Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Tournament of Valor

As you might recall, a friend of mine traveled down from the Barony of Vatavia, out of Calontir, to go to Grand Assembly of Archers a few weeks back. Well, this was done, more or less, as part of a trade off. She came down to our event, and we would go up to her's. So about three weeks ago my wife, son and I packed up the car and headed out Friday afternoon for a relatively short drive (about 3 hours, if I recall correctly) drive across the border.

We got there after sunset, but setting up wasn't too much of a problem. We were traveling with a smaller tent that we usually use, and relatively speaking, had packed lighter. As soon as we checked in at Troll it became clear how many friends we already knew, and how many more were honestly eager to know us. It was hand shakes and hugs all around for some time as friends introduced friends, who introduced friends... and so on. I hadn't had that type of welcome since I was a newcomer thirteen years ago, not an unwelcome thing, I assure you.

Since I don't fight or do A&S, I know before I showed up that there were really only three things that I had on my plate for the extended weekend. The first was site heraldry (go figure), the second was bardic, and the third was the sumo competition (More on that later on).

So, Friday night, our host introduced us to Johann Steinarsson, the coordinating site herald (and the current Kingdom Bard of Calontir, as I would later learn). I walked up, and introduced myself...

"Hello, I understand you are looking for people who take sadistic glee in waking other up as ungodly hours of the morning."

Johann gave me worried look for a second. "I guess you could say that."

"Excellent! I'm just the man you're looking for."

When he realized I was volunteering to help, a smile came to his face. "Ah, well then, Glad to have you."

So, that was Friday night, lets move on to Saturday morning.  All of the site heralds doing morning wakeups were told to meet at the main hall at eight, and then we would all go out and start rousing the sleeping masses by eight thirty. When I got there, Johann was just sitting down with the other volunteers.

I really should point out that, after better than a decade of heralding for Ansteorra, Calontir makes us look like a bunch of amateurs when it comes to site heraldry. Each site herald had a carbon copy of the list of announcements, and we all sat down and talked about what each one said, meant, and what order they needed to go in before we ever set foot out the door.

And I need to point out, this conversation was had while sitting down, with most of us drinking either coffee or tea. It was a slow, methodical, and cordial chat, with everyone making sure they were on the same page. There were five of us, and the site was broken down relatively evenly between us.

After having far, far too many ad hoc site heraldry meeting where I had to get my instructions on the run, with no warning, and little time to write them down... This was about as close to heraldic Nirvana as I had ever gotten.

Now, with a lot of the normal stresses of site heralding not hanging over my shoulders, its fairly safe to say that I went out feeling rather... empowered.

"Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye... The sun is shining, the morning is bright, the air is cool and the day is calm. This last part must be remedied! Where is the revelry and rawkus energy of the famed Calontiri? Rise up! Rise up and give me tales to tell of my brethren in Ansteorra. Rise up, and embrace the morning! Give to Revelry what would normally be given to sleep, and enjoy this, the first day of Valor!"

The day itself was a lot like my early event in the SCA, with countless new faces, and a million new things to do.

I did meet up with  a local blacksmith, "Lenny the squid" (if memory serves me). After a quick lesson on how not to get myself killed or maimed, he more or less let me go to town on a piece of rebar. That was Saturday, and by Sunday I must say I was rather impressed with what I had managed to turn out. I made a self-handled knife, with a sharp, if irregular edge to it. A file and a lot of wire-brushwork will clean it up, but still, for what I put into it in the time I had, I was not disappointed in the outcome in the least.

I also managed to talk to one of our hosts, Lady Diedra and her camp. She was the one making food available for a number of us during the weekend. And a fabulous job she did at it. I can not say enough good things about her effort, or her cooking. She actually on cooked two meals, but smartly stocked her kitchen with food for the remaining breakfasts and lunches. A good balance, and a the two dinners were outstanding.

I think Diedra, my wife and myself hit it off well while we were there. we're all sort of type-A personalities in our own ways, but in that particular situation, we seemed to compliment each other well, and no one threatened to kill anyone else, always a good sign, right.

I didn't watch any of the heavy weapons tormenting, though that was more  a function of fatigue than any slight on the fighting. Between blacksmithing and watching my son, I was spent by early afternoon.

Skipping to Sunday morning for a bit, there was a second round of site heralding to be done as it was a three day event.
During the first morning, it was learned that Lady Ameline and I both had enough projection between us to clash rather harshly when we got within 50 yards of each other. Sunday, however, we decided to team up on the heralds, and work together. The results were actually pretty awesome. With the workload divided, and a script to work with, I got to "preform" and we both got a bit of a rest as we alternated down the very long list of announcements.

On a funny side note, during one wakeup cry, a trio of people dove into their tent and emerged with clubs slung over their shoulders. They advanced on Ameline and myself as we heralded. I turned to her between breaths and said "Back up!", but then kept announcing. She followed suit, crying as she walked backwards, but the trio was closing, so it I threw out "Walk faster!" Then, I added to my next announcement "If you kill the herald, you have to take over!" That one is an old line in Ansteorra, but evidently they don't use it as much in Calontir, because that brought the 'attack' to a dead halt as the three of them bent over laughing. The whole thing was done in good humor, and we all walked away laughing.

But I must say, being a ten-year veteran voice herald, I have a lot of respect for people who know how to project above and beyond the average, and Ameline is just such a person. Her low, solid alto carried wonderfully and clearly. It was easily on a par with my "mid-range" volume, which I was using regularly in the thickly forested site. It was a lot of fun working with her, and I hope to work with her again in the future.

I could talk for hours about Valor, and the people and sites of southern Calontir, and trust me, I want to. But Really, I think I should keep this post manageable and just cut to the highlight of the event for me.

