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Ryghtes of a Ladye: Consorts, Courtliness, and Civil Rights

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I love Crown Tournaments, they’re possibly my favorite events on the Kingdom Calendar. The pageantry, the ceremony, the ritual, the displays of chivalry, and the festivities are thrilling. (Not to mention the clothing! While I respect all time periods, I must confess that I get extra tingles when I see a Crown list dominated by reenactors from the One True Century!)

Crown Tournaments are, in a sense, the SCA on display: the representation of what we mean by chivalry on the field and off, and, more importantly, of something not many people are able to grasp…

Inspiration.

Inspiration, in the modern sense, differs from the way in which we view it in our pseudo-Victorian embodiment of medieval ideals. In the mundane world, an artist might be inspired by a sunset or a millenial might be inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand; however, in the SCA, inspiration is not an unintentional result, but the opposite. It is the act of breathing into another so that they are strengthened and emboldened in their task, upon their path, and/or in their life. 

(I know it sounds a little silly, but our hobby was made up at a college party in the sixties, so…)

Typically, we think of inspiration in the SCA as something restricted to fighters and consorts, primarily in Crown. Some even dismiss it as a formality of etiquette, but those of us who have been on either side, either the inspirer or the inspired, know that it’s more than that. In my relationship, for example, my lord husband and I escort each other into court when one of us is called, rather than him simply escorting me as the lady, because we support and encourage each other in all our endeavors.

I escorted my Lord Husband into Court when he was given an unofficial acknowledgement at Queen’s Prize Tournament. His artwork is beautiful!

I would not be entirely honest, though, if I did not admit that I feel the power of inspiration the most strongly when Günther is on the field and I am standing to the side watching him fight. I love that feeling! Objectively, I’ve always found him to be an enjoyable fighter to watch: he’s 6’2” (maybe 6’3”) and he always uses the full range of movement his long limbs afford him. As a former dancer, the physical spectacle has always intrigued me.  More personally, however, is the amazing connection we discovered when we started treating every tournament like a consort tournament.

In 2014, Günther had gone a long period without fighting and the tension from work and life was surrounding him like a cloud. The Barony we live in had organized a “practice tournament” for a regular meeting to teach fighters to engage more in the spectacle of fighting (ie, fall down when you die!) and, for the first time in our relationship, I assumed the full authority and responsibility of being his Lady. Two days before the scheduled tournament, I stood in front of him and said:

“There is a tournament at fighter practice. I want you to carry my favor and win the tournament for me.” 

Günther loves his “Braveheart” favor.

This statement may seem bossy and pushy when read in black and white or heard by someone outside the SCA, but sometimes a wife has to help her husband snap out of the haze he’s in and refind himself. In this instance, it worked. —He went to fighter practice, fought in the tournament even though he didn’t have time to warm up, and he lasted until the semi-finals. (It was a little more impressive the following year when he went to Chieftain’s and made it to semi-finals cold, but that’s another story.) More importantly, he was my Huscarl again.

During that tournament, Günther and I also discovered a remarkable connection that happened when he was on the field. He loved fighting for me and knowing that I was watching him intently which invigorated him. For my own part, I found that I could read when he would win the bout as well as gauge when he had reached his limit. Sometimes, I even felt as though I could will him through a tough bout. After that, fighting became, not only something in which I supported him, but a couple’s activity. —And was it fun!

Most couples do not approach fighting the way we did because, to most people, inspirational fighting is something left for Crown tournament or Rose Tournaments. For my own part, the heavy fighting events rarely have classes that appeal to me and most of my friends end up chatting along the sidelines watching the fighters anyway, consequently it never took away from my SCA experience to step up to the list field and blow a kiss when my beloved dutifully saluted me before every bout. Other people, even fellow SCAdians, may think we’re a little sappy, but you love what you love. I also think that perhaps we seem sappy because it’s not common to engage in inspirational fighting, to have their beloved or a chivalrous friend endeavor to win a tournament or a bout truly in their honor. 

I have heard talk of a push to hold more non-Crown and non-Rose consort tournaments at events and I hope that comes to fruition. Many women, myself included, can’t help but feel a twinge of longing when they watch the parade of consorts at Crown Tournament, or see the Ladies of the Rose with their champions. I also think that having more consort tournaments would open the experience of being a consort up to more men and create a more rounded experience of martial chivalry and mutual support. (Moreover, it would also help to emphasize that there is more to chivalry than martial comportment if we had “inspired” Arts and Sciences competitions and encouraged giving favors to those in service whom we wish to see press further, but that’s also another article.) 

The one problem I have with Crown Tournaments, is that, obviously, not everyone gets to experience them. I never have and it is likely that I never will since Günther has lost interest in fighting in the light of the studies around CTE; however, I was lucky enough to participate in one consort tournament with him two years ago. Personally, I think everyone should experience a consort tournament, at least once: they are, after all, central to all the pageantry and courtliness of the middle ages. 

Having more consort tournaments (or even adapting tournament procedures in general so that if a fighter is inspired by another, it is noted on the name card given to the heralds) would only serve to add to the ambience, add to the sense of medieval romance, and, most importantly, add to the fun.

