Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So many arts and crafts, so little time...

Since I have so many things that I do in the SCA -- plus things that I want to do, plus some that I used to do -- I thought I'd list them all. This list is in no particular order, and it will include activities that I did once or twice. At least I will have this as a reference if anyone asks.

Costuming/sewing. This is probably the most fundamental A&S activity within the SCA, as Corpora (our Society-wide governing document) specifies that the only requirement to attend an SCA event is "an attempt at pre-17th-century clothing." (Well, that and a few bucks.)

Granted, many perfectly good SCAdians, even some Peers, don't make their costumes. Either they have a family member or close friend make them, or they buy them from a merchant, or they barter something else for clothing. Or a combination thereof. Still, unless your body perfectly matches a standard clothing size and/or you have a huge pot of disposable income, eventually you need to apply needle and thread to cloth.

Still, I find garb sewing to be a time-consuming and somewhat tedious task. Maybe my feeling has to do with my late mother's enthusiasm for sewing clothes for herself and for me (at least until she got into her late 60s or maybe age 70 -- I can't recall exactly when she stopped sewing). The construction of a garment, at least in my view, is not something that you can do for a short while, then put down and pick up again later. If you're using a sewing machine, you are using a rather large tool tethered to a table and an electrical outlet, and if you're hand-stitching, the garment is still usually too large to lug around on public transportation. Remember how I wrote back on July 15 that I was making myself a light blue linen dress? Well, I still haven't finished that dress. At the 30th-Year event I wore another light blue dress, but that one was of indeterminate fiber content, and it was something I'd bought for $2 and then stashed away for several years before digging it out of storage.

I've also heard (or read somewhere online, can't remember exactly where, though) that, in order to be considered for a Peerage (any Peerage) someday, you really ought to wear something with more thought in it than a T-tunic. Good point. Most of us are visual people, and first impressions count. It was one thing to be new in the Society and to have the need to build up a simple wardrobe that could take me through Pennsic and a few other events. Now, if I want to be taken seriously as a Lithuanian lady persona, perhaps it's time to start dressing like one. (If only the clothing evidence weren't so sketchy....)

I am starting to make a list of sewing projects I'd like to do, but since this entry is supposed to be an overview of my status with all the various A&S activities, I think I'd better move on.

Instrumental music. Besides the Lithuanian studies, this is probably what I'm best known for among the SCA A&S activities. (Indeed, it's what I got the Storvik Order of the Owl for.) I am certainly not professional/Laurel caliber in this area, but I can keep a beat on a drum or tambourine, and I have learned how to play some simple dance tunes on a soprano recorder. I've come to realize that my bowed psaltery is not any more period than a 20th-century guitar, but I still enjoy playing what I call a "rhythmic harmony" on it. See, I don't think that the bowed psaltery (or BP) is well suited for the quick, intricate tunes of bransles, English country dances and some other dances -- or at least I have trouble playing those notes as fast as required -- the bow catches on the upper pegs. Thank goodness I've got enough knowledge of chords to be able to fill in with harmonious notes (most of the time).

To be continued, of course....

Friday, September 30, 2011

Late summer and fall activities

Once again: long time, no post...

Perhaps it's a good thing that I didn't plan on teaching any classes at Pennsic XL this summer, as my car broke down while I was traveling up to Cooper's Lake. Since everyone I knew was already at War, and since I didn't have enough money for a rental vehicle, I ended up missing Pennsic entirely. :-( It's only thanks to the grace and kindness of a group of my friends, who collected some money for me and presented it to me, that I was able to afford the expensive repair bill and get my 15-year-old Pontiac back on the road.

At least I was able to attend the Kingdom of Atlantia's 30th-anniversary celebration earlier this month. For one of the gift baskets that were presented to the winners of the various competitions, I made a small pincushion embellished with a cross-stitch replica of the Atlantian ensign (the kingdom's arms without the crown and laurel wreath). Here's how it came out before I attached it to the pincushion:

It had a few flaws that I'm not proud of -- especially the slightly different shades of blue and white. I hope the recipient, whoever he/she is, overlooks those details and enjoys the overall picture.

Anyhow ... I am getting ready for the next University of Atlantia session, which is tomorrow (Saturday, October 1) in the Barony of Bright Hills. I will be teaching a one-hour class called "Survey of Medieval Lithuania" at 3:30 p.m. I have only two student pre-registered for the class, but I suspect that I'll get more attendees, because I also suspect that a lot of people haven't pre-registered for anything.

