Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do
Becoming the Source
Ælflæd of Duckford
The following article appeared in the Atenveldt Seneschal's Handbook,
Remember when you were little and you believed in Santa Claus? Christmas
was absolutely magic—the finest part of life.
Later on you found out that your parents were really doing it. You
were disappointed, but Christmas was still wonderful. Maybe
you didn't admit you knew the truth, just to help keep the magic a
When you got older you had to help set up Christmas for younger kids—the ones who still believed in magic. There's satisfaction, but not
Eventually you become responsible for an entire show—you're the Santa
Claus. You do the planning and the footwork, you worry about the cost
and pay the bills. It's still worth doing, for the sake of the believers
and for the feeling of accomplishment, but they'll hardly thank you
because they think it was Santa Claus.
I know now that long hours of hard work went into those first events
I attended, but at the time I thought it was all magic and spontaneous.
As seneschal or autocrat you're a stage manager for a medieval illusion.
If people think it's magic, if they think the Society runs spontaneously,
you've done your job well.
I was thrilled to see my thoughts come back around, nearly eleven years
later, with some interesting details, and to a wider audience than got
to read it the first time. In the December 1990 issue of The Outlandish
Herald, the following article appeared. It was written by Master Giovanni
di Sienna, an Outlander and former principality treasurer and kingdom
seneschal, and is reprinted with his permission.
Being that it is December, I decided to pass on an analogy that I
first heard from Mistress Monika von Zell. I was told this story when
I became a local seneschal a number of years back. Well, here goes.
Once upon a time ... oops, wrong story. The SCA is sort of like Christmas.
When you first join, all the presents are sitting under the tree wrapped
in gaily decorated packages. You get to pick which package you want
to open first. You also have fun deciding which presents you want to
keep for yourself, give to another, or share with a friend. Everything
is there waiting for you. You are continually approached with new surprises,
thoughts and attitudes. Learning all of the social skills necessary
for proper interaction in this club encompasses a large amount of your
time. All in all, these are the good old days.
As you grow older in this organization, the SCA doesn't provide all
of the packages pre-wrapped. You are now expected to help in wrapping
the packages. You still have plenty of presents given to you, but
now you get to help out. You're trusted by others to pick out the
box and the paper and to do a competent job in the wrapping. Much
of the joy that you receive in the SCA is now focused on the learning
of new skills.
Older now, you are starting to furnish the presents. No longer are
you content or expected to sit back and let everything come to you.
You pick with care and concern those presents that you can make with
your own hands or help direct others to create. You help create the
atmosphere in which to give the presents to the young folks. You ensure
that the others are now allowed to help wrap the presents and start
learning how to make them. Sure, you still receive presents, but making
them is much more fun now. The transition to this "paternal" role
is an interesting one. The learning and doing is still a great part
of your enjoyment, but now people are asking you to do some
teaching as well.
Finally, in the bloom of your old age, you sit back and help where
needed. All those folks that you helped teach wrapping skills and
making skills to are now working at it full force. You still make
things and help wrap them, although the major role seems to be in
guiding others towards these pursuits. You have become "Father Christmas"
to a new and vibrant group of folks. The teaching element is first
and foremost now (for better or worse). One day you finally look around
at all the new faces and the realization strikes that these people
think that you're the old timer or part of the "old guard" now.
That's the SCA "Christmas" story, long version. All of us are different
ages playing middle ages.
I love hearing things come back through. Giovanni was embarrassed
when Mistress Monika pointed out to him that it was my "story" in the
first place, but there was no need for embarrassment. I was flattered,
and Giovanni's version had an interesting focus mine had not, as his was
aimed not just at seneschals and autocrats, but at everyone at every level.
A similar analogy I've used is a theatrical production. As a newcomer
you are in the audience, and after seeing a few plays you might make a
visit backstage. If it seems interesting, you might go from apprenticing
with the techs and costumers to taking tickets, or you may become one
of the best actors, and might eventually end up being director or theater
manager. The play will never seem the same to you, but there's an audience
out there, and they don't know about production details or the
realities of getting it all presented.
We owe it to the Society to return the favor that was done for us. What
I want for the services I've provided newer members is not so much to
be thanked or repaid in any way by them, but that they will pass it on
to other, newer members.
All articles from the CONSIDERATIONS section:
Considerations · Etiquette
Royalty · Being an Officer · Seneschal · Heraldry and Heralding ·
Arts and Sciences · Chronicler · Treasurer · Chirurgeons · Autocrat · Welcoming Newcomers · Peerage · Language Use · Last-But-Not-Least Ideas