Halima al-Rakkasa

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Halima al-Rakkasa
Halima at Daffodil, Seagirt, on the receiving of the Red Flame; photo by Elizabeth Chatfeld
Resides: Hartwood
Date Started: August 1995
Awards: Order of Precedence
Offices: exchequer; prev: archery, scribe, exchequer, chatelaine
Gules, a crescent, on a chief argent two pallets wavy azure
Badge:(Fieldless) A crescent conjoined to a cinquefoil in chief argent.
Badge:(Fieldless) In saltire a stick shuttle and a drop-spindle Or both threaded argent.
Badge:(Fieldless) Within and conjoined to an isolated Arabic letter ha' in Naskhi script a crescent argent.

SCA History

Salaam aleikum

Halima at Jarp in the Park; photo by Marina la Pica
Halima at Jarp in the Park; photo by Marina la Pica
My name is Halima al-Rakkasa. If you want to be formal, put a Sayyida in front of that (it means "Lady"). On occasion, I'll be Ysabel de Launay or Halla sneypir. More rarely, Izzy the wench (ask about the gun sometime). I live in the Shire of Hartwood, and don't travel off the Island much.

( Edit, June 10, 2013: On June 8, 2013, I was raised to the Order of the Pelican at the Tir Righ Coronet in Lionsdale, by UlfR and Caoimhe. Those who spoke words of support included my work behind the scenes, the work that makes it fun for everyone. If you wanted to be -very- formal with my title, you'd use "Mu'allima Halima", with the ' being a glottal stop. )

I have a Goutte; that's for service. I began life in the SCA in 1995. A group of people wanted to start a branch and was a newbie who didn't know to answer, "Do you want to be Chatelaine?" with "No." So I became a founding officer of the Shire of Cragmere; the shire has since repatriated to its mother branch, Hartwood. I've run small events and demos, was dance mistress for Cragmere and published the newsletter for several years. I have been branch exchequer (until May/13, and again in 2016) and a webminister for the Shire of Hartwood. (I've also served on royal retinues in a small way; possibly the most fun I've had getting run off my feet!)

I have a Jambe; that's for the arts. I -love- learning about stuff, which means I have a basic working knowledge on a broad variety of topics. And I love to teach others the basics (and give them the tools to delve deeper) so they can come back later all full of excitement on how they took the plunge!

I wish to praise the modesty of my fellow Cragmerian! Sayyida Halima holds one of the most difficult and time-consuming offices in our Shire, as well as tending to the constant upkeep of our branch website. At the same time she does, as mentioned, autocrat events, socials and demos (but not so few as she has hinted at - she is a very prolific autocrat!). What Halima does not mention is that she is a regular, and popular, teacher at Ithras in neighboring branches, and that she does many jobs for the events that she herself is not autocratting, including the management of gate for all of our events.

As for Sayyida Halima's Jambe, it is a well earned award. It is true what Sayyida says about her love of learning "lots" of stuff. But, she has much more than a basic working knowledge, as evidenced by the excitement and learning success of her many students (I am one of them!), and by the beautiful and detailed works of hers which can be found adorning many, many members of the populace. Halima's weaving projects are consistent in their exemplary workmanship, yet varied in design and color. Her pewter tokens adorn many a proud Cragmerian and former Cragmerian, and her pewter buttons are charming and beautifully created. The Lady's calligraphy is among the tidiest I have seen. These are but a few of her skills. They go well beyond a working knowledge, and each work of Sayyida Halima's that I have seen is an example of her dedication and perfectionism.

Doireann Dechti

- - Edit: October 10/23, at Hartwood's online council meeting, put on vigil by TRM Morgan and Livia for the Order of the Laurel. Elevated November 4/23. It was lovely!


