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Grendel as Grinch

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2014-12-22 18:00


For your Yule-tide entertainment, a re-blogging of a piece from 2012, written by Ross Peter Nelson, and originally blogged at The Heretic’s Mirror, which you can see here.

Originally posted on The Heretic's Mirror:

Every Scylding in Heorot liked mead a lot,
But Grendel the beast, roaring outside did not.

Grendel hated Scyldings, the whole Danish clan.
Can I say why? I don’t think I can.

He spied on the Scyldings, he fumed and he wailed.
He watched as in Heorot they drank mead and drank ale.

“How can I hurt them, the king and his thanes?”
Alone in his barrow, it drove him insane.

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
Grendel got a horrible, awful idea!

That fiendish old monster was up to no good.
He decided to kill them and gorge on their blood.

Outside the mead-hall, Cain-spawn raged and he roared,
And with his great strength he broke down the door.

The Scyldings lined up, their swords in a row.
“You warriors,” cried Grendel, “are the first ones to go.”

He slaughtered the Danes, ripped many apart.
He crunched…

View original 610 more words

Categories: SCA news sites

Large gold medallion centerpiece of new exhibit at the Israel Museum

SCAtoday.net - Mon, 2014-12-22 16:46

An "exceptional" gold medallion, found in 2013 at the base of the Temple Mount, will be showcased as part of a new exhibit at the Israel museum. Dating to the 7th century, the large golden medallion, embossed with Jewish motifs, is believed to have decorated a Torah scroll. (photo)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Not the Santa Maria

SCAtoday.net - Mon, 2014-12-22 10:03

Expectations were high recently when archaeologists believed they had found the wreck of the Santa Maria, Columbus' flagship off the coast of Haiti, but it was not to be. New evidence shows that the remains of the ship are from a later period.

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Categories: SCA news sites

The SCA and Recruiting in the World of Live Action Role Playing Games

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2014-12-22 06:30

During a meeting of Chatelaines, the subject of live action role playing games (LARP) and SCA recruitment came up for discussion. The term live action role playing games is often met with mixed reactions in groups like the Society of Creative Anachronism, but what really defines a LARP, how close is LARP to the SCA, and what are the prospects for recruiting new members from LARP groups? Prior to joining the SCA I spent 16 years running and playing in various live action role playing games. I don’t consider myself an expert in either activity, but I believe my experience gives me an interesting perspective on how the SCA and LARP can mutually benefit from associating with each other.

What is a live action role playing game?

In the broadest sense of the term a LARP is defined as any activity where participants assume the roles of fictional characters (fictional in the sense that they are not playing themselves) and act out the lives of these characters in a real world setting. The “game” aspect of the LARP typically comes in the form of an objective of the game (completing quests, gathering treasurer, defeating enemies, etc.). How the players achieve this objective is determined by a mutually agreed upon set of rules. Many of the original LARP games involved fantasy settings, but over the years have grown to include a wide range of genre including horror, mystery, science fiction, and modern military simulations. Some LARP games involve a high level of physical activity including simulated combat (not unlike the SCA) with padded weapons. Many games use fictional skills and abilities to compensate for talents or abilities not possessed by the actual players (such as casting magic spells, playing fantastic races like Elves, etc.). Some LARP games require little physical activity and discourage direct physical contact between players. Games like this are typically meant for venues where things like mock combat are not permitted; schools and colleges for example. Live action role playing games are not a new concept and many of the original live action games started as early as the late seventies before spreading into international interest in the early eighties. Today LARP games of all sorts are played all over the world by millions of players.

Why does the term “LARP” make certain people cringe?

The term LARP is often met with disfavor in groups like the SCA and many people become upset when they hear the SCA described as a LARP. A large part of the issue comes from the public’s perception of LARP and the people who play LARP games. LARP has held a stigma in society since the eighties when movies such as “Mazes and Monsters” and books like “The Game Master” gave many people the perception that LARP was a secretive game played by people on the fringes of society. At the time most people had limited access to information about LARP games and as a result the media found it easy to paint LARP as the “boogeyman” out to corrupt the minds of its players. Many years have passed, but this stigma still exists. Where the media once used LARP games as precautionary tales, modern media paints LARP in an almost humorous or childish light with movies such as “Role Models”. It is reasonable to assume the average modern SCA member is informed enough to grin at such public perceptions, but this negative stereotype can still hurt recruitment with the general public who are not as use to the concept. Further complicating the issue is the fact that many LARP games involve a higher level of fantasy elements (monsters, magic, etc.) not common to more low fantasy/historical based groups like the SCA. While the SCA is not purely historically correct, many SCA members do not want to be associated with dragons, wizards, and elves. LARP games also allow players to replace real world ability with fictional skills. Instead of spending hours at practice learning to fight or perfect a craft, a LARP player can simply buy a fictional ability giving them similar advantage in the “game”. Often people feel calling the SCA a LARP lessens the dedication and time invested in SCA activities. The level of differences between a given LARP and the SCA will differ from LARP group to LARP group, but the perception is still there. Combine all these elements and it is easy to understand why the average SCA group will shy away from association with LARP. While increased public exposure to LARP has lessened this stigma over time, people are still gun shy about associated group like the SCA with LARP games. In turn many in the SCA seek to separate the SCA from LARP as much as possible to prevent any connection with the negative stereotypes of LARP. Sadly this can also result in alienation of LARP players and in turn rob the SCA of possible new members.

