Laurel Scroll

My good friend, who goes by Edyth Miller in the SCA, was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel in early September. She asked me if I would make the award scroll for her. Yes, of course. She was to be entered into the order 2 weeks later, so that was my timeline.
The first thing to do was order parchment. Normally I would go to Pergamena to purchase a full skin but that would have been a custom order and taken too long. After some poking around on Amazon with little luck I found David Bianco on Etsy. The reviews were positive, the price was right, and he could ship quickly. I received my parchment 3 days later with plenty of time to write the scroll text.

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I ordered 2 sheets just in case. He tossed in a few scraps to practice on as well.

I was not idle in the days awaiting my shipment. Edyth asked for a style of an early 15th century charter or grant. This meant fewer frills and decoration than a typical SCA award scroll. Before I decided on what kind of lettering to use, I had to figure out what it should say. Edyth is a tailor so I started there.
British History Online catalogs all manner of documents. I was looking a a bunch from the 15th century, where I found a handful grants, mandates, and so forth. The most useful information came from a book on English Guilds. English Gilds: The Original Ordinances of More Than 100 Early English Gilds. It contains a wealth of information including a chapter all about tailors. The tailor charter and oath (translated from Middle English) as well as some official-sounding introductions and declarations from the British History documents and the traditional SCA Laurel ceremony combined to form appropriately late medieval award text. I ran it by Edyth who made just a couple minor changes. Once I had their Majesties approval it was time to figure out just how I wanted to get these words on the page.

By Letters Patent, the King, His Queen, Their heirs and successors, so far as They have power, enable a Master of the Order of the Laurel in the Kingdom of the Middle to establish, maintain and increase their craft; to choose and train apprentices; to wear the badge of the order, a laurel wreath; and to attend meetings and feasts as befitting their station. To all true and faithful subjects to whom these presents shall come, know that We, Vukasin, Queen and Patroness of the Arts and Sciences, and Cellach, King by Right of Arms, in consideration of the skills, excellence, and expertise in the Research of Late Medieval Garments and the Craft of Tailoring, as well as the spirited generosity with which she has shared her craft with our Society, do create and advance Edyth Miller to the title and degree of Master and a Companion of Our most noble Order of the Laurel; to be good and true in her office as belongs to her, according to this ordinance that is made by the Crown, to teach all such skills pertaining to the craft of tailors that come to her mind, to give good attendance and counsel, and not for love, favor, friendship, nor hatred or any other malice, be fairer more to one than to another for as long as she holds the office. In witness whereof, we have created the aforesaid Patent, considering Edyth Miller to be in all places of honor numbered a Peer of our Realm, with all rights, privileges, insignia, precedence, and responsibilities thereto appertaining, to be entered this 23rd day of September, Anno Societatis LII, in our Barony of White Waters in testimony whereof We have set Our hand and seal.

So, what did the handwriting look like at that time? Well, it’s an official document so it had to cleaner and more legible than a personal missive. It is a patent from the Crown so it should look a little more decorative an elegant than other, run-of-the-mill government documents. Medieval Writing is full of information all about paleography; suggested page layouts, character styles, and decoration examples including papal bulls, letters patent, charters, and indentured contracts. This page also has some wonderful examples of the period along with descriptions. My primary inspiration for the lettering was an early 15th century English chancery hand. It has two different styles of s, two different styles of r, and dots over the y. I figured it was a good balance between elegant and official.
I went back to my favorite place for medieval fonts, Pia Frauss, and grabbed Et Boemie Rex, which I felt was a solid starting place. I then made some notes to myself for modifying the typeface. Modify the d smaller loop, b k l x more closed loops, r at end of word different, fall s like f , end of word s styled loop s kind of like a small 6, v like u, tall ascender on beginning of w (could add something similar on v), straight descender on p and y with dot over y. It was time to paste my copy into Illustrator.

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Unmodified text.
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Characters I swapped or altered from the base typeface.
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After adjusting type size, kerning, leading, and adding flourishes to the headline.

Once I was happy with the look of the type I printed it out full size on a sheet of copy paper and taped it to my light box. I taped my 11″x14″ parchment on top and used the print out as a guide for the calligraphy. I used a dip pen and oak galls ink. Some characters were modified on the fly. I cropped short the descender on each y and g, pulled down the end of an n if it landed at the end of a word, connected some flourishes and made sure others didn’t run into each other. This all in an effort to pull the design back to the source material and give it a personal touch. I left room at the bottom for signatures and a wax seal. She wanted the seal affixed to the face of the document so that is where we put it.