I'm also trying one extremely non-medieval innovation: PowerPoint slides. I wouldn't ever try a slide show at Pennsic, because the inside of the A&S tents doesn't get very dark in the daytime (and the insides of the red and yellow tents make lousy screens). However, I am hoping to show even more images and maps than in previous iterations of the class.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A battle well fought

Today I got a nice message from one of my fellow Atlantian heralds. The subject line said, "From my German family to your Lithuanian one..." And in the message he wrote: "Congratulations on a battle well fought." Yes, today is the 601st (601th?) anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, and after last year, I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. :-)

This month is rather quiet on the SCA front, mostly because people in this region are gearing up for Pennsic XL. I'm slowly working on a simple short-sleeved tunic dress. It's not the most authentic, but I've had the light blue linen in my stash for seven years and it's about time I used it on something. I figure that I can wear it on those really hot, muggy days and look somewhat better than I do in a chiton or "bog dress." I plan to trim the sleeves with the "Spike" (Kingdom populace badge) ribbon that Baroness Janina gave me a few years back, and I should have a new outfit for Atlantian 30-Year.

I also am about to start working on a small cross-stitch project for the prize baskets at the 30-Year event. I'm doing a small ensign based on this design, and I'll probably make it into a pincushion or belt favor. I'm embroidering the ensign rather than "Spike" (a unicornate seahorse) to honor Mistress Moira Maureen ua Seamus of the Green Hills, first Triton Principal Herald, who designed the arms of Atlantia when it was forming as a Principality of the East. Mistress Moira is in a nursing home, last I heard, but I want people to know of the role she played in the Kingdom we enjoy today.

One final note: I'm not teaching at Pennsic this year, but I am considering teaching "Survey of Medieval Lithuania" at Fall University, unless something comes up to conflict with that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Curses, in period

A few years back, the Barony of Dun Carraig held an event -- I can't remember which one now -- at which the populace was given actual medieval curses (translated into English if necessary) on slips of paper, in case we wanted to use them. I grabbed some extras, and I found them recently while cleaning. Just for fun, I thought I would share them with my readers.

Methink'st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee. (from Macbeth)

Kerling! (Translation from Old Norse: "Old hag!")

Hang, beg, starve, die in the streets. (from Romeo and Juliet)

Mewling, notty-pated hedgepig! (Elizabethan)

Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon! (from The Life of Timon of Athens)

A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, uncapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy... (from The Merchant of Venice)

These curses are certainly not directed at my readers. I love my readers! I just aim to give people a thing or two to say when they get angry, besides today's modern F-word.

Of course, if you've got more period curses to add, please comment!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A brief encounter with a leader of the Rebel Alliance...

Why, yes, the title of this entry does sound more like Star Wars than medieval Lithuania. But, seriously, it's not every day you get your photo taken with someone who helped bring down an Evil Empire!

Let me explain. On May 22 I went to the Lithuanian Festival with a couple of friends, one who had gone there with me before and one who hadn't. (I like to go every year, but last year a business trip got in the way.) Of course I wanted to show my newcomer friend all around the various booths selling crafts and food. After a lunch of cepelinai and a chance to watch the dance group Malunas, I took him into the side room to look at the military and historical exhibits.

In that side room, I noticed an older gentleman with slightly hunched soldiers, a light-colored jacket and a boutonniere in the Lithuanian flag colors. The members of the Lithuanian post of the American Legion were pointing out various exhibits to him and having their picture taken with him. Chatter flew back and forth in a mixture of English and Lithuanian.

My friend nudged me. "That's Vytautas Landsbergis!" he whispered excitedly. "You should introduce yourself."

True enough -- if I didn't do it right then and there, I knew I'd regret it, maybe not right away but soon, and for the rest of my life. (Channeling Casablanca there, I know.) After briefly wishing that I'd made a better clothing choice than a T-shirt and shorts, I walked up to him and (with the hope that I was pronouncing my surname in the correct Lithuanian fashion), introduced myself with my real name: Patricia Daukantas.

He shook my hand and replied, "Ah, you have a famous name!"

I nodded and explained that my grandparents came from Lithuania but died before I was born. Then I said "it's an honor to meet you!" and asked if someone could take our photo together. He agreed, and here's the result.

