Friday, 9 September 2022

Duchess Caitlin Stuart


Duchess 1997-03-01 Kingdom of the Middle
Countess 1981-10-03 Kingdom of the Middle
Order of the Laurel 1982-05-30 Kingdom of the Middle
ODH Order of the Dragon's Heart 1996-04-20 Kingdom of the Middle
GOA Grant of Arms 1999-08-19 Kingdom of the Middle
OWMK Order of the Willow 1979-01-13 Kingdom of the Middle
APF Award of the Purple Fret 1980-10-15 Kingdom of the Middle
OTCK Order of the Torse 1981-09-26 Kingdom of Calontir
ADG Award of the Doe's Grace 1994-05-14 Kingdom of the Middle
AQFMK Award of the Queen's Favour 2000-04-29 Kingdom of the Middle, Queen Tamara
AOA Award of Arms 1978-01-14 Kingdom of the Middle
Order of the Rose 1997-03-01 Kingdom of the Middle
AQF Award of the Queen's Favour 2000-04-29 Queen Josephine
OGO Order of the Golden Otter 1995-03-25 Principality of Ealdormere
OB Order of the Bee 1996-04-20 Principality of Ealdormere
FT Fellowship of the Trillium 1998-10-17 Principality of Ealdormere
AG Award of the Guidon d'Sang 1997-04-10 Barony of Ramshaven
(Resigned) (Honour Resigned) 1995-09-01 Resigned Rose originally awarded 1992-04-04 Kin...
(Retired) (Honour Retired) 1999-09-18 Retired Queen originally awarded 1999-04-10

For Duchess Caitlin
Written for the close of the reign of Thorbjorn Osis Brandsson and Caitlin Stuart, 01 March AS XXXI
Master Hector of the Black Height

And what more need be done?
I need no crown to strive and serve,
I need no throne to speak my mind.
I know my path, I shall not swerve,
And right shall not leave me behind.
And where can I best be?
I stand beside a grand, proud man
And where he stands I there shall stay.
The true and best our only plan:
There's glory left for other days.

In memory of Duchess Caitlin Stuart, here are all entries that mention her from Baron Colyne Stuart's The Wolf, the Wilds and the Wild.

[In Nov AS 11] Caitlin Stuart was first sighted in Eoforwic. Aedan na Kincora and Caffa Muirath were seen in December. Much more is written of these three good gentles elsewhere in this chronicle.

***

On the 30th day of May [AS 16], Caitlin Stuart was elevated to the Order of the Laurel for embroidery.

***

The first king of the Middle Kingdom to hail from the lands of Septentria was Sir Hugo von Feuerklippe, who reigned with Caitlin Stuart I from May until October. (Though Sir Finnvarr also held that same Crown, he had not been born in the Northlands). Caitlin Stuart then made history as she became the first Queen of the Middle to swear an oath upon accepting her crown. No other Queen of the Middle had done this before. Baron Torbin was named as the Royal Chamberlain and Caffa Muirath was made the King’s Champion.

At the coronation the people of Rising Waters made themselves first known. They were led by Aaron of the Black Mountain, who in later years would become a Master of the Laurel. Aaron had heard of the Society via a copy of the Pale which had been sent to him along with a number of volumes having to do with dungeons and monstrous serpents. Rising Waters would soon after be founded as a canton with Aaron as its first seneschal.

Hugo and Caitlin would later have the honour of crowning the first Prince and Princess of Calontir.

***

At this time Her Excellency Gillian d’Uriel relinquished the Ursine Thrones in favour of Aedan na Kincora and Caffa Muirath. This occurred in Afon Araf, in June at the Pacification of the North Woods. Earlier that day the armies of Septentria and North Woods had met to do battle but found a band of mercenaries in wait that threatened them both. Only together did the two armies defeat the mercenaries, and then only barely. When the battle was over peace was declared, and at court that night Gillian surrendered Septentria to the Crown. King Hugo and Queen Caitlin then invested Aedan and Caffa as Baron and Baroness.