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Progress shot. The scroll is larger than my light box, so I could write about 2/3 of the lines, then move the whole thing over to finish.
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Finished calligraphy. I cut an inch off the bottom then handed off to the Kingdom Signet.
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Award as presented to Edyth at her ceremony. Or you could say, signed, sealed, and delivered.

I was thankful I did not smear, smudge, or spill any ink. I was pleased with the end result and I think it looks like a believable medieval patent. My friend now has, along with a new official title, a custom piece of artwork to hang on her wall.

 

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Little Red Milk-Painted Bench

Last fall my dad and I made a 15th century Gothic style bench out of walnut. It has been a welcome addition to my medieval encampment and a vast improvement over my 3 1/2 legged Cabela’s folding camp chair. While the walnut seat works perfectly well for me, I was lacking furniture for guests, so I went to the hardware store and purchased a board to fix that.

Bench Materials:

  • 1×10, 8 ft. long (I used “premium” pine from Lowe’s)
  • 3/8 maple dowel, 1 ft.
  • 8 wood screws, at least 1 in.
  • Poster board or paper for patterns

Tools:

  • Handsaw or tablesaw
  • Jigsaw or bandsaw
  • Chisel
  • Rasps and files
  • Sandpaper of various grits
  • Craft saw
  • Wood glue
  • Pencil

Paint Materials:

  • Skim (Fat Free) Milk, 4 cups
  • Vinegar, 1/2 cup
  • Hydrated Lime, 28g
  • Pigment, 50g
  • Water
  • Wax finish (I used Roman Beeswax Polish)

Tools:

  • Bowl for milk & vinegar
  • Separate small containers for lime mix and pigment mix
  • Container (preferably plastic with lid) to hold final paint mixture
  • Colander
  • Cheesecloth
  • Something to stir with
  • Paint brush
  • Soft cloth to apply wax finish

The first thing I did was draw my patterns. The pieces couldn’t be more than 9 1/4″ wide so I designed with that in mind. I had enough board to get a 30″ long bench out of it so that’s what I did.

1 patterns
The designs were drawn freehand onto poster board, modeled from 14th and 15th century examples similar to my existing bench.

Once I was happy with the pattern I traced them onto the 1×10 and marked where the top would go as well. It didn’t need a pattern because it’s just a rectangle.

2 tracing pattern
Traced onto the wood and ready to cut out.

10 minutes with a jigsaw took me from an 8 foot piece of lumber to elements of a medieval bench.

3 rough cut
Rough cut top (seat), rails, and legs.

It was all hand tools from this point forward. A chisel squared out the leg and rail slots. I used a wood rasp and files to get to the pencil lines. 100, 150, and 400 grit sandpaper for clean up and rounding sharp edges.

4 pine bench may 17
Stacked it all together to make sure everything looked like I wanted it.

To affix the rails to the seat I used 8 screws, positioned near slots. The rails were stood up on the underside of the seat and lines were traced where they would be. I used these lines to mark where I wanted the screw holes. Once the smaller holes were drilled I flipped the seat over and drilled 3/8″ diameter holes half way into the seat for the maple dowels. The pieces are glued, screwed, and clamped until dry.

5 screwed together
The seat and rails are now all one piece.
6 filler dowels
Dowels are cut a little long, glued and pushed into place, then sawed off flush and sanded smooth. If done well, the holes should all but disappear.
7 woodworking done
The whole bench got a once-over with 400 grit sandpaper (or even fine steel wool if you prefer) to prepare for paint.
8 with walnut buddy
Side by side with the previous walnut bench. The new bench is slightly shorter, narrower, and longer than the old one. Due to the wood being 3/4″ thick instead of a true inch, I opted for a more conservative cutout on the legs.

At this point you have a complete bench you could finish in a number of ways: stain, shellac, linseed or tung oil, or paint. I chose a traditional milk paint for a few reasons. First, I have never worked with milk paint before so that had me curious. Secondly, an application that could have existed in the middle ages and provides a color that could have been achieved back then was appealing. And lastly, because medieval people were known to decorate furniture with paint. Fairly often. With bold, bright colors.

The milk paint ingredients and instructions are from Earth Pigments. I quartered the recipe but otherwise followed the directions on their webpage. It was a very enjoyable process as it felt half like a science project and the other half like a fine art project. The first step was to mix up the milk and vinegar and let it sit overnight.

