Peasant Perspective, Part the Second

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Another Ivanhoe picture, just because. This is from the 1997 mini-series, with extra servings of Knights Templar!

TOPIC TWO: STAY HEALTHY; AVOID BITTERNESS AND BURNOUT

The SCA is built around the mystique of a chivalry “Dream”. It’s also got a reputation for being an all-consuming devourer of time, money, and social lives. Yet many find the Society a richly rewarding experience. How do you position yourself to participate in a healthy way?

I actually touched on this topic some in my first Peasant Perspective post, but the topic is important and worth more time.

Something you see in all kinds of fandom related activities (not just SCA) is tension between the ideas of Fandom is a Way of Life vs Fandom is Just a G-ddamned Hobby. The SCA can be an intense hobby and some people like to approach it like a career, while others just like to come out occasionally and have fun.

This may be tied to personality–for example, my father likes to play bridge, and now that he’s retired, he plays it several days a week like it is his job. It keeps his mind sharp and he enjoys getting out to see people, so I try to think of that attitude as healthy. Some people can spend a few days a week on SCA activities, and then hit three events per month with no trouble.

But what works for some people doesn’t work for others. These people might be introverts, or maybe they have family obligations or perhaps they work evenings and/or weekends. Maybe they have other hobbies that they want to pursue.

The trick is to figure out how you want to participate in the Society and not feel guilty or pressured because you are playing one way and not another. There may be times when you are able to devote a lot of energy to the hobby, and times when Life Happens and you need to step back and deal with that.

The burnout that I’ve seen from others and experienced myself tends to happen when one is devoting more energy to the hobby than one has. Sometimes it is a tricky business, figuring out how much you can handle. A new job, a new relationship, a health issue, or an injury can affect your energy levels, and it’s hard to step back, especially if you are the type who approaches SCA as a Way of Life.

Avoiding burnout means learning to be aware of growing tension within yourself. If an activity that once brought you joy is feeling more and more like a burden, then it is time to step back. That doesn’t mean you have to quit! Just slow down and allow others to take the lead for awhile.

kingdom_of_heaven_hospitaller_web
Okay, NOT from Ivanhoe, but while we’re on a Crusader theme, here’s my favorite character from the film, Kingdom of Heaven: The Hospitaller!

Yeah, easier said than done! However, most of the people that I’ve known who have been in the SCA for a long time (2 decades or more) have stepped back on occasion, caught their breath, and then come back when they get their second wind.

However, one thing about stepping back is that you learn the SCA can go on without you, and people’s memories can be remarkably short. It can hurt when you come back after a hiatus and find that few people remember you or the things that you once poured your heart and soul into. How do you stop from being bitter?

I’ve had to struggle with that. For me, the answer is to go back to the beginning. You can do that by either exploring another facet of the Society (there are so many things to do!) or by getting to know new members, and helping them to experience the fun that can be found in this hobby. I love being able to point new members towards things that might interest them, or introducing them around to other experienced members who want to share what they know.

It isn’t easy to watch people who you saw come in as newbies advance by leaps and bounds while you are sidelined. My advice? Be happy for them. Sure, there are a few exceptions of people who got lucky (especially in the very early days of the SCA), but usually a peerage or high award is the result of hard work. The Society is built on courtesy, so give these people the courtesy of respect.

A few brief words about SCA politics here. I’ve gotten caught in the middle of some nasty political struggles over the years. In my earlier days, I couldn’t seem to avoid them. But what I found out was that many years later, most people either don’t remember or don’t care about something that happened way back when, except maybe as gossip. All the anger and frustration that I spent on certain situations was, for the most part, a complete waste of time.

As for the gossip, well. I recently ran into someone from my original Barony. I had moved away 20 years ago, but he had been a newbie just as I was leaving the area. We did have a few acquaintances in common, and as it turns out, he had heard of me, and not in a complimentary way. We both laughed about it when he realized who I was. He saw that I obviously was not anything like the person he’s heard about. The person most hurt by this was whoever had told him that story about me.

Another time, a person was telling a story about a group I was a part of, and mentioned me, not by name, but by action. It was also not complimentary, and I called him on it, because the story he was telling second-hand was completely different from what I had experienced in person. Awkward, but again, what did it matter in the long run? That group no longer exists, I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago, and besides an odd story or mention on a map, nobody much cares about what happened.

