Sunday, June 7, 2015

"the Stick!" (My herald's baton)

Gulf Wars this year past was good to me in more than a few ways. One of which was meeting Taran the Wayward, a fellow voice herald out of Meridies. Quirky and eccentric in all the ways that make a herald awesome, Jim also had a surprisingly practical addition to the voice heraldry game this year when we both showed up to herald the Ansteorran's roses tournament.

Teran, it seems was one of the early subscribers to the school of using a baton in heraldry.

Its hardly a "new" thing, heraldic maces and batons are date-able back to the late thirteenth century, as I understand it.

File:Anton Tirol.jpg
The herald Anton Tirol
from 1510.
Bavarian herald
Joerg Rugenn wearing a
tabard of the arms around 1510

These illustrations (both late period for the SCA) show heralds with various "stick" implements meant to help dictate the business of the herald with exaggerated gestures, and recognized insignia.

The illustrations here are an excellent starting place for anyone who want's the see what was worked with. Anton Tirol's baton is, quite frankly, a mace in all but name, and would have looked as imposing as hell with him swinging it around while directing a court.

Joerg Rugenn, however, was using what we could call today a "wand" that probably would have been mistaken for a prop from one of the harry potter movies. Yet, none the less, I can say from personal experience outside the SCA that the gesturing of an item in a person's hand does help draw attention to them and make their instructions more definite.

I had actually heard of these things ages ago, but never really had a chance to try my hand at any of them until this gulf past. its hard to explain until you've been there and seen it in action, but let me tell you, having a 30" object in your hand lets you make some exceedingly unambiguous gestures to a lot of people a long distance away.

One extremely pragmatic example of this came during the processional into opening court Tuesday morning. I was assigned to split traffic, royals to behind the castle, populace to the front. Not long into the process, one of the mounted royals was thrown from her horse and landed hard on one shoulder. Within seconds her retainers were at her side, but the whole wile the bulk of the attending populace of the kingdom of Meredies was coming down the road. I looked up to see Taran at the head of the line, a huge mass of white white behind him like a slow motion avalanche.

The absolute first thing that flashed to my mind was that I needed to stop that march before it was on top of us and what was a largely isolated medical emergency would turn into a traffic snarl with hundreds of people involved, not to mention the fact none of that was going to help anyone dealing with the injured just then.

I ran forward, past the scene and locked eyes with Taran, perhaps forty yards away, but closing. I thrust both hands up at him, palms open. I know, from experience, that that gesture could be taken a hundred different ways, and have seen people do just that. But I hoped that Taran's knowledge of who I was and my job there that day would help clarify the instruction.

Taran blinked, I remember that. The look on his face clearly said that he hadn't expected this turn of event, and I wasn't even sure if he had seen enough of the accident to even understand what was going on. But... in one blink of an eye, he stooped dead in his tracks, and held his baton over his head, bar style (parallel to the ground).

In one beautiful, glorious moment, the whole meridian procession, and in turn everyone behind them, came to a controlled, dignified, organized halt.

In fact, it could almost have been passed of as 'we planned it that way'.

I'm not saying that was the only way to pull it off. Far from it. But let me tell you, the alternatives can get interesting. Turning around and waiving your hands at the people behind you doesn't always work. Don't ask me why, that's a research paper I'm not qualified to write, but trust me, it doesn't. The human mind is just infinitely able to turn out some things, but the sight of someone gesturing with the rough equivalent of a baseball bat will usually get through most filters very quickly.

The process was repeated, in different forms, several times throughout the week, with Taran directing and introducing people time and time again with great fanfare and silent command using one of his several batons to call attention quickly and effectively.

Directing fighters and matching fighters to marshals during the three hours, one hundred and fifty fighter rapier tournament was more of the same. I was loaned one of the batons in his kit, and let me just say that it was strikingly effective at directing people without adding to the noise of the situation.

So, months later, I set out to replicate what was shown to me, and hope that at events to come, I would be able to use my baton at local events in the north of the kingdom.

I would do a 'in-progress' series of photos, but really, it would be a lot of pictures of me painting a chair leg with white spray primer. ie... boring. So, lets just cut to the chaise and see what my offering looks like.

Ignore the chair... second hand, and
the cats got to it before I ever sat in it. 

I added this brass drawer handle to the end for accent.
In the end, I wanted something that had heft and weight to it, something that would remind me it was there, but not weight me down. I suppose that's the (now former) fighter in me talking, but, it is what it is.

I also wanted something "flexible", where I didn't have to paint over existing art, or leave the head blank. The whole point of the mace head was to put the client's arms on it, so that was what I wanted to do.

With a table leg mounting plate, I can attach just about anything I can fit the plate on. In this case, I took a small coffee table leg, pulled the 1/4" bolt out of it, and used it for my head. On this particular shape, I plan to put ornamental drawings on the side faces, and actual heraldry on the top. But, the parts are a few dollars a piece, so I can get another and make something different if I want.
The mounting plate lets me switch heads out.
Each head will need a new plate, but they are not much
more than $4 at Lowes.

At the end of the day, my goal here is to help me herald more effectively, and after working gulf this year, I honestly think this baton will be a step in that direction. 

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"