Friday, April 20, 2007

A Bouquet Confection to Delight your Love

Believe it or not this Spring bouquet by Scott Clark Wooley is made of sugar!
During medieval feasts it was customary to serve a soteltie as a part of the entertainments. Today the tradition of decorated food is carried on with elaborately decorated bithday or wedding cakes, molded patés and vegetable carving. Sotelties can be foods of one kind made to look like another kind, or to look like something that is not even food, like a basket or a book. Medieval cooks used sugar paste to make sculptures, buildings, fountains, flowers, and other fanciful designs. They even fashioned dishes and goblets out of sugar paste that the guests could actually use, just as in the Willy Wonka song, "you can even eat the dishes!" Food coloring can be kneaded into sugar paste before it is rolled out, cut, impressed, pinched and assembled into fantastic bouquets of flowers and other fancies. Scott Clark Wooley of New York City is considered one of Americas finest teachers of this ancient art form. His book, Cakes by Design, the Magical Art of Sugar Paste is available from the publisher for a limited time at a discount. This is a good place to start learning how to make flowers, bouquets, and wedding cake designs.

A period recipe
This is from Thomas Dawson, The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, 1597, entitled "To make a paste of Suger, whereof a man may make al manner of fruits, and other fine things, with their forme, as Plates, Dishes, Cuppes and such like thinges, wherewith you may furnish a Table."

"Take Gumme and dragant as much as you wil, and steep it in Rosewater til it be mollified, and for foure ounces of suger take of it the bigness of a beane, the iuyce of Lemon, a walnut shel ful, and a little of the white of an eg. But you must first take the gumme, and beat it so much with a pestell in a brasen morter, till it be come like water, then put to it the iuyce with the white of an egge, incorporating al these wel together, this done take four ounces of fine white suger wel beaten to powder, and cast it into the morter by a litle and a litle, until they be turned into the form of paste, then take it out of the said morter, and bray it upon the powder of suger, as it were meale or flower, untill it be like soft paste, to the end you may turn it, and fashion it which way you wil, as is aforesaid, with such fine knackes as may serve a Table taking heed there stand no hotte thing nigh it. At the end of the Banket they may eat all, and breake the Platters Dishes, Glasses Cuppes, and all other things, for this paste is very delicate and saverous." More on historical Sugar Paste.

Dragant was another name for gum tragacanth. It comes from one of the many species of the Astragalus plant. This spiney weed with tiny starlike flowers is also called goat thorn and milkvetch. The gum made from the roots of the variety that grows wild in Asia Minor (Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, etc.) has been prized for centuries for its exceptional qualities in cooking, baking, and confections.

Here is a modern recipe, or you can use a pre-mix—I have used Wilton's gum paste pre-mix with great results.

Sugar Paste (also known as Gum Paste)

1 tbsp glucose or corn syrup
3 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp Wilton Gum-tex™ or tragacanth gum
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar (about 1 lb)

In a large bowl, mix Gum-Tex™ into 3 cups confectioner's sugar. Make a well in the center and set aside. Mix water and corn syrup in a glass measuring cup and blend. Heat in a microwave oven on high for about 30 seconds until mixture is clear. Pour into well of 3 cups confectioner's sugar and mix until well blended (mixture will be very soft). Place mixture in a plastic bag and seal tightly. Let mixture rest at room temperature for about 8 hours. Knead remaining confectioner's sugar into gum paste when you are ready to use it. As you work it in, gum paste will whiten and soften. Work with only a small amount of gum paste at a time and keep the rest in the plastic bag.

Clay-like gum paste can be rolled thin and impressed with textures for fine detail. Insert wires into flowers before they dry. The paste will dry to a hard, porcelain-like finish overnight. It can also be formed and painted to make sugar jewelry boxes, beads, pendants, and rings.

Baking 911-Gum Paste Flowers
Instructions on how to make your own gum paste flowers, where to buy tools and lots more.

Pheil and Holing
Buy the ingredients or ready-made sugar paste flowers.

Sugar Paste Confections
Amazing sugar paste creations by Elise Fleming (Countess Alys Katharine, SCA) including plates, goblets, books, heraldic tiles, and coronet boxes.

Originally published February 2006 by Gael Stirler

Spitting And Giggling: The Origins Of Courtly Love

A humorous look at love
by Sir Guillaume "There's No Adults Here" de la Belgique

Today's notion of romance goes something like this: Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan (or, possibly, Sandra Bullock if neither of the other two are available) receives a mis-routed, anonymous e-mail from a sensitive, misunderstood espresso bar proprietor who is searching for his soul mate to help him raise his darling little nephew who he adopted when his sister died in a tragic plane crash. So, Julia or Meg (or possibly Sandra) spends the next two hours trying to find this perfect man until she realizes that the guy who comes into her neighborhood Post Office every Friday to send cookies to the Angolan refugees is the same man who wrote the letter. He's played by Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant (or, possibly, Harrison Ford if the movie includes machine guns or jet aircraft at any point).