So if you find yourself in the middle of some SCA political drama, stop and step back and ask yourself what will it matter in 10 years. Now for some things (say, safety matters like marshalling or legal matters), yeah, stand your ground, do what you need to do. But otherwise? Don’t waste your happiness on something that is an illusion. Don’t become bitter over something that few people will even remember in 10 or 20 years.

Hopefully these hints will help people who are feeling frustrated in the hobby find a bit of peace and be able to continue playing. Remember, it’s your hobby, you play it at a pace that suits you.

Peasant Perspective, Part the First

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Life goals: an oxcart of my very own. From the Ishiyama-dera engi emaki 石山寺縁起絵巻, Roll 3, Section 1 (approx. 14th century). Picture credit Wikimedia commons.

About a month ago, the Peers in the Kingdom of Calontir had meetings to discuss certain aspects about peerage. Not specific persons, but of peerage itself. Calontir being Calontir, of course those of us not so graced also had things to say. Lord Hugo van Harlo wrote up a few topic questions which definitely made me think, and I wanted to discuss my thoughts here, being an Award Of Arms holder of long standing (my AOA having just celebrated its 24th anniversary. It is now out of university and looking for an honest living, bless its heart.)

TOPIC ONE: UPPING YOUR GAME AND FINDING SATISFACTION
The SCA is host to a wildly diverse range of activities and approaches. How do we find our place in it, find satisfaction in how we approach it, and do it without going broke–all amidst an uncertain sea of awards, recognition, student-teacher relationships, and peerage “tracks?”

This is a big and somewhat ambitious topic. For a little bit of background, I’ve been involved with the SCA since 1991 (about 27 years), have lived in three kingdoms and visited several others. I’ve been an armored fighter, an arts and sciences enthusiast, and a service junkie. Not all my time in the SCA has been terribly active, as life does happen. I’ve had to step away while taking care of a sick parent, getting married, moving several times, working a demanding job, and dealing with some serious health issues of my own. But I never completely quit the hobby, just went from very active to not very active and back again as needed.

The SCA is extremely diverse, and that diversity is one of its greatest strengths. There are some boundaries (which, interestingly, have changed over the time I’ve been in), but they are very flexible. The basic requirements as stated in Corpora (law) are these: Anyone may attend Society events provided he or she wears an attempt at pre-17th century clothing, conforms to the provisions in Corpora, and complies with any other requirements (including but not limited
to site fees or waivers) which may be imposed. At business meetings and informal classes, the requirement to wear pre-17th century dress may be waived. All participants are expected to behave as ladies or gentlemen.
Note that you do not even have to be a member to participate in many SCA activities (such requirements do vary by kingdom), although being a member does give one a small discount to events.

Many of us got our start in the SCA as young people, either as impoverished students or impoverished young adults. So having this diversity helps. A new member just needs to wear very basic garb (a tunic works great), and look around to see what of the many facets of the SCA catches their attention. The fact that there isn’t the same kind of rigorous authenticity standards found in many other living history groups allows a new person a chance to slowly build up skills and yet still participate. It’s really a wonderful way to get people started.

The wide range of time periods and localities allowed (any culture that had contact with Western Europe before the year 1600 is fair game) gives many people a chance to explore what is important to THEM. Some people, like myself, end up having more than one persona, exploring more than one time or culture. Others like to narrow in on a particular time and place and learn as much as they can about it. It’s all good. And that is delightful. I love seeing what other people find out as they explore the history that interests them.

So how does one find ones place in the SCA? There are a thousand answers, each one of them correct. One person may wish to explore their family’s heritage. Another person’s imagination may be caught by a time or place completely unrelated to their ethnic heritage. Some people just pick an appropriate-sounding name and bounce around from topic to topic. There is no one right way to do this.

ivanhoe_bryan_dubois_gilbert_vs_wilfred_of_ivanhoe_neal_andrews
The Ivanhoe movie from 1982, which started me on my Ivanhoe addiction. Sam Neill as Brian DuBois Gilbert with Anthony Andrews as the heroic Wilfred of Ivanhoe.

