Issue #4 early September 1991 (A.S. XXVI)

Index to Classic ThinkWell
and envelope art

Notes on this issue

Other Issues:

#1 | #2 | #3 |

#5 | #6
#7 | #8 | #9
#10 | #11 | #12
#13 | #14 | #15
#16 | #17 | #18
#19 | #20 | #21

ThinkWell is a journal for the exchange of ideas among members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. It is an independent, private publication, and not representative of any group or subgroup within the Society.

More information appears at the bottom of this page, and a *new* publications policy appears near the end of the issue.


I am enjoying ThinkWell. Good idea. Once again, you've scored a winner with TW #3. While it comes as no real surprise that there is a body of folks willing to yammer on at great length about just about every aspect of the SCA, to you goes the credit for fusing us all into a writhing mass of semi-informed opinions. Long may TW wave!!! It's wonderful and mind-expanding to hear views from other kingdoms. Thanks for the chance to participate! Each time I get a new copy of ThinkWell, I hand out the extra to somebody new who absorbs it like a dry sponge in a bucket of water…there are a lot of us out here for whatever reason, and it's refreshing to see the quality of thinking… I meant to subscribe right away, but somehow the issue got buried in one of the migrating paper piles…and I forgot all about it until [someone at work] showed me issues #2 and #3, when I got enthused all over again. So here is $20 for eight issues (I'm confident you'll be around at least that many, and I hope more). We were overjoyed to come across an issue of "ThinkWell" at a recent gathering of friends. Our circle of friends spends great amounts of time debating philosophy from both the period and modern perspectives. We therefore thoroughly enjoyed reading issue #3, and are anxious to subscribe and contribute to your newsletter. Please begin with issue #1.


I was asked a good question by a subscriber who's not a peer, and it was "Why is so much of this about peerage?" The very same question was asked about our "philosophy practices" in my local group, and I guess they get the same answer: If the Society is a group with goals and ideals, how are those ideals made manifest, and how is following them rewarded? Even the practicalities of everyday life—costuming and armor making—can be done in a nearly spiritual way, with a pure heart and a warm feeling for others. Conversely, people can be making costumes or armor for spite, or in protest, or to prove a point.

The "philosophy practices" were begun as vigils for peers who hadn't gotten to have vigils at the time they were elevated to the peerage, so the topics of conversation were heavily peerage-related. This publication is a sort of "philosophy practice" on paper.

We're discussing some issues which don't have to do with peerage: children and scribal backlogs, for instance. Some I would like to say don't have to do with peerage have turned in that direction. Some of the most obvious kingdom differences have to do with the roles, dress, or perceived "level" of their peerage.

I'm bringing this up because there are some new topics this issue which involve peerage, and I guess what you're reading now is in itself a new one. Why do discussions of "why are we here?" seem to lead to peerage? I don't think it's just because the majority of ThinkWell's contributors are peers. I hear from non-peers that they've been discussing questions concerning the peers and peerage when there are no peers around. If someone had asked you why peerage seems to be the focus of our discussions, what would you have said?

Eowyn Amberdrake


I took my new theory out into the real world and am more convinced than ever. Make it my two theories—the college professor model and the chivalry-as-an-inferior-school model. I think the chivalry is seen by the other "professors" as the faculty of an Aggie college. I would say "too bad" or "not fair" but I've never heard a more workable explanation, nor one easier to live with.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

On AElflaed's ideas on peerage: Thought #1: I like this, it brings into play both the ideas of "do they do their job well" and "are they a good person."

Thought #2: Hmmm. Quite possibly true. But wait, I know Laurels who have Bean Bags for Brains, they happen to be really really good at one particular thing. Skill is perhaps the better word here? But fighting is skill also.

I think, perhaps, the ultimate reason laurels and pelicans resent or dislike the chivalry is the plain fact that fighters get to be king and non-fighters don't. Granted, you don't have to be a knight to become king, but it really does help, in many kingdoms. A Laurel or Pelican can become a Duke or a Count IF they take up fighting and get good at it OR if they are female and find a fighter to make them queen.

The deepest resentments of the chivalry order, I think you will find, are from non-fighter males among the peers (like me?) who realize that, often as not they are going to wind up having to take orders from some bozo with rhinohide! Sure, it doesn't happen all that often (actually, most kings I've liked, hard to believe as it may seem!) but when it DOES it leaves a bad taste that won't go away. Deep in my heart, I do believe that I could REALLY be a very good king, but I can't ever BE king!

Now, as a Pelican, I think the Crown should be available to those who best practice the fine art of political cunning…

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

Éowyn Amberdrake

I am Eowyn Amberdrake, and have been in the SCA for 17-18 years. I started in the Outlands, but have spent the last 16 years in Caid. I became a Laurel in 1978 for scribal arts, a Pelican in 1982, Court Baroness, plus various kingdom honors (Dolphin, Leaf of Merit, LoC). I was Clarion Queen of Arms under Master Baldwin, Scribe Armarius of Caid for 5 years, and have held various baronial offices (seneschal, treasurer, herald). I occupy my leisure time making scrolls, sewing costumes, designing and sewing cross stitch, writing a book on Insular Ornamental style (a.k.a. "Celtic"), just published The Lymner's Roll of the arms of SCA baronies and up, and performing with Past Times with Good Company (a troupe of dancers, singers, and such drawn from but separately incorporated from the SCA…we performed in England for six weeks in 1988 [and since]. We have also done various gigs in Southern California).

During the work week I am Melinda Sherbring, a software engineer for an aerospace company in the Los Angeles area. I led the team that wrote the software to make it possible for scientists to use the Hubble Space Telescope to gather data on a particular point of a planet as the planet rotates on its axis and orbits the sun. I've also worked on interpreting Landsat photos, and lots of other less explainable projects. I'm also a newlywed, married to a wonderful person, and now the stepmother of a 5 1/2 year old son. I spent 3.5 years on the SCA BoD, and as of this month, I am again on the BoD.

New Topic from Justin du Coeur:
"Peerage vs. The Peerage Orders"

I realize it's hard to talk to a subject that hasn't yet been fully laid out, but wonder if Justin is suggesting additional Orders, or the concept of a patent disconnected from an order. I'd personally love it if an Order of Peerage were added for courtesy/chivalry/honorable behavior…in the West there is an award called the Queen's Order of Grace, given, logically by the Queen for just this sort of thing (many folk I know who have Q.O.G.'s will wear them in preference to the Peerage paraphernalia). And there used to be an order-within-an-order for knights here (Silver Rondel or some such)  [1]   for Super-Chivalry as far as behavior/attitude went. Being tagged as a peerage-level BEHAVIORAL role-model would be a trip, especially since the other peerages are mostly for what you DO rather than what you ARE (we all know, or have been at one time or another, snarling peers).

—Nerissa Meraud, West

In possible anticipation of Justin's Peerage Topic: I have, for years, tried to get locals fired up about the idea of a fourth peerage that would be based solely on scholastic achievement within the absolutely no effect.

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

and here it is—JUSTIN'S ARTICLE:
Here's a topic to be tossed out for the hungry wolves to tear at. This one has been hashed out a bit on the Rialto over the past several weeks [July' 91], but it's interesting enough that I figured people over here might want a stab at it.

First, a statement of an assumption. My definition of a Peer is someone who is basically a role-model—someone I can point to and say, "That is what we are striving for." Corpora more-or-less acknowledges this viewpoint; its definition of the requirements for Peerage are a reasonably good stab at defining this role-model, fortunately without trying to be too specific. (If you disagree with this premise, you might well disagree with my entire argument, but it would be worthwhile to hear what you think a Peer is.)

And yet, Peerage also has an odd aspect tacked onto it: you have to be a specialist. Moreover, you have to specialize in particular ways: you have to be at least pretty good in heavy weapons (in practice, I find that you have to be quite good at it), or you have to be an Expert at one or more arts, or you have to have done service that can only be defined as Extraordinary.

The result is that there are people who fall in between the cracks. I started the Rialto discussion by pointing out that there are people who do not fight, are not Experts in any given art (although they are, in the examples I can think of, generally competent in several), and have not done Extraordinary service (although they have done much quietly and for a great time). And these people are, in their bearing and manner, models of What We're About. But because they don't specialize, there is no real way to reward them for that.

The argument was added to from a different direction by a suggestion that archers should have some way of attaining Peerage; currently, a skilled archer, even one who teaches and serves a great deal, has no such path. (S/he can't become Chivalry, because that's only for heavy weapons fighting; s/he can't become a Laurel without substantial research and scholarship; s/he can't become a Pelican without ridiculous amounts of service.) More generally, the point is that there are specialties, ways of serving the Society, that aren't really recognized by the existing system.

Put these together, and it looks to me like there's a real case of myopia at work here. We profess that Peers are role-models, but we limit those role models to three distinct tracks. We have a system that focusses so heavily on these tracks that it misses the point: what we should really be recognizing is that list of "extras" in Corpora, like chivalry, courtesy, honor, and maturity in the Society, rather than the particular specialty of the Order.

Getting to the point: I propose that it would be appropriate to remove the restriction that the Peerage equals the three orders. Instead, a Peer should be defined separately, in terms like those that currently exist. It should be possible for a naked Patent of Arms to be given on those occasions where it is appropriate (which, I should mention, I think is only a relatively small fraction of the time). The three Patent Orders should carry a Patent, but not define it.