Sunday night was "Mongol Mike's Casino", a huge fund raiser for the Kingdom travel fund, and the main event was none other than a Sumo tournament. Gambling was done with "ponies", "camels" and "elephants" (all ceramic tokens purchased ahead of time with cash). Some of the competitors were terrifying to behold, "Halftroll" was so tall that that looking straight out, my eyes were level with his collar bone. More than a few men out there looks like steel wrapped fireplugs. One young man named Yama ("山", literally the Japenese work for "mountain") looked every bit the part of a sumo wrestler in build, and said he weighed in just under my own weight, despite being several inches shorter than me. I spent most of the hour before the actual tournament psyching myself out so that I didn't lock up when the rounds actually started.

I do want to point out that the actual ring itself was an ornate reproduction of an actual sumo ring, in about 2/3rds scale, complete with the classic "ying/yang" simple drawn across the circle in light and dark dirt. Three women in Japanese garb even did a complete shinto (I think) blessing of the field before the tournament. The master of cerimonies even explained the foot stomps and hand claps that real sumo wrestlers did before each round. By the time we started the pairings, a lot of us were really into the spirit of the thing, and were going the extra mile to do it right.

For my first round, I was matched up against someone who looked formidable, but not quite as solid and heavy as me. Having never actually sumo wrestled before, I had no idea how to evaluate him, and was totally psyched out by the time we came up to the field.

First, we both stood there, dressed only in sweatpants, while the herald (none other than HL Adalya) hyped up the crowd and got the betting going. She introduced me as "a fellow Ansteorran" and invoked our kingdom's habit of dogged determination in combat, Finally reminding the crowd that I came from the same lands as the previous year's champion, none other than (then) Prince Owen Ap Aden.

Ponies traded hands as the crowd shouted and cheered, and then the Samuri MC closed the bets and ordered us to take our positions. Each of us took a wide step up, gave two wide stomps to "drive away any spirits", and then clapped our hands twice. With the ceremony done, each of us clenched our fists and pressed our knuckles into the ground as we hunched over like crouching predators ready to strike.

The samuri then shouted "Hajima!" (Or however it's spelled).

We both came off out marks with split second timing, and I have to say the hit I received when we connected was very solid. But his legs and arms never got purchase, and for all the impact, my body never stopped moving forward. Three seconds after I came off the starting line, I had shoved my opponent clean out of the ring, with the crowd roaring in the background the entire time.

By now, I was running on about 90% adrenalin, and was totally worked up over the win. The format for the event was single elimination, so the number of wrestlers was cut by half in the first round alone.

The next round, I was paired off against Yama, who had made even shorter work of his previous opponent.

As the competitors went through their matches, the fights actually got shorter. Mass and power made for quick, decisive fights, and the crowd was soaking up every minute of it.

Then came my turn again.  The energy in the air was almost tangible as Yama and I walked out to the outside of the ring. Once again, Adalya did the introductions, and with past fights behind each of us, I saw ponies trade by the handfull. I raised my hands into the air and let out an animalistic roar, like a caged lion demanding its freedom. I then turned to Yama, and across the distance I shouted a sincear "good luck" to him. The gesture was returned in kind.

The Samuri called up to the ring and closed the bets. We both did the ceremonial stomps and claps, and then took our positions, feet and clenches fists pressed into the ground, eyes locked on each other, faces intense.


We both came forward and connected with our shoulders, and to my shock, we both stopped dead in our tracks. I think there was an instant realization for both of us that brute force alone wasn't going to decide this one. We both exploded into a fury of shoves, grips and twists as we tried to get superior position on each other. It was a fast, furious and inelegant process of blind turns, hard shoves and frantic footwork. We wound up largely locking in rib breaking hugs as each of us turned to get to the other one's side and topple them.

Then, suddenly, I felt my center of gravity move out from over my feet.

The Landing wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been married to an additional 300 pounds of mass at the time of impact. Yama had gotten the angle and completely toppled me to the ground, but had held on at the same time, meaning that we went over as one unit of mass. I landed hard on my back, and thought my eyes were going to come out of my sockets from the explosive pressure on my chest.

Yama jumped up, and the first thing he asked was "Are you okay?"

Unfortunately, all I could do was look at the stars and gasp for air.

After a moment, I managed to get my breath back, and a few people helped get me to my feet. Once I was seated, I had people left and right telling me how much they loved that match. According to several people, we took between 17 and 21 seconds to decide the round, and the whole time people were on their feet cheering us both on. Almost everyone, even Yama and I, agreed that that was the favorite fight of the night, and the undisputed crowd pleaser.

I didn't win, and I didn't even make it to the semi-finals, but in terms of fun, we all walked away from that one first rate winners.

When I showed up to Valor, I think I knew maybe a dozen people there, and counted perhaps three or four of them as friends. By the time I walked away Monday afternoon, those numbers had better than quadrupled. You can bet that I am going back next year!

Friday, September 17, 2010

You should be eventing!

Okay, if you're reading this between Friday afternoon (September 17th) and Sunday evening (September 19th) than you should be out enjoying an SCA event somewhere (personally, I recommend Mooneschadowe's Triumph of the Eclipse).

Anyway, the past few weeks have been interesting, both in terms of the SCA and for my mundane life.  I am heading up heraldry at Triumph, and am experimenting with a new idea for Herald's Point, so you can expect to see a post on that fairly soon.

Two weeks ago, I went up to Valor, in Calontir, and had a blast. You can count on a post about that at.

There is now some talk in the kingdom about registering new names for each of the regions, and as that conversation got going I posted some thoughts on the subject. To my surprise, I got a lot of good feedback, so I think that is going to get some coverage, too.

And lastly, my personal life had some hiccups in it, but things got smoothed out, and I am probably going to post a bit on that as well.

Anyway, the van is now completely loaded down with camping supplies, and we are all packed up. Its time to hit the road.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Northern Regional Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grand Assembly of Archers

Last year, I more or less acted on an impulse and went out to the Wiesenfeuer / Namron joint archery event just to see who was there and how it turned out. While not an archer myself, I like to think of myself as friendly to the archery community and supportive of their efforts where I can be. As most of you know, last year's grand assembly of archers was a runaway success, and a great number of targets were turned into pin cushions as the archers let fly with enough shafts to make the ghost of Henry V proud. 

