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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Online "SCA on a Budget" class

Tonight (Thursday, January 20) I will be teaching an online version of the "SCA on a Budget" class that I did at the last in-person University of Atlantia before the covid-19 plague began. (If you want the link, send me an email or something. I don't want to post the Zoom link publicly, although it is available in several Atlantia-related Facebook groups.)

 The online version of my 2019 class handout is here: 

One thing to note: Lady Katherine Ashewode's page on the East Kingdom Wiki has changed slightly. It is now Same information, though.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Welcomed to the Pod

Certainly the highlight of my SCA year -- indeed, the highlight of my SCA experience since the beginning of this cruel pandemic -- took place at Storvik's Battle on the Bay on Saturday, September 25.

The weather was GORGEOUS, with clear blue skies and PERFECT temperatures. I arrived on site in plenty of time to set up my chair on the field in front of the Royal pavilion, where the morning courts would be held. Since the theme of the event was "Hannibal's Crossing," a.k.a. the Second Punic War, we were encouraged to dress up like Carthaginians (not that there's a lot of archaeological evidence telling us how Carthaginian women dressed), I tried to approximate what I learned in an online class. I wore my only solid-color chiton or "bog dress," the light pink one I made when Atlantia was honoring the late Duchess Arielle the Golden. I suppose I could have altered it for the event, but I ran out of steam over the last few days prior to the event and figured that I might not ever need another dress from the Second Punic War era again (it's not a common event theme in Atlantia). I did try to drape a darker pink cotton bedsheet around myself as an attempt at a himation. Patches (who gave me that sheet) said that anything I could do with that sheet would up my game. At least I could use it during morning court to supplement the spray-on sunscreen in protecting my arms against the morning sun.

Also, shortly before court, Master Stefan asked me if I would be available to take some pictures with my phone during court. I said yes, but I thought that was a little weird.

The morning featured the final court of Baron Celric and Baroness Ilaria as they stepped down from the leadership of Storvik. Their Excellencies cut fine figures as they handed out their final awards and spoke their final words. They gave back their Storvik coronets and received their personal Court Baronage awards. Then John and Graciela stepped forward to serve as the next Baron and Baroness of Storvik, and they held a brief first court to do a few items of business, such as asking Lady Sonya (Patches) to be their archery champion.

Around this time, it suddenly occurred to me that Master Stefan's wife, Baroness Evelynne, was not yet a Peer. And, sure enough, at the end of all the morning court business, Evelynne was called up before Their Majesties and asked to sit vigil to contemplate joining the Order of the Laurel.

I took photos as best I could from my seat, which was a row or two behind Stefan and Evelynne's seats, just far enough back that I didn't show up on the video of morning court. Then the candidate was led away to the vigil tent, so I hopped up and followed the procession, while trying to keep a distance from the throng of other Laurels so that I wouldn't get in their way. At first I was taking still photos, but then I got a nudge from someone (Stefan? Now I don't remember) and started taking video. (All of this was after the court video cameras were turned off.)

After Evelynne was properly envigilled (is that a verb?), I went back to the Newcomers' Point day shade, as I had promised to watch it while Patches, our outgoing chatelaine (i.e., baronial officer in charge of helping newcomers) went off and did other things, such as teaching a dance class. We had a few attendees who were relatively new to the Society, and I chatted with them. Plus, we had a table of "free for the taking" stuff that anyone could paw through. (Heck, I pawed through it, but none of the clothes and accessories fit me or sparked my interest. I'm wary of bringing home things that I'm not going to use right away for a specific purpose.) I also had a chance to chat with Dame Emma West for a while. (Already a Pelican, Dame Emma was made a Laurel at morning court for her excellent painted silk banners.)

