It’s Everyone’s Job

Originally published June 16, 2020.

Remember, folks: it’s not just the Peers of the realm who need to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the SCA. We need all of you. We cannot do it alone.

And if we’re being honest, YOU told US to do it with your own actions already.

We’re all in this together. This fight isn’t won by rank.

It’s all our job to lift people up.

Be Kind and Carry On

Originally published on October 1, 2018.

The SCA has just released two new gender neutral titles for AOA level folks: Noble (as in Noble Alex) and Armiger (as in Chris, Armiger). Both mean the same thing — that the person has received an AOA level award. Armiger is even a period term, barely, and it was brought up that even though the word itself is not gendered, the vast majority of holders of the title were men, because men (mostly, in western europe, and that’s still a broad brush) carried the weapons, thus they were the ones chosen to be armigers, so it’s not “really” gender neutral (except of course it is, so)…

Anyway, this is what I said, and I think it can be applicable to other things. Mostly in the end it boils down to “be kind and call people what they want to be called.”

The SCA is about the middle ages, but it exists in the modern day. We cannot simply set aside modern attitudes about gender and identification; we must embrace them and choose paths that allow the SCA to welcome everyone, not just people of “traditional” gender concepts. Diversity is life; monoculture is death, and I’m not just talking conceptually — the SCA needs to appeal to people of all stripes, colors and patterns in order to survive.

That means, in part, recognizing that there is a subset of people who do not feel comfortable with either Lord or Lady, and therefore, deserve our attention and care in building a title/awards structure that they fit into just as much as anyone else.

The vast majority of baseball players are male. They have been for over a century. Does that mean that baseball player doesn’t apply to females? Because if you think so, Little League would like a serious world with you.

The same goes for my commuter train — the vast majority seem to identify as male, but there are those who identify as female — should “conductor” not apply to them?

I’m glad the SCA is as forward thinking on this as it is. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Kingdom A&S and Crown Tournament Boasts

Crown Tournament is always a special time in a reign.  Between Coronation and Crown, the only royalty in the Kingdom are the King and Queen.  The kingdom belongs to Them and Them alone.

The Kingdom A&S Competition and Crown Tournament of William and Isolde was a fun one, with many standout moments for me both personally, and from the perspective of being on Staff.   I really slipped into a role of Court Management at this event, in addition to having active roles in both the running of the A&S Competition and being the co-Autocrat of the event, specifically for the Sunday Crown Tournament.

Continue reading “Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Kingdom A&S and Crown Tournament Boasts”

Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – The Pelican Scroll for Roana Aldinoch

What do I say about my good friend Roana?   What can I say that has not been said?

I can say this: she has consistently overcome adversity and heartbreak to succeed.   She has consistently been positive and optimistic and evenhanded and fair.  She is, to coin a phrase, a flower of MidRealm peerage.  When I think about the words that I’m saying, or the things that I am doing, I ask myself what Roana would think.  And I hope that she would think that I was worthy.  I am lucky to call her mentor and friend.

Continue reading “Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – The Pelican Scroll for Roana Aldinoch”

Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Royal Augmentation for Sorcha inghean ui Dhonnchaidh

It’s been two weeks since I last posted, and I had no idea!  If only I could find a way to write poetry and work for royalty for a living!

We were properly into court now, and after a while, we came to a Royal Augmentation for my friend Sorcha.  Funny thing about Sorcha is that even though she’s got a very irish name, she’s got a very muslim arabic persona!  Sorcha’s well known for her support of dancing and haflas, and I remember spending a very pleasant few hours in the Hafla tent at 50 Year.    Continue reading “Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Royal Augmentation for Sorcha inghean ui Dhonnchaidh”

Pennsic 46 Post 2 of 3

Originally published on August 15, 2017.

This one is important to me. Please read it. And if someone could please tag Valharic for me, I would appreciate it.

5. Heralding. I only did a little bit of heralding, but it was full of memorable moments. A Court Barony for Gavin at Moose Lodge. Valharic’s pelican was very moving – he is beloved by many.

And then came the Knighting of Corvus Aurelius Corvinus. This was not on my list originally, and I pulled the ceremony together less than 24 hours before his elevation. At one point, Duchess Rebecca came to me and asked me to help find a calligrapher for the scroll, which had already been beautifully illuminated. My immediate thought was Estelle, whom I sought out, and she agreed to do the scroll. I then put it out of my mind, confident in her Supreme ability and service.