This would require a change to Corpora, but a relatively small one, and would help focus attention on the fact that a Peerage means more than "this person hits well" or "this person sews a lot" or "this person sat a difficult Kingdom office." It would bring the requirements of Peerage to the forefront, instead of the requirements of the individual Orders.

So—tear into it. Are there any good reasons why this wouldn't work? Are there any good reasons why it would be a bad idea?

—Justin du Coeur, East Kingdom
(more information may appear next issue—
very backward of me, his comments in #3,
article in #4, and introduction in #5.
Oh well, you people weren't going anywhere, were you?)


Impressions of customs gleaned at TFYC: There seemed to be rather a lot of bowing and scraping to all "hats"; certainly more than we were accustomed to [in Caid]. We bow to reigning royalty, but this seemed excessive by our standards. When I wore my PeLaurel medallion, I got bowed to by strangers. When I dressed in my Elizabethan field garb, even without the medallion, I was bowed to. I didn't mind, but it was disconcerting because I didn't expect it.

Something that got to me after awhile was the phrase, "My Laurel says x," which occurred in several conversations. I love it when people quote sources, or attribute original ideas, but after awhile I felt I was talking to a carbon copy of someone, and I didn't usually even know of whom. At about that point, I'd usually find an excuse to leave the conversation.

—Mistress Éowyn Amberdrake, Caid

Justin du Coeur mentioned last time the growth of a feudal attitude in the East that caused the populace to pay more attention and respect to their barons than to their kings. Weeeellll.... Yes and No.

I think that a better description of the situation is that the East has always had a strong tendency toward de-centralization, whether it is in how we give our loyalties, how we treat our officers, etc. And although I've never been king I've been kingdom seneschal and I think there exists in the East a strong streak of pure cussedness that just doesn't like to submit to authority whatever the reason.

Now, we certainly have our Royalty Doormats (Yes Your Majesty, No Your Majesty, Anything You Want Your Majesty) and there are people like me who suspect anyone in power of authoritarian tendencies, but most people are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Loyalty, attention, respect for a local baron often does exist, but again, based on how much the person has done to deserve it! Popular opinion seems to regard each officer, crowned head, notable, and weigh each individually according to their merit. Much of popular opinion is affected by the idea of maintaining a balance of powers in the kingdom. King John was pretty effectively balanced by the barons at Runnymeade by a different method. I think that in the SCA the balance of power is maintained by a series of popular shifts of opinion; now toward the baron, now toward the king; here for the king, there for the board of directors; in support of this officer, or that law/rule.

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

RE: The article on the Outlands: I was more than a little amused to hear the chivalry, pelicans and laurels referred to as the "lower ranks of the peerage"! Not so in An Tir! Royalty may come and go (and once gone, retain only the power to impress newbies with their circlets), but the peerages are forever. Everyone in An Tir I mentioned this to was amused, astonished, or both. Our pelicans and laurels wear circlets which truly bid fair to outshine the Crowns of State.

—Jocelyn Crokehorne, An Tir

Misquote! Misquote! The exact quote (I had to dig it back up) is "The wearing of metal circlets of any sort is reserved to barons, viscounts, and higher. Individuals with lower ranks (including members of the three orders of peerage) wear no metal on their heads."

In An Tir do knights outrank Viscounts in the order of precedence? I bet not. I didn't say "lower ranks of the peerage," though, because when we talk about "the peerage" we often don't mean royal peers, but "real peers." (That's a horrible faux pas that crops up repeatedly because it so closely reflects the way people seem to believe about the situation.)

Becoming a countess raised my precedence, but not the respect people had for me. I think (but what do I know, because peers' perceptions may be completely separate from the majority view) that those who respect me may do so because of my laurel or pelican, those who bow to me do so because I'm a countess, and that the single honor of being a countess (if I were not also a "real peer") would rate the highest on the order of precedence (which isn't good for a whole lot) and the lowest on the actual respect scale.  [2]

A guy can become a count for winning one tour¬nament one day and then not screwing up too much for the next X months. A woman can become a countess for impressing that guy in some fashion, and not screwing up too much. (Actually the "not screwing up" part has been proven optional.) Although many kings and queens do a conscientious, honorable, admirable job at great personal expense and inconvenience to the life they temporarily have left behind, that's not required to become a royal peer.

Rebuttals?    —AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

[The following refers to the article on An Tir, from ThinkWell #2] Response to your question, AElflaed, The two year term of office refers ONLY to kingdoms officers (chancellor excepted). Shorter terms are of course fine, and a deputy is a MUST. Offices are set to "expire" on different schedules, and always at Crown Events. The way it works out, I believe, there is a possible change of office scheduled for every Crown event.

—Jocelyn Crokehorne, An Tir

Let's talk about this throne thing. Does the prospect of "risking being thought a nut" so distress you that you'd take the long way around a couple of chairs? If I really wanted to avoid being thought of as a prime candidate for the laughing academy, I'd probably stop strapping on armor in 95÷° heat w/ a relative humidity of 200÷ %. I'd probably stop wearing dresses in semi-public environments. I'd probably stop giving interviews to representatives of the 5th estate who seem to equate "colorful" with "a few bricks shy of a load." I'd probably.....well, you get the idea. We belong to an organization that is hardly tracing down the center of the mainstream of normalcy in our society.  [3]

So, when I "bow to empty chairs," I'm actually acknowledging the authority which is represented by those who sit in the chairs (at least, that's my rationale for doing it!). And to be consistent in this game we play (at least, quietly and internally consistent) is not necessarily a Bad Thing. At the same time, if it became obvious that my "bowing to empty chairs" was really a Thing That Pissed People Off, then I would yield to local custom and bow internally. Line of least resistance, and all that. . . . .

I can't speak for anyone else on the issue of Fealty and Oathswearing, but when I bend the knee and take the Oath, I'm doing so to the Crown, an abstract idealization of what the Power and Majesty in the Best of All Possible Worlds should be represented by the Crown. And sure, there are folks serving as Sovereign and Consort who get a lot more fervent version of the oath than others, because my desire for personal service to Crowns I like/approve of buttresses my original commitment of service to the kingdom.

But that's just me. . . . .

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

I have encountered the "In our kingdom, we did it this way" attitude from emmigrants to our area, and generally remind those sorts that if I had moved to their kingdom, they would expect me to toe the mark and wouldn't care for comments about how superior my kingdom is (which, of course, it IS, to paraphrase Bish). An extreme case of this was seen in some people new to our shire…who holed up with their household and tried to recreate their kingdom in their backyard. After about a year, they realized that no one in the shire was interested in joining their little "kingdom" and started to come out of their hole and assimilate a little, to find to their amazement that a) nobody knew who they were, and b) nobody cared. I think that was seeing inter-Kingdom "culture shock" at its worst.

—Vikontessa Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, West

I freely confess that Justin's analysis of my comments on kingdom and regional differences is correct—they are over-stated. Not to mention over-generalized. This is inevitable in any discussion, but especially in one where we are deliberately looking at differences. The bits which are similar (and I suggest that they are the overwhelming majority) are assumed in order to even notice the differences—if the similarities did not exist, we could not discuss the differences. One can discuss comparative theology between Catholics and Protestants much more easily than between either one and Buddhists, and only with extreme difficulty between any organized religion and one of the animistic ones which anthropologists group as "primitive religions"—the common beliefs make communication possible.

—William the Lucky, West


It has been my general observation that people who generally don't have the money, or the time, or the transport, or the general wherewithal to get to most things in the SCA do manage nicely to get to those things that are really important to them (and yes, that probably was a gauntlet you just heard hit the deck). My hat's off to folks like Mistress Nerissa who must regularly surmount travel difficulties that would have most of us considering stamp collecting as a more worthwhile pastime (and yes, I'm a stamp collector, and Friend to Philatelists).

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

Distance is as much about perception as about mileage. Currently we are discussing (again) whether to hold a Crown Tournament or Coronation in one of our more distant principalities. The last time this came up (about three years back) there were great cries of "Oertha is too far! If we hold the event in Alaska nobody will go!" (This ignores the fact that the people there are as much a part of the kingdom as the people here, but…) This time we may actually decide to do it. After all, the first time we held a kingdom event in the then-Principality of An Tir, the same comments were heard. And the first time we held a coronation in the Barony of Allyshia (a 6 hour drive away). And the first time we held a kingdom event in the Principality of Cynagua (a 3-4 hour drive). And the first time we held a crown tournament in the Province of Southern Shores (a one hour drive south for most of the kingdom in the year V) there were cries of "It's too far to expect anyone to travel! Nobody will go!" These days dozens of individuals drive that far on a weeknight for weekly fighting practices.

In a similar vein, the West and the Middle once had a skirmish on their common border (in Saskatoon at the time). The king of the Middle was the only one who had come from his Kingdom outside the local group. And he mentioned that the reason that most kings of the Middle did not visit their outlying subjects was that the Middle was ‘just too large.' It stretched, at that time, from Saskatoon to Ohio. At the same time, the West ran from San Luis Obispo (about 2/3 of the way down the California coast) to Fairbanks. And in our four month reign that sum¬mer, either my queen and I, or the local prince and princess, attended an event in every local branch but four (including three of the four branches in Alaska, which was not yet a principality).