9 curds and whey
A bowl of milk after separating into curds and whey. It didn’t smell bad like I thought it might.

The lime was mixed with water into a paste and the pigment was mixed into a different container with just enough water to remove the grit. I am using red iron oxide for my color but I encourage you to choose one that catches your eye or suits your project best. Once the three separate mixtures were ready it all came together quickly.

  • Drain the curds and rinse with water
  • Transfer the drained curds into the paint bucket
  • Mix in lime paste and stir until uniform
  • Drain again if necessary (I thought there was way too much water in my paint so I drained a lot of it out. Looking back, I think it would have been okay to be rather thin.)
  • Mix in pigment
  • Congratulations, you have paint!

Milk paint, like milk, is perishable, so it is recommended you use it immediately. So I did. And WOW, was I surprised by the results. Everything I had read suggested that the first coat would be unsightly, uneven, and washed out. That was definitely not what I experienced. The first coat went on fire engine red and promptly dried to a pleasant brick color.

10 first coat
My very first coat of red milk paint. It went on BOLD. It dried translucent enough to see the grain still.

As impressed as I was, things only improved when I sanded down the first coat. I ended up with a gorgeous, uniformly matte, rusty red finish. I loved it. One coat and that would have been enough for me. But I had paint left in the bucket, and I knew that this bench would not be ready for outdoor use in this state, so I hit it with another coat of paint and sanded it again with the 400 grit paper.

11 first sanding
After sanding. This photo doesn’t show how neat this looks. It came out so even and bright.

Unlike being able to work linseed oil into the grain to finish and protect unpainted projects, I needed a protective finish that suited the natural milk paint. I picked Roman Beeswax Polish because it was suggested and available on the Earth Pigments site and I had heard positive things about beeswax finishes before. Once again, after just one coat the results were amazing.

12 first wax
After rubbing in and buffing off the beeswax polish. It darkened and added a soft glow to the bench.

Like the painting however, I knew I needed this to be durable for rough use outdoors in a medieval camp so I put on a second coat and buffed that smooth. The final product is something I am proud of and I believe would compliment any lord or lady in their encampment, on the field, or in their home.

13 finished top
Finished top (seat). Totally even color throughout.
14 finished bench
Completed bench. I’m so happy with my milk paint experience. It turned out a lovely color. Final dimensions: 30″ x 18″ x 9.25″

I consider this a basic woodworking project. With a few tools and a trained eye, most crafty people could handle this bench. It was enjoyable and entertaining for me from patterning, through woodworking, and into mixing and applying the paint. It took me about a week and a half of casual weekend and after work hours. I hope this entry is interesting and gives you ideas of your own.

Trestle Table Redesign

My original plans for a break-down medieval trestle table were made from 2x4s and pegged together. After some consideration and consultation with my father, who has worked with wood far longer than I have, I decided to switch to 1x3s and slotted joinery.

Trestle_web

As you can see in the illustration, the overall effect is lighter and airy. Other changes of note were trimming the depth of the table top from 34″ to 30″ by buying a prefabricated 30″x60″ board, adding quatrefoil cutouts to the design, and straightening the front leg to be perpendicular to the ground.

I have priced cherry wood for the trestle lumber and should purchase the required boards I need in the upcoming weeks.

 

Irons in the Fire

As I add the finishing touches on a new medieval bench (you’ll get a post about that soon enough) I wondered how many projects I skipped ahead in line to sneak this little one in. I’ve kept hand-written or typed up lists of current projects over the years but  never with much detail; a note here about what color fabric or a sketch there to help me visualize the final product. Today I compiled a master list of all the medieval projects I have planned. This is not a dream list for future projects, for all of them have already been started in some manner. For the majority, it’s gathering raw materials and a drawing or pattern has been created. For others, I have almost everything done but final assembly. I won’t show you the chaos that is the spreadsheet, but here’s a list of projects on my to-do list:

  • Splinted vambraces
  • Cervelliere
  • Great Helm
  • Gamboised cuisses
  • Gambeson
  • Spring Stainless Coat of Plates
  • Heraldic Surcoat – Personal Arms
  • Heraldic Surcoat – Sternfeld and/or Constellation Arms
  • Crest & Mantle for Great Helm
  • Three white linen undertunics
  • Green Linen Tunic
  • Green wool cote for Cut & Thrust – Herjolfness #63
  • Blue wool hood for Cut & Thrust
  • Romance of Alexander half sleeve cote w/ tippets
  • Romance of Alexander cotehardie
  • Romance Hood
  • Red wood half sleeve cote w/ tippets
  • Slate blue wool cotehardie
  • Square hood using Edyth’s pattern
  • Linen braies and chausses for James Edgarson
  • Short Cloak – Buttoned at collar
  • Fighting boots based on old ones
  • Tall front lace boots
  • Oxblood turnshoes
  • Vegetable tanned turnshoes
  • Romance of Alexander Pouch
  • Romance of Alexander Belt
  • Romance of Alexander Shoes
  • Black riding boots for Cut & Thrust
  • Leather costrel
  • Leather archery bracer
  • Blank heater shield
  • Heater shield w/ Firebrand
  • Deed of Arms guest book
  • Deed of Arms tokens/jetons
  • Red wool hood with rayonney dags
  • Deed  barrier
  • Trestle Table
  • 2 Matching Longswords
  • 2 Matching 6′ Spears
  • 2 Matching Arming Swords
  • Paint pavilion
  • 2 dozen turkey fletched arrows
  • Sword for Cut & Thrust
  • Romance of Alexander Baselard
  • Coining punch dies
  • Coining dies, top and bottom
  • Steel base for coining
  • Gawain and the Green Knight book
  • Redo lanterns with horn pane or waterproofed vellum

So I was not discouraged from the length of that list, I wrote down all the projects I had done over the last 12 months. It helped.

  • Moira’s round viking shield
  • Buckler for C&T
  • Robert’s surcoat
  • 4 pairs of wool chausses
  • Wool hood – heather
  • Man at arms belt
  • Tooled sheath for bollock dagger
  • Hatchet sheath
  • Buckler for personal deed of arms
  • Firebrand escutcheon for aventail
  • Firebrand silk banner
  • Heart of the Midlands banner
  • Martial contracts for Pennsic
  • Sara’s Royal Vanguard scroll
  • Amber rosary with buffalo horn cross
  • Coral bead tasseled rosary
  • Medieval tiles for Cecil, William, Savaric & Julianna
  • Medieval tile mosiac based on 14c. Nottingham
  • Canvas shade for deed of arms
  • Walnut gothic bench
  • Pine gothic bench
  • Coin die, one side
  • Black belt with pewter mounts

I’m still unsure if writing lists is just another form of procrastination or if it aids in completing projects. Either way, I have shown my ability to get things done so that’s what I’ll continue to do. Medieval events make fantastic “deadlines” and we are at the beginning of the summer camping season so I expect to get a lot done. Stay tuned for details on some of these projects as I knock them off the list.

Hilts for Rattan Wasters

I most often fight with a sword and shield when doing armored combat in the SCA. The majority of fighters use what we call a basket hilt. It is a cup over the handle that completely covers your hand. There are solid steel and aluminum basket hilts, welded steel openwork ones, and even solid molded plastic. Once I got full finger gauntlets I no longer required a basket hilt for hand protection so I sought out options. Below are a handful (no pun intended!) of styles available to the fighter who wants a more medieval looking stick.

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Two of my “swords”. Just a couple options shown of the many available on the market.

Separate Aluminum Crossguard & Pommel – $75

Windrose Guard   Windrose Pommel

This is what I primarily fight with. Shave down your rattan grip to shape, drill a hole in the end of the handle, slip the crossguard on, pop the pommel on and bolt it in place. I’ve also drilled a hole in the guard and set a screw to help hold it in place. Looks as close to a medieval sword as the SCA allows.

Pros:

  • Stylish medieval shape
  • It’s metal
  • Separate components allow for different grip lengths and shapes

Cons:

  • Reliance on rattan for structural support
  • Pommel mount is a circle so it spins around easily

(Optional) Pommel Taping Fork – $7.50

Windrose Fork

This may help with the pommel spinning or the bolt working loose from the rattan. It is on my list now.

Rubber Crossguard – $18

Fight Club Rubber Guard

If you like the shape, size, and style of the aluminum crossguard from Windrose but don’t like the hassle of shaving your rattan to just the right size, this one is for you. Get it close enough and shove this onto the blade. I’ve used it a couple times and it works well.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Medieval cruciform shape

Cons:

  • Not useful for as a counterbalance
  • It looks like gray rubber once you get close enough
  • No matching pommel that I am aware of

One Piece Welded Hilt – $50-75

By My Hand Designs Facebook Page

The “Tea Cosy” model is my new favorite rattan accessory. I used it at practice this week and I have zero complaints. Shave the handle section to wedge between the bars, tape it up and you are good to go.

