Monday, August 29, 2005

More on Info Policy

I was just looking over my post on the topic of information policy for Stormvale (below), and a thought occurred. Maybe what we need is a Storm Warning blog at the site.

The blog would include news items and article and comments. is going to be the place to go for information, the hub, so why not? Just a thought.

The Return of the Stormvale Belt

Many years ago, Stormvale events began to feature "Barbarian Brawls" as part of the armored combat of at least one of our events, usually the old Vikings Go Home! tournament in the spring.

We would line everyone up outside the lists, then permit two combatants in. Another would be fed in at a set interval (in reality, we marshals almost invariably fed in more people at whatever rate seemed to cause the most havoc). It was a free-for-all, and the winner would be the last person standing.

Sometimes the combats were intense, swirling melees, more often it was like a regular hold-the-field tournament, vastly speeded up and with combats overlapping. Usually there were ad hoc alliances as participants tried to prolong their lives with allies or to cope with formidable opponents. A particularly delightful Brawl featured Sir Osric Eisenwulf entering the lists and then suddenly gliding across the floor to tear up an entire line of opponents who'd formed a momentary alliance. His motion was so smooth and sudden they never even reacted before the first man fell - it appeared to an observer as though his first blow had been struck from 20 feet away.

The winner of the Barbarian Brawl was awarded a leather belt, in obvious suggestion of boxing or wrestling prizes. There was a big S for Stormvale on the front, and the names of the winners were put inside the belt. I think the belt was made by Lord Duncan Glaustaugh, although it's been so long I'm not certain. The stylized letters DG are inside the belt, so I think Duncan is a good bet.

The belt was rather popular, despite its origins in modern entertainment. One combatant remarked that he wanted to win anything one got one's name put on.

The Stormvale fighters who thought up the Barbarian Brawl are long gone, and without attention, prizes that get awarded and are supposed to be brought back the next year tend to wander off. We haven't seen the belt in years. But Lord Erevon was surprised at Pennsic this year to find the belt in Andelcrag camp. Someone had brought it in an attempt to find the owner (again, it has multiple names inside) and Erevon explained what it was and reclaimed it. He handed it to me last night.

The names inside are not quite up to date, I suspect. I seem to recall one or two victors who may not have had their names included. But it's nice to see this relic of Stormvale's history returned to our hands, and we will no doubt be awarding it anew at future events.

Friday, August 26, 2005

An Ealdormerean Account

I just finished reading an Ealdormerean account of Pennsic 34 at SCA Today. Strongly recommended. I do wonder what a "Jack and Jill" is, and whether "gack" is gear in Canadian slang, Ealdormerean slang or even SCA slang that I haven't heard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Cosman Fan

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of Madeleine Pelner Cosman.

Cosman is a writer on medieval subjects, and she is regarded with snooty disapproval by most SCA cooks and scholars. I will admit, her recipes, especially in the very popular and perennially in print Fabulous Feasts, are not perhaps the height of scholarly rigor. The recipes in Fabulous Feasts are, well... let's just say I don't think they had ready access to pineapple or carob in Medieval Europe. But these recipes are fun, and all the ones I've cooked are tasty. No, she doesn't cite her sources for the recipes, but what reasonably experienced medievalist cook couldn't walk one of her recipes back if they had a mind to?

Ok, so don't use one of her recipes as the sole source in a competition at an Arts and Sciences Fair. You'll get that snooty thing. But don't put down Cosman herself or her writing. The rest of her text in Fabulous Feasts is scholarly and well-sourced. The illustrations are wonderful. Her Medieval Holidays and Festivals; A Calendar of Celebrations has delightful ideas for seasonal celebrations for SCA. Her Medieval Wordbook is a treat.

Furthermore, Cosman was Director of the Insititute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the City College of City University of New York. The recipes in Fab Feasts and the celebratory ideas in Medieval Holidays are popularizing, not dry scholarly essays. She herself is a lawyer, a Ph.D, a highly respected medical teacher and lawyer and a serious medievalist.

What gets me about the disapproval about Cosman in the SCA is the irony. Read the back cover blurb to Medieval Holidays. Cosman had a weekly class on public television called Medieval Daily Life. She and colleagues staged demonstrations of medieval celebrations for public.

