Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baltic-style provisioning

Ah, where to get Eastern European food without spending all that money on airfare and hotels? Wouldn't it be great to have a listing of stores and restaurants that provide such tasty ethnic victuals?

Disclaimer: The following is not a commercial endorsement. I'm simply pointing out a few food sources that I know of.

Not far from Storvik, I've found the Kielbasa Factory in Rockville, Md. LOTS of varieties of frozen pierogies and other treats. Plenty of candy and canned goods imported from Poland. Some of these things are Polish specialties; others are simply food products you can get elsewhere, but with Polish-language labels. I think the people who run the store are natives of Poland, too.

Also in Rockville, plus two other sites in northern Virginia, is the Russian Gourmet. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but I hope to do so in the new year.

In my hometown of Gardner, Mass., Bonk's Market is still in business. I know, "Bonk's" isn't much of a Slavic name, but when I was growing up, it was the place to go for Lithuanian "white" (i.e., not smoked) kielbasa and fresh rye bread. (My hometown has even more French Canadian Americans than Polish Americans -- that's why Bonk's also serves up poutines rapées at this time of year.) I haven't been to Bonk's in years, but when I'm in Massachusetts next week, I'll have to check it out!

In the Boston area, the purveyor of Eastern European groceries seems to be the Baltic European Deli not far from Andrew Square. I've never been there, but maybe I ought to check it out on a future trip.

Finally, I stumbled upon, a Web site that lists lots of Polish shops and restaurants around the U.S. Of course I can't vouch for its completeness. Mostly, I'd like to hear from other Slavic Interest Group members, SCA folks, and re-enactors who can suggest food-related business they're familiar with.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lithuania's castle in the air?

I meant to post this over the weekend, but I got busy.

Believe it or not, the Washington Post actually published a news story about a medieval Lithuanian palace! Of course, the article painted the palace -- actually an ongoing reconstruction of a 15th-century palace in Old Town Vilnius -- as ye olde white-elephant boondoggle. After all, nobody remembers exactly what it looked like, since the original was destroyed 200 years ago. Ah, well, even if it can't serve as SCA documentation, I'd like to visit it some day -- along with the rest of Old Town Vilnius.

Slavic stuff on the horizon...

Since I last posted on this blog, I've been added to the tentative class list for Slavic University 2010. (Yes, I know, that's the title of my existing course instead of the one I've been developing, but we'll see how far the development goes.) Several other classes have been announced. I know that Posadnitsa Sfandra is a dynamic teacher because I've taken one or two of her Pennsic classes over the years.

Plus, Baron Bardulf is planning to bring his portrait-photography setup to Slavic U. He is the gentleman who took the formal photograph of me in my Cavalier outfit at Atlantia's Twelfth Night 2009. This is just a little more motivation for me to get a Baltic/Lithuanian outfit together in time for the event. Of course, if the Baron's time gets all filled up with appointments with people who haven't yet had the chance to pose for him, I will let them have their turns.

One more thing: I've learned that the Midwinter's Revel (Barony of Lochmere, Kingdom of Atlantia) will host an "Anything Slavic" A&S competition/demonstration. Since this is a fairly local event for me (roughly a 45-minute drive from my residence), I'll be really tempted to prepare something to enter -- and maybe not even Lithuanian specifically, just something Slavic. (This competition theme wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Their Royal Majesties have Russian personas and live in Lochmere, right? Naah....)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Just what I was looking for!

Not long after I wrote last week's post, I learned that Slavic University 2010 has indeed been confirmed for next April! I had met Lady Marija at Pennsic 38 and she said this event was in the works, but I didn't want to mention it on this blog until there was an official announcement.

Slavic University will take place April 10, 2010, in the Shire of Sylvan Glen in the Kingdom of Aethelmearc. Mundanely, that's Shepherdstown, West Virginia -- in fact, the event site is less than one mile from Atlantia's border! I can drive to it in 90 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic.

I told Lady Marija I'd be happy to publicize the event within Atlantia. I'm thinking of putting together some flyers to hand out at the University of Atlantia in February and the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival in March. Atlantia's current King and Queen, Their Majesties Vladimir and Kalisa, have Slavic personas -- see their photo here, at least until the next Coronation on April 3 -- so I'm hoping that sparks at least a little more interest.

So, there I have it -- more motivation to get off my duff and dive back into Lithuanian history and material culture!

