of Michigan between 15,000 and 11,700 years ago.
That same day Fisher was able to assemble a team of U-M graduate students with lightning speed, plus volunteers like excavator Jamie Bollinger who brought his own heavy lifting machinery to aid in the endeavor. They dug from 9:00 AM until sunset and were able to recover 20% of the mammoth’s bones: a dramatic skull with two large tusks still attached, the jaw, more teeth, the pelvis, parts of both shoulder blades, one kneecap and multiple ribs and vertebrae. The skull and tusks (which had zip ties all along their length to keep the fragile ivory from breaking off in shards) were raised in one piece and loaded onto a flatbed truck for transportation to the University of Michigan with the rest of the bones.
The team also found a small stone flake (a lithic) next to one of the tusks and three basketball-sized boulders in the pit next to the skull. Fisher thinks the mammoth was killed by humans and then stored in a pond that was once on the site, the pre-historic version of refrigeration. The three boulders were used to weight down the carcass. The lithic was broken off a sharp flint knife used to butcher the animal. Fisher has seen the pond preservation method in other prehistoric sites in the region. Only examination of the cleaned bones can confirm or deny this hypothesis. If the mammoth was butchered by people, there will be tell-tale cut marks on the bone.
Preliminary examinations indicate the animal was an adult male around 40 to 50 years old that stood about 10 feet high at the shoulders. It appears to be a hybrid of a woolly mammoth and a Columbian mammoth, a very rare find. According to Fisher, skeletal remains of about 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been unearthed in Michigan, but only 10 of the mammoths were as complete as this one. He suspects there are more bones to found down there too. Alas, they won’t be coming up anytime soon because Bristle only allowed the one day of excavation before refilling the pit. He was only digging in the first place to make way for the lift station of a new natural gas line and the discovery has not altered his plans.
Professor Fisher hopes Jim Bristle will donate the bones to the institution.
“It’s really the landowner’s call now,” [Fisher] said, explaining that Bristle now owns the bones. Normally, Fisher explained, the university wouldn’t have put resources into excavating remains without some reassurance that they’d be donated for research. But because these were under such a time crunch, Fisher and his colleagues decided to swoop in. He said on Friday that Bristle has yet to give a verdict on the fate of the bones.
“To really make conclusions about these bones and what they mean, we have to make the evidence available for other scientists to study, too,” Fisher said. “And we can’t do that without long-term access to the material.”
by Caleb Reynolds.
“A wine is also made of only water and honey. For this it is recommended that rain-water should be stored for five years. Some who are more expert use rain-water as soon as it has fallen, boiling it down to a third of the quantity and adding one part of old honey to three parts of water, and then keeping the mixture in the sun for 40 days after the rising of the Dog-star. Others pour it off after nine days and then cork it up. This beverage is called in Greek ‘water-honey’ [‘hydromeli’]; with age it attains the flavour of wine.” 
This brief paper is not to prove that mead was available in the SCA time period, for we have plenty of documentation that it did. I will not take up the reader’s time with the many pages required to document the history of fermented honey. I will, instead, concentrate on one particular recipe from Ein Buch von guter spise: 
14. Wilt du guten met machen: Der guten mete machen wil, der werme reinen brunnen, daz er die hant dor inne liden künne. und neme zwei maz wazzers und eine honiges. daz rüere man mit eime stecken, und laz ez ein wile hangen. und sihe ez denne durch ein rein tuch oder durch ein harsip in ein rein vaz. und siede denne die selben wirtz gein eime acker lane hin und wider und schume die wirtz mit einer vensterehten schüzzeln. da der schume inne blibe und niht die wirtz. dor noch giuz den mete in ein rein vaz und bedecke in, daz der bradem niht uz müge, als lange daz man die hant dor inne geliden müge. So nim denne ein halp mezzigen hafen und tu in halp vol hopphen und ein hant vol salbey und siede daz mit der wirtz gein einer halben mile. und giuz ez denne in die wirtz, und nim frischer hoven ein halp nözzeln und giuz ez dor in. und giuz ez under ein ander daz ez geschende werde. so decke zu, daz der bradem iht uz müge einen tae und eine naht. So seige denne den mete durch ein reyn tuch oder durch ein harsip. und vazze in in ein reyn vaz und lazze in iern drie tac und drie naht und fülle in alle abende, dar nach lazze man in aber abe und hüete daz iht hefen dor in kumme und laz in aht tage ligen daz er valle. und fülle in alle abende. dar nach loz in abe in ein gehertztez vas und laz in ligen aht tage vol und trinke in denne erst sechs wucher oder ehte. so ist er allerbeste.
