A Long Day's Journey Into Knight
A Blog entry by Joe Fusco, Reposted with Permission
(This blog was written by a friend of Syr Owen ap Aeddan, who is not in the SCA. His outside perspective on Owen's Knighting was positively wonderful.)
My friend, Eric, is being knighted this evening. No, I'm not in England and this doesn't involve a governmentally recognized monarchy. Eric is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). This is a group that studies medieval history and will recreate the clothing, skills and traditions of that history. Each person in the organization will take on a persona from the period they are studying. Eric's persona, for instance, is named Owen (there's a whole bunch of ap this and ap that after that but I don't know it) and he's a fighter... who will be pronounced a knight at court this evening.
Knighthood in the SCA is a top-level recognition of aptitude, attitude, knowledge, ability, effort and achievement. One friend likened it to a black belt in karate (interrestingly enough, it involves a white belt). To someone in the SCA, it's a big deal. Eric Owen has been trying to achieve knighthood since the day I met him about three years ago.
Right now, Owen is sitting in vigil. He is receiving friends and well-wishers and taking time to chat with them before court this evening. It's another one of those historical things.
In case you couldn't tell, I'm not a member of the SCA. Although I know a good deal about it for being mundane (what they call non-players), I'm not immersed enough to understand most of the traditions. The only reason I know as much as I do is because a lot of my friends over the past 15 years have been involved and I enjoy attending some of the regional rennaisance festivals. You pick up a few things here and there.
The local group is holding their Guardian event at a boy scout camp in the area. As I write this, I am sitting in my truck with the A/C running. It's about 95 degrees (F) out here and, frankly, I'm a little bored at the moment.
The group held weapon tournaments earlier in the day. They use padded sticks as swords. They won't kill you but they still hurt. And, yes, they do suit up in armor. I showed up for those and took some video. A bard competition and archery competition just kicked off about 5 minutes ago but I've basically been sitting around doing nothing for the past two hours.
You see, after the tournaments, the members all mingle among different tents and swap stories of past SCA events, how the fighting on the day went, and what's been going on in their mundane lives. Since I'm not a regular, I have no stories to swap and, since I barely know anyone, no one to swap them with. I barely know the SCA names of the friends I have who are members. And I'm never sure which name to call them when speaking of them to other members.
At any rate, it's about three hours before anything else significant starts. I think I may take a nap. Oh, wait, Carl Rafe is back. I think I'll go see what he's up to.
I stumbled around for the rest of the afternoon trying not to act like a lost puppy clinging to my friends Rafe Slater and Sabine (Carl & Myria). I would probably have hung out with Owen (Eric) since he's technically the one who invited me but, as I noted earlier, he's busy. I desperately wanted to help or get involved but there just wasn't anything for me to do.
It may sound like I'm whining and complaining that I was bored to tears and kept wishing I was somewhere else. This is far from the truth. It was an excellent experience and it gave me some time to just... be. I got the opportunity to just sit for most of the afternoon, observe what was happening around me and not think about work or the real world for a few hours.
Eventually, I stopped by the bardic competition. They had five categories: Poetry, storytelling, song, musical instrument and other (i.e. juggling). As I approached, one of the people I know, Ivo Evo (I don't know how he spells it but it's pronounced eye-vo [Editor's Note: Lord Ivo Blackhawk of Mooneschadowe]), was just getting called to tell a story. I went ahead and let the camera roll. When he came back to sit next to me he commented, "Not one of my best tellings." But I was entertained nonetheless.
After a couple of songs and a poem or two, I decided I wanted to get my equipment ready for court that evening. I was near the end of my current tape (I had shot more than I thought that day) and wanted my tripod. Besides, my butt was getting sore from sitting on a wooden picnic table.
Eventually, it neared time for feast and Sabine drafted Rafe and I to help set up. I was glad for something to do. We arranged the tables in the boy scouts' central hall and spread tablecloths on the head table and a couple of reserved tables. The serving staff made ready by donning... I'm not sure what they're called... they're basically a tabbard except the back flows into a cape instead of being the same length as the front.
In good time, plus an extra half hour at the whim of the king and queen, feast began. I had looked at the menu on the web site but still wasn't sure what to expect.
At first, they brought out a plate of fresh-baked bread and cheese. I sat quietly because Sabine, being the autocrat for the event (the event coordinator), was off doing autocratic things and Rafe was off checking on their son and I wasn't sure what medieval etiquette dictated that I do. Eventually, one of the two others sitting at our table said, "Dig in. Just grab what you want." Not recalling how much more was to come or when, I grabbed a slice of cheese and a small piece of bread.