Part of the difference in viewpoint traces back to the mundane culture: the people who live in the western US are more casual about traveling a long distance than those who live in the eastern US. And part is a matter of kingdom culture. It has come to be expected that someone who wins the Crown of the West will travel extensively about the kingdom. Some obviously cannot afford to fly to Lochac (Australia) or the Far West (Japan and Korea), or even to Oertha (Alaska), but those who can afford it do so, and those who cannot drive around the nearer parts of the Kingdom—often practically every weekend.

And the royalty are not the only ones who travel. Several of the peers (and several who are not) routinely travel several hours' drive to local events in distant parts of the kingdom. And when we have a principality make the step up to kingdom status, the numbers of those going to see them on their way are typically large enough that we can provide belted marshals for each of three or four fields for their first Crown Lists, thus allowing all of the knights in the new kingdom the option of entering their first Lists. (I recall being shocked when I attended the first crown tournament of Trimaris and found that nobody from Meridies had made the couple of hour drive down the interstate.) And I confidently expect that, when Lochac holds its first Crown Lists in a couple of years, there will be at least a half dozen knights (and at least that many others) down from the central kingdom to see them on their way.

—William the Lucky, West

A long time ago I was kingdom seneschal and the war between Caid and Atenveldt was held at Burro Creek, near Kingman, Arizona. This is in the far west of Arizona, past where people live, toward Caid. Caid and Ansteorra had recently become kingdoms, and so Atenveldt was relatively smaller and the people in the West weren't obligated to go to the war. Many in Atenveldt who felt obligated lived in Salt Lake City or Denver (neither an easy drive from SW Arizona) or Albuquerque (over eight hours away). We heard that it was far for Caidans—it was four hours.

I was asked nicely by personnel of Caid to please get people to come to a war there, in Caid, since they had come all the way to Atenveldt to ours for so many years. I said politely "not a good idea." I said we (the big group from my barony that always sup¬ported the war at Burro Creek) already drove eight hours; they wanted us to drive twelve. They asked more directly. I said less politely that Burro Creek was more convenient for them that it was for most of Atenveldt. They used guilt. I'm susceptible. By the time of the war, I was princess of the Outlands, rather than seneschal, and felt no less obligated to go. We went out to southern California. The map took us just barely in view of the ocean before veering east into a horse farm of sand and tumbleweeds. The people I had convinced to go there weren't thrilled, and it was really difficult to explain to either side what was going on.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova

Vikontessa Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova is a Mistress of the Laurel, and has arts awards from the West, Cynagua, The Mists, and service and courtesy awards from most of them, too, along with six personal service awards from queens and princesses. She has been Princess of Cynagua, a herald at principality, baronial and shire levels, and has been Chancellor of the College of Scribes (a lesser kingdom office).

Her persona is Russian and she writes, "The century fluctuates according to my mood and when I think about it (which is maybe once a year—Westerners don't ‘personify' much…)"

"We  [4] joined the SCA in March of 1982, so next year we'll have been in for ten years (seems like yesterday…). Mundanely, I'm a computer programmer (storage management) for the same HMO as William The [5] , and I have a Bachelor's Degree (major in the Fine Arts, minor in Russian). My husband is a Structural Steel Painter (which means he likes to hang off the sides of suspension bridges and paint them—and sometimes passing cars)."

Tatiana kindly sent a pamphlet on West Kingdom practices and traditions, from which I will print good parts in another issue! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

"The Dream"

I agree with Bish (who I only know as Rob, I'm afraid), "The Dream" is a terrible term, and I strongly dislike it.

—Éowyn Amberdrake, Caid

"The Dream" is a concept rarely defined and often used to try to stop a good, logical argument dead in its tracks, as in "But that doesn't support ‘the dream,'" or "What about ‘the dream' we all share?" In that context it seems to mean "I'm trying to live in a fantasy life, don't tell me about IRS reports or corporate policies." What I understand "the dream" to mean is that chivalry and honor can be parts of our lives again, and that people can respond to one another as lords and ladies, knights and queens, etc. It's not a very good definition, and if anyone has a good, quotable one, please send it. I think some people's lives were further from "the dream" than others' were to begin with. If a person was a good scout, religious and/or philosophical, community minded, honest with family and friends and all that before he joined the Society, "the dream" concept will seem more odd to him than it might to a recently regenerated juvenile delinquent to whom it had never occurred in this lifetime that being good could be good for him. In the same way that converts can make the most "enthusiastic" (doggèd and relentless) missionaries, it may be that those to whom "the dream" is extremely different from their mundane lives are the most adamant that "the dream" is what we're here for.

—AElflaed, Outlands

I almost barf every time I see the phrase The Dream.

—Mistress Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, West

It gets harder as the years go by to deal with the Monday "SCA hangover." When I come back from a weekend of really giving my all, and knowing my all is required and appreciated, it's hard to downshift to a world where what I think could hardly count less, and whether or not I act with honor is totally irrelevant. What makes the SCA so real, and mundane life so—well, MUNDANE? And are we ever going to figure out a way to make the SCA last all week, every week? I hope? I, for one, would gladly shuffle off this mundane coil!

—Jocelyn Crokehorne, An Tir

Dear Jocelyn, (oops—I'm starting to feel a little like Ann Landers). I'm sure that you didn't really mean to say that whether or not you act with honor is totally irrelevant. If you mean irrelevant to the final shape of the widget you're producing at work [whatever manner of work you do], perhaps it has no physical relevance. Given a choice of paths to take (or things to do, or to say), when a person makes the more honorable decision, it makes that person more honorable. If the thing you want to have last all week is the inspiring, internal quest for honor and chivalry in your soul, you don't need to be directly rewarded by other people to maintain your own honor. Keep your own score. If you know other people are cheating on their overtime and you don't cheat, you're more honorable than they are. Maybe poorer this week, but less likely out of a job and really poor next year, too. Even if they never, ever get caught, they'll be black-hearted lowlife while you glide through life in the white light of your own purity and honor. I really do believe this, but I may be an idiot.

If what you want is to wear cool costumes and say "good morrow, good lady" all the time, I'd advise coming up with an SCA business or product, and start travelling more. This has been an unusual year, being the 25th anniversary, but there have been in the past six months three week-long-plus events. I don't think we're going to have to wait twenty-five more years for that to happen again. If you get a sharp enough product that people want and need you could support yourself within the SCA. I don't actually know anyone personally who's doing that and has a nice house, though. Raymond the Quiet has a regular everyday printing company in addition to SCA stuff. I know a couple of artists who have no other income, but they don't rely just on SCA people. ThinkWell was about $2 in the black (cashflow only; not subscription liability—if I figure that I'm way in the hole again) when I sent #3, and Bright Ideas hasn't paid for its first printing. I do not recommend the publishing business unless it satisfies your missionary zeal. Missionary pay is supposed to be crummy; it's good for the soul.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands


This paragraph is from Eowyn's description of Caid: "Preprinted promissories are given with awards, and the real scroll is assigned and delivered some time later. No scroll is begun before name and arms are approved by Laurel. We have, predictably, a large backlog." I left something out of it to save for this section. There was a third sentence: "All scrolls are original, not printed."

In Caid's case, then, the word "scroll" has been redefined to mean only "final scroll." The word "promissory," rather than being the adjective in the phrase "promissory scroll" has become a noun, in their parlance.

It's cheating to redefine your terms, but in considering other kingdoms' discussions of scroll backlogs, it's well worth checking your definitions against theirs. Are you only counting final arms scrolls in the backlog, or every single thing? There are some awards which weren't originally meant to be given with scrolls, but later royalty wrote texts and began giving scrolls. Do people who got the award before the scroll text was instituted count toward the backlog now?

In the Outlands if a person's arms aren't registered he gets a promissory scroll. It might be pre-printed and hand-illuminated, or it might be original artwork. Final scrolls are always originals. It is rare in the Outlands for a person to be given an award without receiving a scroll to go with it.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands,
incorporating Eowyn Amberdrake, Caid
(just to confuse you a little)
[See also section on Language]

Having heard this discussion before, I thought I'd pitch in a few comments from the previous round-table and what has evolved in my mind since. Frankly, my experience is that scribes are overworked, UNpaid, and generally unappreciated. (No, I'm not a scribe, but I know a lot of them.) I don't understand why earning an award or being admitted to an order automatically authorizes you to requisition 30 or so hours of someone's time (not counting materials) with little more than a thank-you in return. The West kingdom uses promissory scrolls, with the "real" scroll often also being a pre-printed piece that has been colored in and your device added.

With the present system, as I understand it, work is distributed to every qualified volunteer. More often than not, the person for whom the scroll is being done is not involved in selecting who does their scroll. Everyone who wants to work (and is qualified to do so by the Scribes' organization) can, and the experience makes better scribes of them all. My concern is that switching to contract-only scrolls would tend to overwork "popular" scribes, and leave others feeling unwanted. If the present system notified a recipient when their scroll came up to be done and sent them a bill, as it were, for at least materials and perhaps some base fee (which might be added to by the recipient, if they wish something more complicated) for labor, along with a preference questionnaire for style, borders, layout (all within "legal" parameters), I should think that everyone would be a little happier (except of course for those responsible for handling funds within the guild).