For myself, I started out doing 16th century Austrian. My senior thesis at University was on the relationship between the two Habsburg brothers who ruled much of Europe in the early 16th century, Charles and Ferdinand. I had also portrayed a Habsburg archduchess while working at a local renaissance fair while I was in high school and college, so I tweaked the name a little and continued with the same persona. Later, after I married and followed my Iowan husband back home to his native state, I decided to explore an Anglo-Saxon persona. My main inspiration was a 19th century work of historic fiction, the book Ivanhoe, one of my favorite works since my teenaged days. Then a few years later, I gave in to my passion for Japanese culture, and chose to have a Japanese persona, which is what I use today. However, you’re just as likely to find me in European garb as in Japanese clothing. I love costumes and like to wear a variety of outfits as the mood takes me. If anyone asks, I just tell them it’s my nindo (ninja way). 😉

Finding satisfaction is another very personal issue. From time to time, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What brings me the most joy?” The answer one hears from many people has to do with the people they meet and the friends they make through this hobby. That is certainly a large part of what keeps me going, but for me, the SCA offers me a venue in which I can explore history as I want, in the company of like-minded people who also share my passion for history.

The chatelaine in the Barony of the Flame (Louisville, KY) gave me some words of advice when I got started in the SCA. She told me, “This hobby will end up taking up much of your time, or your money, or even both.” At first, I thought that was a rather down-beat thing to say to a complete newbie, but the years have proven the truth of those words. There’s no getting around it–the SCA can be an expensive hobby and an intense one. There are ways to do this hobby on a budget (for many years, most of my garb was made from thrift store cotton sheets or things I could find from the clearance aisles at JoAnn’s or Hancock’s). It took me a long time to get my armor together–even though I had the use of someone’s shop and their teaching skills for free, the materials still cost and the construction took the better part of a year. We bought our bows used–they’re not the best, but they work.

That chatelaine was right in another way: the longer you are in, the more you may want to “up your game”, which means you fork out for better materials and spend more time doing research or construction. Usually, a person will want to give back to their local group in service, and devote time towards helping out at events.

I’ve really struggled with this issue. Budgeting becomes more complex as one gets older, maybe acquires a spouse or partner, a house, car, children, pets, the detritus of everyday life. Some jobs require weekend work. Sometimes, vacation time needs to be devoted to visiting family rather than going to events. How do you choose, especially if you’re trying to improve your SCA game?

There is no right answer. For me, my husband and family must come first, always. Neither of our parents live close-by, so we have to save vacation time/money to visit them, especially as they are growing older. My husband has other hobbies outside the SCA, and it’s only fair I support him as he has always supported me. You have to listen to your heart and do what you think is best for your situation (and never take flack from anyone who tells you differently! Only you know what is really going on in your life!)

For me, improving my game has been a very long process, and not everything has happened at once or on every level. I’ve tried very hard to make my garb look more authentic–I may machine-sew the inner seams, but every outer stitch is done by hand. I try to keep to period-looking footware. It passes the 10-foot rule, but there’s room to grow. I might take modern shortcuts for financial reasons, or if I’m in a hurry, but try to research the heck out of anything I present in a display or competition.

In my early years, authenticity just didn’t matter that much to me. I was just happy to be able to sew on my own, or any other art that came along. Mistress Bianca Rosamund, my first calligraphy teacher, taught me with modern tools and methods. Her belief (one I share) is that you learn the skill-set (calligraphy, painting) with modern tools so you don’t get frustrated, then progress to more period equipment as your skills improve and you can manage them better. My current shodo teacher feels much the same way. And thank goodness, the SCA is designed in a way that people can progress towards more authentic methods at their own pace.

It’s a road and we’re all always learning.

Finally, we come to awards. As someone who has been passed over many times for awards, I’m probably not the best to speak about how to navigate those waters. It was 3 years until I got my AOA, then 9 years and another kingdom until my next two awards (6 months apart). All of these were AOA-level awards. It has been over 14 years since my last award. And my husband is one of those legendary below-the-radar guys who waited 20 years before even getting an AOA. So obviously, I’m not a fan of the current award system.

However, if I try to think about it too much, I get bitter. So instead, I write in a list of people once or twice a year, and I make sure to attend court to cheer on those who have been recognized. Someone was there to cheer me on when the Midrealm’s King Jafar (of blessed memory) called me up in court to give me my Award of Arms. I feel it’s my duty to pass on that cheer to my AOA-siblings. I may not even know you in person, but well done, good job!