This year, things were a little different. The weather over the past year has done a number on the sight, and almost all of the bridges that connected the two halves of the camp were damaged beyond safe use. Both baronies got together before the event and raised a small foot bridge as a stopgap measure. To their credit, the little wooden pathway was extremely well built, and took the brunt of the day's travels without a hint of protest from what I saw.

As for the archery itself, if you didn't get enough shooting in at the event, that it was your own fool fault. I arrived just in time to see the Pig shoot, where a mockup pig was pulled towards the archers as they fired. The scenario was meant to simulate a charging bore, illustrating how little time you really have to aim, shoot and reload. Most archers that I saw only got off two or three shots, thought there was one who I think managed to get four into the thing.

Their excellencies of Wiesenfeuer hosted a "don't shoot the bunnies" round. As per its name, the targets were various colored disks of differing sizes, but each one was supported by an illustration of a rabbit. Hitting the disks got you point, hitting the rabbits didn't... go figure.

I didn't get to see too much of the "heroes" shoot. But I did hear a summary of type of shots being set up. One was the "noose shoot" where a maniquine head was put in a noose, and the archer has to cut the noose with his arrow. Another was the "William Tell" shoot, where an apple has to be shot off the top of the mannequin's head. I know there was at least one more, but I can't remimber it right now. In any event, all of the people I spoke with who took part said they loved it, so it too was a success.

The Long shoot (I have no idea what they really called it) was impressive. All of the competing archers lined up on one side of the event grounds, and a target was set up on the other side, and everything in between was cleared out. In total, the marshal said the distance from the firing line to the target was about 120 yards. This type of shooting calls on the skills used in war, from what I understand, asking the archer to pull out every ounce of range that they can get from their weapon in an effort to soften up enemy troop concentrations before they close range. To my knowledge, only one person hit the target, and that was relatively close to the center. But this type of shooting really shed some light on what historical archers was likely capable of. Knowing that some of the longbows from medieval England were well in excess of a hundred pounds pull,  the 120 yards accomplished by 30 and 45 pound bows must be a pale comparison to the reach that combat archers were capable of. That and, if the enemy formation is composed of untrained troops, the sound alone of 70 or 80 arrows peppering the ground around them could well prove to be enough to make them break and run.

There was also a combat shoot, where armored combatants ultimately lost a game of dodge-ball against archers armed with combat blunts.

I myself, did not go to the event to shoot. For a lot of reasons, this was just a social event for me, a chance to hang out, talk and catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. I watched most of the shoots from the comfort of shade, and listened in amusement as the archer's heckled each other over their shots. I did get to meet new people, and talk with old friends. Its always good to just trade hand shakes with people like Ulf, Anghous, Anabelle, and Lucaus, let alone talk with them. I didn't get to talk with Vanessa as much as I would have liked, but she was still as pleasant and practical as usual. Lorenzo and Antonia were there, and we got to say hi a few times, but fortune didn't let me cross paths with them as much as I would have liked. Castilliana (SP?) was there with an amusing agenda. She said that she came there specifically to get some official type paper work signed, and true to her word, when Their excellencies of Wiesenfeuer walked by, she spun away from her conversation with me and proclaimed "There you are! I have paperwork for you two to sign!"  and before either of them could even open their mouths to respond, she was holding a binder opened to the indicated page, with a pen in hand. I mentioned it here because it was so amusing, and everyone did walk away from the scene grinning good-naturedly.

On the new friends Front, I got to spend some time talking with Don Crowley and his Lady Alexandria. I first met Crowley back at 30th year, where I was first exposed to his intense, focused attitude on the rapier field. Here, however, I saw a much more laid back, relaxed man who was truly there to just kick back and enjoy himself. We had a chance to talk about all sorts of things, and he was just a blast to listen to, and trade stories with. One of the funnier things that came out of the whole talk was his statement of loyalty to the two queens he has been Champion for. He routinely summarized his sentiment by saying "If either of those women told me to kill you" (he was pointing as me as he said that) "I would feel horribly conflicted about it... but I'd still kill you." We all laughed at the statement, but I actually found it rather amusing. Lady Alexandria was every bit the wonderful company her lord was. I think my favorite moment was when I shared a humerus story with them at the expense of Master Modius (who was not there that day). The shocked grin I got from Alexandria was priceless.

All told the event was an amazing thing, much as I expected it to be. There were good people doing good world, and friends all around. I don't recall the final gate count, but I know it beat the break-even number, so there was much rejoicing on that front as well. I think the archers lived have a day for themselves, a chance to go out and shoot, and not have to run between other activities, or skip out on fighting in order to shoot.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unapologetic Off-topic Post

Okay, as much as I really do want to keep this blog on topic (or at least SCA related), I guess there really is an exception to every rule. If you can watch the following video without crying tears of joy, than you are a stronger person than me ten fold. And if you can watch this without smiling, than you must have a heart of stone.

Presented here for no other reason that to make people feel good, even if only for a few minutes out of the day.

God Bless.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Two way Street

As much as I talk about the artistic, and historical sides of heraldry, there is, without a doubt, a functional element to it as well.

What I want to talk about here for a minute is how a herald can carry information towards the event stewards, as well as towards the attendees.

Now, there is absolutely no question that the site herald's primary roll at an event is to broadcast information to the attendees on site. However, a Herald is also one of the most well traveled members of the event staff, and will likely see more of the attendees more often than the Steward or any of their deputies. A good herald, and by extension, a good event steward, should take advantage of this mechanism. People in charge of activities, merchants, taverns, feast stewards and nobles can all make good use of the site herald as a mechanism for both direct messages to certain staff members, and news from the event.