One semi-related piece of news: the Lithuanian embassy has donated 62 new books about Lithuania to the Library of Congress. Dang, I can hardly wait to get a look at them!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The post-Pennsic sloth continues...

... but there is a ray of hope.

Seriously, you've probably noticed that I haven't updated this blog in over a month. It's a rather quiet time for me in the SCA; my home barony isn't having another event until February, and other things, such as mundane business travel, have gotten in the way of my attending other Atlantian events.

However, I recently noticed that the February 2010 session of the University of Atlantia will be held in the Shire of Isenfir, which is in central Virginia. It's a rather long but still reasonable drive for a day trip. Maybe this will become motivation to prepare for a "test run" of either of my class ideas for Pennsic 39. I'm open to suggestions, of course.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cavalier outfit, again

Here's a better portrait of of me in the Cavalier outfit that I mentioned in the previous entry. It was taken at Atlantian Twelfth Night 2009 by Baron Bardulf Rauen of the Shire of Border Vale Keep. He kindly takes portraits of Atlantians with a professional camera/lighting setup and doesn't even charge for it. I am most grateful to him for making me look good!

I do enjoy this Cavalier outfit, even though I don't wear it often (and definitely NOT at outdoor events). My only quibble is that I wasn't wearing a bum roll under the skirt because I couldn't find it in time. Now I think I know where I put it.

And, yes, I know that this has nothing to do with Lithuania ... but I think a Lithuanian woman visiting western Europe would have "done what the Romans did" and chosen clothing to suit her new environment.

I would really like to write about late-period Lithuanian clothing -- the little we know about it -- but that will have to wait until another time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Update on post-Pennsic sloth

In my last entry I reported on "post-Pennsic sloth." So, what have I been doing?

I'm still working on the second of a pair of mundane knitted socks -- the first ever that I have knit. Eventually I'd like to knit stockings in a more medieval/Renaissance pattern, but that's for the future.

I started messing around with tablet weaving on a secondhand loom that Lady Teleri gave me when she moved several years ago. I'm only using cotton yarn from my stash. I'll have to post some photos.

The major project is a non-SCA wedding at which the musicians of Three Left Feet will be performing on September 26. I'll have to learn some new pieces, and I need to get my Cavalier outfit all in order. This will be a good chance for me to expand my musical horizons in terms of style (non-dance music) and ensemble playing (a different lineup of musicians from our normal Monday night dance practices).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Post-Pennsic Sloth

My apologies for taking so long to post the new-for-2009, improved handout from my Pennsic 38 survey course on medieval Lithuania. I will publicize the URL when it goes "live."

While you are waiting for the handout, please feel free to explore my online bookmarks at Try the keywords "lithuania," "baltic," or "sig" (for "Slavic Interest Group"). Not everything in my bookmark file is period or period-appropriate. I've got some modern-day cultural stuff in there, plus even a few Victorian-era depictions of medieval folks like Mindaugas -- depictions that are so obviously wrong. But I bookmark things there as soon as I find them, and I figure that eventually I'll study them further and figure out whether or not they are accurate and/or useful.

In the meantime, I'm trying to poke myself into doing some A&S projects. I had hoped to make a proper apgalvis or diadem for the Tempore Atlantia competition at Coronation, which is this coming Saturday. Tempore Atlantia is a rotating series of competitions for reconstructed items of material culture from a given time period. I could probably argue that different types of diadems were worn in the Baltic era on both sides of the A.D. 1000 dividing line, although I was thinking of making an early-period one. Oh, well, I can always wait until the next pre-1000 competition, which will probably be next April. Maybe I could actually get the thing DONE by then.

Also, at Pennsic 38 I took three classes in Old Norse poetry specifically because of the upcoming poetry challenge at Storvik's 30th Baronial Birthday. One cannot possibly write verse in "Eddic style" without knowing what Eddic style is (and is not). Our Poeta Atlantiae has provided additional resources. Now all I have to do is find some inspiration and apply pencil to paper. Inspiration? Ha ha ha.

Oh, and I'm knitting myself some not-very-period socks ... and trying to find time to practice my music ... and last week a friend tempted me with a brief lesson in tablet weaving ... aargh!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Report on Pennsic 38 ... and looking ahead to Pennsic 39 already

Overall, I believe that my survey class on medieval Lithuania went well ... even though I forgot to bring the tri-fold display board on which I was going to post photos, maps, etc. D'OH!!! Good thing I brought my stack of books along, even though I had to spend most of my time at War worrying whether they would get wet if it rained. I was able to pass around some of the books to illustrate my points.