I will admit to some tears when I’ve been passed over yet again, but after so many years, I can safely say that no, awards and recognition are not what keep me in the SCA. The same can be said of my husband, who went right back below the radar and hasn’t been noticed by royalty since his AOA 15 years ago.

One thing I might add about awards, though–there are Baronial awards available for those who live in Baronies, but for those of us who reside out in the Shires, at least in Calontir, there is nothing. Maybe something can be done about that–perhaps the Baronages can spread out their awards among the Shires near them. Everyone could use a little pick-me-up.

I think I will address student-teacher relationships and peerage “tracks” in another post. This one is quite long on its own.

I would love to hear other SCAdian thoughts on these subjects, especially from other non-peers.

Ki no Kotori info from the Calontir Wiki

Ki no Kotori

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Photo by Lord Alfgeirr skytja, 2017

Ki no Kotori 紀小鳥
aka Tace of Foxele, Maria Katerina von Adlerhof

Persona:

Ki no Kotori 紀小鳥 is a 10th century (Heian Era) Japanese courtier who has taken Buddhist vows(Heian Era). She is my primary Persona.

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Kamakura-era garb, 2008. Photo by Lord Alfgeirr skytja.

Tace of Foxele is 12th century Anglo-Saxon lady living in Norman-occupied England, at Foxele (modern Foxholes), in Yorkshire, 9 miles south of Scarborough.

Anglo-Saxon Garb 2004
11th century Anglo-Saxon garb, 2004. Photo by Lord Alfgeirr skytja.

Maria Katerina von Adlerhof is a 16th century Austrian, in the service of the Habsburg Imperial Court in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

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In Austrian Garb, 1996. Photo by Richard Gilson.

Link to Calontir Armorial – http://armorial.calontir.org/Pages/KiTorame.htm

History in the SCA:

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Summer’s End Tournament, Barony of the Flame, Midrealm, 1993. I’m on the left with the red bandana.

Timeline:
* I started in the SCA in 1991, in the Barony of the Flame (Louisville, KY), Middle Kingdom
* Originally I was a heavy-weapons fighter. Injuries have sidelined me.
* AOA awarded by King Jafar and Queen Catherine, Midrealm 3/12/1994 for Service as Chronicler and at Demos.
* Became Squire to Sir David Dragonhawk, 9/24/1994
* Baronial award: Order of the Flamberge by Baroness Cordelia Tichy, Barony of the Flame, 1995, for Service at Demos.
* Moved to Calontir after I met my husband, Alfgeirr skytja. We lived in Coeur d’Ennui from 1998-2001.
* We moved to Dubuque in 2001 and started the Riverwatch contact group in mid-2002. It disbanded in 2006. After that, we were honorary members of the Shire of Deodar.
* Golden Swan awarded by King Valens and Queen Susannah for Calligraphy & Illumination 5/24/2003
* Torse awarded by King Joe-Angus and Queen Phaedra for service to the Riverwatch contact group 1/31/2004
* We moved to the Kansas City metro area in December 2012 and live in the Shire of Cum an Iolair.
* First event: Summer’s End Tournament, Barony of the Flame, Middle Kingdom, Sept. 1991.
* Link to Calontir OP is here.

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Fighting in the snow, Barony of Fenix, Midrealm, 1994. I’m in the Red and Green armor.

Groups and Affiliations:
* Current Group: Shire of Cum an Iolair, Calontir.
* Previous Groups: Shire of Deodar, Riverwatch contact group (Dubuque, IA), Barony of Coeur d’Ennui (all Calontir), Barony of the Flame (Midrealm)
* Guilds, Households, etc: Scribal guild, Bardic guild (Calontir), squired to Sir David Dragonhawk (Midrealm) 1994-present, House Drachenstein (Midrealm) 1992-1994.

Getting my Golden Swan award,Horse and Falcon, 2003
Being awarded the Golden Swan by Queen Susannah, Barony of Forgotten Sea, 2003. Photo by Verla Herschell.

Offices:

* Local Offices: Talon Herald, Deputy Exchequer (Shire of Cum an Iolair); Past: Chatelaine (Shire of Cum an Iolair) Deputy Seneschal, Chronicler (Barony of the Flame); Contact person, Herald, Knight’s Marshal, Exchequer (Riverwatch)
* Regional Offices: Assistant Signet (Southern Oaken Region, Midrealm, 1994), Lanner Herald Committee (Calontir 2016-2018)
* Kingdom Offices: None
* SCA-wide Offices: None
* Other service: Autocrat of five events: Summer’s End (1993), Collegium (1994), Christmas Tourney (1993, 1994) in Barony of the Flame, and Triskelion at Riverwatch (2004)

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The Riverwatch Contact Group, Dubuque, Iowa, 2003. Photo by Gaston le Mieux.