Site heralds are in an excellent position to note how things are going, what activity might need something, or where people are and are not congregated. They don't necissarily need to memorize any of this, and they don't need to really know all of reasons this information is accurate. However, if the Steward needs to know if people are parking off of the road or in the middle of it, they should probably ask the herald when they see him, rather than send someone specifically to look (unless the information is time-critical, of course). That way they don't use a resource they don't have to, and the herald is in an excellent position to carry an instruction or announcement back to the location in question.

I know this sounds like common sense, and in a lot of ways it is. However, more often than not (at least in the north) I don't see it being put to use. Heralds tend to operate outside the decision making loop, and they do so while stewards, cooks and marshals pull their hair out trying to answer questions or pass word along to each other. Its not a doom and gloom situation, by any means, and most events do get things done, but the stress levels and frustration can spike at times.

My point isn't that something is broken, but rather that the current system does not seem to be at its most efficient.

While I do teach the basics of this in my site heraldry class, the real point here is that heralds or at least the organizing heralds of the event should be part of the planning process from the early phases, and all members of the event staff should be told that the heralds are a resource they should consider using not only for announcements, but to carry messages to other staff and to relay any news they hear about other parts of the event. Conversely, heralds need to be told that they might be asked these things. In reality, most people notice a lot of this stuff naturally during the day, including heralds, so I really don't consider this a major increase in a herald's workload.

And on a functional note: I spoke a while back about my version of a herald's point. To both reiterate, and elaborate on part of that, I think the idea of a clipboard with a pencil and paper on it is an excellent prospect for leaving messages for heralds to announce. Merchants, taverns and anyone else can walk up to herald's point whenever they want, write down what they want said, and then walk away at their own leisure. The herald can then come up, see the notes, and make the needed announcements without the need to talk to eveyrone who needs something said.

Again, I'm very specifically not saying that the current system is broken, but rather that it has room for 'fine tuning'.

Overall, the thing I want you to take away from this is that the site herald is currently an under-appreciated (note, I did not say "under used") resource at an event, and if we can change that, I think we can make events that much easier to run.

At least that's the theory.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Cool News Video

This is a video entitled "Medieval Warriors in a Campground in Pennsylvania". Its produced by Voices of America, and much like the CBS Sunday Morning segment from ten years ago, this one is an excellent short overview of the society.


Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra  
"God Save the King!" 
Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Monday, August 2, 2010

Antsteorrian Heraldic and Scribal Symposium

Saturday was the latest Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, hosted as a free event in Wiesenfeuer. A.H.S.S. was my first SCA event in close to six months, if memory serves me, and as it turned out, it was an day well invested.

After several laps of the 1400 block of N, May Street in Oklahoma City, I managed to locate the site, and made it into the building just in time for the first class of the day. I had decided before showing up that I wanted to attend Master Robin of Gilwell's class on the history of Ansteorran Awards and orders.
I arrived in the classroom to see Master Robert Fitzmorgan already there. This was amusing to me because it had been his praise of the the same class from an earlier event that prompted me to attend this one.
Remembering that this class is being held in a church, you might find considerable humor in Robin's class thesis: "Ansteorran awards are not a product of Intelligent design, but are clearly a result of evolution."

[Added-8/3/10: This line in my post has gotten some considerable comments in my private e-mail since it went up. Allow me to clarify a few things. The above was NOT meant as a comment on anyone's faith or personal beliefs. And since it was not actually referencing any issue of religion or science, I am perfectly comfortable posting it here. Robin's use of a modern social issue as a comparison to the history of the kingdom awards was a very witty and articulate turn of phrase, in my opinion, meant to engage the audience and lighten the mood. The fact that he used it inside  a church (one of the proverbial cornerstones of the actual evolution vs. creation debate) was just icing on the cake to me. I leave it here because it is such a cool turn of phrase, and I think it needs to be recorded as such.]

However, joking aside, Master Robin and his wife Mistress Serena worked together in concert for most of the class, and provided an amazing two-hour summary of the kingdom (and early society) awards structure. The history was fascinating, including the fact that a good number of the first kingdom champions were for the queen first (Queen's Champion & Queen's Blade of Chivalry for example), and the King's corresponding awards followed some time later. Sir Burk commented during the class that the King's Blade of Chivalry was a deliberate, direct translation of the queen's Blade of Chivalry, matching text, precedence and layout as closely as possible. In fact, the order of the SCA Queen is older than the SCA king by (I believe) a year, as well as the order of the Rose. When it was over, I was amazed at both the detail of the history, and how much change had taken place during my own time in Ansteorra. In fact, even since I have started this blog, awards have been closer and opened. The closing note for the class was that when Robin started teaching it several years ago, he could do it from memory, but now he needed notes, despite the fact that he was (highly) active when a lot of these awards were made and first presented. This is testimony to how truly complex the system has become.
The next class of the day, also by Master Robin, was perhaps my personal favorite of the event. In a small room at the end of the hallway, some dozen or more people crowded in and took a seat wherever they could (including one or two on the carpet) while Robin sat at the front of the room in a wicker seat that looked for all the world like a throne. The next hour could best be described as a conversation, lead and directed by Robin, where he talked in detail about the mindset that he felt needed to go into court.
This class was particularly well received by the audience at hand. Many of us were experienced heralds, past nobles or royals, or entourage, in other words, most of the room were people who already had a good idea of the mechanics that made an SCA court run, but had not necessarily been playing long enough to fully grasp some of the finer points of what went into making a good court spectacular.
One of the reoccurring points made was the constant balancing act between giving people the attention they deserve, and the need to keep things moving. Reading scrolls is not only not a period practice, its not even an SCA-wide one. Ansteorra (and perhaps a few other kingdoms) read the scroll texts in court, something that many people will admit can get old when ten people are getting an AOA back-to-back. When the audience can recite the text of the award being given, an argument can be made that you are losing people.
Robin gave some good summary pointers:
-If your audience if getting smaller, you're losing people.
-If your going to say something, know your first and last lines ahead of time, so that you know where to start, and what you are building to.
-Any business trying to be presented in court should be filtered through the question of "does this need to be in court?".
-Heralds should ask people to write down what they want said during an announcement so that the herald can make it himself. This both lets the herald regulate what is said, and prompts the person to economize his words.
-Squire/protege/apprentice ceremonies, "shameless event plugs" and hafla/camp party announcements should likely not be conducted in court, but can be made immediately before or after.
-However, those same announcements can be used to fill dead time, such as when someone is taking a long time to actually walk from their seat to the front of court.
-A noble and a herald working together are an extremely powerful team in controlling the pace and speed of court. But separately, neither of them are likely to be even half as effective.
A good portion of the class also included feedback from the audience. One comment that got rave reviews from Robin was when HL Adalia and Master Etienne pointed out that Northkeep held a children's court before feast so that children's awards could be handed out without competing for time during evening court. After hearing this, Robin sat in his chair with a thunderstruck expression for a second, and then calmly said "I love it. That's just an outstanding idea."