Alright, now that I have most of you nodding and agreeing with me (because come on, what’s the harm of more consort tourneys?), I am going to mightily annoy some people reading this, but right is right and it’s time someone said this…

IN A PROCESSION OF PAIRS, THE PLACE OF THE HIGHEST RANKING PERSON IN THE COUPLE SHOULD BE RESPECTED, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THAT PERSON IS THE CONSORT OR THE COMBATANT.

Why that concept is so difficult to grasp is, frankly, beyond me, yet Crown Tournament after Crown Tournament I have watched in sheer frustration as the processional is ranked according to the combatant, with no regard to the rank of (read: contributions to the society made by) the consort.

Personally, I believe that this is an issue because no one has seen fit to question it outside of a quiet word here and there. For instance, if a consort in Crown were to raise the concerns I’m raising, people are likely to think ill of her (or him) for not simply being grateful to be along for the ride. As I mentioned before, I have never been and will likely never be a Consort in Crown, ergo I have nothing to gain in this.

Why is it wrong to arrange the Order of Precedence by the Rank of the Fighters? 

First of all, when one looks at it purely from the perspective of authenticity and etiquette, this practice violates both of historical and current views on precedence. In the Middle Ages, a widow (death being the primary means of ending a marriage) maintained her title and status. For example, Mary Tudor, a Queen Dowager of France, maintained her status and styling directly beneath whomever was unfortunate enough to be her sister in law (ie wife a living King of England), despite the fact that she had remarried Charles Brandon, a Duke.

The Queen of France & the Fortune Hunter!

Modernly, the same holds true in regards to Precedence. Although the Princess Royal has been married twice to non-royals and neither of her husbands accepted a peerage, she has maintained both her rank and place in the Order of Precedence, as has Princess Eugenie, Mrs Jack Brooksbank. 

Princess Anne and Mark Philips.

The Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence

Secondly, (and I’m afraid there really isn’t a way to soften this statement) the practice is fighter-centric. In most instances, not only is the Order of Precedence usually arranged by the rank of the fighter, but the fighter’s rank is only considered in regards to his or her fighting awards. For example, you will often see a combatant who became a Laurel or Pelican before becoming a member of the Order of Chivalry or a Laurel or Pelican who became a peer before the other non-royal peers on the list be placed after a newly minted Knight. This practice is strictly against corpora (Section VIII, subsection A, sub-sub section 2.) which clearly states that the four Orders of Peerage shall be considered equal and the members must be ranked as an equal group. (In other words, Laurels are not beneath Knights, etc.)  

This arranging the Order of Precedence solely upon the combatants fighting awards communicates that fighting awards (that is fighting itself) are more valued than the making of clothes, furniture, armor, et al or the toil to make events happen and keep the SCA together. –This is not in keeping with the attitude of our Kingdom, which makes the fighter-centric structure of Crown Tournament glaringly out of place.

Now, I absolutely love fighting and I love fighters. I was sad when my lord husband announced to me that he was hanging up his great-sword because I know how much that great sword meant to him. I lamented when the Pole-Arm of Doom saw its last war, I delight in Günther’s stories from battlefields and melees, and I love watching a good bout. (That’s why I go to events like Crown Tournament and Toys for Tots.) I will probably laugh at anyone who should say that I’m anti-fighter; however, you will be hard pressed to convince me that the act of fighting contributes more to our society than other activities.

Me, Günther, & the Pole-Arm of Doom!

As for consorts in Crown Tournament, the message sent to them by discounting their rank (which often comes from non-fighting awards) is that their contribution to the society not of consequence, regardless of any lip service to the contrary.

I’m married to Günther, so I understand some absent mindedness. He loves the hat I made him, but often leaves it in a pile of socks at the back of the closet or forgets its existence on the floor of his car. Again, he tells me that he loves the hat and his smile when he remembers to wear it is proof, but it grows difficult to believe him when I see the hat forgotten more often than not. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.

Speaking of Günther (who has fought in Crown twice to my nil), this is one issue upon which we do not agree. He has argued to me that a consort is simply proud of his or her combatant and willing to take his place in the Order of Precedence. That said, I think if we asked a Duke who was fighting for someone with an Award of Arms to give up their place as a Royal Peer, Facebook would go crazy, which should, frankly, be our litmus test. The work wrought by a Ruler by Right of Arms and Ruler by Right of Inspiration is the same and the contributions of all activities in the Society are equal, shouldn’t we treat them with the same level of respect?

In summation, the contributions of non-fighters bear equal import within our society, corpora dictates that all awards after royal peerages be ranked on the same footing, by historical and contemporary standards, the highest ranking person within the couple dictates the precedence of the couple in procession, and, most importantly, we wouldn’t ask a combatant to take a lower place in the Order of Precedence due to the rank of their Consort.

 

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A Song for a Ladye that is Gone…

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The past weeks have given me a lot to think about, much to lament, and much to make me hopeful.