Is the SCA a LARP?

Looking at the SCA using the simple description of LARP mentioned earlier, one might see the confusion newcomers have when looking at the SCA; participants assuming the roles of fictional characters, acting out the lives of these character in a live setting, and doing so with a mutually agreed upon set of rules. On the surface the average SCA event does not look all that different from the average LARP event. However the SCA is only considered a LARP if you stop at the point of simple surface comparison and fail to include the many aspects that make the SCA unique from other activities. Is the SCA a LARP? No, it is the SCA. Part of the problem is that the term “LARP” is an outdated concept that no longer adequately describes the activities (including most LARP games) that get lumped under the LARP “umbrella”. It’s no different than trying to describe every athletic activity as simply “sport”. The interesting fact is that even groups closer to the general description of LARP dislike being called a LARP and all for the same reasons that many in the SCA dislike the label.

The world of LARP started to spread out.

LARP games in the early eighties tended to remain isolated from each other. In part this was because of player loyalty to local games, but also because it was harder to find and participate in other groups due to distance and lack of easy communication. While not as common, some groups would encourage isolation to prevent losing players to rival games and did not take kindly to any attempts to recruit their members. Recruiting in this environment was difficult because players that became interested in a new group would often leave one game completely to go play another. This isolationism started to decline as the number of games started to grow making it easier to travel to more games and the internet made contacting these groups easier. Slowly the LARP player base started to spread out. At the same time it became more common for people to participate in multiple games at once based on their interests or location; a practice called “cross-gaming”. The important aspect of cross-gaming and recruitment is that groups no longer have to force players to choose between groups, but instead could encourage them to participate in multiple games at the same time.

What makes recruiting in LARP groups a viable possibility for the SCA?

Whatever the genre of the local LARP group (horror, fantasy, etc.) the average LARP player shares enough in common with the average SCA member that they might find the SCA interesting. Most LARP participants travel to events, go camping, struggle with packing too much into small cars, rushing to finish last minute projects, and have war stories to share just like SCA members. If you ignore the little details of how and where, most of the experiences are the same. The SCA might offer activities that the person’s local LARP group does not offer such as martial activities, archery, thrown weapons, and arts and sciences. The SCA also has activities that interest a wide range of ages, lifestyles, and different levels of physical abilities. This allows the SCA to recruit people who have a hard time fitting into LARP groups; families with children for example. Another nice feature of the SCA is that it is international. Over the years LARP has grown into an international pastime, but many groups remain local or at best regional. The international aspect of the SCA might interest migrating people such as college students, members of the military, or people who travel for work. Since the SCA is virtually everywhere and for the most part shares the same traditions and rules, a traveler can easily and quickly fit in wherever they end up in their travels. Lastly many LARP players already know about or participate in the SCA on some level and might be interested in getting more involved or returning after an absence.

What are the best ways and the worst ways to recruit LARP players?