Robin said that this was the first time he gave this class, and from a pragmatic standpoint it showed. The polished, professional stream of information that had characterized his earlier class was more broken, and not quite as rehearsed. But the pure value of his experience (both as a herald and a landed baron), and his power as a public speaker and bard still made this an outstanding class. I honestly look forward to seeing him do the class again in the future. That type of forum is the best place for heralds to move past the basic nuts-and-bolts level of heraldry, and learn to take it to the real artistic level.

After that, it was lunchtime. Having the van to myself that day, I loaded up with four friends and we went out (in garb, of course) and proceeded to get funny looks from the patrons at a local Applebee's for an hour and ten minutes.

We got back just in time for the first afternoon classes, though I decided to sit out the next hour and catch up with some friends. I spoke with HL Reis for a good while, a conversation definitely worth having. Reis and his wife, Emma were amongst the people who taught me the nuts and bolts of heraldry, and are among a few whom I consider trusted advisors. Even to just sit and talk about nothing for an hour with Reis is time well spent in my opinion. Not long after that I found myself sitting and listening to Mistress Serena, HL Alejandro and Master Robert as we all talked, more or less, about Robin. The stories were hardly anything of substance, but were endlessly amusing and enlightening all at the same time.

I did attend a class during the third period of the afternoon, Lord Tostig's "how to follow your device/name after its submitted". Tostig is a "war weary" book herald who can legitimately start a story with "back when...". You don't have to be a herald to appreciate some of the heraldic kurfuffels he's been party to and walked away from with his sanity still intact. I will be the first to admit that book heraldry is not everyone's cup of tea, but Tostig has the ability to explain the newer resources in a way that is down to earth and simple. For individuals, that's important because they probably don't want to learn all of the nomenclature of the college of heralds, and for officers who do understand, its that much easier to listen to and process.

After that class, I had more opportunity to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a while. Robin was at the same table that his wife had been speaking with much the same audience, I quietly joined in the conversation and listen to robin narrate some extremely artful solutions he had come up with for some of the stickier moments of his time as a landed baron. At one point, while discussing the dynamics of e-mail, Robin began a statistical breakdown of a large e-mail list and the likelihood of a response to any given e-mail. I stopped him and and pointed out that Statistics was not my strength in school. Robin retorted with "well I teach statistics." I reached at that that point, grabbed and blank piece of white paper from the table and started waving it over my head, issuing a mock plea of "Mercy, I beg for mercy." I seem to remember Alejandro and Robin both getting a small chuckle out of that.

I also managed to talk with Annais and Rose the Obnoxious (she chose that name, btw), Tadhg and his wife Meraud, Castiannia, and HL Emma, just to name a few more. After as long away from the game and I have been, it was good to see each of these people, talk to them, and remind myself of why it is that I come out and do what I did for so long.

The event ended with little fanfare, and many hugs and well wishes before we all went our separate ways. My understanding is that the gate count was 105 [corrected from original post], well more than the projected 80 something. I know that most of us (if not all) are hoping to see the event come back strong next year.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra  
"God Save the King!" 
Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A little scroll painting.

(Taken from my Cell phone)
 First time I have picked up a paintbrush in a while. I don't know, not my best work, but its certainly going places, I think.

 Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra  
"God Save the King!" 
Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Friday, July 9, 2010

A little bit on herald's point.

I wanted to take a moment and talk a little about the idea of a Herald's Point for medium and small events. The main reason I am mentioning it here is because I have spoken to several people on the topic in the past, and frankly got a lot of resistance to the idea. Reason's varied, but the cornerstone argument is usually centered on tradition more than anything else. "We just don't need a herald's point" is an all too common rebuttal. Well, there are cases where that may very well be the situation, but I would like to submit that more often than not, an event would benefit from the establishment of a herald's point.

What is a Herald's Point?
Let me start off by defining what I mean. I am not talking about the complete administrative center for heralds of all types that goes up at Gulf Wars and (reportedly) Pensic. These things can certainly be included at a herald's point, and at larger events, probably should, if for no other reason than the sanity of the lead site herald. A herald's Point is rather literally any identifiable point on a site where people can readily notice it and gather. So, with that definition, any table, tree, bench or pavilion could easily work. In fact, any spot of ground will work. This truely is a case of location, location, location.

Why would we want to make a Herald's Point?
Depending on the size of the event, a steward could easily find themselves gathering as many as twenty, or as few as five heralds for things like site, list, court and feast heralding duties. I can say from personal experience is that even a "well oiled"  system can burn a lot of time just getting everyone in the right place at the right times. And at the larger events, there are always people who are late finding the gathering site, or didn't hear the instructions clearly. I'm not saying that these are crippling factors by any means. Events go over well all the time, with good heraldry from good people. However, I doubt that anyone is willing to argue that the current system we have is perfect.

