Friday, July 16, 2010

Name research


What is your name?

Máel Brigde inghean Áeda (pron. mayl-BREE-the EEN-yen Ay-a ) [pronunciations may be modern]

"Máel Brigde" is a bit of a argument based on possibly flawed logic.

The name "Máel Muire" shows up in the Irish Annals for the first time in 905 CE, and again in 913 CE, for the same woman; the second date marking her death. She is Mael Muire ingen Cinaedha m. Ailpin (Known in English as Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Picts). She was recorded elsewhere as the wife of Áed Findliath mac Neíll, King of Tara*.

As her father died on the 13th of February, 858 CE, she could have been born no later than November of that year, making her of an age with my persona (currently living in the 880's and about 30-ish years old).

The name is dated to at least c.879 in Ó Corráin & Maguire's Irish Names. This is most likely the same woman again, as 879 CE is when Áed Findliath died.

This part isn't really under question, we known that at this time the "Máel ____" name construction was used for women at least in Scotland, at least for "Máel Muire".

The Academy of St Gabriel states elsewhere on their site (under Scottish names) that they "believe that in this early period given names common in Gaelic Ireland were likely to have been used in Gaelic Scotland as well", so the name Máel Muire is plausible for Ireland as well, even though all other instances of the name in Ireland are later.

The problem with me using "Máel Brigde" comes in here. There's only two "Máel ____" name constructions listed for women (Máel Muire 6 times in the Irish Annals, for four different women, the other three dating from 923-1021 CE), and Máel Fabaill in the Irish Annals in 884 CE. This construct appears frequently for men, starting from Máel Dúin, in 606 CE, and including Máel Anfaid, Máel Bresail, Máel Brigde, Máel Cianáin, Máel Ciaráin, Máel Corgis, Máel Dúin, Máel Fábaill, Máel Fothartaig, Máel Martain, Máel Míchíl, Máel Muire, Máel Pátraic, Máel Petair, Máel Ruanaid, and Máel Tólai.

So is it that the "Máel ____" construct was highly unusual for women? Or is it that there's a vast disproportion of women mentioned in the Annals and elsewhere, and there merely happens to be few females with "Máel ____" constructs recorded? At least one other ancient Irish name site (not documetation-worthy as it shows no provenance) has a number of "Máel ____" constructs listed and only Máel Muire is listed as M/F, all others being only M.

My argument for the construct for Máel Brigde as a plausible name for a female is that there is no reason in the name itself for it not to have been used for women as well as men. "Máel Muire" and "Máel Fabaill" are identically constructed for male and female. And while "Máel Dúin" means "warrior of the fortress", all other male names using the "Máel ____" construct with the name of Jesus, Mary or one of a number of saints means "devotee/servant of _____". And in particular case of St Brigit, a patron saint of infants, midwives, and nuns, there's an especial reason they might well be named so.

The problem is, I have no idea if this is considered a weak argument for plausibility for the heralds who register names within the SCA.

An additional example in literature to the above; Melkorka, an Irish slave who appears in Laxdaela Saga and Landnámabók, believed to be "Mael Curcaigh" in Irish; Curchach (Curcaigh is probably a grammatical alteration to the name, like Brigde is to Brigit), being the name of one or more female saints in Ireland. Melkorka claimed to be the daughter of Myr Kjartan (Muircheartach), a king in Ireland (there were several minor kings and princes by this name around this time, it has never been established which one it might have been). She was said to have been abducted at age 15 from Ireland and was bought by Hoskuld Dala-Kollson (from a Rus merchant in Norway) who took her as his concubine while away from his wife in Iceland. That winter she gave birth to a son, Olaf, who is recorded to have been born in 938.

Assuming the most conservative possibility, that she was abducted, taken straight to Norway and promptly sold, it would likely have taken about a year to get from Ireland to Norway (where she was sold during the summer), and on to Iceland and Olaf's birth in the winter. So she would have been at least 16 at Olaf's birth putting her likely date of birth c.922 at the latest, which is a little later than my persona, but not too far. And establishes a precedent for the idea that; one, there were more possibilities for "Máel ____" constructs as names for women; and two, that they might well be "Devotee/servant of [female saint]"

What does it mean?
Máel Brigde means "devotee/servant of Brigit"
-inghean Áeda means "daughter of Áed"

How did you get your name? Why were you given that name?
My father was particularly devoted to St Brigit, and met my mother, whose family were lay servants at Saint Brigit's Abbey in Kildare, when he traveled there for the fairs. He promised to devote his first born child to St. Brigit's service in thanks for the wife he took from it.

