Thoughts from Kingdom A&S/Crown Tourney
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Otherwise known as my crazy Memorial Day Weekend.
Last weekend was very busy, to say the least. We had friends stay over Friday night and got up very early Saturday morning (we were to be on the road by 4:30 am) in order to reach Kentucky no later than 10 am. Saturday was the Kingdom A&S competition, and I scored well enough at regionals that I was in it. One of our friends was judging. Sunday was Crown tourney, which are friends were in (he as a combatant, she as the person he was fighting for) and we were their support crew.
It was a great weekend, even though I'm bummed that I wasn't able to meet up with Euphrates like we'd hoped to. My entree didn't quite score a first place rating (I was just shy, alas) but I thought my score was fair and the feedback from the judges over all positive and constructive. My class had a few rough edges I'd like to polish off (I jumped around a little too much, and went a little too quickly) but it went pretty well as a whole. And my friends, while they did not win the tourney (no surprise, seeing who he was up against) had a good day---he fought well and felt he learned a lot and all in all they both felt it was a good experience.
I was chatting awhile back about my entree in the regional competition (I entered 2 Japanese flat braids in a style called Karakumi, one of which is finished and the other was left on the loom so that the judges could see the braiding process) and someone on sparks who had heard of the SCA was surprised that we do arts and sciences. All she had been familiar with was the martial arts side of the SCA. I wish she could have seen this event. Because the schedule Saturday was so hectic, I didn't get to see everything but what I did see was amazing.
Some examples of things I saw:
Lots of garb (period clothing) and accessories, including hats, ruffs, belts, socks, gowns.
Wooden children's toys.
Metal work, including a needle case and Viking broaches (which the women wear with their apron dresses)
Wire brocade trim (awesome!)
Nalbinding (which is a bit like a cross between crochet and knitting; I don't know how to do it).
Spinning... including a woman spinning on a 300 year old spinning wheel.
Lots of foods and drinks (not for general consumption, but they all smelled wonderful)
A felted piece
Leatherwork, including the arm bands archers use to protect their forearms
In a lot of ways, this weekend really typified the SCA. The A&S competition itself was the creme de la creme, so to speak--because only those entrees that got high enough marks are able to compete at the Kingdom level. So in that sense, it was not typical. But A&S is a central part of the SCA and everywhere I saw people displaying, talking about, teaching, or working on arts and science projects.
The next day was the Crown Tourney, which is a very important armored combat tourney in the SCA. The winner of the tourney and his or her consort become the next Prince and Princess; after 6 months, they become King/Queen and another tourney is held to determine the next Princess and Princess. The King and Queen are expected to support not only the martial arts (mostly armored combat, rapier combat, archery, and thrown weapons, but also includes activities like equestrian) but also the arts and sciences. In fact, while one of them is always King or Queen by "right of arms," the consort is explicitly the patron or patroness of the arts and sciences.
A lot of the time, especially during the summer "war season" (in Michigan, at least, our major fighting events happen May-September because we can have out door events), the arts can be less obvious than the martial arts, but they are always there. I was talking to a friend about the role of A&S in the society and she pointed out that it's so prevalent in part because it's practical.
Most of what we do and use involve things you can't just go to Walmart or JC Penny and buy. From the clothing we use to the armor we wear to the tents we stay in, a lot of this stuff is handmade--if not by yourself, then by someone. Some of the goods require specialized skills that only a few people have (I don't know any fencers who make their own swords or helmets, though many have made their own gorgets and other parts of their armor) but in general, we make a lot of this stuff ourselves because it's expensive to buy. What we don't make for ourselves, we often barter with friends for--perhaps exchanging beadwork for wood working, for example. Or we give it to each other as gifts.
We are also an organization that has picked up crafts so that we have something to do with our hands, such as at court or at long meetings--but it also works for while watching television. It's not uncommon for someone to fight all day and then work on a project in the evening at court. For example, when we were waiting for court on Saturday, I was braiding and my friend was doing some hand sewing/embroidery. I happened to glance behind me and the gentlemen behind me--a knight--was working on an absolutely stunning piece of embroidery. I mean stunning. One of the things that I have always loved about the SCA is that no one blinks an eye at either a lord or a lady doing fine embroidery at court or a meeting and then the next day strapping on armor and going out to fight. It just is.
When I first joined the SCA, we were encouraged to do three things:
Be someone (pick a region, a time, and a name. For example, you could be a 12th Century Scot.... or a 15th Century Italian... or be like me, an 11th century Japanese lady).
Make something (usually for new members, this is garb because we have to have something to wear, but not everyone sews. It could be anything--painting, weaving, making armor... just make something.)
Do something (get involved with an activity, whether it be dancing, fencing, fighting, archery.... or it could be service, like helping out in the kitchen for feast).