So that was my brush with real-life greatness! I had no idea that this festival in Maryland would attract a former head of state of the home country -- an important figure in Lithuanian history at that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

So, what's next?

Wow, once again it has been a long, long time since I have updated this blog. Mostly I have been plugging away on my freelance career, my SCA heraldic endeavors, and my SCA musical endeavors. I even started a professional blog. But every once in a while I think about the "bigger picture," so here goes.

In one of my favorite TV series ever, The West Wing, President Bartlet frequently ended discussion of an issue by saying, "What's next?"

This phrase comes up for me every time I think ahead to what I want to accomplish in the SCA. And by "what I want to accomplish," I mean my Lithuanian studies. Yes, I do have other responsibilities to my barony and Kingdom, and those tasks will get done because they are part of being an all-volunteer group. For instance, at the most recent baronial business meeting, I took notes and then typed up the minutes and sent them to the seneschal, because our regular chronicler was out of town for the weekend.

For me, my Lithuanian studies are the "special sauce" on top of all the other cool things I do in the SCA. But the "special sauce" won't happen if I don't procure the ingredients and mix them together in a way that makes sense.

I've taught classes about Lithuania and I've been recognized by Their Majesties, but still, I can't help feeling that I've only barely scratched the surface. There are still so many "persona questions" (from lists like this and this) that I cannot answer yet. Thanks to the Web, I see photos of Lithuanian reenactors such as the members of Pajauta, but I don't have firm documentation for what they're wearing, and I'm not sure that documentation exists (Lithuanian medieval graves contain metal artifacts, but no fabric -- and they didn't document their lives with paintings the way western Europeans did). A few books out there may provide some answers, in either English or Lithuanian, but they're not generally available outside a few academic libraries and/or the Library of Congress. (Yes, I do live in the general metro area of the Library of Congress, but I'm not very good at finding the time to visit the place.)

Once I define what I'm looking for, and then I find it, then what do I do with the information? In the short term, I know that I missed the deadline for getting classes listed in the "Pennsic book" for Pennsic XL, coming this August. I still really, really want to go to Pennsic, but I may be able to attend for only a few days, perhaps an extended weekend. (Now that I don't have a steady job, I have time but no money; if I land a full-time job, I will have money but absolutely no vacation time.) I think it's better for my sanity to avoid teaching if I'm just going to be there for a couple of days (with a third day for setting up and a fourth day for packing out).

Perhaps the thing I need to jump-start my Lithuanian research efforts is to write up a short generalist article for something like Tournaments Illuminated, the SCA's quarterly magazine. Maybe I could give it a clever title, like "Seven Reasons to Consider a Lithuanian Persona" or "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Medieval Lithuania." Would anyone even be interested in reading such an article?

I also can't help feeling that I need to specialize in "an art" that has something to do with my persona: tablet weaving, naalbinding, clothes-making, amber-carving, music-making, etc. I tend to dabble in a lot of different things and specialize in none of them. Not quite sure what to do about that.

Sometimes I think I should be apprenticed to a Laurel who would guide me in the "how to do what I want to do" part of the SCA. Again, I know a lot of Laurels, but no one individual close enough to apprentice to. Maybe someday....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Your First SCA War'

The class I taught at the most recent University of Atlantia, "Your First SCA War," is now online at this location. The Web page is an extended version of the two-page handout from class. It's a bit rambling, but it still presents a lot of the information that I was given when I was a newcomer to the SCA and preparing for my first Pennsic War. I hope it aids people who might not have so many kind-hearted advisers in their own local branch.

(I was also motivated to get these notes posted because Master Liam St. Liam of the East Kingdom is thinking of teaching and/or organizing a newcomers' track, and here is something he can link to!)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Companion of the Coral Branch

I have been meaning to post about this for a while ... but at the Bright Hills Baronial Investiture on February 12, Their Royal Majesties of Atlantia saw fit to make me a Companion of the Coral Branch for "divers Lithuanian Studies," according to the court report. You can read my account of the event and presentation here.

Needless to say, I was very excited! Not just because it is an honor to join the Order of the Coral Branch, but also because I am glad that medieval Lithuania is being recognized as a fit subject of study within our Society.

Of course, I would have to have an "attack of life" immediately thereafter ... between the flu, the car repairs and my freelance-for-pay deadline, things got interesting. Fortunately, I got past all three of these hurdles; I'm just now waiting on the final word count for the big feature article so I can send in a nice fat invoice.

