Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Happy 25th Anniversary, Lithuania!

I often tell people that Lithuania is "the little country with two Independence Days." Well, there's a good reason for that.

Twenty-five years ago today, Lithuania became the first of the so-called Soviet Socialist Republics to declare itself free of the Soviet Union. This was a huge deal. It came only about four months after the Berlin Wall had fallen. During those heady weeks, new ideas swept through Eastern Europe, but the big cheese, the USSR, managed to stay intact. Suddenly, a giant ax smashed through the foundation of the central Soviet nation itself.

Vytautas Landsbergis, a music professor with the same first name as one of Lithuania's great historic figures, was the leader of the Supreme Council of Lithuania when it passed the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, and his signature is right there at the top where Soviet authorities wouldn't miss it. (That says "re-establishment" because Lithuania was an independent nation between 1918 and 1940, and, of course, the Lithuanian nation goes back many more centuries than that.)

In May 2011, as I noted on this blog, I got a chance to meet Dr. Landsbergis in person and shake his hand at the Baltimore Lithuanian Festival. I'm still thrilled that I was able to meet him once. After all, how many people on this Earth can say that they broke an evil empire?

Happy Rebirth-Day, Lithuania!

(And, yes, I'll post again soon so that I can describe my recent adventures in the SCA.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Links and more links!

Recently I have been exchanging Facebook messages about medieval Baltic topics with a couple of my Slavic Interest Group (SIG) friends, Mistress ffride (Kingdom of Lochac) and Lady Magdalena (Kingdom of Aethelmearc). As a result, I have lots and lots of browser tabs open. Before my computer's memory gets tied up in knots, I really ought to save those links somewhere and close those tabs. What better place to save such links than right here?

Without further ado:

Link that mentions the Gediminas Sceptre in the context of Baltic cosmology. I really wish this page provided some sources. page for a Lithuanian graduate student in archaeology. Her name is Augustina Kuriliene.

A Vilnius museum's exhibit on Grand Duke Alexander.

History of the palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

Some tiles from a cathedral (in Lithuanian). One of those medieval tiles shows a woman wearing what may be a very tall, flat-topped hat. In another tile, two rabbits seem to be consulting a recipe book while cooking a stew. In a third tile, two rabbits appear to be roasting a human chef over a spit. (Revenge of the bunnies!!)

PDF of a 2003 article on Lithuanian archaeology by Daiva Steponaviciene.

Website of some Lithuanian group called Vita Antiqua (I believe Daiva S. is involved with it).

This page seems to list all the commemorations of Lithuanian historical events that will take place in 2015.

Evidence of Lithuanian platform shoes. (Somebody wanted to look taller!)

Another 16th-century tile, this one showing rabbits fending off the hounds. (Somebody really, really liked bunnies!)

Finally, here are a few links that are not specific to the Baltic and Slavic regions but that I find interesting anyway:

The Tudor Tailor website is a companion to the series of books on 16th-century clothing.

Free, downloadable monographs on various topics pertaining to English archaeology.

A Web page on inkle weaving.

Beautiful clothing that one of my friends made for the Baron and Baroness of Dun Carraig (a nearby SCA branch).

And, finally, did you know that there's an authentic butterbeer recipe from the Tudor era? Now you can combine your SCA brewing with your Harry Potter fandom! :-)

As far as the rest of my SCA life goes, well, things are always quieter this time of year. Earlier this fall I skipped a couple of SCA events that I really would have liked to attend because of cash-flow issues. At least I had great fun participating in a "medieval maker faire" demo that Storvik was invited to organize as part of the University of Maryland at College Park's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the publication of Lord of the Rings. This fall Storvik has been welcoming a number of newcomers, both from the university and the region at large. And our barony is planning a performing-arts event in January 2015. And I'm still knitting socks for Lady Sonya's sock classes. So things are quiet but good.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dresses to go with the cap?