Today's stories of unrequited romance have their roots in the medieval concept of "courtly love." This idea began in the mid-12th century when Eleanor of Aquitaine gathered the influential young women of Europe to her palace in Gascony for what was, in essence, a 20-year-long bridal shower—which, like most of events of this type, involved a lot of starry-eyed young women sitting around daydreaming about boys. As news of Eleanor's court of lovesick young heiresses spread, every knight from León to Liechtenstein—including the Crown Prince of England—came to Gascony in the hopes of impressing this band of giggling air-heads with some feat of gallantry. Of course, any attempt to actually perform a feat of gallantry resulted in all the knights dog-piling on top of each other, punching, spitting and calling names, as the ladies ran off, shrieking and giggling, to another corner of the barony. Finally the King of France, who was angry at being disturbed from his peaceful dinner by a bunch of rowdy kids, put a stop to things by storming into Gascony and shouting, "Young ladies! Is this how I taught you to behave? And if you boys can't come up with something constructive to do, I can find a Crusade for you to fight!"

So, the knights and ladies returned to their daily routines of whipping their servants and starting civil wars. But the poems and tales of courtly love told in Eleanor's court quickly spread throughout Europe, bringing the ideal of gentle dalliance and graceful courtship to a culture which, until then, had regarded the concept of "romance" with the same degree of sentiment as we reserve today for things like bank mergers. Even in the 21st century, medieval tales of courtly love remind us that passion can reach higher than lust, that true love can overcome any obstacle, and that it is possible, even after being yelled at by the King of France, to fall in love with an e-mail message.

In this month's column, Eleanor of Aquitaine was played by Julia Roberts, Henry Plantaganet was Hugh Grant, and the King of France was Rodney Dangerfield. Sir Guillaume intended to produce thorough documentation for this article, but was unable to complete the necessary research when he became unexpectedly ill after "gallantly" attempting to drink a latté from his wife's shoe. Guillaume's column "I Didn't Expect An Inquisition" appears monthly in the SCA newsletter "The Crown Prints."

About Author
Sir Guillaume is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, where he is a knight, Pelican and baron, much to the dismay of the other members of those orders. His column, "I Didn't Expect An Inquisition," which appears monthly in The Crown Prints, has received several awards and was once described as "completely devoid of social value."

Originally published February 2006 by Gael Stirler

12th Night History

by Patricia Purvis
Recipes edited by Gael Stirler

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse a-far
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star!

Twelfth Night or Twelve Nights, as it is called in some places, celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings to the birthplace of Christ. It is observed on January 5th, the night before Epihany, and marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, although Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings on a different day.
The Three Kings, also known as the Wise Men or the Magi, were traditionally called Caspar, King of Tarsus, the land of myrrh; Melchior, King of Arabia, the land of gold; and Balthasar, King of Saba, where frankincense was said to flow from the trees.

The Kings presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child. Gold symbolized kingship, frankincense depicted godliness, and myrrh represented a painful death. In return, charity and spiritual riches would be offered for the gold, faith for incense, and truth and meekness for the present of myrrh. The Wise Men returned home and, in 7 A.D., it is said, Saint Thomas the Apostle discovered the Kings in India and baptized them. They are said to have become martyrs and their bodies buried within the walls of Jerusalem. It is believed the remains were later moved to Turkey by the Emperor Constaine's mother and, later still, to Milan, Italy until they were finally laid to rest in Cologne (Köln) on the Rhine River in Germany.

Twelfth Night was a part of the year-end festivities in the British Isles and France. These celebrations originated in the 5th century when French and English churches created the "Feast of Fools." "Temporary Bishops" and "Archbishops of Fools" play-acted, reveled and generally caused mischief. By the fifteenth century, such ceremonies were banned from church by the French government due to lewd behavior. A new street festival was created and a temporary "king" for the season known as the Prince des Sots was elected. In England, this king was called the "Lord of Misrule" and, in Scotland, the "Abbot of Unreason." The king's reign began on Halloween and lasted for three months.

The "state duties" of both the French and English kings ended on Twelfth Night. A cake called Galette du Roi or "King's Cake" was consumed and marked the end of the celebrations. In addition, a large cake with a hole in the center was placed on the horns of bulls for the Twelfth Night Games and wine and ale was imbibed by all. Originally, cake was a symbol of the pre-Christian Goddess. Bulls' horns represented the consort of this Goddess and her spirit was the ale and wine. This custom is the origin of communion.

Celebration of such Twelve Nights festivities was no longer a tradition by the mid-19th century, but were replaced with "Mummer Plays," which are still performed today throughout the British Isles. The troupes of performers are known as Morris Dancers and consist of six men who dance complex steps to the accompaniment of an accordion or fiddle. One of the men is dressed as a woman and is called Maid Marian. Other characters include Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. Another man, dressed in a horse-skull mask and a wide-hooped petticoat, chases young women and covers them with his skirt. He is known as the "Hobby Horse."

Supernatural events are thought to occur during the Twelve Days of Christmas. The "Wild Hunt" and "Faery Host" are thought to ride through the countryside collecting souls. In Ireland, these beings are referred to as the "Yule Host."

In Whittlesey, the Sunday before the first Monday after Twelfth Night is the "Procession of the Straw Bear." A man wrapped in straw from head to toe dances through the streets while other Mummer Plays feature such characters as the "She-Males." These are men who dress up as old hags for the celebrations and represent the Goddess of Winter.

