- Award: Order of the Pelican for Gwenhwfar ver Cain
- Inspiration: Dagulf Psalter circa 790 CE
- Drawing: Mistress Finnedan inhen Ruadhain. OL
- Illumination: Baroness Maol Mide ingen Medra, OL, OP
- Calligraphy: HL Finnguala inghen Alisdair
- Text: Baron Severin Visconti di Milano, KSCA and Baroness Maol Mide ingen Medra, OL, OP
Gwenhwfar is my best friend and I was very excited for her elevation and to work on her award scroll, until she told me that she wanted something early period. Then I just sighed and tried to make the best of it.
We settled on the Dagulf Psalter, known also as the Golden Psalter as the text is written mostly in gold. There are only a few decorated initial pages. This piece takes Gwenhwfar’s favorite elements from each and combines them into a single illumination. If you would like to see more images of this Psalter, check out this Pinterest board. I’ve been using Pinterest as a ‘look book’ for working with clients who want an illumination. It helps me show them what the options are and lets them pin images to the same board if they find something they like.
We pieced together a design from the various illuminations. The page was laid out and drawn by Mistress Finneadan and then illuminated and gilded by me. The background for the initial page was a bit of a challenge. Rather than trying to dye the pergamenata, I used several layers of waterproof India ink to provide the same look and on which we could still calligraph.
Finnguala executed the beautiful and challenging gilded calligraphy on the initial page and then the gold ink calligraphy on the right page while I pulled out all my museum prep skills and made a false book onto which the scroll could be placed inside a shadow box. The ‘book’ has a foam core cover that is covered in white kid leather that was a bit dry and not suitable for gloves or regular use. Several false pages were created using a fine paper. The book was secured to the velvet backing with pins and carefully placed foam core to hold the ‘cover’ at a slight angle to create more of an open book appearance. A single feather and a butterfly we mounted inside the case to help balance the look and add our household symbol- a butterfly. Lastly, I mounted in the award, added a strip of ribbon as a book mark, and secured the corners of the pages with strips of cut pergamenata and pins so that the pages would not curl. The overall look worked pretty well giving the impression of a book.
The wording for this award is written in four quatrains called Englyns, short but remarkably difficult. This Welsh style of poetry has a rhyme scheme and syllable count that is fairly unique, and thus, pretty challenging. What I learned while writing englyns is that you should always stock mixers for your rum or you can find yourself drinking rum and diet Dr. Pepper (which is a combination I don’t think I would recommend). In case anyone ever suggests that writing poetry is easy… well, it isn’t. Doubly so while on command, under a time crunch and when trying to write something beautiful and fitting about your best friend. Rum does help though.
The first line of the first englyn recalls Saint Barrwg: Saint Baruc (also known as Barruc or, in modern Welsh, Barrwg [ˈbarʊg]) was a 6th century Welsh saint. Baruc, who was a disciple of Saint Cadoc, forgot to bring the latter's reading matter with him on a journey from the island of Flat Holm. Cadoc sent him back and he drowned in the Bristol Channel on the return journey. He was buried on Barry Island. The ruins of the chapel that was dedicated to him can still be seen in Friars Road, Barry Island, Vale of Glamorgan. His feast day is on 27 September.
Barrwg forgot not her name – Gwenhwfar
Virtue and grace her fame
Service and she both the same
Her Honor a blazing flame
Ready hands, keen eye and quick quill – lady
Possessor of such skill:
Problems solve, demands fulfill
Before asking lips are still
Striving, working all her days – Gwenhwfar
A kingdom sings in praise
With this peerage she is raised
Upon a Pelican, gaze!
At the closing of the year - post solstice
And for her we all cheer
Companions thus do steer
Liege Lords to make her peer.
In case anyone were to question the poetic style of this award as not adhering to standard SCA award style, a gloss text was added in deep blue on the burgundy initial page. If you look carefully, you can see this text written above the first line and between several of the uppermost lines of golden text:
Gwenhwyfar Ver Cain
Elevated to the Order of the Pelican
December 29, AS XLVII