Cosman is one of us. I love her books, and I noticed while Googling her that I missed a few of them. I'll have to correct that.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Newsletter or Not; Philosophical Musings on Information Policy

The question came up over the weekend. Does Stormvale need a newsletter? After all, we have the Stormvale discussion mailing list, the Stormvale-Bulletin announcements list, This Week in Stormvale,, and now a blog devoted mostly to Stormvale and the SCA. So has a paper copy of the Storm Warning become superfluous?

Well, in part, I'm just not sure. My comment when I was asked this question was to admit that I haven't actually looked at a paper copy of the newsletter in years. But I may be different. I check my email frequently, and tend to be up on what's going on. I socialize with most of the officers on a regular basis. Others may still use and value the paper copy of the newsletter.

Also, I'm not sure how many paper copies even go out at all. I've wanted a copy to archive, but I think most people are getting it by email anyway. Aileran began the very helpful process of making it available in Word and Acrobat versions a couple of years ago.

My initial take on it is that we are duplicating our efforts. Not that the newsletter is not a good idea to continue, but we should reflect on how it fits into a changed world of information delivery. I notice that there are things in the kingdom newsletter, the Pale, that never appear at This must be deliberate, an attempt to ensure that there is a reason to read the Pale.

At the September 4 Shire Council, we'll talk it over and consider how to work it so we're not wasting the Chronicler's time with a lot of work that isn't necessary. I am by no means sure that a Storm Warning in some form is not a good idea. Paper copies that can be handed to people are a good idea. But we may want to adjust content or frequency. A thought that occurs to me is to make it quarterly, make it a big deal with a lot of interesting content that doesn't appear elsewhere, and have it come out at the beginning of each season, with a clear emphasis on announcing the local schedule for the following quarter. That maximizes the utility for making the thing available in local businesses or libraries, too.

Pennsic Awards for Stormvale

As far as I'm aware right now, two awards of particular interest to Stormvale were made at the Pennsic War just past.

Our Lord Erevon FitzGerald received the Award of the Dragon's Barb for his work and prowess in archery.

Former Stormvaler Alan Fairfax was made a member of the Order of the Laurel for his skill and accomplishments in research on Medieval topics.

More details as I get them, and Hoo-bah to both gentlemen!

More Pennsic and Books

Speaking of books and Pennsic, which I have been in recent posts, here are three privately published books of potential interest to those interested in the Pennsic Wars:

From 2003, A Battlefield Guide to the Pennsic Wars; Recognizing Unit Colors and Devices, by Malcolm Mac Angus of Kinross, and its companion volume, Armies of the Pennsic Wars, by Robert Averill. The first was a pamphlet in stiff covers that has color drawings of the heraldry and appearance of the major units. The second is a more substantial book designed to look somewhat like an Osprey military book, with a lot more detail. Total cost for both, if I recall correctly, was about $35. Email for more details. I hope he still has them in stock.

And this year, Herstadr-Saga, a history of the Pennsic War, is a $10 comb-bound item from Folump Enterprises. Folump charges a dollar per item for shipping, and having bought many of their histories, I am certain this one will be interesting. Parts were excerpted in the Pennsic Independent newsletter this year.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Mysteries of Precedence

Now that we've tackled the underlying structure of the awards system in the Middle Kingdom, let's look at the concept of precedence. Precedence has two essential components: rank and order in time.

Here's what I mean: in mid 1988, for example, my friend Geirmundr and I had the same rank: we were armigers. We had "bare" awards of arms. But what if we wanted to differentiate which of us was first in precedence? Simple - the first to get his AoA was higher in precedence. The G-Man got his AoA August 16, 1987 (at Pennsic, obviously). I was awarded arms on November 7 of the same year. Thus, Geirmundr stood higher in precedence.

Now, when would it make any difference? Practically speaking, only on two types of occasion. First, when we compile an Order of Precedence for any particular group (like Stormvale members, or for the whole kingdom). Second, when forming an Order of March, when a group of people are going to form a formal procession. Usually this is done only for the contestants and their consorts as they are presented to the Crown before a Crown Tournament, but perhaps for a very formal local feast, you might care to know these things. (We only did it once, that I can recall, but my point is that you could look it up and figure it out easily enough.)