Once again, the tent was full of students, and some of them asked really good questions. One person told me afterward that she learned more about her ancestry than she had ever known before. I'm always glad to help in that regard!

Next year I'm thinking of doing Pennsic University a little differently. In fact, I have thought of two separate classes to teach:

  • The 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald happens next year, just before Pennsic. Wouldn't an hour-long presentation about this battle and its historical context be just fabulous? Perhaps the subtitle of the class could be "Smackdown of the Teutonic Knights" or "Last Battle of the Crusades." Hee hee!
  • A survey of Lithuanian women's clothing through the ages. (Sorry, guys, I am less knowledgeable about what the menfolk wore, especially since I don't have to dress a guy for the SCA.)
As always, I welcome comments from my readers! I'm particularly interested in hearing whether a non-fighter like myself would be a credible lecturer on a subject like Grunwald.

Also, at the annual Slavic Interest Group (SIG) meeting at Pennsic, I tasted some incredible krupnikas from a New England brewer. That was seriously smooth and had great legs! Sorry, the brewer doesn't seem to have a Web site, but I have his business card, so he may be getting an order from me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Other Eastern European classes at Pennsic 38

I'm certainly not the only Pennsic University teacher who will be teaching about Eastern Europe. The summer 2009 issue of Slovo, the newsletter of the Slavic Interest Group (SIG), lists all sorts of cool classes on clothing, iconography, bardic arts, history, and material culture. You could even brush up on your conversational Russian.

Now, time for some Pennsic prep work!

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Pennsic class on Lithuania!

If you are going to Pennsic War 38 this year, you're invited to my Pennsic University class, titled "Lithuania: The Biggest Medieval Country of Which You May Not Have Heard." I will hold the class on Wednesday, August 5 (middle of "War Week"), at 2 p.m. in A&S tent #1.

Summary from the Pennsic book: "In 1400 CE, Lithuania stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. I will discuss its history from ancient tribes to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, plus clothing, names, culture, and more as time permits."

I hope to have a lot more copies of my handout this year than I did last year. I'm also considering putting up a cardboard display of various maps and pictures, so that people can browse them. I'm even hoping to display a few photos that I took at the local Lithuanian Festival in May:

These are some "prehistoric" artifacts in a display case at the Lithuanian Festival. But remember, in Lithuania, "prehistoric" tends to mean "prior to 1200 CE."

I also hope to attend the Slavic Interest Group (SIG) gathering on Tuesday, August 4, from noon to 3 p.m. in A&S tent #12. It's a great networking event for SCAdians interested in all parts of Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Rasos, Kupolės and/or Joninės!

Happy St. John's Day, Saint Jonas' Festival, or Fête St-Jean-Baptiste! Or maybe I should call it by one of its other, more Lithuanian Pagan names: Rasos, Kupolės, Joninės. So many names for a single day celebrated by so many cultures.

Yes, the summer solstice actually occurred on June 21 this year, but June 24 is the traditional date of Midsummer Day festivities -- a blending of Pagan and Christian sensibilities, or one or the other, depending on where you are and what you believe it. (Personally, I think it's cool that the day is important to both Lithuanians and French Canadians -- that takes care of all my ancestors.)

While poking around on the Web, I found this Vimeo video of a modern-day Rasos-Kupolės Pagan festival in Lithuania. At first the participants look as if they're getting ready for Pennsic, but shortly the techno music starts up and the festivities look like a cross between an urban rave and Burning Man. :-)

I'm starting to get my act together for my Pennsic University class, which will be held Wednesday, August 5, at 2 p.m. in A&S Tent #1. That's the day after the Slavic Interest Group (SIG) gathering on Tuesday, August 4, at noon in A&S Tent #12. If there's anything that you, my loyal readers, would like me to discuss on the general topic of medieval Lithuania, please let me know. However, please remember that I'll have only 50-55 minutes to talk.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's festival time!

For the past several years I've been happy to attend the annual Lithuanian Festival held at the National Guard armory in Catonsville, Maryland (a suburb of Baltimore). The 2009 festival -- One Thousand Years of Culture! -- is coming up this weekend; the press release is here (PDF).

