Wars of the Roses 2016

Let’s just get this out of the way now and then break this up by day. Roses was Hot. Too hot. Oppressively hot and muggy. Saturday was 95 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity in the mid 80%. Sunday was an almost cool feeling 90 degrees.

Saturday:

I got on site about 10-ish and hung out on the list field with niece until my friend turned up with his adorable not-my-dog that I got to puppysit all day. The rest of the afternoon was spent bouncing between my camp and watching the fighting/fencing until court. Note: due to the heat I was a very scandalous woman and only wore one layer. Also no veil (it’s gone walkabout) and no shoes. Niece of awesome shot a lot of archery in the morning before parking herself in camp under the camp shade with popcicles and water.

Saturday court:

I got to watch three people that have been working to try and teach me to fence get their silver rapier. I choose my teachers well. These were very, very well earned. I also got to watch a local woman, an amazingly talented local woman, get elevated to the order of the Laurel.

The highlight of court for me though?

My husband got his award of arms. Words were done by his teacher (Master Magnus) and are:

At the Flower-Clash, Skarphedinn inn havi was called before Kenric the king and Avelina the queen. A skald was called to speak on the man’s deeds. This is what was said.

Iron-tower
of terrible power
crushes our foes,
his fearsome blows
breaking their ranks,
reddening the banks
of Gjöll – the raven
glutton-haven.

Thunder roars
rankle the boars
to run – a dog
drives through the fog
and the corpse-mud –
cowering from flood,
their hides bear brunt
of Har of the hunt.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands proud, and skull-laden

This beast of might,
bearing the light
touch of service,
settles the nervous
with gilded voice,
grasping the choice
of peace when force
the plainer recourse.

The wisdom of old –
the ancient gold
breaker’s advice –
to bear as ice
the weight of the world
with words furled –
feeds the rowan
a feast to grow in.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands humble, grace-laden

These things opposed –
proud-strong battle-oak
by fire disposed
to fulsome smoke –
speak of a man
of spear-knowledge
and knowledge-span
like spear-hall edge.

Praise-fit the ash
of ancient roots
that stands in boots
of Bragi and clash
of wounding-poles,
with winding trunk
that battled and sunk
the bravest of souls.

Stalwart skilled Skarphedin
stands – worthy of honor laden

Then all were called to remember the deeds of Skarphedinn and give him his due honor. It was the Time of Remembrance, fifty-one years after the Settling.

Scroll lovingly made by a very dear friend Katrusha Skomoroh.

Scarps AOA

That is goat hide. She did the calligraphy and illumination herself on goat hide. I love my friends, and our friends love my lord.

Saturday night:

This was the bardic competition. I got to judge. This was my first time judging any sort of competition and I hope that I was fair and in the same ballpark as my other two judges point wise. I got to see some really awesome performances, including several new people. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone who performed.

Sunday:

Spent the day hanging around camp with one notable exception: baronial heavy weapons champion. So the lay out for this was a bar fight. The fighters started out seated on stools around a table, on the tables were “cups” and daggers. When lay on was called the fighter had to grab a weapon (cup, dagger, table or stool legs) and beat everyone else to deal with them in two five minute fights with a mandatory hydration break in the middle. It was a blast to watch.

Beloved husband was fighting. At one point he did a forward roll, grabbed a dagger, and stabbed an opponent in the throat. It was fairly epic.

Beloved husband is now the baronial heavy champion for Concordia. I’m stupidly proud.

Niece shot more  archery and wandered merchants. Niece has found her niche and it is shooting. I’m proud.

Sunday court:

I boasted in the king and queen on about 2 minutes of warning. I’ve never ever heralded before, so that was never wracking. But hopefully I didn’t bobble as badly as I feel like I did and I did a halfway decent job. Note to self: prep an entrance piece and keep in my back pocket just in case I need to do that again.

Remember those three people who got silver rapiers? They were also all honored with the ram’s horn (baronial fencing award). Husband was called up to take his place as heavy weapons champion.

We also got a flash storm and had to suspend court since we were in a giant barn with a tin roof. Guys? I ran around in the rain, because it was a heat break. It was a lovely, wonderful, thing.