14. How you want to make good mead: He, who wants to make good mead, warms clean water, so that he can just stand to put the hand in. And take two maz water and one honey. One stirs that with a stick and lets it set a while and then strains it through a clean cloth or through a hairsieve into a clean barrel. And boil then the same wort against an acre long there and back (as long as it takes to walk this distance and back) and remove the foam from the wort with a bowl with holes. The foam stays in the bowl and the wort does not. Next pour the mead in a clean barrel and cover it, so that vapor can not get out, until one can bear the hand there in. So take then a half maz pot and add until half full hops and a hand of sage and boil that with the wort against a half mile (as long as it takes to walk this distance) and give it then in the wort and take a half nut of fresh yeast (the amount that could be held in a nutshell) and give it there in and mix it together so that it will ferment. So cover also, so that the vapor can get out, a day and a night. So strain then the mead through a clean cloth or through a hairsieve and pour (it) in a clean barrel and let it ferment three days and three nights and fill (it) in all evenings. There after one lets it go down and looks that yeast comes therein. And let it lay for eight days, so that it falls and fill in all evenings. There after let it down in a resined barrel and let it lay eight days full and drink in the first six weeks or eight. So is it the best. 
The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, by Terence Scully,  references the same recipe but translates it slightly differently:
For those who want to make good mead, warm pure water from a well, only as warm as you can bear your hand in it, and for each two maz [each about two pints] of water take one maz of honey; stir this with a stick, let it sit for a while and afterwards strain it through a clean cloth or through a hair sieve into a clean barrel. Then boil the usual mead spices for as long as it take to walk around a field, and do that again, and skim the spices using a bowl with holes in it so that the foam stays but not the spices; the pour the mead into a clean barrel and cover it, so that the steam cannot escape, leaving it there until [it has cooled to the point that] you can bear your hand in it. Then get a pot the size of half a Maz [roughly one pint], fill it half with hops and a handful of sage. 
The recipe calls for a one-to-two ratio of honey to water (by volume) and a half of a pint of hops for every three pints of must. This may appear to be a lot of hops, but we are not only talking about whole hop leaves, but hops that most likely were dried when they were harvested then transported and stored until they were needed. It is most likely that the hops used on a daily basis were not as strong as the vacuum-packed hops we use today. Also, since the recipe uses pint pots as a unit of measurement, I can only conclude that this recipe was intended for the home brewer, the alewife who would have brewed for the family’s daily consumption, and not an inn, tavern, monastery, or commercial brewery.
Redaction for the modern brewer:
You can use dried sage, but it doesn’t taste as well as using fresh. I find it next to impossible to get fresh, European sage  and use locally available California sage. I am told that the California variety has a slightly different taste than its European counterpart,  but it is readily available at the supermarket all year round. If your thumbs are green, then grow whatever variety that you wish.
In modern terms, a handful of whole hop leaves is about an ounce,  and when packed well, is about a half a pint in volume. As the recipe calls for a half of a pint of whole hops, which is, as I had stated, about one ounce, which was most likely dried from the previous harvest, I substituted 1/2 ounce of hop pellets that were ground up, pressed into pellets and then vacuum sealed right after being harvested. My reasoning is that modern pellet hops would be two or even three times as strong as what was available to the average 14th century alewife. You can use whole or chopped leaf hops, but I think the pellets are easier to deal with for this recipe.
You can use any variety of hops, but I like to stick to Noble German varieties, such as Spalt, Hallertau and Hersbruck: varieties that have been grown for centuries and are the great-ganddaddies of modern varieties.
You can use any type of honey but I use clover honey because any subtle flavors from other varieties will be overwhelmed  by the flavor of the hops and the sage. While the recipe calls for a one-to-two honey to water ratio (by volume), I go with a eight-to-five ratio of water to honey (by weight), in order to get a sweeter mead, and to offset the stronger flavor of the hops. And so that I don’t have to do any conversions or complicated math: 1 gallon container of water plus 1 five pound jar of honey equals mead.
Since I am of the camp of “do not boil honey to make mead”, I choose instead to pour a small portion of the water into a small sauce pot and make a “tea” out of the hops and the sage. There is no reason to boil the honey when making mead if you are using pasteurized and filtered honey. All that is required is enough heat to liquefy the honey; greater heat could start to break down compounds in the honey into nasty tasting esters.
While the “tea” boils, pour a half gallon of the water into a larger pot and add in the honey. Add the remainder of the water into your fermenter. Let the honey simmer for about twenty minutes,  skimming any the scum out. By this time, the “tea” should be a dark shade of green and smell great.
Add the must to the fermenter. Then strain the solids out of the “tea” add it to the fermenter, as well. Cover and let cool for several hours before pitching your yeast. Let it ferment for 10 to 14 days, then bottle. The mead will have a lot of sugar in it, so either drink it quickly, or use modern chemicals to halt the fermentation or cold crash the yeast in the ‘fridge or freezer. Your mead will be sweet, savory and bitter at the same time.
 Natural History, by Pliny the Elder, Book XIV, section XX, p. 261.
Ein Buch von guter spise c. 1350. Translated by Alia Atlas. http://cs-people.bu.edu/akatlas/Buch/buch.html
Pliny, the Elder. The Natural History of Pliny, Volume 3. Translated by John Bostock and Henry T Riley. H. G. Bohn; London. 1855
Scully, Terence. The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. Boydell Press, 1995. Digitized by Google Books.