So, if we participated in such a procession in 1988, Geirmundr and I, with our identical rank, would have been placed a number of people apart - however many people were present who had AoAs between our dates of award; or if you were figuring the order of precedence for the whole kingdom, everyone who had gotten an AoA during that period.

Ok so far? Good. Let's add a complication. On October 8, 1988, I received the Award of the Purple Fret. Also an armigerous award, and therefore I remained an armiger, just like Geirmundr, but now I leapfrogged him in precedence, because the Fret has slightly higher precedence than a plain AoA. I was the 16th person to get that award that day, by the way (it was an unusually big day for Frets in particular and awards in general, because it was a Coronation with two courts. The first court was Comar and Lisa's last, and they liked giving Frets. The second court was Reynard and Brynhildr's first, and that's when I got the award), so if we formed a procession with everyone in the kingdom, all 15 previous recipients that day would stand just ahead of me. Geirmundr would be way, way back now, with the entire group of people who had only AoAs.

It should be clear enough now. All the awards and orders are ranked, as we saw yesterday. Peerages first, grants second, armigers third. Within each group, there is another ranking, as where Frets rank higher than AoAs. So everyone with a Fret as their highest award stands in order of when they received it, oldest first, and then the next award down, again in order of receiving it.

Let's move up a bit, because over time these things change. On December 6, 1997, I was made a member of the Order of the Dragon's Heart, the (then) highest type of armigerous award. Geirmundr got one right after me. We were both still armigers, but we now took a big jump up the order of precedence, to the top of the third category, that of all armigers, and we were right next to each other. Curiously, we took a gigantic leap in the OP in 2000 without getting any other awards, because our order was moved up to the top of the grant-level orders instead (the ODH is always the highest native kingdom level award, below the SCA-wide ones.)

Now, let's add another complication to make sure the system is clear. Our friend Alan Fairfax, who was just 16 when he joined Stormvale many years ago, was until a few days ago well behind us in the OP, but he just took a big jump up to the bottom of the peerage rank when he was made a member of the Order of the Laurel. Fairfax will always be behind all other peers who were made peers before him, and will always be ahead of all those who get peerages after him. That's as high as he can go, unless he wins a Crown or Coronet tourney!

What does the whole order of march look like? Well, you can go look it up at, in the heraldry section under Order of Precedence. Geirmundr and I are 967 and 966 at the moment, although that will now be a little out of date. We will be displaced down the list only by peers and barons; no one with any other award will ever leapfrog us as it stands.

Now, what does it all matter? Well, not a lot on a given day. When I see Fairfax, I'll give him a big hug and call him "Master Alan", and then go back to calling the youngster Fairfax for the rest of our lives except when I mention his name in a formal context. Precedence isn't really a big deal, just part of the rules of the game we play. And I should mention that hardly anyone (except heralds, of course!) notices many of the issues I just discussed. But that's how it works.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Arms, Grants, Patents

The award system of the SCA can be confusing to new members, or even people who've been around for a while. Here's a quick primer of some of the broad aspects.

Everyone who participates in the society is assumed to be a gentleman or lady. Even the newest member should be treated courteously, and addressed as milord or milady. More formally, they are not styled with a title of any kind until they receive formal recognition from the kingdom in the form of arms (arms also refers to the heraldic design chosen by the participant).

The right to bear arms and be addressed with a title of one's own is given by the king and queen in a court. (Or by someone acting on their behalf and at their direction, usually a prince and/or princess or a landed baron/baroness, but very occasionally by someone else in a "regency court" - this would almost certainly be a royal peer specifically delegated to give the award on their majesties' behalf.)

Arms are given in three ways, each conveying a different type of rank.