Next was the salad. The salad was mixed greens with an oil-based dressing. Shortly after it was served, Rafe came back. By the time the deviled eggs were served, Sabine had decided to join us as well. The eggs were very good but the flavor was not as sharp as what I think of when I think of deviled eggs. It was then that I began to realize just how much crap we put on our food these days for flavoring. Notice, please, that I did not use the phrase, flavor enhancement.
In due time, we were served chicken. Pieces of honey-glazed chicken, about 1.5 oz each, were served in a bowl atop grapes and... I'm not sure... it was something that was ground up with a texture a little smaller than rice. I took a piece of chicken and some of the accompanying stuff. The chicken was excellent. It was lightly spiced and had just a hint of sweetness to it. The grapes were fantastic... they were honey-glazed as well.
Next, we were presented with a bowl of peas. I had some but, really, there's not much you can do with peas. They tasted like peas. I like peas.
More bread and sweet butter were brought to the table and the obligatory toasts to the king and queen and friends not present were made. A tray of pork roast and sweet potato slices arrived after that. The sweet potatoes were wonderful. I don't think I've ever had them not mashed with butter and a little salt. They taste just fine without all that junk. The pork was... the pork was okay. I'm not a pork person. I don't really care for the texture of the meat.
Following that, a bowl of cooked carrot slices and baked onions was brought to the table. We all tried the carrots and left the onions.
It was nearing the end and we were presented with a plate of stuffed mushroom caps. I grabbed hold of one of these almost as soon as the plate was put down. I love mushrooms and these were stuffed with what appeared to be feta or some other crumbly cheese and spices. Oh wow. These were unbelievable. I almost ate the whole plate myself because the 5-year-old who had joined us was the only other one eating them and she only took one... maybe two. I stopped short, not wanting to be rude or gluttonous, but I did have five or six of them before the meal was over.
Finally, a desert tray was served. Baked apple slices, fresh apple chunks, and tiny waffles. I was pretty full by then and only had some of the apples. I love cinnamon-baked apples.
With full bellies, the king declared the feast over and we all cleared our tables and went to make ready for court.
The evening started out normally for an SCA court, as far as I could tell. Since the days events included competitions, past champions were called forward to present awards to new champions. As the title was passed from one champion to the next, the previous champion was also recognized for his or her year of service. Once that was done, recognition awards were given for various levels of service to the crown, kingdom, and shire.
After the awards, the Centurions were called before the king and queen. Membership into this group is given to those demonstrating exceptional leadership, skill and honor in chivalric combat, service to the kingdom and its people, knowledge of courtly graces and obedience to the laws and ideals of the kingdom and the SCA (I got that off the web site). This is, apparently, a very great honor and is often seen as an honor bestowed upon someone prior to being knighted. Owen was named to the Order of the Centurions of the Sable Star last year.
The king played up announcing the newest member by saying their number appeared to be one short and repeated his herald a couple more times. Eventually, he called out the name and the crowed erupted in cheers of excitement and approval. (Editor's note: Vigge Jonsson) The new member was bestowed with a red sash/cape with the lion dragon of Moonschadowe embroidered upon it [Editor's Note: it's a Centurion's Eagle.].
It was at this time that I realized that objects have history and the history is known and told as the object is passed on. The sash that the new centurion received was given to A by B and to B by C for whom it was created by D. After the court, the king and other centurions were remarking how one of the sashes was "one of the original six." Fascinating. Totally fascinating.
Finally, it came time that the members of the order of Chivalry were called before the court.
The Order of the Chivalry is two orders, The Order of Knighthood and the Order of Mastery at Arms.
The Chivalry is the peerage of Warriors. Noble Fighters, the leaders of the kingdom on the field of Battle. These Gentles have shown not only the skill and ability of martial combat, but also the grace and nobility as befits a Peer.
The textbook difference between a Knight and a Master at Arms, is the Oath of Fealty. Simply put Knights take the Oath of Fealty, and wear the unadorned gold chain as a symbol of that oath. Masters at arms do not take the Oath and therefore do not wear the Chain.
The Badges of Knight hood are "A White Belt" and "A Circular Chain". The Badge of Mastery of Arms is "A White Baldric"
Knights are Addressed as "Sir" or "Dame" while Mastery at arms confers the address form of "Master" or "Mistress"
(that came from the web site, too)
After a brief interruption from a wayward Lahso Apso, a different herald came forth and began to speak. "The crown summons Owen ap Aeddan (that last word is pronounced athan, like Nathan without the N)..." Almost as soon as he began, a voice from the back of the crowd began to herald as well. "Now comes hither, Owen ap Aeddan..."