How would we do it?
Okay, so I am talking about a quick and easy way to do a Herald's point that doesn't involve parking a 'period office building" in the middle of site. What do I have in mind? What I am talking about is a banner, or standard on a tall pole. Too simple? Not really, and here's why. First of all, if the standard is the SCA herald's Green with crossed gold trumpets, than everyone will know that it is for heralds. And even if it isn't that, but the arms of a group (like it should be), it is something that can quickly be identified as "the place to go for issues heraldic".

Standards have been the cornerstones of military maneuver for centuries, and in the modern context, they still serve a very functional purpose in and out of the military. We recognize not only our national flags, but the white field with a red cross is internationally recognized as a place for emergency aid and medical care. Maltese crosses on the doors of cars and SUVs instantly denote them to the general public as fire department vehicles, and the traditional gold or silver shield are commonly used to mark official police vehicles. These modern forms of heraldry clearly show that people still respond to visual symbols, and know to react to them in select circumstances. Historically, military formations predating the Romans, and as late as the American Civil war, actively used large flags on tall poles to guide formation maneuvers, rally troops and signal other units.

Okay, that was a little more history that was probably really needed, but it does give some depth to my statements.

What are the benefits?
Functionally, having a place that is for the heralds allows people to say "meet at herald's point" rather than have to remember which corner of what building or pavilion to met at. Also, seeing the banner during the day can act as a reminder to people about heraldry, and that they might want to help heralds. In a word, advertising.
Additionally, a simple pad of paper, clipboard and pencil can be tied to the flagpole for messages. An example would be one page that lists the times heralds will be needed, and another down below that says "if you need something announced, please write it here and we will cry it the next time we go out." That way anyone can leave a written message with a reasonable assurance that the site herald will check in and see the note.

Lastly, even if the point is only used once, and no one leaves any notes, a colorful period banner displaying on an event ground will add another level to the feel of the event, and is that really a bad thing in any way?"

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Back into the game

Well, tonight was my first SCA meeting (or anything, for that matter) since the end of January this year. Little fanfare, a few handshakes and not much more. All in all I can hardly complain.
I spoke with HL Emma De Featherstan more or less right off the bat when she came in. Aside from her being the Star Principal Herald, she is also the autocrat for Mooneschadowe's Provincial Triumph this year. Now that I am no longer working weekend swing shifts, I can reasonably state an intent to help with my own group's event.
Not surprisingly, I asked to head up heraldry. Emma said that she was hoping to speak with me on that same topic, though later on in the year. Short and sweet, we had a fairly traditional handshake agreement naming me had head herald.

My major goals this year:

and foremost, I am going to make sure we have a herald's point, and that it is more than a table stuck out in the corner of a room. I was fairly adamant with Emma that I wanted a visibly distinct  location that people come come and meet at. I did this two years ago with good results, and I think it is enough of a low cost/high return investment that it is worth doing.

, and I think Emma and I are on the same page here, is to make sure we have heraldry this year. If you were at Triumph last year, you more or less know what I am talking about. If not, than the best summary statement is that the heralding situation kind if suffered from an acute case of neglect that year. Emma and I both agreed that we needed to make sure that site and list heraldry needed to be planned ahead for, and that our goals needed to be beyond "adequate".

, I very specifically insisted on being in on the planning portion of the Insegnuante tournament.  For more than a few years now, I have been very upset with the type and quality of heraldry that the rapier tournament has been getting. Three years ago it was changed to a two field-format without any warning ahead of time, meaning that I had to scramble to get a second herald. The end result was my drafting a non-herald who was less than enthusiastic about the effort. The second year was little better and I was on the verge of being livid at how sloppy the heraldry was. This year, I plan on tapping shoulders and pulling shirt-sleeves early and often. Emma said tonight that there would be multiple fields, so I know I need at least two people, and should try and get three or more out there. Beyond that, one of the major hurdles I am going to run into if actually getting people to herald as our rapier tournament is held on a Sunday and most people are packing up then.

I guess that more or less covers the basics. I do know that there are some people out there that I am going to talk to early; good people who either herald, or want to learn how. Over the past year, I think I kind of lost sight of what it was that I really enjoy about heralding. Watching someone learn the skill and make it their own is a reward unto itself, and knowing that you improved that person's experience is the type of satisfying experience that makes the day worth getting up for. Somewhere over the past year or so, I forgot that. Now that I remember, maybe I can start having fun again.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk

Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan

Nordsteorra Herald

Kingdom of Ansteorra

"Long Live the King!"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A long time

If you are one of the people who actually follow my blog, you have probably noticed that I have more or less fallen off the face of the SCA know world. This was both deliberate, and unfortunate. My employment situation was such that I was working every weekend, and during the week I was too tired to do much more than sleep or relax as best as I could.

Well, that situation in about to change. I have secured a job that gives me back my nights and weekends, and has good (if not excellent) opportunities for advancement and pay increases.

In short, I'm coming back. With any luck I will see everyone at King's Round Table, and then at this year's Heraldic and Scribal Symposium. I won't be teaching, and I imagine that I will be spending a good portion of time reconnecting with some old and almost forgotten friends. but soon enough, I hope to be back in the swing of things.

And that does include a more active role as the Northern Regional Herald. Enough of this minimalist bulls&$# for me. I got this job in order to make a diffidence, now I can actually set out again and do that. Maybe I won't be as successful as I hope, but anything is better than not trying, and I came out here to at least try.

For better or for worse, I'm back. And after some time out of the mix of things, I think I'm ready to get back into the thick of it.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stepping up!

Well, its been a while, and for that I apologize. Life has been hectic, and more than a little punishing for me of late. Sadly, but appropriately, I decided to put the SCA on the back burner until I got my life put in some semblance of order.

Now, with all that being said, my life is now taking shape again. I have a conditional job offer, with respectable, if not stellar pay, and good opportunity for overtime.Which means that I will be able to start dedicating some energy back into the SCA, even if it is a limited venue.

However, this is NOT why I am posting today!