During early times in rural Austria, the Twelve Nights between December 25th and Epiphany (January 6th) used to be referred to as "Smoke Nights," due to the fact that incense was burned. Today, this is done on January 6th. The head of the household moves through the farm with incense in order to "smoke out" any evil spirits. Holy water is sprinkled on the house, the grounds and the barns. The head of the family then uses chalk to mark the door with the initials of the Three Wise Men—K(aspar), M(elichor) and B(althasar)—along with the number of the year. This lettering replaced the original pentagram chalkmark of ancient times which prevented evil spirits from entering the home.

Austrian Twelve Nights celebrations also feature parades of costumed characters who blow horns and crack whips intended to drive away spirits. In Styria, a parade of bellringers known as Glocklerlauf takes place on January 5th. Elaborate headdresses are made for this occasion. On December 6th, children dress up as the Three Kings and the Star of Bethlehem in order to go caroling. They are rewarded with hot chocolate and gingerbread. In certain areas of the Alps, the traditional Twelve Nights custom is to light bonfires.

In the Netherlands, midwinter horn blowing known as midwinterhoornblazen is an ancient Yuletide tradition that dates from 2500 B.C. The sound is designed to drive away evil spirits and sometimes the horns can be heard up to three miles away. The instruments are specially carved from birch and elder trees, with a competition held on January 6th to decide the most proficient musician. "Saint Thomas Ringing", called St. Thomasluiden by the Dutch, is continuous bell-ringing in the bellhouses of Friesland cemeteries. The bells toll for the death of Saint Thomas a Becket, the English Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his Cathedral on December 29, 1170. January 6th is known as"Three Kings' Day" or Driekoningendag. An Epiphany cake is baked and whoever finds the bean inside is king for the day, complete with gold paper crown. After this ceremony, the holiday season comes to an end and families remove their decorations. Many Dutch towns have organized burning of Christmas trees.

In France, the Twelve Nights feature the displaying of a creche or crib. This was invented by Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy on Christmas Eve, 1223 A.D. He turned a nearby cave into a stable, erected a manger and held a service. The French creche or manger scene is put up in the home and gifts are exchanged on January 6th. Young people dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses go to midnight mass at church carrying drums and pipes and torches to find their way. The French carol, "Bring a Torch Jeanette-Isabella" is a lyrical illustration of this custom.

Galette des Rois
This marzipan-filled puff pastry is a favorite Twelve Nights treat in Paris, northern France and Belgium. It is usually decorated with a golden paper crown like this. You can prepare this cake ahead of time, refrigerate, then bake it just before serving.

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry about 10 inches square
1 stick of butter (½ cup)
2 eggs
1 cup store bought marzipan or use recipe below
1 or more dried beans, metal charms, or tiny porcelain figurine.

For Marzipan, blend:
½ cup powdered almonds
½ cup powdered sugar
2 tsp rum, kirsch or other spirit.(optional)
1 egg

Thaw puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight. Take the puff pastry out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature before using it. Pre-heat the oven to 450° F. Roll each sheet of the pastry to 10" (if necessary) and cut off the corners to form a 10" circle. Butter a medium size pizza pan or a cookie sheet and lay one circle of puff pastry on it. Cream the butter and one egg in a bowl. Add the marzipan and mix them thoroughly. Roll or pat marzipan paste into a circle. Lay the paste on the pastry base, leaving two finger widths all round. Bury one or more beans or charms in the paste.

Lay the second circle of puff pastry on a work surface and decorate by slitting the top layers with the point of a sharp knife. Beat the other egg in a small bowl. Brush the beaten egg on the edge of the pastry around the marzipan. Place the other decorated puff pastry circle on top, gently pressing down the edges to seal them. Brush egg over the top layer. Place the cake in the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. When the pastry is all puffed up and the glaze is golden brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Best if served warm, but it can also be eaten cold. Place a gold paper crown on top before serving and crown the "King of Festivities" when the bean is found. (Serves 6-8)

Orange Epiphany Cake (or Goddess Cake)
This cake comes from the British Isles and uses fresh oranges, imported from the Mediterranean this time of year. Decorate the cake with candy to make it look like a jeweled crown for the Three Kings or, in homage to goddess traditions, bake the cake with a hole in the middle and decorate with fruit slices. Either way, you can hide a bean and a dried pea in the cake batter before baking. When it is eaten, the person who finds the bean is the King of Fools and the one who finds the pea is the Queen, regardless of the gender of the finder!

1 cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
grated peel of 2 fresh oranges
3/4 cups orange juice
2 eggs
Self-rising flour
¼ cup Triple Sec (optional)
Gum drops, candied fruit, etc.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
1½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar and add the eggs one at a time until well mixed. Mix in grated orange peel and orange juice. Fold self-rising flour into the batter. Pour into a 9" buttered round springform, angle food cake, or in a bundt cake pan. Bake at 350° F for 55 minutes or until it is browned and pulling away from the edges. Turn out of the pan and poke holes in the top with a fork. Drizzle the Triple Sec liqueur over the top (optional). When completely cool, decorate with sugar glaze, gum drops, candied fruit or orange slices. (Serves 8-12)

Originally published --date-- by Gael Stirler

Midwinterhoornblazen in Twenthe

A midwinterhoorn is an instrument, used in the eastern part of Holland, called Twente. People play it between the first Sunday of Advent and Epiphany. Go to Midwinterhoornblazen for audio of the horn and to see how they are made.