Monday afternoon came and afternoon Court approached. I asked the Signet to see the scroll so that I could read the gloss.

there is no gloss.

Oh, I said. Can I look at the scroll to see what it says?

you can look at the scroll, but we don’t know what it says.

What?

Estelle, friend of my heart, Laurel of the Middle Kingdom and an extraordinary scribe… Had calligraphied the scroll in Latin.

I was severely nonplussed. Latin? But that’s not English! Latin? LATIN?

Be not afraid, gentle readers. I shook my head several times to clear it, remembered my training, and got to work.

Mostly, Latin is pronounced like it’s spelled. Thankfully, Estelle had used a very bold, clear font and I could read it. I mouthed the words as I went, until I got to… VII.

How do you pronounce Roman Numerals???

You use Google translate. Of course.

One more moment of this tale to relate, my friends. A moment that will stay with me the rest of my life. A moment that I thought would be the absolute highlight of my war.

Every knight swears fealty. Corvus had chosen to be a knight, not a Master. King William asked if he was ready to swear his oath.

Most vigilantes these days have time to memorize their paths. But Crow had not. As Herald, my job was to help prompt him. I knelt beside him, quietly reading the words of the oath for him to repeat.

I hear swear fealty and do homage
I here swear fealty and do homage, he repeated.

To the Crown of the middle kingdom.
To the Crown of the middle kingdom. But this time, two other Knights repeated the oath with him.

To ever be a good knight and true.
To ever be a good knight and true, a half dozen of the Knights spoke.

Reverent and generous.
Reverent and generous, most of them said.

Shield of the weak.
Shield of the weak, Crow swore, and every knight in under the tent swore with him.

I doubt anyone was paying attention to me at that moment right there. It wasn’t my show, it wasn’t my elevation, and I am a loyal servant of the Crown, clerk and Herald.

But I cannot speak falsely – at that moment, I felt like a knight. I was nearly overcome. I wept. But I forged forward, and the oath was finished. I stood and was able to turn around and compose myself, to watch Corvus dubbed, and then take the buffet. I felt chills about my whole body. I’m feeling them now.

I read the scroll in Latin without stumbling. I suspended the court.

And Corvus was now Sir Corvus.

I was honored to work on Ragnvaldr & Arabella’s staff when Corvus was one of Ragnvaldr’s Heavy Champions, and I’m very very proud of him.

The Elevation of Lisabetta von Atzinger

As the Awards Secretary to Their Majesties William and Isolde, I have more duties than just to validate award recommendations and work with the Kingdom Signet to have them completed.  I also help to coordinate courts and one new duty that has grown out of that is that I have begun assisting several new vigilants to various peerages with their elevation ceremonies.  That can be anything from providing the peerage ceremony template, to customizing the template to writing a custom boast for entrance and a custom scroll text.

When Lisabetta von Atzinger was placed on vigil, she reached out to me for the ceremony template, and over the course of conversation, we decided that I’d provide a custom ceremony and scroll text.  The text is below.

The format is called a terza rima, and it’s the form Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in.  More information can be found here, but it reads like a kind of a twisted elizabethan sonnet.

Instead of a retelling of Lisabetta’s persona story or deeds of heroism, I went in a different direction; this is a poetic re-stating of the Admonitions of the Masters of Defence.  It is something that I hope she can look to when the way around is dark, or wounded, or lost, to help her find her way forward.

The Elevation of Lisabetta von Atzinger

Surrender now to honor, all your life:
Let it guide you to what you hold dear,
For it will help to keep you from all strife.

Virtue is the chain that brings you cheer,
constraint that frees you from perceptions base:
A rudder that will help you certain steer.

Mindfulness will help you move with grace,
And keep your weapon fairly sheathed at peace:
For steps in anger cannot be retraced.

The dragon’s love for you will never cease.
A warmth about your heart for all your days,
And you must of that love always increase.

May truth upon your banner be your blaze;
Your word has always been your strongest bond.
Let tales of honesty be your best praise.

Before your foes your armor you must don,
The greatest duty of your station new:
Do not about you let a sword be drawn.