Pros:

  • Once piece construction means it’s not going to go anywhere
  • Due to the shape and spacing of the side bars, I have a profile which helps me throw shots properly on edge
  • It’s metal
  • Great weight for sword balance

Cons:

  • One piece means limited options for grip girth and only one option for length
  • Fairly snub nosed quillons make for a less than perfect medieval profile. Great for earlier periods though

Note: It would appear they offer separate crossguards and pommels with welded forks. You will sacrifice a little rigidity for a much greater gain in versatility. Definitely an option.

Stainless Steel One Piece Handle – $300

Anshelm Handle

I’ve never used this one but it is desirable due to the appearance and the way it’s constructed. If anyone has one or has used one, I’d love to hear how it handles.

Pros:

  • Custom options
  • It’s metal
  • Once piece construction means it’s not going to go anywhere

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • One size

 

Deed-Related Visuals

Print

In my previous post I mentioned a Trial By Fire theme for my Deed of Arms. Along with the firebrand badge I have a Latin motto:

IGNE NATURA RENOVATUR INTEGRA

INRI initials as an alternative to Jesus, King of the Jews with a very interesting story of its own. For me, what it comes down to is the translation; All nature will be renewed by fire, or Through fire, nature is reborn whole.

Carrying this theme into my presentation, in addition to an embroidered badge to wear on my clothing I will require the following.

  • Shield, red with black firebrand.
  • Banner, red with black firebrand and motto.
  • 2-4 small triangular flags, red with black firebrand.
  • Sunshade, 9’x12’ canvas with decorative valence and four poles.
  • Weapons rack with 2 long swords, 2 arming swords, 2 daggers, 2 6’ spears, 2 shields, 2 bucklers
  • Wooden, break-down barrier for fighting
  • Trestle table and tablecloth
  • Guestbook with pen and ink

It should be quite an impressive display once everything is prepared. I can only hope others are interested and wish to partake in this type of fun.

Deed of Arms

A highlight of chivalric combat in the high middle ages was that the pas d’armes, or passage of arms. These challenges of peace were issued by knights and man-at-arms in order to showcase their skills and virtues and were often an open invitation for a fight. Popular in the 14th and 15th centuries, these deeds grew increasingly elaborate into jousts and other grand tournaments but the idea remained the same; a noble enterprise of courtesy, pageantry, chivalry and sport. With that in mind, and having researched pas of the period and some modern recreations for inspiration, I wish to host a personal deed of arms within the SCA.

Deed of Arms for Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer

Introduction:
In the worship and in the name of God our blessed lady Virgin Mary and my lord Saint George I, Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer of the Realm of the Middle, bearing the verdant and gilded badge of the fox bendy, wish to make it known to all gentle folk, who are not banished or enemies of our Lord and King, and in accordance with the county constable and the desires of the hearts of all bold men, that from this day, the ___ of day of ___, Anno Societatis ___ to one year hence, shall host a deed of arms and accomplish these said arms at various tournaments wherein the lord would so graciously permit me erect my pavilion for this enterprise.

Until the last hour of the last day of this appointed time I shall bear upon my person a richly embroidered device about my left arm, which binds me to my solemn commitment to this endeavor. I bid any worthy, and with no reproach, neither fearing God nor the cries of modest people seek my standard; sable, a chief raguly bendy or and vert.

Tournament:
First Article [The Barrier]
To be met at the barrier, armed as seems best to them, having their dagger and sword upon their body as they wish. Ten strokes to be done with the sword, one or two handed, no longer than spaulder to sabaton, without intermission. When these ten strokes shall have been adequately performed, ten strokes with the dagger will be given, without intermission, or parting from each other, or changing harness.

Second Article [The Joust on Foot]
We shall be without any shield or vantage and either to be armed as seems best for to break the other in twain. Engagement with blunted lances, as long as each combatant stands tall or as judged appropriate for the match. Ten passes, and of such greatness as either may bear at their pleasure with allowance for one opportunity to retreat and reenter the combat during the ten blows struck on either side.

Third Article [Sword on Foot]
Enter the lists on foot, ready to exchange another ten strokes with those who had wished to do so; armed to their pleasure with sword and shield. All blows, both from myself and those that shall have engaged himself to fight with me, to be struck to the lower edge of the coat of plates or higher.

