A Pearl for Nezhka

Posted by on Sunday, February 13th, 2022

When we scored the assignment to make Nezhka’s pearl scroll, we knew dragons needed to be involved, and that no one would be killing any dragons. Honoring the recipients is a huge part of the process for Korrin and for me, and we worked hard to do right by Nezhka. I opted to use Eglamour of Artois, c. 1350 as a text exemplar, beginning with the dragon tale on line 685. Korrin’s beautiful art is here.


In Atlantia, as I do tell,
There lives a dragon, fierce and fell,
   Hearken all to what I shall now say:
That fiend is of so great renown
That no one dare go near his town–
   Steering at least seven miles away.
The king called: “Baroness! Find the fiend!
Go now and slay him with thy hand. 
   Defend our people from the grim affray!”
She said, “I have talents greater,
With grace and wit, I shall do better,
   If I fail, the cruel beast may end my days.”

She steeled her heart and away she rode–
She cried her leave of Raven’s Cove. 
     “I shall return with my Muse’s aid; 
My promise is as pure as gold, 
Keep yourselves well, my aerie bold, 
    I must face the dread wyrm unafraid!”
Forth she journeyed to the wyvern’s lair,
And there she found his dealings, dire.
    His victims strewn around the murky glade. 

She wept for grief, then called the beast
To listen to her song of peace.
    Lilting sweet, our Nezhka sang and played. 
The dragon, dumbstruck, quenched his fire,
And turned to hear her strumming lyre
    His anger quickly soothed by her chorale
She sang of grace and love and art
And calmed that beast’s ferocious heart
    Through melody and lyric he was enthralled.
“Dragon, I will play and sing
If you swear to serve our Queen and King.
   If you will guard our borders, I shall be your Skald.”
The Wyrm, so soothed, agreed to the pact
And presented a gem to seal the act
   Thus Baroness Nezhka shall shine when Pearls are called.

Done this 12th day of February AS LVI at Ymir by King Eckehard and Queen Jane
I, Triton Principal Herald, do attest that Nezhka does have sole rights to bear these Arms: Sable, a dragon’s head couped and in chief three compass stars one and two argent.

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A Pearl for Ela

Posted by on Sunday, March 28th, 2021

Knowing how much Ela liked the translation of Song of Amergin I did a few years ago, it seemed like a good thing to base an award text on. Bran and Korrin did an amazing job designing and creating the scroll, and I was overjoyed to have a hand in the process.  You can see the images and process videos here

A Pearl for Ela

She is the voice on the wind–the verse–
The scop whose lyre calls us to the hearth,
Her stanzas shaping the land.
Melody’s lift and rhythm’s drop she marks.
Call her untangler of tongues, 
Wrangler of sheep,
Spinner of yarns and tales,
Weaver of cloth and truth,
Embroiderer of silk and story–
Who is the scholar at the slate?
The poet with her pen?
The dyer at her vats? 
Students aid and drummer’s muse? 
What more loyal friend to Caedmon and Gawain?
What kinder ally to the wolf and mare?
Who better to be draped in Pearls? 

Ealawynn Maeru, bard and artist, called Ela by her friends,

We recognize as a Companion of the Order of the Pearl,
And grant her arms so blazoned:
Vert, a horse passant contourny Or between three lozenges argent.
Done by Anton Rex and Luned Regina
From Stierbach’s Walls where gates remain secure
This 27th of March, Anno Societatis LV.


Calligraphy & Illumination by Lady Korrin Valravn
Design by Bran Mydwynter
Text by Ollam Lanea verch Kerrigan

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Navan Ash

Posted by on Saturday, February 27th, 2021

A new poem grew out of some research into the archaeology of Navan Fort. mythologically known as Emain Macha. 

Navan Ash

Here I sit, thousands of years later
clutching a book of burnt offerings and blood
described by scholars loathe to judge those Gaels
who orchestrated arson for their Sidhe.

I dream bereft Ulaid piling Navan high with logs,
so rare a fuel now on those verdant hills.
They struck their steels and burned it all to ash, 
and perplexed scribblers still balk at their choice.