Brígiða is what I have been called since I first left the Abbey and began dealings with those speaking Northern tongues. They had difficulty pronouncing it and when they understood it's meaning, one of them decided they should just call me Brígiða, a name they have gotten from our Saint and begun using to name their daughters. I must not be very devout, for I find it bothers me less than my upbringing says it should, to be named so straightly after a Holy Saint.

They later named me Vadesbana (Woad’s Bane) as a nickname given due to my propensity towards blue hands, and messing with woad vats.

How would you be addressed by non-family members of equal rank? Higher rank? Lower rank?
SCA Answer: Formally, Bantiarna by the Irish, Fru by the Norse
Real answer: still working on that;

Additional answers on the theme of names, which go in other sections:

Who is your father? What is his name?
Áed mac Dúnlainge, a younger son of minor nobility with ties of kinship to the kings of Osraige through his mother

Who is your mother? What is her name?
Eithne inghean Máele-Brigte; the daughter of lay-servants of the Abbey at Kildare.

What are the names of those you were given in fosterage to? Who are they?
Cináed mac Riacáin and Bébinn inghean Flainn

* Yeah, yeah, I know, Wikipedia. But he's a well known figure in history and not actually important here except that a known Máel Muire was married to him and we know when he died. Also, I'm too lazy to find a better link right now.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Överhogdal Tapestry Technique-First Sample

Here is the first sample piece of the Överhogdal Tapestry Technique, as reconstructed by me.*

These tapestries are part of a Early Medieval Scandinavian tradition of supplemental-weft figurative weaving on narrow bands of cloth (sometimes called friezes), most likely intended to be hung just at or above eye level around the interior of a structure, and part of the wider European tradition that includes such embroidered wall hangings as the Bayeux Tapestry.

June 10: Loom warped, and even managed to do the starting border.

Warp and weft are mercerized cotton, which I find closer in tensile and tactile properties to linen than regular cotton (also, all I had to work with). The sett is 15 epi, with weft slightly thicker than warp, as per common in the Viking age for many weaves (definitely for wool anyway, I'm not as sure about linen having a slightly thicker weft typically). Pattern weft is a commercially dyed wool. Eventually, I'd LOVE to do a piece with wool dyed by me, but my skills at dyeing aren't good enough yet.

June 12: two of three figures for the Tir Righ army done (I forgot to take a picture on June 11)

The heraldry of Tir Righ is blue and white/silver. I had to fudge it a bit as white would not have shown up well even in bright daylight, never mind in a dark-ish longhouse by candle/lamp/firelight, and as far as I can tell, metal thread does not appear to have been used in these tapestries. The outline blue is a brighter and lighter colour than the blue used in the original tapestry, which was a woad/indigo blue close to navy in shade. This blue is closer to the heraldic blue of Tir Righ's colours. The light blue is close to a shade I've gotten with indigo.

The majority of figures do appear like this; as a rectangular outline in a dark colour, with a solid block of a different colour inside for the torso, and with the head differentiated from the torso by being left as just base cloth. There are some figures which have various kinds of lines in them to distinguish the torso from the head (eg. diagonal stripes). If I were to start this piece now, I most likely would have used one of those designs for these guys, so I could stick to blue and white.

June 13

Lines that run parallel or at an angle to the warp are wrapped in a spiral fashion. For those who are more familiar with embroidery, essentially the same thread-path as a satin stitch. Lines that run perpendicular to the warp, or large blocks of colour aresoumak wrapped (like stem/outline stitch).

In fact, when the tapestries were found and for decades after, historians and archaeologists thought the tapestries were embroidered, as you could produce the same appearance using satin and stem stitching. They realized that it was actually weaving when someone took a very close look at the cloth and realized the wool pattern thread never pierces either the warp and weft of the base cloth, or itself; something that even the very best embroiderer would find it damn near impossible to do.

