Friday, October 16, 2015

What's in a name? Apparently in my case it's brutal reality.

I'm searching for a last name for my SCA persona. She...I am a Norse woman, ninth or tenth century. That’s 800s or 900s CE. First name is Valdis. It means something like goddess of the battlefield dead. Val means “the dead on the battlefield”, as opposed to just dying of old age or disease, I’m thinking.  A distinction I surmise they made because dying in battle was the most honorable. Dis means goddess, more as a minor goddess if I’m reading correctly.

So…goddess of the honorably dead bodies. Goddess of the potential zombies.


Really, that’s extremely morbid to my modern ears and mind. Would you want to put that on a baby, "May there be lots of dead people in your future, darling girl child! Have fun with that! Remember, they're honorably dead and that's a good thing."

Anything in bold italics is a quote from the Viking Answer Lady's page on Old Norse female names. I don't want to clutter up the page with links for every time I reference her.

According to the Viking Answer Lady’s research (in actual reference books accepted by the SCA ), there are recorded instances of the name Valdis. It’s been accepted for registration in the SCA in the past. You can look that up somewhere on the SCA site; I just don’t care to hunt down the link right now.

But…goddess of the dead on the battlefield. Do I want to be that morbid? It’s not like I have to tell people what it means, unless they ask. But I’ve looked at other names and I just keeping coming back to this one. I like the way it flows. I can hear it being screamed out in battle, yelled across a bustling camp, whispered in the dark.

Not that I think any of that stuff is going to happen. Those events are just things that might have happened to her, were she to truly live…in some alternate universe that allowed women in battle in ninth century northern Europe. As much as I’d like to believe battle maidens were historically accurate there’s no solid evidence for them. That’s not going to prevent me from strapping on armor and shield; I don’t care to be THAT historically accurate. But I’m not going to be a revisionist. There were very pragmatic reasons women didn’t become warriors and pragmatism is why I like the Norse.

I’m seriously getting into fully inhabiting this persona and all aspects of her theoretical life and also I’m a writer, damnit. Melodrama is my game. Now…if I remember correctly there were a few instances of very rich noblewomen taking up arms to defend their families, properties, and rights. But they didn’t go out pillaging and plundering.

There’s Vigdis, which means “battle goddess”. Still starts with a ‘v’ and it’s still short and easy to pronounce. But for some reason I just can’t explain…I don’t want a ‘g’ in my name. I can’t hear this name calling me aloud.

Halldis- Hall means "flat stone, slab, big stone, boulder". Goddess of the stones. Nope. Not feeling it.

Herdis- The first element Her- or Hær- comes from Germanic*harjaz and is related to Old Icelandic herr, "army, military force". Nice, but I’m still not feeling it for myself. I’ll keep it for a character somewhere in my books, possibly a main character.

Hjordis - The first element Hjor- is identical to Old Icelandic hjorr, "a sword". Nice meaning, don’t like the way it sounds spoken.

Jódís      The first element Jó- or Ió- comes from OW.Norse jór (derived from Germanic *ehwaz) "horse". I like the ‘j’, my own given name starts with that letter. But I can’t hear it being called to me.

It’s the same for all the possibles, I just don’t hear them as me, as being called out and I turn my head. I guess you’re seeing the theme of names with goddess in them. There are some I like without it. I don’t have THAT much of a swelled head.

Mardoll - means mermaid, which I really like, but the modern connotation of ‘doll’? No.

Finna - a feminine nickname of any name with the suffix –finna, the feminine of Old Icelandic finnr, which means "Saami, Laplander." The word is often mistranslated as "a person from Finland, a Finn", and often is used to mean "sorcerer, magician, practicioner of seiðr, since the Saami were believed to be mighty magicians. I don’t want an ‘f’ name.

Spana - Possibly related to Old Icelandic spana, "to provoke, to allure".

I’m not hearing them. I’m not feeling them.

Envision a warrior, clad in leather armor and wool padding. The armor is made to fit her because she’s short and if it’s not made to fit it restricts movement and speed. A woman just doesn’t have the muscle and natural speed in comparison to a man, that’s just biology.  She must give herself every advantage. She must strive for as much speed and grace as possible.

So this woman we are envisioning (you better be envisioning, I’m making art here) wears very little armor, only what she’s decided she absolutely needs. In real-life SCA heavy combat, I'll be wearing some steel. You can find SCA approved leather armor but having some steel plating, especially on the limbs is just sensible. It's safety issue. I’ve only been to three events and but I’ve seen injuries at all three, plus heard about more.  If a bone gets broken or a joint gets smashed you don’t get to hear your opponent’s armor ringing from the blows of your sword for a while. And I really like that sound. I'm not sacrificing safety just because I want to look smoking hot in my armor. But if I can find a way to do it...I will. I don't want it to be hella fancy stuff; I don't need to look like a damn elf. Plain is fine, just well-crafted.

And historical accuracy is the Norse simply didn't wear much armor of any kind unless they were fairly rich. That stuff cost serious money, a lot of time and effort goes into making it. 

I'm getting off track.

A woman clad in leather armor strides through the dead on the battlefield. She is alive; she has survived. So many fine, strong warriors are dead, both enemies and allies, but though she is smaller and not as strong, she is alive and they’re in Valhalla, which she has been told is a fun place but she doesn’t want to visit just yet. Can you see the setting sun, hazy in the mist? Can you smell the stench of blood and entrails? These are freshly dead bodies and it’s cold in this vision, the bodies aren’t rotting just yet but blood and guts still stink. Can you hear the cries of the wounded and the ravens already scavenging the fresh bodies? Things that were once living men are now just meat, bodies cleaved almost in half, missing heads, arms, legs, brains spilling out of heads, bones and lungs and hearts exposed. How cold is it in this vision, will there be a frost when the sun goes down? Will it begin to snow?

The battle has just ended, maybe minutes before, so there are other warriors alive and moving about on the field. The adrenaline is still coursing through her veins, her heart still pounds, she is still drawing breath raggedly, but she can feel it slowing, releasing, draining out of her and the exhaustion is coming. She is walking to the edge of the field, walking towards camp. She can see the campfires through the mist. Water, there will be water at camp to wash off the gore. And someone to help her strip off her armor and take her sword and clean everything. There will be mead to drink. There will be a man to find somewhere that hasn't collapsed yet and is looking for a woman himself. I'll leave that last bit right there, you'll just have to use your imagination, or wait for the book. I do have some limits as to what I'll post here in this blog.

But how about that woman, eh? I am a genius. Seriously, times like this, I just know I am a definitely a queen of melodrama and could make a fine living at this. I've been writing for a few hours now; I could do this all day, BUT WHY CAN’T I FIND THE FUCKING PLOT! Bits of scenes don't make books. You have to have plot. Well, I have to, I refuse to half-ass my way through my art.

Part one of the name quest has been explored and successfully completed and that's enough whining about plot for today. It’s decided. I am Valdis. Now…who was my father? I am somebody's "dottir", what was his name? 

Coming in part two, I know you're on tenterhooks to find out. I'm hungry and I do still need to attended to household stuff. There's some laundry needs doing.

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