My Vigil (food, clothes, etc)

As with all aspects of my elevation, I wanted to add a Norse flavor to the standard SCA event.

To that end, I added a formal welcome from my Laurel, Mistress Taisiya, when His Majesty Sven and Their Royal Highnesses Conrad and A’isha arrived for the invocation of my vigil. This type of welcome and the offering of mead by the Lady of the house is common in early literary and artistic traditions, and it perfectly established the environment that I wanted..

After the welcome, Sven released me as his squire, which was very emotional (yes, I am about to cry in this picture).

Sven releasing me as his squire, with my vigil tent in the background

Sven releasing me as his squire, with my vigil tent in the background

Sven returning the three (wooden) cows that I gave him in 2003 as surety for my squiring oath.

Sven returning the three cows that I gave him in 2003 as surety for my squiring oath.

When I became Sven’s squire I researched early Irish tenant relationships and learned that it was common for a tenant to give livestock to a lord as surety for an oath. Once the oath was fulfilled, the livestock was returned to the tenant; if the oath was not fulfilled the livestock was forfeit. I decided to incorporate that aspect in to my squiring, so I gave Sven a string of three (wooden) cows. When Sven released me he stated that while my path has changing since I swore my oath to him, he considers my elevation to the Order of the Laurel as fulfillment of my oath and returned the cows to me.

Next, Taisiya released me as her apprentice, and then the Herald read the vigil invocation.

Taisiya removing my apprentice belt.

Taisiya removing my apprentice belt.

Thanks to the help of my friend Viscountess Whilja, all of the new garments made for my vigil and elevation are totally hand sewn. In fact, she put aside many of her own projects in order to sew my vigil dress. Thanks Whilja!

I wanted to embrace the tradition of simplicity for the vigil dress, so I chose a fabric of natural wool. However, I did want some depth so I used a diamond twill fabric purchased from Naturtuche (have I mentioned how much I love their fabrics?).

The pattern of the dress is based on preserved textile fragments from Hedeby harbor (evidence for round neckline, inset sleeves, side gores and pieced sleeves) and has parallels to the cut of medieval dresses from Greenland.

My vigil tent was a A-frame style appropriate to the period, and was furnished with a table and several benches, and lit with beeswax candles. For vigil tokens I gave glass lampwork beads.

My vigil book was made by Duchess Anna from the Kingdom of the Outlands, the binding and cover design are based on the St. Cuthbert/Stonyhurst Gospel.

My vigil book

My vigil book

The book table was lit by a Viking Age appropriate oil lamp (a floating wick in a ceramic bowl).

The food for my vigil was cooked on site by Baroness Colette de Montpellier based on recipes from An Early Meal by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg. I greatly appreciate her enthusiasm and willingness to spend the entire day cooking. Everything was delicious – as evidenced by the fact that there were no leftovers 🙂

The menu included:

Roast beef baked in dough, served with berry sauce

Pork loin roll stuffed with pickled kale

Kettle worms (pork and beef sausages)

Pork and wheat berry pottage

Fresh cheese

Aged cheeses (made by Baroness Ceara ingen Chonaill)

Hazelnut treats with fruit jams (cloudberry and gooseberry jams)

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Viking Age head-coverings

Post updated May 2015, May 2016, and April 2017 with additional pictures

I have been thinking about head covering options for female Norse re-enactors quite a bit recently, and I have also seen several questions come up in various on-line conversations. Because there is very little concrete evidence in this area, there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled with conjecture. These are my conclusions, but I would love to hear the views of other people who have studied this topic!

First of all, did Viking Age women wear a head covering? There is not enough evidence to give a conclusive answer to this question, and the answer might also vary based on social class, formality of event, weather, or other factors that we haven’t considered.

I don’t think that pagan Scandinavian women necessarily had religious pressure to cover their hair, but I feel that the evidence points toward styled hair and/or a head covering of some type. Styling the hair and wearing some type of head covering would have been practical; wearing hair up keeps it out of the way and covering it helps to keep in clean. I think that the available evidence supports the idea that loose, uncovered hair isn’t very likely in a Viking Age context.