This is my annual opportunity to chow down on cepelinai and kopustai and kugelis and wash it down with Utenis or another imported beer from the native land. Then there is viryta -- a honey liqueur a bit more concentrated than regular mead, and flavored with a combination of spices that seems to have been dreamed up by Lithuanian immigrants to the New World (*sigh*).

I enjoy watching the dance group Malunas, even though the music and dances probably aren't medieval and the costumes certainly are not. The shopping is good, too; I've picked up a few decent books at past festivals, plus some amber earrings, which, sadly, I always manage to lose.

On Saturday, look for me in the red, gold and green tie-dyed shirt with the drawing of two skeletons dressed in Lithuanian national costumes. Bonus points if you know the story behind that picture!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pennsic University Class

I have submitted my class to Pennsic University for Pennsic War XXXVIII.

Just like last year, the class will be titled, "Lithuania: The Biggest Medieval Country Of Which You May Not Have Heard." This year there's a strict character limit on class descriptions in the Pennsic book, so I wrote simply: "Survey of Lithuanian history from ancient tribes to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, plus clothing, names, culture, and more as time permits." Note those last three words. :-)

Last year I went to Pennsic wondering if anybody was going to show up for my class. As it turned out, every seat in the A&S tent was taken, and people were standing in the opening to the tent until the rain arrived just as I was wrapping things up. Granted, I don't know how many of the attendees are interested in the Baltic lands and how many just saw the class title and thought, "Holy [expletive deleted]! I've been in the SCA for 20 years and there's still a country I haven't heard about!" Nevertheless, I was gratified for the turnout.

Looking forward to another successful class in early August!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question for my readers

Last year I taught "Lithuania: The Biggest Medieval Country Of Which You Might Not Have Heard" at Pennsic University. The link to the class handout is here (and it's also linked to the first post in this blog).

The deadline for getting courses listed in the Pennsic XXXVIII book is coming up FAST (a week from tomorrow, I think). Do you think I should teach this course again? Should I change the focus at all? I'm not sure that I have enough material to stretch into two separate one-hour classes, although I will try to work on that for Pennsic XXXIX in 2010.

Comments and suggestions welcome!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Margutis time!

Easter Sunday hasn't started yet where I live, but I'm sure the preparations have been going on for a while now. For many of us, the preparation involves coloring eggs.

A month ago, at Atlantia's Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival, a woman was running a demonstration of making pysanky, or Ukranian Easter eggs. I had the opportunity to make one myself. I can't say I'm the world's greatest artist, but here's how mine turned out:

I enjoyed doing this pysanka, certainly. But how would it fit in with my Lithuanian persona?

Well, as you might suspect, pysanky are part of a lot of Eastern European cultures. The Lithuanians use the word margutis for this type of artwork; it doesn't sound much like pysanky, but there you have it. Lithuanian eggs tend to be a little more muted than their Ukrainian counterparts, with more earth tones, and different patterns too. Right after the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival, I found this example. I also found a page describing Lithuanian Easter customs. It's interesting to read through the customs and tease out the old Pagan traditions mingled in with the Christianity. The essay also explains why, for years, I could never find other people who did "egg fights" with hard-boiled eggs on Easter Sunday, the way my family did. It's a Lithuanian custom! My father must have gotten it from his Lithuanian-immigrant parents.

By searching around a bit, I found more examples of Lithuanian decorated eggs. You can probably find more, especially if you search on the word margutis. Finally, through the Web site of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago, I found an online tribute to Ramute Plioplys, a folk artist in the Lithuanian tradition.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Millennium Odyssey

I can't believe I haven't already mentioned that this year is the millennial year of Lithuania! Well, specifically, it's the 1000th anniversary of the first mention of Lithuania in a manuscript (the Quedlinburg Annals). Of course, the nation is commemorating the round number in typical fashion.
One thing I think is cool is the Millennium Odyssey -- the voyage of the yacht Ambersail around the world to visit "Lithuanian communities" on five continents. The ship arrived in Miami just two days ago. Sad to say, although Baltimore has a thriving Lithuanian American community, the Ambersail won't be sailing up the Chesapeake Bay to the Inner Harbor. It's bypassing Maryland and Washington, D.C., and going straight to New York. :-(
Ah, well, next month the annual Lithuanian festival will still take place in the Baltimore suburbs, and I'll have my fill of culture for another year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just a quick update

I've created a "syndicated feed" for this blog over at LiveJournal, where I have been active for many years. Mostly I'm doing this post as a test to make sure the feed is working.