1. Arms are first given by award. An award of arms, given throughout the SCA, conveys this basic status. One is an armiger after being awarded arms. In addition to an award of arms, each kingdom has a set of other awards which convey armigerous status. In the Middle Kingdom, for example, one may receive the Award of the Purple Fret or the Award of the Dragon's Tooth. This is both an independent distinction and also conveys armigerous status if it was not given before in a "bare" award of arms. Anyone with any such award is addressed as Lord John Doe or Lady Jane Roe (first names only - one is Lord John Doe, not Lord Doe.)

2. Arms are next given by grant. A grant of arms is given in different ways in the different kingdoms. In the MidRealm, it is given as a "bare" award, a GoA, only to kingdom officers (except for a brief period in the 1990s). In the Middle, one is granted arms together with membership in an order, such the Order of the Greenwood Company or the Order of the Dragon's Heart. This is a relatively new concept in the Middle - this arrangement dates only from a 2000 reorganization of the awards system here. It is a fairly big deal to be made a "companion" of one of these orders, and a very exclusive type of honor to have a "bare" GoA. Anyone with granted arms is addressed as The Honorable Lord John Doe or The Honorable Lady Jane Roe (again, not Lord Doe). For this level of rank, it is also appropriate for others to refer to such a person as His Lordship John Doe or Her Ladyship Jane Roe (one would not commonly refer to oneself this way). With granted arms, one still answers to Lord or Lady, too, and it is common to use THL Jane Roe for short, too.

3. Finally, arms may be given by patent. This is the highest form of honor conveyed in SCA courts. It is given only in association with the SCA-wide peerage orders - the Order of the Chivalry, the Order of the Laurel, the Order of the Pelican and the Order of the Rose, and with the titles of Count/ess and Duke/Duchess. One is said to be a peer at this level of recognition. A member of the Chivalry is either Sir John Doe or Dame Jane Roe (actually, almost all lady knights prefer Sir, as well); other peers are Master John Doe or Mistress Jane Roe (again, not Master Doe). (A wrinkle here - some members of the Chivalry prefer to style themselves Masters or Mistresses - this is prearranged for those whose religion or personal philosophy prevent their swearing an oath of fealty, as knights are required to do.) Royal peers, by the way, are those who have served once as king or queen and are made a count or countess; or twice or more and are made a duke or duchess.

So, same arms, and the arms given is the design that the recipient has chosen for him- or herself and registered with the College of Arms. But a different rank for each level.

More about awards and heraldry tomorrow. For more detail, by the way, see Master Thorvald's Middle Kingdom Awards page.

Correction: When I say above that the Order of the Rose is a peerage order, that isn't quite right. At present in the Middle Kingdom, it is an order which conveys no precedence. It is SCA-wide, it does convey a peerage in some kingdoms, and it used to here.

Pennsic XXXIV Update for Saturday

The Pennsic Independent says the final score after Friday's battles was 26-1 Middle over East. Big number.

Terryl MacAodhagain reports being home this evening, and driving through wet weather. She says Stormvale's trailer is also expected back tonight. She deserves congratulations for being made a youth combat marshal, and says that Erevon FitzGerald got an award of some kind, which she believes was a Dragon's Barb. That certainly sounds right. Erevon has been busting his butt on archery for quite a while. Busting his butt... very faint unintentional pun there. Oh well.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pennsic XXXIV Update as of Thursday

It's now 19-1 Middle and allies over East and allies, according to the Pennsic Independent. There were supposed to be another three war points today. Obviously, the Middle won a couple of days ago, in effect, but this is delightful news after all the years of being repeatedly defeated and sometimes swamped by the other side. I wish I was there.

What I'm Reading

Recently, no doubt as a result of teaching economics, I've become interested in medieval economics. Actually, it's always interested me - particularly coinage and bills of sale, because it ties into modern negotiable instruments when I teach it, but I hadn't attempted any systematic study.

Currently I'm reading Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe by Peter Spufford. This is a big gorgeous book published in 2003 in the US. Spufford is the author of the seminal work on medieval currency, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe.