Now that I have a St. Birgitta's cap of my own, what shall I wear it with? This morning I happened to see a relevant post in the SCA Garb group on Facebook. So, right now I'm just parking the links that the comments to that post contained -- various tutorials on fitted kirtles.

I have no idea whether the "gothic fitted dress" would look good on me or not, but it might be interesting to try it sometime in the future. If it turns out to be not the most flattering thing, I don't have to make any more, and I can still wear the cap with other things -- apparently, it makes a great anchor for a veil.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Battle on the Bay

(Adapted from a private LiveJournal post written last week.)

For the third year, the baronies of Storvik and Lochmere held an event called "Battle on the Bay." The tradition came about because the two baronies were holding their baronial birthdays one week apart, and the Kingdom officers were gently leaning on their branches to plan fewer but better events. (Storvik became a Barony of the East Kingdom on September 15, 1979; back then, Atlantia was a Principality of the East. Lochmere became a Barony of Atlantia on August 20, 1988, but that anniversary falls just a little too close to Pennsic and the beginning of the public school year in Maryland.)

For the first Battle on the Bay, Storvik was the primary organizer of the event, with Lochmere helping. Last year, Lochmere was the primary organizer, even though it was a Storvik baronial investiture. This year, it was again Storvik's turn to host and Lochmere's turn to get new Baronage.

This year I decided not to camp overnight at Battle on the Bay for two reasons. First, I wanted to get up to Baltimore and see the "Star-Spangled Spectacular" events surrounding the 200th anniversary of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Second, the chance of rain on Saturday the 13th was 40 to 60 percent, and I didn't want to spend half of Sunday wrestling with wet tent canvas in my crowded condo.

So I got up on Saturday in reasonable time to get to the event. I'd been told I might be needed to herald the last court of Their Outgoing Excellencies of Lochmere, but at the last minute that barony's herald was able to show up after all. Thus I announced Their Excellencies of Storvik when they processed into court and watched the Lochmere investiture ceremony from behind the thrones. It rained off and on during the afternoon, but it was not windy, so we didn't have to worry about tree limbs falling and tents collapsing.

Herveus and Megan, who had their fiber-arts merchant business tent set up, were also selling books that had belonged to Pedro and Devora. When she moved to Iowa City this summer, Devora didn't want to take them with her, so they had languished in her storage unit. I bought four books: three on heraldry and one on medieval technology. Many of the books that Herveus and Megan were selling last weekend were about medieval Spain and Portugal and the Judaism that was practiced there; while those are worthy topics, I simply don't have the space on my shelves to accommodate them, and I have other interests within the SCA. I do hope all those volumes find good homes.

Also during the afternoon, I entered a "Viking plunder" competition in which the winner would receive as a prize all the "booty" that was submitted. I dragged out my wire-weaving supplies and did a modest chain out of gold-toned craft wire. Not my best, but I hadn't picked up the wire in a couple of years (I think). I can't remember who ended up winning, but I hope he or she makes the chain into something.

The rain had stopped by the time afternoon baronial court rolled around. Afterward, Their Excellencies of Storvik invited me and Lady Tatsume to join them at high table, just because they think everyone should be invited to do so at least once. So that was extremely cool. No King -- he had left the site in mid-afternoon -- just the two sets of B&Bs and their guests. I did a little dancing after feast and before going home.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cap of St. Birgitta

As I said in my previous post, last month I took a Pennsic University class on how to make a St. Birgitta's cap. Lady Sarai Tindall taught the class. I don't think she has a website of her own, but the method she taught was very similar to the one in this tutorial. The main difference was that Lady Sarai had us leave the ends unconnected to each other, so that we could tie them in a knot or bow. Also, we didn't do the optional embroidery between the two halves of the cap, and we had to "finger-press" the linen seams instead of ironing them (fortunately, in hot and humid weather, that isn't difficult to do).

