Event Embellishment, Elaboration, and Edification A&S Challenge: Simon of Cluain’s Viking Hat

EEEC: Simon of Cluain’s Birka Hat

Simon shares his linen hat in the categories of Imitation, Exploration, and Personification

“This is a hat based on as close as I understand materials and construction available to reproduce a hat dug up at the Birka archaeological site. Birka was a Viking settlement on the Swedish island of Björkö located on Lake Mälar.”This is a hat based on as close as I understand materials and construction available to reproduce a hat dug up at the Birka archaeological site. Birka was a Viking settlement on the Swedish island of Björkö located on Lake Mälar.

“I used the research and work of:
Margaret “Mairghread” Wilcox
Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon
March 22, A.S. XLVIII (2014)
Barony of the Rydderich Hael

“This informed the design and choices. I used a hounds-tooth weave linen, having discovered a damaged pair of trousers in an op-shop, sensing both an opportunity and the potential of a new hat. The band should show my victory or status, and thus should be archery related, however I had a gorgeous celtic braid so I used that on the first hat I have ever made. Maybe ösenstich or mesh stitch on a future hat.

“The hat made it’s first outing at the wee highland fling. Success if maybe a little loose. Should I defeat a bear in close combat the tension of the hat may be improved by a fur band.”

Event Embellishment, Elaboration, and Edification A&S Challenge: Ailith & co Wassailing

EEEEC: Ailith Ward Wassailing an Orchard

Ailith shares this entry where they, Eryl, Astrid Sudeying, and Emrys Grenelef undertook Wassailing an Orchard under the categories of Participation and Collaboration

On the 19th of July the four of us went wassailing in Eryl’s orchard to encourage a better crop for next year.

Traditionally wassailing in the country was often done on the 5th or the 19th of January just after dinner, near dusk. Pots were banged to scare off malicious spirits or fairies, trees were yelled at and threated into producing even better, and the same trees were wheedled and complimented for the same reason. Food and drink was shared with them. Every village had a different way of wassailing their orchards. In the towns and cities wassailing was a lot like carolling, where groups of poorer folks would go wassailing at peoples doors to bless the home and those within it, and in return the groups would receive food and drink.

We chose the 19th of July for our antics, though for various health reasons we went wassailing after lunch, instead of dinner. We made two wassails, one of cider and one of apple juice, since most of us had to drive home afterwards. The basic recipe for both was to heat the liquid through, adding sugar, chopped apple, orange, and ginger, crushed nutmeg and cinnamon, and whole cloves, all to taste.

We trekked out into the orchid with tankards full of wassail, and blessed every tree, sharing a sip of our drinks with each. Some of the larger trees we sang to, and some we even capered around, ringing bells to attract friendly spirits while driving off any mischievous ones.

Event Embellishment, Elaboration, and Edification A&S Challenge: Ailith Ward’s Posset

EEEEC: Ailith Ward’s Posset

Ailith presents this entry of an evolution of possets in the category of Degustation

“As some people are aware, I ran a tea tent some afternoons at Canterbury Faire 2023. This led me to put a bit more research into what people further to the west of Europe and in Britain drank to warm themselves of an evening. What I found was Possets. Used as a warm drink, a dessert, and the base for many other recipes, I kept running into the issue of recipe books that would simply say “start with a posset”. But how did I start with a posset when it was too well known for them to even write the recipe down? Limited to Google books and the Gutenburg Project (and similar websites) I eventually found The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened by Kenelm Digby, published 1669. The book had been written in the 4 or so decades before, and had been published by the author’s son. I reasoned that as a philosopher and not a cook, Sir Digby had almost definitely written down older recipes rather than creating his own versions, and therefore it is extremely likely that his posset recipes are, in fact, period. So, under the sign of the Dizzy Bee, I used his “To Make a Sack Posset” (from page 111) as a base to start trialling possible recipes. 