Singing at Feast of Eagles 2017
Members of the Shire of Cum an Iolair singing at Feast of Eagles, 2017. Photo by Verla Herschell

Classes Taught:

* Basic Calligraphy: Carolingian, Insular Majuscule, Insular Minuscule, Half-Uncial, Shodo (many times)
* Scroll layout (many times)
* The Medieval Middle East (Collegium, Barony of the Flame, 1994)
* How to do Documentation (Riverwatch, 2002)
* T-Tunic Tutorial (Riverwatch, 2002, 2003)
* Let’s Renga! (Riverwatch, 2003)
* Let’s Tanka! (Riverwatch, 2004)
* Successful Event Planning (RUSH, Le Grande Tent, 2003; Flynthill 2005)
* Panel: Design Elements of 16th Century Japanese Clothing (Clothiers, 2017)
* Kosode Construction: Stitches, Tips, and Tricks (Clothiers, 2017)

Anglo-Normal Clothiers 2016
Displaying hand-made Anglo-Norman garb, Clothiers 2016. Photo by Verla Herschell.

Other Information:

* My SCA blog is Foxeholly
* Some Scribal Examples can be found here.
* Documentation for past projects:
* Song: The Iowegia Song 2003
* Akikawa Nikki (A Poetic Diary) 2005
* Notes from Successful! Event Planning (2005)
* Wimples and Zukin 2008
* 20 Poems from the Shōyōshū (小葉集 Small Leaf Collection) 2015
* Song: Kestrel’s Lullabye 2015
* Poems from Daisougen Nikki 大草原日記 The Great Prairie Diary 2016
* An Examination of Zukin 2016
* Kosode Construction: Stitches, Tricks, and Tips 2017
* Song: The Falcon’s Cry 2017
* Composing and Designing a Japanese SCA Scroll 2017

3 Pretty Maids Clothiers 2017
Three Pretty Maids at Clothiers 2017. (Ki no Kotori, Agnes von Heidelburg, Konstantia Kaloenthia). Photo by Verla Herschell

On Karuta

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There was a question on the SCA FB page regarding kyoji karuta (competitive matching-type card play). Since this was an area that I’d looked into a while back, here was my answer. Short form: karuta as an item appeared in Japan in the 16th century, but matching-type karuta games are an Edo-period development and do not fall within the pre-1600 guidelines set by the SCA

I did some research into this area a while back. The kai-awase (matching shells) is very much within the timeframe that the SCA covers. While karuta (which is a word based upon Portuguese for carta “card”) definitely came in during the 16th century, they were mostly used for European-style card playing and gambling–in fact, there seems to have been a book published in 1597 with rules for various gambling-type games. Karuta did start to be domestically made by the end of the 16th century but followed the design of European decks. The various matching games and uta-karuta developed in the Edo period, while kyogi karuta came about in the 19th century. So please keep in mind that, while amusing, kyoji karuta is not period. Here’s a good page (in Japanese) that explains the history of karuta very well.

Edo Karuta page: very good outline of the history of karuta. This is where I found the reference to the book written in 1597 called 博奕かるた諸勝負令停止, which from the kanji seems to be rules about gambling with karuta. Page is in Japanese.

Miike Karuta Museum’s page about karuta history. The museum is in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, an area where a lot of the domestic Japanese karuta cards were made. It houses the most complete historical collection of Japanese karuta.

Wikipedia can be an iffy source, but in this case, the entry about karuta is thorough and has a lot of cites to follow.

(Image saved from an Ebay listing of uta-karuta cards. Yes, I have a set.)

A link about Kuzushiji

Just putting this link here until I have more time to check into the subject. An Introduction to Kuzushiji.

Kuzushiji 崩し字 is that sosho-looking print script that was very popular in Edo-period texts. Very similar to sosho in several aspects, but lacks sosho’s elegance. Somewhere around here I have a book about the history of Japanese printing, and will look in that to see more.

I can make out some characters, due to my shodo studies, but can’t really say that I can “read” it.