During the winter of Anno Societatis XXV two good gentles traveled from Ben Dunfirth to attend a university within the borders of Septentria. This was Osric Caertinn na Conchullain and his lady, Cualgne, and they rediscovered the ruins of Noerlanda. Perhaps not knowing that winter is not the best time of year for construction they nevertheless began to rebuild this long-dead canton. To aid them they found Ursula na Clan na Rath, now a Baroness of the Court, and a surviving member of doomed Noerlanda. When the construction was complete around November, they stood back and looked at their work and they knew it to be good. Rather than again calling the canton Noerlanda, the populace called it the College of Skeldergate (though now it is a canton). Since they could find no documentation to prove they did not fall within the Citie of Eoforwic’s domains, by calling themselves a college, they avoided any geographical disputes with their neighbours. This land of owls would become known for the strength of its fighters, and would give birth to the Hrogn fra Osis, the personal household of Duke Sir Thorbjorn Osis Brandson and Duchess Mistress Caitlin Stuart. At the time I scribe these words, one Midrealm, one Drachenwald and four Ealdormerean kings have come from the canton of Skeldergate. The first (of the Middle) was Osis, who ruled too briefly, and whose Queen, Caitlin Stuart reigned on alone; the second was BerusWolfsson Jarl who ruled twice with Countess Marion FitzWilliam; the third was Duke Aaron Preslee (now Worgonsson) and Rustique du Sorde (who reigned four times). The fourth was Duke Etain au Naval and Duchess Valfreya Greenspeare (who reigned twice). The fifth was Duke Quilliam and Duchess Dagmar Halvdan (who reigned twice). In far off Drachenwald, Duke Leif reigned twice with Duchess Morrigan.

***

On April 4th [AS 26] the Coronet Tourney was again held, this time in Greyfells. On this day Killdare Silverwolf Thorkillsen of Ben Dunfirth and his consort Catherine Dupres became the new Prince and Princess of Ealdormere. Also at this event, Duke Finnvarr begged a boon from King Comar and Queen Lisa of the Middle Kingdom, namely, to induct Countess Caitlin Stuart into the Order of the Rose, an honour that had been denied her in the past. Comar and Lisa agreed to this, and Caitlin was finally a Lady of the Rose.

***

The first Guild day was held in March [AS 30]. The Argent Wolf Fian (now known as the White Wolf Fian) was founded by Princess AElflaeda. This group was conceived by Dame Elizabeth Cadfan, and then realized by Dame Elizabeth with the input and assistance of Moria the Black, Caitlin Stuart and other Laurels whom Dame Elizabeth had recruited. It was for artisans of Ealdormere, and could only be entered through an A&S challenge.

***

From October [AS 31] until March another kingdom found itself under the rule of Ealdormereans for Sir Thorbjorn Osis Brandson won the Crown of the Middle Kingdom for himself and his lady Caitlin Stuart.

***

Near the end of this year [AS 33], in April, Thorbjorn Osis Brandson and Caitlin Stuart succeeded their parents David and Elina to the Lupine thrones.

***

Tragedy then struck the Kingdom [in AS 34], as word came that two Ealdormereans had died in a terrible accident. Lady Bernadette of Lauren (also called Laureen of Der Welfengeu) and His Majesty Sir Thorbjorn Osis Brandson of Skeldergate, had died, leaving our lands bereft of two truly noble gentles. Luckily, the third individual involved in the accident, Worgan McGregor, now a Master-of-Arms, and also of Skeldergate, survived. The three had been returning from Baron Wars in the Middle Kingdom when their vehicle rolled over on the highway.

This left our lands without a King, but his Queen, the indomitable Caitlin Stuart, continued the reign in his memory. Osis had been king for but a month.

To commemorate these two gentles, an award was instituted in each of their memories. The Award of the Maiden’s Heart, an award for service, was dedicated to Bernadette while Osis was named patron of the martial Order of Thornbjorn’s Hammer. Osis was buried with, amongst other things, the token Queen Eislinn of the Middle had given him twelve years before.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Bjorn of Nidaros

 Passed October 2020.

Awards of Rank (Foreign)1990-06-16 MK Award of the Purple Fret
Award of Arms1988-11-26 MK
Award of the Chalice's Crystal1990-04-14 

What is the White Bear Fian?


By Maister Colyne Stewart, OP.

Many people ask just what the White Bear Fian is. The answer, not surprisingly, has changed over time.

In the olden days, when Ealdormere was a Principality of the Middle Kingdom, when very few knights or masters-of-arms called our fair land home, a group of fighters banded together to prove their worth off and on the field. Aedan o Kincora and Kaffa Muirath—the first Baron and second Baroness of Septentria—founded the order, though entry into it was not theirs to grant.

To become a fianna, a challenger must present themselves to Their Excellencies Septentria, and make a formal challenge. They must be found worthy by being courteous and well rounded in pursuits. Candidates were (and are) to be able to handle a bow, show some proficiency at either song, story, dance or chess, and must also show some skill in at least one art or science.