At first, I was a little frustrated that my post about being assaulted was so widely commented upon when a post I published a year ago had spoken to the same message, without providing personal details about an event I’d rather not recall. However, after further reflection, I see now why my previous opines failed to resonate in the way I had hoped: they were lifeless. Until three weeks ago, my writing took real life events and presented them as hypothetical situations or vague occurrences that happened to other people. I did this to preserve my Victorian idea of dignity, my privacy and that of others, but, most of all, to protect myself from the backlash I feared would come from speaking about a knight who, for all I could see, was well loved in popular circles, circles of people who have made their feelings for me fairly clear in recent years.

This was cowardly and hypocritical, especially when viewed in the context of my own thoughts on virtue and, for that, I heartily apologize.

A second consequence of coming forward about my experience with assault is a wonderful sense of freedom. I no longer feel like I have to guard every word that I say in conversation and, even if he weren’t banished and I saw him at my next event, I feel like I could stare him down. I never realized before how much living in silence and, to an extent, shame had weighed on me until that weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I haven’t felt this light or free in the SCA in seven years. This has been my year of jubilee, the year of returning home, and, slowly, returning to myself.

Seven years ago, I stood in the overgrown grass of Lilies, wandered through the encampments and copses and I had a kind word and an open heart for everyone I met. I hugged near-strangers, I blew kisses to my friends who were fighting, and I lived to give help and love where I could. Behind the smiles, though, my heart was bleeding because I was still just a 22 year old girl who had spent her adolescence and most of college going to ballet class or a play rehearsal instead of dating boys. To makes things easier for myself, I had gotten burned coming out of the gate by a handsome young man I had fancied myself in love with. (If I only I could go back in time and shake the silly out of that girl.)

But, at that Lilies, my camp mate’s arms called to me in a way I couldn’t deny, like the warmth of a fireside in winter. When he’d set out to fight in the morning, I felt a tinge of sadness I couldn’t explain. When he’d return to camp, my spirit was glad. Oh so gently and sweetly, my heart began to open to this man who, somehow, saw all of me: my weakness, my contradictions, my flaws, even my deepest secrets. A man who held my hand and kissed me for all to see just to prove to me that he cared more for me than for what the gossips would say behind our backs. A man who stayed awake all night, keeping the blanket over my head so that condensation that dripped from the tent poles wouldn’t wake me as I slept. A man whose voice soothed me back to slumber when the winds of a Lilies’ storm frightened me.

While others had played with my heart or, at worst, sought to conquer my body, he played no games and asked nothing of me but to let him hold me as I slept and even as I wept. While others discarded me like a broken toy, he saw in me… well, his words have always been, “The most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.”

How could I not fall in love with a man so without guile? So gentle and yet so strong? Whose heart called to mine as though we were one and in whose arms I fit so perfectly?

“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone, Say could that lass be I?” -Robert Burns, edited.

But I lost the woman he had fallen in love with. My open heart had learned to guard itself after that Lilies. Where I once threw myself into friendships, where I once freely gave of myself, I became reserved, distrusting, and for a time, bitter and fearful.

One year into our relationship, still my protector.

That’s what shame does to you. That’s what happens when you’re cowed into silence, when, at every turn you hear a new, ridiculous rumor, when you begin to see yourself through someone else’s limited lens of your life. Not that the fire in me was ever extinguished, but I often find myself yearning to for the warmth I had.

“Give me the eyes, give me the smile, give me the lass that’s gone.”

And yet, my husband, blood of my blood, has loved me through every change. Loved the mother I became to our children, loved the heart that has always been his, loved the friend that has always been and always will be by his side. Still, I want to give him all of me, even the parts of myself that I buried so long ago. I want to be filled with fire again, I want to be brave again, for myself as much as for him. I don’t want the woman he loved to one day disappear, replaced by a cold housewife who has lost her voice.

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A Ladye on Trial: the Culture of Victim-Blaming and Silence in the SCA

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To those who have reached out to me, either directly or through my husband, I truly appreciate your support. When I published my last post, I was honestly dispassionate about my own experience; my objective was to address the larger issue of bad behavior and the response or lack thereof. I didn’t realize that I needed support until after it was offered. (To be more precise, after the tenth time my sister told me she was proud of me and I felt my lip begin to quiver.)

That said, I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer. This issue has not left my mind in almost a week and I feel that there is still so much to be said. After all, I have spent seven years biting my tongue.

I posted, in large part, because I wanted the woman who was brave enough to file a complaint against our mutual assailant to know that she is not overreacting, it is not in her head, she was not asking for it, and she is not ruining some poor mistaken person who made a single misstep. I wanted her to know that she was not alone.

There are some who may read this without fully grasping the content of my previous post and think, “But, if you would have spoken out sooner, you could have spared her and the women before her.” I also know that some of my friends think, “If you had just spoken out, if you had come to me, I would have helped you. We could have gotten him and the others like banished.”

My answer to both those responses is, “No.”

As I wrote in my previous post, it took my husband (then my boyfriend) months to help me realize that I had been assaulted. Moreover, because I had blamed myself for the incident, I had forgiven my assailant when approached by him the following day. I still remember how odd it seemed that he kept thanking me for not causing trouble for him during the War. Because I forgave him and didn’t think forgiveness included filing police reports or denouncing him, I waved off my husband’s pleas to speak out.