—Nerissa Meraud de la Fontaine, West

Meridies was haunted for years by a backlog of scrolls undone. It was only through some rather heroic work from a succession of Parchment Pursuivants and coordination with the kingdom scribe's guild that this has been whittled away to the point where we are at last current with those awards being given today, with only a very few exceptions.

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

I think every kingdom accumulates one of these at some point in their history. The East has gone through feast/famine cycles. Where it is nowa¬days I can't actually say as I don't travel in those circles.

I do like the suggestion, though, of giving a promissory scroll (suitably generic) and a list of scribes available for commission! On the other hand, you miss the fun of giving a trained classicist a scroll in Ciceronian Latin, or another scholar one in Gothic (the language, not the art style!).

But on the other hand you have a uniform text in English that the herald can read and hopefully pronounce. Watching the scroll recipient mouthing the proper pronunciation at the herald can get a trifle silly.

AElflaed asked how things are done in other kingdoms; as I recall, the Crown is supposed to place scroll requests with the Tyger Clerk of the Signet Office (i.e. head scribe) a couple of months before the thing is to be given, the TCotSO assigns the scroll to somebody, and it is produced in a timely fashion and awarded on schedule. That's the IDEAL. REAL is that the royals give an award of arms on the spur of the moment and notify the TCotSO who tries to find somebody who isn't already swamped with commissions and assignments to make a scroll; often they wind up doing it themselves. The scroll is eventually gotten to the individual three years later at an event in another kingdom!

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

An Tir has decided against the final-scroll-for-sale plan. I spoke with Jocelyn by phone. She said that for all scrolls people get a quickie (maybe pre-printed but hand colored) "promissory scroll" and then, later, a carefully prepared "final scroll." This, I understand is for any award, not just award, grant or patent scrolls!

If I understood that correctly, then, their large backlog could be due to their definitions of "final scrolls" and the idea that every award at every level should be accompanied by a special hand-done scroll.

A comment on Nerissa's idea that getting an award maybe shouldn't automatically earn one 30 hours worth of another's work, etc.—if the scroll is to represent a letter or public document from the Crown, the person shouldn't have to pay to receive the official notification of his award. Maybe thirty-hour scrolls are too fancy to ever be provided except as a personal favor or gift, either from the scribe to a friend, or (as all scrolls might ultimately be seen) from the scribe to the king and queen. If they're presented in a timely fashion, the scribe is volunteering service to the current crown, not doing leftover drudge work from reigns long gone.

What I think goes on the Outlands is that the kingdom tries to take care of scrolls in advance whenever possible, but the scrolls which are really considered to be "the backlog" are arms scrolls (including for royal peerages)—those which will have the blazon/emblazon and be signed by the Crown and the principal herald. Very, very often these are being done in advance here. Arms scrolls are the only ones termed "final scrolls."

For a kingdom-level award whatever a person gets first is it. Occasionally a friend might want to make a special, better scroll for something particular, and will clear it with the scribe and Crown to do so, but it's never counted "backlog" if the person got anything at all in court.

Many baronial-level awards receive smaller, simpler scrolls (hand-illuminated printed things).

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

As Chancellor of the West Kingdom College of Scribes, I am more familiar with the problem than I would like! A few years ago the West had a backlog which sounds like An Tir's. Finally our then-Chancellor of Scribes threw up her hands and said bluntly, "We cannot ever catch up on this as we are now doing things, so something must change." [The Western reluctance to change anything is somewhat overstated—see the comments on generalization of kingdom and regional differences earlier in this issue.]

The solution we went with (reluctantly) was to produce "pre-printed" Award of Arms scrolls—illumination and the bulk of the text already in place, so all a scribe has to do is fill in the names of the recipient and the royalty, the blazon, and the date (a sample of the alphabet is included at the bottom of the scroll, which is cut off after it is completed), and draw the emblazon. We currently have five different versions available, plus a half dozen different ones in use in the Principality of Lochac.

This has allowed us to reduce our AA backlog from several hundred three years ago to essentially zero currently. Then, your only real chance of getting a scroll was if you knew a scribe who would offer to do it for you personally; now, the most likely reason that you do not have your AA scroll is that you know a scribe who offered to do it for you—and has not yet gotten it finished! And the momentum generated because scrolls were suddenly seen to be coming out has gotten us more recruits for the College of Scribes and chivvied the scribes with existing assignments to get them finished. With the result that we are also caught up on Grants of Arms (as of this week [6] ) and have actually made progress on the backlog of Patents over the last couple of years (in spite of our royalty's best efforts in creating new peers and so adding to the backlog).

For an idea of the problem: last winter we gave out a County scroll from year I; this spring, a Laurel scroll from year VI; this summer, two Laurel scrolls from year VIII. We still owe about 60 each KSCA, Laurel, Pelican and Viscounty scrolls, plus 20 counties and three duchies. But the situation has improved to the point where I can reasonably hope to be caught up on everything more than a year old in another couple of years.

It has been my observation that the greatest assistance in getting more scribes active is to have some visible scribal activity. When people see scrolls coming out (and we give out the old ones at court as often as not), they are inspired to try to do one themselves. And, while some of the scrolls (especially by those scribes who are professional quality artists) are truly awesome works, many more are relatively simple—simple enough that someone with drafting skills could see themselves doing one. We also run a Scribes Track at the twice-yearly Collegium, to give those with interest but not (yet) skill a chance to learn how to go about doing a scroll. What a concept for an educational organization!

—William the Lucky, West

We had a speed calligraphy contest here once. ("Scribes Track" reminded me of that. Sorry.)

—AElflaed, Outlands

a new topic by Éowyn Amberdrake

Each kingdom, as defined by Corpora, has peers of the Order of Chivalry, Order of the Laurel, and Order of the Pelican, as well as Royal peers and Ladies of the Rose. I am fascinated how the individual kingdoms differ from that point on. Some kingdoms have Principals of the orders. Caid has a rotating office of Secretary for the Laurels and one for the Pelicans. Are there other methods of internal rule? Our Corpora-defined purpose is to advise the Crown of other candidates for the order. How does your kingdom do that? Do you do anything else as a group?

—Eowyn, Caid

I'm thrilled that you asked this. I heard (not from a wholly reliable source) that the Outlands is one of only three kingdoms which doesn't poll every member of every order (the implication was "by mail" but on questioning the source backpedalled). I don't believe it, and would love to know the truth of the matter.

In the Outlands circles are held at major events, and occasionally at smaller ones. Many kings and queens (remember, we're the baby kingdom, and things are still settling) do publish a list of events at which they'll be, and they try to say when there'll be circles. Peers who aren't able to be at those events either send messages with others or write letters. A peer who doesn't attend a single circle all reign and also doesn't write isn't much missed, and no one has ever lost sleep over not soliciting the opinion of an inactive peer.

My major objections to polling by mail are two: people who aren't active are given equal opportunity with those who are active, and the information-sharing of a live, face-to-face circle is missing. Sometimes I go into a circle with a positive opinion of a candidate, and hear information I didn't know before which causes me to think a while and watch; sometimes I've gone in and would've voted "no" if I'd been asked cold (alone, or on paper), but hearing reports of activity from people I trust and respect, and being able to ask direct questions like "why" and "what motivations?" has changed my mind. How do people in mail-polling kingdoms exchange information? It scares me to think it would be either letter campaigns or free-for-all gossip exchange. The benefit of our local circles being extremely confidential is that people can be honest without (much) fear of the information being carried out. It's happened, and it hurt people, and it quit happening. (I hope; for now.)

Safe in a confidential situation, I've said things I would not have put on paper. This could be related to the regional differences, but the local (mundane) culture here is such that if we were required to write and sign dirt on candidates, we'd just lay down and let everyone be peers before most of us would put our objections in hard, cold print. If I've objected to someone and they become a peer anyway (it always happens to everyone sometime), or they become royalty later (it could happen with anyone sooner or later), I want my negative comments to float away into the ether, not to be dredged up from some file years later, after I may have changed my mind and it's too late to matter anyway.

Are there provisions in mail-polling to destroy the files after a while? Are they sealed? Who has them?

Mistress Éowyn, I've heard tell that in Caid peers' circles are held on weeknights at private homes, and the Crown's not necessarily invited. Except for the group in Las Vegas, NV, the rumor goes, most of the peers can get together during the week. Is there any truth in it?

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands


In re Wm. the Lucky: Thanks, once again, to Lucky for the history lesson (by way of explaining his royal peerage philosophy). For what it's worth, my thoughts on the fighting connection with royal peerage vary somewhat from Lucky's. As a historical re-creation goes, fighting to get the Crown is about as authentic as one can get. The other options historically involve heredity (which is not a viable option here), and "other claims" sufficient to have a group who supported taking the throne away from its current occupant for you… .