If the baron and baroness deem the challenger worthy, then a time and place will be set for the challenger to face a fianna in combat. To gain entry the challenger must defeat a member of the Fian (chosen by the fianna) in two out of three rounds of armoured combat. If the challenger should fail, they are free to challenge again and again. If they succeed, they are inducted into the Fian and made a fianna.

Originally, the Fian was a way for the fighters of our barony to show their worth. To quote Ceallach Cu Meallain, one of the first fianna:

The Fian came into being by the will of many, and finally expressed by Baron Aedan and Baroness Kaffa that honour and dignity on the field and off, should be recognized and fostered. The political mechanism that chooses higher "Society Awards" like the Dragon's Tooth and even the accolade of Chivalry was not adequately recognizing the talents and qualities of Septentrian fighters, archers and scouts. Something was done to counteract this problem. A group based on the Irish Fiana was born. (Ursus #143)

The first round of challenges was held on a summer day in Eoforwic in either AS 24 (1989) or AS 26 (1991). Sources vary on the subject. The first original five members of the Fian were: Sir David Martin Failsworth, Ceallach Cu Meallain, Duke Sir Finnvarr de Taahe, Alasdair of Raasey and Tai Chin Wu.

The Fian was pledged to uphold the honour of the barony, and of combat in general. Ties to the Fian were to come before any other affiliation. Over time this demand for ultimate loyalty to the barony was to loosen, for several reasons. Some members of the Fian moved out of the barony. Indeed, for some, they had no choice but to leave the barony when part of it became the Barony of Ramshaven in AS 29 (1994). Entry to the Fian was eventually opened to anyone who wanted to challenge for entry, as long as they were still found acceptable by the current Baron and Baroness of Septentria. Indeed, during the reign of Baroness Adrielle Kerrec some members of the Kingdom of Calontir successfully gained entry into the Fian. In AS 32 or 33 (1998) Cynred Broccan and Evander MacLachlan would be the last to gain entry for many years.

The fian faded from view, and was almost forgotten. However, in November AS 38 (2003) at the barony’s 25th Anniversary event, Hlaford Streonwald Wulfesbanna became the first new fianna in six years. He was soon followed by four others who were successful in challenging into the Fian.

It is not easy to spot a member of the White Bear Fian, as there is no badge for the order. Rather, each fianna is encouraged to design their own badge incorporating a white bear as one of the charges.

The Fian still strives for excellence both on the field and off, and is always looking for those who wish to test their mettle. The Fian currently will hold the field at any Septentrian event at which they are given the opportunity, to face any and all who would wish to engage in honourable combat, be it to attempt entry into the Fian, or simply to enjoy the battle.

Sources
“White Bear Fian Draws New Challengers,” Ursus #134, March XXV (1991), likely written by Finngiall en Face of Wyre.

“A Tradition of Excellence,” Ursus #143, Dec AS XXVI (1991), Ceallach Cu Meallain & Aeden o Kincora.

“The Fian Awakens at Feast of the Bear,” Ursus Vol. 8. No. 10 October 2003, Colyne Stewart.

“The Fian Roars Again,” Ursus Vol 9 No 1 Jan 2004, Colyne Stewart.

“The Fian Roars and Baron Fights Fifty,” The Chronicles of Colyne Stewart 2001-2005(2006), Colyne Stewart.

[Source: White Bear Fian]

The Story of Ramshaven

By Mistress Alyce de Sheppey and THL Dietrich von Sachsen

This is a living document and is current up to mid-October 2020.

…And the Prince looked out across his wide lands.
He saw how the Skrael held fast ‘gainst the East,
How Ben Dunfirth guarded the Inland Sea,
And Rising Waters kept the southern strand.
In the north ran free the wind and wild beast
And Septentria was the heartland’s key;
But the west lay open and free.

“We have no shield to stand guard in the west,”
The Prince said has he gathered his council.
“And so we must therefore send someone forth.
The foe must not see what’s weak from the rest.
We need a strong hand and strong force of will.”
One voice rose there, a voice of noble worth:
“To the west I shall set my berth.”

“I am Cordigan d’Arnot and I will go,
I will take on the unknown and wild.
I and mine will be your strong western hand.”
The Prince said: “Declare this so that all may know,
If they be a man or woman or child,
If you can tame and settle this wild land
You and yours will it ‘ere command.”

