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?
One thought on “Seven Simple Suggestions for SCA Soothsaying”
Having worked in a couple prophecy-oriented performances before, another thing you can play with are astrological events. They’ll *always* sound impressive. But now we know that Mercury will show up in front of the sun on a particularly date, when eclipses will be (and where they will be visible), and even things like regular meteor showers.