I fully appreciate Lucky's philosophy and his application of it. My difficulty comes in the mechanics of creating royal peerage equivalents for the other two peerages, given that the Crown is currently attained by contest of combat. What sort of public contest might there be for service? Even Arts & Sciences, for which competitions are already in existence, is hardly the sort of thing that the populace sits around and watches the judging of. (I might offer in this case that artisans who wished to contest for such an honor be their own judges—just like fighters are—and that those competing decide among them, based on displayed skill, who should rank the highest. Wouldn't be a bad idea for A&S competitions in general.  [7] )

We have bent to modern ideas of equality to the point that there are peerages that do not involve brute strength (although endurance seems to be a relevant factor in all three); in period such recognitions would have been considered more than a little strange. I enjoy the duties of peerage, but would never have become a peer if fighting were the only way to achieve it. (I manage to do myself enough damage through clumsiness and am uninclined to encourage others to assist in the process.)

—Mistress Nerissa Meraud de la Fontaine, West


I have never heard "Scadian" used as a matter of course in this kingdom. Some people are aware of the term, and I find it fills a linguistic void that is inelegantly filled here by "S.C.A. member."

—Mistress Éowyn Amberdrake, Caid


Re Hardwood Ethnocentricity Shafts: I hear the fulsome cry of someone associated with insuring the Corporation somewhere within these fabled ranks.....harumph, indeed! More seriously, though it is somewhat interesting to try and trace the wearing of black hats from East to West and back again as an historical curiosity, I think that Geoffrey is accurate when he suggests that we are heirs to a gentler age, in which a certain amount of tolerance is not only tolerated, it's encouraged!

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies


Hagar's account of "armed and clumsy" is really all that is needed to make any sane person want to ban firearms from any and all SCA sites. On the other hand, I myself have been known to haul a weapon offsite for some mid-event skeet shooting (at a site well removed from the event). Obviously, mundane law must strictly govern the Society's policy in this area.  [8]

With regard to steel and the protocols of handling same, it has certainly been my experience that education in this area can never be rigorous enough. Duchess Melisande's scenario of "hot-tempered adolescents" is enough to give all of us pause, and remind us of the importance of continued vigilance in this area.

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies


I like what Justin has to say on this issue..... and like his use of ellipses as well.....

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

A few more thoughts: Wanting isn't a bad thing; expecting is. Getting cranked off because the SCA did not live up to your schedule of award receipt is really wrong. I've seen people get incensed because they didn't get an award by the time they expected to. Early on, I gave up expecting awards; I hoped for them, but didn't expect them. This may account for the "stunned ox" look I learned and used so effectively when I did get awards.

[And, from an earlier letter:] Here, it is not uncommon for a person to campaign for an award for an individual that they think is deserving. This happens when the person is their apprentice/squire/whatever; when the person is a spouse, household member, Sigother, etc.; and even when the person is someone they detest, but feel deserves the award! This system has its uses and abuses on every level. People promote their wholly unworthy spouse for an award (love is blind). Someone promotes their entirely worthy spouse, but they themselves are so disliked that it detracts from the perceived value of the candidate. On a few occasions I've seen a powerful Royal/Peer/Officer promote their "companion"-of-the-Month,  [9] 'though I've never seen anyone boosted for a peerage under such conditions, and usually the person in question gets an AA or Court Barony or some such award unquestionably Royal prerogative.

On a few occasions, I've also seen a small clique in an order decide that a person shouldn't get an award for some perceived error and another group (The Right Thinking People) decide to prove them wrong. This sounds nasty on the surface, and on rare occasion is in reality, but actually is pretty healthy. The Right Thinking People usually go out and do serious research to prove a point, and since this often provides corroborative primary and secondary source information, increases our general knowledge!

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

I agree heartily with Gwilym. Now, are we talking the candidate campaigning, or a peer campaigning on behalf of a candidate? I find both sorts of behavior equally revolting. First there is the candidate who "wears his heart on his sleeve." He wants it, and he wants it bad. Everybody knows it, too. How this is manifested depends upon the personality type, but no matter which way it comes out, it's usually pretty repugnant. Sometimes they get over it, and sometimes they don't (called "dying on the vine," which in turn leads to "sour grapes syndrome"). This is a personality fault in the candidate.

Peers campaigning on behalf of candidates is a different subject. Outside of simple recommendations or comments on a candidate, I'm talking "railroading," the practice of using one's influence in any number of ways (ranging from the subtle to the totally outrageous) to get a candidate into the order. I've noticed that this is often the case with a peer who wishes to have all his/her friends join him/her in their order, regardless of whether the candidate is qualified for it, ready for it, or even desires it. Usually the candidate knows nothing about the "campaign" and would probably be horrified if he/she found out about it. This is a personality flaw in the peer.

Then there's the practice of encouraging a candidate to act in a certain manner, with the assurance that if the candidate will only do such-and-such, in such a manner, that they will be accepted into the order. I call this practice "creating a chameleon" (when it isn't closer to "creating a monster"). It usually involves somebody who qualifies for the order in the art (combat, service or creativity) but is woefully lacking in those other qualities that define one as a peer (courtesy, chivalry, honor). These sorts often suppress their natural tendencies (encouraged by those peers who tell them, "If only you weren't doing X, we'd give it to you tomorrow!) and behave in a way foreign to their nature, then as soon as they've got their goodie, they revert to their former (unacceptable) behavior. This is a personality flaw in both candidate and peer. And as you pointed out, AElflaed, that's what's called "too late."

—Mistress Titiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, West

It's not the responsibility of peers to "create" or "mold" other peers. I figure the main test is figuring out on your own what to do.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

and Pelicans' Apprentices
and belt colors
and stuff like that

Until very recently in Caid, being a squire was not a particularly good way to become a knight. Very rarely were any new knights drawn from the pool of squires. In the last three or four years, more of the new knights started out as squires, but it is still not the only, or necessarily best, route to knighthood in Caid. In the last five years or so, squires have begun to wear red belts. There is no "restriction" of red belts to squires, however, and not all squires wear them. A silver chain appeared once on a squire a couple of years ago He caught a lot of grief for it, and such things have not been seen again. Our knights wear chains, but not just gold ones. On the other hand, members of other peerage orders who are in fealty to Their Majesties have been seen wearing chains.  

On a similar note, a few Laurels have taken apprentices in the last few years, but it is not universal, by any means. I know of no Pelican proteges. Apprentices are not singled out by wearing a particular color of belt. Such restriction of belt colors is considered foreign here.

My lord and I noticed that the status of squires was seen differently at TFYC than at home in Caid. Here are a couple of illustrations.

One squire of Caid, who has never worn a red belt, went out and bought a red belt after one day of fighting. Her knight is of the old school, and does not approve of colored belts. It was as a sign of respect, to show her relationship to her knight. She wanted that respect and relationship clearly visible to others. She doesn't wear the red belt in Caid, because we all know her and her knight. At TFYC, she wasn't known, so she did wear one.

Another squire wore his red belt almost constantly, as he does in Caid. However, he did not wear it on the field, because it seemed to affect blow-counting. He tells of one fight where he killed the knight he was fighting, but the knight did not fall. The blow was clean, so he cranked up the power. After being hit in the same place three times in a row, the knight died at last. The squire talked to him afterwards, to find out what he had been doing wrong. He said, "What can I do to improve my fighting?" The first piece of advice offered was, "Find a knight and become a squire." "I am a squire." "Oh, that explains it. The first blows were probably clean, then." It very much appeared as if the knight could not believe that a blow could be good and clean unless it came from at least a squire. We view this as an odd assumption, though we occasionally see that assumption about knights (it appears that only a knight can kill some people sometimes).  [11]

We also heard at TFYC that squires of some other Kingdoms are placed in the category of "the belts," whereas in Caid, that term is reserved exclusively for jocular reference to the chivalry. We even have a yearly "Unbelted Tourney" whose lists are restricted to non-knights. Knights do, of course, show up and fight challenge matches.

—Mistress Eowyn Amberdrake, Caid

"The Belts" is used in the Outlands for the chivalry, but not in a jocular way. As we have Masters of Arms (unlike Caid), it's a general term to refer to "knights and masters"—"belted circle" is what we call the meetings of the chivalry.

We have a few new pelican apprentices here, and their belts are all different. There was one pelican's student (we haven't even nearly warmed up to the term "protege") wearing a green belt, and three of us made students / apprentices on the same day in July—their belts were all different: gold with a device on the end, green and gold, and yellow with red drops all over. Another apprentice was made in early August, with the promise of a green woven belt. The pattern here so far, then, is that there is no pattern. I don't think anyone who's not a squire would want to wear a red belt.

To anyone who remembers the "intro to the Outlands" article saying we don't take apprentices, I owe you an explanation of the change of heart. Maybe next issue.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

Several of us squires from the kingdom of the Outlands read with interest some of the letters concerning the duties of being a squire in other kingdoms, and were both puzzled and amazed at some of the comments made. While certainly not speaking for all of the squires here, we will try and give a fair and accurate account of what being a squire in the Outlands is like.

In the Outlands a knight/squire relationship is based on fighting first and the finer arts second. (This doesn't mean we are all brain damaged stick jocks, we just enjoy fighting the most.)

Knights in the Outlands on an average are very picky about who they squire. The norm here is one knight one squire with the exception being knights who take more than one, and only one knight that we can think of has four squires. This is probably the reason squires appear to be treated with a greater respect here than in other kingdoms.

The other thing we were curious about was some of the comments we heard from Pennsic, of squires who were overheard complaining of being "forced" to stay in camp and work while their knights went off to fight. Is this the norm in other kingdoms or is this an isolated instance? Here the knights encourage that the squire fight as much as possible and we sometimes have the exact opposite—of knights taking care of the mundane so that the squires can fight.

