þam þe hi ær ahte

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.
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

Bumps in the midnight

Dear Interent,
Recently one night while it was incredibly late (and almost shockingly so), I found myself in my office writing for the first time in so many months. Earlier in evening, TheHusband had dropped off to sleep earlier then his usual times and I found myself anxious to move out of bed and into my office, so in attempted silence, I walked-thumped to my office to work. What struck with me in particular about that night was the intensity of the desire, which has been burning for weeks, more brightly then it has for years. It was becoming physically painful to ignore the urge. I felt like I was in high school all over again, except without the forbidden pack of cigarettes hidden in my desk and the 2 liter of Diet Coke on the floor by my side.
Lately, I’ve found myself sketching out story ideas, notes, and other ephemera on anything I can get my hands on. That night, I decompressed a Moleskin notebook I’ve been carrying around for a few years and found that it contained travel logs, journal entries, and notes for knitting and gardening amongst a few of the types; kind of a catchall, if you will. A page of WOULDN’T THIS BE AWESOME flipped with “CO 68 ST st” and a drawn out pattern of the design I am remarking on.
In addition to decompressing the Moleskin, I’ve been picking apart some editing and doing some note taking on existing story lines. The vast amount of notes on story sketches is startling to me whenever I chance upon them. I keep finding fairly decent first chapters written, note, and outlines for the projects. I see potential here for amazing creating to occur and that gets me excited. I’ve started to collate everything into either Evernote or Scrivener, depending on the status, and will begin the world building and story plotting.
I’ve got three distinct worlds that are fighting in my head at the moment: Pre-history, medieval, and Edwardian. Sometimes it gets a bit messy. I have A Teach Yourself Guide: Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon) rubbing shoulders with Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London’s West End. I have Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 snuggling against The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. I’ve almost finished The Prose Edda and I’ve got The Dark Mirror: Book One of the Bridei Chronicles waiting in the wings.
This is just the tip of my (almost too long) reading list.
Right now I’m falling, almost rather neatly, under the weight of the research. The next month I’m working on shorter hours so I’ll have time to get organized before I go full-blown day job mode. My first priority is to organize writing schedule with the research schedule into something that can be scaled back to a doable mode once work goes in full swing.
I’ve got a couple of completed short stories I need to start workshopping and a few more to finish in the next few weeks. I’m going to be looking for alpha readers, so keep your eyes peeled for that announcement.

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.

To: Enlighten – Allergies are not for the win edition

Recently it’s been discovered I have what is politely termed as “adult onset allergies,”1 which decided today to go into full force, which means any work I planned on doing today has gotten pushed aside in the “itcy/watery eyes, headachey feeling shoot me WHINE” makes it difficult to concentrate for tasks for too long. HOWEVER! I wanted to get get some updates about posts-in-drafts that were to have been published about some upcoming projects I’m working on.
In no particular order:

  • Alice and I have decided to learn a new (dead) language, specifically Anglo-Saxon (Olde English) 2. Details forthcoming (post is currently in draft status), but we’ll be updating Dead Language Society and I’ll be x-posting my entries here.
  • Kristin and I have a poster accepted to Michigan Library Association annual conference, taking place in November 2010. Our poster presentation is, Critical Error: The need for Michigan libraries to represent themselves online and it’s the beginnings of a (predicted to be) long-term research project. We’re pretty excited about this and will be posting a lot of our stuff (findings, research interests, etc) over at our joint blog, Librarianation. I will more than likely be x-posting library stuff between the two blogs.
  • The next installment of So, You Want to be a Librarian/Archivist? is also in draft status, with the subject matter of being proactive within the field of librarianship/archives. I’ve gotten prods from various people around the internets that I need to keep this series going.

Other updates:
Job hunt: Still unemployed and still interviewing but nothing concrete as of yet. To keep ourselves sane, we house hunt via Zillow in areas that I’m interviewing in as well as areas we’re interested in moving to. I’ve been collecting the links of the homes in these areas we’re interested in on my Delicious feed.
Walk, Don’t Run: Justin and I have been power walking nearly every day our neighborhood for the last two weeks, with the idea that next week we’ll start a “couch to 5k” like program next week. I’m not keen on this idea for numerous reasons, mainly that running feels more invasive to my arthritis than walking. I’m told this is bullarky, but I can only report what my bones feel. Our diet is going more or less okay, but we’re always looking to improve it. And last, but not least, Wednesday the Pug has had her bi-weekly bath. That is ALWAYS important to include.

1. Not sure what I’m allergic TO yet, but it was pointed out to me all of my health issues seemingly came into being after recently getting married.
2. Yes, Olde English is purposely misspelled.