Eventually Baroness Margaret Lad, the Kingdom Chatelaine, came over to Newcomers' Point to relieve me (and cheerfully organize the pile of free garb that people had been pawing through; she does everything cheerfully). That gave me a chance to wander around and greet people and even spend a few moments with Baroness Evelynne in her vigil tent. Clan Cambion, Evelynne's household, was planning a procession into Court for her, but they invited me to join in. Once the procession got to the front of Court, those of us who are not Laurels would simply reverence the Thrones, walk off to one side and go back to our seats. Thus, when the populace was getting ready for afternoon Court, I set up my chair toward the back of the audience so that it would be less obvious that I was getting up to join the lineup for the procession. I ended up sitting next to Master Herveus, who belongs to Clan Cambion, so that I could tell when it was time to leave our seats and line up to follow Evelynne.

As expected, the new Baron and Baroness of Storvik held a court and gave out several baronial awards, and then afternoon Royal Court commenced. Their Majesties gave out a number of grant-level awards, for which it is customary (at least in Atlantia) to call up fellow members of the Order into the Royal Presence to greet their newest member. People who are both Golden Dolphins (service) and Pearls (arts and sciences), like Herveus, had to keep getting up and sitting back down. He joked that it was good exercise.

At some point I started to think, Hey, isn't it almost time for Evelynne's procession? Shouldn't we be lining up? But then I heard the court herald call my name.

My name.

So I stood up and somehow shuffled up to Their Majesties and bowed, probably less deeply than I should have. They told me it would be acceptable if I remained standing instead of kneeling on the padded stools in front of the thrones.

Queen Jane started off by saying something like, "So, you have been baronial herald since 2007," and then I gently corrected Her -- I have not been baronial herald for a few years now, although my actual cutoff date is pretty mushy. So then she started praising me for staying active in heraldry and hospitality. (And I'm thinking, "Huh? I spent a couple of hours at Newcomers' Point, but...") And then the herald commanded members of the Order of the Golden Dolphin.

I bowed to their Majesties again as the populace applauded and various members of the Order approached the thrones. Their Majesties said more nice things about me, asked if there was a medallion, and Dame Emma stepped forward with a shiny Golden Dolphin attached to a lovely necklace of red beads and white pearls. She said it was a legacy medallion in that she had passed it around to many members of the Order before getting it back and giving it to me. She gave me a copy of her statement after she read it.

I was just so overwhelmed. As the crowd cheered and I went to "greet the order," all I could think of was ... Pedro. Pedro, my heraldry teacher, my friend whose wife was so proud of his Golden Dolphin, who should have been a Pelican (the highest-level service award) ... I would have never received this award if he had not taught me so well. I wanted to tell him about it so very much.

My head was spinning so much that I floated back to my chair and didn't join the procession for Evelynne's Laurel ceremony. I enjoyed watching it, though. You can watch the entirety of the afternoon court here.

* * * * *

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Atoning for a long-ago joke

Long before I joined the SCA, I was involved with a fellow with a bachelor's degree in physics. I don't want to get into details of that miserable portion of my life, but I will reveal that he would call humanities and social-science classes "basket weaving." It was his shorthand way of putting down those subjects, and I doubt he was the first to do so.

Fast forward to the first week of August ... I went mundane camping with my SCA household, and I made a basket! And it took a fair amount of effort. I wouldn't compare it with other difficult things I've done, like taking graduate-level astrophysics exams ... but still, I had to pay attention to the details of what I was doing.

At first I'd thought I'd missed the basket weaving. One household member, known in the SCA as Faolán, taught the class on Sunday, August 1. However, I'd had other plans for that day and had to do some freelance work during the week, so I couldn't arrive until the morning of Thursday the 5th.

Nevertheless, my friend Johanna had bought a huge amount of basket-weaving supplies in preparation for camping week, and so on she asked, "Who wants to make a basket?" Even though I'd brought other crafty things to do, of course I replied, "I do!"

Now, these basket-making supplies were not in the best shape anymore. After Sunday's class, somebody (unknown, but not Johanna) put Johanna's wet wood and reeds into plastic bags. Trying to be helpful, I'm sure. But the plastic-bagging allowed dark mold spots to start growing on the strips of wood. Oops! Still, we decided to press ahead and weave baskets.

The first step, of course, was to re-soak the basket materials in water to make them pliable. We had to repeat this step many times as we went along, because even on a humid day the wicker starts drying out after half an hour or so. The actual weaving began with a 7 x 7 grid woven to form the bottoms of our baskets. Even though the baskets were starting out square, they would end up being round on top. (Go to your local thrift store to see how many baskets are like that.)