It's interesting to note, if you click on the picture to see it larger, that the one small bit on this piece that is embroidered** does not look the same as the identical design element when woven. If you look closely at the feet of the bottom figure, and compare to the feet of the other two, you can see the difference. The only explanation I can come up with is that the needle pushes the base cloth threads aside to make room for it and the following thread, which then sits loose in the space left; whereas when weaving it, the wool thread is compressed between base cloth wefts when the weft over it is beaten down. As a result, it took fewer stitches to make the same length foot embroidered, than it took wraps to make it woven. I don't know if I would get the same result with a finer woven cloth.

June 14

They don't mention it in the sources I did find, but if you follow the path of a specific thread they probably also never cross over a base cloth weft and then cross back down. It would be impossible to cross wefts like that in weaving the pattern since the next weft(s) wouldn't have been put in place until the row was done, but does happen in embroidery, even when trying very hard to avoid it. Nor are there any places where the pattern weft is worked at a diagonal to the warp-weft matrix of the base cloth, judging by looking at close pictures of the front. As well, going back and forth across rows of the base cloth to build an image would be an inefficient way to embroider, though not impossible or especially unlikely.

June 15

Unlike soumak rug weaving which wraps fully around every pair of warp threads, often with every row pairing the warp threads the same (creating columns of wraps), in this tapestry technique the pattern thread is wrapped over six or nine warp threads and back under two or three, essentially wrapping over every other pair or trio of warp threads.

None of the sources I saw specify, but I'm guessing from how the technique works that it would be under-two, if you're wrapping over-six, and three if nine. My reasoning for this is that in the next row as you work the pattern thread back across the warp you are staggering the warp threads you wrap the weft under, using the pairs or trios you didn't wrap the thread under in the previous row. ie. You wrap over threads 1 to 6, back under 5&6, which now become threads 1&2 of the next 6 you're wrapping over. In the next row, threads 5&6/1&2 in your wrapping pattern are the threads that were numbered 3&4 in the previous row --like the way bricks are stacked. Likewise, over 1 to 9, under 7-8-9, which become 1-2-3 of the next over-wrap, and in the next row, your 7-8-9/1-2-3 are the threads that were numbered 4-5-6 in the previous row.

Because I'm pretty sure my sett was lower than the original, and my figures larger, I stuck to going over-six, under-two, as over nine made a rather large weft float. I also, in places where I had to cover seven warp threads or fewer than six, just went over seven, or fewer than six.

June 17 (I must have taken the 16th off)

In the Tir Righ army and the Valkyrie on the same side I actually did something different. When I started the first border, I was staggering the wrap-under as described above. I know I had read this description from Lena Elisabeth Norrman's Viking Women: The Narrative Voice in Woven Tapestry:

"In this technique, the pattern threads are laid over those of the warp and then snared back. The snares are turned around the threads missed in the previous row. The threads in the weft work from right to left, back and then from right again" (Norrman 2008, p. 124-5)

I can't remember if I actually consciously remembered the description when I started weaving, or if I just started weaving that way because it made physical sense to as the thread was being wrapped, because my subconscious was feeding me hints. Either way, when I went back to look at the picture to check something, it looked like the wraps were not staggered, so I started wrapping around the same pairs of warp threads each row, which resulted in the lines running across the figures parallel to the warp. This probably made the areas of soumak weaving even harder to beat down evenly with the base cloth only areas, than it would have been if I had done it right. (See the June 12 picture for the bulging of the weft)

June 18

Just after I finished the first Valkyrie I went back to the book to look for some reference to something, I found back the description of how the wraps are supposed to go, thought "..the hell??!?" and looked again at the picture and went "D'oh!" And switched back to staggering the soumak wraps. It's not very obvious on the loom in the design, but if you look at the Valkyries in the above and below pictures you can see the difference it makes! Especially where the train of the Valkyrie's garment meets the main body; it's far less stark a change and looks less awkward on the second Valkyrie.

Also, yes. Those are severed heads weighting the warp on the loom.... heh heh heh.

June 19

Another difference between the description and how I worked the figures was that to make a straight line at the edges of colour blocks and thick horizontal lines, as they appear to be in the original, rather than staggered edges, I would start sometimes start and/or end a line with a over-four wrap (ie if one row had 5 over-six wraps, the next line would be an over-four wrap, followed by 4 over-six wraps and another over-four, so the same number of warp threads were covered in both rows).