A midwinterhoorn is crafted by splitting and gouging out a curved piece of timber. (mostly birch, alder, willow or poplar). A hole is drilled at the smallest end for the mouthpiece. The two halves are reunited with glue. No instrument is identical to another.

This site shows how the horns are made and played and even has a link for the sound of a horn. A good player can get six to seven notes out of a midwinterhoorn. It has a melancholy sound. When players get together they play a call and response type of song. This is derived from the days when farmers would blow the horn to communicate with their neighbors in winter.

Originally published --date-- by Gael Stirler

Wassailing Away

by Gael Stirler

Here we come a-wassailing
among the leaves so green
Here we come a-dancing
so fair to be seen!
Love and Joy come to you
and to you your wassail, too!
And God rest you and bring you a Happy New Year
And God bring you a Happy New Year!

DestinyLike many lasting customs, wassailing is associated with an ancient legend. A beautiful Saxon princess named Rowena offered Prince Vortigen a bowl of wine while toasting him with the phrase, “Waes hael,” which is an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “good health.”

In Saxon times you would have said “Waes hael,” not “Waaassup,” to greet or say goodbye to somebody; it literally meant, “be in good health.” By the 12th century, “Waes hael” had become the salutation one offered as a toast, to which the standard reply was, “drinc hail”, “drink to your good health.” (“Hail” is an older form of our modern word “hale,” meaning “health or well-being” and is closely related to our word “hail” meaning “to salute, greet, or welcome.”) Eventually, the word came to be associated with the alcoholic beverage used for toasting, especially the spiced ale or mulled cider that was drunk on Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night.

If you are having a traditional holiday party and want to incorporate this custom, here is the old way to share wassail. While everyone is gathered, shout "Wassail!" before sipping from a large, festively decorated cup. Then pass the cup to your neighbor. That person replies "Drinkhail," to you and takes a sip. He shouts "Wassail!" to the next person, and passes the cup along, giving a kiss to the recipient who says, "Drinkhail!" Though pre-dating Christianity, this kind of cup sharing custom later became known as "the loving cup" in Christian circles. Unlike the church custom, traditional wassail toasting could get very rowdy and flirty. If you don't wish to drink from the communal cup when offered, you may drink from your own cup and pass the wassail cup with a kiss. If you don't want to be kissed on the mouth, turn your cheek or offer your hand.

The kissing tradition known as "Cloven fruit" probably originated from the wassail bowl fruits which were studded with cloves. In this game someone starts by inserting cloves into a lemon, orange, apple, or pear. Then he offers a cloven fruit to a woman he fancies. If she accepts, she is indicating her willingness to be kissed. If she pulls out a clove with her fingers, she wants to be kissed on the hand. If she pulls one out with her teeth, she wants to be kissed on her lips. After she receives her kiss she is free to offer the cloven fruit to anyone other that one who offered it to her.

Wassail is also a tradition of blessing the crops especially fruit-bearing trees. Wassailers would gather after dark in the orchard and choose the most imposing tree to represent the whole orchard. A young lad would scale the tree and sit in the branches to represent the spirit of the tree. He would be offered gifts of bread, cheese, and cider. Then wassailers sang orchard blessing songs, put bread soaked in cider in the crook of the tree trunk, and poured wassail on the roots of the tree. This would be followed with bells, gunfire, horn-blowing, and other noise to frighten away malevolent spirits and awaken the trees from winter slumber. In Sussex this was called "howling" the orchard.

Another wassail tradition sounds like "Trick or Treat" for grown ups and calls for a group of caroling revelers to carry a pitcher or bowl, festooned with ribbons, from house to house, where they sing and offer the homeowner a cup. At each home the revelers are treated with a refill of their the vessel. This hodgepodge cocktail of varied ingredients may be the reason there is such a diversity of wassail recipes and the origin of frat parties. Here are three Wassail recipes based on cider, ale, rum, and wine for your holiday fare!

Spiced Cider Wassail Bowl
Pre-heating the punch bowl reduce the thermal shock on the bowl and keep the wassail from cooling too fast.

2 quarts apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
juice of 4 lemons
6 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
12 whole allspice
1 ½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 fifths (or liters) dry sherry
Garnish of orange and lemon slices

Combine juices, sugar and spices in pot. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove spices and add sherry. Heat until just below boiling. Meanwhile, heat water in a tea kettle. Fill a punch bowl with the boiling water. Let stand one minute, then empty carefully. Immediately fill the punch bowl with wassail and garnish with floating orange or lemon slices, studded with cloves. (Serves 8-12)

Ye Olde Ale Wassail
Make serving your wassail a showy affair with songs and noise and holiday flair.

1 quart ale (or beer if you must)
1 quart rum or brandy
grated lemon peel
3 eggs
4 oz powdered sugar

Heat ale to almost boiling with spices. Beat eggs with sugar while ale is heating up. Combine whipped eggs and hot ale in a large pitcher. Put rum or brandy into another large pitcher and pour from one to another until mixed well. Then pour into a holiday wreathed wassail bowl (or punch bowl). Best served hot! (Serves 8)

Fireside Christmas Wassail
This can be cooked in a dutch oven sitting on the hearth with the fire blazing.

