þam þe hi ær ahte

oseberg ship in full length
Oseberg viking ship, taken by mararie in 2010. Courtesy of The Commons, Flickr.

Dear Internet,

For the more astute among you, you may recognize two things. The first being the title of this entry is in Old English (and roughly translates to “the one who owned it before”) and the second is the image for today is the Oseberg Viking longship, which dates back to 800 CE and is considered to be one of the most complete, if not best preserved, Viking longships ever discovered. The dragon’s head of the Oseberg longship is also one of the inspirations for my latest tattoo.

This longship has become so synonymous with Viking and Viking maritime way of life, any documentary or history show on Vikings will 99% of the time have some cut in shot of the ship or the presenter will be at the Viking Ship Museum, using the ship to illustrate their point of the moment no matter how tenuous because — Vikings!

Now, the Vikings didn’t speak Old English and the Anglo-Saxons weren’t Vikings and I am currently not learning Old Norse, but go with me here because there is a method to my madness.

(However, I am dipping my toes into learning Old English. And researching the hell out of Vikings, or anything beginning with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476CE and ending at the beginning of the Renaissance, though I’ll squirm my way into that area on occasion. Once the world starts moving into the age of the Industrial Revolution and forward, my interest starts to wane and I get bored. What is this steam power nonsense?!)

The iconic helmet of Sutton Hoo at the British Museum.
The iconic helmet of Sutton Hoo at the British Museum.
Photo taken by me, May 2012.

The journey how this became my topic du jour is a zig zag walk. The facts are these: I always found history through primary school and my undergrad years to be dreadfully boring. It was stuffy, staid, and tired with old repetition of facts and figures, battles, dates, and names. There was no context and no story. I thought anyone studying history was insane because it seemed like a punishment, not something you would actually enjoy.

On the flip side, what appealed to me so much about English Literature was not just the stories themselves, but we were not just introduced to the writes, but also their lives, their cultures, their ways, and thus the story’s story. You got a feel for why someone wrote a certain thing, or the influence of another, or why this particularly symbolism was used. And of course the instructors have a hand in it too. My prof for Shakespeare had built a 1/16th (or was it 1/32?) replica of The Globe Theater. Reading about the groundlings, the actors, the playwrights, and the period itself was fine and dandy, but getting a glimpse to the world they lived in and seeing how it all came together in 3D and not some one dimensional picture that would not do it justice? You could almost smell the peanuts and the feel the sawdust beneath your feet.

Five or six years ago, during the beginning of my second masters degree, I was reading a book for one of my archival classes when topic of social history came up in the text. Realizing, for it never occurred to me the story’s story was actually social history, what that bit was changed everything. The bits and bobs that fill in the corners when facts and figures, battles, dates, and names are just not enough. The exciting tidbits and details that makes up our world. It had a name – social history.

Somewhere in this murky mess, I became intrigued with medieval life because it represented to me not only a 180 degree departure from my modern life but it was the dawn of when some really fucking cool things were beginning to happen. Socially, politically, economically, agriculturally — we start to see a big shift in how people work, live, fuck, and exist. And that’s exciting stuff! The more I read or watched on the topic, the more I became keen on honoring them in some fashion and by that it seemed to learn more about their world.

From reading about the medieval world, this lead me to the Anglo-Saxons, who historically always seem to cozied up with the Vikings. More digging into the Vikings came up with how amazing their world and empire was though it lasted such a short period of time. In less than 300 years, they established trade routes all over the fucking place that no one had even thought was possible at the time, they founded Russia, established Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and gods knows where else. And then on to NORTH AMERICA multiple times. Yo Vinland, we’re coming for you. Holla!

It also seems wholly appropriate for my Viking dragon ouroboros tattoo — the Normans were several generations later Vikings who had integrated with native Merovingian society. The invasion of 1066 – they in fact had invaded themselves.

The Roman empire? Latin could take its lack of prepositions and eat it for they have nothing on the Vikings.

My current chief interest is perception and role of women during the Viking Age which runs roughly from 793 CE to 1066 CE. Though I will read anything and everything on the Viking Age that I can get my hands on, related to women or not.

There is also another tie in to all of this — my last name. Rabey is Old Norse and means “boundary settlement.” The first recorded use of it as a name dates back to 544CE. Now this is a bit hazy because the researcher who gave me this information made it pretty clear this use is in early medieval England, though it predates the Viking invasion by several hundred years. It IS, however, recorded in the Domesday Book from 1086CE. And interestingly this tiny bit of history, of me, connects me to a much larger world I never even knew existed until now.