Like any recruitment there are pitfalls to avoid and good and bad ways to proceed. The most important thing to keep in mind when recruiting around LARP groups (or any group really) is to remain open and honest. Never make it seem like the SCA is trying to convert or recruit by subterfuge. Showing up and pretending to be new to the concept of LARP or the SCA (or just acting willfully oblivious) is a guaranteed way to alienate people. The truth will come out down the road and that will ruin any chance of a good relationship with the group. Instead open with something like, “I’m with another group called the Society for Creative Anachronism and I am curious about your group”. Ask questions about the LARP and if people seem interested, explain the differences between LARP and the SCA. Avoid talking down about LARP when comparing it to the SCA. As mentioned before try to focus on the things that the two activities have in common instead of talking about the pros and cons of each. Each person’s view of what constitutes a pro and con is different. Understand that when members of two groups come together there is a natural tendency to try and compete. Falling into this competitive trap might win some sort of perceived short term moral victory, but really helps no one in the long term.  Don’t go in trying to recruit the whole group. Some people might be interested in the SCA, but this does not mean the whole group has to come and try it. Support the individuals who are interested and avoid putting them in a position where they have to choose between activities. In most cases, forcing a person to make a choice will result in the person choosing the group they are currently with. People go with the things they know. The important thing to remember is that recruitment is not an all or nothing deal. The modern LARP player base enjoys playing a large variety of games and many will loyally participate in multiple groups at the same time (remember the trend of cross-gaming).  Avoid the mindset that people who LARP do so because they have not experienced the “magic” of the SCA, or worse yet, picked LARP because they can’t handle or “cut it” in the SCA. It is important to keep in mind that many LARP players are fully aware of the SCA and simply prefer LARP. A specific example of this is fighting. Most LARP groups use padded weapons for combat (boffer weapons), but in the SCA padded weapons are typically reserved for children. It is easy to assume that LARP fighters use padded weapons because they can’t handle heavier fighting styles, but in reality most groups use padded weapons because that is what they know. Granted using padded weapons allows a larger number of people participate because it is cheaper and requires less protective gear, but this does not mean LARP fighters don’t take their fighting seriously. Many spend just as many hours practicing as your average SCA fighter; it just happens they use a different type of weapon. There are also some LARP people who avoid the SCA because they received incorrect or biased information about what the SCA is about or had (or heard about) a bad experience in the past. How many times has someone responded to talk about the SCA with “I heard they complain about people that are not historically accurate” or “getting involved is just too expensive”? This misinformation is often the reason the person started playing LARP instead of exploring the SCA. If the person is interested, this is a great opportunity to give people the correct information about what the SCA has to offer. Try not to push or oversell the SCA if the person is not interested. Simply meeting and getting to know people is often the best form of recruitment. A small seed of mutual interaction now can lead to new SCA members down the road. If nothing else the person may come away with a new and hopefully positive experience to replace the earlier negative one. Lastly, don’t go into a group assuming they like being called a LARP any more than the SCA does. There are new subgroups of LARP like activities that do not consider themselves LARP. Many of these are groups that focus on combat and battle activities and limit the fantasy elements seen in most LARP groups. These games are sometimes called live action battle games. This might seem like a fine line but being aware of this will help avoid pitfalls that could hurt another otherwise beneficial meeting.

Recruitment can work both ways and that is not a bad thing.

A reoccurring theme in this article is the development of a good relationship with local LARP groups, often to the point it might seem a lopsided effort, but the advantage is not as one sided as it might seem. Developing a working relationship with local LARP groups can help with recruiting for all groups involved. Remember recruiting is not an all or nothing deal. If the SCA maintains a good relationship with local LARP groups, it creates a self-maintained recruiting ground for all groups involved. New people that come in contact with the LARP group but have interests more geared to the SCA can be put in contact with the SCA. People who come in contact with the SCA but are a better fit for LARP can be sent in that direction. In the end it is better for everyone involved to keep interested people involved in the hobby on some level instead of losing them altogether. Plus, as their interests or levels of participation change (age, families), the person already have a good point of contact to seek the group that fits them best at the time. This also increases the public exposure of both groups because working as a team they can attend more events and demonstrations than one group working alone and in turn can cover more ground and meet more potential new people. There is also the advantage of the two groups attending the same event and supporting each other’s recruitment efforts. With growing concerns about getting new blood into the SCA, looking for potential sources of new members is more important than ever and LARP groups are part of that potential. Hopefully this article sheds some light on that value and gives some insight on how to recruit in that environment. I am always interested in feedback, suggestions, and tales of personal experience with the subject and welcome people to contact me.


Lord Magnus de Lyons

Categories: SCA news sites

Tremors in Tuscany spark fears for David‘s safety

History Blog - Sun, 2014-12-21 23:32

The Chianti region of Tuscany has experienced more than 250 tremors in three days, the two strongest of which measured 3.8. and 4.1 on the Richter scale. They only visible harm they caused was some minor structural damage in a town 20 miles south of Florence, but authorities are concerned that this could presage a larger seismic event that would wreak havoc on the city’s greatest artistic icon: Michelangelo’s statue of David.

A study published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage last March found that David‘s ankles and the tree stump support behind the right leg were severely weakened by microfractures. Centrifuge tests on small gypsum models of the statue revealed that under stress, the statue could collapse forward, snapping at both ankles. Vibrations from nearby construction, maintenance in the building and certainly an earthquake would be sufficient to cause catastrophic damage to the monumental sculpture. Its own six-ton weight could be sufficient to bring David down.