And so it was the Company set out:
Cordigan and his Diane by his side.
Fairer was she than new fallen snow,
Like the soft beauty of spring all about.
Well-tempered was she in fairness and pride
To leave old comforts of home and to go
For a future her lord would sow.

The land was fair rich with forest and stream,
And vast pasture for the cattle to graze.
Yet, to tame a land unbroken before
Called for brow’s sweat and for vision and dream.
Land yielded and a strong keep they did raise.
They had two well guiding hands to the fore:
Diane, and Cordigan her lord.

The years passed and the land settled and grew.
In time of gentle peace it prospered well.
But when to war the horns called they rode forth
With shield, with bow, and with ranks of spears true.
It mattered not death, nor heaven, nor hell,
For whenever the prince fought on this earth,
Cordigan the bold proved his worth.

Came the time at last, though none thought it could,
When age finally catches up on the youth.
Cordigan did speak how through peace and war,
A great land was built, well, noble, and good.
Of a strong people with honour and truth
Who stood with pride in their true service sure,
Who kept the west border secure.

“You are Ramshaven! You built this fine land!
Through your brave courage and by your strong arm
You are Ealdormere’s strength, her western shield.
None can break her while you stalwart do stand!
We know you will keep her safe from all harm!
We know you will make her enemies yield!
Only we shall not be her shield.”

So passed on Diane and her Cordigan
Of strong Ramshaven stock they were the first.
Vali and Heithr stood up next to lead.
In peacetimes or when the wars came again,
Through time that saw both, the better and worst
Justice and valour did temper each deed.
Strong they stood in Ealdormere’s need.

The land grew stronger still, crops bountiful.
The ewe lambs frolicked upon fields of green.
The people flourished in richness untold.
Season slipped by, years of linen and wool
And halls rang with the laughter of children,
Wealth in worth more precious even than gold
Until the dark horizon cold.

Vali and Heithr sat within their hall
When came the word from far ice-crusted shore,
Blood imperiled called for strong kindred aid.
Kin cannot be denied when voices call.
Choices came hard when for land love hearts tore.
Deeper roots had duty which must be paid
And choices no longer delayed.

Rising from night fires glowing soft light
Came Martya, child of the strong born new blood.
Amber haired and eyes of gypsy fire bright
Whose words were like wind born of petals of white
By her stood Davin, blades of steel and wood.
Too soon passed they both into the twilight;
Fealty of land passed into the night.

The land then fell silent, its loss to mourn,
For it could not live without one to lead.
The call went out: “Who will lead in their stead?”
Wise council sought far for new leaders born,
The Ram cried out loud for action and deed.
For the love of the land did many feet tread,
Came low-born and came noble bred.

Konrad stood forth, born of the elder time,
Of the old blood, true son of Cordigan.
Strong warrior, and wise, to lead the land.
By his side, though once from far distant clime,
Stood Alyce. Deep for the land her love ran.
Two, bound together by vows, hand in hand.
Two, together, bound to the land.

Fealty of land passed again into light
As grief, past bound, began slowly to heal,
In the fullness of days the land found bright life
And its people remembered of days bright
And in such mem’ry did the old wounds seal
And brought peace to child, to husband and wife
Ramshaven once more was secure and safe.

For many years lead Konrad and Alyce.
They drew strength from the wisdom of the past,
Drew hope from the shining future ahead.
Again the land knew the fullness of peace,
A part of a rich history to last
The tale of those who followed, those who led
And those who would rise in their stead.
In time the mantle they wore grew weighty,
Once more the call for new blood was sent forth.
With heavy hearts were their words then spoken,
A call to come forth, those who were worthy.
In their wisdom they knew growth came from birth,
That the chain forged of old stay unbroken.
The land chose again among men.

One stood forth, a norseman of wide renown.
Land bound he, by bonds of blood and honour.
Sword-strong, world-wise, never standing alone;
Wencendl stood near with golden crown.
They sat and heard words of what came before.
They stood, and would do that which must be done.
For Kolbjorn had the high seat won.

The circlet was passed from father to son,
The land prospered in the slumber of peace.
With birthright secure, Kolbjorn went to the sea,
Raiding far shores as his fathers had done.
Fearful towns’ Danegeld his coffers increased,
Yet generous and giving with spoils was he;
Sharing with kinsmen was his decree.

Their hall was adorned with treasures bright:
Silver and gold and beauteous garments.
The wealth of Ramshaven was well-renowned
No less famed their skill when called forth to fight.
Wencendl watched from the battlements,
Inspiring her lord and her men on the ground,
Whenever the war-horns did sound.