Both stopped, then the first herald spoke the words, "I speak with the voice of the crown. You will follow my lead."
In response, the second herald said, "I speak with the voice of Owen. You will need to speak loudly." The crowd gave a round of joyous laughter for they all know Owen and the power and strength of his voice. (Eric is someone who will make himself heard)
I won't bore you with the entire processional. Basically, the king's herald would proclaim, "I seek the Owen who was granted [insert award here] by [insert awarding parties here]." to which Owen's herald would respond, "This is he." Once the exchange was complete, the king's herald would take a step toward the rear of the audience and repeat his call.
Once all of the awards were recited, the king's herald joined the procession and Owen's herald began, "This is Owen ap Aeddan ap... (I can't spell all of his aps)" A horn sounded and the procession began reciting other accomplishments (including "...and it took a Welshman to show all of those German and Japanese how to toss a caber!" [basically a big log]) and taking a step forward after each one pronouncing, "summoned he comes." This procession was much like the king's herald's procession to the rear.
When Owen finally arrived before the king, the king asked if it was still his wish to become a knight. "Yes, Your Majesty," came the clear and robust reply.
After his affirmation, there was part of the ceremony where he removed his red belt, signifying he was a squire. Again, he was asked his intentions. The king asked, "In that you have signified you would accept entrance into the Order of Chivalry, would you take the belt and chain of a knight, or the baldric of a master at arms?"
Again, in a loud, clear voice, Owen answered, "Your Majesty, it is my one hope and dream to be a knight."
Once his intentions were reaffirmed, the king called representatives from other orders to come forward and speak for Owen.
"Is there a member of the Ancient Order of the Laurel who shall speak for this man?"
"Aye, Your majesty." Came the answer from the crowd. "This man has been my roommate. This man has fought with me in seven Gulf Wars. This man stood beside me when we got our AOAs together. Your Majesties, this evening, you elevate this man. You make him a peer of the realm. Your Majesties, this man has always been my peer." [Editor's Note: Master Oxlade Lachlan MacKinnon of Mooneschadowe.]
Another stepped forward, "Your Majesties, if I may also speak for this man?"
"I have known Centurian Owen for quite a while. I have known him since he was thrown off the field of combat for using boffer (not sure what that is or if I heard that right) in the moonlight when he was seventeen.
"You have heard the lineage of his arts. His voice, which is known on the battlefield, is equally respected in the circle of bards and performers (apparently, he can sing very well). His art, throughout the herald's regions, is equally well known. This man is a champion of my heir. He is my adopted grandson. He is my peer." (Editor's Note: was Master Beorhlic Folcwineson)
With that, the king then asked, "Is there a member of the Order of the Pelican who will speak for this man?"
A clear, female voice proclaimed, "Aye!"
"Your Majesty, I am Anastacia Marie Travarra, called Stacia. I am Baroness to this court, Mistress of the Laurel and Mistress of the Pelican. It is my honor to speak for this man as his Pelican.
"Owen came into my life some years ago at a feast, along with Master Oxlade, where we weren't in Northkeep and we weren't in Moonschadowe and pickins were a little slim for knights, unfortunately. And we wound up feeding him a bowl of olives. Which he hates olives and he put this into bread and put it into his mouth and, in tears, ate his supper. And I have watched him ever since.
"He began in kitchens, serving. I have seen him with great joy, hip deep in water, bare-chested washing pots after." She recounted his awards then continued, "But the thing that makes this man most special is his joy, no matter what he does. Whether it be washing a pot, schleping things across camp... his joy rings. His verve and gusto of live in every waking step. And he always comes to any chore smiling. And I am pleased beyond words to say this man is my peer."
Again, the king asked, "Is there a Lady of The Rose who will speak for this man?"
Two people approached. After introducing themselves they began, "Your Majesty, as former queens of Ansteorra, it is our duty to recognize those who embody grace, devotion, wit, nobility... This man is generous of heart and spirit. Kind. Noble. Not a stingy bone in his body. He embodies honor and grace. Your majesties, peers are not made, they are recognized. This man is truly a peer."
Once again, the king spoke up, "Is there a Lion of Ansteorra who will speak for this man?"
"I'll speak for this man, for we have gone on adventures together. Not just any adventure, a lion's adventure. And within this adventure, Owen found the courage of a lion to look within himself to find what he needed. And he has found it and he has rose amongst men to become a hero of this kingdom. This man is a knight and a hero of this kingdom." [Editor's Note: This was Master Tarl Godric the Brokentoe.]