Dance - From branles, to ECD, to the -old- peasant dances where everyone can dance without needing training. In modern life, I teach and perform belly dance (Egyptian orientale and balady), so I'm looking for more resources than an excerpt from 'Golden Meadows' by Mas'Udi to lead me into historical Near Eastern dance. (Too bad Tango Argentino isn't period...)

Textiles - Started with spindles, and still there; happy with just spinning with medieval spindles and a distaff, but must do something with the yarn/thread. Warp-faced plain-weave bands on a backstrap loom, tablet-weave bands; rigid heddle which is adaptable to balanced weave and weft-faced weave. Love to net. As a project, spun purple wool to net a hairnet, then spun rose yarn to make a fingerloop braid for the band; fits extremely well over dressed hair; same method for fish-nets and rabbiting nets. Love fingerloop braiding, and since making a long gown lace in silk cord, I want to do more in silk; I saw a woodcut (no provenance; possibly late to out of period) showing an Near Eastern man making a braid with the use of a frame... which would be -very- useful for when you need that other hand. Impatient with embroidery (carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't help), but do some basic stitches, a bit of blackwork. Still working on needlelace project. Hate to sew, but it's the only way to get clothes I like; best with rectangular construction and natural fabrics (Bishop Timotheos left clothes behind as examples...). Love språng; made a remarkable number of linen pouches for largesse, and have more underway in wool; researched a språngwork Coptic hairnet for Tir Righ A&S (Oct 22, 2011), made it and earned most points for a single entry; on-going passion with much more to learn. Update: In 2021, participated in Athenaeum online (https://athenaeum.baronyofmadrone.net/exhibits/the-sprang-journey-of-halima-al-rakkasa/)

Book arts - Color! Worked on the Grete Boke project (calligraphy, painting, gilding). Calligraphy when my hands allow. Can do an Uncial, a French-style Blackletter, and a variation of Mahee of Acre's Illusionary English-Arabic. Created a faux font for 11th C Byzantine from a lectionary, which is now in use. -Love- gilding and would do more. Have made a few custom scrolls and a charter. Made some Nag Hammadi style notebooks with soft leather covers; learned to make parchment-bound ("limp parchment") books, and have tried that with cardstock; parchment is better. e Coptic-bound books and Oriental-style books. Contributed 15 of the "100 books" project by Hartwood, given for Tir Righ largesse. Binding wee books of my own haiku poetry. Regularly make journals of soft leather with long-stitch binding, cardstock journals with double-pamphlet stitch, Haiku poetry in stab-binding, and re-thinking Coptic binding.

Plants - Mostly herbs for food and medicine, and developing a subsistance garden (dry beans, squash, preservable fruits and vegetables. If I could, I'd include a couple of tubs of mint and parsley for camping events. Have been known to use wild plantain for poultices, and have plucked berries at event sites.

Pewter - Soapstone molds. Made buttons for my yelek, and sold some, too. Made a lot of pendants: Cragmere Silver Swan tokens, prize tokens (dumb to waste soapstone on only a dozen), Tir Righ badge pendants. Also made flat coin-things: event "money", game pieces (X, O). Tokens for Their Highnesses Alden and Lenora. Tir Righ's Etoile d'Argent token.

Food - Not much of a cook except for some Near Eastern recipes for potlucks (I'm the one with food seasoned with sumac, rosewater, etc.); French recipes, too (mead, ypocras, roasts). Fresh flatbread is a camping staple, and rosewater-scented dates are always on the table. Rooting through 'Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens'.

Games - Not much. Wari. Want to learn Arab chess (shatranj?) because I should know it. Have been known to play other board games, but not often.

Bardic - Dabble. Still like the Shakespearean-style sonnet I wrote; I must've been inspired. Sing a little; can carry a tune but not far; prefer period bawdy songs. Have told a tale or two, but much better (I think) with writing. I go through spates of haiku and senryu; sometimes my haikus become a hokku.