Small cracks in the left ankle and stump were first noticed in 1851. They may have developed during the flood of 1844 or three years later when sculptor Clemente Papi made a full-size plaster cast of David, but the recent study suggests the original source of the problem was that the statue spent almost four centuries outside the Palazzo della Signoria leaning forward at an approximately five degree angle which put undue stress on the weakest parts of the structure. (The angled placement wasn’t deliberate; researchers believe it was likely the result of the ground settling unevenly underneath the plinth.) The tilt was only corrected when David was moved indoors to the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873.

The microfractures have been monitored assiduously since 2001 and there doesn’t appear to have been any change in them, but even if the cracks aren’t getting gradually worse, they’re dangerous enough as it is. Add to that the inherent weakness of the marble — this particular block is riddled with microscopic holes that make it particularly susceptible to deterioration — and the giant-slayer is at constant risk. A few years ago there was discussion of insulating the statue from vibrations caused by footsteps of the thousands of tourists who walk by him every day.

The museum authorities declared that David would be safe even if the city was struck by an earthquake as strong as 5.5 magnitude, and there’s never been more than a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in Florence. That’s not much reassurance, however, because a) they can’t say for sure how strong the earthquake has to be to topple the statue, and b) just because a bigger one hasn’t hit yet doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.

Thankfully this weekend’s tremors have lit a fire under key asses. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini announced that the state would fund the construction of an anti-seismic plinth to the tune of 200,000 euros ($245,000). An anti-seismic platform has already been designed to fit David‘s needs and it was discussed as a possible solution to the microfracture danger when the study made the news earlier this year, but it was all just talk at that point. The past three days of seismic activity have finally spurred action.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Kingdom Rapier Marshal Announces New Deputy

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2014-12-21 20:56
Unto the populace of the Kingdom of the East do I, Don Frasier MacLeod send warmest greetings,    It is with great pleasure that I announce that Dona Camille des Jardins will be stepping into the position of Northern Regional Deputy Rapier Marshal.  She will be replacing Don Jean DeMontagne, who I would like to personally thank for his long and dutiful service to the Northern Region and Rapier in general.  Please join me in thanking Jean and welcoming Camille into her new position, and help her make her transition as seamless as possible.    In Service,      Don Frasier MacLeod, KRM, East
Filed under: Fencing, Official Notices

Rebuilding the Temple of Mithras

SCAtoday.net - Sun, 2014-12-21 15:51

In 1954, there was much debate over what to do with the recently discovered remains of a Temple of Mithras. Unable to reach a conclusion, the ruins were packed up and have led a nomadic existance ever since. Now the ruins are being returned to their original site, underneath a London office block.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Seaton Hoard - in Pictures

SCAtoday.net - Sun, 2014-12-21 08:23

Numismatists in England found themselves squirming with delight over the discovery in Devon of approximately 22,000 copper-alloy coins, "the largest of its kind ever found in Britain." Now Culture24 allows visitors to take a closer look at some of the coins with a slide show. (photos)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Ode on the animation of a Grecian urn

History Blog - Sat, 2014-12-20 23:29

I’m a devoted fan of the Greek vase animations made by Panoply. Computer animator Steve K. Simons and Greek warfare expert Dr. Sonya Nevin work together to develop moving parts from the static images on Greek pottery, much of it in the extensive collection of the University of Reading’s Ure Museum. They collaborate with ancient music experts to create soundtracks that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of the symposia depicted on the vases. It’s a full-spectrum historical immersion achieved through modern technology.

The project is focused on education and community outreach. Each animation provides additional resources for teachers to use the animations in class, and many of Panoply’s videos are storyboarded by local schoolchildren who get to enjoy an exceptional opportunity to learn about ancient art and history by studying a vase and then get to express their own creativity in the creation of the animated version of the scene. Sometimes they’re more serious treatments, sometimes lighthearted, but either way, the results are consistently wonderful. One of my favorites in the lighthearted category is this brilliant Dance Off storyboarded by the pupils of the Maiden Erlegh School and Kendrick School in Reading.

That 6th century B.C. Etruscan black figure oinochoe vase just GOT SERVED.

A more serious treatment is this animation of a combat sequence from 6th century B.C. lekanis vase made on the Greek island of Euboea.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that there isn’t more of it, which is why I was so excited to see Panoply’s latest effort, Hoplites! Greeks At War, a much longer and more detailed animation of the practice of ancient war from religious sacrifice to the thrust and parry of battle to the final victory.

I think it’s a masterpiece: the way the music and action are in perfect rhythm, how that blow creates the crack in the vase, integrating the condition of the vase into the scene, the addition of figures to form a little army instead of using the individual images alone. I feel like starting a petition demanding that all cheeseball reenactments of ancient history on television be replaced with Panoply animations.