You can go to the tutorial if you want step-by-step instructions. I would just like to post photos depicting some of the stages of my work.

First, here's how my cap looked toward the end of the two-hour Pennsic class:

I had hand-stitched the two halves of the cap together and finished the gathers at the back of the head, but that's about it. (Granted, a good part of the class was an introductory talk followed by distribution of materials, etc.)

The next time I bothered to take a photo of my work, I had pretty much finished sewing the ties to the front edge of the cap, down to the gathers. The ties came in three separate pieces, including a bit of extra handkerchief linen I had to buy after the class.

I finished the last little bit of stitching only after I got home from Pennsic. Here are a couple of photos of the finished cap on my head (pardon the mundane clothing on the rest of me):

I'm not sure about that bow. Maybe I should redo the strap/tie as a long closed loop that could be wrapped around my head. Hey, I should experiment with this -- what a concept!

I think I have enough of the handkerchief linen to make at least one more of these caps.I might try the same thing, or I might experiment with doing the embroidery down the middle seam, or other embellishments such as contrasting thread for the hand stitching. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few other links related to the St. Birgitta's cap.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Restarting this blog

OK, it's been a long while now. While the hunt for full-time employment continues, I try to keep up with my SCA life as well as I can with my limited means. I haven't been doing much Lithuanian research lately, but I have been attending events when I can and trying to make myself useful to the Barony of Storvik.

For example, this past January my Barony hosted Atlantia's Kingdom Twelfth Night, a very Big Deal in SCA circles. We held it at the Shriners' temple in Washington, D.C., which inspired the event's Ottoman theme. Some of my friends and I made brand-new late-period Ottoman garb specifically for this event -- I was literally working on it at 1 a.m. the morning thereof! Plus, I organized the heraldic consult table. So, even though it was the first completely Metro-accessible event in our Kingdom in many years, I couldn't really take Metrorail, because I was lugging 50 or 60 pounds of stuff -- books, musical instruments, refreshments for heralds, etc. Plus I was wearing clothing that looked vaguely Middle Eastern and I would have been getting off the train a few blocks from the White House. On top of everything, the skies gave us cold winter rain all day. Nevertheless, it was a lovely event.

I recently returned from spending a week or so at Pennsic 43, and, now that I have mostly finished unpacking and doing laundry, I have concluded that I really should be chronicling everything I do for the SCA, not just research and crafts related to Lithuania. Don't worry, I'm not giving up my Baltic studies, but many times I find something interesting and enjoyable to do that falls within the purview of the SCA but does not pertain to Lithuania. I really ought to record that stuff for posterity, too, until some greater pattern emerges.

So, to start with, here is a link to some photos depicting the construction of my Ottoman outfit: A few of the photos at the end of the album depict me as I was trying to convert the coat pattern into a vest pattern, so that I could make a sleeveless, unlined vest with the remainder of the fabric I used for the outer layer of the coat. I'll post more of the details some other time.

And here are my photos from the event itself: I'm in the very last picture (apologies for the blurriness; we were trying to avoid flash).

At this most recent Pennsic, I was extremely cautious with my spending and I didn't want to take a class in something that would make me run out and buy all sorts of expensive supplies. However, I did take a class on how to make a St. Birgitta's cap. The cost was just a few dollars for the linen and the handout, and I did most of the hand-stitching at Pennsic and finished it up at home. I will try to write about that very soon in a separate entry.

I'll just close this one off with a couple of images. Here is a selfie of me at Pennsic on August 6, halfway through War Week. (I'm wearing a kerchief, not the St. Birgitta's cap.)

Finally -- just so I can have some Lithuanian content in this entry -- here is a portrait of my cat trying to look learned. :-)

Friday, October 25, 2013

My excuse this time...

OK, here is what happened between this blog post and the last one. (Some of it, anyway.)

