"Sire, they are a danger to your kingdom, your crown, and your life!" So thundered a member of King Aethelred's Witan, his group of counselors, in the fall of 1002.
"Surely... surely not," the king replied. "They are my subjects."
"The are Danes," the counselor replied. "The same Danes that have been sowing death and destruction in England for a decade! They rule the northeast all but in name. Do you not think they hunger for more?"
"I..." The king frowned. "My subjects join in the pillage with the raiders?"
"It is said, sire, that one of your very ealdormen heads a conspiracy against you."
"What?" The king startled upright upon his throne. "Do you speak of Pallig?"
"Aye, sire, Pallig Tokesen, the Dane you rewarded with the keeping of Devonshire. Do you see how your generosity is perverted?"
"Treachery!" Aethelred's complexion reddened. "After I raised him with mine own hand!" He stood, paced the room. "Something must be done. Certainly."
The members of the Witan looked 'round at each other, and it was young Eadric son of Aethelric who slowly lifted a sheet of parchment. "The great men of England thought perhaps... but no, no one would dare..."
"Dare? I am the king," Aethelred snarled, snatching the parchment away. "What is this?"
"The draft of a letter, sire," Eadric said, meek as a mouse. "Which could be copied and sent throughout England... if your Majesty wills it."
Aethelred - Aethelred called Unraed, 'ill advised' - read the letter, growing very still. He face changed from red, to white, and the Witan shifted nervously on their benches. But then the king began to tremble, to flush, and he raised the letter on high before slamming it back onto the table. "Send it! Send it, for I say it is no crime to strike at those who would rise up against their rightful king."
And so the letters were sent, to the west and the south and to Kent, but perhaps not to the lands hard by York called the Danelaw.
And on the morning of the thirteenth of November, 1002 - the feast day of St. Brice - the English took by surprise the Danes who lived among them, and killed them, to make England safe from their plots.
Ealdorman Pallig was killed, aye, and his wife Gunhilde, and many Danish mercenaries, and many more Danes of all ages and both sexes besides.
Gunhilde, the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, the king of the Danes.
Sweyn Forkbeard, who came in the spring of 1003 with ships to raid. And again, and again, death and destruction each year until 1014, when he forced King Aethelred, Aethelred the Ill-Advised, to flee to Normandy and took the English throne for himself.
So was England made safe from the Danes.
You know that dreadful feeling you get when you start to wonder if you will actually have enough yarn to finish a project? And then the really happy feeling you get when you realize that you do? That was me and the embroidery. That white yarn is probably old enough to be filling out college applications, so I'm glad to finally use it. It's all stem stitch. Upon reflection, a design of three roundels with my primary charge and my two harps-in-chief in them would have been super cute and a bit more in keeping with extant embroidery. Ah well. Incorporating the arms I designed before I got all Anglo-Saxony into early period re-enactment is always dicey.
I did put a patch of linen behind the embroidery to protect it:
And that's about it! Check out the links up top for all of Lady Amie's wonderful research on the Haithabu finds.
My new hat is done!
This hat is in the Coppergate or Dublin cap family - simple rectangles. It's silk like Coppergate, but pointy-headed like Dublin. It's "inspired by" rather than a direct reconstruction.
The fabric is an old silk shirt. The decorative braids are silk. The ties are linen whipcords. Stitching was done with silk thread.
I left in the existing flat felled seam that was used to construct the shirt - it runs up the back of the hat. I also left the original hem around the bottom, but turned it up, tacked it down and covered the edge with one of the blue silk braids. I did this because the fabric of the original hem was fraying in places at the edge.
The hat got made twice. The first time, it was too large. I repinned it and resewed it, and now it may be a touch too short. The front edges were originally rolled, but had to be double-folded to take in more fabric and even things out. The top seam is a modern French seam. Sewing was all done by hand.
I whipcorded four lengths of thick linen thread together to make the ties. I used Shaker pegs for the bobbins - they are shown below, used for braiding. I was able to suspend them from a short rod held under my arm and manipulate them with two hands to do the whipcording. They are sewn on with red silk thread, and the ends that are attached to the hat have a sort of aglet made from buttonhole stitches. The free ends are knotted.