4 cups brown ale
1 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
3 oz brown sugar
4 apples
peel of ½ lemon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger

Wash the apples and peel them just around their waists and stud with a few cloves. Place the apples, brown sugar, and 4 tbsp of the brown ale into a 3-quart or larger dutch oven. Cover and bake in the oven at 350° F for 25 minutes or place one foot from the fire in an open fireplace and simmer until the apples are tender. Remove the apples to a plate and add the remaining ale, sherry or wine to the dutch oven. Stir in the lemon peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger and let simmer for a few more minutes. Put the apples back in the wassail and serve warm. (Serves 4)

Originally published December 2005 by Gael Stirler

The Last Days of the Principality of Gleann Abhann

by Vallawulf Rurikson in the style of The Life of St. Cuthbert (c. 634-687), by St. Bede (673-735).

(This is a true story told in the style of a fairy tale or legend. It is written by Vallawulf Rurikson, Ambassador of Atenveldt and Atenveldt Disaster Relief Coordinator and Moderator of the SCA-911 Yahoo Group.)

WHEN Radu and Broinnfinn, Lord and Lady Heir of Gleann Abhann, had passed several months in said positions as Heirs to these Lands, a Principality of the Kingdom of Meridies, knowing in Spirit that Their day to become a Kingdom in Their own ryght was at hand, They did turn to contemplate such Actions and kindle up to Greater Bryghtness the Flame of Their Impending Nationhood. At this time, They were accustomed to go out frequently from Their Manor and converse with the Populace, who came to visit with Them.

They had one day left Their Manor, to visit with Their Populace and, when They had finished, They said to them, "We must now go home again; but do you, as you are inclined to depart, first take food; and when you have cooked and eaten, go on with the preparations for Coronation.” They then gave thanks to Their Populace and, feeling blessed in them, went home.

Now when They had readied Themselves, They tryed to go forth with Their Coronation, but a Massive Storm utterly prevented Them from proceeding. The Tempest flooded the Barony of Axemoor, causing Their Excellencies, Merwyyd of Effington and Eleri of Caerleon, Baron and Baroness of those Lands, and all Their people, to flee in dismay from Their Ancestral Holdings. The Barony of Seleone and the Shire of Dragoun’s Wheel were smashed flat by the Four Winds, causing Their Excellencies, Thaddeus Camberwell and Daphne of Colchester, Baron and Baroness of Those Lands, and all their people, to flee in dismay from Their Ancestral Holdings as well. Many other Shires, Cantons and Colleges were also destroyed or damaged heavily.

The Lord and Lady Heir, along with the people of Gleann Abhann, watched in dismay as the roughness of the Winds and the Waves increased, and the rising of the Waters continued unabated, and yet They could not call to mind what fault They had committed or how They had offended the Gods. They fled North and East and West, in all directions but South, in any way to escape the Angry Sea that flooded their Cities, and scattered upon the Teeth of the Four Winds that scoured their towns flat, and it seemed as though the Lands known as Gleann Abhann would cease to exist, lost in the Mysts of Time, as Atlantis or Mu before Her, and Her People decimated and caused to wander, as the Jews, for a long period of Tyme, or absorbed into other Kyngdoms...

After gathering in what shelters They could find, They turned to the King and Queen of Meridies and Their Heirs, and to lament to Them of Their Ruin and Destruction. Their Royal Majesties and Their Royal Highnesses exhorted the people of Gleann Abhann to be patient and, throughout the period of waiting, came out to console their Sorrow, and give them Succor and Encouragement.

“Why do we remain here idle?” asked Lethrenn, Queen of Meridies. “Let us do the best we can to save ourselves!”

“Yes!” cried Deirdre, Crown Princess of Meridies. “We can survive this! We can help each other!”

“Yes!” cried Broinnfinn, Lady Heir of Gleann Abhann. “We have all that we truly need! Our husbands and wives and children and dogs! Our lives and our friends and our family! Though our Land is covered with Water and the Heavens with Clouds, though the currents of both Wynds and Waves are fully against us, though we are Famished with Hunger and we have lost Everything, and there is no one to Relieve us, if our Faith does not Waver, I think we shall not remain long in these Dire Strayts.”

Little did these Formidable Women know at that moment how right They were!

Then it did happen Most Wonderfully that the Wynds began to cease and the Waves began to be still and the Waters began to recede. Seeing that the Sea was finally Calm, after suffering from Cold and Hunger and Loss of Property, after overcoming Shock and Despayr, the people of Gleann Abhann began the long and slow trek back into their Damaged Lands to see what was left, to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. It seemed that, for now, the Dream of becoming a Kingdom would have to be put aside.

But it was not to be.

The Dream would not die. Not for the Lord and Lady Heir of Gleann Abhann.

“We will hold coronation barefoot, in our shifts, in a field if necessary!” said Broinnfinn.

It would not die for the Loyal Members of the Principality, nor would it die for the King and Queen of Meridies, Maximilian II & Lethrenn II, nor for their Royal Heirs, Boru & Deirdre, nor for the Officers or Populace of Meridies or Gleann Abhann. Nor, indeed, would the Dream die for the rest of the Knowne Worlde.

“We will not allow this to happen!” came the cry from all Corners of the Worlde, from those who had heard of the Trials and Tribulations being experienced by the people of Gleann Abhann.