” And so we come to this. What actually is a posset? Well, a posset is a drink that sometimes had solid curds on top of it that could be eaten. It is make from milk or cream, eggs, a white wine or ale, sugar, and varied spices. There were as many different variations as their were cooks. The best description I have been able to come up with is that it is a drinkable custard mixed with a mulled white wine or ale. For those who can read scrawl, I have included my notes from the first few times I tried it, until I came to something simple that I felt was right for me. The notes were written specifically for myself and sometimes reference cooking utensils I have at home, so if something doesn’t make sense, that’s why…”
I presented my final experiment with this particular posset recipe at the A&S showcase at Yule 2023. Many people tried it, and some even came back for seconds :)”

The original recipe:

Boil two wine-quarts of Sweet-cream in a Possnet; when it hath boiled a little, take it from the fire, and beat the yolks of nine or ten fresh Eggs, and the whites of four with it, beginning with two or three spoonfuls, and adding more till all be incorporated; then set it over the fire, to recover a good degree of heat, but not so much as to boil; and always stir it one way, least you break the consistence. In the mean time, let half a pint of Sack or White muscadin boil a very little in a bason, upon a Chafing-dish of Coals, with three quarters of a pound of Sugar, and three or four quartered Nutmegs, and as many pretty big pieces of sticks of Cinnamon. When this is well scummed, and still very hot, take it from the fire, and immediately pour into it the cream, beginning to pour neer it, but raising by degrees your hand so that it may fall down from a good height; and without anymore to be done, it will then be fit to eat. It is very good kept cold as well as eaten hot. It doth very well with it, to put into the Sack (immediately before you put in the cream) some Ambergreece, or Ambered-sugar, or Pastils. When it is made, you may put powder of Cinnamon and Sugar upon it, if you like it. 

Digby, K. (1669). The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (p. 111).

Recipe I settled upon:

For 1 cup of cream,  use:

  • half a cup of white(ish) wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 a stick of cinnamon crumbled
  • 1/4 of a whole nutmeg roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey or sugar

Mix wine, spices, and sugar into a small pot and put on to heat over a medium heat.
In a medium pot simmer the cream for a few minutes, do not allow it to boil. remove the cream from the heat and beat in the egg yolks and white. 
Strain the hot spiced wine and mix into the cream, pouring from a height for aeration purposes.

“I am presenting this as a “completed” A&S project, but as any good cook will know, a project like this will never be entirely completed. Since testing this recipe I have since found actual period sources, plus I want to try it with different types of wine and especially mead. Possibilities are endless with a recipe as open as this.”

Event Embellishment, Elaboration, and Edification A&S Challenge: Ailith Ward’s Cashmere Tunic

EEEEC: Ailith Ward’s Cashmere Tunic

Ailith Ward presents this entry of a cashmere tunic in the category of Luxuriation

Ailith describes the entry:

“This luxurious blue tunic is made from cashmere wool and is very cosy and fun to touch! Trimmed and trimmed some more, it is bound to become my new bling shirt for every important occasion! Inspired by the Yule event, where I wanted to be able to look nice as well as be practical, I realised quickly that a new tunic was required when I found all my other practical cool weather garb was just a bit meh. Unfortunately, my sewing machine had just recently stopped working correctly, so I undertook to sew this tunic by hand, and now it is my second ever piece of garb to be entirely stitched by hand.”

Event Embellishment, Elaboration, and Edification Arts & Sciences Challenge

Southron Gaard has a long and excellent tradition of Arts and Sciences Challenges. You may recall the most recent, the Persona Gubbins Challenge, from 2019. The Kingdom of Atlantia were much taken with that challenge, and ran the same for their populace following upon the example of our good Barony.

Our theme for this Challenge is to make or practice arts and sciences with a focus on use at events. We were much inspired by our own post-Faire to-do list, but more especially by the enthusiasm and excitement of many newcomers as they thought upon what they had beheld and experienced at Faire this year, and planned for next year.

This Challenge is brought to you by Meisterin Christian Baier, Baronessa Isabel María del Aguila, and The Honourable Lady Joana de Bairros; with the gracious support of Their Excellencies, Grim and Alexandra, Baron and Baroness of Southron Gaard, and Lady Adelsea Gladwyne, Southron Gaard Arts and Sciences Officer.