Some images of the progress:

I was amazed at the amount of work that it took to make the basket. Not exhausting work, not filthy dirty work, not intellectually daunting work -- just a lot of attention to the details of what I was doing. Johanna emphasized that we had to keep pushing down the woven strips as we went around and around, and that took some hand strength. At times I had to pause to deal with muscle cramps in my hands -- that doesn't often happen to me. Yet Johanna's advice turned out to be correct and greatly improved the look of my basket.

When I began the basket, I thought it would take just the one afternoon of the middle day (I camped for three days and two nights). But dinnertime came, and we were still nowhere near done. The next morning, I wanted to prioritize packing up my stuff so that my canvas tent could be dry when I dropped it -- I didn't trust the cloudy skies. And, lo and behold, I missed the rain and mostly the rain missed us too. But it still took from just after lunch to just after dinner to finish up everything. And finally we had our baskets!!

In this image, my basket is on the left, Tirzah's is on the right, and Johanna's is in the middle.

The next day, once I was home, I left the basket to dry in the sun. Then I soaked it in a 1:10 solution of bleach and water. That killed the mold spores and lightened the mold stains, which are still there, but much less noticeable. I may apply some sort of finish to my basket, but I haven't decided yet.

So, there you have it, my first basket! In case you are interested, I found a short history of medieval and Renaissance baskets on YouTube.

A few years ago, my friend Teleri gave me a copy of the book Plaited Basketry with Birch Bark by Vladimir Yarish, Flo Hoppe, and Jim Widess (Sterling Publishing, 2009). Apparently, basket weaving with birch bark is very much a Russian thing. I don't really have a source of birch bark, since such trees are less common in Maryland than they are in my native New England, and buying the stuff online would get expensive. Perhaps I could start experimenting with heavy paper or something like that.

At any rate, I have added one more type of craft to the List of A&S Things I Have Tried Since 2004. And never again will I make one of those physics-student "basket weaving" jokes.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A true NOVICE event!

The Barony of Storvik's signature annual event is the Novice and Unbelt Tourney, generally held in June or early July (but not Independence Day weekend). In many years (but not all, depending on when we can rent the site), Novice is the last event at which new fighters can authorize for Pennsic. ("Authorizing" is like passing your driver's licensing test, except for SCA fighting.)

Once again this year, Pennsic isn't being held because of the covid-19 plague, so we didn't have any pressure to get authorizations done, but we did want to have an in-person event after all these months! And June 5 was the very first Saturday after the SCA's North America-wide ban on in-person events expired on May 31.

To get ready for Novice, we did everything the way the SCA higher-ups said we had to: pre-registration only, limited attendance (but bumped up from 50 people to 150 in the last week prior to Novice, yay!), face masks on everyone, no shared food or drink, no feast, no camping, nobody under the age of 18. (I think I've listed all the major restrictions.)

As the day grew closer, I grew more excited to see friends who had been just video images on my laptop's screen for more than a year. Maybe my Baron and Baroness would hold court, although the Baroness had been looking mighty pregnant at the last business meeting. In addition, some folks I know just weren't interested in Zoom-based meetings and were holding off on Virtual Atlantia in favor of the promise of real-life activities. At any rate, I felt sufficiently worried that I would forget something that I staged my gear -- accessories, mugs, chair and cover, whatnot -- on the dining-room table.

Finally, the appointed day (June 5) began and I headed out on the familiar route to the site. For some reason, a section of Croom Station Road was marked "closed." I wasn't sure if it was for paving work or for replacement of a bridge, so I just got on U.S. Route 301 down to Croom Road (normally I take Croom Station Road all the way to the end at Croom Road and then take a left onto Croom Airport Road -- and, yes, the road names are way too similar). When I arrived at the park, my site token (a fancy ribbon strip) was awaiting me in an envelope with my name on it.