Then my husband came home from the infamous Fyrd Retreat where my assailant had called me “lame” and “crazy.” That’s when I knew that his repentance was just a show and his behavior was not simply the result of a misunderstanding. I realized then that, of course he thanked me for being so magnanimous, he knew he had done wrong even if I didn’t.

My husband is a Huscarl, which is the GoA fighting award in my kingdom. At the time, he was squired to a well-known Duke and his squire brother was the crown prince. He was also part of the popular group, a regular at McGurk’s on Tuesday night, and, before I came along and made his life boring because I was in college and always had to study, he went out regularly with the other “cool kids.”

He tried to use his white, male privilege and his social credit rating (neither of which I possessed) to bring attention to my assailant’s behavior. He started by talking to our friends. He talked about it in camp at Lilies and he talked about it in a van on the way to Pavel’s wake in July. Then, in September, we went to Gryphon’s Fest and I saw my assailant for the first time since that Lilies. Two weeks later, my friend told me about the rumor.

Even as Günther tried to bring the truth about my assailant to light, my credibility was dismantled with a simple nasty rumor.

Not long after I asked Günther to stop talking about my experience, another friend publicly shared her experience with a different man via Facebook. She was better liked than me and she’d been playing longer. Her husband was also extremely well known and respected, and both of them seemed to be on the fast track for peerages from where I sat. Almost as soon as she started speaking, a very popular Duke harangued her into silence. Eventually, she and her husband both stopped playing. Since my previous post, at least one other woman has come forward about the same man.

Since last Friday, all but one person who came forward to speak of assault or indecency (some from the same assailant, some from different men) stated that they reached out to someone and every time they were shown that the only acceptable way to behave (and maintain a place in the society) was through silence. The woman who didn’t report her experience before now stated that she remained mum because she had heard of women who had been pushed out of the society for speaking out.

Personally, I have never heard of a woman who came forward about rape or assault and was believed. The repeated lines are always, “She was drunk,” “She was flirting with him all night,” “She was asking for it,” “She’s just saying that for attention,” and (the chart-topper), “She’s crazy.”

When Günther showed me the account of a woman harmed by the same assailant that I was, the first thing that went through my mind was the warning a duchess gave me about her before I even met her, “She’s bat s*** crazy.” When I told my husband that, he replied, “I’ve heard Her Grace say the same thing about you.”

To those who keep asking, “Why did no one come forward before this?”

We HAVE come forward. We HAVE reached out. Peers HAVE been told. Orders WERE made aware. But each and every time, WE were blamed, WE were dismissed, and WE were discredited.

Even when good men took our part, it was the same song, only with a new harmony.

You may ask why that has been the case or feel that I am taking an overly bleak view of the Society, but there are myriad reasons why people have jumped to protect and defend aggressors from the accusations of their victims.

First of all, we want so much to believe that assailants come out of the shadows, but reality and statistics prove that sexual abuse and violence against women comes predominantly from people they know. That usually means someone within their social group and even their families. Consequently, when a woman names her aggressor, he (or she) is not likely to be a stranger who has just come to their first event or one of those Tuchux-people, they’re going to be part of someone’s clan. The man a lady names to you as an assailant is likely your Fyrd or Hus brother, the person you drink with of an evening, the person you trusted to walk your wife back to camp, or the person who put the spurs on your shoes at your elevation. Believing her story just became harder, didn’t it?

The human mind naturally recoils from it. It tries desperately to disprove information it does not want to accept. —I can attest to this personally. One of the men implicated recently is someone I trusted. I rejoiced when he’d enter the room because he was a friend who made me laugh. Even though I trust his victim’s word implicitly, it’s difficult to believe he would behave that way. My mind struggles to reconcile my own experiences with him (which have always been positive) with the accounts given by his victim.

If I feel that level of conflict over a man I only see at events (and rarely at all in the past few years), what would it feel like to have someone tell me that one of my best friends assaulted them or worse?

For time memoriam, we have been conditioned to disbelieve, blame, ignore, or dismiss women who complained of sexual impropriety. For example, Cecily Chaumpaigne was a woman who signed a document stating that she would not hold Geoffrey Chaucer accountable for her rape. In “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” the hero is a knight who is condemned to death for raping a maiden; however, because he’s handsome and well-liked in the court, Queen Guinevere intervenes and sends him on his quest to learn the thing that every woman wants most. He ultimately gets a happy ending whereas nothing is said of his victim, her humiliation, or the future that was taken from her, and much less, her trauma. Her ordeal and its aftermath are deemed inconsequential both by the author and by the ladies of court when weighed against the fact that they liked the knight so very much.

That same mentality pervades our culture, both in the mundane world and in the SCA. Even when a woman is believed, the blame is either placed on her (“She was asking for it,”) or the value of her aggressor to the social group or family unit is deemed too high to sever ties.

To be clear, I do not pretend that there is one solution to an issue that is so nuanced. I would, however, say this to those who struggle with believing accusations against their friends: In truth, you can never fully know a person, you can only trust that you do. It is not your fault if they fail to be worthy of your trust.