The second weekend in May was the annual Lithuanian Festival in Catonsville, Maryland, but it was also full of other demands on my time. My dance group was supposed to perform at the Maryland Faerie Festival, quite a bit north of Catonsville, and a couple of friends of mine were moving their stuff from one apartment to another in Hyattsville, near Maryland's border with the District of Columbia. As things worked out, the dance group agreed to perform on Sunday, so I figured that I could go to the Lithuanian Festival on Saturday -- getting out the door earlier than I normally do -- and then see if my friends needed any help when I got back.

As always, I had a great time at the Lithuanian Festival. Someone had brought in his collection of Lithuanian beer cans, and I was amused to see that some of the brands were named in honor of the great victory at the Battle of Zalgiris:
I really enjoyed the tasty potato pancakes fried up as a fundraiser for Malunas, the Baltimore-based Lithuanian dance group.
And finally this year someone was actually doing a marguciai demonstration and selling basic egg-decorating supplies:
When I got home, I called my friends, whom I met in the SCA as Pedro and Devora, and asked them if they still needed help. Pedro answered the phone and said that they were all done moving stuff for the day, but he thanked me for my offer of help just the same.

It was the last time I ever spoke to him.

The following Thursday, Pedro had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. He had brain surgery to try to relieve the pressure on his brain, but to no avail. He passed away on Memorial Day at the age of 42.

I had met Pedro and Devora at my very first SCA event. Later he became my heraldry teacher; I looked up to him as if I was his protege, even though he never became a Pelican (he was the protege of Master Herveus, one of the SCA's top heralds). Still later, as his interests shifted toward his old love of amateur astronomy, he joined my science-writing group and we were once both on the same "trivia night" winning team -- our intellectual strengths and weaknesses complemented each other brilliantly (I didn't know which vegetable symbolized Wales; he didn't know which rock group had Paul Hewson for a lead singer).

Losing Pedro, and knowing that Devora had lost the love of her life, was like a giant punch to the gut in an otherwise good time of my life: I had been working a temporary job at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and cranking out freelance articles on the side. The loss has been hanging over me ever since, whether I'm practicing my heraldry, looking up at the night sky, or catching one of Devora's Facebook posts.

I didn't go to Pennsic War this year, not because of a lack of money, but by a time squeeze -- since Pennsic started earlier than usual, it overlapped the "crunch time" at the end of my Smithsonian contract. I missed Pennsic terribly, of course, but as we say in the SCA, real life always comes first.

So, now that the weather is getting cooler again, I'm trying to get back into the groove. Storvik has a new Baron and Baroness who have a lot of ideas for things to do. The Kingdom of Atlantia's Twelfth Night will take place in Storvik next January, which also happens to be the 10th anniversary of my first-ever SCA event. Anniversaries tend to make me pause and take stock of where I've been and, more importantly, where I still want to go. I may make some posts on this topic in the near future.

In the meantime, I know where I'm going this weekend: to the next Slavic University, again in the Kingdom of Aethelmearc. Woo-hoo!

Finally, congratulations to Lithuania for its election to one of the non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. And for the second half of 2013, Lithuania holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Lithuania is truly coming of age as a 21st-century nation!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Long time no post (AGAIN)

Wow ... yeah ... it HAS been a long time.

Now, I certainly haven't abandoned the SCA. I've been to a number of events and have continued to serve my Barony as a herald. But I've been focusing, by necessity, on trying to find gainful employment.

Still, I was happy to see that Wikipedia featured the article on the history of Lithuania from 1219 to 1295 in honor of today's independence/statehood day in Lithuania. Technically, today's holiday has nothing to do with the 13th century -- it's the "Day of Re-establishment of the State of Lithuania" dating from 1918. Modern Lithuania has two other statehood holidays -- the "Day of Restitution of Independence of Lithuania" on March 11 (commemorating its departure from the Soviet Union in 1990) and "Statehood Day" on July 6 (the anniversary of the crowning of Mindaugas in 1253, which actually did happen in the 13th century).