Some pre-Viking Age archaeological finds provide support for the idea of head wear in general; bog bodies from Arden Mose and Haraldskjaer both include sprang caps. These finds indicate that head coverings did not arrive in Northern Europe with Christianity, so religious pressure is clearly not the only reason the women wore head coverings. There is also archaeological evidence of head-coverings during the Viking Age (headbands, scarves and caps from Dublin, cap from Jorvik, tablet woven headbands with evidence of a veil underneath from Birka), although the archeological record gives very little information about how these items were worn.

Most pre-Viking and Viking Age depictions of women show a knot with streamers at the back of the head. Many of the representations are difficult to interpret, but there are a few cases in which it is clear that the knot is hair (others could also be a scarf or veil wrapped around the head). This is often used as evidence that Norse women didn’t wear any type of head covering, but it is important to consider that these figurines are generally thought to represent goddesses and the knotted hairstyle might have had social or religious significance. There is no archeological evidence for the knotted hairstyle, but there is pre-Viking Age evidence for elaborate hairstyles – Arden woman’s hair was worn twisted and wound around the head (under the sprang cap) and Elling woman’s hair was arranged in an elaborate braid which was tied in a knot.

There are many discussions of women’s head coverings in various sagas and in the poem RĂ­gsĂžula. In general I think this supports the idea that most women wore some type of head covering, although it is important to remember that this evidence is not conclusive since these stories were not written down until several hundred years after the Viking Age.

Taking all this evidence in to account, I feel the there are several different options for women doing Norse re-enactment, including styled hair and various head covering options. I do not see any evidence for long hair worn loose.

Some options:

1. Styled hair – several Valkyrie figurines are depicted with long hair worn in a knotted ponytail, and one Iron Age figurine seems to show a women with buns on each side of her head. There is also the possibility of hairstyles inspired by Arden woman or Elling women.

Braided hairstyle based on Valkyrie knot (styling and hairpiece by Viscountess Lorissa)

Braided hairstyle based on Valkyrie knot (styling and hairpiece by Viscountess Lorissa)

Two buns based on Danish figurine (hairpieces made by Viscountess Lorissa)

Two buns based on Danish figurine (hairpieces made by Viscountess Lorissa)

Knotted hairstyle, created using a fall to add length (picture of Mistress Aldgytha)

Knotted hairstyle, created using a fall to add length (picture of Mistress Aldgytha)

2. Knotted scarf – some Valkyrie figurines look like they could be wearing a knotted scarf around the head. There is also saga evidence of a twisted or knotted scarf (for example, in Viglundar saga a linen bandage wound around the head is compared to a woman’s head cloth). Because this style would be unlikely to leave any archaeological trace, it is difficult to tie to a particular location.

Knotted headscarf. In this style the scarf is wrapped around the head, and the tails are twisted together and coiled at the base of the neck.

One option for a knotted headscarf. In this style the scarf is wrapped around the head, and the tails are twisted together and coiled on the back of the head. If you style you hair in a bun, you can use the bun as the center of the knot. This scarf is rectangular, 52cm by 165cm

Back view of the above style.

Back view of the above style.

knotted scarf

Another option for wearing a knotted scarf – in this style the ends of the scarf are gathered at the nape of the neck and tied in a knot. This style results in a very distinct knot at the nape of the neck. This scarf is rectangular, 83cm by 147cm.

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Back view of the style above.

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A third option for wearing a knotted scarf (back view) – in this style the front corners of the scarf are tied together at the nape of the neck, and then those ends are tied again to confine the tails of the scarf.

3. Draped scarf or veil – This style is similar to the depiction of the Virgin Mary in the Book of Kells and some Anglo-Saxon women, so I suggest this option particularly for re-enactors depicting the British Isles.

draped veil

Veil worn draped loosely around the head and shoulders.