I used a closed cell foam pillow, two pins, and six Shaker pegs to do the braiding:
The silk is secured with a half-hitch at the top of each bobbin to keep them from unraveling. I found that this method kept my fine silk threads well-organized and under more constant tension. The braid came out much better than when I try to free-hand it.
For the first braid (around the bottom of the cap), I stuck a pin through the braid when I had to secure the work. This distorted the braid and left it wiggly. The second braid, used for the two lines around the face opening, was secured just by wrapping the free end around two pins in a figure 8:
You can't see the cross-overs, but those are figure-8s. This was surprisingly secure, even when carried from room to room. I might have been lucky, and if I were taking it in the car, I would have definitely secured it with something stronger than friction.
It is sewn onto the cap with a running stitch (with a backstitch here and there).
This might be my first selfie.
The silk looks much nicer in-person. The shape and fit of the hat are pretty much as-shown.
(These are some notes I took. I didn't make them into a blog post because omg, Facebook people might come by to read it and this isn't very interesting, is it? I should save it and make a final write up! ...but then I realized that no, I really want to keep all the fiddly details and pondering, even the ones that wouldn't make it into a final report.)
Comparing the various threads and yarns I have, I decided to go with the thicker linen thread. (Is it 20/2? 40/2? It's not labeled, but a similar hank is.) I did a whipcord sampler, then decided I liked how the thread looked when they twisted together. I did that, knotting both ends, and the thing promptly (mostly) untwisted. Rather than go into an extended search to find out why this was, I just went back and whipcorded instead. The ties are going to be mostly behind my head, so how they look isn't really of utmost importance.
To do the whipcording, I used two double-length pieces of string. I folded them in half and used a larks-head knot to secure them to that hand distaff I was wondering what to do with. :) Then each of the (now four) dangling thread ends was tied to a shaker peg, wound onto the peg, and secured with a half-hitch. I rolled the whipcord onto the distaff as it got too long. Worked great! I also found that the whipcording went faster and more cleanly when I leaned forward a bit as I sat.
I. The Major Scale
A. "Dough, the stuff that buys me beer..." Ask if everyone is familiar with do- re- mi. This is the major scale.
B. Show the major scale on a keyboard, starting on C. Label the whole steps and half steps. Explain what they are.
C. Show the major scale on a keyboard, starting on G. Show that the whole step/half step pattern is the same, but different notes are "playing the parts" of do, re, mi and friends. Also that F# has been called in to maintain the pattern, and that this is indicated using a key signature.
D. Perhaps show a few more scales.
E. Summarize how to parse "The key of C Major" - it is a major scale (do re mi, pattern of whole and half tones), starting on C (the key).
II. The Minor Scale
A. Show the major scale starting on C.
B. Explain that by starting on A (la) and going up, you get the minor scale, a different pattern of whole tones and half tones.
C. Show minor keys corresponding to major keys shown in I.C. and I.D.
D. Summarize how to parse "The key of A minor."
III. Why are the major scale and minor scale different when they use the same notes?
A. Point out that C Major and A minor share a key signature. Why aren't they the same?
B. Answer: they have different patterns of whole steps and half steps. Yeah, but so what? They are the same notes!
C. Bring up the concept of finals (ending notes) and cadences (ending series of notes) and melodic structures in general. Point out that, as they traverse the scale from do to do or from la to la, the whole tone/half tone patterns are different. This is why they sound different.
D. Play a song in a Major key and a song in a minor key.
IV. What's so special about do and la? Why are there only a Major scale and a minor scale?
A. Nothing! The missing scales are the ancient modes.
B. Describe the modes by their whole tone/half tone patterns and their starting scale degree (re, mi, fa, etc) and play examples of each. Point out that they are often almost the same as the Major scale or minor scale.
C. Explain that historically, these modes (especially Dorian and Mixolydian) were the most popular scales for composing music, just like the Major and minor scales are today our most popular scales.
