Monthly Archives: September 2011

Clothes make the woman


In the SCA, you see a wide range of garb. It ranges from the exquisite late-period Elizabethan to the two-bath-towels-pinned-at-the-shoulder sort-of chiton. People who sew tend to have spiffy garb. People who don’t sew make do with eBay finds, thrift store finds, and generic Renaissance faire wear. Or they have friends who are good at sewing make them spiffy garb.

Once you settle into a persona, you’re supposed to create some garb based on your time/place. For many, this is usually easier said than done – especially if you’re in a period and place with very few pictorial depictions, like Sicily in the 12th century.

And then there’s the bellydancer aspect to it. I freely admit that when I decided “eff this” to Florentine wear and got heavily into tribal bellydancing, I was attending events in jingly kuchi belts, cholis, face plastered with bindis, etc. Not just al Hafla or Southern Regional War Camp, when there was dancing going on; it was all events.

However, one thing I NEVER did was claim what I was wearing was “authentic.” Answers were, “No, I just like it,” “I dance, so it’s in my closet and easily accessible,” or “Most of my sewing time is devoted to troupe costumes.”

Recently, I’ve started to address this. In doing research about what a dancer in 12th century Sicily might have looked at, I found images such as this one:

The image comes from Ugo Monneret de Villard’s “Le pitture musulmani nel soffito della Capella Palatina in Palermo.” It’s a large-size book of photographs taken of all of the figural images of the muqarna ceiling. It’s hard to get. I found mine on Abebooks a few years ago, and it cost me about $85 shipped from Italy. My copy was printed in 1950.

Notice a couple of things about this image? She is not wearing a jingly belt, a bra and belt set, or a choli. She is wearing a tunic, undertunic, and pants, and has some sort of skullcap surmounted by a knotted headband. She has some dots on her face (forehead and cheeks) that could represent some simple tattooing, like that of the desert peoples of the Maghreb (particularly Tunisia).

Inspired by this, I created myself this:

(picture courtesy of Baroness Cateline la Broderesse, MKA Jennifer Guyton, who has many talents)

I made this outfit specifically for Mudthaw in 2010. What am I wearing? I have on simple salwar pants (not seen in the photo), a linen undertunic, and an overtunic made from a silk sari with lots of pale gold brocade work. I have a cap that is a crocheted snood, and a linen headband with a side knot (also not seen in the photo).

I did not do any harquus marks on my face; I was still playing around with the makeup then.

Overall, this is better, but this is still not quite right. For one, the crocheted snood as a cap. Not only is crocheting not period, I can’t even find any evidence for knitting, at least of headgear, until the 14th century, with the byssus cap of St. Denis.

The decorated bands I have in the sleeves should be set into the shoulders and the undertunic is not quite right, being very wide of sleeve (I actually have the sleeves stuffed up into the overtunic sleeves). The salwar are actually a pair I snagged from a modern salwar kameez set, but they were simple and fit me.

So, it’s an A for effort, but to me this is still not passing grade yet. But at least I’ve opened up a few people’s eyes with it. “If I could wear something like that, I’d wear Middle Eastern garb!” I had one court baroness tell me.

Tune in next time as I wave around some blue silk to start on a new Sicilian tunic, and talk a bit about Sicily’s silk industry …


That’s my name, don’t wear it out


I am still trying to get my name passed in the SCA as I want it to be passed. So I am just putting up here the documentation I have found.

There’s a lot of versions of the name Adelisa in period. Adeliza, Adalaisa, Adelasia, etc. But that’s not what I want. I want Adelisa.

So I managed to run down a document that actually has the name spelled as I want it. In the “Bullettino dell’instituto storico Italiano per medio evo” from 1960, in the article “Note di diplomatica normanna,” there is the translation and the original text of a charter by Henry, Count of Gargano, from March 1083, in which he makes a donation in the memory of his mother Adelisa, daughter of Count Roger of Sicily. The original document is from the archives of the monastery of Santa Trinita, Cava dei Tirreni.

Besides the Italian translation of the charter text, the article contains the original Latin text as it appeared in the charter.

Thanks to Lord Mungo Napier of Atlanta, who tracked down the article in the university library he works in, copied it, and sent it to me this past spring. I just sent him some handspun silk after a long delay on my part, and I apologize heartily for my slackness.

Here is the appendix, just the charter I am concerned with.

The last name, Salernitana, I picked because the proper way, apparently in Latin, to say a woman is from Salerno is “Salernitana.” I am looking to “A Copious English-Latin Dictionary,” by Sir William Smith and Theophilus Hall, published in 1870. The reference is buried on page 1003, under “Salerno.”

Hopefully, the next go-around to get the name passed will be better than the first time, when I had none of this documentation.

Food, glorious food


One thing I love to do is eat. Doing research about the food of Sicily has been a pleasure. So many recipes to try!

This post is about my favorite Sicilian recipe, “The Emir of Catania’s Chicken Dish.”

Of course, I did a paper about it. Rather than me repeating what’s in it, go ahead and download it.

It’s a great addition to a dayboard menu. I had made it for the al-Hafla running dayboard in January 2009, where it was well-received. I’ve made it for the A&S baking competition at Mudthaw, where it got a few tokens of appreciation.

I also found a version of the pasticcio in a paper by Donna Serena da Riva when she did a feast based on Norman Sicily. However, she calls it a “pasteda” and includes mushrooms, which confuses me, because the only place in Sicily where mushrooms are actually cultivated today is right by Mount Etna, and mushroom cultivation has only really taken off in the 1980s. There is a long tradition of wild mushroom picking in Sicily and Southern Italy (my Calabrian grandfather was an expert mushroom hunter), and theoretically a cook could have found some dried mushrooms for sale in the markets of Palermo brought in by enterprising country people. But would the Arab cooks have bothered to seek them out? I am not sure.

But then again, we all have our own interpretations of recipes, and Donna Serena’s version is undoubtedly tasty.

If you try either pasticcio recipe, let me know how they turned out for you!