And, shortly after the Wynds and Waves stilled, the Knowne Worlde responded en masse, succoring their brothers and sisters in Gleann Abhann and Meridies with an overwhelming outpouring of Cheerfull Wyshes and Welcome Supplies to assist them in the rebuilding of their Kingdoms and of the day of Coronation for the newest Kingdom. So much, in fact, that the storehouses of Gleann Abhann were bulging with largesse.

“We do not have the words to thank you, the Knowne Worlde, for the overwhelming aid to our populace,” said Broinnfinn a sentiment echoed by Her King, Officers and Populace time and again as They spoke and wrote to those assisting Them. (But They did find them later, as you can read in Theyr letter further on in this History.)

Thus it was that Gleann Abhann, to their Grayt Delyght, and to the Graytt Delyght of the rest of the Worlde, reached Kingdom status at long last. Those there rejoiced because they now saw what care the Knowne Worlde had for Their Youngest Kingdom, so as to Vindicate Her from Neglect, to keep Her from Destruction and from Extinction and from being Forgotten, even by means of the Elements. They rejoiced, too, that the Knowne Worlde should have had so much regard to Themselves, as to assist in Their recovery in a most Miraculous Way.

Thus was the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann born from the Elements, from Water and Wynd, Fyre and Earth and took its Ryghtfull Place as the Nineteenth Kingdom of the Knowne Worlde!

Written by my hand this third day of November, Anno Societatus XL, being 2005 Gregorian.

Vallawulf Rurikson, Ambassador from Atenveldt

Originally published on (11/14/2005)

Originally published --date-- by Gael Stirler

Customize your Clothing with Trim

by Gael Stirler
Plain to Fancy in just a few hours

CHI-3002 English Lace-up DoubletCHI 3002 Customized with trim
Figure 1 English Lace-up DoubletFigure 2 Customized English Lace-up Doublet

Here are instructions on how to take a plain English Lace-up Doublet and make it into a nobleman's vest (Figure 2). Once you know the tricks for adding trim to finished garments you can easily customize all of your wardrobe.
Materials and Tools:
  • English Lace-up Doublet (Figure 1)
  • 5 yards of wide metallic trim
  • 2-1/2 yards of 1/2-inch velvet ribbon.
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Straight edge
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine and serger (optional)
  • or, needle and thread if you choose to sew the trim on by hand.
Wide trim looks best when used on straight lines. For curves, use narrow trim, ribbon, or braid trim. Braid or gump is made from cords, woven or knotted in various ways to make decorative trim. Braid bends easily around curves; however, the ends are difficult to finish and hide. Tailor's chalk contains a small amount of wax to keep the chalk from brushing off the fabric too easily. It comes in squares of blue and white chalk for dark and light fabrics. You can use small pieces of soap as a substitute. You can use a yardstick, t-square, or any other straight, flat object for the straight edge. A measuring tape will not work.

Draw guidelines on back
Figure 3 Draw guidelines on the back

Step 1: The secret to adding trim successfully is drawing guidelines first. To trim the doublet in a pattern of large "Vs" mark the midpoint of the back with the tailor's chalk. Make a mark on each of the shoulders 1/2 inch from the seam. Using the straight edge, draw a chalk line to connect these marks (Figure 3). Draw lines for the lower "V" from the waistline center back to the armholes parallel to the upper "V".

Step 2: Turn the doublet over and remove the laces. Draw a verticle guideline 1/4 inch from the grommets, parallel to the front edge (Figure 4). This is the guideline for the velvet trim. It also defines where the wide trim will end on the front. Do not draw the line too close to the grommets or you may break your sewing machine needle when sewing down the trim.

Draw verticle guidelines
Figure 4 Guidelines on the front

Step 3: Make a small mark halfway down the front, next to the grommets, on each side. Connect these to the marks on the shoulders with a chalk line to form the upper "V" on the front. Make small mark on each side of the grommet line at the lowest point on the center front where it meets the peplum (vest skirt) at the bottom. Draw lines parallel to the upper "V" from these marks to the armholes, as you did on the back.

Step 4: Starting at the midpoint on the front, measure the guideline from center front, over the shoulder, to center back. Multiply this distance by 2 and add 4 extra inches for insurance. Cut the wide trim to the calculated length.

Step 5: Match the pattern and fold the wide trim in half with right sides of the trim together. Cut from one corner of the fold to the edge at a 45° angle (Figure 5). Sew or serge the cut edge. Open the trim and pin to the midpoint of the back with the guidelines at the bottom edge of the trim (Figure 6).

Figure 5 How to make mitered corner Figure 6 Mitered Corner

Depending on the angle of the "V" you may need to make some adjustments to the sewing line angle.
If you match up your pattern when you fold the trim, your mitered corners will be symmetrical.

Figure 7 Pin trim to back

Step 6: Finish pinning the trim over the shoulders (Figure 7). You may need to take a small tuck as you change angle at the shoulder line.

Step 7: Measure the lines on the lower back "V" and cut trim 3 inches longer. Serge or zigzag ends to prevent fraying. Match the pattern and fold in half with right sides together. Cut and sew a 45 ° angle as before. Pin the lower "V" in place using the guidelines. Fold the excess trim into the armhole and pin.

Step 8: Turn the garment to the front and lay the trim on the guidelines on the front. Mark where the trim crosses the guideline next to the grommets. Cut the end at that angle and serge or zigzag the edge to prevent fraying. Do not go over the line or fall short of it by more than 1/4 of an inch (Figure 8).