But as I totter on this cliff of sparking nerve
where joy, and grief, and rage for poison’s seat
jolt through me on and on for that lost home
that failed us age on age, from stone to circuit,
and left but drunken, beaten fosterlings lost
with homes on fire and myths made up of rags;

I have to hope some wise ones saw his rot
And how his evil tainted all their land,
And crumpled, and wept, and bellowed:
“It’s poisoned through–we go.
Leave the gold and gear, gather just our loves
and what will feed the herds and children still.
When the burned king crumbles finally to ash,
we’ll build anew, and beg verdant Ériu ‘stay afloat.’” 



From Dying for the Gods: Human Sacrifice in Iron Age and Roman Europe by Miranda Aldhouse Green.  Page 71:

“Certain monuments belonging to Iron Age Britain and Ireland appear to have been subjected to deliberate, probably symbolic, firing. This is what seems to have happened at Navan Fort in Co. Armagh in the early first century BC. Navan is almost certainly to be identified with the royal Ulster site of Emhain Macha, recorded in early Irish historical and mythic texts, such as the Ulster cycle if prose tales, dating to the twelfth century AD in written form, though retaining resonances of earlier, Pre-Christian material.  Archaeological investigations at Navan during the 1970s revealed a curious sequence of events associated with the construction and almost immediate destruction by fire of a great monument (Lynn 1999, 33-57). A multi-ring oaken structure, with a colossal central timber upright, 40 m in diameter — too large for a permanent roof — was erected soon after 95/94 BC (dendrochronological date) when the trees were felled. A carefully built cairn of limestone blocks was then packed inside the wooden structure, forming a radial pattern that respected the timber alignments of the building itself. The stones of the cairn showed some signs of weathering, as though they had, perhaps, been removed from existing monuments rather than freshly quarried for use at Navan. A few human bones, including a clavicle, had been deposited among the cairn stones. The building of the wooden structure and the cairn took a considerable amount of time, effort, and person-power, so the next episode in the site’s history is, on the face of it, inexplicable:  the entire edifice, wooden uprights, the cairn and a layer of red clay placed over the surrounding ditch was apparently deliberately set alight and razed to the ground.  Dudley Waterman, the principal excavator of Navan, found charred twigs and straw which he interpreted as the remnants of heaps of kindling piled up against the outer timber wall to get the fire going. These finds, together with the thoroughness of the destruction, argue for intent. The final incident in this strange sequence of events was the careful construction of an earthen mound, made of soils and turves of various types, probably derived from several different locations and environments.”  

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Ragnarr’s belated AOA

Posted by on Saturday, October 10th, 2020

Sometimes the world falls apart and things get left behind.  That happened quite some time ago when some friends died unexpectedly, so Korrin and I decided to help pick up one little piece and try to make something kind and beautiful together for someone we adore.  


O for a bounding sea, that would crash 
Its frothing waves on shores that grace a realm
Built of sand and water and flimsy dreaming hope.
See the dais, draped in silks and ermine
With thrones of gilded oak and polished shell.
Here sits Queen Muirgen, grace and beauty wreathed
Beside the Dread King Kane, in raven cloaked.
All nobles to behold the joyous scene
When still they walked among us in their youth!
Then call the warlike Ragnarr, who himself
Assumes a bat-like grace; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should kindness, wit, and prowess
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The wan, exhausted spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
Such sweet reflection: can this vellum hold
The memories of an age, a kingdom bright, 
These greying locks recast as ebony
And prospect now fulfilled–then still but wish. 
Or may we cram within these stilted lines
Upon this ink stained scroll the very crowd
That did rejoice the day Ragnarr was made lord?

Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen,
Your bending bard hath recalled the story,
In little room confining aging friends,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.
Small time, but in that small most greatly lived
This star of Atlantia: Fortune graced his sword;
By which the land’s best reigns may be achieved,
And of it left his loved ones over-awed.
Ragnarr, wise, Black hammer on his shield
Of court and tourney did this Duke succeed;
Which oft our tales hath told; and, for their sake,
In your fair minds let this acceptance take.

