Welcome! I'm Ilene Johnnestoune, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Come join me on my wanderings, as I share my interests both within and sometimes slightly outside the SCA.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Adding a Little Presence to the Period

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending Darkwater’s Village Faire event.  This has always been one of my favorites, since the emphasis is on classes rather than fighting.  This year it was going to be especially exciting, since Gavine and I would be learning the ropes as Vicar & Vicaress, in preparation for stepping up at Trident Tourney in January.

Now I’ll be honest, while I think all the styles of combat we practice are very cool, I seldom make time to go and watch the lysts.  Being service and arts oriented, I’m usually doing something that keeps me away from the field.  While I am Baroness that will obviously change, which is why I found myself lyst-side for the Baron’s Champion Tourney.

I don’t know very much about heavy weapons, and I’m really thinking I will have to find somebody to teach me the highlights so that I understand better what I’m seeing.  Even my uneducated eyes, however, could see that the caliber of fighters for this lyst was much higher than what we normally see at Baronial events.  So right from the start, I was already impressed.

Now, you might be asking yourself what’s the big deal about a lyst with good fighters in it?  We see that all the time, why are you writing about it?  Good question!  While the fighting was excellent and entertaining, it was things around the lyst field that inspired me to write.  As I looked around, I started noticing how few camp chairs were present.  Most of the people watching the lyst were sitting in wooden chairs, or on the ground.  One entrant had a small arming pavilion set up with his chair and gear inside.  Another had his and his consort’s chairs set up side by side, with their banners behind them fluttering in the breeze.  So many of the mundane items that I’ve become used to seeing everywhere, just weren’t present.  I was surprised to realize just what a difference all these little touches made to the atmosphere.

I find myself lately seeing more and more people taking those little extra steps to create a better period presence when they are at events.  I’ve always been a fan of this, but thought it was only something that you could do if you had been in 20 years, or had tons of money to spare.  That’s absolutely not the case though.  We have people here in our Barony that have only been playing a year, and they already have period wooden chairs that they use.  That they made themselves.  For relatively little cost and effort.  Proof that period presence is something that can be done without spending a lot of money!

One of our fighters here in the Barony (L Aidan) who is a big source of inspiration, has done something with his weapons that I found amazing when I noticed it during the lyst.  When he taped his swords, he did so in a way that makes it look like it comes to point.  It’s still round rattan, but the silver tape he used, and the way he tapered it at the end, gave the optical illusion that it was a regular sword.  That is such a simple thing, and yet the look it gave him when he took the field was remarkable.  Now granted, this fighter has also gone out of his way to create armor and garb appropriate to his persona so that he presents a complete look, but changing the way you tape your sword is a small thing that anybody could do. 

Another person that has become a huge inspiration to me is HL Philippe.  He is the fighter who set up beautiful wooden chairs lyst-side for both him  and his consort.  He then took the time to bring their banners from camp and stand them behind the chairs.  I believe they also had a small wooden box between the chairs to act as a table.  Looking across the field and seeing this, was like looking through a small window into the past.  He is also the person who has been teaching anyone who wants to learn how to make period chairs and tables, and has been doing workshops to help people make them.  Having spent time at a lyst sitting in both a period chair and a camp chair, there really is a huge difference.  With the camp chair you end up feeling more laid back, relaxed, and casual because of the way you sit in them.  With the period chairs, however, you sit more upright.  This lends itself to shifting to a more persona-focused mindset.  I’m not sure it’s really something I can quantify, but there is a different feeling.

I know, that’s all well and good but how can you start doing things like this on a limited budget?  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, since I decided a while ago that I wanted to start increasing my period presence when I’m at events.  Here’s some ideas that I’ve come up with.
  • Clothing.  One of the simplest ways to increase your presence is to wear clothing that is more accurate.  You can learn to make a period style of pants, instead of wearing sweat pants or pajama pants.  Wearing a tunic?  Take the extra effort to make a period style tunic, instead of a t-tunic.  I’ve made both, and there’s not much extra work to the period style.  Not to mention, when you make things to your measurements, they will fit better and you’ll be more comfortable.  What you wear doesn’t need to be fancy, or complicated.  It also doesn’t need to be hand-sewn to look period.  It’s more a matter of making it so it fits you properly, and is a period style.
  • Chairs.  Camp chairs are one of the most commonly seen things at events, and are one of the most glaring examples of modernity.  One thing you can do is cover it.  A spare wall hanging, a tablecloth, a sheet, even a simple piece of fabric will do the trick.  Another thing you can do is look at getting a wooden folding chair.  These can be found fairly inexpensively at stores like Walmart or Target.  They’ll give you that wooden chair look without much time or expense involved.  If you’ve got a woodworker in your area, talk to them about making a period-replica chair.  A lot of SCA artisans are willing to barter for their goods, so if you don’t have money to outlay see if this is an option.
  • Beverages.  This is one of the places where I know I need to improve.  It’s very easy to just throw a bottle of water or can of soda into your basket or pouch, then drink directly out of it.  If you just take the time to pour your beverage into a mug, and dispose of the bottle/can, it can make a huge difference.  This doesn’t cost you anything but a little extra effort.