Finally, even if you can’t bring yourself to believe the people who come forward, don’t silence them.

Don’t malign them, don’t slut shame them, and don’t tell others not to believe them. When you do that, you could keep others from speaking up for fear of being ostracized on top of their trauma. You could keep the truth from coming to light. You could allow others to be deceived into trusting someone who is actually not as worthy as they’re are being led to believe.

Lately, my husband has been asking me why we should continue in the SCA when the environment has been so toxic for so long. I told him that the world for women is the same everywhere. More importantly, though, I believe that this time things will start to change for the better… In no small part because, from now on, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to silence victims.

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The Ladye and the Knyghte: Rape Culture in the SCA

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“So you had sex with a knight at Lilies and then called it rape?” 

I was traveling home from an event with one of my best friends when she presented me with that rumor. My heart began to race as the implications of her statement set in; I had the keen sense that it was not a one-off whisper, but a silent campaign that moved when I left the room. All the tables at which I had felt unwelcome, all the looks that had been cast my way began to take on a new meaning, and I felt utterly exposed and terrified. 

A year and a half before this conversation, I was at Lilies. It was Saturday night and I was 22 and single. I was talking with a handsome man who had made advances toward me at previous events and, having discovered that my apprehensions about others had been unfounded, I thought it was worth having a bit of fun. I also thought that his relationship was open because, every time I had seen him, he was making out with a different girl who was not his fiancé. 

I told him at the outset that I was not going to have sex with him, I just wanted to make out. Rather than do it in public and have everyone deem me a slut, we went to my tent. What I did not realize at the outset, was how intoxicated he was. 

To be clear, it was seven years and two months ago. I’ve borne and nursed two children since then, and I’ve actively worked put it out of my mind. Nonetheless, I’ll attempt to write out my memories of the events. I’m not going to respond to any inquisitions and will not approve any comments asking for further detail. 

The following is NOT for readers under eighteen. I mean it. Close the window now! 

We started out in kissing and it was fun. He called me a goddess and I thought his praises were rather boyish and wasted air since it was just for laughs. Then he started saying things like, “What do you want? Do you want to be queen?” I thought that was odd since he would certainly fight for his own lady and he didn’t even live in my kingdom. 

Then he started pulling his clothes off. It was summer and warm, so I didn’t think very much of it at the time He asked me if I wanted to go down on him and I said no. He then tried to push my head down, but he was drunk and not very coordinated, so I dodged. I said no again. Following this, he offered to go down on me, and I said no. Nevertheless, he pulled my underwear off and had his head down there so fast I hardly knew what was happening. This cycle of him attempting to cross my boundaries continued for a longer while than I realized. I don’t remember yelling, but I’ve been told that I was heard several times. I remember at some point I thought, “Well, maybe if I can ‘get him off’, he’ll go.” So I used a wash cloth and attempted to do so… But drunk men are not easily sated, so that didn’t work. Finally, I asked him to leave and he refused so I went out into the camp to find assistance. 

I found a lady sitting in the song circle who came and teased him out of the tent (at least that’s how I remember it, the man who became my husband, who was a witness at this point, has a different memory of how this transpired), and then I was left with the mess. 

He had left his boots, his trousers, and his white belt and knight’s chain on the floor. Günther took them to the camp of the woman who had dragged him out, but the next morning I found his tunic in my bedding. When I opened my door after getting dressed, he happened to be standing outside, awaiting a Chivalry Elevation that was happening down the hill from me. I firmly and pointedly told him that I had finished mending his tunic and was rid of the garment. 

Later that week, he apologized and I accepted. He even hinted that if he had been single he could fall for me, but I knew enough of the world by that point to dismiss it as a man saying the lines. 

Günther was shocked when I told him the details of what happened that night. What I didn’t know was that he had been outside the tent and heard me say “No,” and even shriek when the Knight had managed to get my panties off. What I also didn’t realize was how much I internalized what happened to me. —I had told myself I was in control, but if I had been as in control as I thought, how is it that every time I said “No,” I was ignored? Moreover, why did I feel that I had to be considerate of such a drunken boor?

I had a lot to distract me from those questions over the week. I didn’t realize it until after we said goodbye at the end of the war, but I was falling in love with my camp-mate… and, for the first time in my life, he was falling in love with me. 

It took Günther months of having very careful and gentle conversations with me before I even allowed myself to entertain the idea that I had been wronged. —I felt responsible, like a fool. He had apologized and, in my mind, it was dishonorable of me to retract my forgiveness. I also knew that filing a police report, at his suggestion, would be fruitless. 

Ten months after the incident at Lilies, my husband returned from a Fyrd Retreat. The knight had forgotten all my goodwill and honor and had the gall to tell Günther that I was “lame” and “crazy.” I knew why he was talking that way about me: he was trying to discredit anything I might say about him, but I hadn’t said anything to anyone, except for Günther. 

After that, Günther started to tell people about how the Knight’s behavior with women needed to be addressed. He confided among our friends, people whom he thought believed in honor, about what had happened to me. What he kept from me was the fact that people I had deemed as friends said that I was lying to cover up my embarrassment. 