But ... no Baron and Baroness. It didn't take long for me to learn why. Apparently the Baron showed up at the start of the event, dropped off all the baronial gear (day shades, the baronial thrones, all sorts of things) and then announced that he was heading to the hospital. Later in the morning he changed the cover photo of his Facebook page to an image of a sign saying, "Welcome to Labor & Delivery Check-In."

So ... naturally many of the attendees of the event spent the day in happy anticipation of the baby boy's arrival (Their Excellencies had revealed the baby's sex/gender a couple of months ago). Many of us were hoping that some sort of dramatic announcement would happen at Royal Court. However, while Their Majesties Anton and Luned noted the absence of Their representatives who hold the Storvik lands, They had no further information on the impending birth. If you want to see what They did do in court, Atlantia has the video: 

The event broke up a bit early because of the hot weather (duh, this is Maryland in June). I tried to help some with the breaking down and packing up. As I went toward the restroom trailer for a last pit stop before heading home, I heard a few voices yelling, "Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!" The Baron had just posted on Facebook that the Baroness had given birth successfully to a fine and healthy boy, well over 8 pounds. The newest resident of the Barony of Storvik!

The baby photos are not mine to publish -- I am always cautious about putting pictures of other people's children on social media. But the little fellow, who was named Ari, looks adorable, and his older brothers, Connor and Braeden, seem extremely pleased to be big siblings. (Notice the naming pattern?) Of course I am thrilled for all of them!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Decisions, decisions

A few of us Storvik residents have formed a small support group to work on the Atlantian Persona Pentathlon for next year.

What, you may ask, is the Persona Pentathlon? It's totally a challenge: create five items that all could have been used, worn, performed, or eaten by a person out of a single time and place within the SCA. But wait -- if you're really good at something, like tablet weaving (for instance), you can't just make five tablet-woven bands and enter the competition. Oh, no! You have to make/bake/perform items from at least three different categories:

  • Category 1: Manuscript & Fine Arts (bookbinding, calligraphy, drawing, illumination, painting, papermaking, pigments & inks, sculpture)
  • Category 2: Garb & Fiber Arts (beadwork, clothing accessories (including belts, pouches, and fans), clothing/costume, hats, knitting, nalbinding, knotted work, lacemaking, needlework (counted thread or free form))
  • Category 3: Glass & Pottery (ceramics, enameling, glass blowing, lamp working, lapidary, mosaic, pottery, stained glass)
  • Category 4: Medieval Life (basket weaving, brewing & vintning, cooking, dyeing, furniture making, herb craft, soap making, spinning, toys & games, weaving (full-sized fabrics or narrow bands))
  • Category 5: Performance-Related and Writing (lyric composition, masks, music composition, performance (vocal, instrumental, poetry, storytelling), poetry, prose, dance performance and composition, martial arts performance, research paper)
  • Category 6: Metal, Leather, Wood & Other 'Hard' Arts (armor, chain mail, blacksmithing, jewelry smithing, iron work, tool making, casting, leather work, wood carving and construction, making musical instruments)
  • Category 7: Miscellaneous (heraldic display, horse barding, subtleties, and anything else that just doesn't seem to fit into the other categories)

One might think that, as a dabbler in many different A&S activities over the 17 years of my SCA adventures, I would find this competition easy as pie. Heck, no! Remember, I dabble, not excel, at many things. I take a class, learn some new method, use that method to make a couple of things, then move on. (I probably have ADHD, though I've never been formally diagnosed.)

Now, I'm crazy about the history of Lithuania, as you probably know. But to figure out five things to do related to Lithuania? Early period (like the experimental archaeologists at Kernave) or late period (like Bona Sforza and her descendants)? What to do, what to do?

Don't worry, I shall let you all know what I decide.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Your First SCA War

That was a day!! My Kingdom of Atlantia hosted a HUGE Virtual University on February 13th!! Our Virtual Universities have grown so big that we have to have seven class sessions, not just six, to accommodate them all.

I taught "Your First SCA War" for the first time in 10 years. The 2011 version happened in person, of course, so I just brought to the classroom a large plastic bin full of things related to Pennsic: the program book, copies of the Pennsic Independent, event medallions, and other artifacts of "home." This time around, I figured that I could show some photos of Pennsic without worrying about whether the classroom was equipped with a digital projector for PowerPoint slides (which isn't a very medieval thing to do anyhow!).

