What is your Society name, and why did you choose that to represent you?
I chose the name Magdalen based on Mary Magdalen from the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. I always liked that character and that still is my favorite musical. When I was researching I thought it made sense that my persona should come from Portugal because the Portuguese were the ones who had been sailing the coast of Africa. I hadn’t yet really set a timeframe, so I was looking at the Portuguese names and they had a king who was known as ‘O Venturoso’. Venturoso means the fortunate one, or lucky one. I originally thought, Magdalene the Lucky would be cool, but, it sounded a little inappropriate, so I went with fortunate instead. There was also a Magdalen in Portugal who was of the royal line, and I was able to document it. I just changed Venturoso to Venturosa, the feminine, when I submitted it as Magdalen Venturosa.
We see an image of your Heraldic device here. What was the process you went through to choose this specific one?
I went to Mistress Marta, who is the Kingdom submissions officer and I told her I would like a black swan. At that time, in the early 90s, she handed me a large tome of registered heraldry to look through. After some time searching, I determined I would not be able to find a way to register a black swan device in a way that had not already been registered. If you were to ask me now, I could work out a unique heraldic design with a black swan on it, but I chalk that up to considerable experience that I possess now that I certainly did not have then. In the end, I decided to use a different black creature that was not so widely used in SCA heraldry – a spider.
I settled on a spider because I had a history of having been called Spider as a nickname when I was a kid. Both my name and heraldry were able to be registered. Nowadays, when I make scrolls I put a little spider in the illumination. A lot of scribes put their own mark on their works, it’s just a “I made this” kind of thing. Recently, I got a message from someone who had received one of the scrolls I had painted. They said they knew it was me because of the little spider I put in the painting and that made me smile.
What was your first experience with the SCA?
Baron’s War III was my first event. My husband, Master Simon, was my boyfriend back when I started (28 years ago). He invited me to come to the event and told me I needed a medieval style dress. Lady Iris from Solar Thunder helped me make a T-Tunic dress. I wore that dress to Baron’s War, and every event I went to for at least six months. When I went to my first Estrella War and was miserably cold, and realized that one cotton dress was not going to cut it. From then on, I started making garb to suit the event I was attending.
At the time, I didn’t think of sewing my first piece of garb as artistry. It was just a necessity to go to the event, but I still own that first piece of garb. I have changed the neckline on it a few times but I can no longer wear it as my figure has changed over the years. I guess sewing turns out to be my very first art in the SCA.
What are some of the arts/sciences awards you have received over the years?
My Barony’s main heraldry is a boar, and all of our baronial awards correspond to different aspects in the SCA. The green boar, or Boar Vert, is the arts award for the Barony of Tir Ysthir and is the first arts award I ever received. I mostly made garb for Simon and myself and researched and made food from medieval recipes. I didn’t start dabbling in calligraphy and illumination until several years later. When I started to submit my scrolls for the Crown to use, I was recognized with a Flower of the Desert. I have never really made things in order to get awards. I have always just made the things I needed or because I have an interest in the particular art form itself.
I must tell you that I was very surprised when I was awarded the Fleur De Soleil. I think I was probably recognized for bardic at that time because that was the most visible art form I was involved in at that time. The most recent arts award I have received is the Golden Trumpet. It is an award that recognizes heralds and bards in the Kingdom of Atenveldt. You can be either a bard or a herald or both, and I happen to be both. Having that is special because it recognizes two of my favorite activities in the SCA.
What are some classes that you may have taught in years past, or even currently? What are some other resources you might be able to offer?
I have worked with culinary arts, sewing garb, making hats and headdresses, stitching embroidery, printing and painting fabric, SCA bardic, Troubadour music and poetry, Elizabethan theatre, calligraphy and illumination and heraldry and heraldic display.
I have recently developed a class regarding the Troubadours and their lyrical poetry. I have been fascinated and really intrigued with the Troubadours. They were specifically poets and musicians from the Southern region of what is known modernly as France, but it was known as the Occitan from the 10th to 13th centuries. The Occitan region is still there and the Occitan language is still spoken, but it has a similar experiences as the Gaelic language does. Very few people speak it and the kids are being told by the older generation to learn it so that it isn’t lost forever. The Troubadour poems and music were written in Occitan, an Old Provençal dialect and are a wonderful way to help keep the language alive.
You can find all kinds of performing groups that sing the music of the Troubadours on the internet. That is one way I have learned how to pronounce many of the Occitan words since I do not speak that language. I am learning little bits and pieces of it though. Recently, I have been updating the class presentation since I have learned new aspects about the subject.
I also have a significant SCA Period Cookbook Collection and I am amenable to sharing the information from it. A few years ago, before the Covid-19 pandemic ever happened, I taught a class on the Top Essential Cookbooks for the medieval cook. It was a pretty well-received class at the time and I intend to teach it again in the future.