Figure 8 Cut and serge ends of trim

Step 9: Pin all the trim in place on the front. Sew the trim down with the same color as the background of the trim. Sew very close to the edge starting at the lowest point in the front, next to the guideline. Follow the guidelines closely as you sew. When you get to the armhole, turn and sew across the end trim so that you sew down the folded part of the trim on the inside. Then turn and proceed back to the beginning on the other side of the trim to fully attach it to the garment. At all times be careful to keep the garment from puckering under the trim. Repeat on the other side of the front.

Step 10: Repeat the procedure to sew down the upper "V".
When you reach the shoulder keep going, following the guideline. Sew the back "V", then sew over the other shoulder to the front grommet guideline. Sew down the angled end of the trim, and then sew down the other side of the trim all the way around until you reach the beginning.

Figure 9 Add black velvet ribbon

Step 11: Cut a piece of trim a little longer than the collar. Match the pattern and fold in half. Pin the center of the fold to the center of the back of the collar. Pin the rest of the trim on the collar. Cut the trim to match up with the guideline and the curve of the collar.

Step 12: Sew the trim to the collar as before. Use the collar seam for a guideline

Step 13: Sew black velvet ribbon over the front verticle guideline and the edges of the trim to give a finished look to the garment (Figure 9). Turn the end of the ribbon under at an angle to make it look neat (Figure 10). Sew across the end, then sew close to the edge of the ribbon up the front of the doublet, around the neck, and down the other side. Sew both sides of the ribbon close to the edge, making sure that you cover the ends of the wide trim.

Figure 10 Turn under ends of velvet ribbonFigure 11 View of back with collar

Washing instructions:
Use only washable trims. Prewash and iron the garment before attaching trim. If the garment is machine washable, like this doublet, turn the garment inside out and button or lace-up before washing. This will protect the trim from abrasion on other garments. Wash in cold water and hang to dry. Unbutton and iron from the wrong side. Touch up ironing on the right side but avoid ironing metallic trim.

Other examples of how you can customize garments with metallic trim and velvet ribbon. Click on image to go to product.

Knightly Fighting Surcote
Knightly Fighting Surcoat

Lord's Coathardie

Lord's Coathardie

Royal Tunic

Royal Tunic

Lady's Irish Dress

Irish Dress

Barmaid's Bodice
Barmaid's Bodice

Originally published November 2005 by Gael Stirler

UPDATE: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

September 26, 2005) Rick Hight of The Louisiana Renaissance Festival (LRF) wrote to say, "Hurricane Rita did not do any additional damage to the Louisiana Renaissance Festival site. A few more trees, damaged by Katrina, finally fell over, but no new damage was caused. The Louisiana Renaissance Festival is most definitely opening on schedule with a full lineup of entertainment!" The opening day will be Saturday, November 5th, and they will be open every weekend until Sunday, December 11th. They will celebrate Thanksgiving with a three-day weekend starting Friday, November 25th.

Marc Larranaga and Randal Scott of the Duelists

This year the professional entertainment includes Bilge Pumps, Brobdingnagian Bards, Craig of Farrington, Duelists, Palo Garbanzo, Haggis Rampant, Hobgoblin Hills Puppets, Jonny Phoenix, Limey Birds, St. George and the Dragon, Thomas Wood, Tortuga Twins, Vince Conaway and Washer Well Wenches. In the equestrian area you can see Kelly Baily and Joust Troupe Warhorse and Accipiter Enterprises with Kitty Tolson Carroll demonstrating in the Birds of Prey show. There will be lots of street entertainers and many demonstration as well.
Most local area lodging is filled with the displaced, so the fair will allow on-site camping for guests as well as merchants and performers this year. They are encouraging clans and groups to come to Louisiana this year to help contribute to rebuilding of the local economy. With a few days advance notice can accommodate camping for even the largest groups!
For information you can call Rick Hight at 985-429-9992 ext 203 or 623-748-0169 ext 203 or visit web for details on camping at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival.

Correction to 9/9/2005 article.
LRF is 45 miles north of New Orleans (not 25 miles.) LRF is handling the relief fund for their employees and volunteers who have lost so much, (not the RLHC.)

News about SCA events and Gulf Wars
John, the Wrangler at the barn said they have re-established power to most of the site, and the water is up and running again. Viscountess Marion, Leoncina da Susa will post new pictures of the event site after her next visit on October 1, 2005. You can see the her photos at Green Dragon.

Originally published October 2005 by Gael Stirler

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Octoberfest: Castles in Germany

Oktoberfestby Gael Stirler
Have you ever dreamt of celebrating Octoberfest or Christmas in Germany in a Medieval castle? It may be more affordable than you thought. Though Octoberfest is over for 2005 (it runs from mid September through the first weekend in October) it's not too soon to start planning for next year. There are many castles in Germany that have been converted to excellent boutique hotels and the prices are the same or lower than the chain hotels. If you have ever considered owning your own castle you could spend some time shopping for one while you are on vacation. You will be surprised at what you can find.