Because I can’t resist them, I’m going to embed a couple of other favorites below, but you should go through all of the animations. They’re very short — Hoplites! is the exception length-wise, Dance Off the rule — so it won’t take you long to watch them.

Clash of the Dicers, created for a conference at the University College Dublin, features Achilles and Ajax playing a game during a lull in the Trojan War. It’s from a 6th century B.C. black figure amphora signed by potter Exekias now in the Vatican Museum. I love how the background glows like lava.

Medusa, storyboard by pupils from Addington School in Reading, was created pulling characters from three different vases: the gorgon is from a 6th century B.C. black figure kylix cup, her stoney victim from an Apulian 4th century B.C. red figure alabastron, and the warrior is from the Hoplites! lekanis.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Death in the Middle Ages

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2014-12-20 21:20

Death is a topic that is rarely discussed, yet clearly crucial to forming a more complete understanding of the Middle Ages and the people living during this time.  For these people, death was as much a part of everyday life then as technology is now.  The goal of this series of brief pieces is to touch on some surprising aspects of death during the Middle Ages that you may not have known.— Lady Beatrice de Winter 

Did you know?

For people living in the Middle Ages, there was often nothing final about their final resting place.  In many cases, graves were often disturbed by later burials, the bones from the initial burial sometimes carefully  arranged around the new corpse.  In cemeteries where space was at a premium, bodies were intentionally buried only temporarily.  Once the process of putrefaction was complete, the skeletal remains were retrieved and placed in an ossuary.  An ossuary is simply a final resting place for the bones of the dead.  However, the ossuaries of the time were frequently used to showcase these bones in an artistic manner.   Even the corpses of nobility were exhumed and buried into other locations for political or status reasons.

Did you know? 

Cemeteries in the Middle Ages were places where the living and the dead frequently commingled.  Some cemeteries were not just places to bury the dead, but also public meeting places where the living socialized, ate, drank, played games, danced, sang and carried on love affairs oblivious to the proximity of the dead in their midst.  Period documentation indicates the presence of a communal oven in one cemetery as well as the regular occurrence of merchants and tradesmen in cemeteries, despite attempts by the church council to limit secular activities.

Did you know? 

The recent discovery of the bones of Richard III resulted in a battle over his ultimate burial location.  His decedents argued that he should be buried in York, where he spent over a third of his life.  However, officials from the University of Leicester, the institution responsible for this great discovery, claim that they own the rights to bury him in Leicester Cathedral, which is not far from the parking lot in which the late ruler was discovered.   At stake is both deference to his familial heritage and a potentially significant economic impact in the area selected.  Remarkably, this conflict mirrors frequent disagreements that occurred over burial locations of the nobility during the Middle Ages.  At a time when conventional practices included burial in the traditional family resting place, which was often affiliated with a particular parish, it was not uncommon for an individual to instead wish be buried at a beloved parish of his or her own choosing.  This desire gave rise to the aforementioned parallel struggle of both familial strife and, as the institution interring the body was generally paid a tithe for the privilege, economic impact.  The controversial practice of bodily division was invented as a means to resolve this dilemma.  For example, the head, considered the “official” burial site of the individual, was often buried at the family resting place while the heart would be interred with the individual’s seat of piety instead.

Did you know?

Mechanical decapitation machines were used in capital punishment during the Middle Ages.  Although the guillotine itself was invented in 1792, long after the end of the Middle Ages, its predecessors were certainly used for capital punishment in pre-17th century Europe.  The Halifax Gibbet, which likely dates back to at least the 13th or 14th century, was located in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England and was used on market days to execute thieves caught with stolen goods to the value of 13½d or more, or who confessed to having stolen goods of at least that value.  The Scottish Maiden was introduced in 1564 during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots by Regent James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton for similar purposes.  In a twist of fate, Douglas was eventually executed by it himself in 1581.


Categories: SCA news sites

“Lord, help Veronica”

SCAtoday.net - Sat, 2014-12-20 17:43

Since 2000, Nikolai Ovcharov has headed excavations at Perperikon in southern Bulgaria, revealing some amazing finds. The latest includes a 12th to 13th century container inscribed with the words in Greek, “Lord, help Veronica.” (photo)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Don’t Forget to Submit!

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sat, 2014-12-20 15:34

The Gazette welcomes submissions from the populace – share your news with our Sylvan Kingdom! The Æthelmearc Gazette has been a success thanks to all of you; we are getting more than 700 views a day on a regular basis at this point, and moving upward each week!

We welcome event announcements and updates sent by autocrats, officer reports and missives, letters from our beloved Royalty, articles covering almost anything from our SCAdian time period; in short, anything of interest to the subjects of Æthelmearc.