I dabble a lot, like making open clay oil lamps still in use during Halima's time, like creating a painted cloth strip with "address" badges for the tent (the story I tell: "If you find me drunk in the ditch by the roadside, here's my address..."), like making a kubb set in foam so we can play it indoors, like making a "fake leather" cooler so it doesn't stand out and yet is still easy to lug.

The dabbling can be attributed to a general goal of covering life: what do I sleep in/on, what happens when I wake up, what do I put on and why (weather, rank), how was that made, when do I eat and what, what do I do with my day to earn my keep, how do I interact with people/animals, what is my entertainment, what is my shelter, who surrounds me, etc.

I'm part "research until it chokes" and part "blend it into the medieval atmosphere". I tend to be low tech; the more equipment that is involved, the less I'm interested.

That's off the top of my head. Now I -really- want to know how many people read to this point!



Persona History

Halima al-Rakkasa thinks she still dwells on the outskirts of Dimashq, during the franji year 1085 (CE). She is the sole support of her dar, dancing and telling fortunes to travelers and wearers-of-slippers alike. She has been known to frequent the company of the franji Charles le Verdier, a bard of surpassing voice. She was born near the shores of Lake Van; she lost her tribe when the horsemen came, and only by great good luck did she survive the killing. Over much time, she found herself with a caravan, heading to Dimashq; there she found a place where a woman of limited resources (and unprovable heritage) could survive.


Currently residing in the Shire of Hartwood, on Insula Magna, Principality of Tir Righ, Kingdom of An Tir.

Awards and Honours

Halima wearing the circlet from reann, created by Asa Martel, at Mermaid's 2004; photo by William of the Battered Helm
  • Award of Arms (An Tir) - Darius Corvinus, Morgaine Brigantia, May 31, 1997 (AS XXXII)
  • Silver Swan ((Cragmere)), Dec 27, 1997 (AS XXXII)
  • Magistrae Ithra (Ithra) - Nov 25, 2000 (AS XXXV)
  • Goutte de Sang (An Tir) - Wilam Tjorkillsson, Siobhan McClure, Mar 2, 2002 (AS XXXVI)
  • Jambe de Lion (An Tir) - Davin Steingrimsson, Groa, Mar 22, 2003 (AS XXXVII)
  • l'Etoile d'Argent (Tir Righ) - Kheron Azov, Ksenia Einarsdottir, Nov 20, 2004 (AS XXXIX)
  • Red Flame (Tir Righ) - Ulfgar Thorvaldsson, Renee de Josselin, Mar 24, 2007 (AS XLI)
  • Silver Pillar (Tir Righ) - Owain ap Einar, Adwen Wrenn, Mar 15, 2008 (AS XLII)
  • Lector Ithra - Artis (Ithra) - Apr 6, 2008 (AS XLII)
  • Exemplar of the Shire of Cragmere, jointly held with Charles le Verdier June 21 AS 43 / 2008 (to 2009; succeeded by Kjartan kraka)
  • Beacon of Insula Magna (Seagirt) - Ming Lum Pee, Elína Kársdóttir, Mar 12, 2011 (AS XLV)
  • Order of the Carp (An Tir) - Thorin Njalsson, Dagmaer in Hvassa, Jan 7, 2012 (AS XLVI)
  • Coronets Favor (Tir Righ) - Alden ap Owain, Lenora di Calizzan, Feb 18, 2012 (AS XLVI)
  • Order of the Pelican (An Tir) - UlfR Blodfotur Fallgrson, Caoimhe ingen Domnaille, Jun 8, 2013 (AS XLVIII)

(missing records)

