Some Building Descriptions

From: Peter Larsen <peterl_at_FArjzAM1huT_31vMLQ9SkEFKHYuOaYeewRGhgbUpbWZDFmcti3KdfvNzO4DKha6MaAAXH>
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 2003 22:01:03 -0600

        I promised these a while ago, but it seems I never posted them. Let me know what you think. The Loom House may be a bit large, but I image it is also the women's workplace as well as the center of their worship.

Peter Larsen


        Swensskali is the name of the Large Hall at Swensstead, although Swen himself never lived in the building. The first Hall of the stead was built in the old turf style, and largely burned during a raid by the ENEMY CLAN a few years after Swen's death. Swen's grandson, Flosi the Builder, erected a new hall on the same spot.

        Swensskali is large for a Heortling hall (or skali) at roughly 100 feet long and 40 feet wide, aligned with the North-South axis. Half of the hall is a cattle barn. The other half is ringed by a raised wooden platform roughly 12 feet wide used for sleeping at night and workspace during the day. The platform is high enough to act as a low bench for people sitting near the hearth. The floor below the platforms is roughly paved with stone. Both platform and floor are regularly covered with rushes, and rugs woven by the women of the clan further cushion the platform. The long hearth where the women cook and the stead gathers for warmth and companionship fills the center of the hall. At the north end of the hearth is the altar to the ancestors and gods of hearth and home, at the south end is the altar to the hearth goddesses, surrounding the Mahome Stone brought from the first hearth of the CLAN. On the platform at the north end of the hall sits the High Seat, supported between the pillars Ulla and An. Ulla and An were carved by the great Chisel-Heoral, Swen's brother, and they hold the luck of the stead and Swen's line. On each side are 2 "closets," the sleeping places for the most senior people. These four rooms are the only permanently enclosed places in the hall. Short walls made of wood and cane divide the remaining space into bays, which can be closed off with curtains and hangings to provide a small amount of privacy for sleeping or other activities. The pillars that support the roof further divide the hall. During meetings and feasts, when the whole stead gathers under Swen's roof, the bay walls can be disassembled and stored. Scattered around the hall are many benches, stools, and chests, the product of many long hours of winter crafting. Although this large crowded space might give a stranger the sense of careless disorder, closer examination would reveal that things are placed where they are useful and carefully stowed away when the work is done.

        Light enters the hall through narrow horizontal slits toward the top of each wall. Even during the day, the inside of Swensskali is dim, with as much light coming from the hearth, doors, and smoke holes as from the windows.
Leather shutters can be secured over the slits in case of extreme weather. Above these slits are the rafters, slung with bags, platforms and other places for storage. Some of the older and more daring children sleep in hammocks suspended in the air, as do the few devotees of Orlanth Thunderous who live in the hall.

        The roof of Swensskali is covered with carved and painted wooden shingles. Each winter, every man at the stead is expected to create new shingles, carefully designed to contain the blessings of the gods. Only the Storm Tribe shrine has a similar shingled roof, and only Swensskali has the ingenious shielded smoke holes. All other buildings on the stead are thatched or use the old sod construction.

        All the exposed surfaces in the hall are carved, painted, or hung with tapestries or weavings. Many surfaces are blessed with all three.

The Storm Tribe Shrine

        In the space between the two great halls of Swensstead, along with the storage sheds and work places, stands the stead's shrine to the Storm Tribe. While many ceremonies reach their climaxes elsewhere in the stead's lands, most of them begin either at the shrine or the Loom House.

        The shrine, also called Karulinoran, is very small, almost too small to be called a building. It sits on a small rise, and is surrounded by a border of stones. A warding pole with a windsock stands at each of the terrestrial directions, and a fifth pole, called Rigsdal, stands on the shrine's roof. Similarly, a pole named Humakt was sunk beneath the foundations to guard below.

        Karulinoran is roughly six foot square, and the shingled roof rises to nearly ten feet. The outside walls are carved and painted with runes and wards, and the south-facing facing wall is a pair of doors banded and nailed with bronze. At the ends of the roof beam stand statues of the two cocks, the black one who cries in each night and the golden one who greets the dawn.
Inside, a dais opposite the doors holds statues of Orlanth and Ernalda. These figures were carved by Domas the Carver, the King's Wright, and brought to Swensstead with great ceremony in a blessed ox cart. They wear real clothes and jewelry, and every few years, the stead women make new outfits for the Allmother and Allfather. Then the men and women carefully dress and bless them, and the Great Couple are reunited with a feast. The remaining walls each have three broad shelves that hold representations of the rest of the Storm Tribe. Some are very elaborate, such as the statue of the White Lady, made of the finest painted clay and decorated with gold, silver, and a ruby. Kesra Neelasdottir offered it in thanks after her youngest survived the Wasting-Mother's touch. The majority are cruder and plainer representations of the gods made of clay or wood, often painted and decorated with pretty stones or even bronze, silver, or gold. Some are objects, natural and made - grim Humakt is represented by a sword, Orventili by a small rug, and Yavor by a fulgurite left behind by one of his bolts. In the center of the room is a small hearth with banked coals tended by the stead's Mahome. She is the only person other than the patriarch, the matriarch, and the godar who may enter. The shrine is generally closed. The patriarch and matriarch open it in the morning and the evening to greet the gods and wish them a good day and a pleasant sleep. On worship days, the doors are opened so the gods can see. A man is named Starkval for the day and stands guard through the ceremony, even if it leaves the shrine's area. Virtually all the standard Orlanth and Ernalda ceremonies include the shrine in the worship. The men's ceremonies begin at Karulinoran and move on to the Thunder Oak or Windy Hill. The women's public rites begin at the Loom House, move to the shrine, and then go elsewhere, depending on the ceremony.

The Loom House

The Loom House sits on one edge of the rough square made by the two skali of Swensstead. It is a low building, forty feet long and perhaps half that in width, made in the old sod style. It projects out from the low hill that protects the stead from [direction], and it is difficult to tell where the grass that covers the roof ends and the sod begins. Surrounding the building are small gardens with a mix of herbs, flowers, and food plants to represent the Earth's bounty. On either side of the door are two low stone pillars, one painted red and blue and called Maran, the other painted black and called Babeester. The door itself is low, thick, and banded and nailed with bronze. No man has been inside since it was consecrated. Inside, the Loom House has a packed earth floor dominated by a narrow hearth in the center. The walls are hung with tapestries and weavings, and many carved pillars break up the space. The rafters are used, as in all Heortling buildings, for storage. Most of the space is taken up with the looms and other tools of women's work. The Loom House should be very dim, but the light from the hearth is enough for any woman initiated to the Earth to see clearly.
At the back of the House is a low dais with an altar to Ernalda. It is a cube of stone that holds the symbols of her aspects - a model of a cradle for the Allmother, a pot of herbs for the Healer, a bronze crown for the Queen, and a small bundle of grain and little clay animals for Serial. Behind the altar is a tapestry that hides the entrance to a small cave. A worshipper must crawl on hands and knees to reach the Womb, a larger space decorated with the symbols of many goddesses and powers of the Earth. A niche at the back is the only altar needed to send prayers to the Earth Queen and her court.            

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