If you're new to this blog, please feel free to check out the older entries and also my Pennsic 37 class handout.

Topics I would like to cover in the not-so-distant future include period Lithuanian documents and my upcoming adventures in the world of SCA tents.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Finding stuff in the "missing" book

Last weekend I purchased my second copy of "Women's Garb in Northern Europe, 450-1000 C.E.: Frisians, Angles, Franks, Balts, Vikings, and Finns" by Christina Krupp and Carolyn A. Priest-Dorman. It is #59 in the Compleat Anachronist publication series of the SCA. (To buy back issues of this fine quarterly publication yourself, go here.) I had bought my first copy of CA #15 from Poison Pen Press a few years back, but it's gotten lost somewhere, and I didn't have it in front of me when I taught my Pennsic course last summer.

I vaguely recalled that I'd noticed something wrong with the booklet the first time I read it, but I couldn't remember what it was until I read the section on Baltic garb again. It turns out that not all the sources mentioned in the Baltic garb section are actually listed in the bibliography in the back of the booklet. One of them was "Moora, 1932" and the other was "Kulikauskiene & Rimaniene, 1958, Abb. 567, reproduced in Ginteus."

Thanks to, I think I've tracked down the former. It's a book called Die Vorzeit Estlands ("The Prehistory of Estonia") by H. Moora, published in Tartu, Estonia, by Akadeemiline Kooperatiiv. Fortunately for me, the Library of Congress has a copy, so I might actually get to see it someday.

I'm having more trouble with the second search. "Ginteus" doesn't even exist in Google. Through I noticed a volume called Senoves Lietuviu Drabuziai Ir Ju Papuosalai: (I-XVI A.) ["Ancient Lithuanian Clothing and Ornaments: (I-XVI century)"] by R. Volkaite-Kulikauskiene, published by the Lietuvos Istorijos Institutas (Lithuanian Historical Institute) in 1997. Again, the Library of Congress has this and other works by this author. (If she's the same person as in the 1958 reference, then she's had quite a long career!)

I wonder if "Ginteus" is a typo for "Ginters," as in the bibliographical listing for Tracht und Schmuck in Birka und im Ostbaltischen Raum ("Costume and Jewelry in Birka and the East Baltic Area") by Valdemars Ginters (also at the Library of Congress).

I suppose I could e-mail the co-author of CA #59 for the identity of "Ginteus," although since it's been 17 years since the booklet was published, she probably doesn't have the answer at her fingertips.

To summarize, I'm really glad I got myself another copy of this CA issue, because it's very handy for getting some plausible female garb together. However, I have to remind myself that this booklet was published in 1992, just months after the Soviet Union fell apart and the Baltic republics got their full identity back. I'm sure that much new research has been done in the last 17 years, and it would be great to pull it together so that it could be of use in the SCA.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Persona Pentathlon ... someday?

Every year, Atlantia holds a Kingdom Arts & Sciences Festival, at which the finest artisans and performers of our fair lands gather to compete, network, or just show off their stuff. An annual competition for adults is the Persona Pentathlon, in which each entrant must display five entries pertaining to a single persona -- a tenth-century Viking, perhaps, or a 16th-century Elizabethan.

I would love to "evangelize" medieval Lithuania by choosing one time period in Lithuanian history and crafting five related entries, all representing things that a woman of that era would have done or known about. But what to do, what to do? My knowledge, so far, is more abstract than practical.

Scribal arts -- of the five major categories, this is the one I'm weakest in. I love books, just don't ask me to illustrate or bind them....
Costuming and needle arts -- I could certainly come up with a few costume components, but I would have to document them to Lithuania and/or the Baltic region quite precisely.
Pyrotechnica -- Not all of these would be applicable to Lithuania, but perhaps I could put together some jewelry and one of those headbands that some women wore over their veils.
Domestic arts and sciences -- I would have to do some research to figure out which "traditional" foods are really SCA-period (I'm sure that potato-laden dishes such as ceplinai and kugelis are NOT). Weaving is important to Lithuanian culture, of course, but I'm not very good at that.
Courtly arts -- if I could get my hands on kanklės or skuduciai (panpipes), I could try some Lithuanian tunes -- again, IF I could document them. (I don't think anyone wants to hear my solo voice.)