At tonight's populace, our senechal was chomping at the bit to herald her own meeting. Technically, this is not prohibited, as we are not a barony, and there are no royally appointed figures holding court of business during the meeting. However, it does go strongly against tradition for the meeting to not be called by the herald. The herald's of Mooneschadowe have a strong tradition of holding their own when it comes to local responsibility, especially when maintaining the dignity of the group's meetings and other formal activities.

So, tonight, when our dear senechal started heralding the meeting on her own, the local herald, who had just finished saying that he wasn't in any shape to herald a meeting, stomped up to the front, stationed himself firmly at our senechal's right side, and politely, but directly said "sit down, I've got it."

Now, to be clear, everyone laughed along good naturedly, and I don't think there were any hurt feelings. But I think that it is important for all of us to note that heralds are an often under-appreciated, and poorly understood asset within the SCA. So it was honestly pleasant to see one of our own stand up for tradition and assert himself in that way.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Court "Got Ya!"

Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. Court at the close of Northkeep's Winterkingdom had one of the better "Got Ya!" moments in recent history.

Rabbit (Sir Cais Lepus) went up in court and addressed the populace, explaining that he had promised his quires new belts after formally taking them as his students. He called Centurion Angus Gunn up, and after some very touching words presented him with a handsome red Squire's belt.

Then he called Viggen up, and offered some more very touching words to the man. At that point, he turned towards the royal herald (HL Etienne) and asked for the other belt. Etienne turned, looked down at something, then went wide-eyed. He exclaimed that he had screwed up, apologized to Rabbit and the audience.

"I know exactly what happened to it." Etienne said in a panic. "I handed it to someone and forgot to get it back before court started. I completely screwed up. Um um... Don't worry. I... I... um... I can get this taken care of in just a minute." he turned square with the audience again and started projecting in his normal court-herald volume. "Would the people whom I handed a small cloth bag please step forward... I think that would be..."


Yes, they finally decided to make Viggen a knight.

And that was just a priceless "Got Ya!"

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!"

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Tudors: Season One

Well, my wife and I just finished watching Showtime's The Tudors: The First season last night (a Christmas gift from the in-laws). And I must say, it was a rather amazing bit of film making. Now, I am fully aware that as a historical guide the show leaves volumes to be desired. But I must say that I am rather in agreement with the creator when he said that "any confusion created by the changes [from history] is outweighed by the interest the series may inspire in the period and its figures." Just so long as people go into it knowing that this is no more history than a Shakespearean history, they they really should be okay.

I really was impressed with the casting and the writing of the show. Natalie Dormer was absolutely riveting in the role of Ann Boleyn. In the show, Boleyn is written as a highly educated and headstrong seductress who actually develops feelings for Henry. While I have no idea how accurate this is, the dramatic portrayal is powerful, and Dormer's ability to piratically look into the camera and look through you with a very dark, deliberate stare just makes the character that much more amazing.

While again, I know little of the personality of the real Henry VIII, Jonathan Rhys Meyers depiction of a mercurial, arrogant, and spoiled monarch was actually captivating, even thought I really had no sympathy for the man. While I am not normally one to consider profanity a major contributing point to a character, Henry uses the F word sparingly enough in the show that when he does say it (actually, he screams it most of the time), its like setting off a landmine in the middle of the set. Despite the fact that I probably actually out-mass the actor by at least a hundred pounds, I was actually stunned during these scenes because his depiction of an enraged man was so complete. I found myself actually shaken by the volatility of his temper.

Surprisingly, I think my favorite character in the first season was that of Cardinal Wolsey. This is a considerable surprise to me because Wolsey (the real person) was a well documented politician, administrator, architect, and was, more or less, corrupt to the core. While wearing the garments of a Cardinal, he advances secular interests (and his own on a large number of occasions) while always trying to curry favor with the king.

While the specific corruptions depicted in the show can likely be debated and picked apart to no end, I must say that Sam Neal's acting resonated with me from about the third episode on. I never really felt sorry for the man, he made his own bed, and ultimately admitted to himself that he had to sleep in it. I think the scene that haunts me the most was Wolsey's final scene in the show, where he is in prison under charge of treason. its there, in a touching monologue, that the character makes peace with God for what has happened, and what will happen still. The speech and the cinematography were priceless, spot on, and amazing. While I still felt no sympathy for the man, I did find a new-found respect for the character.

I'm not normally one to complain about nudity in a Showtime TV show (I mean, its Showtime, the're almost as bad a Playboy, so its not like you don't know what your getting into when you watch them), But I will say that I think the director was trying to raise a few eyebrows with some of his scenes. The major eye-popper for me was the opening scene in the season finally. If you've seen it, than you know what I'm taking about, if not... Well, personally I consider you fortunate because I felt the scene in question to be inappropriate and gratuitous.

However, in total, I felt that the show stood up to scrutiny as a dramatic piece well, and should be watched by SCAers if for no other reason than to get a glimpse into the types of court politics, dynamics and interactions that probably did shape the character of the English court in the late fifteen hundreds.

We'll probably start Season 2 next either this week, or next.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!"

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Monday, January 25, 2010

King's Round Table

Well, I must say that King's round table is a whole new experience when you are a regional officer. I know this is technically my second such round-table, but last time I had officially been in the office all of three days. Now, I'm coming to it after six months in office.

For starters, weather I wanted to or not, I am now on the seeming cutting edge of a curriculum modification for new heraldic officers. The Herald's Warranting class was always a lot of material, but after HLTadhg  was done reorganizing the class, we had 4 pages worth of typed material, and that was barely able to fit into two hours worth of class.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I was the one teaching that class. Yep, I managed to fumble my way through my first herald's warranting class without breaking any major laws or sencabilities. That's not to say that the class was flawless... no no, far from it. A lot could have gone better, I admit. But again, the people who were there did get what they needed to get, and they took home enough paperwork to fill in the gaps (I hope, anyway).

