Susan and Ken Reed’s Life, Universe and Everything

Dame Teleri Talgellawg

Medieval woman sitting at a desk

“Teleri Talgellawg” is my main persona in the Society for Creative Anachronism. She was born around 440 CE and lives on the island of Mon (Anglesey, Wales). She reincarnates with the same name and from the same place in every era the Welsh try to retain their independence until the end of the era of Owain Glyndŵr. After that time, I have developed such alternate personas as Rosalia Elisabetta Aldobrandini (a lady-in-waiting for the Duchess of Milan, 1480s), Rosalia Isabella Tristão (ship’s captain’s widow from Portugal, 1570s) and Sister Marguerite (a Sister of the Common Life, Flanders, 1420s). I also have created two versions of Caroline Rose Berkeley, one “flourishing” in the reign of Charles I and the other in the reign of Charles II, both for 17th century living history. Lately I find myself mostly interested in 15th century Northern European life, especially that of Flanders, so anyone seeing me at an event will probably see me in 15th century clothing.

Some people excel at the character-creation and improv work demanded by “staying in persona”; others do not and tend to inhabit their SCA-oriented world. I am one of the latter. I am not a particularly good actor, so it is easier for me to be Dame Teleri Talgellawg who lives in the Barony of Ponte Alto in the Kingdom of Atlantia and who has a history of offices held, skills learned and taught, and events autocratted.

It’s Not Who You Are, It’s What You Wear

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, I discovered the joys of “garb.” Putting on period clothing felt like putting on my persona. After a period where I was more interested in playing with color, texture, and draping, I turned to serious research into what people actually wore in the Middle Ages and how it was constructed. I read and experimented avidly and after a while, decided that it was so much fun, that I would like to find a way to do this professionally. Curatorial work came to mind, so I looked for a graduate program in historical costume — and found one in my own back yard at the University of Maryland. When I started the program, I was confident about my knowledge of costuming and research. Well, there’s nothing like graduate school to show you just how little you know. What a variety of research questions, concerns, and techniques I was exposed to!

It was at Maryland that I became interested in clothing as a social symbol and in clothing of everyday life. I also realized that a firm factual foundation for Medieval/Renaissance clothing had not yet been laid down. My master’s thesis was an attempt to start building that factorial data base by doing a quantitative study of men’s headdress from 1400 to 1519.

While in the SCA, I worked to promote better research methods through classes and articles. The artifacts we reproduce/recreate can be an exciting starting point from which to research the lives and times of those who would have made or used those artifacts in period.

Chronology of SCA Life

  • My first SCA Encounter with folks from the Barony of “Muurqwoud” at the Cavalier Days Festival in Prince Frederick, MD, 1973.
  • I joined the SCA in the (then) Shire of Marinus [Tidewater Virginia], Principality of Atlantia, Kindgom of the East in 1979. Shortly thereafter, The Kingdom of Atlantia became a kingdom itself.
  • I moved to the Barony of Storvik [then Washington, D.C. metropolitan area], became Baronial Chronicler, was awarded an Award of Arms in October, 81.
  • While in Storvik, I developed interests in costuming, eventually running the Ladies’ Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society for 13 years. Around May, 1988, I was elevated to the Order of the Laurel. Research and historiography of costume became my primary foci. After being chronicler, I became the Baronial Minister of Arts and Sciences, then the Minister of Arts and Sciences for the Canton of Ponte Alto [Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, VA] .
  • The Barony of Storvik waxed mightily. It got so large that it broke asunder and the The Barony of Ponte Alto was formed in 1992. My lord, Niall McKennett, and I were honored to be selected the Founding Baron and Baroness of Ponte Alto.

Medieval/Early Modern Period Interests

  • Historic costuming, especially clothing of the 15th century, men’s clothing, body-shaping through clothing, and what people wore in everyday life
  • Historical research methods and historiography
  • 15th century everything…
  • Period etiquette and manners
  • Servant hierarchy and life
  • Family and kinship structures
  • Domestic technology
  • Gender relations
  • 15th century lay spirituality
  • Women mystics, monastics, and third orders
  • Arthurian literature and legend
  • When I have time, I also indulge in the 17th century as well. Charles II is my favorite English monarch and I find Restoration life as fascinating as that of the late Middle Ages.