Exclusivity you should eschew:
Share all you know and have with those who need.
The more you offer, more will you accrue.
Like Atlas, stand athwart the earth, and bleed!
A titan for the just and for the right,
On behalf of those, you ever intercede.

Upon the list-field shall you bring your might:
With skill and artistry you wield your blade,
And ever please the Dragon in her sight.

Let not the sweeter virtues you evade.
With power on the field, yet off with grace,
And kindness unto all then be arrayed.

Your homeland is a fair beloved place,
So always be for King and Dragon land,
And love for all the people you embrace.

These admonitions keep you close to hand,
A Master of Defence before Us stands.

 

(c) 2017 Drew Nicholson

The Ceremony for Sir Ulrich

In addition to writing the Boast and Scroll for Sir Ulrich’s, he also asked me to organize and script out his ceremony.  In the MidRealm, the standard Peerage ceremony has someone of the peerage to be awarded to beg the boon, and then speakers, one from each of the other peerages, and sometimes a speaker from the populace.

So a standard knighting would go thusly:

  • A knight begs the boon, usually for their squire.
  • The Order of Chivalry is called up and affirms the decision to elevate the candidate.
  • A Laurel speaks for the candidate’s art or science, a Pelican speaks for the candidate’s service, a Master of Defence speaks for the candidate’s courage, a Royal Peer speaks for the candidate’s nobility, and sometimes a member of the populace speaks for the candidate as well.
  • The knight is presented with a belt, chain, spurs and sword
  • The knight swears their oath of fealty
  • The knight is dubbed and buffeted.

In this case, however, Ulrich wanted something a little bit different.  Instead of having five speakers, he had seven — one for each of the Knightly Virtues.  This spoke more to the feelings he wanted to evoke.    Instead of having the Order affirm his elevation and then have the speakers, he wanted the speakers to present first, and the Order to affirm afterwards.  This had two beneficial effects: first, it makes the speakers’ job more important — for perhaps if the Chivalry doesn’t like what they hear, they will change their mind!  (They don’t.)  But also, it cuts at least in half the amount of time the Order has to kneel.  Another change made was that Ulrich was permitted to turn around and face away from Their Majesties, so that he could see the speakers as they said their words for him.  And lastly, instead of being presented with spurs, Ulrich was given Arm Rings of Gold as a token of his new station, for as a good Danish lord, Arm Rings were a far greater indicator of high estate and nobility.

Most people in the SCA never achieve peerage, and most of those who do never achieve more than one peerage.  I think it’s important to encourage vigilants to seek out and pursue the elevation ceremony they want, even if it means that it runs longer than the standard ceremony.  It’s their special time.  The audience will understand.

Here is the full text of the Ceremony for Sir Ulrich.

The Lineage of Ragnvaldr — A Process

So I did this poem for my friend. He is Ragnvaldr Jonnson, and He is the current King of the MidRealm, with His Queen, Arabella.

I first met Ragnvaldr during Their first reign, in the spring of 1999. It was at a melee event called Baron Wars, near Toledo, Ohio. He was King, and I was the Premiere of the Company of the Bronze Ring, a new White-Scarf equivalent MidRealm order for Rapier combat. I got to know Him slightly over the next several months, but we parted as friendly acquaintances.

The next time I encountered Ragnvaldr was when He and Arabella chose me to be Their Rapier Champion for Their second reign, in the winter of 2001-2002. I was welcomed into the “family” that any reign has the capacity to be; held equal in position and responsibility as the King’s and Queen’s Champions. I worked my butt off, driving all over the MidRealm (which in those days included the Northshield) providing Them with all the service I could muster. One lasting memory is of Ragnvaldr and I, late at night in the dark basement of His house, making me a pole-arm to use the in the morning at the event Clancy Day. Another memory I have is of one of Arabella’s Queen’s Guard, Oscad, cutting off his luxurious long hair and giving it to Her.

For that reign, I wrote The Tales of Ragnvaldr, an attempt at writing the tale of His victory in the style of the Canterbury Tales. It was a glorious reign.

But for Ragnvaldr & Arabella’s third reign, I wanted to try to do something really special. Ragnvaldr & Arabella are some of the least boastful people I know. They are always happy to praise others, rarely asking or expecting praise for Themselves. But to me, They deserved praise beyond praise. Twice They had reigned, as some of the most beloved Royalty of the MidRealm, and I wanted to do something that was worthy of Them.

