Learning is fun!

So last weekend there was a Grande THUA (Their Highnesses University of Avacal) held in my barony. It was a weekend full of learning about medieval life and skills, like fencing (Devon from Academie Duello in Vancouver came and taught), scribal, heraldry, fabric and sewing, and so much more.

The classes I took allowed me to expand my knowledge and filled in a lot of gaps I have in regards to fencing and shoe making. I love to learn – I could be a full-time student for life if there was any money in it.

Getting the chances to learn about medieval life that is hands on and more based on one’s experiences than study is difficult at best. Much of the work is learned from your own trial and error. Some people are lucky to have teachers, but even then the teacher can’t give you the experiences (and mistakes) you do on your own.

Each time I get to learn about a new skill, or expand on a current skill, I can almost feel my brain expand with knowledge. And frankly, that’s a beautiful thing.

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Weak Spots

Patterning is not my strong suit.

I know this about myself – whenever I look at a garment or a piece of work, I see it at as a flat item. The curves, the subtle cuts that make it a 3D item just don’t register for me for some reason. My best example of this was a 6 panel hat that I cut as triangles – flat triangles. This was while looking at a hat I had in my house.

I don’t see anything wrong with admitting such weaknesses in one’s work. My laurel often checks that I am looking at things right because we both know I don’t always see things the way they should be to make a garment fit properly. Once I have actually sewn something together, I can usually figure out how to make it work so I can cut and construct the piece of clothing on my own after that.

Admittedly, I am lucky that I do Russian clothing – it’s rectangular construction makes the whole “seeing things flat” a lot easier to deal with. I am also hoping that all the Russian clothing refitting I will be doing over the next few months will help me to make more sense of patterning and structuring clothes so I can improve my skills.

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How Kseniia Came to Be – Part 2

So I had a name and time period. The two basic building blocks for a persona.

It would take 10-11 years from that time for me to start fleshing out the finer details of my persona. Insert a lack of resources and a 7 year break from the SCA for that pause in persona development.

The only thing I had done before I started looking more into her history was develop a Russian family for her. Her father was named Nikolai Aleksandrov syn’, and was a Boyar (noble) at the court of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (which, by the way, doesn’t mean terrible bad. It means terrible awesome, as in he accomplished some awesome things. English mistranslated it….though his later personality would justify such a name). His wife, Agaf’ina Mikailovna doch’ Nikolaeva zhena (which I just changed now, because I just discovered the original Christian name I picked wasn’t period. Oops!), was a daughter of one of the bigger families of Pskov, where she was from. Her parents had 11 children in all, but only 5 survived: Piotr, the eldest, Aleksandr (who was a merchant), Olga (who entered a convent at the age of 14, when Kseniia was only 7), and Vladimir (a soldier).

Filling in the details

When I was going for my gallant of Borealis (part of the Sergeantry of Avacal), I had to flesh out the details of her family, who they were, how they came to be, and what would lead to her leaving Russia. A huge resource in this regard was a book called The Domostroi – essentially, it was a Good Housekeeping book for 1500′s Russia. But I also had to read up on the history of Pskov, and of the development of the Tsardom of Russia. From that, I was able to create her family’s backstory.

Kseniia’s grandfather, Aleksandr Petrov syn’, was one of the leading generals with the Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasili III, when they took Pskov back into the Russian fold (before that, it was an independent city-state). As a gift of thanks for his role in the battle, Vasili bestowed Pskov on Aleksandr’s family, with him as a landed Boyar. Before that, he had been a mere court boyar, which meant less than a landed noble. To help ensure the town would remain loyal to the family, Aleksandr married his oldest son, Nikolai (Kseniia’s father), to a village girl (Agaf’ina). Although this practice was uncommon, it was not unheard of either.

According to The Domostroi, females were to be trained in the art of household management, embroidery, sewing, and other womanly pursuits. This would have certainly applied to Kseniia, as she would have been set up to be married off when she was of age. I do sew and embroider my own clothes, so this was an easy justification. I squirmed out of being married by saying that my persona was betrothed, but her husband-to-be was killed in war (not all that uncommon) and she was never re-matched.