Sunday night:

Bossman and I went and performed the piece he wrote for coronation for their majesties since they were a bit busy the day we did it initially. I think they liked it, they paid us in mead and roses. So that was cool.

We wandered back to our camp to an unofficial bardic circle around our tiny fire bowl. It was awesome. There were awesome performers and I was within easy stumbling distance of my bed. I gave out a bunch of my awesome new bard beads.

I also discovered that my request to make accessibility porter a baronial position (and to hold that position) was approved at the last business meeting! It would have been nice to know that *before* told the baron he couldn’t charge me with anything since I’m not his bard, don’t live in his barony, and hold no official baronial position. Which is when they opted to tell me this had happened. I apparently have some face saving to do.

There was this one woman at the circle. She sat there all night, singing along with everything with a very lovely voice. But she never got up herself. I asked her why later, since bardic is something she very clearly enjoys.

The words that came out of her mouth were words I recognized, because they’re things I hear in my head every time I get up to perform.

I’m not good enough.

I can’t follow that.

No one wants to hear me.

I don’t have the right piece for this.

I can’t do this.

I have really bad stage fright.

It scares me.

It was trippy to hear my brain gremlins come out of someone else’s mouth. But? I know how to fight those particular gremlins. I asked her if she honestly didn’t want to perform or if she actually wanted to but talked herself out of it. She wanted to, it was obvious how badly she wanted to. But she had to say it, and admit it to herself that she wanted to, no matter how much the gremlins tried to talk her out of it.

She is my unofficial student now. I’m going to help her get the tools to beat the snot out of those brain gremlins. Because gremlins lie. She’s going to be awesome as soon as she works up the courage to get up and do it. And I’m already super proud of her for admitting she wants to.

Monday:

Monday was tear down. Nothing exciting happened.

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Seven Simple Suggestions for SCA Soothsaying

Why Seven? Because in many cultures seven is an auspicious number, and if you’re going to talk about something like soothsaying? Go full superstition. Also the alliteration makes me happy.

What qualifications do I have to be espousing advice about this type of performance? Almost precisely none. I have done this twice, but this is what people have been asking me to explain, so we’re going to pretend I am vaguely expert shaped here loves.

1. Accept You’re Doing Something Weird And Own It.

Unlike more familiar forms of bardic (singing, story telling, poetry, ect) soothsaying isn’t something that is likely to turn up in most circles. It falls into this weird grey area of performance vs. claiming magic powers. The trick is to have utter confidence in your weird little art form.

There’s a fine line to walk here between hamming it up and taking what you’re doing seriously, and frankly that’s a balance you need to find every time you do this. Lets face it, cutting open a crochet rabbit and pulling out knitted entrails will never be a solemn event. It is hysterical and morbid all at once. Treat your performance with the level of gravitas you want the audience to have toward your prediction. Trust me, they will follow your lead. This is just weird enough that most people want to suspend their disbelief just long enough to see where you’re going with this.

2. Props Are Your Friend.

What separates soothsaying from any other style of performance? What you’re reading. Pick your omens, be they pebbles, water droplets, beans, sticks (all period), tarot (arguable for some parts of period), or if you want to go my route and rip open a fake bunny. Your props are what make you memorable. Use them. Otherwise you’re telling another story or reciting another poem.

3. Pick Your Style And Make A MadLibs Outline.

I do poetry when I read the omens. Guys? Composing poems whole cloth on the fly is hard. Really, really, stupidly, hard. Don’t do that to yourself, you’ve got nothing to prove. If you’re doing poems make yourself a handy fill in the blank template and, well, fill in the blanks. You’ve got more wiggle room if your style of delivery is more fluid prose. If you want to read omens in song please tell me, because I want to see that and I owe you a token.

4. Consider Your Audience and Venue.

This really should have been higher on the list, but this is more a default bardic suggestion rather than strictly soothsaying so it gets middle billing. It is not the wisest plan to predict a horrible, conflict filled reign with the brand new king and queen in attendance. The exception here is if they’ve approved it first and are using it as something to play off of. Trust your gut, if the little voice in the back of your head is suggesting this may be a poor prophesy for you to speak, listen to it. Predict something else.