We would also like to know how fighters become squired in other kingdoms. Here usually the fighter asks the knight and depending on the answer, is asked to swear an oath to their new knight. We had never heard of having to submit an illuminated scroll to a knight before being considered, as was stated in one of the earlier letters.

We're sure that wee could go on for pages on these few thoughts wee have already expressed, and ones wee wish to but that is for future issues.

You have not heard the end from—

—Wee Squires, Outlands  [12]

I dislike the practice of colored belts for squires, apprentices, and proteges because it's bad enough nobody can wear a white belt—if this keeps on, no one will be able to hold their pants up. I am pleased that this custom has not taken root in our kingdom, and although one does see red belts, nobody woofs if a non-fighter wears one. The practice of putting the sponsoring peers' arms on the end of the belt is one I particularly loathe, as it's more an advertisement for the peer (who hardly needs such recognition at this point) than an enhancement of the abilities of the squire/apprentice/protege. It doesn't impress me one whit that the fighter over there is squired to Duke So-and-so and is wearing a household surcoat; Duke So-and-so has so many squires parading around in those surcoats that I can't tell them apart and neither can the Order of Chivalry when it comes time to discuss one of them. The practice of wearing a red belt, squire's chain (silver chain) and squire's spurs (silver spurs) has to be the weirdest I've ever heard. I had heard tell of this custom but didn't really believe it until I saw one of them at a Heraldic Symposium. If you already have all the symbols of the order, why bother? What on earth is there to look forward to? You've got it all already! And what will the knights be able to talk about at your vigil if they can't give you that big first piece of advice ("Always throw your chain back over your shoulder before giving a lady with a low-cut bodice a hug. Ladies don't like having a cold chain dropped down the front of their dress!")

—Mistress Titiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, West

Does someone want to defend having the device on the end of the belt? I will in Issue #5, if no one else does. —AElflaed, Outlands

Thanks, Geoffrey. My relationship with Orlando was unique, most especially because Orlando has never insisted on the maintenance of a fighting regimen with his squires. He has encouraged (but not compelled) all to experience fighting (and encouraged his apprentice associate as well). I hold myself fortunate to have been his squire. In the meantime, Geoffrey, you could always commute. . . ..

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

The following was not written specifically for ThinkWell, but is an excerpt from Fundamentals of Oldcastle Sword and Shield (see review, page 22)

There are several kinds of squire-knight relationships. My squire theories are vastly influenced by the model of the noble House Haqqim. Duke Akbar's squires were never released. When I ask someone if they'd like to be my squire I tell them that I can release them, but they can never resign. The result is, since I've never annoyed a squire sufficiently for one of them to pack it in, I am surrounded by people who possess wide-ranging knowledge, astonishing talent, and a multitude of enviable skills which keep me and a couple score other people constantly engaged in the best parts version of the SCA.

What do I as a knight do for my squires? We're all in a dark cave. I have the only torch. I illuminate that which the squire should emulate and leave in darkness that which he should not. I personally have large areas where I know nothing and I try not to make believe that I do. I require nothing of my squires except the occasional audience. I present them with my opinions and ideas and they are free to accept them or not. By requiring nothing of them, I have gained more from my squires than I could possibly have ever imagined.

Sometimes a knight is alone in a large area and finds himself with twenty or thirty squires because he is the only available knight. These relationships tend to devolve to the point where the knight is more like the seneschal of a barony than a teacher.

Then there are knights who look upon squirehood as a form of indentured servitude. I'm not sure where this sort of hard knocks attitude comes from. Nor do I understand why anyone would wish to undergo it.

—Gyrth Oldcastle, Atlantia
(from "Late Night Loose Talk," chapter 13 of
Fundamentals of Oldcastle Sword and Shield)


Gwilym Moore de Montfort's comment [Issue #2] got me thinking; I was always told that only the fighters could judge whether a blow was good enough and that spectators didn't have a valid basis for opinion. Over the years I've learned that, in fact, experienced observers may not be able to make an OBJECTIVE decision (they aren't in the armor, after all) but they can make a pretty good SUBJECTIVE judgment. Usually this is based on things like the other fighter and the marshal's body language, facial expressions, and their own perceptions of what's going on in the lists.

A fighter who is not accepting blows, good blows firmly and accurately placed, becomes apparent not only to his opponent and maybe the marshal(s), but to the spectators as well. And the crowd is not merciful. I've seen tourneys where the "bad" fighter finally quit being "bad" when he realized how much popular opinion was turning against him; I've seen a deputation of Ladies of Rank march up to the king and tell him that he'd better DO SOMETHING about this OR ELSE! And I've seen the "good" fighter concede the match and retire gracefully and earn far more popularity and good will than they ever would have gained if they had fairly won a clean bout!

So it's not only among fighters or the Chivalry that such matters get noticed. The "bad" fighter usually disgraces him (or her) self among the populace as well; and often gets the treatment he deserves Socially as well as among the fighters.

—Bish, East

Once upon a time (or recently) there was to be a tournament in a kingdom far far away (or maybe near). A knight who came in second sometimes (or often) wasn't planning to enter. "I can't beat so&so" he said, meaning really that so&so wouldn't take his blows. Someone else (maybe me) said to him that if he didn't enter the tournament and if various others also weren't (for various better reasons), then it could leave it wide open for so&so to win fairly and honorably. Maybe, it was suggested, it would be better for the knight to enter, even if he came in second for a change (or as usual) because

  1. he might win, which would be great.
  2. if he lost to so&so in the final round and the fight was not clean, the winner would have "won" in front of many people who are less than impressed with rhino-kings.
  3. the knight couldn't "lose" in either case. Maybe he wouldn't become king, but he wouldn't lose anything really valuable (such as opportunity, or honor).
The general suggestion involved not avoiding the field if someone wasn't taking blows, but to get right out there and make him not take blows again! (Or maybe to allow him to take them after all.)

—AElflaed, Outlands


[Last issue I mentioned "children" as being an extremely ancient, period word and objected to people replacing it with "smalls." I'm pulling that out as its own topic, as I got comments and it doesn't quite fit in the "children" section. —aelflaED]

A fervent AMEN to your last paragraph on "smalls" and other goofy pseudo-period words.

—William the Lucky, West

Re "Feast-O-Crat": I would expect one of their "feasts" to feature (prominently) "Spaghetti-O's." You're right, it's a SCARY term.

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

The accepted definitions of words can vary from kingdom to kingdom. Back under "Scribal Backlog" I mentioned "scroll" and "promissory." There have been inter-kingdom problems with the words "fillet" and "coronet." I always favor using the dictionary first, before arguing among ourselves, but sometimes the dictionary definition gives people leeway to interpret or to limit their use. Please be aware that everyday SCA nouns ("peers," "court," "belts," "fealty," etc.) may not mean precisely the same in one kingdom as they do in another. Before you excitedly begin to attack the moral fiber of another culture, calibrate your terminology; compare definitions.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands


I'm not a peer, so maybe I can help clear this up for you. I'm not scared of peers because they're aloof (though certainly some are). There are many non-peers who are aloof, and I'm not scared of them either. But peers scare me! Because:

  1. They make judgments based on ‘facts' (sometimes outright accusations) which the candidate is never offered the chance to verify or defend him- or herself against. It's difficult to provide evidence to challenge accusations you never hear—and probably can't even imagine! That's scary!
  2. When souls honestly deserving of recognition are by-passed year after year, it becomes plain that something is wrong, but there's no avenue of appeal, no recourse, and even no notification they've been condemned! That's scary! You may try to bring a person to the attention of the peerage, but no response is required or expected.
  3. Peers are ABOVE THE LAW. There's never been a Court of Chivalry in An Tir to my knowledge, nor has anyone been stripped of a peerage during my 12 years in An Tir. Believe me, this isn't to say they've been above reproach, only that there IS no reproach. That's scary!
  4. I'm sure our peerages must have standards, but in An Tir these can't be discerned by looking at their membership, their conduct, who's been admitted, or who's been denied admission (unless we accept, as I'd hate to do, that it's done on a strictly who-you-know-and-how-well-you-do-'em basis, though perhaps the peerage would be surprised how often it appears so). Is it too much to ask that these mysterious standards be occasionally revealed (perhaps through some prophet who could later be martyred) to those who might aspire to meet them?
In An Tir, you'll find it hard to get anyone to say anything whatever about any peer, for reasons 1, 2, 3, and 4. Certainly the common folk are never moved to make complaint about their behavior except in (extreme) private. (Unless, like me, they're political kamikazes.) You're finding it hard to understand why we're struck by "Peer Fear." I'm finding it hard to understand why you're finding it hard to understand.

—Jocelyn Crokehorne, An Tir

[NOTE FROM AELFLAED before I defend myself to Jocelyn again: Jocelyn was seneschal of An Tir when I was steward, we've met, talked quite a bit by phone, exchanged personal stories by letter, etc., and I'm confident that she's only jumping on me this hard because she trusts me and isn't afraid of me. I hope so.

I think things may be different in An Tir than they are where I'm used to living. There are over a dozen non-peers from the Outlands reading this; does it seem extreme? (Now if none of them responds, I'll either believe they're afraid of me, or I'll hold it against them in peers' circles forever.)