Unfortunately, I spent so much time looking up my photos (not all of which are online or otherwise organized) that I didn't get to embed them in a PowerPoint presentation. No biggie, I thought, I would just share them straight on my screen. But Zoom didn't like what I was doing, and at some points I was just showing a blank screen. Oops! Twenty-first-century problems, indeed. So I just went back to teaching in front of the live camera. I think my 30 or so students were pretty well engaged anyway. I fell a bit behind in terms of time, but I made sure everyone got the handout (updated from the decade-old version) afterward.

In case you would like to see that handout, here it is (on Google Docs): Comments and suggestions welcome -- I'm sure I'll teach it again one of these years.

Even though the SCA's ban on in-person events is scheduled to expire at the end of May, the June 12 session of the University of Atlantia will be held virtually -- and concurrently with the (also virtual) Known World Sciences Symposium, which originally was supposed to take place in one of the western Kingdoms.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Early 2021 (but still in A.S. LV)

One of the disadvantages of updating this blog so infrequently is that I need to pack a lot of information into each post. After all, despite the surging pandemic, the virtual SCA world, and especially my Kingdom of Atlantia, is still going strong.

Twelfth Night

The weekend of January 9th was Kingdom Twelfth Night, which was the first one I've "attended" (for some value of "attendance") since 2014, when my barony, Storvik, hosted the event. I got out of bed and dressed in time to see a wonderful ceremony in which one of my friends, Mistress Teleri Barod, took another of my friends, Lady Sonya Flicker, as her apprentice. Afterward they had a nice Zoom chat with us guests, including some I haven't seen online much since the pandemic lockdown began.

Their Royal Majesties, Anton and Luned, held morning and evening courts. At the former, They awarded supporters in the shape of a narwhal to 50 gentles who have been helping to keep the Kingdom afloat during these plague times. At the latter, They gave out a number of awards and recognized a new Laurel.

My partner (he's not in the SCA) made some tapas-style dishes for dinner, which was offline. (Yes, it might have been nice to figure out a way to dine "together" via Zoom, but who wants to watch other people chewing?) Finally, we had an evening ball via Zoom, which was not recorded, so we could truly "dance like no one is watching."

I wore garb all day so I would feel as if I actually was attending the event. With a nod to the overall Spanish theme of the event, which features lots of sideless surcoats for women, here's what I chose to wear:


Mistress Teleri bequeathed the wool surcoat to me some years ago. I should lengthen it, because I'm a few inches taller than she is, but I haven't yet found the right fabric to complement the existing garment.

On top of my head in that picture is a frilled fillet cap (styled as in the Manesse Codex) that I created after taking a class on the subject at last September's Virtual University of Atlantia. I made it out of an old (and quite softened) cotton bedsheet, so I applied quite a bit of spray starch to the final product. I fully intend to make another one out of linen.


By the way, I took the surcoat off when it came time to dance.

University of Atlantia

Speaking of Virtual University ... we have another session coming up on Saturday the 13th. Once again, SO many people submitted class proposals that this session will have seven class periods instead of six. Atlantians love teaching and learning!

This time around I'll be teaching "Your First SCA War." I taught this class a decade ago, but I will update information as necessary and I will also stress that I have no inside knowledge of how the current pandemic will change large SCA events in future months or years or whenever we can have them again.

Friday, October 16, 2020

The "Before Times" and the "New Normal"

Despite my last post, I have not spent the past few months in sackcloth and ashes. Yes, we are still in the novel coronavirus pandemic. No, we will not have any in-person SCA events until the end of January 2021 at the earliest. However, I am plugging along.

Since I've been self-employed at home for the past decade, I am quite used to the concept of spending many hours alone at my desk. However, I "get out" quite a bit, thanks to Zoom (and the occasional Google Hangout or Facebook Live). Pretty much all my social outlets -- not just the SCA, but also my church, my professional organizations, and my Toastmasters club -- have moved online. I can "go out" in the evening and not worry about driving in the rain or catching the Metro train home.