I still haven't given up my thought of teaching a class focusing on Lithuanian women (or, more broadly, Baltic women). It's just that, right now, economic survival comes first.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Post-Pennsic Post

Yeah, I like alliteration. :-)

I spent last week at Pennsic 41 (the second half of the event). Of course I had a fabulous time despite the periodic bursts of wind and rain. My "modern" canvas tent, which may be as much as 35 years old, held up like a champ.

The Slavic Interest Group (SIG) meeting is always one of the highlights of Pennsic for me. Some of my SIG friends were missing -- either they didn't get to War or they were off doing something else -- but it was a pleasure to chat with newer folks, and a happy surprise to find out that one or two of them remembered my past classes on Lithuania. We shared snacks and booze (*smile*) and left with tentative plans to have another Slavic University in central Pennsylvania, perhaps sometime next year.

I also took an afternoon class on basic inkle weaving and even bought myself a small inkle loom. I really want to practice good, consistent weaving with constant tension. Also, I suspect that an inkle loom will be the perfect platform for me to practice the kind of pick-up weaving that I see in Lithuanian woven bands. However, I've got to learn the basics thoroughly first.

Finally -- and this has nothing to do with Pennsic -- back in July there was a Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Boston. Wow, I would have loved to attend it, at least as a spectator. I want to peruse the website more, but I'm just posting it here as a placeholder now. So many interests, so little time....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Garb Thoughts for a Midsummer Day

(Author's note: I started writing this on Sunday, June 24, but didn't get around to finishing it. With the big storm and power outages that canceled the June 30 SCA event in my barony, things got kind of crazy. So here is the article as I started to write it ... if that makes any sense.)

As I noted three years ago, today is Lithuania's Midsummer Day, also called Rasos, Kupolės or Joninės. The weather has been heating up around here, but I spent most of today indoors at an Italian Renaissance gown workshop hosted by Mistress Jeanmaire du Doremy. She is a Laurel primari
ly for late-period clothing, and by "late period," I mean the 16th century.

A couple of blog posts ago, I mentioned that I'm not all that great at making garb. Seriously, the clothing I've made since joining the SCA in 2004 amounts to a couple of chemises, a T-tunic dress, a shorter tunic for wearing over a skirt or pants, a woolen half-circle cloak, a liripipe hood (which I keep misplacing), a couple of veils, and a whole bunch of "bog dresses" or simple cotton chitons. This simple stuff is great for Pennsic. I'm not sorry I made any of it. But if I want to make some authentically Lithuanian (or Polish-Lithuanian) garb, I have two routes: the early-period stuff, with precious little pictorial evidence, or the late-period stuff, where there are at least a few paintings, such as Lucas Cranach the Younger's depiction of the Jagiellon family.

Mistress Jeanmaire's class focused on a particular dress worn in a 16th-century portrait, a print of which hangs on her wall at home. She has already made a gown for herself based on this portrait, and she wore it at the most recent Kingdom Twelfth Night. She explained in detail how to make the four layers: chemise (you must have a chemise specific to this dress), corset, underskirt, and the gown itself. We took each other's measurements and traced out customized corset patterns (after trying on the existing corset). At the end of the afternoon, we agreed to have another meeting in late September, well after Pennsic, when we can show off what we've done so far and continue working on our outfits.

Update on July 6: Since the class, I've dug out my copy of Tarp Rytu Ir Vakaru and looked at the illustrations other than the Cranach portraits. The book has one or two other late-period depiction of women wearing dresses that seem to be more like "Italian Renn" fashions than Saxon gowns. I really ought to bring this book, and the little other evidence I have, to the next gathering with Mistress Jeanmaire and ask her about this. If it turns out that Italy was as much of an influence on Lithuanian fashion in the 1500s and 1600s as the "German" regions (because of Bona Sforza and other "intermarriages" among noble families), that will make my "what to wear" conundrum much easier to resolve.