The passage of time marched slowly onwards,
And both lady and lord were themselves bound:
Loyal to the land, yet to their house sworn.
Thus they resolved to seek out from their lords
New stewards of Ramshaven to be found,
Who’d honour the land whose circlet they’d worn:
And responsibility had borne.

From the vastness of the great northern wood -
Land of stony shores where the wolf still bayed wild –
Came two weapon-thanes from their small bright hall,
As bright as their honour, and will to do good
To serve land and people; man, woman, and child,
Spake Penda and Sybilla: “We have answered this call,
And we pledge to serve one and all.”

The lords of the land deliberated for days
The worth of their claim to the barony’s high seats,
In the end they accepted, for these two had impressed.
In promise for that circlet and their people’s praise,
Did the new rulers agree to perform mighty feats.
Thus Sybilla and Penda would set out on quest,
And so grow the shield o’er the West.

“The lands in the south have grown mighty and well,
Bryniau and Der Welfengau are stoutly defended,
But northwards we see but an empty domain.
A wild expanse where honest men fear to dwell,
Let us turn all our labours to this task most splendid:
To construct mighty holds, and plant well the grain,
And we shall raise up worthy thanes.

To that end did the rulers return to their hall,
And Northgaetham grew wealthy, and joyful and bright,
A beacon of welcome and safety for guests;
And good ladies and lords had cause to stand tall
They brought order and peace to the north, as was right,
The sovereigns saw reason that Northgaetham be blessed,
That in their great hall hang its crest.

The people rejoiced – Penda’s quest was at end,
And Sybilla’s as well; for through war and through peace,
Had strengthened the land, and brought all great honour
That was sung by the bards and borne by each friend.
But that cruel mistress Time in her path does not cease.
Sybilla and Penda called the folk to their manor,
For new leaders to take up their banner.

Now the line of brave Cordigan is well-known and famed,
For lords of martial skill, known for courage and daring.
Six generations grasped tightly the warrior’s blade,
But now the seventh bellicose nature constrained.
The newest of stewards were kindly and sharing:
Lucia and Penn through the hall’s grand arcades
Approached; and to the high seats they were bade.

Do not mistake this appellation for one of reproach;
Nor assume that on whose brows the coronets rested
Were lacking in courage or other noble virtues.
Merely the new lords took the peaceful approach,
And to see the land flourish, challenged their people to be tested.
Grand were the tourneys, and new champions came to
The high seats in their fealty due.

The first year they held sway the two did command
Tales of adventures from far and from near;
Traveller’s stories did the bardic muse inspire,
And next year saw poems read and songs sung in the land.
These patrons of bards, Penn and Lucia spread great cheer
And by their example brought new friends to sit by the fire,
To pass the mead-horn round. Much laughter was heard,
For now was hospitality their word.

Ramshaven eagerly embraced the Baronial will,
The western lands unto travellers were kind;
But in the year by her own hand Kaylah was Queen
Did the great plague descend over valley and hill
Fierce and terrible; and thundering blew a mighty wind,
The sickness was sore in the land: felt but unseen.
And once prosperous times now grew lean.

At first the people were afraid, and not without cause
For the shops of the merchants had shelves plain and bare
But their most noble prince and princess lead the way
And they ascended the o thrones without pause
The folk of the Northlands cast out doubt and fear
Connection became Ramshaven’s word; for someday
This pestilence would be driven away.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Emprise of the Ermine Star, 2015

by Maister Colyne Stewart

House Arrochar (of which Mel and I are members) hosted this event which Mel and I ran with the backing of the Canton of Ardchreag. It was a themed event, recreating a pas d'armes style tournament that would have been held in 14th century western Europe. It was all about the pomp. Unfortunately it doesn't look like I kept a written record of the day, but I still have some miscellaneous event information.

From the event flyer:

August 29, 2015

The Emprise is to be a day of high tournament, heraldry and pageantry. We encourage everyone to come dressed as your persona would if going to an important event. Please bring your personal presences, banners, and shades to help add to the ambiance of the day!