Power and Profit is more readable than its predecessor. It is lavishly illustrated and written with a little more attention, perhaps, for the satisfaction of the reader. There are stunning photographs of medieval artifacts I have never seen in other sources.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pennsic XXXIV Update

According to the latest edition of the Pennsic Independent, the Middle Kingdom and its allies (Aethelmearc, Atlantia, Calontir, Ealdormere, Meridies, Northshield, Outlands, Trimaris, Great Dark Horde) led the East Kingdom and its allies (Ansteorra, An Tir, Artemesia, Atenveldt, Caid, Drachenwald, Lochac, Trimaris, West, Acre) 17-1 in war points by Wednesday. SCA Today also has occasional news and links to PI.

I'll post a fuller report on the war once our own warriors get back.


This post was edited for accuracy.

Upcoming Projects

Back in the mid 1990s, I had the notion that there ought to be a dictionary of SCA slang and jargon for the Middle Kingdom, so I wrote one. I even had it checked out by the kingdom seneschal of the day, who pronounced it good and made several suggestions for additions or changes. It's quite a long document, and I have to say that I had a very good time compiling it.

Well, it's never seen publication. First I was going to self-publish, then I thought about interesting Folump Enterprises or some such publisher, then by 2000 or so I was thinking of just putting it on the web, perhaps at Master Daffyd, the web minister, thought it was a good idea. But between one thing and another, the project has languished, about 98% complete. I've seen similar projects, but I think mine is better and more complete.

Now, I think I'd like to host the thing at or on a web page that can be linked to from here (actually, both). The project requires some work to get into html format, and should be up during the fall. I'll try to work on it after classes at Baker are done and before the fall term starts in late September.

The only place the definitions have ever seen print is in the Storm Warning, where I and then Bronwyn of Brightoaks published various definitions over the years.

Otherwise, I'm hoping to have my various other articles and future projects linked here for general perusal. There is also a new members guide, an organizational history for Stormvale, an unfinished operational handbook for the branch, an article on armorial law, and an article on flags and banners, for starters.

Various Comments

Well, still working on the details. I've begun to retrofit with links, but nothing appears as quickly as I would suppose, so I'm not always sure I've posted properly until later. I'd appreciated comments or observations. Hopefully I'll soon begin to include pictures. I'd also like to include links and some other art on the page. So please be patient with the rather bare appearance so far.

Harvest of Souls V Feast

The feast, which A'isha al Zarqa and I will be cooking, will be Middle Eastern in theme. A'isha and I will be getting together later this month when she's in town to plan the menu, so no details yet. Also, Brianne MacAuley, who has often baked bread for our feast before, has generously volunteered to do so for this feast. That will be a treat.

As usual, we'll be going for genuine period dishes, and I'm anxious to try some of Cariadoc's Islamic dishes I've never had occasion to cook before.

Middle Kingdom Ahead on Points at Pennsic XXXIV

Way ahead, actually. As of Wednesday, we were ahead 9-0. I gather from various reports that we heavily outnumber the East and their allies this year, which Pennsic veterans will recall is quite unusual. One report I saw indicated that two usual Eastern allies, their former principalities Aethelmark and Atlantia, are both fighting with the Middle this year. I have not heard why they have chosen to do so, but this is certainly welcome and exciting news.

Alan Fairfax on Vigil

According to Breac MacFinnein (who I assume got it from the Apprentices mailing list), Alan Fairfax has been placed on vigil for the Order of the Laurel at Pennsic.

Fairfax (he was Fairfax Aluricson for a long time, so we all call him that rather than Alan) began his SCA career in Stormvale at the age of 16. He was interested in heraldry early on, and was later a senior kingdom herald. More recently, he has been attending theological school in Chicago, and has been active in the SCA outside Stormvale for many years. His wife, Constance Fairfax, also from the Davison area, was laurelled a couple of years ago.

This is wonderful news, and I hope we get lots more detail when our folks get back from Pennsic.

First Post

Welcome to Clarion Hall! I'll be discussing SCA topics and mentioning SCA news here. Most of what I post is likely to be of interest to members of the Society for Creative Anachronism's Shire of Stormvale in the Middle Kingdom. (Flint, Michigan, for those not familiar.)

Clarion Hall is a reference to a not-much used alternate name for my old household, which hasn't been active since the mid-90s but still has a theoretical existence.

I will also be posting links to articles I've written and various other items of interest.