If Virtual Atlantia had seams, it would be exploding at them. Check out the Activity Calendar for starters. Is that calendar packed or what? Not all the activities shown there are from Atlantia -- a few are from other Kingdoms. And some baronies don't always put their own activities in the Kingdom's calendar, so there are even more online goings-on than Virtual Atlantia would have you know.

Plus, so many online classes! Early in the pandemic I took several classes at an online university in the Kingdom of Atenveldt, mundanely Arizona. In our Kingdom we had two virtual University of Atlantia sessions, one in June and one in September. At the former, I taught a "Medieval Lithuania" class via Zoom -- and I had attendees from six Kingdoms! Two from as far away as Lochac (Australia)! In September I didn't teach anything, but I learned that my June effort had earned me a "Masters of SCA Studies" degree from the University. (Totally unaccredited from a mundane standpoint, but still a nice feather in my cap for all the work I've put in since 2004.)

Thanks to Zoom, I also had the chance to attend some classes at the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium (KWHSS). This was only the second KWHSS I've been able to attend -- the first was the one that took place in Atlantia's Barony of Sacred Stone in 2011. For me, KWHSS involves expensive travel and hotel arrangements. This year the symposium would have been in Lochac, specifically the Barony of Stormhold, and there was no way I could have afforded that kind of trip. But thanks to the Web, I could even hear the voice of a Stormhold friend, Mistress ffride, with whom I've been corresponding for years.

Their Majesties have been recording nearly weekly messages to the Atlantian populace, and they have also started holding virtual courts to hand out actual awards. This past weekend, They traveled all the way up here to Storvik. Our barony rented a tiny live-theater space in downtown Silver Spring, and the only people permitted to attend Their Majesties and Their Excellencies in person were the herald (Duke Ragnarr) and a couple of tech-crew members. Two poignant moments took place. One was the tribute that Baron Celric and Baroness Ilania paid to the late Baron Rorik, in the presence of Rorik's faithful companion, Fred the goose.

In the other poignant moment, Their Majesties called Duke Ragnarr in front of them to present him with his long-delayed Award of Arms (AoA) scroll from way back when, before he was a Knight or a King or a Duke. Their Majesties pointed out that Ragnarr was always more concerned about other people getting their AoA scrolls than getting his own. What made this moment especially poignant was that the Royals who awarded him his Arms in 1993, Kane and Muirgen, were killed in a car accident a few years later.

These virtual courts are the only ones we're likely to see for a while still. Official SCA events in North America are banned through the end of January 2021, as the pandemic continues to rage. We didn't have Pennsic this year. Atlantia is not having War of the Wings this week.

This is the "New Normal," as opposed to the "Before Times" (I am not the only person using this terminology).

Some people don't like participating in online SCA classes and courts. I get that. I have a Toastmasters friend who spends so much time in videoconferences while working from home that she just cannot bear to sit through another 90 minutes of a club meeting in the evening. That's understandable.

I'm just glad that we Atlantians have some sort of online presence for those people who say, "Hey, I was thinking of getting involved in the SCA once the pandemic is over," or who are curious, or who are super-interested in online learning. We may even try some court video recording after the pandemic, so that people who have a hard time joining us in person because of health issues can still see what's going on. It may seem odd at first, but no more so than internet communications seemed to SCAdians of 20 or 25 years ago.

Monday, June 8, 2020


Even though I haven't been to an SCA event in person since February, I've been keeping quite busy and social within the Society. However, my reports on that will have to wait, because of the heavy losses we have incurred.

First, Baron Rorik Fredericsson, eighth Baron of Storvik. During these last few years, he had been looking increasingly tired, and he suffered from various health problems. At one point, he fell at home and broke eight ribs all at once. Ow. That set him back for a while. He'd also had some problems with slow-healing leg wounds and a tiny spot of a tumor on his liver. When I saw him at the Bright Hills birthday event in February, I asked him how he was doing, and he replied, "Surviving." In one of his last Facebook posts, he said he actually tested *negative* for the novel coronavirus. He needed the test before some surgical procedure (something to do with his stomach).

