Monday, July 1, 2013

Quiet and idle... for long enough

There is more to me than just good health and a happy family. Heraldry may well run as thick in my veins as blood, but heraldry is a purpose driven skill. to be a herald in truth is to have a court to call, or a site to cry. It is to have a badge to construct or a name to consult on. In truth, one can only fractionally call themselves a herald in a vacuum.

That, in all honestly, has been my existence for the past six months. Even since receiving my second clean bill of health, the time off that I have taken during my recovery had pulled me far enough away from my trade and craft that others stepped in to fill the resulting void, or even in some cases, it was decided that such services as my own were not needed. I don't really begrudge most for their decisions in that time, none should be asked to simply put things on hold while another is ill; as any situation changes, the population at large should adapt and move on, it is the way of things, and it is best for them.

Still, that left me in very much of a vacuum, with little in the way of things to go in my old stock and trade as a herald.

That was until now. And as fortune would have it... the answers to several of my quiet prayers were answered at once, but not in one answer.

My time of idleness is over. Once again, I have purpose, and I have goals to attend to.

First... "the book".

A few weeks ago, I attending King's College, here in Mooneschadowe. A Good event to be sure, but something I have never seen before was handed to me there. All of the teachers were gifted with Girdle Books. These simple constructed little items were the first I had ever seen of such an item, but I learned quickly that they were usually elaborately constructed books worn in the later third of the middle ages, and were absolutely accurate for my persona.

Now, I've constructed several mock-ups and prototypes since then, mostly out of my own personal curiosity and creative interest. The whole point of the book is to have a readily available text on you that you can carry with you wherever you go. In many respects it is a precursor to the PDA and smartphone technology of modern times. Ultimately, I had wanted to make something I could take and keep notes on for court heraldry. I don't do it enough to truly memorize the steps and processes, and the closing salutes usually escape me without some sort of script.

Then, this weekend past, I was more or less submerged in a churning cauldron of heralds from across the SCA. Conversation flowed, ideas were bounced left and right, and then, I had an epiphany.

What if the complete text for the awards of the kingdom, as well as the fundamental steps for opening and closing baronial, royal and grand courts were condensed down into a single text, bound, and made into a girdle book? This would afford a herald a ready refernce for court.

Lunacy you say?

I'm just getting started.

Historically, the vast majority of Girdle books that still exist are prayer books, or Books of Hours. After mulling the title over, and reflecting on the long standing joke that since the SCA doesn't have a church, they rely on the college of heralds for its necessary administrative frustrations, I decided to encapsulate my plan into a cant:

"The Ansteorrian Heraldic Book of our's."

Within it's pages will be a complete list of the current award tests, as well as the framework procedures for the opening, closing and ordering of courts (and meetings) at the local, Baronial, Royal and Grand (inter-kingdom) level. To add to this, the book will includes illuminated capitol letters and pages in a fashion reminiscent of actual historical examples, but will also retain it's functionality as a working text meant to guide heralds when they are caught without their normal "bag o' magic and mystery".

Some people loved it, some people liked it, and some were skeptical, but not against it 

But the best endorsement I ran into was when Mistress Dorcas Whitecap, who upon hearing it said "good idea, in fact so good I think I might steal it!"

It's grown since then, but people have already stepped up to help. There is a lot to do if I am to make this happen, but I think it is infinitely doable, absolutely cool, and most importantly; a contribution that will help elevate heraldry within Ansteorra. 

Second: a class, and a class of heralds, and a job that should never be quiet.

I have long held that road heraldry (crying the site) is an important job within the SCA. Surprisingly, that has met with some resistance, including a few autocrats who outright said "we don't need site heralds" and made it clear that heraldry would not be included in their agenda. To be fair, these are few and far between, but I point them out here because everyone should know that Road heralds are not automatically seen in the same light as their court, list, or book herald counterparts.

As Road heraldry is one of my fortes within the society, I made up a class or it some seven years ago. Two hours long, and with a handout that is fifteen pages, I have given it ten times, and never had more than two people attend, (and worse yet, two of those classes were complete no-shows). Still, I have faith in the importance of my cause, and with that I submitted my class for Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium.

To my pleasant surprise, the attendance here was a marked improvement, and none in there had seen my word before, meaning I was seeing fresh faces, getting fresh takes on old ideas, and likewise sharing the benefit of my decade of service waling sites for autocrats and Scenechals.

I had no way of even guessing the good fortune that would befall me after that class. First of all, I had four people afterwords who were not there, walk up it me, identify themselves and then say "I was talking about site heralding and your name came up as one of the top authorities here at the event." So, aside from the people in my class, four more got handouts and instructions on how to reach me and teach the class for themselves. Additionally, only one person out of that combined group was Ansteorrian, meaning that my class just jumped a half dozen kingdom borders.

Also: one of my students spoke with me right after class. As it happens, he's a peer and the War Herald for next year's Gulf Wars. He spoke candidly about the state of site heraldry at the war, explaining that the last two years didn't even have organized site heraldry, and he felt that the war suffered for it. He urged me to contact the War Voice herald (who is ansteorrian) and speak with her about my class and my materials. He said he wanted road heraldry back at the war, and felt strongly that I could help him towards that cause.

I had just gone from trying to find places to help teach heraldry, to being names an inter-kingdom level authority on a subject, and assisting with planning stages of site heraldry for the second largest war in the society.

Third: From notes to a class to a paper... from herald to a scholar.

Building on that last part, the same individual spoke with me some time the next day. He asked me if I would write an academic paper on the subject of road heraldry, a paper that could (and would) be both usable at an inter-kingdom level for educational purposes, as well as submitable to A&S competitions for peer review and critique. I had never considered this possibility before, but if a peer of the society would advocate for such a thing unsolicited, then it is a very realistic venue for me to help raise heraldic education levels in the SCA as a whole. I have always considered myself a writer, and a amateur scholar, but never have I considered advancing road heraldry through scholarly writing before. This will be a new concept for me, but one that I am looking forward to.

Fourth (and last): to rejoin the ranks... to march with an army.

I have not been able to go to Gulf wars in a great many years. With a family, and financial obligations, Uprooting three lives for a week and traveling a quarter of the continent away was simply not practical in recent years.

But this Sunday my wife and I spoke on the subject, and we agreed that now there is more to this issue than just going and having fun, or even working. People are seeking me out for my skills, and I know I have more to give than just what can be put on a page. While it will pain me to depart without the wife I love, or the son I adore, we have all agreed that the best thing I can do is to go forward, and travel with the army of Ansteorra for the next Gulf wars.

To war I go.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

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