The Challenge:

What is an Arts & Sciences Challenge?

Challenges are not competitions. The only person you are challenging is yourself; challenging yourself to set aside time to make and craft, and to follow your passions. And then to share the wonders with the Barony.

What to Enter:

  • You may enter the challenge by making or doing one (or more) items from any of the categories below
  • Entries can be as tiny or as grand as you choose, and may include “small”, “medium”, “large”, and “gosh, look at the size of that thing” projects.
  • Items can be completed, or still in progress.
  • Entries should be new projects (i.e. not entered in previous competitions/challenges), and should be started or completed at any time between Canterbury Faire 2023 and Baronial Anniversary 2024.
  • All items should be related to, or for use at, an SCA event.
  • Items may be for you, or another SCA person, or for an SCA group (e.g. for the Barony).


  1. Inspiration: make an item or complete a project inspired by something you saw or did at Canterbury Faire 2023. For example, did you see a new style of clothing you would like to make, or perhaps a new dance or song you want to learn?
  2. Luxuriation: make something luxurious (not practical) to improve your comfort or to indulge yourself at an event. Furs, silks, jewels, a comfy chair or snuggly cloak?
  3. Participation: a project based on a period practice, ceremony or similar. For example, plan or hold a Roman child’s naming ceremony.
  4. Collaboration: make an item or work on a project with one or more other people.
  5. Exploration: time to try a new art form or practice that you’ve never tried before.
  6. Personification: make something from the time and place of your persona, for use at events. Do you need new garb, maybe a pouch or hat?
  7. Personalisation: make something decorated with personal heraldry. A banner, furnishings, a surcoat, perhaps.
  8. Degustation: make a food, drink, or other comestible for consuming at an event. Take a picnic lunch to your next event!
  9. Transformation: up-cycle an object! For example, do you have an old garment that needs to be refashioned into something new; or a second-hand piece of modern furniture that can be re-made into a period item?
  10. Imitation: make a replica of a period object.
  11. Education: write article for FTT or teach a class at an event.
  12. Preparation: make something very practical (although it can still be pretty) in preparation for Canterbury Faire. Could be a cunning piece of camping furniture; could be laying in fine comestibles and liquors for next Faire

How to Enter:

Submit the following information to aandschallenge@sg.sca.org.nz

  1. a photograph of the item
  2. the category (or categories) that best fit the entry
  3. a few brief notes about the entry:
    • what the item is
    • the inspiration for said item
    • its potential use(s) at events

Your Recognition:

As with previous Arts & Sciences Challenges in Southron Gaard, all entrants will be awarded a special token at the completion of the challenge.

9th Century Shield Smithing | Lord Halfdan’s Account

9th Century Shield Smithing | Lord Halfdan’s Account


Roundshields were commonplace through the viking age (8th to 11th century). They measured around 90cm in diameter, but were as small as 70cm, and as large as 94cm. The shields were designed to cover the wielder from their knees to their collarbone or chin. 

    The shields were constructed from butted fir, pine, or spruce planks at a thickness of 8-12mm. To hold the planks in place, three iron bands  ran the length of the shield at various intervals along the back. These were attached with broadhead nails, and the centre one acted as the handle. The disk was planed from the centre out so that the edges were thinner and lighter. This made the shield easier to wield. Often the centre would be 8-12mm thick, where the edge would only be 6mm.

    In the centre was an iron boss, often 150mm wide and 3-5mm thick. Some had a neck and nob, used for catching and potentially breaking the blades of swords. Where there wasn’t a metal handle, a wooden handle ran the length of the shield, passing behind the boss. A roundshield had one strap that ran across the shield so that it could be worn across the shoulder and back. Unlike other forms of shield, there were no straps that went around the wielder’s arm.    

The shield was edged with rawhide, sewn on wet and allowed to dry. As it dried, it would pull the boards of the shield tighter and strengthen the construction. It also helped prevent incoming strikes from splitting the shield. There are accounts of iron-edged shields, but little evidence to support this. The shields were also faced, meaning they had a layer of linen or leather adhered to the front. Often this was done with glues made from animal fats, or other connective tissues. Depending on the construction, and material used, round shields weighed from 3 to 8kg.