The biggest trick with SCA personas is justifying how you ended up in your current kingdom and/or how you met the people you have become friends with or even formed a “family” with. For this, I kind of have Kseniia split into two lives – Kseniia before her father died, and Kseniia after her father died. You see, on a cold night in 1566, Kseniia’s family was woken from their sleep by soldiers sent by the Tsar to harass her father and eldest brother. They kept threatening to hurt her father, and said he and Kseniia’s grandfather (long since dead) betrayed the Tsar and that the family would pay. Her father started yelling at the soldiers, and then dropped dead while clutching his chest. After that incident (from which the soldiers ran), her brothers determined that she would be safer out of the country. So she went with her merchant brother on his ship, equipped with sewing, embroidery, and a sword from Vladimir (her soldier brother) and the instructions to stab anyone who threatens her.

I don’t know if that seems legitimate, but in all honesty, Kseniia is a very naive woman by modern standards. The males in her family kept her sheltered, her mother trained her how to look after their home, and she had only ever gone to Moscow (the capital) twice in her life. She was perfectly raised according to her time, but would be out of place today and that is a hard thing to play at times.

The next couple of posts will be about sewing projects I am working on for largesse for the current Prince and Princess of Avacal – haversacks and Norse caps/coifs!

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How Kseniia Came to Be – Part 1

Hello everyone!

I started this blog as a way to keep track of the Arts and Sciences projects I am working on, both so I can show others my work and so I could use it as a way to get more information as I work on projects either by sharing it as I go, or by letting users comments with suggestions and ideas.

I figured the best place to start with this blog was to talk about how I created my persona, Kseniia Nikolaeva doch’.

Love of Russia

I was 17 years old when I found the SCA. A friend of a friend of my mother’s was active in the local chapter, and my mom thought it would be a great thing for me to get involved with. I loved theatre as a kid, and I was a history buff who loved to read (SCA people – stop me if you’ve heard of people like this *snerk*). When I went to my first fight practice/meeting, I was told about personas and how each person picks a person who could have existed in the middle ages (not people who actually did, like Queen Elizabeth or Thomas More).

“Can I have a Russian persona?” I asked.

“Um, yeah, that should be OK,” I was told by the chapter president, which we call a seneschal.

You see, I had spent much of my spare time in my teenage years researching the Romanov dynasty after my grandmother (who babysat me and my brother when my mom went to night school) taught me about the Mystery of Anastasia. I was far more interested in this history than my own family history (which is a common start for many personas) or any other. Even after I realized the SCA went up to 1600, I just rolled the persona back to the late 1500′s and figured that would be OK.

Picking a Name

I think the second hardest thing about starting in the SCA is picking a name (the first is a persona). You’re picking a name that you will have to know to respond to, that suits you, and that will be with you for the rest of your SCA life. Some people choose to use their real names because it is easier for them. However, my thought process on that was that I was starting a new life in a way, and therefore wanted a name to match.

I searched around the internet until I found the Dictionary of Period Russian Names, created by a man named Paul Goldschmidt down in the US. His dictionary was and is the authority on medieval Russian names useable within the SCA.

Quick Russian names grammar lesson: Most Russian names are comprised of two parts:

Christian Name + Patronymic (which includes notation of relation to the male name, such as doch’ [daughter], syn’ [son], and zhena [wife])

In Russia, surnames were mostly unheard of until the late 1500′s and even then, most of them were created using a famous male relative’s name (locative and descriptive bynames will be discussed another day). So I needed two names – a male’s name for my “father” and my own name. I chose Nicholas (or Nikolai in Russian) as my father’s name as an homage to my interest in the last Romanov dynasty.

To pick the first name, I scrolled through different sections of the dictionary, randomly clicking on areas and scrolling. I had two rules I was keeping in mind:
1) It cannot sound like or be my real name.
2) It must be easy for me to say.
I found a couple names I liked, but nothing that clicked – Ludmila, Tatiana, Anya. They were OK, but I wasn’t sold on them. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the name Kseniia that I found “my” name. It sounded different enough from my real name. It was relatively easy for me to say. And it felt like it was suited to me.

Kseniia Nikolaeva doch’. My name.

Next Post – How Kseniia developed into a person from 1564 Pskov, Russia.

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