June 20 (Avacal Army in red and yellow)

Despite not having been buried (sealing it from the environment) and not being particularly well-cared for over the centuries (it was discovered kicked into a corner of a shed after being removed from the bottom of the wood-box during a thorough cleaning at the church in Överhogdal) the colours are quite vibrant. The blue is a very bright navy, the reds are truly red (with an orangish hint), rather than browning out, and the greens are equally bright.

My red is a bit more blue-toned than the original colour, and my green a similar tone, but lighter shade; I didn't have anything darker. The blue, as mentioned above, is a brighter, lighter colour of blue. And there's a second shade of blue; something that does not seem to have been done with any of the colours in the original tapestry. Interestingly, yellow does not appear in the original, though my yellow is a colour that would have been possible with weld at the time.

The stripes in two of the figures have two purposes. One was that I didn't actually have any suitable yellow thread. The yellow I used here (as well as the darker blue and the grey used for the swords and warp on the Valkyrie's loom) were pulled from some weaving scraps my friend Brynja gave me for stuffing and such, and I wasn't entirely certain I had enough to do the bodies. The other reason is that in the Norrman book, she discusses the idea that the figures she identifies as being likely representing females, based on her theory of what story the tapestries were meant to tell, may have a wider variety in appearance because their appearance was meant to convey that they were the focus of the story, rather than the more generic 'male' figures. Based on that notion, the Avacalian warriors are varied more than the Tir Righ army to indicate that the viewer should read the Avacalians as the focus of the story, and since history is written by the victors.... (We would have won if we hadn't been outnumbered!!!!)

And the finished piece. A proper documentation will follow when I rewrite the sucky documentation I wrote for the competition.

* " me" in this case means other people have researched and written about the technical details and have even done exact reconstructions, but as I was unable to find any of this information in English in the last couple of years while I was researching it off and on in an admittedly desultory fashion, I finally gave up and used a short description of the technique and a really good close-up photo of a design element to figure out how it was done for myself.

** I decided after finishing the first figure that it looked funny without feet and decided to add some. But since each of them took me a whole day to weave and I'd have had to redo the entire figure to weave in the feet, I wasn't inclined to unweave the figure just to put them in. Those who might like to try this technique and are scared by how slow it is, may be reassured that by the time I got to the Avacal army I was able to weave two figures a day.


Stand provided by the ever-talented Polar Bear, cat hair provided by the Usual Suspects.

Professional sniffestigating by Persephone.



Tool Inspection,

and Thread Herding by Tenzing. Jack was off at his day job, being a Grumpy Old Man-cat.


Hear the roar of Hárr's waves, (1) & (2)
Heed now, raven-feeders! (3)
Swan of corpses' counsel (4)
Calls for bold boast's swallow.

Spear-wives now are weaving;(5)
Weapon-Eir swift snaring.(6) & (7)
Song of wound-oar singers (8)
Set fast the war-fetters. (9)

Storm-hall rings with stool-quake; (10)
Star-trees felled in warring. (11)
Weak grow their wound-fires (12)
Wolf-greed slaked with bleeding.

Battle-speeders, we speak not
Spear-shakers, we fear not
Graceful Griffin, laughing
Great and long his fate-cloth.

[Listen to this poetry and pay attention those who would fight us! The wiser heads of Thought and Memory suggest you retract your words. The Valkyrie are weaving the cloth of this war and binding you with terror. The halls of Tir Righ's Prince tremble with fear, as your warriors lay dying. Your sword-arms grow weak, and wolves will feast on your blood. We do not need to boast of OUR prowess, we do not fear you. The Griffin stands and will stand with might and grace long after we are all food for ravens!]

