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"!