There will be a helm show and procession as well as deeds of arms on the armoured combat, rapier and youth combat lists. Feast will be an intimate affair with special removes.
From The History of House Arrochar:
On August 29, the house ran an event (sponsored by the Canton of Ardchreag) called the Emprise of the Ermine Star. It was a day of high tournament, chivalry and heraldry. Sir Nigel led a team of six other tenans that also included HE Berend and THLaird Colyne against all challengers until honour was satisfied. At court, HE Wencenedl was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel.
A poem I wrote regarding part of the event:
For Helen Grey
By THLaird Colyne Stewart

Amid the rustling banners bold
A tale is told of Korigan
Who fears no one, the wolf red-black,
Who from his pack will never stray.
For Helen Grey he stood the field
With sword and shield, and heavy axe,
To make me wax on honour bought
With how he fought for Helen Grey.

On August 29, 2015, at the Emprise of the Ermine Star, I fought Lord Korigan in a deed of arms. Part of the rules of the list were that if any part of a fighter other than their foot were to touch the ground, they owed a ransom to their opponent. I fell to the ground, and for my ransom Korigan tasked me to write a poem for his wife, Helen Grey.

Written using the aicill rhyme scheme where the final word of one line rhymes with an internal word in the next rhyme.
A second poem written to commemorate the event:
The Hart’s Tale
To my belt-sister, Wencenedl of Rokesburg, the first Arrochar apprentice to be invited to join the Order of the Laurel.
At Emprise gathered hushed host
To listen to the heralds’ toast
As king and baron took their seat
And called the Laurels forth to greet
A hart who wore the ermine star
A student come so very far
“Our Cenedl,” the king decreed
“You will from contract now be freed
At future date, once all agreed.”
And smiled on her where she kneed.
She went then from that honoured place
Accompanied by Kerrec Grace
And heard proclaim the gathered crowd
Who shouted forth their joy so loud.
Until at last the day came ‘round
To hear what answer she had found
Again she came to royal ground
Before the northern monarchs crowned.
“Our lands are lacking”, cried the queen,
Before those gathered on the green,
“We must amend this tragic flaw
And so we read this writ as law
And call on Cenedl the doe
Well known to all for skills she shows
With needle, thread and fabric bright
Compel us to take pen and write,
Induct her into order fair,
The dragonfly with braided hair
And be a Laurel of our lands.
So take now from the royal hands 30
Our document that states thereof
How rich you are in regal love.”
She takes the writ from royal glove
And so my sister soars above.
The Sixth Historie of Ard Chreag contains the followiing:
Year: A.S. XLIX
Event Title: Emprise of the Ermine Star
Date: August 29, 2015
Location: Tyrone Community Centre, 2716 Concession Road 7, Bowmanville, Ontario
House Arrochar (sponsored by the Canton of Ardchreag) presents :
Emprise of the Ermine Star
A day of high tournament, heraldry and pageantry.
The Seventh Chronicle of Eoforwic mentions the event:
As Nigel and Adrielle were reigning, they were unable to reprise the Emprise of the Ermine Star they had hosted the previous year, so the City hosted the Emprise of the Wolf and Bear in its stead. Helena, Nicolaa, Daya, Medb, and Willmar had prepared for some weeks ahead of this by painting banners that would be given to participants who exhibited various virtues. When AElfwyn had been put on vigil for the Order of Chivalry, she selected this day to hold her vigil and elevation, so the Emprise was done with the virtues that pertained most to her in mind. She stood vigil in the small chapel within the walls of the church.


Friday, 2 October 2020

Why do we say wassail?

 By Maister Colyne Stewart, OP

Written during the Year of Plague, October A.S. 55 (2020)

You’ve heard it yelled at court. You’ve heard it thunder across battlefields. It echoes throughout the hallways of the north. Yet, what is “wassail”, and what does it mean?

Let us first look at the act of shouting said word, before we look into the word itself. It is a common practice across the SCA for people to have a cheer that they call out in celebration. Such ritualistic exultations likely date back to the creation of spoken language (with roots in energetic grunts voiced by our ancient Neanderthal ancestors). So it is not surprising to see its use within the SCA. (Indeed, attend a political rally or a sporting event and you will hear modern equivalents.)

The first kingdom in the SCA—the West Kingdom—established the use of the word “Huzzah” as their choice of cheer. According to Merriam Webster, “huzzah” is a cry of acclaim first dated to 1573. Many of the kingdoms that eventually were born out of the West likewise chose to use “huzzah”. Kingdoms descended from the East Kingdom tend to use the word “Vivat” (if cheering an individual) or “Vivant” if cheering a group. (Meaning “live long.”)