The thing that does touch close to home is the "accusations" business. First I must really say that in my experience many people's objections to a candidate are worded more politely and vaguely than non-peers might imagine. While you might fear that people's fiber is being ripped apart and laid out in those circles, it's more likely they're saying (in Outlands circles, at any rate) "I think she's doing better, and I'll keep watching her," or "He doesn't seem to know or care about the difference between period and non-period styles [of music or graphics or whatever]" and a more specific comment like that is usually followed by something like, "And have you tried to teach him?" or "Can we figure out a way to get the information out there subtly?" Sometimes out of those discussions comes the taking of apprentices, or the giving of another round of workshops, or the writing of an article, or the formation of an entire periodical (like this).

I guess I got off of accusations. I'll try again. If I personally witnessed someone being a jerk, and I know him well enough to know that it wasn't a fluke of nature but that he really can be a jerk, and if I say so in a circle (although I would probably word it as "not as considerate as he could be"), it's not something about which a rebuttal or defense would do any good. Maybe An Tir's got a super-huge membership and non-travelling peers, but we don't. When I'm talking in detail about someone, it's someone I know. I probably know his dog's name and where he went to high school. If it's someone I don't know I won't say anything personal because there's nothing personal to say. I might say "I've never seen her be dishonorable" if I haven't, or "I've seen her helping at events outside her area" or whatever puny input I have. Not everything said in our circles is horribly profound, and as I mention in my chapter on peerage in Bright Ideas, if you hear a peers' circle laughing, don't think they're laughing at a non-peer. It's probably at some tension-relieving comment made, or a funny tongue-fumble. They're laughing at each other.

If something really bad is said about someone, there are usually differing opinions voiced. If something really bad is said and everyone else who knows the person agrees (which is rare) then it's not really a very viable candidate.

—AElflaed, Outlands


I like Amadea's view of the SCA as a place where people "do things." Just as that is in many ways an attractive environment for adults, so is it doubly a desirable one for children. And I loved the remark about AElflaed's kids wanting belts tied "so the ends hang down."

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

A Private Aside to Duke Gyrth and Duchess Melisande: So, in-laws are a pain? I'm supposed to know the doings of your (extended) household by telepathy, maybe? These kids, they never write, they never call….What's a parent to do? (End of obligatory Parental Whine.) Which segues neatly into the dreaded subject of children: O.K. I'm going to play a semi-devil's advocate position on this one. Part of what I will say is because I genuinely believe it to be true; part will be said because I enjoy watching people turn funny colors with steam coming out of their ears.

In general, I dislike children, especially small children. I don't have any, I don't plan on having any; because I do not live in an environment where children are a matter of frequent attention or concern, I do not think about children.

This means that when I autocrat an event, unless someone specifically asks me about or reminds me of the likelihood of there being a fair number of children in attendance, I don't plan for their existence! They do not exist in my world, except as an occasional nuisance or obstacle.  [13]

Although I don't always act like it (Heaven knows and my friends will gleefully confirm) I believe that I am an adult who belongs to an adult organization of like-minded researchers, scholars, re-enactors and enthusiasts. This is how I choose to view the SCA.

There are individual children in the SCA and elsewhere whom I have met and liked, babysat, played with or sang to or otherwise dealt with in a civilized manner. And I will continue to deal with children on an individual basis. If a child shows itself to be a civilized human by my admittedly warped standards, I will treat it as a civilized, adult human.

Just as many parents in the SCA are galled by the fact that their status as parents is so often ignored by the autocrats, so I find myself galled by the fact that so many people in the SCA expect you to share their obsessions and cater to them. This may sound like it is getting off the subject, but let me cite some examples:

  1. To me, Twelfth Night is one of the few non-fighting events of the year and ought to be kept as such, a Courtly event. Yet time and again, Crowned heads and fighter-types ask the autocrat to, or order the autocrat to, provide for fighting lists at the event.
  2. Vegetarians and the allergic of all persuasions; if such a person contacts me before the event and asks for some special dishes to be prepared so that they can partake of the on-board feast, I will happily try to accommodate them. But so often, these people come into my kitchen and scream at me—as if I am supposed to automatically assume or know by some arcane method that they will be attending, and should have prepared accordingly.  [14]
Now, I smoke. In the East we have some fairly strict rules about when, where and if one can smoke. I try to follow those rules as best as I can because I think they are sensible, responsible rules, even though they inconvenience me personally. According to East Kingdom Law, the autocrat is supposed to make provision for someplace for smokers to do their thing. I cannot recall an event in the last five years where such a thing has been done. The "smoking area" is always "someplace outside and as far away from us as possible." Try this sometime in the East in January in Italian Renaissance in tights!

If smokers tried to agitate at the Crown to enforce the Law as it is written regarding provision for smoking areas, we would almost certainly get far more aggravation than the matter is worth. (Or why God made thermal underwear and opaque tights.)

Yet parents, especially of small children, especially (it appears to me) parents of feral children, demand and expect that the autocrat provide for the care, feeding and management of their sticky little monsters, a matter which is (thank the deity of your choice) still only optional in law.

If I offend the parents of civilized children I apologize. But too often the people making the most noise about child care, child activities, fees for children at events, etc. are the people whose children I want to spit-roast and serve with a Bearnaise Sauce! They are too often what, in my opinion, are "Bad Parents," the people who don't want being a parent to interfere with their own fun, and want the event to provide a dumping ground where they can leave their brat all day and ignore it. [15]

I know that Gyrth and Melisande are good parents; I strongly suspect that AElflaed and Gunwaldt are, too, because I know them fairly well, even though I don't know the children. I suspect that all of the parents out there are good parents.

Before they start shredding me and other "insensitive" autocrats for not providing for their needs, maybe the "good" parents need to think about forming their own guild, organization, whatever, educating the "bad" parents, and generally working to give some of us "bad" autocrats a good reason for wanting to help.  [16]

I will grant that, in general, children are a good thing, and an asset for the future that we should encourage. If I am autocratting an event and someone comes to me with a plan for child care or education that is within the event's budget, staffable/enforceable within the bounds of the personnel available, and will keep the little darlings out of my hair and/or kitchen, Yeah, Wow, Groovy, Do it!

But I do not believe that you can honestly expect me to provide such accommodations without prompting; you have to make me aware of the need and present an attractive and workable system for dealing with the problem.

Well, now that I've got some of you ready to contact Vito and Vitello Tonnato in South Philly about re-arranging my kneecaps…

Yes, I am fully aware that my opinions do not reflect those of the management, or indeed, of damn' near anybody but myself. I do know that I am a crank. Nonetheless, I hold that, however outrageous, it is a valid opinion. I'm curious to know if there are any correspondents out there who are similarly disinclined to participate in the current fad of baby-worship?

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

By the time this appears in print, Bish will have gotten his blood pressure back down, as well as heavy smokers can do. He used to have really long hair in the late 60's, you know, and that type does tend to ramble nowadays.

People mention frequently the number of computer programmers the Society attracts, or wargamers, or whatever they're into targetting. What I've noticed, because I tend to talk to people about their childhoods when I get a chance, is that the group (at least among those who'll discuss their childhoods with me) is heavy on frustrated gifted children—people who wanted desperately to learn faster, to do something more fun than was offered to them to do in school or at home as children, and as soon as they caught glimpse of the Society they were in with both feet, buying out Dover books, Publisher's Central Bureau and every other cheap source of library construction.

Bish is not an exception to this. Baby-Bish used to read a lot of books and hang around with adults (if my memory is correct).

It's not unusual for people (even parents) to resent it when children get to have/be/do what they really wanted but were denied. I would have been thrilled beyond my current imaginings to have had the SCA available to me when I was in 7th or 8th grade (and probably before and after, but that age stands out as a frustrating period). When I see kids that age getting involved I'm happy for them in an envious way.

I realize this general topic is geared more toward toddlers than 12-year-olds, but please remember that when gifted children grow up, join the SCA and marry other gifted children, the genetic probability is that their kids will be bright. Try, if possible, to imagine that those kids are you. Try to give them the regard and latitude you would have liked to have had as a child. If you can't remember what it felt like to be a kid, or what kinds of thoughts you were thinking, ask around until you find someone who can.

And, to change the subject slightly, here, for the benefit of all involved, is a list of ideas for gifts and prizes for children, taken from my own experience and imagination, and not guaranteed to be legal or recommended in all areas of all kingdoms:

  • wooden or metal animals (sold as knick-knacks/decorations; file off sharp parts)
  • small wooden or metal dishes
  • ropes (finish the ends for handles, short enough for one child or longer, for two to turn)
  • hats, scarves, wreaths, wands with streamers, belts, old costume bits for dress-up, jewelry, wooden beads, bracelets, feathers
  • treasure boxes, baskets, pouches (small ones to wear on belts or larger ones to carry other toys in)
  • felt or cloth balls, beanbags
  • rattles
  • clay or wooden dolls in period costumes
Second-list (not as good for prizes, but often great gifts for families you know well enough)
  • books about period subjects
  • boffer swords and helmets (some parents would rather their kids didn't have them)
  • small musical instruments (tambourines, whistles, flutes, drums)

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands

At an outdoor event in June here, presiding over my merchants wares and watching people, I was interested in the way the children operated. Most of the boys were running around, partially garbed if at all, and had to be reminded constantly that you didn't hit someone with a stick unless you're both in armour. The girls (ages 5 to 10 or so), badgered the dance mistress until she woke the minstrels and those who wanted could dance. Sometime after the practice was over, the dance music again played, intended as background. Two or three of the little girls were standing in the middle of the field when they heard the music, and, without instruction or partners, started to dance all on their own. They kept it up for a few minutes. It struck me that dance was one of the few adult activities that our children are allowed to participate in, and how much they really WANT to play the game WITH us.