I certainly don't have my act together for this year's Persona Pentathlon, but I'm going to be looking at all the 2009 entries to see the amazing skills among Atlantia's populace. And I hope to do some networking. As I said in a previous entry, I want to develop a Lithuanian persona much more fully, but it strikes me that most of the stuff I've been doing and teaching has been based on tertiary sources at best (photos of European reenactors, Victorian-era drawings, books and Web sites that discuss "folk arts" without specifying their time period, etc.). I want to increase my authenticity -- well, as best I can without actually journeying to Lithuania, which is a bit out of my price range, sadly.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Featured entry of the day

Well, lookie here, see what's the featured article of the day over at Wikipedia -- the House of Gediminas! Now, I'm no stranger to this part of Lithuanian history, but for the average reader of the online encyclopedia, this must be pushing the limits of obscurity.

A quick read of the entry reveals one of the problems in getting people to take an interest in Lithuanian history: the names are long and complicated and don't have much to do with English, German, or the Romance languages (at least superficially). Gediminas, Skalmantas, Daumantas, Jaunutis, Mindaugas, Traidenis, Vaišvilkas, Algirdas, Kęstutis, Vytenis, Vytautas the Great, Vainius, Vykintas -- hoo boy, even my head starts spinning after a while, and I grew up in a town with a lot of people with non-Anglo-Saxon names.

Part of the problem for modern-day scholars is that, as this author writes, Lithuanians didn't really use surnames until the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Before then, men used single names that came from two root words: "much strength" or "great hope" or something like that. (My mundane surname seems to mean either "much patience" or "much endurance" -- I guess I'm descended from a guy who had a hard life.)

Someone else wrote an article on feminine names from the Gediminid line, but as you can see, there aren't too many attractive-sounding ones to choose from.

Some people of Lithuanian descent actually use some of these old names as their given names. When I was a kid, the electrician who worked on our house was named Gediminas -- no wonder we always called him "Gid"!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I'm trying to accomplish as Lady Patricia of Trakai

In my five years of participation in the SCA, I've dabbled in a lot of different activities, some more so than others. I've made a few garments, I wove/braided/knitted several wire necklaces (in a technique some call trichinopoly), I've learned about the historical uses of knitting, I've brewed a few concoctions of varying quality, and I've tried to learn nallbinding and sprang. At the moment, I'm probably most active in instrumental music. (When I sing around a campfire, people tend to drift away to another campfire.)

But I have one overarching mission, one to which I alluded in my introductory post: I want to increase and spread the knowledge of Lithuanian history and culture within the SCA.

The method of "spreading" knowledge is obvious -- teaching classes at our SCA "universities" -- but what about increasing knowledge? As someone who is partly of Lithuanian heritage, I've been aware all my life that most Americans (from whose ranks the SCA draws much, though not all, of its membership) hardly know anything about Lithuania. During the Soviet era, it was one of the most closed regions of the USSR, and it was difficult if not impossible for Americans to get permission to visit the region unless they had relatives there. Fortunately, Lithuania regained its independence right around the time that Internet technologies exploded in the early 1990s, so suddenly I was learning about stuff I'd wondered about all my life.

Since its inception, the SCA has been mostly about Western European medieval culture -- it's what we all learned about as we were growing up, and it's the inspiration for countless fantasy novels and movies. However, as our modern society has grown more diverse and less Eurocentric, SCAdians are exploring all sorts of other cultures that interacted with Western Europe prior to 1600 (or 1650, depending on how you define "pre-17th-century").

For Eastern European countries and cultures, the umbrella group within the SCA is the Slavic Interest Group (SIG). SIG covers a huge swath of territory, from the Balkans and Poland to Kievan Rus to the central Asian steppes. I've been on the SIG e-mail list for a few years now, and I've found a few other Polish-Lithuanian enthusiasts -- from as far away as Australia (Lady Asfridhr of the Barony of Stormhold in the Kingdom of Lochac).

So far, I've learned enough about Lithuania to teach an hour-long "introductory" class (again, see the link in the first post in this blog). The warm reception I got for both classes (at Pennsic, it was SRO!) has convinced me that there is an interest in the topic -- at least, the title of the class gets people in the door to see what they've missed in all the other medieval history courses they've taken throughout their lives. But I feel as if I've only scratched the surface.