    Round Shields were effective defensive tools, but also used offensively in a pinch. The edge could be used to punch, or be swung to strike an opponent. In some accounts, the shield was thrown, especially to trip a fleeing opponent. With that said, these moves are illegal under SCA combat rules (for good reason).

Halfdan’s Shields : Practical Vs Decorative

The shields I’ve constructed were built based on their purposes. Practical shields are constructed from plywood. The three practical shields (seen in the comparison images detailed later) are 12mm plywood, giving them a weighty feel. They are cut in disks, with a hole in the centre for the grip and boss. The disks are planed out from the middle, so that they are lighter and thinner at the edge. This makes the shields lighter, and easier to wield.

After the disc is cut and shaped, the hardware is attached. I sourced the bosses from second hand pans, metal lids, plates or bowls, and attached them with trimmed and clenched nails. The handles were made from refuse pellet wood, rounded in the centre for a grip, and bolted on so that it passes through the centre of the shield behind the boss. The mid-sized practical shield has a belt attached, so that one may wear the shield on their back. 

Once the hardware is attached, the shields can be faced. I couldn’t get my hands on linen, so instead I used calico. I cut and hemmed a hole in the centre to fit the boss, then painted the shield face with a layer of PVA glue. Finally, I stretched the calico over the front and stapled it along the edge. Any area that isn’t painted over is coated with linseed oil (including the boss) to prevent rot and rust.

The last stage is the edging. These practical shields are edged with pipe insulation and duct-tape (as they are designed for youth armoured combat). Thanks to the shape of the pipe, no other attachments are required. 

Ideally practical shields are lightweight, and strong. My lightest shield is the small 54cm diameter one – closer in size to a buckler. It only weighs 1.4kg. It’s the oldest, and uses slightly different materials for its construction.

The white shield is 80cm, and 3.9kg, a good size although slightly cumbersome. The largest is 92cm, and 4.9kg, which is usable, but only in short bursts (which isn’t ideal, the point of a shield is to prevent combat occuring in a short burst…)

The decorative shields were constructed similarly, but with a more generous weight as they weren’t (and aren’t) intended for fighting with. The discs were originally a square of planks butted together with glue, with two planks running in the opposite direction across the back and nailed in place to keep the planks bound together.

The discs are cut out, with a hole cut for the boss, similarly to the plywood practical shields.

Next the hardware goes on, meaning the boss, handle, and a belt if required. All hardware, on both kinds of shield, are attached with trimmed and clenched broadhead nails.

Because the planks are salvaged, they are often slightly different thicknesses, so the front of the shield isn’t flat enough to be faced. Instead, it’s left raw for painting, or oiling. The back, and edges are generously oiled.

This image shows the front of the shield, with nails hammered through to attach each plank to the backing plank. The boss, just like other hardware, is attached with broadhead nails.

The final stage is edging. On these shields, I’ve used upholstery offcuts and furniture tacks. The leather is soaked in warm water and pulled over the edge and tacked in place. As the leather dries, it shrinks and pulls the shield tighter, making the construction firmer.

The decorative shields way more, up to 8kg. They are far thicker, with some planks around the 20mm mark. I’ve only ever made two, both 90cm diameter.

These two images compare the final results of the decorative, and practical shields. The far left is the largest practical shield, 92cm diameter, at 4.9kg. The second from the left, the red one, is decorative, 90cm, and 8kg. The smaller white one is practical, 80cm, and 3.9kg. The smallest is 54cm and 1.4kg. (note: all diameter measurements include edging. Padding edging adds about 2cm to measurements)

All but the white shield are painted, the white one is only faced. (I’d like to mention that the design of the decorative shield is not my own.) The smallest is painted, and unfaced. Notice the grooves between the planks on the decorative shield, while the others are all plywood. As far as hardware goes, the bosses on the two larger practical shields are an old flying pan, and a second hand lid. The smallest shield uses a tin plate, and the decorative shield uses a bowl glued onto the shield. Three handles are wooden, one is metal – salvaged from a chandelier. The straps are all second hand belts. 