  • Raven Tag (Hartwood) - Sep 17, 2016 (AS LI)
  • Sable Hound (Hartwood) - Sep 17, 2016 (AS LI)
  • Amaranth (Tir Righ) - Ladies of the Valorous Estate, Nov 5, 2016 (AS LI)
  • Bardic Champion (Hartwood) - Nov 2017-2018 (AS LII - AS LIII)
  • Lure (Hartwood) - Aug 17, 2018 (AS LIV)
  • Swan Tag (Hartwood) - Nov 25, 2018 (AS LIII)
  • Scholar of the Constellations (Defender) (Hartwood) - Nov 2019-2020 (AS LIV - AS LV)
  • Coronet's Favor (Tir Righ) - Vikingr Eiricksson, Lishinia Aurelia, Nov 6, 2021 (AS LVI)
  • Terpsichore's Fox (An Tir) - Sven Fallgr Gunnarsson, Rauokinn Eyverska Starradottir, Feb 19, 2022 (AS LVI)
  • Rock (Seagirt) - Wulfgar Bradax, Melyes Aniko, Jul 23, 2022 (AS LVII)
  • Laurel (An Tir) - Morgan of the Oaks, Livia Alexandra Severa, Nov 4, 2023 (AS LVIII)

Classes taught

(to come, from An Tir's Ithra, and from Tir Righ's TUTR)

  •  BEGINNING INKLE LOOM WEAVING - 11/27/04 St. Giles Grand Ithra  
  • Inkle loom Weaving - 04/20/07 Hartwood Spring Ithra; 04/05/08 False Isle Spring
  •  Fingerloop Braiding - 04/06/03 Cragmere & Hartwood Ithra, Hartwood; 11/02/07 Port of Crickstows Fall Grand Ithra; 08/30/08 Ithra at September Crown, Madrone
  •  How to Teach Dance - 04/20/07 Hartwood Spring Ithra
  • 4 Dances for 4 Dancers - 08/28/04, Ravens War Ithra, Ravensley; 11/27/04 St. Giles Grand Ithra; 04/02/05 Hartwood Spring Ithra
  • BASIC DANCE - 4 hr - 04/20/07, Hartwood Spring Ithra; 04/05/08 False Isle Spring
  • Basic Middle Eastern Dance (belly dance) - 04/20/07 Hartwood Spring Ithra; 11/02/07 Port of Crickstows Fall Grand Ithra
  •  Intro to Middle Eastern Dance - 10/25/98 St. Giles / Seagirt Grand Ithra, Seagirt; 11/05/00 St. Giles / Seagirt Grand Ithra, Seagirt; 04/08/01 False Isle Ithra
  •  MEDIEVAL MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE - 10/25/98 St. Giles / Seagirt Grand Ithra, Seagirt; 03/02/03 False Isle Ithra, False Isle; 03/20/04 Shittimwoode Spring Ithra
  • MIDDLE EASTERN DANCE - 05/09/99 SeaLion War Ithra, Seagirt; 03/02/03 False Isle Ithra
  •  MIDDLE EASTERN COSTUME: CONSTRUCTION - 04/07/02 False Isle Ithra; 04/28/02 Hartwood Ithra; 11/02/03 Lions Gate 24th Grand Ithra; 03/20/04 Shittimwoode Spring Ithra
  •  MIDDLE EASTERN COSTUME: IMAGES - 04/07/02 False Isle Ithra; 04/28/02 Hartwood Ithra; 03/02/03 False Isle Ithra; 11/02/03 Lions Gate 24th Grand Ithra; 03/20/04 Shittimwoode Spring Ithra
  •  MIDDLE EASTERN COSTUMING - 11/05/00 St. Giles / Seagirt Grand Ithra; 04/08/01 False Isle Ithra; 03/06/04 False Isle Ithra; 11/27/04 St. Giles Grand Ithra
  •  NET-MAKING - 04/06/03  Cragmere & Hartwood Ithra, Hartwood; 10/7/17 Hartwood (for lacis)
  • HAIRNET CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES - 04/07/02 False Isle Ithra; 03/02/03 False Isle Ithra; 03/20/04 Shittimwoode Spring Ithra
  •  Raks Helwa: Sweeten Your Belly Dance - 06/09/07 Sealion War Ithra, Seagirt
  •  Spin-In: Troubleshooting & Spinning Circle - 06/09/07  Sealion War Ithra, Seagirt
  •  SPINNING TECHNIQUES AND TIPS - 11/02/07 Port of Crickstows Fall Grand Ithra