I've seen 5 and 6 year old girls at local needlework teas patiently struggle along with the rest of us to learn to do some new stitch.

—Nerissa Meraud de la Fontaine, West

I think one of the most wonderful aspects of our Society over the years has been that it provides opportunities for children to deal with adults and be treated on their merits (i.e. as equals) when and if they wish. This is something that is extremely valuable (especially for bright kids, which most of ours tend to be) and which the mundane society rarely if ever provides. But here, a child who is willing to act like an adult is allowed to do so—and can be rewarded as an adult on the same basis as an adult. We have several examples of children between 6 and 10 years of age who got Awards of Arms on exactly the same basis as an adult would: they worked and they earned them. We have even more examples between 10 and 15. At the same time, children are not forced to behave like adults all the time, which keeps some pressure off them.

In a related vein, I suggest that most of the adults have little idea what children are doing at events. Would you be surprised to learn that (like children in every age and culture) they play at being adults when adults are not around? Some years ago, a young lady (of 13 or so as I recall—at any rate young enough to play with the kids without being viewed by them as an adult, but old enough to feel comfortable talking philosophically with the adults on other occasions) gave us a few insights. She pointed out that typically at events the 6-12 year old kids went off into the brush next to the tourney site and did so. They held courts. They held knighting ceremonies. All without an adult anywhere within earshot, let along running things for them. And the parents and other adults had not a clue. [17]

There is something to be said for a Page School or Goslings Guild (though that name makes me wince personally) or other method for providing some instruction for children at events. But most of what they learn about both Society culture and medieval culture they are going to learn just from watching the adults around them. If all of the adults are dressed for the event (and especially if even some of the other kids are dressed for the event) the parents are going to get the same kind of pressure from their children for appropriate clothing that they get from the kids for the kind of outfits that other kids have at school—lots. On the other hand, if the adults as often as not show up in a sideless surcoat over a spandex top, the kids are not going to see why they should be in something "more period."

Actually, where children and the SCA are most likely to cause a problem is outside the SCA. One child at pre-school, when the children were asked what they had done over the weekend, announced cheerfully "My daddy got killed this weekend!" The teacher was waiting for his mother that evening with great concern, not least about the child's shocking attitude towards the family tragedy. Doubtless everyone reading this could guess that there was a tournament the previous weekend and so would find nothing horrifying in the announcement; to someone outside the SCA however….

—William the Lucky, West

The SCA is romantic. People thought it was great when Gunwaldt first carried my favor. When he won tournaments and we kissy-faced, or when he would tell the marshal he was not prepared because he had not saluted his lady, people said it was cute. When after several years we had a big-deal medieval wedding with a feast, it was well attended, and approved by all. When we had children it wasn't as cute, nor great, nor approved by all. Why are people practically thrown together and encouraged to have heady, romantic relationships in the SCA and then at the height of their expression of commitment treated like lepers who are ruining events by bringing those children ? I wouldn't even have those children if it weren't for the SCA. I don't feel this way every day, but once in a while it crops up—that disapproving "now you've gone too far" attitude. I would be surprised if I were the only parent ever to have felt this way.

One day last spring Kirby (who was four) saw Marty (two) trying hard to work a little tray puzzle at home. He said "Marty do you want me to show you an easy way to put this together?" "Yeah, Kirby," said Marty. Kirby said "Okay. You can be my squire," and then very patiently helped him put the puzzle together.

—AElflaed of Duckford, Outlands (Maybe that last paragraph should have gone under
"Knight/Squire Relationships" — modelling)

My own children are too young to write, and I wouldn't want to inflict the reading of this section on anyone else's, but I would be interested in reading the opinions of younger members, perhaps on the question of how the SCA is good and bad for them, or how they think it could be made better for children.


Duke Gyrth's comments got me to thinking. Those of us who practice an impermanentart—cooking, singing, other performance arts—do we feel less appreciated than those who can trot out their dress, their embroidery, their armor, their blown glass goblets, etc.? My "ART" is cooking—that's what I got leafed for, at any rate. Since then I've picked up embroidery and costuming. A new Scadian questioning "Who is this olde farte and why should I pay any attention to him?" can be shown a physical object—a cloak or a set of mail or some embroidered trim or a scroll. Grasping that roll of fat that has accreted about one's waistline and saying, "See this? That is Geoffrey's cooking" is both inelegant and uninstructive. In a way, it is even worse for Pelicans. Show me good government of ten years ago; or a well-run office of five years ago. Hell, show me the files you got from your predecessor! What happened to the storage facility?!? Oh.

So much of our artistic endeavors and virtually all of our political/governmental activities fade like the dew the next morning. That impermanence is why (I think) we have awards and peerages and titles. At least some relic of our past accomplishments can be carried on.

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East

In what ways has the SCA affected your mundane life
for the better?
for the worse?

Better: It has given me experience in running a corporation, as one of the directors. This was of great use later in my job when I was a department manager. Many of the problems are similar. For instance, the process of getting an idea introduced and accepted or rejected.

Worse: The Society is seductive. It is easy to spend more time on it ("following your bliss," as Joseph Campbell would put it) than on work. Or even to start working on Society-related things at work. Depending on your job, that may be ok, it may be frowned on, or it may be illegal. Even if the two activities are clearly separated, I know I would be getting ahead faster at work if I put more energy and time into it. But maybe following one's bliss is not such a bad way to spend one's time.

I got sued as a director. That was definitely no fun.

—Eowyn Amberdrake, Caid

The SCA has given me the unique opportunity to test my own mettle like nothing else ever has. It's shown me who I am. I loved the ‘Rushlight' anecdote, "Chivalry, Courtesy, and Honor." The SCA has given me the opportunity to discover which of these I possess and in what quantities. I'm a person frequently bewildered by real life, and I feel certain I'd never have found my measure without the SCA as a goad. It's taught me to fight for what I believe in. The emotional support of the extended family has been priceless, and sometimes it's all that's stood between me and the Pit of Eternal Despair. The financial and social sacrifices have been repaid a hundred-fold.

—Jocelyn Crokehorne, An Tir

This falls under the category of "plain as the nose on your face"; therefore, of course I left it out last time: In 1976, wanting to impress a certain young lady, I agreed to file the paperwork for a new group in Athens, GA. Well, it must have worked. Some 15 years later, we're still together, Bryn Madoc's still here, and now perhaps my Lady, Mistress Margala of Dovedale, will be willing to overlook the fact that this didn't make my list in ThinkWell #3.

—AEdward of Glastonburh, Meridies

I was a recluse during my high school years, and the SCA gave me a place to learn how to interact with human beings instead of books. I learned how to make light conversation and get along with people. I got self-confidence in my own abilities. I learned sewing, embroidery, pattern-drafting, calligraphy, heraldry, and an absolutely incredible amount of history by sheer osmosis (I always hated history in school). I acquired friends from all over the state and some outside the country. I got up the courage to go to strange places and meet strangers. I learned how to talk to the Press. I got a job because an SCA friend heard of an opening and suggested that I apply. Within shouting distance of my desk, even as I sit here writing this, are nine SCA people (including William the Lucky) so I never lack of a topic of discussion around the coffee machine in the mornings.

The down side: My parents think the SCA is the biggest waste of time and money anybody on the planet could ever be stupid enough to bother with…I have to say, however, that the good really outweighs the bad in my case.

—Mistress Titiana Nikolaevna Tumanova, West

I know and can do a heck of a lot more than when I started. I could even sew mundane clothing if I didn't have this backlog of commissioned houppelandes…

I can cook VERY weird foods in quantities even I find difficult to believe.

I know an awful lot of really fascinating people, some of whom I could have lived without, but isn't that the way it always is?

I've been an officer of and on the Board of "an international non-profit educational organization" which looks really impressive on a resume!

—Bishop Geoffrey d'Ayr, East



The Lists of Royalty of more than one kingdom and the "triple peers" will return next month. We do have some additions already, and could use more, please. Éowyn reports that there are no "triples" in Caid. Are there other kingdoms of which the answer is "none"? William the Lucky suggests that we gather the order the three peerages were received. Please send me that on any you know.


Who has been elevated to two peerages at the same time?

In This

FROM THE EDITOR, on loftiness, peerage, and philosophy

INTRODUCTION TO CAID (by Eowyn Amberdrake)


Eowyn Amberdrake (bio)

"Peerage vs. The Peerage Orders"



Tatiana Nikolaevna Tumanova (bio)

"The Dream"













In what ways has the SCA affected your mundane life?

Two Peerages at the same time?


EDITORIAL NOTE on double titles

Fundamentals of Oldcastle Sword and Shield

Copyright © Sandra Dodd 1991, 2006

and missives: