Mistress, Dame or ?

There has been some discussion on Facebook recently about the title choices for SCA Peers. I thought I would share my thought process, in the hopes that is will explain my choice. I would like to thank Dame Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada for her assistance digging up period examples and her assistance with Gaelic grammar!

There is a list of approved alternate title provided by the College of Heralds, however the Irish Gaelic options are too late for my persona. In fact, during my period of interest there isn’t any evidence that the cultures I study (primarily the Irish Gaelic and Norse) used titles as we use them in the SCA (ie, what you would call someone when speaking to them). The only evidence is for descriptions or ranks placed after the name when referring to the subject (a construction called a descriptive byname). I decided that form would be useful as part of my signature on correspondence.

From Dame Mari’s research, the term <suí> means ‘sage or scholar’ and <ecnaid> is defined as ‘wisdom, knowledge, enlightenment’ which is ‘also applied to human learning in its widest sense: of acquired knowledge; rarely intelligence, skill’

She found several examples from the Annals of Ulster where these two terms are used together to describe scholars:
Aedh Treoiti, suí ind ecnai & i crabad
19th C translation:
Aed of Treóit, paragon of knowledge and piety

Ciaran sui ecnaidh Erenn
19th C translation:
Ciarán, eminent sage of Ireland

M. Gorman fer leiginn Cenannsa & sui ecna Erenn.
19th C translation:
The son of Gormán, lector of Cenannas, and sage of Ireland, died.

Cormac H. Mael Duin sui ind ecnai & i crabad
19th C translation:
Cormac ua Mael Dúin, eminent for wisdom and piety

Mael Isu H. Brolcan sui in ecna & in crabaid & i filidhechti m-berlai cechtardhai
19th C translation:
Mael Ísu ua Brolcháin, eminent in wisdom and piety and in poetry in both languages

Cathalan H. Forreidh sui ind ecnai & in crabaidhi
19th C translation:
Cathalán ua Forréidh, eminent in wisdom and in piety

Murchadh H. Flaithecan airchinnech Arda Bó sui ecnai & enaigh & fhairchituil in perigrinatione suam .i. in Ard Macha feliciter obiit.
19th C translation:
Murchad ua Flaithecán, superior of Ard Bó, eminent in wisdom and honour and teaching, died happily on his pilgrimage, i.e. in Ard Macha.

Flannacan h-Ua Dubhtaich, epscop na Tuath Sil Muiredagh, sui ecnai & senchais Iarthair Erenn uile, i Cungu ic ailithri mortus est.
19th C translation:
Flannacan Ua Dubhtaich, bishop of the Tuatha (Sil-Muiredaigh) [Elphin], the master of wisdom and history in [lit., of] all the West of Ireland, died in pilgrimage at Cunga.

Mael Isu .i., mac in chleirigh cuirr, espuc Uladh, suí ecna & crabaidh, plenus dierum in Christo quieuit.
19th C translation:
Mael-Isu (namely, son of ‘the Stooped Cleric’), bishop of Ulidia [Down], master of wisdom and piety, rested full of days in Christ.

These are grammatical variations on description “knowledgeable scholar.” According to Dame Mari, several of the period examples that use <suí ecna> would be grammatically correct as <suí echnaid>, so possibly ecna was an abbreviation.

So in formal correspondence, my signature is

Ciar ingen Daire, suí ecnaid

Oh, but what should you call me??? Ciar is fine 🙂


edited to add – the pronunciation is something along the lines of SUH-ee EHK-nay-ed


“Just a guess”

From Merriam-Webster online –

Guess: to form an opinion from little or no evidence

Conjecture: an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information


Every so often I hear comments from SCA participants along the lines of ‘all of the Viking Age clothes you see are guesses anyways, so it is fine to do X, Y or Z.’ I don’t have a problem with anyone in the SCA choosing to wear garb that is only loosely based on historical evidence – after all the only requirement to participate in the SCA is that you make an attempt. However, I do have an issue with the idea that a well researched reconstruction is still just a GUESS, so anything goes.

If you compare the definitions above, a guess is based on ‘little or no evidence’ while a conjecture is based on ‘incomplete information’. So to recap, a conjecture is based on some evidence (information) even though the evidence is not complete, but a guess is pulled out of thin air.

It is true that there are very few full garments remaining from the Viking Age, but that doesn’t mean that there is no evidence. It is almost always necessary to fill in the gaps between the bits that we can document from archeological sources. However, if your goal is accurate recreation it is important to base your choices on as much evidence as you can find. If you use period images, saga references, comparisons to earlier or later clothing styles, and comparisons with contemporary cultures to flesh out your recreations, it is possible to develop strong theories for Viking Age clothing styles.

So keep in this in mind – some reconstructions are based on historical evidence (conjecture) and some are not (guesses). Make sure you know which kind you are making.

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)

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’


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,


Kissa for embroidering the second panel,


Stazi for embroidering the third panel,


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 🙂