5. Nostradamus Is Famous For A Reason.

Remember kids, specific prophesies have a higher fail rate than vague ones. If you want to build your reputation for being terrifyingly on point? Leave your words open to interpretation.

6. Predict the Predictable.

Both of the prophesies I have given in public were in regards to known events. The first was that Kenric and Avelina would take the throne of the East, easy peasy since I already knew their coronation date. And the second was about war brewing. Pennsic happens every year. If you’re predicting for a summer reign then predicting war is a safe bet, predicting for a winter reign? A reign of glorious peace. Take your local events and use them. Predict the rise of a new champion at the event before a baronial champ is chosen for something, predict a power exchange when an old baron or baroness steps down, ect.

You can predict wild, out there events and take a shot in the dark if you want to. If you’re wrong no one will care. But if you’re right? Welcome to a whole new reputation my dear.

7. Have Fun.

Otherwise what’s the point?

Coronation Poem – Red Pen Post

So a month back I posted a poem. Namely this poem:

“Peace was promised to – proud world King.

But I warn of war – worthy crown.

Soon comes clash of – crimson spears

Drums beat battle cries – blood to stir.

Peace was promised you – Pray, take it!

Power must pass – prince must take 

the eastern throne – through his might

your fair lands remain – fierce and strong.”

When I posted it I’d said it was quick and dirty and there’d be a discussion of why it was wrong later.

Welcome to later.

Things that I did right in this piece basically boil down to the alliteration. Other than that? It’s a bit of a mess. A lovely, not-really-noticeable-by-ear mess, but a mess never the less.

A quick discussion of the main points of Saxon verse:

-There are two half lines in each line. Each half line has four beats. Only the stressed syllable in a given word counts toward your beat count. You can technically cram as many unstressed syllables in as you wanted, but there comes a point when you’re just being obnoxious.

-You can end a thought anywhere in the line/half line you want to. It makes me twitchy to end a thought anywhere but the end of a line or end of a half line, but you can end in the middle if you really wanted to and it would still be correct.

-Alliteration is the backbone upon which you build your piece. Unlike a lot of modern poetry where rhyme scheme is king and alliteration is just a pretty additive, for Saxon verse alliteration is your heartbeat. Alliteration comes from your stressed syllable, which is not always your first one. For example:

Record alliterates with recycle but record alliterates with canon.

Fun fact: vowels always alliterate with each other. Eat alliterates with yes which alliterates with orange. Yeah I don’t get it either, I just know it’s a thing.

-The first stressed syllable (first beat) of your second half line alliterates with one or more words from the first half line. It is the only beat in the second half line to do so. This is therefore the most important word in a single line as it determines the over all alliteration of the line itself.

So now, where did I go wrong? Honestly I made one major, tragic, error, and all other errors stem from that.

I forgot each half line was four beats and defaulted to a 5/3 beat pattern. I also forgot that only the stressed syllables counted toward my beat pattern. What does this mean? It means that I wrote the bastard love child of Saxon and Irish verse that, much like a D&D half orc, fits with neither of the cultures that brought it into being.

Because my beat pattern is wrong, that really really important alliterative word in the second half line is in the wrong place. It should be one beat sooner. And there should be another beat after it. However certain lines also don’t have enough beats because I was counting every syllable as a beat, not just the stressed ones. Remember kids, when writing Saxon verse, only stressed syllables want to beat you.

So how can I fix it? Unfortunately to fix this particular error I’d need to do an entire rewrite. Which I could and should, but I am going to let this stand as an example of what happens when you speed write a form you’re still learning. To quote Ms. Frizzle of Magic Schoolbus fame: Get Messy, Make Mistakes.

Frankly that’s the only way you learn. And I’m learning.

Burn out and how to avoid it

Here’s the thing, I have a problem with wanting/needing to DO ALL THE THINGS. I’m not the only one who feels the need to hold myself to almost impossible standards. All my garb must be hand stitched/embellished/trimmed, all my trim must be handwoven, all my bardic pieces must either be written or adapted by me and I must have a new piece for every performance. Oh and I want to play mandolin, learn old English, and spin. All while having a full time job.