D. Finally, point out that just like you can have the Key of C Major and the Key of G Major both be Major scales, you can also have the Mode of D Dorian (or D Dorian mode) and the Mode of A Dorian. "Dorian" describes the pattern of whole tones/half tones you get when you start on "re." The letter (D or A) tells you what note is "re".
Runo 3 (The Singing Challenge)
(Context) I have ten of thirty verses fairly well in memory; working on the rest. I've found that 'playing' the notes with my fingers, when I am sans instrument, helps me keep track of which permutation of the melody I'm on. (Also, keeps me from messing up the 11th measures, which I was doing regularly...)
I've tried the music on early harp, wire harp, and lyre. Not sure which I want to use for accompaniment yet. Also not sure if I want to have the accompaniment be the melody or some moving open fifths. Time and practice will help me figure out what's doable and what's not. I do eventually hit a wall where I can't concentrate on all the moving parts. And I'd rather focus on the vocal performance and simplify the accompaniment than the other way around. I can always do an instrumental intro and/or postlude to show off the instrument.
(Context) Finally got around to reworking this. Managed to make it too short. Sigh. I have been really careful with pinning, ironing, and finishing. Somehow the pins that marked the right length the last time have resulted in a cap that hangs barely below my chin. Eh, whatever. It's still pretty cute. I need to make tying strings, and I'm trying to figure out how I should do that. My linen coif has 4-strand braided linen ties, made using a fairly coarse linen thread (1.5mm dia?). I have some nice blue linen thread, but it's much finer. I could spin it to cord, or try whipcording it... or I could use the (undyed) thicker linen thread I have in a braid or whipcord, or... I'm going to just play around with some things. I'm also thinking the edge by the face needs a decoration, either a matching blue silk braided band like the bottom edge has, or else those teeny Viking embroidery circles from Oseberg.
(Context) Found my stuff! Hiding under fabric stash, naturally. I don't know/don't think the hand spindle I bought is actually an Oseberg repro, now that I look at it. It definitely does not function as a ball winder. It's got a knob at the end of it (like some other things) and the wound ball can't pass over it.
My darling husband got me three spindles from Hershey Fiber Arts for Christmas, and they are lovely. I've used the low whorl one as both a low whorl and a high whorl, and I've also tried the spiral-grooved one.
Using low whorl as low whorl: This worked really rather well. I tried a combination of park-n-draft (modified for the way I'm trying to spin) and a more continuous motion when I spun the spindle in one hand, pulling it right as I drafted off the distaff with my left. But I wasn't using the tiny ledge cut into the spindle to secure a half-hitch, and I thought it might be abrading the yarn.
Using a low whorl as a high whorl: So I turned it upside down, because the tip in low whorl configuration was totally smooth. I think that helped, but I found the high whorl set up much harder to grasp. I had to do a supported spinning sort of park-and-draft, where I spun the thing on my leg until I had a good amount of twist, then drafted out. When I tried the grasped spinning, I tended to drop it a lot. I should also try her high whorl spindle, although I suspect the only difference between the two is which end the little notch goes on.
Grooved spindle: Just started this one today. It's low whorl. It also works very well. Jury is still out on whether or not the groove is fuzzing up the yarn. The yarn is already pretty fuzzy. I think learning to spin worsted in definitely on my to do list.
At Pennsic 45, I bought an Oseberg hand distaff. I'll add a picture later, but you can Google it and see lots. Lois Swales shows the use of one in her Spin Like a Viking video.
Trouble is, "hand distaff" doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're doing grasped spinning. Part of the point of a distaff is that it serves as a third hand, holding the fibers while the off-hand drafts and the primary hand spins the spindle. Since I'm trying something different from the South American-style drop spinning (which could benefit from a hand distaff, at least as a way to carry and organize fibers?), I'm left looking at my hand distaff and wondering what I'll use it for now.
Sven the Merchant in Lochac may have my answer! He sells Oseberg hand distaffs - but he sells them as nostepinnes, or ball-winders. Now, this isn't entirely a sure identification either, I think - the surviving items look like they have narrowed ends and a swollen belly, which might make getting a wound ball off the stick difficult. (One end could be narrower than the belly.) On the other hand, YouTube instructional videos on nostepinne use are telling me not to wind on the yarn too tightly, lest it be stored in tension and then relax and shrink upon first washing. The belly on the distaffs/nostepinnes is rather small, and if the yarn was wound on with some give, it might not be hard to slide off at all.