 There are lots of other ways that you can increase your presence, such as getting period shoes, having banners hanging in camp, using a pavilion instead of a modern tent.  Some things are pricey, some are not.  The point is that you don’t have to start with the big expensive things, you can start with the small things and work your way up.  I’m noticing that while the grand gestures help a lot to set the stage, it’s all the little details that help you feel you’re living the dream.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Ideals & A Declaration

*Dusts off blog*

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, but hopefully I’ll have a little more free time over the next few months to get back to a semi-regular schedule.  Today’s post is due to some observations that I’ve made recently, and the conclusions I’ve drawn.

When we join the SCA, one of the earliest things we learn is that our Society is built on the ideals of chivalry, courtesy, and honor.  These are things that we should all be striving for, if we are playing this game.  If you ask any given SCAdian, they will tell you that absolutely they try to live up to those ideals.  But as with so many other things in the world, I am finding that not everyone practices what they preach.

I have had occasion to witness behavior that does not fit into these ideals.  Now before anyone starts saying “hello pot, this is kettle”, I do not claim to be perfect, and do not claim to live up to these three goals all the time.  We are all human, and we are all going to have times where we behave a little inappropriately.  That is not the circumstances I’m focusing on.  I’m looking at the people who consistently behave in a manner that is hurtful and detrimental to others, and to our game.

I realize the people I’m friends with, and who will read this blog, are not the people I’m writing about.  The people who inspired this will probably never read it, and that’s okay.  Sometimes it is enough to get a concept out into the world, so that others are made aware of it.  That way we can all be more vigilant, and when we see something happening we can step in and address it.

So, what’s happening? To be perfectly honest, the specific details aren’t necessary.  The basic problem is that there are people who are regularly being unkind to others.  Ridiculing someone in front of others.  Chastising someone for voicing an idea.  Speaking ill of others in public, especially when it’s to somebody who is friends with the person being bashed.  Putting people on the spot in a conversation by asking them something that is personal.  Actively campaigning to persuade others of somebody’s “bad nature”.  Just plain saying things that are unkind and unnecessary. 

Sadly, these are all things that I know are happening.  So where does that leave us?  If we approach the ones committing these acts, especially if we were not present when it happened, then we become the discourteous and un-chivalrous ones.  But on the flip side of the coin, if we do nothing, are we not just as guilty?  How do we balance doing the right thing while still upholding our ideals?

These are the questions that I have been asking myself lately.  As a peer, I feel an even greater obligation at this point to try and prevent as much harm from being done by these people as possible.  I have a few ideas that I’m trying to run with for right now.

  • I’m trying to be mindful of who is associating with these people, especially those gentles who are new to our game.  Perhaps if I can make myself available as another source of advice and assistance, the gentles will feel less need to get involved in the bad situation.  You can’t stop people from being drawn to a magnet, if there is no opposing force there to counteract it.
  • I’m trying to be more aware of what is going on around me, in hopes that I will witness something that I can address immediately.  It seems that the people who do these things try to keep it as private as possible.  Perhaps if the opportunity arises to call them out on it, they will be embarrassed enough to cease.
  • I’m going to be as good of an example of courteous behavior as I can be.  If enough of us behave appropriately, then more people will learn what is correct.  When somebody then behaves inappropriately, it will be more noticeable and less accepted.

I realize that these are very small things, and may not make a huge difference in the end.  But if I don’t step up and make an effort, who will?  If I don’t make my voice heard, than I have effectively stepped aside and accepted the bad behavior.  That’s not what I signed on for when I joined this Society.  I am standing up and refusing to let others tarnish the Dream I enjoy so much.