Lord Ragnarr Blackhammer: Grant him arms to wit Per pale gules and sable, a lion rampant Or charged on the shoulder with a hammer sable.
On this 16th day of October Anno Societatis XXVIII (A.S. 28/1993)

Verum Est

Rex Kane I, Regina Muirgen I
May they rest in peace. 

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Recordings Inbound

Posted by on Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Here we are, stuck at home during a pandemic.  Far from ideal, that.  I can’t fix anything major, but I can share a little bit of art and hopefully help you pass some time.  

Unwaith: a Welsh poem by Elin ap Hywel, translated by Robert Minhinnick

An Crann/The Quince by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, translated by Paul Muldoon.  

More soon.  

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Scéla Muicce Meicc Da Thó

Posted by on Monday, March 2nd, 2020

The last year has been an absolute whirlwind.  Acting as one of the royal bards, and planning and hosting my elevation to the Order of the Laurel and Alherin’s to the Chivalry was intense and wonderful, but didn’t leave a great deal of time for writing or recording the costuming projects that took up so much of my time.  But I did embark on a project that was interesting and has been well received.  

I’ve been asked several times to document and explain the translation process.  That’s a layered, complex task.  I decided to do it by documenting my own translation process and then teaching a class on how I do what I do, and what tips I have for other translators.  I didn’t want to use something super short like Dan do Amergin, because it seemed too brief to elucidate the entire slog that is translating an epic.  And I didn’t want to use something terrible depressing like the Exile of the Sons of Usnech (the piece from which we take the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows) because it’s just too sad. Instead,  I revived a literal translation I had done as a student and began building it into a performance piece.    Scéla Muicce Meicc Da Thó/The Story of Mac DaTho’s Pig is a funny, strange story about a hosteler who owns two of the best magical animals in Ireland–a magical giant boar and a magical hound named Elvis.  It’s funny, scatological, strange, and not terribly sad. 

The inaugural class session seems to have gone well.  I will teach it again at Gulf Wars in a couple of weeks, and I hope it will be well received.  I’m still honing the work down to a performance piece, but that always takes time.  The packet is here, and likely to keep changing.  My goal is to have a finished work that will display the weird tone of the original, engage audiences, and be worth memorizing and foisting upon audiences.  I’ll know I succeeded if people ask for it at circles.  Fingers crossed. 

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Birdsong–A Blogger’s Silent Poetry Reading

Posted by on Friday, February 1st, 2019

This year, I celebrate Imbolc with a new song of my own. 


Spoken introduction
Recording of Birdsong

The Raven’s eye sees everything,
From winter’s death to birth of spring,
He favors neither slave nor king
But Bran’s own blessed singers.
Broad wings beat the air in flight
As life and death war through the night
And Raven oversees the fight
Between light and the darkness


Each bird a feather on the wing
Of Clanne Preachain
Each call a verse that we can sing
Sing out Clanne Preachain


The Osprey flies along the coast
She’ll stoop and strike a shining host
And Tethra’s kine will pay the cost
To feed her clamoring nestmates.
Her keen eye spies the sparkling prey
Her talons grasp, her pinions splay
She fights the water’s drowning spray
And calls out in her triumph


The War Crow flies among the spears,
A harbinger of widow’s tears.
She drives our Warband past their fear
To feats of strength and glory.
The battlefield is her domain.
Her children feast upon the slain.
For every death is Corvid’s gain.
Badb Catha claims her portion.


Golden Eagle–first of birds
The fire’s breath, the birth of words.
He carved bright stars to light the Earth
From stone beneath his talons.
Guardian of Yggdrassil.
Embodiment of Zeus’s will.
Broadest wing and strongest quill,
Let Eagle soar the highest.


The Jackdaw is a canny rake
Who’ll snatch a coin for glimmer’s sake,
And study every move you make
With eyes of shining silver.
The clattering will dive and roll,
And nest upon a wind-swept knoll,
A family of prattling coal,
Who feasts on stolen spoils.