 So, when one of my best friends brought up the rumor with me, I knew that I had a choice: let Günther continue and risk being further branded as a slut and dismissed as  a hysterical woman, or be quiet.  

I chose the latter and I begged my husband to stop talking about it, to which he reluctantly agreed. To this day, I find it ironic that I am accused of having sex with someone and then calling it rape when, in truth, I did neither, though I was technically assaulted nonetheless. 

Now, seven years after the event, that Knight has been banished from the Royal Presence of two Kingdoms, including my own, and expelled from Pennsic, for drunk and disorderly conduct and because a woman complained of sexual harassment against him. I can’t help but wonder, if I hadn’t silenced Günther, if I had had the courage to speak out, could I have spared that woman, and countless others, the indignity he put them through?

The answer is a resounding, No. 

When all is said and done, nothing that Knight did to me in a drunken stupor was as upsetting as what was said in the cold light of day. He is merely part of a much bigger problem in the SCA, the problem of complacency. —I’m well aware that there are individuals who are striving to distance themselves from his behavior, as though the breadth of it is a total shock to the system, but the reality is that many of those same people sat in a room with my husband and told him flatly that I was a lying slut. They watched that same Knight put open mouth kisses on the neck of a different woman, who repeatedly told him to stop, and simply laughed it off as one of his antics.

Moreover, just as I am not the first nor the last of my attacker’s victims, he is not the first nor the last predator in the SCA. Other men have wronged other women only to have a powerful and popular peer follow up and silence the aggrieved party in favor of protecting the reputation of the aggressor and saving the face of the group, or even the Order he is in. 

I’ve said in previous posts that the problem with the bad apples in the SCA is that we try to pretend there are no bad apples. When someone points out bad behavior, the wagons tend to circle to protect the accused, rather than the victim. However, the reality is that, if those same people who wring their hands and wonder what went wrong had listened to my story and those of the women who came before me and had intervened with their friend, perhaps it wouldn’t have gone this far. 

By intervene, I mean having a proper intervention, encouraging him to get help, and had he continued to behave that way, taken measures to protect women from him. Instead, every time someone dismissed his behavior as a laughable antic or those who complained about him were slut-shamed into silence, he and his victims were given the clear message that his behavior was acceptable among the broad group of his friends and the qualms of those women were simply troublesome.

As a group, we must stop turning a blind eye to destructive behavior simply because it’s more convenient to pretend that everything is alright than to disrupt the bon temps. We are not helping our friends to be their best selves, to be truly noble and chivalrous, and we are not protecting the vulnerable or the helpless. 

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Requiescat in Pace: Master Eadweard Boicewright

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Nearly a month ago, my lord husband told me that Master Eadweard Boicewright, one of my dearest mentors and friends, had passed away. He said that he had suffered a cardiac event.

It broke my heart.

Papa, as those who learned from him call him, was a pillar, not just in our kingdom, but in the Society at large. He was a keeper of our memories, he dispensed wisdom to kings and peasants, and he gave of himself whenever and where ever he saw a need, without any expectation of praise or reward.

The first time we met was at Valor, in 2011. I was mending my champion’s trousers  (I blush to think I once called Nikita that) when he sat down across from me at the table. We talked about my SCA name, about trouser seam stability (he told me how his trousers were split when he was called into court to receive a Calon Cross), and mundane things. In retrospect, I see now how he was sizing me up and getting a feel for the kind of person I am.

I guess he liked what he saw because a few months later, he sponsored me in my first Queen’s Prize Tournament and introduced me to Marcella (Mama), his lady wife. She taught me how to make cloth buttons, finger loop braid, lucet, and heddle weave.  It became a habit during my first year in the SCA: I’d go hang out in Papa’s wood wright shop and make tools then go upstairs and ask Mama to teach me how to use them.

Since I moved away, I’ve missed that bond and rapport. Not many people will drive twenty-thirty minutes to take a broke college student out for a nice lunch because she spent the bulk of her much-need Spring break bedridden with Strep Throat, but Papa did. Not many laurels would steer apprentices that could be stars in their belts toward other peers because they see how they could flourish in that relationship, but Papa did.

To be clear, Papa was not the sort of man who brandished his title. I still remember the grin that spread across his face when he finally told me he was a laurel and saw my face pale as I shrunk away a little. I was still new enough to have Peer Fear and had been talking easily  with him for over an hour at that point, so I was a more than a little intimidated. More importantly, though, what he said to me about being a laurel gave me the first inkling that it was something I could aspire towards. He told me that being a laurel meant being a teacher and teaching is something to which I have always been drawn. That seed has remained with me eight years later.

Papa was also one of the most insightful people I have ever known and the most honest. He was the man he always aspired to be, like the Kipling poem he was fond of quoting: a man who talked with crowds without losing his virtue and walked with kings without losing the common touch. I wasn’t done learning from him and I’ll always miss our talks. 