I still have the spun Romney wool that Lady Sabine gave me in September on my niddy-noddy. Maybe today I'll soak it and stretch it to (finally) set the twist, and once it's dried, try winding it onto the Oseberg thingie to see how it goes.
Update: The hand distaff/nostepinne has gone into hiding, along with the clay whorls and chopsticks I got at BOTB. They all last came out to play for the September SENEA meeting, so I suspect they are all hiding together. Somewhere. I have checked the usual places and a few unusual ones. Nothing so far.
But I didn't want to leave the skein hanging around. Never mind that it's been sitting happily on a niddy-noddy since late September. I did take it off yesterday (after doing 4 figure 8 ties), soaked it in warm water (10 min), snapped it (hands inside the skein, pull out sharply), and hung it (weighted with two wrenches) to dry. It was dry today and it just had to be balled. Recalling my last adventure in yarn balling, I looped the skein over two chair backs and moved them apart until it was held up by tension. I used a 1/4" dowel as a nostepinne.
I have a ball of yarn! It looks really good, like real yarn! Now... what to do with it?
There are 24 measures of cerdd dant in the ap Huw manuscript. Looking at them today, wondering what the various punctuation marks might mean - . and : and ) are used - I noticed something else. Many, but not all, of the measures have sub-elements that are 4 'digits' long. The ap Huw uses a binary tablature, with 0s and 1s corresponding to something like one measure of "away" or "home." So I've been practicing mak y mwn hir, 1111 0000 1010 1111 0000 1011, as six lines of four-bar melody. The actual melody is improvised, drawing on the "home" notes when there's a 1 and on "away" notes when there's a 0.*
*With two caveats: One, I don't think I've got the notes sorted correctly into "home" and "away" bins yet, according to the Bragod website anyway. Two, I definitely use the "home" or "away" note on the stressed notes of the measure, but maybe not on the unstressed. I use the "other team" as passing tones or such. Dunno if that's exactly right, but considering that a lot of the ap Huw ornaments sort of require it, I think I'm OK.
ANYWAY the point of the post is: Although there are 24 measures, if you look at the last four digits of each pattern, there are only 5 cadences in use:
That seems like a useful thing to know! Possibly also misleading - for example, while there is no 1001, there is a 10001. Looking only at the last four digits may not be the right call when universally applied. Still, I thought it was worth noting.
I have been working on my spindle. It's just a dowel with a large glass bead on it (low whorl). Version 1 had a notch cut into the top, like the Oseberg spindle, and that worked if I wanted to do a half-hitch. But I'm intrigued by all the medieval spindles that are just long and pointy at the top - no notch, no obvious place to secure a half-hitch. I went back to 15th Century Spinning and worked a bit more at trying to copy her technique. I think I get it - you loosely hold the spindle between middle and ring finger, while thumb and pointer finger spin it. Now the need for a tapered top becomes clear, as the 0.25" dowel did not want to spin easily between my fingers. I whittled it down and did a little supported spinning - I will need practice before I can spin it between my fingers but not drop it.
I had the opportunity last week to stop by the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (formerly the Yorktown Victory Center). They are rebuilding the whole facility with a grand opening in the spring, but I did get to stop by the colonial farm for the flax processing demonstration. (They also have a pig butchering-and-salting demo on Thanksgiving weekend, which would be really need to see!) The flax processing had six steps. (These are mostly notes to myself and my own memory - if you are reading this, you can Google "breaking flax" or "scutching flax" to see the equipment that's used.)
Only weird bit - the docent told me that linseed oil was toxic, so you had to be careful with the retting water and handling the linen itself. Now, it does not surprise me that water which has had plants rotting in it isn't healthful to drink, but I thought traditional spinners often ran the flax over their lips to wet it? Well yes, perhaps, said the docent, but it isn't good for you.