How prizes are to be won:
He, who strikes the agreed upon number upon his foe, in the sight of God and Saint George, shall have the prize.
He, who bears a man down with stroke of a sword or lance, shall have the prize.

How prizes at Tourney, and Barriers, are to be lost:
He that giveth a stroke downward under the barrier shall win no prize.
He that stays his hand in fight on the barrier shall win no prize.
He that so strike a man, his back turned or helpless in position, shall have no prize.

Prizes:
For success in combat at the barrier a round medallion with depiction of a sword.
For winning the joust on foot the image of a lance in trefoil.
For triumph with sword on foot a quatrefoil token with sword and shield upon its face.

A small token will be presented to any brave enough to take part in the deed.
A medallion with my badge of a fox passant bendy or and vert shall be presented to those I find most worthy.

Now really, what does this all mean? I have to iron out a number more details and preparations but in plain English, this is how it should go:

For one full year I will be hosting a personal tournament at various events that allow me to do so. I’ll give as much advanced notice as possible and make my location readily visible (likely on a part of or very near the battlefield). I will be wearing an embroidered badge on my left arm during this time as a reminder to myself and others.

Tournament:
Part One
Enter with sword in hand (one or two handed) and a dagger on you. Fight at the barrier to ten counted blows with sword followed immediately by ten counted blows with dagger (20 total). When the blows with sword are completed by either person the combat pauses and they both take up the next weapon.

Part Two
Six foot spears to ten counted blows.

Part Three
Sword and shield to ten counted blows. Only blows above the waist count. Winner is first to ten good blows. If you wish to fight with bucklers instead of full sized shields, I will be pleased to match you.

Guidelines:
Pageantry, chivalry, and heraldry are encouraged. Bring banners, pennants, and shields showing your device. Come by yourself or with a retinue. Make a grand entrance or just come on over and fight me.
Armor may be made of any period. All kits must be SCA legal and inspected by the event marshal before being allowed on the lists. Aims toward authenticity are encouraged but not required.
The weapons allowed are as follows:
A sword (one or two handed for the first part) no longer than armpit to the ground.
A spear up to six feet.
A single sword.
A dagger.
If you do not have these weapons, I’ll have a pair available and you may choose which one you’d like.
Do not act out blows, but call them out clearly.
Thrusts to plate helmet visors or face plates count as one good blow.  Thrust against open faced helms (barred visors) are disabling (i.e. you win that bout).
If either fighter places a hand or knee on the ground during the combat they are considered bested.
I will give my opponents tokens upon their accomplishments.

In order to properly present myself I need to erect a pavilion or day shade, fly banners and standards, upgrade my fighting harness, and create an atmosphere that is both entertaining and fitting for a pas d’armes. To that end I have devised a theme “Trial By Fire.” This theme allows me to be colorful and pursue a slightly different goal than usual at SCA events.

First I came up with a heraldic badge, or emblem for my deed. Much like Edward, the Black Prince had his “shield of peace” which differed from his royal arms, I decided on a device separate from my registered arms and badge.

firebrand
On a field Gules, a firebrand Sable enflamed Or.

This is the badge I will present on my person in an obvious way to hold myself accountable and advertise to others what I am doing. It will be worn during the year of the deed, and only for that purpose. I need to work on other accoutrements before I send out missives and begin this enterprise but I feel I have a fairly sturdy foundation set.

 

Thoughts on Households (unofficial groups) in the SCA

What is a household?

A group of like-minded individuals in the Society who have decided to name themselves as a group. This can take the form of a camp, guild, fighting or fencing unit, and more. At times these households are based on historical models, but many are simply a group of people that share similar interests or goals. They exist in no official capacity within the SCA but that is not to suggest they can’t or don’t have a significant impact. For simplicity’s sake, I consider all non-official groups as “households”.

What is its function?

A household can accomplish a surprising variety of things by filling roles such as:

  • Socializing
  • Training together in a given art or multiple arts: fighting, sewing, brewing, etc.
  • Making stuff.
  • Offering someone a sense of belonging or a feeling of “my people”.
  • Mutual internal support for the growth of their members.
  • Providing physical labor for local events to ease the burden of the staff, to staff an event from their own ranks, or offer general help to the crown and populace.
  • To promote a certain lifestyle.

Why join a household?

You may find yourself intrigued, interested, or asked to participate as a member of a household. It is entirely your decision how involved you wish to be. While each individual’s experience is personal, there are some common reasons why one would want to be in a household.