What do we mean by "Lithuania"? The incorporated borders of the modern-day nation? The farthest extent of the Grand Duchy, which stretched to the Black Sea? The ancient tribes who inhabited the Baltic coast -- the Letts, Semigallans, Livonians, Curonians, etc? Watch for my future posts on the subject.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Countdown to Twelfth Night

It takes quite a bit of work to get out the door and head to a major event like Kingdom Twelfth Night. You don't just jump into the car and drive off.

I've already accomplished some of the prep work: hand-washing my chemise, purchasing some finger foods to nibble on during the day (because our hosts are not offering lunch, only dinner), printing out some sheet music that I don't already have, and printing out the directions to the site in Virginia.

Tonight I will have to:

  • press the parts of my chemise that will show when I'm wearing the dress, and probably press some of the cloth napkins
  • check the silk dress to see if it needs touch-up pressing
  • check feast gear to make sure it's all clean (sometimes it gets dusty)
  • pack garb, feast gear, and musical instruments/supplies and get them out to the car TONIGHT because it's supposed to be rainy tomorrow
  • make sure the perishable products are grouped together in the refrigerator so that I can grab them tomorrow morning.

Here is my packing list:

  • the three pieces of my Cavalier outfit (jacket, shirt and chemise -- see previous post)
  • the Cavalier hat (for indoors) and a felted wool hat (for possible rain outdoors)
  • my wool cloak (needs some repairs, but it's what I have right now)
  • pearl earrings and necklace; Opal medallion
  • extra pair of shoes for dealing with the weather
  • feast gear in its basket
  • cameras (video and still)
  • small basket (for carrying small items around the site)
  • musical instruments and accoutrements
  • small cooler with snacks and the rest of the Diet Peach Snapple in the back of the fridge
  • directions to the site
  • maybe the olive-oil lamp (but then I have to bring olive oil).

Quite a bit of stuff, huh? And this is only a day trip to an indoor site!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cavalier outfit

I'd like to write a little bit about the outfit I'll be wearing for Kingdom Twelfth Night.
This dress was made in the Cavalier style, which actually existed in the early to mid-17th century (see this page). That makes it a bit post-period in terms of the SCA, which generally covers the sweep of human history prior to 1600 C.E. (In other words, the time span ends with the Elizabethan era, since England's Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603.) However, I wore this outfit to Kingdom Twelfth Night 2007 and I got no complaints, just lots of compliments. It's stunning enough that nobody seemed to get bent out of shape.
The jacket, chemise and skirt were hand-sewn by a woman who played in the SCA and other reenactment groups before giving up the historical stuff to go to law school. Sadly, I do not know her name. When she was preparing for law school, she passed along some of her outfits to Dame Brenna of Storvik, who sold them for her at an SCA event in northern Atlantia.

The jacket and skirt are made of rose-colored silk (silk noil, maybe?) and have gold-colored trim. The jacket uses hooks and eyes to stay closed; I attached some extra-large hooks and eyes to make sure the thing stays closed. The chemise is white cotton; the lace on the collar appears to be hand-made by somebody, but the lace on the cuffs seems to be of commercial provenance.
Mostly this outfit fits me amazingly well, considering that I never met its creator. The one small detail is that I can't button the jacket cuffs because my forearms are too fat, but I hope the large cuffs on the chemise disguise that. Perhaps I should get some fabric sizing to make the chemise cuffs a little stiffer.
To accessorize the outfit, I purchased a black Cavalier hat from Tall Toad Costumes and added a rose-colored feather. I also purchased a pearl necklace from a jewelry-maker at Kingdom Twelfth Night 2007; sorry, I cannot remember the name.
I'm looking forward to an enjoyable Twelfth Night this year, and I'll try to remember to ask Dame Brenna for the name of the costumer.

Introductory post

Welcome! I'm Lady Patricia of Trakai. I've been in the SCA for five years, all of which have been spent in the Barony of Storvik, part of the northern lands of the Kingdom of Atlantia.

I serve as my barony's branch herald and as chronicler to the Atlantian College of Heralds (meaning I edit the bimonthly newsletter, "Herald's Point"). I dabble in a lot of the arts and sciences: instrumental music, Viking wire knitting/weaving (trichinopoly), cross-stitch, kumihimo, and garb sewing.

To speed things up, here are links to my SCA resume ( and the handout from the class I have taught about Lithuania at both Pennsic University and the University of Atlantia (

My intent for this blog is to use it for sharing my ongoing SCA projects with other people.