It was during this period of having people speak for Owen that I felt the power and significance of this honor. I could see why anyone would want to attain this level within any organization. To have people stand before a crowd of over two hundred people and speak of you in such a manner, loudly and clearly and without aid of amplification save the power of their own voices, is truly amazing. These are words normally reserved for a time when the subject of such words can no longer hear them. To be able to hear them when you are still alive and have people bear witness to them is something most people do not get to experience. The name they use may be that of the persona but, even knowing Eric for a relatively short period, I know they speak of the man. To have someone speak of you in such a manner it could be be easy to become arrogant. These words, however, are not spoken for the arrogant. The arrogant will speak these words for themselves. No, these are proud words that speak of honesty and honor and a distinct lack of arrogance. I was proud that Eric/Owen asked me to be a part of this.
Once the Lion finished, the king continued, "Having heard the counsel of the Lion and the peers and the ladies of The Rose, I do agree with that counsel and call for the belt for this man."
At that time, the knight Owen had squired for came forward with a white belt .(Editor's Note: Burke Kyriell MacDonald.) "Your Majesty, I freely give this belt, which is the belt that I was knighted with." He remarked that the item had a history then announced to the crowd, "Hear now the history of this belt of white, symbolizing purity, nobleness of spirit. There is no stain on this belt, save the stain of hard work and good and noble bearers." He recounted its lineage, to which I could do no justice here, then presented it to the king and queen who placed it around Owen's waist.
After the belt was placed around his waist, Owen then knelt, once again, before the king who called for the spurs. It was explained that the spurs were used to urge the knight's warhorse into battle. They were also a symbol of the knight's elite status as a mounted warrior. Today they are a reminder to the owner to keep pushing himself to better himself and those around him. The spurs were tied to his boots.
Finally, it came time for the chain. A member of the order came forward (Editor's Note: Sir Balvin Thorfinnsson) and said, "See here, the chain is a circle. It is a symbol of the knight's fealty to the crown. Each link represents a member of our order. This chain, as a circle of knights, is only as strong as its weakest link." And with that, he handed it to the king who added a second chain of his own.
Owen, bowing before the king, holding the hilt of a sword, swore a quiet oath of fealty to the king. The king, after some words of ceremony, handed Owen the chains saying, "I would ask that you now place upon yourself the burden of fealty."
After donning the chains, Owen swore a loud, strong and clear oath that the crowd could hear. "I, Owen ap Aeddon (ap...), do swear by all that I hold sacred, true and holy that I will honor and obey the crown of Ansteorra. I will honor and defend all ladies and those weaker than myself. That I will revere and serve my faith. That I will give courtesy to my peers, both knight and master of arms, and masters and mistresses of the Laurel and the Pelican. That I will conduct myself in all manners as befits a knight, drawing my sword only for just cause and being chivalrous to all to the greater glory of the crown of Ansteorra."
With that, Owen stood before the king and was presented with a sword. The king handed it to Owen saying, "From my hand, I do now arm you that you may serve as protector of the weak and defender of the just."
Owen knelt before the king, who drew his own sword. "Then, by this my hand, Drake, king of Ansteorra,"
"And Sibri, queen of Ansteorra,"
"We do dub thee, Owen ap Aeddon," the king touched the sword to Owen's right shoulder, "once, in honor," he touched the sword to Owen's left shoulder, "twice, in chivalry," he touched the sword to the top of Owen's head, "and thrice, in love."
For the first time, the new title was used as the king instructed, "Arise, Sir Owen."
Now came the interesting part as the king reached for his gauntlets (in this case, a pair of heavy leather gloves). "Sir Owen," the king proclaimed as he raised his gloved right hand, "let this be your last unanswered blow." With that, he struck Sir Owen and knocked the three hundred pound knight to the ground.
The herald then announced, "Know ye that we, Drake and Sibri, king and queen of Ansteorra, in consideration of singular noble virtues and martial prowess alike in courtesy and honor as in courage and feats of arms, do by these, our letters patent, advance Owen ap Aeddon ap.. ap.. to the rank and estate in style and title and degree [I may have that wrong] of knight for his homage and service to hold and to have for us and our successors, kings and queens of Ansteorra, in fealty and honor to be in all places encountered a peer of our realm, with all responsibilities and privileges thereto apertaining, in all places in testimony wherefore we have caused to be made these our letters patent, this is so done in our shire of Moonschadowe on the 18th day of September... 2004."
Much rejoicing followed and Owen did... a victory dance.
"For the newest companion to the Order of Chivalry, VIVAT!"
In one voice, the crowd responded, "VIVAT!!... VIVAT!!... VIVAT!!"
And with that, the audience was dismissed as Sir Owen greeted his brethren in the Order of Chivalry as an equal.