Biya Sama

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Title Name. SCA Biography. Selected Awards (the Wiki is not the place to do a full awards list).

Biya Sama (non-registered name) has played in the Society for Creative Anachronism since 10/1990. She started her SCA career in the then Shire of Mag Mor, Calontir as (unregistered) "Anne de Lyons", an early 13th century Norman persona, and joined to pursue bardic arts which was her exclusive art throughout her Mag Mor years. In 1995, Biya (modernly known as Laurel) graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincon and moved to Iowa City, IA to play in the Shire of Shadowdale, Calontir. While in University, Biya had discovered Asian cultures and Asian music in particular. When she moved, she realized that she had lost her connection to European history, culture, and interest in European music. The University of Iowa's extensive Asian language collection in its libraries provided Laurel, now a graduate student in the Chinese language department, with an opportunity to switch personas. She switched to a Han Chinese, still living in early 13th century, but this time coming from the Jin dynasty capital of Yanjing (modern Beijing). Her name became "Feng Yin-yue".

In Shadowdale, "Feng Yin-yue" studied Asian music for the first time, using sheet music photocopied from a book called "Music of the Korean Renaissance: Songs and Dances of the Fifteenth Century" edited by Jonathan Condit.

In 2000, with grad school complete, Biya moved to the East kingdom to the Barony of Settmour Swamp. Shortly after her move, she received a copy of a Manchu-English dictionary under a "research purposes only" license. Through that dictionary, Biya finally had the tools to construct a proper Jin dynasty persona and her current name "Biya" was chosen: a shamaness born in 1205 and living during the conflict between Jurchens and Mongols, when Jurchens are fighting for their freedom from Mongol rule.

Biya is Manchu (in 1636 the Jurchens renamed themselves "Manchus") for "the moon" and has a spiritual connotation to it. Jurchen society was a very simple, clan-based society with many features in common with the ancient Celts. It was also a goddess-centric one, which Laurel finds very interesting as an Asian historian. The shaman priestesses were great lore mistresses and teachers--which has great appeal. It is a beautiful culture and an chance to be someone very special!

The reason the name is not registered yet is that Jurchen name conventions do not match SCA heraldry rules--I have been struggling against the current system that requires a byname on a culture where a byname is not period. Jurchens did not adopt Chinese name convention until out of period.


Biya Sama was born in December, 1205 CE by the western calender, in a small village in Liaodong (Liaoning) province just outside of Mukden (Shengyang). Her family had lived in the same village since the Bohai days when their Mohe ancestors and the followers of a great general followed him westward out of Korea to become one JURCHEN people in 698 CE as the Bohai state. Being very bright both intellectually and spiritually, Biya, however, was not content to simply do her chores and mind her manners like a good girl. As she tried to learn simple household tasks like spinning and sewing, her mind would quickly wander and she would fall into trances with enormous speed by the age of 4. Once, while so entranced, she took apart her older brother's hunting bow--a formidable task for even a grown adult for her brother was quite strong. When her brother discovered what seemed like a prank, he beat her vigorously and viciously until she bled.

Then, in 1210 by the western calender, a great sama (shamaness) heard of this feat and of her brother's vicious reprisal. The sama of the Juru clan rode hard and fast to the little village to see this child for herself. When she came upon the small house, she quickly used her mastery of herbalism to sooth the girl's wounds and said prayers over her to help with her healing. She laid hands upon the wounds to ease her pain then told her in a quiet voice that there were ways to learn to notice the pain far less--if she had mind to learn the ways of her people. Eager to learn, Biya asked to know all that could be learned. Then the shamaness tested the girl.

When she was done, she packed the girl's belongings and took her away. She took the girl to the city where, she told her, she was on her way to go in the first place--Yanjing, the capital city where the Jin emperor ruled by Chinese custom.

For five years, Biya studied with her mentor--until 1215. Then came Temujin the Khan with his mighty hordes. Her mentor got her out of the city, but Biya's teacher perished in defense of Yanjing. Biya would never forget that loss--or the sight of the city she loved burning before her. She fled north, into first Liaodong, then Jilin. News of her status as a refugee made it easy to find another mentor. She stayed away from the war, and Mongols, for as long as she remained an apprentice, taking refuge in the solitude and peace of the many mountains of Manchuria where the stories told her the dragon teachers still live, the guardians of all Jurchens. In 1223, she passed her trials and became SAMA herself. Now the burden for healing the hurts inflicted by the Mongols was hers, as was for keeping the history of her people--more and more important as the written records of her people were destroyed by war. And inspiring the resistance also became her responsibility, even though doing so most certainly risked death at Mongol hands. Her people could not forget how much they value freedom, freedom to be their own culture, keep their own goddesses and gods--unhindered by foreign powers.

She was forbidden to shed blood, yet she would fight. Her culture was at risk. She would not let her people die.

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