 

 

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No Lilies for Ladye Rosalie

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Spring is nearly gone and Summer is licking at its heels, which means that re-enactment season is in full swing and we are flooded with pictures of medievalists around the world. I must admit to a certain frustration that I’ve only worn garb once this Spring; the warm weather always causes a Pavlovian reaction for me and the sunshine blazing upon the grass in early June makes me ache to be at Lilies. I yearn to waken underneath a canvas canopy, migrate from one shade-fly to the next talking with friends, and sing my way through the night.

I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had at Lilies, I even fell in love with my husband at Lilies, so I suppose it’s only natural that my heart should pine for it around this time of year. My kingdom has always treasured our War without Enemies so ardently because, for us, it is a homecoming of sorts. The hills, copes, and fields are the place where Calontir exists physically rather than merely within our imagination. Many days and evenings, I find myself singing in my kitchen while my boys play; in some way, I’m trying to transport myself “home to the Heartland” and the place I see in my mind’s eye is the Point, an inlet that juts into the lake at Lilies’ traditional site, with my friends by my side as the wind from the lake on plays across my face.

God willing, the weather will be as cool this time next year (perfect for camping with small children), or some miracle will present itself and I will be able to attend a latter portion of the week. I’ve only missed two Lilies’ in eight years, the first because I gave birth to a baby on the first Friday and the second because the temperatures were in the low hundreds and I couldn’t risk the safety of my one-year-old, so it is difficult for me to completely believe I will miss this one. It seems that a door always opens.

For those of my readers who are attending, I wrote an article containing my advice on safety last year. I highly recommend that you heed my advice to dig a trench around your tent after setting up. It promises to rain during the first weekend. The tips can also be used throughout the summer campaign period, including weekend events and Pennsic.

In the meantime, drink a mug of Dr Pepper’s elixir or cider and sing me a song, my friends! Have a great war!

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A Ladye Recants

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In light of recent bills proposed and passed in several States, I take back my previous assertions that the draconian rule in A Handmaid’s Tale was unlikely to occur in the United States.

I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong, but, in this instance, I’m not happy to say it because the circumstances are horrible.

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Clothier’s Remembrances

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So, this past weekend I took Pumpkin to Clothier’s Seminar, where I taught two classes and took one.

The first class was on Fourteenth Century hairstyles. I gave a lecture on the styles by region and period haircare, then we teamed up and did each other’s hair like at a slumber party.

It was a kind of culmination of my ramblings from a year and a half ago and I was really encouraged by the attendance. I think (or hope) everyone had a good time and was asked great questions. Thankfully, my poor drawing (despite practicing on my mirror at home) did not seem to detract from the comprehension of the material. On the positive side, it was a fine ice-breaker (“Please forgive my drawing,” “Let’s give her some eyelashes because, poor girl, I’m drawing her.”)

The handout for the class is in the link below.

Fourteenth Century Hairstyles

I also updated my headwear handout so that it was cleaner and more referential. I was really happy to see that people from my first class came to the second because the two really go hand in hand. The class went really well and I was very encouraged when I noticed that one of my students received a newcomer’s mug during court.

Hat Tricks: Fourteenth Century Headwear

There were three things I realized I had neglected to mention in my lecture. First, that crespines could be made by forming a lattice with strips (there is one extant example) and that they could be decorated with embroidery. Second, I forgot to mention that Birgitta Caps and Rectangle Veils used as turbans could be dunked in your cooler at hot events to help you cool off. Finally, I didn’t impress that, while a noblewoman would have worn a Birgitta Cap, it would have either been in private or beneath a veil. It wouldn’t have been worn with a Crown or Coronet.

Pumpkin and I had some wonderful bonding time. He even said, “Mom,” in the middle of my friend, Gianna’s, class. Thankfully, she wasn’t put off by me and Aislinn going through the roof with joy. He was also considered one of the two best “accessories” in the Walk Through History.

The event was very successful. There were 228 attendees and 36 classes with 44 class hours, which is fabulous. I saw beautiful examples of clothing throughout the medieval period and took a class on 15th Century Italian kirtle. (I might even try to make one!)

Saturday was also the sixth anniversary of the last time I was called into court, to receive a Golden Calon Swan. Coincidentally, I was called into court to receive a prize for being one of two people to enter the Arts and Sciences Competition. (We were in separate divisions, so we couldn’t be scored against each other.)

I entered the hood I made for Kingdom Arts and Sciences. Unfortunately, I didn’t get scored by a new set of judges, but someone I only knew by reputation was kind enough to speak to me about it and share some encouragement which buoyed me since I was feeling a bit frumpy.

The ring I was given was rather serendipitous. I was saying to friends that afternoon that I needed a medieval ring. This one was made by Lord Roget du Callet, who is no longer with us so I shall treasure it.

Also, by coincidence, I received my Award of Arms, the first award you receive in the SCA, at Clothier’s seven years ago. (For a whole, I thought Clothier’s was just my lucky event.)

Since Clothier’s occurs on the first Saturday of every February, today is the anniversary of the day I was first called into court by my Forever King and Queen.