See the submissions tab above for some short guidelines, and then send your news to aethgazette@gmail.com.

Categories: SCA news sites

Northern Ireland looks to the Isle of Man for preservation of Gaelic languages

SCAtoday.net - Sat, 2014-12-20 10:07

In the 1980s, Manx Gaelic was nearly extinct, but the language has made a comeback on the Isle of Man, thanks in part to the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, the world's only Manx-speaking school. Now educators in Northern Ireland are taking note and considering how to use the same methods to save Irish Gaelic.

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Categories: SCA news sites

Victorian public urinal listed as historic building

History Blog - Fri, 2014-12-19 23:40

The Victorian-era public urinal atop Blackboy Hill in Bristol has been listed as Grade II historic structures of “more than special interest” by English Heritage.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “Historic elements of the public realm, including street furniture and public facilities, are particularly vulnerable to damage, alteration and removal and where they survive well, they will in some cases be given serious consideration for designation.

“In times of austerity, facilities and structures such as this set of urinals are under increasing threat, and where there are found to be deserving of protection English Heritage will recommend to the Secretary of State that they be added to the National Heritage List for England.”

He said the urinal was a “relatively rare surviving example of a once common type of building” and represented the “civic aspirations of the authorities in the Bristol suburbs in the late Victorian period”.

The ornate cast iron building was made by W MacFarlane & Co. Ltd’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, by order of the Bristol Sanitary Committee in the 1880s. It is a rectangular full height structure with intricate perforated designs in Moorish style on the iron walls and a glass roof. Inside, chest-high white porcelain urinals are inset in the iron framing with curved modesty screens dividing each unit. The tile floor is a modern replacement, but the rest is original. The facility is still in use today and is a little the worse for wear. Perhaps its listing will inspire renovations.

Public lavatories were a nexus of Victorian obsessions — sanitation, technology, decoration as a marker of respectability, social reform, class conflict, gender roles, avoiding the various grossnesses of human biology. The modern era of public toilets was ushered in by sanitary engineer George Jennings who built “commodious refreshment rooms, with the accompaniments usually connected with them at large railway stations” in the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The euphemistic description in the catalog was no deterrent to use. The first public flushing toilets were a hit, used 827,820 times by men and women during the five months of the Great Exhibition. The pay toilets raised £2,441 at a penny per usage, a fee that would remain standard for 150 years, inflation be damned. The idiom for urinating “spend a penny” is a legacy of Jennings’ innovation.

Spurred by the success of the Exhibition facilities and George Jennings’ ceaseless advocacy for public lavatories, the Society of Arts privately funded separate men and women’s toilets in 1852. They were as spectacular a failure as the ones in the Crystal Palace had been a success. Elegantly appointed and staffed by a supervisor and two attendants, these bathrooms were pricey at two pence per use or three pence for the basic plus a wash and brush (that’s right, you had to pay extra to wash your hands after using the public toilet). Perhaps deterred by the price or simply resistant to the very notion, only 58 men and 24 women used the lavatories over the course of a month. The facilities were promptly shut down.

The first public in both senses of the word — municipally funded and located on the public thoroughfare — lavatory was built outside the Royal Exchange in 1855. It was for men only and facilities would remain exclusively Gents for nearly 40 years. There was immense resistance from both men and women to the notion of public conveniences for the fairer sex. For some people, the notion of women peeing or pooping in close confines with other people of all walks of life was shockingly immodest, by its very design putting respectable middle and upper class women in the position of exposing their bodies and bodily functions in public much like prostitutes. The mixing of classes was seen as a danger in and of itself, the lady contaminated by rubbing shoulders with the flower girl.

The Ladies Sanitary Association began campaigning for public women’s facilities in 1878, demanding there be public restrooms (with one free water closet in every facility for poor women) to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of working women navigating the city. Eleven years later, the first municipal women’s facility opened in Piccadilly Circus.

The controversy was by no means over, however. In London’s civil parish of St Pancras, the first public latrines with accommodations for women were built on Kentish Town Road and St Pancras Road in the 1890s, but when the Vestry (the parish government) debated installing a women’s only facility at the intersection of Park Street and Camden High Street, it took five years, from 1900 to 1905, to get over all the snickering and dissembling from the governing body and protests from the residents and businesspeople. We have no less of a witness to this fracas than playwright George Bernard Shaw who was a Vestryman at St Pancras from 1897 to 1903.

In the March 1909 issue The Englishwoman, a journal advocating the extension of the franchise to women, Shaw published The Unmentionable Case for Woman’s Suffrage, an essay arguing that women in government were necessary to keep grown men from devolving into junior high nitwits whenever issues pertaining to women’s sanitation, public accommodations, etc. were discussed. He also revealed the sabotage and Catch 22s that kept the bathrooms from being built for five years.