There are limited hours and energy to do everything. When you try do everything you end up burning yourself out and hating the whole deal. Instead of being fun, your hobby becomes a slog with one commitment after another after another until you forget why you wanted to do this in the first place.

So how do you avoid this?

Well, in some cases you can’t. IE  you’ve taken on a job that has certain requirements that need to be met. In that case you mark your calendar for when it ends and count days. HOWEVER! In most cases? Burn out is avoidable if you remember these three things:

  1. You are encouraged to ask for help.
  2. Your standards for yourself are higher than anyone else’s standards for you.
  3. This is your hobby not your livelihood.

You are encouraged to ask for help.

Please! If you need help organizing an event? Find a friend and ask them to help you. If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to a specific art/craft/fight you can ask someone who knows. You do not have to try to learn everything on your own. You do not have to juggle everything. Know the phrase ‘many hands make light work’? Same deal.

This is hard. Especially for someone, like me, who is a wee bit of a control freak. You have to trust that the person you’re handing tasks off to is going to follow through. Without you losing your mind nagging them. Don’t do that. That’s rude.

Your standards for yourself are higher than anyone else’s standards for you.

No one at events is checking my seams to make sure they’re hand stitched. No one notices or cares if I flub a line or don’t have a new piece. The world will not end if I do not have handwoven trim on every dress or tunic. Does typing that make me twitch? Yes. Yes it does. But! It’s also true. No one will judge you for wearing last  year’s garb or having modern forks in your feast gear.

This is your hobby, not your livelihood.

I can not stress this one enough. Look, guys, a lot of us take the SCA very Very seriously. I’m certainly guilty of it. I love the SCA. I love that on any given weekend (or day with social media) I can surround myself with other people who are my flavor of geek, who appreciate the work that I’m doing, and actually understand why I’m excited about the differences between spinning with a period style drop spindle vs a modern one. This is the sort of thing that makes your coworkers eyes glaze over and mentally note to never ask how your weekend was ever again.

But, at the end of the day, we are a made up society with made up titles, and we all agree to pretend together. And that is a beautiful thing, but not worth your sanity. If you feel yourself starting to dread going to events, for whatever reason, or having the mental debate between work and SCA, you may want to step back for a bit and breathe. Repeat after me:

This is my hobby, not my livelihood.

Nothing will explode or crash and burn if you take some time for you. I took a two year hiatus because mundane life was exploding and trying to juggle that and SCA was a very Very poor life choice. The great thing about the SCA is that you can step back if you need to, and it’ll still be there when you’re ready to come back. Guys? We just collectively turned 50. I don’t think we’re going anywhere any time soon. Your mental and emotional health is more important than winning that tourney or getting your garb done perfectly.

My personal mantra: history has enough crispy Saxons.

Now, if you’ll all excuse me I’ve got some spinning to get done and a loom to warp and garb to cut.

On the Coronation of King Hans

Inspired by lines 20-25 of Beowulf (Chickering translation):

 

“So ought a young man / in his father’s household

Treasure up the future / by his goods and goodness

By splendid bestowals / so that later in life

His chosen men / stand by him in turn

His retainers serve him /  when war comes.”

 

My poem:

 

So ought a young king / inheriting his father’s throne

Give great and wisely of / golden rings and bands.

By bestowals of silver / such to be loved later,

So well chosen men / stand by him in pride

To defend his folk /  fiercely ‘gainst all harm.

High in his halls / Hans knows well this truth,

Needs none to speak / knowingly of gift duty.

Mighty gold ring giver / gifts joyfully of his hoard.

 

The above was written in roughly 20 minutes from “Got any good words about a Saxon King being a ring giver?” The request came in at 9pm Thursday. The requester was flying out to California at 5am Friday. The requester was very clear that he didn’t need a whole poem, just some phrases or something.

But this is me. Just giving a couple phrases would be halfassing it. And really, what’s a poem but a couple of phrases stuck together in a cohesive manner? This was easier anyhow.

Ultimately this poem was not used. Let this be a lesson to all aspiring bards: if you technically work for and represent someone Get Their Ok FIRST. Either that or don’t be disappointed if your work gets cut.