My next project for the SCA really isn't about Lithuania at all, though. I have signed up to teach a University of Atlantia class on "Your First SCA War." I thought it would be helpful to newcomers to talk about things that aren't on any packing list or FAQ list for big events like Pennsic -- for instance, how do you find a group to camp with and how do you shower?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Pair of Peers

Soon the Slavic Interest Group will be gaining two new Laurels. (For those of you not in the SCA, the Order of the Laurel is the SCA's highest award for excellence in the arts and sciences. It is one of the SCA's three Bestowed Peerages -- the others are the Order of the Chivalry, for martial arts, and the Order of the Pelican, for service.)

At the beginning of January, Pan Zygmunt Nadratowski received a Writ from Their Majesties of the Middle Kingdom. Pan Zygmunt, who resides with his lady in the Shire of Talonval, will be recognized as a Laurel at the February 12th Midrealm event known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and Tournament of Chivalry. His website is

At A Market Day at Birka, Their Majesties of the East Kingdom caught up with Posadnitsa Sfandra Dmitrieva Chernigova and presented her with a Writ to be recognized as a Laurel at Their Last Court on April 2 (Coronation Day for Their successors). Posadnitsa Sfandra resides with her lord in the Barony of Carolingia, and her website is

Unto these fine gentles I say VIVANT! Not only am I extremely happy for them personally, but I'm also excited that the Society is paying heed to research in the Eastern European arts and sciences. As I've said before, if you ignore Eastern European history, you're omitting a huge part of European history.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Defenders of Freedom Day - Laisvės gynėjų diena

OK, I didn't get to posting this last week because of other stuff going on in my life, but better late than never. January 13 of this year was the 20th anniversary of an important event in the emerging modern-day Republic of Lithuania.

Yes, Lithuania had declared itself independent of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990, but of course Moscow didn't recognize that and indeed tried to impose an economic blockade on its wayward "Soviet Socialist Republic." Figuring that they who own the communications media control the message, the Soviets tried to take over the Vilnius TV tower, only to meet with mass opposition. The troops killed 13 unarmed civilians (sometimes given as 14; one more died of a heart attack), the news of the massacre got out to the world anyway, the Soviet troops had to retreat, and subsequently Lithuanians voted hugely for independence in a referendum on February 9.

Iceland's recognition of Lithuania's independence was already five days old at the time of the vote. On September 17, 1991, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the United Nations in their own right. The Soviet Union was crumbling.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Grunwald reenactment videos

Greetings to all! Happy New Year!

The following is a post I started way back in September 2010 and saved as a draft. I am finally getting around to finishing it.

Happily (i.e., through Facebook) I stumbled across a fabulous post at a set of videos showing this year's commemorations of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. Woo-hoo! Of course, being there in person would have been the best thing of all, but I guess this is the next best thing.

The first video is a short one (less than two minutes) and seems to be a random montage of scenes from the commemoration ceremony. (In all these videos, the blonde woman with the white jacket and black pants is Dalia Grybauskaitė, the current president of Lithuania.

The second video comes from the Lithuanian news broadcast "Panorama," which is shown regularly on Granted, the only words I can understand from the audio track are "Labas vakaras" ("Good evening"), "Grunwald," and "Zalgiris." But the Panorama camera people got some good shots of jousters on horseback and, about halfway through, an interview with a female living-history reenactor whom I'm quite sure I've seen in still photos of Kernavė. You can also see President Grybauskaitė reviewing the medieval troops. The last couple of minutes of this video are devoted to some sort of concert related to Grunwald. I wish I knew more about the performers and the musical pieces.

The third video is a montage of scenes from the day's proceedings without any kind of voice-over commentary. You can see some of the speechifying and jousting and wreath-laying, and you can see President G. and her entourage enter the living-history encampment. She even takes a bit of meat off a two-tined fork and eats it.

The fourth video is of a concert, "Banderia 1410," held at Malbork on July 15 (that's what "15 Lipca" means). The garishly lit stage with its LED backdrop is definitely not medieval, but the music is stirring. At least some of the musicians (not all) are playing plausibly period instruments, including a portative organ.

The fifth and final video is a short news clip from a Polish website. As far as I can tell, the guy in the video is talking about a complex sculpture depicting the battle in 3D, but whether he's the sculptor or just an art critic, I can't tell.

Anyhow, I hope you all enjoy watching these scenes!