Sunday, 27 October 2013

Baron Aedan and Baroness Caffa

By Duke Finnvarr de Taahe

Please note: This article was written by Duke Finnvarr for The Ursus in the mid-90s and highlights important people and events from the early years of the SCA in Ontario. It has been kept as originally published; hence the references to the Principality of Ealdormere, 13 kingdoms, etc.)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, you soon will. One person’s epochal, world changing event is the next person’s dim rumor from the obscure, uninteresting past. The only way to bridge the gap is through song and story. If the story is well told or the song well sung, a bit of the past comes alive, and the new people get a hint of why a per son, a battle, or a gesture was special to those who witnessed it.

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. Many of the good things that characterize Ealdormere-- and few, if any, of the less worthy characteristics – are due to their efforts and their vision.

―So you say, Old Duke. Prove it!‖ Well, I can but try.

The obvious way for SCA leaders to stamp their personalities on a group is to found it. Aedan and Caffa were not amoung the founders of Septentria. When the idea of forming a barony was being floated in A.S. XI, they had barely joined. Then, they were friends of Torbin, Ragni and Eanor, who dragged them along to a few events, where they were quietly checking things out. For those who know them, the concept of Aedan and Caffa as wallflowers must be hilarious, but it’s true.

When, however, Ragni and Torbin put together a quest for Eoforwic in September, A.S. XII, Aedan was persuaded to play the part of a troll. He was marvelously made up for the part, and performed it with great panache. He made a big impression. And that was the start. We soon found that Caffa had equal enthusiasm for anything that looked challenging and fun. In fact, they were regular dynamos.

Fighting first caught their eye. They wanted to play. The main barrier, of course, was acquiring armour. Aedan, a very practical sort, started figuring out how he could make
helmets, kneecops and eventually gauntlets. And he didn’t stop with outfitting himself and his lady. While he was still a mere apprentice at his craft, he helped every other fighter in Eoforwic build or fix armour.

In fact, the tiny house that Caffa, Aedan and their young son Finn lived in – Albany House in the Chronicles – soon became a social centre of the canton. The initial reserve was discarded and they adopted the whole SCA as their family. We had passed some kind of test, and there was now nothing they would not do for us.

They proved to be such a talented pair that their accomplishments are impossible to list, or even remember in their entirety. Aedan’s armouring quickly became well known in the Kingdom at large. Caffa, a trained and imaginative artist, tackled a variety of wonderful projects. At one vary early feast of fools, she created a subtlety of a stag with an arrow in its heart and presented it to Sir Hugo. When Hugo withdrew to arrow, blood flowed forth! It was the mind that conceived this marvel that did much to create for herself and Aedan two of the most convincing early medieval personas I have ever seen in our Society.

By the time Baroness Gillian came to leave Septentria, Aedan had been honoured by King Laurelen with one of the very first Silver Oaks and Caffa was Hugo’s King’s
Champion, accompanying him on far-flung royal expedi tions and spreading the fame of the barony. Gillian, recog nizing their worth, chose them as her successors, turning over the barony to their keeping at a dramatic, torch-lit court in Avon Araf, in June of A.S. XVI.

The first act of the new baron and baroness showed how wise a choice Gillian had made. They took their wealth, symbolized by cattle – the pride of any Irish chief – and distributed them to representatives of the cantons.

In the hands of the cantons, they told us, the herds would grow, and then, when taxes must be raised, there would be wealth to pay them. It was a symbolic act of great beauty, and absolutely characteristic of the new guardians of the land. Caffa and Aedan, knew, as less wise rulers forget, that they were there to give, not to receive.

Thus generous and thus wise, Aedan and Caffa accom plished the impossible. They presided over the dismem berment of Septentria, and its growth, at the same time.

Dismemberment, because soon after they took up the barony, they had to bid farewell to Skraeling Althing, and somewhat later, to Rising Waters. A foolish baron and baroness would have obstructed this natural growth, and made enemies. Instead, they were gracious and helpful, and made everlasting friends.

Growth, because what remained of Old Septentria in creased as dramatically as the herds of Caffa – for she never ceased to receive cows, of all sizes and made of every possible material, from loving subjects throughout her rule. Many people were responsible for the growth, but the good stewardship and the character of the baron and baroness had much to do with it.

When I say good stewardship, I mean that they had clear ideas of what they could do to encourage accomplish ments, friendship, and fun in their land.

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.

This very thought lay behind the best gesture they ever devised to encourage the special magic that is possible in the SCA: the Cauldron of Ceredwyn. Named after the ves sel that bought the dead back to life, the Cauldron of Sep tentria was crafted by Sylard, who engraved on it, in suns, this inscription: Cauldron of Ceredwyn given by Aedan and
Caffa (of) Septentria for the giver of the gift of inspiration. This beautiful vessel, was presented, every year, by the baron and baroness, to that peron who, by their actions and demeanor, brought out the best in others.

There were none more qualified in all the land to recognize that trait, because Caffa and Aedan had it in spades. They were generous. They were imaginative. They were a class act. They were fun! The grand gestures, and the little ones, were very fine. But people wanted to be around them, to be taking part in Septentria and the Society, be cause it was a good time when Aedan and Caffa were there. Some people will remember their courts, always inspiring, unpretentious and enjoyable. Some people will remember their rowdy parties. I remember how good it felt to fight with them at a Pennsic War, all of us doing the maneuvers that Aedan had devised and trained us to carry out, Caffa shouting out good-natured – and occasionally, when they were deserved, less than good-natured – curses on the heads of the enemy and those of us who weren’t paying attention and fighting like one possessed. The Pennsic field was a dance-floor for us, and we danced as
Finn MacCloud might have danced through battles in the Ireland of old – though with less bloodshed, thank heavens.

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.

It is not possible to treat a whole barony or a whole principality with the same care you would wish to give to your own family, but they tried. We asked too much of them, because they did not say no often enough. They gave us a lot and paid a high price in emotional exhaustion.

Looking back over their career, knowing the end, I can’t help feeling sad. What satisfaction I gain comes from knowing that much of the good they did still exists in Ealdormere - and that they now possess the Cauldron of Ceredwyn, who most deserve it.

Originally published in The Ursus #191, December 1996

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