Ealdormere is descended from the youngest of the original three kingdoms, tumultuously born of the Dragon of the Middle Kingdom. The Middle chose a cheer that was similar to the West, though different—“Hoobah!” According to Merouda Pendra (Caer Anterth Mawr, Northshield) in a 2006 email archived on Stefan’s Florigelium, the Middle’s use of “hoobah” evolved out of

 

a couple of venerable and ancient Dukes [sic] trying to encourage some budding belly dancers with shouts of “hubba, hubba!”

This tale is corroborated by the Middle Kingdom’s Wiki, citing two witnesses: Duke Finnvarr de Taahe (who did not participate in the cat-calling), and Duke Merowald de Sylveastan (who did)..

Unlike the descendants of the West and the East, when Ealdormere became first a Territory and then a Kingdom in its own right, the wolf-folk did not elect to keep the cheer of their parent kingdom. (Due to its sexist roots, it is a well and good thing that we did not.) As already mentioned, Ealdormere’s birth was not an easy one (and is remembered as the Time of the Proscription). As noted in The Wolf, the Wilds, and the Will:

 

When the King of the Dragon Thrones read these letters he felt his kingdom was becoming unstable and crumbling around him and that regionalism was proving detrimental to the kingdom as a whole. Elegil then struck down the idea of regions, by calling his officers (some claim the minimum number of officers necessary) to enact a law, a law which prohibited any geographic area within the kingdom from calling itself a region, or by a regional name, or to choose for itself a champion. This was called the ‘Washroom Curia’ for, as the story goes, the king held the meeting in a privy. (This is disputed by others who say the meeting was held in the king’s kitchens the night before the Passing of the Ice Dragon.) As the king was already planning to attend a different event, the duty to announce this edict to the people of Ealdormere fell to his Prince, Palymar of the Two Baronies, and his Pale Herald, Mistress Graidhne. They brought the northfolk the dire news at Ice Dragon in Rhydderich Hael, in the Kingdom of Æthelmearc, where many Ealdormereans were always in attendance. Though the Middle Kingdom Seneschal, the Countess Genevieve, was also present at the event, she was unable to attend this announcement.

Due to how this matter was handled, it seems only natural that when Ealdormere finally gained its independence and was allowed to acknowledge its individuality that it would choose its own cry of exultation. (It is perhaps interesting to note that as of this writing, the Middle Kingdom Wiki has an entry for “Wassail” that does not mention it being Ealdormere’s cheer.)

The people generally given credit for choosing wassail as Ealdormere’s cheer are Baron Aedan o’Kincora and Baroness Caffa Muirath. In an article written for the Ursus #191 (December 1996), Duke Finnvarr de Taahe said:

 

For some of the more experienced people of our Principality, Aedan and Caffa were the special people who defined our community. For a decade they were the leading lights of what is now Ealdormere and what was then Septentria…

 

Aedan would occasionally explain that a crowned head in the Society should show himself as someone who was obviously like his followers, but able to do a little more. The tie between leader and follower should not be one between mighty lord and helpless subject, but a heart–to–heart tie between people who are very similar – who both had great potential to do good…

 

When we decided to build the Region of Ealdormere, Aedan and Caffa were among the leaders doing their part…

 

When an unjust edict brought Ealdormere down, they put heart into us so that we did not sink into futile bitterness. When the Crown Principality was created, they were there again, with Aedan as Lord Lieutenant – partnered with Baroness Enid as Lady Lieutenant – to lead the last push to the first Crown Tourney.

Finnvarr’s description of Aedan’s ideal of leadership is completely at odds to perceived events leading to the Proscription. Finnvarr recalls (in an email to the author) that Aedan, attending an event which the Middle Kingdom royalty rarely attended, shouted “Wassail!” instead of “Hoobah!” at court as a form of protest. How often Aedan may have used “wassail” in this way is no longer remembered, however, it can be said (in fact it has been, by me, in The Wolf, the Wilds, and the Will) that:

 

Aedan left an indelible mark upon the new Principality, a mark that is still with us to this day. For the proclamation of Ealdormere’s new status was made at Pennsic War [A.S. 23, 1998], and Prince Reynard, heir to the throne of the Middle Kingdom, came to Aedan’s camp to celebrate. Aedan, who had been named Lord Lieutenant of Ealdormere, toasted the new Principality with a great “Waeshael!” and this was to become the cheer of the northlands for ever after. Around that same fire another Ealdormerean tradition was begot by Septentrians (or so the story goes). Two Eoforings, being John of Slaughterfield and Alistair Kirk of Inness, toasted Prince Reynard as His Lupine Highness. Forever after, this would be how Ealdormereans referred to their Majesties and Highnesses, as that of Lupine.