For instance, the bus companies protested that the facility would be a dangerous traffic obstacle, even though there was a men’s room literally in the middle of the intersection across the street from the proposed ladies’ room. They put up a wooden model at the proposed location and indeed it was ploughed into no less than 45 times. Shaw pointed out in the essay that this statistic was not exactly bullet-proof.

[The wooden model] brought about all the power of the vestryman over the petty commerce and petty traffic of his district. In one day, every omnibus on the Camden Town route, every tradesman’s cart owned within a radius of two miles, and most of the rest of the passing vehicles, including private carriages driven to the spot on purpose, crashed into that obstruction with just violence enough to produce an accident without damage. The drivers who began the game were either tipped or under direct orders; but the joke soon caught on, and was kept up for fun by all and sundry.

The one Vestrywoman, Mrs. Miall-Smith, tried to get her colleagues to take the issue seriously because the thousands of women flocking to Camden Town to work in its factories needed to pee every once in a while, but with the class-mixing paranoia that accompanied the public toilet issue, her argument wasn’t likely to persuade the opposition.

Shaw noted that there was one highly relevant woman staff member who should have weighed in on the issue: a female sanitation inspector hired to examine the sanitary accommodations for women factory workers. She had an enormous task of inspecting work sites to see if they even had any facilities for women at all (many of them did not) and checking the ones that did have women’s lavatories multiple times a week for cleanliness. Shaw’s comment on her is a fascinating window into the complexities of communication across class and gender lines in Victorian Britain.

The exclusion of women from the Borough Council left the inspectress in a difficult position. The barrier of the unmentionable arose between her and members of the Health Committee. It was all the higher because the inspectress was generally an educated woman of university rank, not at all conversant with the sort of local tradesman who regards the subject of sanitary accommodation as one to which no lady should allude in the presence of a gentleman.

Finally in December of 1905, the debate ended. After more prodding from Mrs. Miall-Smith and a report from the Highways, Sewers and Public Works Committee, the borough agreed to build the Park Street women’s lavatory.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Beauty from tragedy in Roman Colchester

SCAtoday.net - Fri, 2014-12-19 16:28

Experts working on the restoration and preservation of the Fenwick Treasure, found in the summer of 2014 under a floor of a house in the town center of Colchester, England, believe that the hoard of jewelry had been hidden during the Boudican revolt of 61 CE. In the future, the treasure will be displayed at Colchester Castle Museum. (photos)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Music at Kingdom Twelfth Night

AEthelmearc Gazette - Fri, 2014-12-19 13:10

Good musicians of Æthelmearc!

January 10 is Æthelmearc Kingdom 12th night! Among the many activities (bardic
championship, brewing contest, children’s activities, etc.) will be a Masked Ball. It would be wonderful if you bring your instruments and your talent to play for Their Royal Majesties and Their Royal Highnesses and all the populace in attendance.

Please come to the Ball! Entertain and delight us as we dance to your music. The set list is on the event website here. The music is from the Pennsic Pile 43.  Please come share your skill and music on this most glorious occasion!

Sionn, the Lost

(If you plan to attend and play, feel free to let me know beforehand so I can ensure you have all the information/music you require. Regardless, we will be glad to see and hear you at the event.)

Categories: SCA news sites

"A thousand years of history" at the Tiverton Fall Fair demo

SCAtoday.net - Fri, 2014-12-19 12:37

"We have a thousand years of history to 'play' with. We study how hey did it and then try ourselves. It's really a living history group and involves such a huge range of interests." Baroness Sibylla (Tamara Pasley) told Troy Patterson of Kincardine News (Lucknow, Ontario), about the recent Tiverton Fall Fair demo by members of the Incipient Canton of Northgaeham. (photos)

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Categories: SCA news sites

Queens’ Favor Design for Pennsic 44

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2014-12-19 12:15

Yes, that’s “Queens”, plural. This missive is from the Favor Coordinator:

For those who are inclined, Their Highnesses’ website is now up and running, including a link to a full color template and instructions for the shared favor of Princesses Arabella and Etheldreda.

These fine ladies have decided to mark the solidarity of their two kingdoms as we approach war with AEthelmearc, and have chosen a design that features the mighty dragon of the Middle Kingdom and the fierce tyger of the East.

We encourage all of the artisans of our fair kingdoms to create favors in any medium, provided they may hang from a belt. Please feel free to ask questions of myself or Lady Aislinn regarding the favors. They may be delivered to me, Her Highness, or to any retainers at an event.