Historical Deviation

My method is not 100% historically accurate. For practical shields I’ve used plywood. There were laws which stated a shield should be constructed of laminated wood, but there is no archaeological evidence to support this.

  • My plywood is on the thicker side, with most shields being 8mm.
  • My bosses aren’t iron, but rather second-hand metal plates, lids etc, often steel. They also measure a tad larger, at 200mm, not the historical 150mm.
  • On my decorative shields, I’ve used tacks to secure the leather edging. Historically, the edge was stitched on, rather than nailed.
  • Only my decorative shields have bracing, but instead of iron bands I’ve used planks. They also run perpendicular to the handle. Bracing was usually placed parallel to the handle. On the note of planks, I don’t know the wood from the pallets I’ve used, though I suspect it’s pine.
  • Other mentions include: PVA in place of animal glues, and, obviously, powertools.

Wrapping Up

These aren’t all the shields I’ve made, just the more recent ones. I have plans and sketches for shields to come, including more practical shields that are thinner and lighter. 

Shields are just as much an artwork, as they are a defensive tool. If not for the heraldry that goes on them, then the hours and days spent crafting them. Just like a tapestry, painting, or stained glass, they require precision, detail, effort, a rigorous creative process, patience, and care. The more of these one has, the better their artwork will come out – the better you look after your shield, the better it will look after you.

A Champion Entry!

The winning entry for the Arts and Sciences championship this year was a couple of delicious recipes from Portugal, submitted by the Honorable Lady Joana

Picture of custard tarts displayed on medieval plates, with a medieval glass, on a red tablecloth
Delicious Portugese custard tarts

She has kindly allowed us to publish her documentation, which can be found here.

Sunday dance classes at the hall

On the 24 of April, a number of new dancers were present, so we could practice those dances that need 6 or 8 people. Accordingly, the three dances we were:  Upon a summers day, If all the world was paper, and Dance de Cleves

There are some You Tube versions of these below, for those wanting to aid their memories or follow along at home. There are always some variations in steps and the floor plan, but I think all would be helpful.
Dance de Cleves
Some minor differences probably to cope with the size of the hall.  They turn before doing the hearts and flowers and reverse direction halfway through.

If all the world was paper
There is a bit of mucking around at the beginning and the first chorus hay is done differently. 
The first chorus hay starts with swapping with your partner before going
across the set.  We go across the set and then we swap with our partner.
Note their sidings are a bit more elaborate than what we do

Upon a summer’s day
It’s pretty much how we do it except for the sidings

PGC2019: Challenge Complete

The (extended) Persona Gubbins Challenge has come to a close. Final entries were accepted up until midnight on October 31st.  

Some statistics about the Challenge entries

Number of individual entrants:     9
Most popular culture of entries:    Norse
Most popular century of entries:   16th
Most popular category:                 Food and Drink
Most popular single entry:            Games box

Artisan Recognition

Every artisan who accepted the challenge and shared their work was awarded a special token at Golden flight 2020.   

A pile of red glass beads, with multicoloured glass decorations

Those who completed three projects (from at least two distinct categories) received a small period sewing kit in recognition of their endeavours.  

Contents of a small period sewing kit (felt tower with 3 fine steel needles, linen thread on a wood spool, leather thread puller, thimble, beeswax, 4 pairs of hooks and eyes, and a thread cutter) photographed in an ornate frame

 Artisans who completed five projects (again from at least two distinct categories) were given a period spice kit as an additional token.

A spice kit including sugar, salt, cinnamon, anise, a nutmeg, pepper, cloves, a small amount of poudre forte, and a small spoon.

Some of our local Southron Gaard Laurels had generously offered to award small prizes or tokens to the entry of their choice.

We hope that this challenge has inspired you to explore items of material culture related to your persona, so that you are able to ‘use’ your persona more easily at events.