(1) Hárr: "one-eyed", ie. Óðinn
(2) Hárr's waves is a reference to the mead of poetry
(3) "Raven-feeders" -Warriors
(4) "Swan of corpses" -Ravens; a reference, in context, to Óðinn's ravens Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)
(5) 'Spear-wives" -Valkyrie
(6) Pronounced "ey-r"; "ey" as in they; Eir is one of the Valkyrie ("help, mercy")
(7) Snaring = Snare-weave, a type of decorative weaving similar to soumak, used in the Viking Age to create pictorial cloth, (see A&S display at AT War; that's right boys and girls, I don't just do Viking smack-talk, I do Viking smack-weaving too!)
(8) "Wound-oar" -Sword
(9) The Valkyrie could weave war-fetters that could bind warriors with terror
(10) "Storm-hall" would normally be a reference to the sky; in context here, it refers to the 'hall' of the Tir Righ Prince; the stool thus is his throne.
(11) "Star-trees" -Trees are common metaphor for warriors, usually "tree of [some sort of weapon]"; in light of Tir Righ's heraldry, I thought star-tree would still work here.
(12) "Wound-fires" -Swords
(13) The Valkyrie rip the cloth off the loom and tear it to shreds when a king or prince dies….kind of.

A&S Hats Challenge

A&S50 List-Hats

Just because I have done these hats too...

1. Natural linen Dublin hat

2. White linen Jorvik hat

3. Yellow Linen Dublin hat

4. Green wool Birka hat/stealth coronet

5. Green wool Dublin hat [see previous post]

6. Brown wool Dublin Hat [see previous post]

7. Wool head scarf (dyed and hemmed)

8. Yellow linen Jorvik hat [see previous post]

9. Purple wool pillbox hat [see previous post]

10. Black silk Anglo-Saxon veil with attached headband

11. Metal brocaded headband

(three different conjectural ways of wearing it)

12. Small silk Dublin headscarf

(must be pinned or can be worn underneath, (if you want to be a muffin-head!))

13. Purple and green 6 panel Birka hat (child's)[no picture, same purple as pillbox hat in previous post, and same green as the Birka stealth coronet above, gold chain stitch (I think) hem treatment, and running stitch seam treatments]

14. Broken chevron twill 4 panel hat [no picture, same fabric as Greenland hood in previous post, with herringbone seam/hem treatments in dark red]

15. Broken chevron twill Greenland hood, lined in red linen [see previous post]

50 Items of Largesse Challenge

A&S50 List-Largesse

This is an amalgamation of my 50 toys and 50 hats challenges. While eventually I'd like to keep an example of each of the types of toys I make for a demo box, I realized they were, so far, ALL going to largesse anyway, as were half of the hats I'd made since I signed up for the challenge. And frankly, I only need a couple more hats myself anyhow, so while I'm keeping track of hats and toys still, in case that changes, for now I'm concentrating on making them for the Largesse Challenge I've set myself.

1. Green wool Dublin hat

2. Brown wool Dublin Hat

3. Yellow linen Jorvik hat

4. Roman Era doll -generic medieval dress (to HRH Avacal)[no picture, forgot to take one]

5. Leather ball -London style? (to HRH Avacal)[no picture, forgot to take one]

6. Roman Era doll -early 14th century garb (to An Tir Estrella gift bag-Gleann Abhann)

7. Roman Era doll -supposed to be 14th century garb, but ended up looking more late Viking Age (to An Tir Estrella gift bag-Atenveldt)

8. Black hobby horse (to HRM An Tir for prize)

9. Grey hobby horse (to HRM An Tir for prize)

10. Roman Era doll -Roman garb (to An Tir Pennsic gift bag-Ealdormere)

Detail of oh-my-god-how-long-can-this-take-it's-just-a-tiny-doll hair-do

11. Black hobby horse (to An Tir Pennsic gift bag-Ealdormere)

12. Purple wool pillbox hat (to HRH Avacal-largesse)[recipient has shortened height and beaded it with pearls to suit a later persona- it's GORGEOUS]

13. Purple and green 6 panel Birka hat (child's) (to HRH Avacal-largesse)[no picture, same purple as above, with dark forest green and gold chain stitch (I think) hem treatment, and running stitch seam treatments]

14. Broken chevron twill 4 panel hat (to HRH Avacal-largesse)[no picture, same fabric as below, with herringbone seam/hem treatments in dark red]

15. Broken chevron twill Greenland hood, lined in red linen (to HRH Avacal-largesse/gift)

16. Roman Era doll -4th C Coptic Dress (to An Tir Estrella gift bag)

17. Roman Era Doll -10th C Dublin dress (to An Tir Estrella gift bag)

18. Grey hobby horse (to HRH Avacal for largesse)[no picture, same as above horse]