Pennsic War 42 Followup

(Ok, so I’m a bit late with my essay “What I did on My Summer Vacation”, sue me.)

I committed to three activities related to this project this past Pennsic: Firstly, I taught a pair of two-hour sessions of my class “The Astrolabe in Theory and Practice” at Pennsic University. In addition I displayed my research and astrolabe examples at the Pennsic Arts and Sciences display. Finally I organized a “Scientific Instruments Day” to run as part of the Pennsic U. Artisan’s Row.

Pennsic will require some explanation to those who do not know what I’m talking about. The Pennsic War is the largest annual gathering of members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Every year around the end of July/beginning of August a massive tent city appears in western Pennsylvania. Upwards of ten thousand medieval re-creationists from all over the world gather for two weeks away from the twenty-first century. There are tournaments, battles, parties, shopping and quite a bit of very good music. In addition, Pennsic “University” hosts close to a thousand class sessions with volunteer teachers giving instruction on a bewildering range of subjects. In recent years, the university has added a feature called “Artisan’s Row”, where tents are set aside for all-day displays and demonstrations of various arts and sciences.

Both my class sessions went very well, and were very well attended. As usual, I met a wide range of interesting people. This year included a pair of students and their professor, who I had a lot of fun interacting with. My plans for classes for the coming year are in flux at the moment; but I will teach at least one astrolabe class. I am hoping to add a new class, concerning quadrants, but the scope and content are still being worked on. In addition, I would really like to do a class on using the astrolabe to cast a astrological chart using medieval techniques (I have references), but as it would require the students to be familiar with the astrolabe as a prerequisite, I don’t see it happening at Pennsic U. I might set up a live demonstration at the Arts and Sciences display, however.

Arts display

The Arts and Sciences display at Pennsic this year was, as usual, excellent. I talked to dozens of interested people, and made some good contacts. In addition to my display, there was also a gentleman, Master Johannes, displaying his own work a new translation from Latin of Christanus of Prachatice (1410) – instructions for constructing an astrolabe.

Finally, this year I was able to get my act together and actually make “Scientific Instrument Day” happen. In addition to displaying and discussing my own work, several other researchers and instrument makers participated. My friend Rhonwen ferch Tudor (as she is known in the SCA), loaned me the stained glass sundial she made last year, inspired by the wonderful and functional medieval stained glass sundials that can still be seen in parts of Europe. Adam Coulson came to display and discuss his hand-made clock. Each part hand-crafted, it was amazing to watch it working. Master Johannes displayed his translation project and several other artisans also displayed. There was a steady stream of visitors all day. The day was such a success that I hope to do it next year as well.

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