(Tir Righ classes when database is online)

  • Intro to Needle Lace - 10/7/17 Hartwood
  • Brocade weaving on an inkle loom - 10/7/17 Hartwood
  • Intro to long-arm cross stitch - 10/7/17 Hartwood
  • Raks Helwa: Sweeten Your Belly Dance - Sealion War Ithra (06/09/07), An Tir Sept Crown (09/19)
  • Netting: For Hair and Hunting - Hartwood Yule (Nov 23/19); 2020 Hartwood (online)
  • Long-Stitch Bookbinding - 2020 Hartwood (online)
  • Fingerweaving Garters: an intro - 2023 Court d'Argent (Yule) Hartwood

Contests entered

Learning to record activities, and not just do them (more info to come)

contest name - entry title, if any - where, when

  • 'Wire Work' - "Practical Wire Worked Accessories" - Daffodil Tournament (Seagirt), XXXX
  • 'Best Sonnet' - "To Love and My Love" - Cragmere Bardic Competition, June 24, 2000
  • 'Yule Needlework Competition' - "Yule Gonfalon" - Seagirt, Dec 14, 2002 (cotton floss blackwork on linen blend, mounted on heavy silk; thematic - St. Ninian's Cross, mistletoe, oak, holly, ivy, apple, pine; design inspired, patterns all mine)
  • Hairnet - 'Use it up'?; Seagirt?, Nov 2004 (Spun leftover fleece, and created a heavy hair net, with handspun fingerloop braid band)
  • 'Something Warming' - "Antidote to Winter" - Hartwood (White Court), XXXX (Potions: syrup of mint; syrup of roses; sage water)
  • Calligraphy contest - "Raven's Cry" - Raven's Key (Black Knight's Feast), Feb 19, 2005 (Sonnet written using references to the medieval concepts and mythologies about black birds; ink mixed of metallics and gouache on black paper; gilded)
  • 'Seashell in any medium' - Calligraphed Ode to The Scallop Shell, on paper shaped as a shell - Cragmere, May 28, 2005
  • Yule - ?? - Yule (Cragmere), Dec 3, 2005 (hand-bound book; scroll of pseudo-Arabic, gouache, gilding; linen veil w silk stitching; and...)
  • 'Craftspersons' Challenge' (12 categories; 1 point for each category plus 3 points for each won) - Christmas at the Craftperson's Hall, Cragmere, Dec 2, 2006 (Entered: woven trim; leather bottle padding; cast pewter TR pendant; saucer lamps; essay; faux leather casket; heraldic display; food; ypocras; bardic)
  • Investiture Arts & Sciences Competition - "Språng work" - Tir Righ, Nov 22, 2008 (Small drawstring pouch demonstrating some techniques)
  • Arts & Sciences Competition - "A Sprangwork Headdress in the Coptic Era" - Tir Righ, Oct 22, 2011 (Black wool and white linen striped, with hand-spun red wool and white linen head band woven with backstrap loom and string heddles)
  • Arts and Sciences Competition - "Coptic Wrapped Språng Headdress" - An Tir, Mar 3-4, 2012 (White linen and purple wool joined to white linen, unevenly packed as per museum finds)
  • 'How your persona celebrates Yule' - "Halima's Celebration at the Winter Solistice" - Hartwood, Nov 26, 2016 (Short description of Sadeh and customs, with display)
  • Champion, Hartwood - Bardic - Nov 2017-2018
  • Champion, Hartwood - Scholar of Constellations - Nov 23, 2019 - 2020 (category for offices held?)