So the Lineage of Ragnvaldr really started then. After the tournament was done, I watched the fights over and over again, thinking that I could write something in style of a Boast, of His overwhelming victory on the lists. But that seemed too petty for such an august occasion (although I am going to write a song from the viewpoints of each of them, and the refrain will be “he hit me, and I died”) so I started thinking about how I didn’t really know much about His early time in the SCA, or Arabella’s, for that matter. I knew that Ragnvaldr had been squired to Forgan, but when I looked at the Lineage Document that traces the lineage of each Knight through his or her Knight back to the beginning of the Kingdom, I saw that Forgan had never been a squire.

When I enquired, Ragnvaldr told me that He thought that Forgan had been mostly taught by Sir Garraghan, who had been one of the Northwoods Knights of the time. I reached out to my good friend Kith von Atzinger, who put me in touch with Sir Garraghan, and he and I spent several hours talking about Forgan, Sir Garraghan himself, his Knight, Sir Elestron, and Elestron’s Knight, Duke Dagan. When I realized that I could (with a little fudging) trace Ragnvaldr’s lineage back to Dagan, I knew I had my framework. Besides, never let the truth get int he way of a good story, right?

So I started the process of turning my discussions with Sir Garraghan into poetry. I quickly realized that I needed more information about Forgan, Ragnvaldr and Arabella, and I turned to Her for that. Over the course of about 90 minutes at a lovely event called St. Cecelia in the Tower, we conversed, and I got most of the rest of the information I needed. Finally, about four days before Coronation, I began writing.

The original version of The Lineage of Ragnvaldr is about a page and a half long, and was completed the Thursday before Coronation. It’s all prose, and it’s completely overloaded with kennings, and it had no Norse Voice at all. I needed help, but I wanted to talk to someone who had no knowledge of Ragnvaldr or Arabella at all. I needed a bard of experience, someone who understood the Norse Voice, who I knew would immediately dedicate themselves to helping me. I knew exactly who to turn to. Aneleda Falconbridge, Court Baroness of the Kingdom of the East.

Here’s the first verse from the original:

Mighty are the MidRealm Ring-Breakers

Battle-children, Dragon-friends, Shield-gnawers, Stout linden trees, wide spread

Standing tall in elf-glory, or feather’s fall, Through Thor’s laughter, and Northern kiss.

They know not bed-shame, nor straw death,

but find the Rainbow Bridge by spear-din and sword-sleep.

Aneleda and I had met briefly at Pennsic, but it was when she came to Known World Cooks and Bards that I realized what our friendship could be. And immediately, she did not fail to help me. She helped me take it down a notch so the kennings weren’t so overwhelming. She helped me rephrase things. And I figured out that I was being too verbose, and so embarked on re-writing the entire piece in traditional Skaldic verse. So now the first verse read thusly:

Battle-born / Gold Ring-Breakers

Mighty MidRealm / Dragon-daring

standing tall / Through fierce Thor-strikes

Know not bed-shame / nor straw death,

in sword-sleep / aimed at Asgard.

But that still wasn’t going to work. I love traditional norse verse as much as the next guy — probably more so — but I wanted to inspire the people of the MidRealm, and that meant I needed to be able to lift them up, higher and higher. The piece needed to build and build. To me, that required prose. I lamented to Aneleda, “this isn’t going to work. I don’t know how to mix them.”

And, of course, she came through for me again. She showed me how to combine the verse and prose, which even has legitimate period precedent, into what may be the best thing I have ever done.

As a bard, I am consumed by process. What makes a piece be inspiring? What elevates emotions and how to I ensure that I can do it again and again? Why does a band release one song that becomes a top-ten hit, and then the next song — from the same album, written in the same time period — flop? These are some of the questions that I consider over and over again. I don’t know if I have any answers. I do know that this piece, when performed at Coronation, worked, and worked very well. At least, that’s what I’ve been told, since I have no actual memory of the telling.

The original version of The Lineage of Ragnvaldr can be found here.

The first re-write of the Lineage of Ragnvaldr can be found here.

The final version of the Lineage of Ragnvaldr can be found here.

And as a special treat, I have also created an annotated version of the Lineage of Ragnvaldr, here.

I hope you enjoy them.