After I left, I remembered that oil-rich flax seeds are sold as a health food. So I did some Googling. Linseed oil is perfectly safe in normal doses. Yeah, if you take a megadose of supplements, it can have some bad side effects, like doing straight shots of oil tends to have on a body! The museum oddly does not have an email contact address, so I think I will write them a short note thanking them for the experience (it's a really cool museum and re-construction!) but also pointing out that maybe they should double-check that part of the docent script.
My resolution to practice my harp again has mostly been working. Keeping it very very limited in scope seems to have helped me actually do it. So hurray! Now to see if I can keep it up through the rest of the holidays.
My approach was to take one new period (or in this case, period appropriate) song to learn, and one of the ap Huw song structures to learn. And the song I picked was "Vaka vanha Vainamoinen," from Lani Thompson's My Kantele Is My Teacher. (I sneakily thought that a 5-note kantele tune on harp might then also get ported over to lyre.) It's a Kalevala tune.
The Kalevala is the national folk epic of Finland. It was collected and collated in the early 1800s. No single singer ever sat down and performed the Kalevala, start to finish. Rather, Elias Lönnrot (the collector) gathered the songs of many poem singers and shaped them into a single coherent whole - sort of like what Thomas Malory did for the Arthur legends.
Thompson helpfully included some of the lyrics for the tune - in Finnish. I Googled them, and came up with... more Finnish lyrics. But a touch of Google Translate helped me correlate the runo to John Martin Crawford's 1888 translation over at sacred-texts.com. It appears to be Runo 3, about a young hotheaded rune singer who challenges the hero-god figure Vainamoinen to a musical duel. The translation isn't alliterative, like the original, nor rhyming, but it does scan in the original meter. So I could sing it to the music that I have.
Now it also happens that I have The Kalevala Heritage, which contains old recordings of Kalevala singers (some were recorded on wax cylinders!). And track 9, "The Singing Contest," is the same tune as the kantele tune I have. The lyrics are not identical with the "official" Kalevala, but I'm not surprised by that. Lönnrot included one "authoritative" version of the runo, but naturally it exists in different forms and lengths in the wild.
So I'm fairly well convinced that I've correctly matched the tune to the poem. Next problem: Thompson gives three lines of a melody, each line 32 notes/syllables long. Each line matches a Kalevala verse. So I could sing three verses to the music I have. Do those three verses have to all be part of a larger uber-verse? That would really limit the ways in which I could cut down and re-organize this for performance.
Facebook to the rescue! The Atlantian Bards and Performer's Guild page got me in touch with Hakon of Ponte Alto, who has also been studying Kalevala performance. He said his impression was that you'd just keep cycling the verses through the available melodies, without worrying about matching groups of three verses.
After that, reading some of the liner notes to "The Kalevala Heritage" and also the notes on "From the Land of the Kalevala," I learned some more about the performance of the runos. They were performed by pairs of singers, a master and an apprentice (more or less - a more and a less skilled performer). The master would sing a verse, and the apprentice would repeat it - giving the master time to recall the next verse and possibly plan variations on the melody (as is done in other folk oral epic traditions, and I really need to write up my references for those). I listened carefully to my recording of "The Singing Contest," and it actually seemed like the three lines of music collapsed into one or two lines of music by the end. I'll have to listen a few more times, but it may be the first verse Thompson gives was only sung once, at the very start of the runo (at least, by this particular singer for that particular performance).
Finally, lyrics. The Crawford translation ran 16 pages when I put it into a Google doc. I began cutting. There was a definite tension - repetition is a huge poetic feature of the Kalevala, and yet repetitions are also the easiest things to cut! I tried to leave a few in for flavor, but removed most. I removed most of Joukahainen's lame attempts at wisdom (because that seriously went on for pages); I removed his mother warning him not to fight Vainamoinen; with sad heart, I removed the verse where Vainamoinen pretty much calls him a little punk and a bad driver, and to get off his lawn/road. But after I got it down to 45 verses that I thought told the whole story, I went back with a razor and managed to get it down to 30. That's about where my "Matty Groves" comes in.
Aaaand that's when I realized that this had gone well past "harp practice" and was becoming "major performance development project" and thought I should put up a few notes on what was going on.