Other Creative Endeavours

(needs dates and details)

  • painted 4' achievement banner for Cragmere (based on 40th year Domesday Boke, design by Doireann Dechti)
  • lead a few Shire workshops at A&S (adding them as I recall): dipped beeswax candles; limp parchment bound books (long-stitch), 2019;
  • AOA for Asa Martel
  • Kingdom charter for AOA (Norse style)
  • Red Flame (Tir Righ) for Zakkiyya (?)
  • Red Flame (Tir Righ) for Safiye Konstantiniyye
  • Raven for M. Lenora
  • Raven's Blood for Thegn Einar Guntharson (Oak), September 22, AS XLII (2007)
  • Largesse of språng pouches, mostly linen, to An Tir and Tir Righ; no idea how many nor how many times
  • Participant in "100 Books for the Princess", Sept 2011, Tir Righ (Coptic-bound, and Japanese stab-bound) (https://rakkasa.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/one-hundred-books-for-the-princess/)
  • "Feather" published in Hartwood newsletter (Aug 2013)
  • Calligraphy hand in pseudo-Byzantine created for Vikingr & Lishinia, Tir Righ(2015?)(link manuscript?)
  • "Book of Haiku Hours - A Year in Poetry 2017" published in Tir Righ newsletter (Nov 2017)
  • Fingerloop cords and tassels for archery rank advancement 2019, within Shire
  • Kumihimo tie cords for Tir Righ (one of the two Thrown Weapons Champion cloaks) (2020)
  • Wordsmith: contributed to the Backlog Scrolls challenges by writing texts for calligraphers - 2023 (6), 2022 (5), 2021 (24, plus 2 other tweaks)

Events as organizer

(Incomplete list; more info to come)

  • "Warm up the Winter" Revel - Cragmere, January 31, 2004
  • Red Jack Inn - Cragmere, October 16, 2004
  • Armada - Cragmere, August 8-10, 2008, Halbe Hall, Black Creek
  • Arts & Sciences Celebration & St Nicks Day - Cragmere, December 06, 2008
  • The Armada - Cragmere, Aug 2009
  • Peasants' Tavern - Cragmere
  • Spring TUTR - Hartwood, April 13-14, 2013
  • Peasants' Revel - Hartwood, October 5, 2013
  • Championship and War in Hartwood - Hartwood, September 18-20 2015
  • Hartwood TUTR - Hartwood, April 12-14 2019
  • Mid Summer's Champions/Defenders - Hartwood, July 21-23, 2023 (Half of Event Steward team)

Offices held

(latest to oldest; more to come)

  • Exchequer (Hartwood) Feb 2020 - current
  • Chief Archer (Hartwood) Feb 2018 - Feb 2020
  • Exchequer (Hartwood) Jan 2016 - Feb 2019
  • Chief Scribe (Hartwood) 2016-2018
  • Exchequer (Hartwood) 2009 - May 2013
  • Principality Website Update Deputy circa 2007-2009
  • Scribe on An Tir 40 Year Domesday Boke (Cragmere & Insula Magna) 2004-?
  • Exchequer (Cragmere) 2006-2008
  • Chatelaine (Cragmere) circa 2005?
  • Dance Mistress (Cragmere) circa 2003-2005?
  • Webminister (Cragmere) 2003-?
  • Newsletter circa 2003-2005?
  • Chatelaine (Cragmere) August 1995-?


May 2006; photo by Dustin Nauta
Halima's device

Caught! The contest was a Persona Picnic, Cragmere, May 6, 2006. The setting was upon a carpet, with a small saddle and saddle blanket upon which to lean, and the food arrayed on low tables with trays. Brass and wood bowls held a variety of prepared (period recipes) and dried foods. Sekanjabin was in the bottle, and a silver jug held water. A tray of nammoura was distributed for dessert. Notice that the -right- hand was used for selecting from the dishes...

Being a dancer, there is some risk of flirtatious behavior: words may flow slowly but the hip is quick!