So what am I going to do with all of this information? Reading (and watching) about Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and the medieval world in general, whether non-fiction or fictional, has become my passion. I’m dipping into primary and secondary texts, loading up on sagas and chronicles until my eyes bleed. I’m also dancing around other periods, and inhaling knowledge everywhere I go. History! Is! Finally! Exciting!

I have been toying with using this material professionally, such as get a third (!) masters  but as my education has been so varied and non-linear, I would have to almost get a third bachelors to qualify for the masters program. Plus pick up a few languages, at least Latin, modern Swedish, and Old Norse with some French thrown in for good measure. There would be structure to the program, and I would not be all over the place as I am now, which for me is something I definitely need. But there is the time and the money  plus the cost of the program, plus living expenses, while not generating an income..I have the passion, but after being in academia for nearly a decade, and finally getting free, I am not sure I could do it all over again.

The other option is to write about it, something I have had on the back burner for a few years now. The seed of the idea is there, but I have not done anything with it.

Yet.

x0x0,
Lisa

P.S. Work has been a bit insane so I have not started the making happy project yet, so I’m opting to clean out my drafts in the interim until the timing is a bit better, which should be in the next few days.

P.P.S. I’m thinking of putting together a large resource guide on materials on what I’m reading relating to Vikings/Anglo-Saxons/medieval history. Once a librarian, ALWAYS a librarian.

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2009

Kalendae Januariae : 2013 will be the year of creativity (even if it kills me)

Dear Internet,
To continue kicking of 2013’s ass, next up is:

2013 will be the year of creativity, even if it kills me.

I have a lot of hobbies. Well, let me rephrase that, I start a lot of hobbies and never finish them. I also have lot of projects on the burner that I start and never complete. A pattern develops! A big push for the “Buy Nothing in 2013” was realising I spent a lot of time researching / buying supplies for a project, not a lot of time working on the actual project to get it to completion. Something I have said numerous time to people is an example of this is I learn how to play Chopsticks, I think I can then play Wagner.  My brain cannot fathom why it does not know how to play complicated when it learned the base, for it thinks that single base is all it needs. I don’t have the skillset on what it takes to learn how to practice. Which sounds grammatically wrong, but is so true. Throw in the ADHD (impulsivity, unable to focus), and you can see where this is becoming a mess. The idea here is to take one of my many hobbies/projects, pick a month, and start working on that said hobby. When the next month rolls around, continue with hobby/project A and then add in hobby B. Continue until all hobbies/projects are exhausted. Some are one-offs, others will be life-long learning.  Here is that list:

  • Start up the podcast, AUDIOMUSICBIOGRAPHICALLY.
    • I own 100G of music, which comprises of about 1000 CDs and hundreds of artists.  Due to my ADHD fueled depression, I actively stopped listening to music several years ago. The idea is to go through my list of artists, alphabetically from 0 to Z, listen to the band, write out how I got introduced to them and my connection to their music, and then podcast about it. Goal is a new podcast every week, 20-30 minutes each episode. Length of project is going to be over years. For holidays, TheHusband got me a mic and I did a test run reading the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice
  • Learn a language, namely Anglo-Saxon and/or French/Italian
    • Awhile ago, Alice and I decided to learn AS together, but life sort of got in the way. I think I may have to poke her on starting up with me again, but I will be going at it for sure since I have all the books / mp3s and online resources. Why AS? The better question is: Why not?
    • As for French/Italian, I have the Rosetta stone in French for levels 1-5, so that would be the easiest to start with Italian, another Romance language,  is more desirable since TheHusband and I plan on one day retiring to Italy. Or maybe Scotland. Maybe I should pick up Scottish Gaelic?
  • Learn to cook
    • If you’ve been following me for a bit, I’ve posted recipes on/off for various things, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a terrible cook. I’m a most excellent baker, but a terrible cook.  This morning, I nearly destroyed the pancakes I was making. So, I sourced the interents for suggestions on how to learn to cook and they were to get Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything The Basics and Jacques Pépin’s Complete Techniques, which were purchased before my self-imposed buying ban. Here’s hoping I don’t burn the house down.
  • Finish all my knitting/cross-stich projects.
    • Pretty self-explanatory. I bought a lot of supplies for these two hobbies, got really into them and petered out. I want to move beyond making hats/scarves and finish the gifts I promised with the stashes, that would be delightful.
  • Learn to sew.
    • TheHusband planned on buying me a machine for my 40th birthday this year, but since I was having foot surgery shortly after, throw in a long recovery, the machine in question is still on hold. Because I have zero supplies for this on hand right now, this will probably get pushed out towards the end of the year as the other projects take precedence.