The Goshawk is the tundra’s queen,
Perched within her bower green,
Her scarlet eyes and talons keen
Will terrify her quarry.
The falconer’s beloved friend,
The hound’s helpmate, the rabbit’s end.
The circling flight and steep descent
Make Goshawk Noblest hunter


Magpies sing a thousand songs,
And gather up in chattering throngs:
The folkmoot counts up all the wrongs
Against our piebald kinfolk.
One for sorrow, two for mirth,
The witches’ friend through death and birth,
A charm of Magpies knows their worth
And guards their fallen family.


The footnoted version, complete with sources to untangle the dense allusions, is here


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Lightning Round

Posted by on Thursday, January 31st, 2019

I’ve been working away on dozens of little projects, and then a million things happened at once.  I’m still processing. 
I wrote a new song, and I love it.  It started out on a very different path than it eventually carved for itself.  
I went to an event most of my closest friends don’t attend. And then, strangely, many of them were there with me. 
I competed in arguably the most prestigious regional Bardic competition and a friend and I won together.  We began plotting a year of shenanigans. 
And then I was given a writ to contemplate joining the Order of the Laurel at Gulf Wars in March. My dear friend Sinn did the calligraphy on beautiful vellum.  

I never thought I would wind up in this position.  I’ve operated on very strange paths throughout my time in the SCA, and while I haven’t actively spurned notice, I also haven’t sought it often.  I want to sing and research and study and teach and make things, and I want to spend time with my friends and help out when I can. 

So now I’m rushing to finish piles of projects by early March so We can go throw a giant party and I can take on a major new volunteer job.  Weird.  It’s weird.  

More importantly, it’s astoundingly touching.  An invitation to join this Order came because many many people spoke on my behalf, took notes on my work and spoke in my favor in hushed discussions.  Once it was clear that it was happening, my friends came together to witness the announcement and speak publicly on my behalf.  And then offers to assist in the next steps flooded in.  In just a few days I was given completely tangible proof that people care about this weird work I do, and they love my art, and they think I am a good teacher and can help steer the arts community in a good direction.  I’m flabbergasted. Truly. 

The song, which will continue to grow, is coming.   




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Irish postcards

Posted by on Sunday, November 4th, 2018

My linen quilt is finished and wound up being a great project for learning.

Because I worked primarily with linen garment scraps, my color selection was decidedly different from the quilt I based this project on. I pieced via serger, which is guaranteed to be a pain. It also leads to a fair amount of seam bulk, which is challenging to quilt. I’m happy with the results in spite of the challenges.

I opted to lay the squares out in a squared off color wheel configuration.  I like how much movement it has, even with such simple piecing and a relatively broad color palette.  

Once the top was pieced, I added a wide border of a lovely Marimekko red print and a green linen Marimekko backing, both of which I scored at a Crate and Barrel outlet sale a few years ago. Then I pin-basted it and used a walking foot to quilt around the blocks in a grid.  

That first round of quilting convinced me that quilting the whole thing with a walking foot in relatively straight line designs was going to be tedious and uncomfortable, since it would mean hefting so much weight so many times: it’s a queen sized quilt, and garment linen is significantly heavier than quilting cottons.  So I forced myself to be brave and try free motion quilting on a large scale.  I’ve been hesitant to try it because it doesn’t come naturally to me, and I am far from expert, but the project made me much more comfortable with free motion quilting. I varied patterns and threads throughout the quilt and learned which styles I’m more comfortable with. The finished quilting makes sense with the scrappiness of the top.  I quilted the snot out of some of the sections and left others more open.  

I opted for a gorgeous blue-green shot cotton for a binding–I love it’s play against the red border. 

The finished quilt washed and dried up well, and this guy approves, so I’m calling it a victory.  




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The Saga of this ludicrous coat: an Arts and Sciences entry

Posted by on Sunday, October 14th, 2018

I went to a local SCA event yesterday called “The Wild Hunt.”  They had a pair of A&S competitions, one of which intrigued me. “Best fix” was all about a correction or repair, and this coat fit the bill perfectly.