Thank you all for your kind services to our kingdom and our honored allies and know that I remain yours in service,
Lady Jenevra

Details and a printable instruction sheet are available at:

Filed under: Tidings Tagged: favors

Event Announcement: Feast of the End of the Gaunt Days

East Kingdom Gazette - Fri, 2014-12-19 10:05
Feast of the End of the Gaunt Days Sunday, February 22, 2015 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Our fair kingdom enjoyed the fruits of another bountiful harvest, then celebrated and hunkered down for a long winter. Then came the Gaunt Days, as larders became emptier and emptier. From Mid-February we can almost see the End of the Gaunt Days! Let us come together at table, bringing whatever we can to celebrate our survival! The Feast is a chance for the clever victualler to show off their cunning in making tasty fare from the remains of the pantry. What food do you have, when no other can be found fresh? Did you pickle? Smoke? Dry? Collect up the eggs? Ferment?

This pot-luck gathering is part foodie-schola, wherein anyone can come and either just enjoy the day, or show off your finest concoctions for judging and sharing (or just sharing), and part schmoozefest. The day starts with judging so that by lunch and throughout the day the rest of us can sample, learn techniques and swap tips.

Those who bring a dish that feeds 4 or more can have it judged for a chance at stunning prizes and our deepest gratitude! Before the event, it might be a good time to hold workshops and teach someclasses on preservation? Several guilds have sent representatives in the past and we look forward to them attending again.

Prize categories are: People’s Choice, February Fruits, A Mighty Impressive Pickle!, Season’s Meatings, Lenten Lunchtime, The Best Root Home, What Vegetation Survived, Behold the Power of Cheese!, Drinks that Are not Just Melted Snow, Toothsome Stews and Soups, Sweets for the Sweet, and the nebulous None of the Above.

The site is not dry, but do try not to stagger out into the street.

Costs: $0. Students and the elderly are half price.

Donations are gratefully accepted.

We remember those who are going through their own Gaunt Days. Donations to The Jonnycake Center – our local food bank – are gratefully accepted at the door.

The Event Steward, Meister Ulric von der Insel, can be reached at acadie@cox.net or 401-330-0357 before 9pm.

Site: Wishford Hall, 1034 Main Street, Hopkinton, RI

Site opens at 11:00am and the event ends at 5:00pm.

Directions: From I-95 north or southbound, take exit 3 to route 138 west.

Official Event Announcement

Filed under: Events

Freer, Sackler to release entire collections online

History Blog - Thu, 2014-12-18 23:41

The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery have completed a digitization project whose scope is unprecedented in the United States. Come January 1st, 2015, their entire collections, more than 40,000 works of Asian and American art, will be released online. Most of these works have never been on display so they will be seen by the public for the first time as high resolution images.

In the initial release, each work will be represented by one or more stunningly detailed images at the highest possible resolution, with complex items such as albums and manuscripts showing the most important pages. In addition, some of the most popular images will also be available for download as free computer, smartphone and social media backgrounds. Future iterations plan to offer additional functionality like sharing, curation and community-based research.

“The depth of the data we’re releasing illuminates each object’s unique history, from its original creator to how it arrived at the Smithsonian,” said Courtney O’Callaghan, director of digital media and technology at the Freer and Sackler galleries. “Now, a new generation can not only appreciate these works on their own terms, but remix this content in ways we have yet to imagine.”

The museum’s masterpieces range in time from the Neolithic to the present day, featuring especially fine groupings of Chinese jades and bronzes, Islamic art, Chinese paintings and masterworks from ancient Persia. Currently, the collection boasts 1,806 American art objects, 1,176 ancient Egyptian objects, 2,076 ancient Near Eastern objects, 10,424 Chinese objects, 2,683 Islamic objects, 1,213 South and Southeast Asian objects and smaller groupings of Korean, Armenian, Byzantine, Greek and Roman works. In addition, the Freer Study Collection — more than 10,000 objects used by scholars around the world for scientific research and reference — will be viewable for the first time.

To enable the widest possible usage, fully 90% of the images will be free of any copyright restrictions for noncommercial use. The museums hope this will engender wider study of Asian art as well as new artworks inspired by the pieces in their galleries and archives.

Very few museums in the US have digitized their entire collections, and none of them are museums specializing in Asian art. The Freer and Sackler are also the first of the Smithsonian museums to have complete online collections. It’s not surprising that they would be pioneers in this area. The Freer and Sackler are the only museums to have been in on the ground floor of both the Google Art Project digitization initiative and the Google Cultural Institute. Google did the heavy lifting on those, though. The Smithsonian staff spent nearly 6,000 work hours this year photographing and digitizing the Freer/Sackler collections.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History