  • You get to hang out with your friends.
  • You want to do more things in the SCA that you enjoy.
  • An ease of access to resources relevant to your interests in the Society.
  • Matching outfits.
  • Guidance

Why not join a household?

  • If you are brand new to the SCA. Look around. See how things work. Then dig in deeper.
  • If they “lock” you in or discourage activity in other groups or households.
  • If you are uncomfortable with the responsibility that comes with being part of such a group. Your actions will be a representation of your group.
  • Don’t join just because you want to “be somebody”. You aren’t a nobody if you aren’t in a household.
  • If you think of it as a fast track or short cut to a peerage. Being in a household may, in fact, help you get recognized. But it should be your own merits that distinguish you.

Should you create your own household?

While that is entirely up to you, ask yourself some questions:

  • What are your reasons for wanting a household? If there are other, easier ways of attaining those goals, then there is no need.
  • Is there a household you could join that already accomplishes what you desire?
  • Is this important enough to validate forming a group?
  • Are its goals fun or worthy?

Alternatives to households.

Participate in your local group be it Shire, Barony, or Region. Socialize, learn, and teach at weekly or monthly practices. Find personal growth on your own and seek your own path through self-reflection and self-evaluation. Keep in mind these things can be done in addition to being a member of a household.

Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part XIII – Reflection

There is one specific phrase I repeat when asked about my contracts:

“It went as well as I expected and a million times better in ways I did not expect.”

I’ll start off by saying that this experiment was a ton of fun. I met countless new people and gained a deeper level of understanding with some established friends. Word of my “mercenary work” got around Pennsic as I was frequently asked about it throughout the week. Did I accomplish the goals I set at the beginning? Let’s find out.

I no longer felt like a generic fighter. No longer a cog in the great wheel. Signing those contracts held me accountable and increased my level of responsibility. I wasn’t simply fighting for the Midrealm. I was fighting for my local lord. I was earning my wages. I was fighting to meet the level of the bar I set in crafting those documents.

I lost a small amount of independence I’ve grown accustom to in the SCA. Usually, if I feel like “sitting this one out” that’s okay. I make my own schedule and change it as I please. When you make yourself someone’s servant, even for part of a day, it changes your perspective. This was not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I quite enjoyed having tasks; whether that be running around on Saturday trying to get all the seals done, or sitting down to a dinner with my commander as we settled our affairs. It gave me a tiny taste of what it might be like to serve as a squire or apprentice. Useful data indeed.

I certainly fought with all the different groups! I feel like I was respectful to my Kingdom in my choices. Each contract was fair, evenly distributed, and successfully completed.

I didn’t spend enough time with any one group to get a whole sense of the political climate or machinations of their household. I was, however, privy to some more of the high-level interactions. I witnessed how some things were done that I normally would not have. I’ll keep that in mind when connecting with people of stature in the future.

Only one person disapproved of my actions. They had valid reasons, but every man must forge his own path. This was mine and it became clear that it was a worthwhile endeavor, for every other person I interacted with thought very highly of my enterprise and wished for its success.

“You should do this every year!” No, probably not. The timing worked out perfectly this year. If I attend Pennsic in 2017 I’ll most likely fight with my region. There is also a chance I’ll be a dependent to a peer in the Society in which case I’ll fight for them. I encourage others interested in this kind of experience to adapt it to their own persona and try it out. I’d love to hear what it would be like with an earlier period soldier or at a different kind of event.

Two out of the four days I did not fight with the other man on the contract. Even when I did we were not necessarily side-by-side. It wasn’t something I put much thought into before I went but was keenly aware of while under martial service. This would have definitely been the case in history. Just because you are a soldier fighting for Edward, Prince of Wales, does not meet you are seated on a horse next to the Black Prince himself. You had to fight with whoever you were stuck next to. You were conscripted to fulfill a task. Nothing more and nothing less. It was cool to realize that. It felt authentic.

The other people I got involved with the project took it seriously. It was wonderful to see the care and consideration each commander put in. They were all sincere and generous men who I would not hesitate to fight for again. Each relationship had its own narrative but none less meaningful than the others.

Each fight was enhanced by the addition of the A&S element. This concept is universal. If you put time and effort into sewing a new surcoat, you’ll want your performance on the field to reflect the new image. When a tournament has ladies in the gallery you feel like giving your best; both in prowess and courtesy. Each day had purpose. I will strive to make every fight more than just a fight.

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Arming on the last morning of war in front of my pavilion.