He went into the hospital for surgery on April 27, and something went south, and he died that day. I believe he was 73 years old.

His Excellency was well known throughout our barony and kingdom and fought in SCA battles for many years. Decades, even. I think he finally gave it up around age 60 when he got his bell rung pretty hard on the Pennsic battlefield. He also enjoyed the gentler art of playing cribbage, an ancient card game. He was also a huge science fiction fan. the first time I ever saw him was at the Millennium Philcon Worldcon in 2001, more than two years before I joined the SCA. He was wearing a Babylon 5 character's costume and was carrying his gray goose puppet, Fred, the one with the studded leather collar. When I did eventually join the SCA, I recognized him and thought, "Oh, that's the guy with the goose from the Millennium Philcon."

Baron Rorik was also that fellow who looked so much like George R.R. Martin that some Game of Thrones fans actually asked him (Rorik) for his autograph. (But Rorik was taller than George.)

Baron Rorik was very happily married to Mistress Janina for 40-plus years and they had a grown daughter and son (who adored him) and many "friends who are like family." My heart has been grieving with them. I often thought that if I could have told my father (who died in 1982) about the SCA, I would have introduced him to Baron Rorik, who could have explained all the different pieces of armor to my Dad (who was a professional welder) and then sat down and played a good game of cribbage together.

Here is a photo of Baron Rorik from the 2015 Storvik Novice Tourney:

It's not the best photo of him, but it was the first one of him I found among my photos when I heard he had died.

Lest you think that my SCA circles had escaped covid-19 ... in late April the family of Master Liam St. Liam of the East Kingdom said that he was in the ICU with the pandemic disease. I kept checking his Facebook page for updates on his progress, but there weren't any.

Who was Master Liam to me? By one measure, he was the first SCAdian I ever met, although neither he nor I had joined the Society way back then. When he and I were both juniors at our respective high schools -- me in central Massachusetts and him in southern Rhode Island -- our schools' bands and choruses did two "exchange concerts," one in our town in April and the other in their town in May. I honestly don't remember as much about the concerts as I probably should, because my grandmother was ill in April and passed away just before the May weekend (and my mother made me go along on the weekend trip, because "Grammy would have wanted it," but I wasn't in a good mood for it).

Many years later, when LiveJournal was still going strong in the United States and I took an interest in the SCA, I started looking up the journals of people who were posting in the SCA-related communities, Liam posted that he'd graduated from a certain high school in a certain year. I inquired ... and, yes, he'd been part of the same band-chorus exchange! So we "friended" each other in cyberspace, first on LiveJournal and later on Facebook. He was a high school history teacher who went back to his first love, journalism, in upstate New York. He married his second wife, who served a reign as queen of the East, and his grown daughters became Peers, one a Laurel and the other a Pelican.

I met Master Liam in person (in the SCA, not high school) only a couple of times at Pennsic, because he was so busy teaching and writing for the Pennsic Independent and doing a lot of other things. But he always remembered exactly who I was and how we'd gotten to know each other.

A couple of years ago, Master Liam suffered a major stroke and had to give up working as a newspaper reporter. He moved to a rehab facility in Massachusetts and still kept on posting on Facebook as well as he could under his own power. Usually his posts were short exhortations to be well and do good. He didn't go back to Pennsic, but he did get a chance to attend the East Kingdom 50th Anniversary celebration in 2018, albeit in a wheelchair.

So he wasn't posting for a while, and then we waited for news ... and then on May 13, his daughters wrote that, while listening to the Dropkick Murphys and his other favorite Celtic punk bands, he passed away. He was 61.

Tributes poured out from all corners of the electronic Known World. One of his daughters wrote an SCA-specific obituary (I was a bit surprised to learn that his registered name was actually NOT Liam St. Liam), and one of his former newspaper colleagues wrote a very nice tribute to him. Other comments pointed out his tireless efforts to support causes ranging from the Special Olympics to high school gay-straight alliances. Someone praised him for his "radical inclusivity."