 

In Our Homeland, Beloved Ealdormere, by Dame TSivia bas Tamara v’Amberview, she includes the announcement sent by Aedan and Enid to the peoples of the north telling these glad tiding, which they concluded by saying “Wasshael!”

You ask, but what does it mean? “Wes þú hál” (also spelled “wassail” and “wasshael”) is an Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “be in good health.” (In Old English it is "wæs hál".) In an email to the author, Dame Enid Aurelia of the Tin Isles, recalls:

 

My memory is that Mistress Caffa, Baroness Septentria, proposed it. There were so many early period SCA personas, it fit to have an Anglo Saxon toast (the correct response to “Waeshael” is “Drink Hael!”, as she also taught us.)

Indeed, “wassail” is a kind of toast, which would have been practiced in 12th century England (with roots leading much farther back) that would have included the raising of tankard and glass, the making of well wishes, and rowdy comaradherie.

We see, then, that the cheer is an SCA tradition going back to the early days. We see that Ealdormere chose a unique cheer, as a sign of independence and individuality. We see that the chosen cheer has roots in Anglo-Saxon times, as many of the founders of Ealdormere had early period personas. However, there may have been another reason Aedan and Caffa chose this particular word with its Anglo-Saxon roots. If we turn again to my book:

 

Though the idea of Ealdormere was now an outlawed thing, still it lived on in the hearts of all the north folk, especially in those who lived in Septentria. Both Aedan and Caffa helped keep the people’s hearts and hopes alive, in the belief that eventually, Ealdormere would be free and recognized. Indeed, Lord Alistair Kirk of Inness points out that this proscription helped formalize the animal totem of Ealdormere. For the term “wolf’s head” means outlaw, and many in the north were proud to be wolf’s heads.

According to Merriam Webster, wolf’s-head is an archaic term for outlawry and for an outlaw derived from

 

Middle English wolfesheved, from Old English wulfeshēafod, interjection used in wolf-hunting and in pursuing an outlaw, literally, head of a wolf, from wulfes (genitive of wulf wolf) + hēafod head

Did Aedan and Caffa purposely choose a cheer with Anglo-Saxon roots to coincide with the rebellious nature of the wolf imagery being used at the time? Or is this connection a coincidence or flight of fancy of this author? Perhaps some future chronicler will find out for sure.

SOURCES

Boucher, Elyse C. (Merouda Pendry). E-mail dated Sat, 22 Jul 2006 collected in “SCA-cheers-msg.” Stefan’s Florilegium, 15 Nov. 2008. http://www.florilegium.org/files/STORIES/SCA-cheers-msg.html. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Bulman, Jennifer (Enid Aurelia of the Tin Isles). “Re: Wassail.” Message to Todd H. C. Fischer (Colyne Stewart). 25 Sep. 2020. E-mail.

Fellmeth, Aaron X. and Maurice Horwitz. “Caput lupinum,” Guide to Latin in International Law, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hoobah.” MiddleWiki, Middle Kingdom, 24 Oct. 2020, http://middlewiki.midrealm.org/index.php/Hoobah. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

“Huzzah.”Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, nd. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/huzzah. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Inter-Kingdom Anthropology.” An Tir Wiki, Kingdom of An Tir, http://antir.sca.wiki/index.php?title=Inter-Kingdom_Anthropology. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Manners Around Court and Other Places.” East Kingdom Wiki, East Kingdom, last updated 11 May 2009, https://wiki.eastkingdom.org/index.php?title=Manners_Around_Court_and_Other_Places. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Muhlberger, Steven (Finnvarr de Taahe). “Baron Aedan and Baroness Caffa,” Ursus #191, Dec. 1996.

Ibid. “Re: Wassail.” Message to Todd H. C. Fischer (Colyne Stewart). 1 Oct. 2020. E-mail.

Rabinovitch, Shelley TSIVIA (TSivia bas Tamara v’Amberview). Our Homeland, Beloved Ealdormere, privately printed, 1998.

“Vivat.”Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, nd. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vivat. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

“Wassail.” Cunnan, Kingdom of Lochac, last updated 14 Jan. 2008. https://cunnan.lochac.sca.org/index.php/Wassail. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

“Wassail.”Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, nd. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wassail. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

“Wassail.” MiddleWiki, Middle Kingdom, last updated 12 Nov. 2018. http://middlewiki.midrealm.org/index.php/Wassail. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

“Wolf's-head.”Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, nd. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wolf%27s-head. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.