Saturday, 19 September 2020

SCA Households – A Look Back

SCA households have been many things – a family, a group of friends who like to hang out together, a group of artisans – even a large collective! 

Middle Kingdom 

I joined the SCA in AS X, helping to form the Shire of Mynydd Seren in the Middle Kingdom. Mynydd Seren was mostly students, being based in Bloomington Indiana, where the student population was five times bigger than the population of the town! 

Our whole group was a lot like a family. We spent a lot of the first weeks working on garb together, causing host Jim Dorr (Master Jacques d’Irlonde of Outremer) to christen us the Guild of Garment Workers…local 47401. Guilds were typically bigger than households, could span one group, or many, or exist at Kingdom level. Guilds existed, but never as seemed as big a deal in Ealdormere; though Dame TSivia and Master Henry hosted a successful, long running Cook’s Guild here in Caldrithig. 

There was a rule you couldn’t officially have a household unless you were headed by an armiger. That just meant there were lots of unofficial households. My first household was Dragontorr, headed by Jacques d’Irlonde and his then lady wife, Ruatha Reynard (late Mistress Ruatha, now deceased). The household, the Guild and the local SCA – together with Canterbury Club at Trinity Episcopal Church – were my local family, and ties continued to be strong long after I moved. Eleanor of the Tall Trees, who introduced me to the SCA, was Maid of Honour at my wedding and we have never been out of touch. Ruatha came and danced at our reception. I was Kelpie’s Maid of Honour and we correspond to this day. 

Some of the knights and barons of the Middle Kingdom had powerful households with some moral –and even some political – clout. Probably the most famous household in the Middle Kingdom was the Greater Household of the Dark Horde, which had members from all over, people who felt they did not fit the main medieval culture but passionately wanted to play. The Horde produced many people of distinction, and peers, including its founder Yang the Nauseating, who received a Laurel in Politics. Great figures in the Middle Kingdom from the Horde in my day were Thorbjorn the Greysides , one of the first Masters of Arms, and Zarina Daeth (later Duchess), both now deceased. 

Septentria - Skraeling Althing – Ealdormere 

After grad school and a year abroad, I came back to Ottawa where recently elevated Lady TSivia v’Amberview (now Dame) had just started and registered the local group, Skraeling Althing (which became later became Caldrithig, to signify the equal footing of all cantons within Barony Skraeling Althing.) Just before she had to return to Toronto, Dame Tsivia invited me and her successor seneschal, Lord Thomas of Linlithgow (no relation to Master Henry) to join her household. TSivia’s household were spread across several cantons, and had artistic interests in common. 

That October, Eleanor of the Tall Trees and I received our AoA’s from King Merowald and Queen Kirsten. A few months after that, I started House Aurelia. We were three women who comprised most of the female membership of Skraeling Althing: myself, Aeflaeda FitzAlain (now Vicountess Aelflada) and Jorunn Sophia. Thomas of Linlithgow finished his studies in Canada, and Jorunn Sophia went back to school- we lost first our seneschal and then our herald (and that was the genesis of bunny tails, but that’s another story). 

Another Thomas became seneschal, and the three members of House Aurelia invited in Spurius, a socially challenged individual who pined inchoately for all three of us, and who became seneschal for a period because Thomas II’s interests were concentrated elsewhere. Aelflaeda started going out with Mordain Blackcloak (now Viscount Sir Mordain) and we invited him into the household. David aus Freza, who had attracted the interest of both Jorunn and myself (unreciprocated, however) was invited into the household. Later we invited Thomas II, who had started going out with Jorunn, into the household. Our household was among the biggest travellers and most active, and helped hold the vision for a group that was very far away from the nearest centres of action, let alone power. 

Somewhere along the line, we adopted Theuderic because we were always travelling together and got along well. Theuderic was never too sure about this. He was a member of House Amberview already. Henry of Linlithgow joined after he moved to Skraeling Althing and…we started going out. Kasia Blackfox and Gwilym ap Alun joined after them, and after them Susanna the Unyielding and Rory Cennedi the kid. The six of us camped together at Pennsic. 

We were all friends first. Four couples from our household married, three of us at or near our 30 year mark. 

The hallmarks of House Aurelia were service and holding the vision of the Middle Ages, the SCA, and our local identity. All of us had served for a time as group level or higher officers. In due course, Mordain was knighted, I received a double peerage, Mordain and Aelflaeda became Prince and Princess of Ealdormere, Cennedi was knighted; and Aelflaeda and Susanna were recognized as Pelicans. Most of you know Sir Mordain and Mistress Aelflaeda better as members of House de Taahe (Duke Sir Finnvarr’s household) or of their own household, Blackcloak. 

Households in Skraeling were not the main organizational unit, rather the group as a whole was. In my active days, I always supported the idea of power in the Barony and our local group as coming from “an oligarchy of the willing”. If you wanted to serve as an officer and make decisions, you got to do it. Periodically the oligarchy would lean on someone capable who had not put their name forward, to get them to apply for a particular position, be it Seneschal, Gold Key, Chronicler or whatever needed their touch. We did not interfere when someone volunteered, but rather when they didn’t. Sometimes that not interfering made people disappointed or angry, but the point of the oligarchy was to involve as many people who wanted to be involved. Very occasionally, someone was invited to pass on their office. Like a family, we watched each other for burnout. In my early days of being Baroness, I relied on Lord Yusef of South Tower for many things, and when he was based in Ottawa, Sir Mordain. 

The last unambiguous member of the household was Rowena, a young member of Greyfells who was my official lady-in-waiting. I’ve been honoured to mentor a number of apprentices, officially among them Master Tsvetan Arinsson, Lady Selene, Lady Livia, Lady Kasia, Lord Owain, Lord Guillaume of San Marino, Mistress Etaoin, and Countess (Mistress) Alys Catherine. This said, I’ve had many close friendships with many other members of this Barony and beyond – my chosen family – where no official household tie exists. We shared artistic interests or administrative gifts, or just clicked. The relationships I’ve formed in the greater household of the SCA itself are precious to me, and remain to this day. 

Dame Enid Aurelia of the Tin Isles

[Skraeling Althing Chronicle, February 2015]

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