But yeah, when that was over, Tadhg and I kind of mutually agreed that the class needed to be shorter, and split into two parts. I didn't hear Star voice an opinion one way or the other on the subject, but right now, I am glad to operate under the "in silence there is consent" model of administration (see me crossing fingers and toes on that one, especially since she is one of the more regular readers of this blog).

Without going into too much detail, I am glad to say that I able to mend a bridge I between myself and a Landed hat. It would be foolish of me to detail the conversation, but I can say that I took something critical away from it. No mater how mad you are at someone, concentrating on common goals is always the best bridge builder.

And to be clear, I currently hold the landed noble in question in high regard, and have no ill feelings over the previous clash.

And on  a side note, I will probably refrain from using the acronym "GOofS" when referring to the Greater officers of state. This is old news, but I was more or less told that the short version was highly disrespectful, and I was told as much by someone who just has a penchant for making lives miserable is they so choose. Consequently, I am just going to give up and say "Great Officers", a personal practice I was making good use of this past weekend.

The College of Herald's open meeting was certainly interesting. I can't say that I agreed with all opinions given, or that my ideas were necessarily met with universal approval either, but it was amazingly informative. I must admit that there were definitely some varied opinions on some situations, but variety only makes things interesting, I must say.

Aside from that, most of the goings on for the day were administrative, and likewise necessary but largely boring.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!"

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interesting Times

Well, let it never be said that life doesn't tend to throw you a curve ball every now and then. And for the record, this one caught me right between the eyes.

Last weekend, Sir Jean Paul de Seans threw the final blow of Crown tournament, making him the first local Mooneschadeen to hold the title of Heir to the throne of Ansteorra.

Well... yeah. I'll be honest with you, I didn't see that one coming. Maybe others did, maybe the whole kingdom did for all I know, but I just didn't see it happening until I heard about it from my wife. And also, I will point out that I have had some stuff happening in my mundane life that had my attention that day, so this wasn't idle ignorance.

So, what does this mean to me as a herald? And to a lesser extent, what does this mean to me as a Mooneschadeen?

Actually, a good amount on both.

As a herald, that means that I now have new access to the crown and a new and very different perspective on how and why they conduct themselves. True, I don't consider myself one of His Highness's inner circle, but I do know him far better than I do any other person to sit the throne.  I'm probably going to have a better chance to interact with a Golden Staff than ever before, and as HRH's attendance is almost guaranteed at any Mooneschadowe event, my local exposure to a crown will be as high, if not higher, than it was under Her Grace Vanessa's second time on the throne.

On a semi-political note; I made what some will likely label a ploy when I last spoke with High Highness. Knowing that they were still looking for a Golden Staff (Crown herald), I asked if he would speak to his choice about taking me on as a student of sorts.  Why not just throw my name in as Golden staff? Simple, I don't have that high an opinion of myself, and neither does JP (rightfully so, I might add). I told him when I spoke that this wasn't any sort of attempt to get in good with anyone. The bottom line was that this was probably going to be my best chance to get an inside perspective on the office of Golden Staff. I do want the job, someday, and that day won't get any closer unless I start learning.

It will be an interesting time, without question. And I'm not even going to hazard a guess if that is going to be good or bad, mainly because I don't want to jinx what luck I have.

As a Mooneschadeen, the effects are no less dramatic. With Owen, and now Jean Paul set as members of the royal family, this will be represent a full year of northern representation on the throne. As I recall, Sir made the finals both this time and last, and after he steps down, Owen might very well intend to try and trade off reigns with JP, though that is only my own speculation.

Why is this important? Several reasons.

First of all, there are a lot of people in the kingdom that don't understand Mooneschadowe. That's okay, mind you. I don't understand a lot of the other groups, and trust me when I say that they all are very unique in how they work. But the problem is that Mooneschadowe isn't a shire, a canton or a barony. We're the only province in the Kingdom, and one of only a handful in the SCA known world. There have been more than just a few hard feelings and even some harsh words exchanged over our status, and a lot of it originates with people totally misunderstanding how and why we went province rather than Barony. I'm not saying that we want to change how people think, but I think have a Mooneschadeen crown on the thrown will go a long way towards getting people to rethink their original opinions of us. Or at least I can hope, right?

I guess, in the end, JP's victory at crown can only affect me as much as I want it to. It represents a huge opportunity for a lot of us in Mooneschadowe, but at the same time, it also is just part of the cycle that is Ansteorra's Royalist Government.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!"
Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hard Decisions.

There are times when the best option at your disposal can best be described as the least bitter pill to swallow. I've had more than I care to already, and today was another one.

To date, I have worked to build my relationships within the SCA on the foundations of trust, respect, understanding and communications. I'm not saying that I have always succeeded, by any means. But none the less, that has certainly been my goal.

Now, I am setting out on a truly unique venture, the construction of a working relationship that has none of these at its start.

Advice is welcome, because I am going into this one blind.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


If nothing else, I think that the years of heraldry in the SCA have taught me that most of what we learn and accomplish truly comes from networking. That's not to say that classes and experience don't count for anything, quite the opposite. But in the end, no one had a right to herald. I've seen the most seasoned and veteran court heralds ordered aside for reasons both noble and idiotic. And Rookie heralds pressed to the front of court for much the same. Few if any of my heraldry chances were self-made. Actually, most of them were the result of a friendship, or a chance conversation that I decided to pursue. My decision to go further in heraldry was started by a chance chat with a Golden staff. My Heraldry for and with the Barony of Northkeep was based on the faith and trust that others had in me (namely Lord Kevin and their Excellencies Ian and Kalandra). My reputation on the list field preceded me in Wiesefeuer, and as half of Namron seems to be active duty heralds, it small wonder that I was welcomed there with open arms. I think the real point of my commentary right now is not to reconsider how we do heraldry classes, but rather to press home to heralds and prospective heralds alike that what we say and to with our fellow heralds outside of court or the list is probably just as important as what we say and do in court or the list.
Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God Save the King!"

"Non unus step tergum"

Google Voice - (405) 385-9214