While it’s awesome to keep my hands busy, what about my brain? With that, 2013 is also going to be all about the year of the written word.

x0x0,
lisa

To: Lingua – Warning: Contains strong verbs! (And no dangling ;’s either!)

I <3 Þ!
I <3 Þ!

Hwæt! Ic grete þe.1

In my mental life to-do list, learning a language fluently has always been pretty high up on the totem pole. I choose French when I was in undergrad because initially my academic track was going towards becoming an art historian and a romance language of some sort is almost always required in the profession. While Italian would have been a better choice, my undergrad did not offer classes at the time so French it was! I’m still for continuing my French studies at a self-pace, which is practical and useful, but when I started thinking about the types of languages I wanted to learn, I also wanted to learn one that was not practical or useful but simply for the fun of it.

A seed of that idea started before my honeymoon when Justin and I purchased Rosetta Stones’ for French and Dutch with the idea of immersing ourselves into the language before our trip so we didn’t look like the typical traveling aboard Yanks. While the immersion thing does seem to work but since we did not buy the Rosetta Stone versions for travel for our languages, at best we can tell you the cat was white and that the woman was biking. This is, as you know, extremely helpful when attempting to order food or obtaining directions somewhere or reading the Metro signs.2

Another seed of that idea was planted by Lindsay when she came to visit recently and was discussing how she’s teaching herself Irish, which I thought was fantastic (and I also roped in additional help from Alice as she is Irish and could answer quick-ish questions about grammar and what not when Lindsay gets stuck). While Irish isn’t dead, it is unique enough language that learning it would also be a lot of fun to learn. While talking with Alice all about this, it came to be that we were bother interested in learning not only a new language but something from the dead pile. What language would be fun to learn, not particularly useful but incredibly interesting to notate we’re self-studying? OH WE KNOW! Anglo-Saxon! Alice and I are in the beginning stages of our preparatory work. We currently calling ourselves Dead Language Society and are keeping a blog on our progress.

I’ve started researching materials around the web, which are available on delicious. For books, we’re using two: A guide to Old English By Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson and Complete Teach Yourself Old English, which the new editions are coming out this winter. If you’re curious to what Anglo Saxon sounds like, check out the podcast Anglo Saxon Aloud, which is pretty cool. It also helps that Alice’s mum is a Anglo Saxonist (for the lack of the better verbiage) and teaches at Trinity College, Dublin and she’s been helping us out. 🙂

We also know that learning Old English is gateway drug to Middle English. This is also why I have a huge #girlcrush on Alice and her mum. Additionally, I shant forget to mention that my interest in this is not necessarily new. For the last several years I’ve had a story idea running around in my head that is set in the early middle ages and I’ve been collecting books for a bibliography for future research. It’s also interesting to note that my last name, Rabey, is Anglo-Saxon. It stems from “ra” and “by” which means boundary village by the river and that “Rabey” as surname stems back to 544 CE. My interest was also fueled during my undergrad when I took classes on the history of the English language.

Also in the verbiage arena, the other language I’m also getting going to master is PHP (and then by default also mysql). While my PHP experience has been “Oh, it’s broken and I need to figure out how to fix it” kind of mentality, I’m more interested in learning from the ground up on how it all works. Also by mastering PHP, I will be, in effect, strengthening my resume. And also, interestingly, teaching myself PHP is like the gateway to teaching myself LAMP, jQuery, Ruby on Rails and Python (all in the “to be learned” hopper). I’m pretty excited about all of this language learning. 😉 While I’m pretty sure there will probably not be a lot of content on the computer language learnin’, all the verbal language learning will be posted here and over at Dead Language Society.


1. “Listen up! I greet you.” Though currently my favorite OE-ism is “hwæt the swyve” which means, literally, “what the intercourse/copulation” but that we interpret, “what the fuck.” 😉
2. To be fair, I’ve taken several years of college French so we were not completely helpless in France and Belgium. Alice also brought a French phrasebook with her which turned out to be a boon when we were out and aboot.