3. Headband – headbands of silk and wool have been found at Dublin, and several graves from Birka have remains of metal-brocaded tablet weaving around the head. Evidence from Birka indicates that the headband could be worn horizontally around the head, along the hairline, or around the crown of the head.

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Silk headband decorated with brocaded tablet weaving

4. Cap – extant examples from the British Isles only (Dublin and Jorvik), so this style is also primarily for re-enactors depicting women from the British Isles.

Dublin cap

Cap based on extant example from Dublin.

Cap based on extant piece from Jorvik. The Dublin styles are rectangular with a peak at the back of the head.

Cap based on extant piece from Jorvik.

Another way of wearing the Jorvik hood

Another way of wearing the Jorvik hood

5. Headband and scarf – there is evidence from Birka of a scarf or veil worn under a tablet woven headband. In the extant examples the headbands are brocaded with metal threads, however it is possible that tablet woven headbands without metal brocading were also worn in this fashion. Headbands and scarfs of silk and wool fabric were found at Dublin, so it is possible that this style worn in various areas of the Viking world. Depending on how the scarf is worn, this style also has parallels with contemporary Anglo-Saxon and Rus women’s costume.

Front view of headband and knotted scarf

One way of wearing a headband and scarf. In this case the scarf is tied with a distinct knot at the back, and a woven headband is tied following the hairline. The headband helps hold the scarf in place. This scarf is rectangular, 54cm by 260cm.

Tablet woven headband, worn over knotted scarf

Side view of the style show above.

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Another way of wearing a headband and scarf. In this case the front corners of the scarf are tied or pinned at the base of the neck, and the tails hang freely. A brocaded tablet woven headband is worn along the hairline.

veil and headband

Another option – in this case the brocaded tablet woven headband is worn horizontally around the head.

Some resources on this topic include:

Hägg, Inga “Die Tracht.” Birka. Untersuchungen und Studien. II:2. Systematische Analysen der Gräberfunde. (Ed. G. Arwidsson). 1986, 51-72. (discussion of brocaded headbands from Birka)

Heckett, Elizabeth Wincott. Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin. Royal Irish Academy, 2003. (caps. headbands and scarves from Dublin)

Back from Great Western War 2013

New laurel - Drach

Wow, what an incredible weekend! In addition to my Laurel vigil and elevation, my love was invited to join the Order of Chivalry and was knighted on the field yesterday morning 🙂

I put a lot of thought and planning into the various aspects of my elevation, and I am thrilled with how everything worked out! Over the next few days I will be posting about all the fun things I was able to work out.

Laurel ‘scroll’

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In planning my elevation, I was a little stumped on what I should do for a scroll. My ceremony (which I will post soon) is Norse-inspired and so I was hesitant have a paper scroll. I did consider a rune stone, but decided it would be a bit unwieldy to present in court 🙂

I finally settled on an embroidered wall hanging based on the Bayeux embroidery. Although that particular piece is Anglo-Saxon, there is evidence (ie from Oseberg) that wall hangings were also used in Scandinavia. The style of my ‘scroll’ is based specifically on the Bayeux example because that hanging includes text.

I asked a wonderful group of friends to help with out with this project, and I was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic agreement!

Many, many thanks to the people who made this a reality: my fiance Niccolo for drawing the design, Aldgytha and Kelsey for embroidering the borders, Svana for embroidering the first panel,

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Kissa for embroidering the second panel,

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Stazi for embroidering the third panel,

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Also I would like to send out my heartfelt thanks to Saeunn, Maeve and Taisiya for jumping in to the sewing circle of doom to finish the lettering and construction in time for the scroll to be presented at my elevation!

There are some fun touches that we included, such as the oak leaves (main charge on my device) incorporated into the borders. Also, Kelsey reworked two or the critters in the top border to represent my two mastiffs (Athena is a dark brindle – she is in the top center of the second panel, Hercules – complete with drool – is in the top left corner of the third panel). Niccolo was very excited to include the silly naked men from the original in the bottom border 🙂