I suppose Clothier’s is my “lucky event.” Every time I’ve attended, something wonderful has happened to me: from being accepted by the Kingdom as a contributor, to being acknowledged as a growing artisan, to having a wonderful day with my Lord Father, to discovering the depth of my friends’ love for me, to having my baby look right up at me and say “Mom.”

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Resolutions Revisited

Last year’s resolutions went out the window before the end of January, but for the best of reasons. Babies have a habit of upturning plans, but in the best of ways.

This year, instead of setting rigid goals for the New Year, I’ve kept it simple and, as always, full of grace.

2018 has been one of the best years of my life. My eldest is blooming into the most wonderful young person, my new baby has our whole family enraptured, and I’m legally married to the love of my life.

For the next year, I’ve learned that another desire close to my heart is going to be realized at around this time next year.

2019 is already looking wonderful. I think that’s the blessing of having children: they fill your life with promise. I know the common mentality is that parents give their children life, but God is teaching this humble Lady Mother that it is the absolute reverse.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus came to us, not as a King Crowned in glory, but as a baby who grew up and lived among us. Not only did He truly know what it was like to be human, but, ever the example setter, His life was a reminder that life is precious, from cradle to grave. If He came as an adult conqueror, we might fail to recognize that, even weighed against eternity, the love that we bring into the world, from cradle to grave, is heaven sent.

Happy New Year!

Resolutions:

More reading

More baking

More home cooking

More crafting

More cuddles

More kisses

More babies

More yoga

More nature

More structure

More writing

More music

More simplicity

More vegetables

More fruit

More self care

More savings

More generosity

Less stress

Less screen time

Less drama

Less anger

Less fighting

Less yelling

Less sugar

Less avarice

Less procrastination

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To Belt or Not to Belt

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Last Saturday, I was able to witness my friends’ belting ceremony at the first event we attended as a family of four. It was very sweet, as a Lady Mother, to have my nearly-potty trained toddler at my side and my newborn in my arms. For this month only, I have a three year old and a three month old and I’m enjoying the contrast.

(It was also nice to dress up in all this stuff I’ve made.)

There’s something really special about witnessing the taking of an associate. It’s a bit like watching a small courthouse wedding. (Well, depending on the household, it might be more similar to a slightly grander wedding.) In both instances, one is transported by the ritual and feels excited for the couple and their future ahead. Naturally, it affects both the peer and the associate, but I think the primary focus tends toward how the associate will benefit and what lies in store for them on their path toward peerage. (It’s a bit like focusing more upon the bride in her pretty gown as opposed to the groom in his ordinary tuxedo.)

Association is generally viewed as being the pivotal step towards peerage, the moment in which an individual marks that they are serious about their goals in the SCA. After all, in taking a belt, associates are formally declaring their intentions to strive towards becoming a member of the peer’s order(s). It’s also a way to gain a sense of belonging and solidarity within the SCA. For many, it’s the forging of a family, or, at the least, the expansion of one.

There was a time in my SCA career when I would have been happy to be like other people and sit in a group with a Laurel and apprentice-siblings. There was even a point in which I was planning to associate with a laurel, but those plans fell to the wayside after new motherhood forced me to take a hiatus and it never seemed right to resume them after my return.

Shortly after I started dating My Lord Husband, I found, for a time, that I was so lonely in the SCA that I couldn’t even find a table to sit at in the common room or a patch of grass to recline on near the list-field. Every table, every yard of real estate along the sidelines, was taken up by cliques and households that I was too timid to approach. (This isn’t a condemnation against anyone, that’s simply where I was emotionally during that period of my life.) I yearned for group with whom I could be “at home.” More than that, like nearly everyone I know, I consider myself on the path to peerage and felt, at the time, that association helped one to realize those intentions. Like some others that I knew, I was also advised to find a good peer, who would give me guidance and countermand the reputation which had much more fun than I did, or, in any case, been more foolish than I ever was.

Why did I not apprentice with all these motivations to do so, you ask? In truth, I think I was simply belt-shy, but, now that I sit here writing this, I’m grateful that I waited. Entering into a formal relationship with a peer in order to find a place to belong, a place at the table, or fix the misconceptions of strangers is as bad as getting married to your first okcupid match to assuage your loneliness. I learned from observation how association with a household impacts not only you, but your entire family, and vice versa. If one thing is out of kilter, for example, your laurel’s husband’s squire dislikes you or your apprentice siblings can’t stand your spouse, it can quickly make the situation unbearable. (Very good reasons to make the decision soberly and carefully.)

I also learned that, while marital commitment and domestic bliss are absolutely my milieu, apprenticeship is simply not appealing to me, at least not at this stage in my life. This may change further down the road or I may continue to enjoy singleness in pursuit of my SCA goals. After all, my focus right now is on establishing and tending to my real household, and that absorbs all of my energy and loyalty.

In Calontir, the Kingdom (read: “branch”) of the SCA where I live, we consider the kingdom to be one large household. As a result, it’s possible for someone like me to continue as a lone wolf and still find a place, not only as an awarded member of the Society, but also at the table as an active participant. I don’t have to be an associate to have a place to camp or be welcome to break bread with friends, which I found out I’d had all along. 😉