Castle Schwalenberg
At Castle Schwalenberg you can enjoy a 3-night stay in a private room with a bath including breakfast buffet, two regular dinners, and one Knight's Feast for only $260 per person double occupancy. The Knight's Feast is a sumptuous 8-course meal with appetizers, wine, and 3 hours of bardic entertainment. There are even more special festivities planned for Christmas and New Year's.
The Castle Schwalenberg was established in 1231 by Count Volkwin III. The castle became a mother's convalescent home from 1938 to 1945 and from 1946 to 1962 it was a children's recreation home. In 1963 it was renovated and turned into a hotel and restaurant.
The castle is located near the picturesque Weser River in Northrhine Westphalia, near the town of Hameln, site of the Pied Piper of Hameln tale. This area is a artist's dream with its half-timbered homes and beautiful scenery.
Castles for Sale
One of the most exciting things about this castle is you can buy it for a cool 2.2 million dollars. The owners are retiring and selling the castle, along with its restaurant, conference rooms, private zoo, separate dwelling house, and 10.3 acres of land.
Stately Schloss Demmin
Schloss Demmin - $3 million
Since the unification of Germany many state owned castles have been returned to the families that lost them under Communist rule. Many families have put their castles up for sale since the maintenance or renovations exceed their ability. You can pick up a Victorian mansion for as little as 90,000 euros (about $107,000) or a completely renovated fairy tale castle complex for 3 million. There are many castles and manors in need of renovation available in the half million range.
About 75 miles north of Berlin, an elegant renovated 19th century palace or Schloss stands near the town of Demmin in a 22 acre park designed by Berlin landscape architect Joseph Lenné. The palace has 8 apartments, an office suite and a cellar.
17th century Schloss Marksuhl
Schloss Marksuhl with its own lake
Looking for a bargain, how about this 17th century palatial complex with a lake on 45 acres for only $567,000? Located in the Thuringer Forest, smack dab in the center of Germany, this Georgian-style castle was the summer residence of the Eisenacher dukes.
Schloss Nohra
Schloss Nohra costs less than a 2-bedroom house in some parts of the USA
If you are interested in something even older, perhaps needing some fix-up, how about a castle that was converted to a cattle and pig farm! Only $240,000 for the great hall and annex buildings located near Nohra in the Thuringer region. Originally built in 1287 the castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance. After fires in the 18th and 19th century it was renovated and used as a farm under the Communists.
Marksuhl-great hall
How to Hunt for Castles Online
One of the best sites I've found for browsing Castles for Sale is Pfeiffer & Koberstein. Since it is in German and very little of the site is translated into English you'll find it helpful to use to translate one or two paragraphs at a time. However, it can be frustrating if not amusing when the computer mis-translates. For instance the word Schloss is translated as "lock" by their program instead of as "palace," "stately home," or "mansion". Distances on German sites are in metric so I use ConvertMe to convert square meters, hectare and kilometers into square feet, acres and miles. Oanda is one of the best websites to convert Euros into US dollars. Use the Oanda converter classic to convert one amount at a time or print out a cheat sheet. I use Mapquest.DE to find the location of the castles on a map of Germany.
As of today there are 35 castle for sale on Pfeiffer & Koberstein. Even if you never move to Germany, you can always take a look and dream about owning a real castle someday.

Originally published October 2005 by Gael Stirler

Halloween Customs

Pagan Book of Halloween

The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich

Gerina Dunwich's favorite night of the year is Halloween, and for good reason—it is the Witches's New Year's Eve. As a high priestess in the Universal Life Church and professional astrologer, she has dedicated her life to dispelling rumors, myths, and negative stereotypes surrounding the Old Religion. Her book on Halloween is filled with information on the origins and development of this ancient holiday as well as recipes, spells, ceremonies and lore.

Dunwich traces the origins from ancient, pre-Christian Ireland to modern horror films. She examines the ways that the holiday shares similarities with days of the dead in other cultures and how it has incorporated the traditions and symbols of many different religions over the centuries. She also explains how pagan Halloween has nothing to do with Satan or devil worship as it has been mis-portrayed by rival religions for centuries.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter on Traditional Halloween Cookery:

In the Middle Ages, bakeries throughout central and southern England were filled each year on All Souls' Day with square buns decorated with currants and know as "soul cakes." These sweetened rolls were eaten to bring mercy on the souls of all Christians who had died within the past year.

Soul cakes were as important on all Souls' Day as hot cross buns were on Good Friday and plum pudding was on Christmas. They are believed to be a custom that derived from an old Pagan tradition of baking bread from the new grain at the Samhain harvest festival. Soulers (people who would walk the streets on All Souls' Day singing and begging for food and money) would be given soul cakes in return saying addition prayers for the deceased loved ones of the donors. It was believed that the passage of the dead soul through purgatory was made faster by each prayer that was offered up.

In Yorkshire, England, the baking of special saumas (soul mass) loaves was a custom related to the soul cake. Bakers were known to give these small round loaves away to their favorite customers to bring them good luck. As a charm against early death, one or two loaves would be kept in each house until the next All Souls' Day.

The Pagan Book of Halloween is fun and interesting to read. You will enjoy all the the bits of ancient lore and superstitions. There are simple spells for bringing good luck, and finding love, and blessing the dearly departed. There are also more involved ceremonies for marking the passing of the year at Samhain, (pronounce SOW-en) the ancient name for Halloween.

Originally published October 2005

by Gael Stirler