Friday, January 6, 2012

Heraldic, Scribal, and Dance Symposium 2012

This is a fun event which I attended last year. It's nothing but classes- lectures, discussions, participatory how-tos... It's fantastic for anyone interested in these three broad subjects from the novice to the expert. Even if you're not particularly interested in them, you can take useful classes like Awards and Sumptuary Laws of Calontir, wherein you learn which pointy hats are what rank and how to address them, who wears what color belt, and what each award is for. Last year I taught a participatory class on how to debke. This year I decided to do something related to my persona, so if you're in the neighborhood, why not attend:

 Tamga: The Pre-Heraldic Tradition of Eurasian Nomads
Eurasian nomads used abstract rune-like symbols called tamga in ways much like later standard European heraldry. Some of those funky abstract symbols in Polish heraldry may be later adaptations of them. Basic information about tamga and the particulars of the Sarmatian style will be presented with a Q&A following. 

I'm planning on about 30 minutes of lecture. I'll go over some basic information about tamgas, then switch tracks and discuss the Sarmatian style (like the blurb says). I'll have a Power Point with lots of pictures and provide a handout as well. I'm hoping I can intrigue the audience enough to provoke discussion about how tamga are like Western heraldry and how they differ, and if I'm lucky some discussion on the possible modified tamga in Polish heraldry.
The event takes place in Bellewode (Kirksville, MO) on March 31.

P.S. I haven't gotten my tamga submission together yet, though the incoming new rules seem like they might make it easier to register one. Gathering the materials and writing a convincing academic-sounding argument will take time that I, at the moment, do not have in excess.

*Debke can't without a doubt be traced back to the SCA's period, though there are snippets [that I can't re-find the citations for, grrrr] of information describing a dance that could be debke or proto-debke. It's a least closer to period than belly dance, which is extremely popular in the SCA...but that's a topic for another day.


  1. Yea, why do so many people belly dance/ "allowed" at SCA when other things that are closer to the time are not? Thanks, -T. :-)

  2. It's because of the long history of it in the society. The SCA was originally a theme party for a Berkeley student graduating from the Medieval Studies department. Over time it's gone from a medieval-ish and fantasy group to a medieval and medieval-ish group. Things like Quenya names are no longer allowed, but belly dance is a hanger-on because it's such a deeply entrenched and well-loved pastime. It's also partially because so many SCAdians love to dance but don't want to limit themselves to slow, simple, structured dances like English country dance or Italian Renaissance dances.

    We know that there were dances in the Middle East way back when (even the ancient Egyptians recorded dancing in their wall paintings), but exactly what those dances consisted of is up to the viewer's best guess. Snapshot pictures can only tell you so much...
    Thus, those who belly dance in the SCA and seriously attempt to make it more "period" take what they can glean from period sources and modify the modern dance to have a more "period" feel to it (e.g., no sequins, no movements invented in the West, zilling while dancing...). There are plenty of people who don't make a true attempt to make it period, though (either they don't try or their idea of "period" is skewed).

    I just wish people would stop wearing their costumes like garb...

  3. Also, there's this prolific rumor out there that belly dance is "the world's oldest dance" and that its origins lie in "ancient rituals associated with the Mother Goddess" and other such nonsense. Those who believe this are misinformed and unfortunately continue to propogate this misinformation because it sounds so wonderful to them.
    Shira once told me that, after meeting an author of a certain very influential book on the subject, asked her [the author] what her sources were and was met with a frantic, guilty look and an admission of "I made it up."

  4. Do you by any chance you might know of a Tamga that means raven?

    1. I don't know of any Sarmatian tamgas based on ravens. The rooster element is the only bird-based element I know of. I haven't learned enough about tamgas from other cultures yet to say if they exist elsewhere or not.
      I recently picked up a book about tamgas that's written in French. I'm translating it this month, so I'll keep my eyes open for anything raven-related.

    2. Thank You very much, as a fellow SCA'er who has a Sarmatian Persona, I appreciate that alot

    3. No problem! I'm glad to know there are more Sarmatians out there. :) May I ask what kingdom you're from?

    4. You're in luck!