My partner Alherin began using a Valsgärde 6 helmet for tourney fighting in the spring of 2017. The helm is based on a Vendel era boat grave find from Sweden, dating to 660-710 CE 1, and thus later than the material he had previously used to guide decisions about his kit. In general, reproductions of extant early period armor need a great deal of modification to function for SCA combat, and many soldiers or warriors in the ancient and early medieval world had little gear beyond weapons and a helm. Helms like the Valsgärde 6 require the addition of bar grills or some other facial and neck protection, modifications to the size of eye openings, etc. Moreover, the sort of neck, body, leg, arm, and hand armor that functions well for SCA tourney combat was largely developed after the time period he chose for this kit. Alherin cobbled together a kit made up of both modern sports equipment (groin protection, padding, and kydex body armor) and later period items (splinted arms and legs, gauntlets, gorget) that function well and meet SCA safety requirements. Once he had assembled and constructed a new tourney kit, I took on the task of covering the combination of reproduction and modern gear that worked for his fighting style so that he would look as good and as “period” as possible, given the scant evidence of Vendel era armor and textiles available.

Valsgärde 6 has, arguably, the most beautiful helmet of any of the finds in the burial complex. But it has little else2. It is possible that the boat graves were robbed at some point, but whether natural or human intervention is to blame, we had no inhumed garment to use as a basis for this exact helm. I consulted a number of sources and settled on a modified klappenrock to cover his armor and serve as a quasi-heraldic garment so Alherin would be identifiable on the field. The v-neck of such a coat would expose his armor, however, and since we have no doumentable gorget or breast place options to turn to, I decided to use a round neckline with a button attachment instead. Ideally, a wool twill would serve as the primary fabric for a klappenrock, but washabillity, local weather patterns, and Alherin’s own desires took precedence and I used a heavyweight linen tabby instead. I opted to rely on the checkered patchwork of our tribe Preachain as an accent in the gores, along the placket, and on the sleeves. I also opted add embroidery to the back of the coat to please a dear friend3, choosing a design our dear friend Bran painted on one of Alherin’s shields. Knowing that the coat would face a lot of wear, I used a mid-weight pearl cotton for my embroidery fiber and relied on chain stitch for the majority of the work on that back piece.

Before making the coat, I’d studied the history of embroidery for several years and built a class on the subject. I knew what stitches were common in period and what would wear well. I’d done some experimentation with embroidery as a repair method, and I know a number of people who are much better at drawing than I am, so I hoped to convince at least a few of them to sketch designs for me as need required.
(Photo by Krystal Smith)

When Alherin stepped onto the field in this coat the first few times, I knew that friends would make a game of trying to break the button off in combat (none has succeeded thus far) and that the black and red colors our tribe relies on would fade with washing and the sun. I also knew that embroidery developed out of repair techniques like pattern darning, and was ready to do some repair now and then.


What I did not know was that his new splinted legs would eat the coat from the inside. He wore it for the first time in Spring Crown of 2017 and it took some minor damage, so I made some minor repairs. The repair process hasn’t stopped since. After several repairs were complete, he asked me to add a small Brigid’s Cross to the back piece to symbolize my own heraldry. Ever other stitch I’ve added post-debut has been a decorative repair.


I may have created a monster. I have definitely created an amazing testing ground. The cotton embroidery has fared far better than the silk, as to be expected. At least one of the detergents we’ve used has caused some very sad fading and dulling to the silk repair embroideries.

1 John Ljungkvist, Uppsala University: The development and chronology of the Valsgärde cemetery” table 1a-b. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/278009526_The_development_and_chronology_of_the_Valsgarde_cemetery

2 Maja Wikborg: “The absence of human remains in Valsgärde cemetery. Natural process or ritual phenomena?”

3 Ursus does not want anyone to have solid black, red, or white surcoats because it causes lens flare and color distortion in processing. We listen to Ursus’s guidelines because we adore him.

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