What helped you back to the arts?
I am currently the Kingdom Arts and Sciences officer, which is a position I’ve always had interest in, and I finally have the opportunity to serve in that capacity. It has helped me start thinking about my own arts even more. I am an apprentice to Sir Domingo Diaz de la Vega y Martin, even though I have already been made a peer as a Pelican for service, I continue to pursue the arts and sciences that I enjoy.
Who are some of your inspirations within the Society and why?
My Husband, Master Simon, Mistress Marian of Heatherdale, THL Eleanor Cleavely, Lord Rathled the Black Bard of Meridies, and Countess Ilora because they are all music/lyrics/poetry inspirations and performers.
When I started in the SCA as a herald, Simon inspired me to become a bard. In turn, he started out as a bard, and I inspired him to become a herald. So we are both heralds and bards, and we find that they are sort of interchangeable vocations. To be a herald or a bard, you must perform, and if you perform well, your king and queen look good. If you project your voice like you are singing a song, the folks in the back of the room will hear you, and if you use fancy words, people tend to perk up and listen. It is a great deal of fun to be a herald and a bard.
Mistress Marian of Heatherdale is a recording artist also known as Heather Dale. She lives in Canada, she is an amazing performer and her music is something I could listen to all day long, every day.
THL Eleanor Cleveley – Laurel patent pending – is my friend. She and I started out as heralds together back in the 1990s. Even with all her moving to and from Atenveldt, she and I have been up to many shenanigans together over the years.
Lord Rathled the Black Bard of Meridies – although he doesn’t perform as much as he used to, he also is a recording artist who has performed at many a campfire. He used to travel all over the SCA with his guitar singing great songs and telling great stories. He is an inspiration to me in how he brings medieval-style entertainment to so many people.
Lastly, is Countess Ilora, who made bardic performance look effortless, especially when she was Queen of Atenveldt. She made sure music and merriment was involved in Court and it resulted in fun for everyone. I am honored she calls me friend and hope I can inspire her someday.
Why is bardic your favorite form of art?
I was introduced very early on to the wonder of sitting around a campfire and laughing, talking, singing, dancing, telling stories, and telling jokes. I like that we make our own entertainment, we make our own music. I hope at some point in my life I can establish myself as my own unique brand of bard. I just don’t know yet who that person is since I enjoy storytelling, singing and reciting poetry from many decades and cultures.
What is an art/science you have always wanted to do in the SCA?
I would love to make a scale model of a waterwheel, as was used in mills in the Middle Ages. Everybody has in their mind what an iconic early village looks like, so I always think of the village that has the water wheel to grind the grain. In the SCA, it’s easy to gravitate towards the arts, but it is much more difficult to explore the sciences. I have not pursued a lot of science in the 28 years I have been in the SCA, so that is something I would like to try.
What is something you would tell an aspiring competitor of the Arts and Sciences?
1993 was my first competition, and it was with cooking in the SCA. I made a pork pie. Due to the average quality of my entry, it was not received well by the judges, but it was certainly a learning experience. I found it difficult to accept the constructive comments about how to improve my medieval cooking. It took me 8 years before I entered another culinary dish for competition. I learned a lot in those years though and am not as sensitive about my entries because I have served as a judge and now know what types of aspects judges consider.
Given all of that, I would advise aspiring competitors to learn all they can about the competition and judging style so they know what to expect in advance of entering. Do not enter a competition only because you are hoping that someone’s going to see your art and decide that you should become a Laurel. Do not be too hard on yourself. Just make your art and do your research. Learn to research the things you’re interested in, and always feel free to ask for help. There is always somebody who knows something you don’t know, and a lot of times, you will find a kindred spirit with whom you can exchange ideas, stories, and research. There is nothing more fun to me than getting together with a bunch of bards, or a bunch of cooks, because we all understand each other.
My experience has been that the overall habit is that people believe they have to enter competitions to become a Laurel, which is not true. So, I would tell someone, if you’re interested in the SCA period arts and sciences, you have to practice and hone your own art and become proficient in your art. Enjoy your art and share that enjoyment with others. Meaning, if you love woodworking then make things out of wood and sell them, give them away, use them, or display them. You don’t have to take that beautiful carved box that you’ve made and set it on the table, and say “Judge it.” That is not for everyone.
What are you most excited about in the coming year?
During the upcoming Estrella War this year (2021), I am helping facilitate the arts and sciences competitions. It’s going to be like an Artisan’s Olympics and cover the many different arts that we all do to attend and enjoy an SCA war event. We will have folks enter the clothing, armor and the equipment they make to use at war as well as items they use to create their encampments such as camp furniture, banners and pavilions. Ideally, it is my hope to involve more folks in the arts and sciences at our events.