Links to all the previous posts related to this experience:
Inspiration
Drafting the Contracts
Making it Official
The Mother of All Battles
Five Bridges
Woods & Weather
Field Battle

 

Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part VII – Field Battle

Friday. My last contract.

Once again I was assigned a unit while the gentleman I made the agreement with had other obligations. Count Cellach was a champion and one of the King’s men. I lined up with the other fighters of the Lozengia household: a mix of black and white diamonds, blue and white diamonds, and oddballs like me in other colors and stripes. All too soon the first cannon fired and we were making our way across the field. We were to stick with another unit so we did our best to do that. Once the two armies met it was a little harder to stay in formation. Each of us would yell out and make our best attempt to reform. An opposing spear caught me and I was no longer able to shout out to my friends. We did it again but with a better understanding of our surroundings and goals. It went well as we folded in on the East. The next round was to be the last war point of the week, so I grabbed my polearm I had not yet fought with it this war. Cellach also joined us for the last pass and we ran out with the rest of the steam we had. Nothing epic, but solid fighting from both sides.

After field court His Excellency brought out the payment we agreed on. A particular case of ginger beer looked tasty to him and he insisted I share one of the four. Who was I to argue?

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Count Cellach and I sharing a moment over drinks, which just so happened to be his payment for my services. Photo credit: Janis Hurst.

It was not that easy to be released from this contract however. Lozengia has an annual “Black & Blue” battle which pits Duke Edmund’s troops (black & white lozengy) against Count Cellach’s (blue & white lozengy). This year we had a new knight, Sir Gebhard, who wore blue and gold so we split up into three teams: Black, Blue, and Gold. Because I was a hired sword, and I happened to be wearing some gold on my surcoat that day, I fought with Gebhard’s forces. It was 4 on 4 against each of the other teams. Plenty of smiles and laughter. After that I was officially released of my duties and left to finish off Pennsic in peace.

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My half of the Lozengia contract with a cup containing ginger beer from the last bottle His Excellency paid me.

The contract copy :

This indenture, made between the noble men Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer, on the one hand, and Count Cellach on the other hand, bears witness that the aforesaid Lord Arthur, along with his arms, armor, and shield, is to remain as a man-at-arms with the aforesaid Cellach, for one day, the twelfth day of August, to go with the said Cellach wherever he wishes to make war, receiving the customary wages at the choice of Cellach, which is to say for himself, a bottle of sensible drink. And the aforesaid Cellach promises that he will pay to the Lord Arthur, before his departure from service, in full, as specified above. And in case the said Count Cellach wishes that he shall have support at court, Lord Arthur, as is specified above, shall advise his lord and pay him the traditional feudal aids required on the knighting of the lord’s eldest son, the marriage of the lord’s eldest daughter, and the ransoming of the lord should he be held captive. And concerning the prisoners which may be taken by the aforesaid Cellach, or by his men, the aforesaid Arthur shall have additional wages drawn of the profits of their ransom. Written at Pennsic, the sixth day of August, anno societatis, the year LI under our great King Cameron.

 And as it was penned in French:

Cet acte, fait entre les hommes nobles Lord Arthur Nathaniel Archer, d’une part, et le comte Cellach d’autre part, témoigne que le susdit Lord Arthur, avec ses armes, armures et bouclier, est de rester comme un homme d’armes avec le Cellach susdit, pour un jour, le douzième jour de Août, pour aller avec le dit Cellach partout où il veut faire la guerre, recevant les salaires usuels au choix du Cellach, ce qui veut dire pour lui-même, un bouteille de boisson sensible. Et le Cellach susdit promet qu’il versera au Lord Arthur, avant son départ du service, en totalité, comme indiqué ci-dessus. Et dans le cas où ledit Cellach comte souhaite qu’il aura le soutien à la cour, Lord Arthur, comme il est précisé ci-dessus, doit informer son seigneur et lui verser les aides féodales traditionnelles nécessaires à l’adoubement du fils aîné du seigneur, le mariage du seigneur de fille aînée et le rançonnement du seigneur doit-il être tenu captif. Et concernant les prisonniers qui peuvent être prises par le Cellach susdit, ou par ses hommes, Arthur susdit aura des salaires supplémentaires tirés des bénéfices de leur rançon. Rédigé à Pennsic, le sixième jour de Août, anno societatis, la LI année sous notre grand roi Cameron.

Friday ended up being the last day I was at Pennsic War XL. I have one more post after this one reflecting on my experiences with the martial contracts. Be on the lookout for the final piece of this story in Part XIII.