We in the SCA have had other losses. The first Triton Principal Herald whom I worked under, Baron Eogan mac Alpein, passed away in late May. I hadn't seen him for quite some time, but I think he was in his mid-60s. Then a woman who was on the winning team at last year's Revenge of the  Stitch died of complications from an aneurysm. I didn't really know her, but she was apprenticed to one of our Atlantian Duchesses, and she was young enough to have three school-age children.

The only good way I can end this post is to note that on Friday, May 29, the Dropkick Murphys played a live concert (without an audience) at Fenway Park. The band members even socially distanced themselves around the diamond as they played their greatest hits. I drank a beer, logged into a Facebook "watch party" hosted by Master Liam's daughters, and agreed with everyone that it was the best "virtual wake" we could have had during the pandemic.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Virtual Atlantia

There's a reason why I haven't been to an SCA event since February 8, when I attended Bright Hills Baronial Birthday. One of the members of my household was awarded the Pearl, which is the Grant of Arms-level award for arts and sciences in Atlantia, so I wanted to be there (plus, our outgoing submissions herald received the Golden Dolphin award -- with the late Pedro's medallion).

My attitude toward the SCA hasn't changed. But the world has, with this COVID-19 pandemic we're currently experiencing.

It was if society packed up their toys and went home around mid-March. SCA events left and right were canceled. One minute the staff of Gulf Wars XXIX in the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann (southern Mississippi) said that the event was still on, and people should use hand sanitizer; the next minute it was canceled, even though people were starting to arrive on site and many more people were en route.

Overnight, it seemed, most of the rest of the March events on Atlantia's schedule were postponed or canceled, followed by virtually all of the April events.

Except Coronation. But how could Coronation go on if gatherings of more than 10 people were strictly prohibited? The outgoing King is a lawyer and, as an officer of the court (as, I think, all members of the bar are), he can't be found disobeying the law.

So yesterday we had a Virtual Coronation, live-streamed on YouTube from the back yard of the incoming King and Queen:

The woman who was elevated to Laurel was supposed to have been elevated at Gulf Wars (but see above). The outgoing Majesties wanted to make sure she received her due recognition before she and her husband moved out of Kingdom for mundane reasons and she had to make a whole new set of acquaintances. There were also a few other pieces of business that were supposed to have been transacted during March.

As you can see, it was a nice enough day in North Carolina that the "event" could be held outside. A woman in Storvik, Dame Emma West, made the beautiful silk banners hanging on either side of the tent.

So, now the next big Kingdom events are supposed to be Spring Crown Tourney and Ruby Joust, both in May. However, both are scheduled to take place in Virginia, where the stay-at-home order does not expire until June 10. The new King and Queen did not announce anything about these events, particularly Crown, yesterday. Probably they are working behind the scenes, and communicating with the SCA Board of Directors, to figure out how to handle the situation.

I haven't surveyed all of the SCA kingdoms -- there are 19 of them besides Atlantia -- but I do know that the East Kingdom has postponed both Coronation and Crown and combined them with another big East Kingdom event on Memorial Day weekend. That won't quite work for us, because our Memorial Day weekend event, Ruby Joust, is still technically prohibited in Virginia. I don't think the Kingdom of Aethelmearc has yet postponed its Spring Crown Tourney, which is supposed to be held the same day as ours (first Saturday in May). I am less familiar with other kingdoms.

So far, Pennsic 49 is still a go. The Mayor of Pennsic 49 decided to nip rumors in the bud by putting out an emphatic statement that Pennsic 49 will be held unless HE says it is canceled (link goes to a PDF). I suspect that the Pennsic executive staff uses the annual Aethelmearc War Practice event (held the weekend before Memorial Day weekend) as its big planning meeting, because the Mayor said the meeting would be held virtually if War Practice has been canceled in person. (Update even as I continue to write this: Today the Sylvan Kingdom announced that Aethelmearc War Practice has been canceled.)

I don't want to start any rumors, and I do NOT speak for the Pennsic staff, but I can't help thinking that the go/no-go decision needs to be made no later than late May. At least the decision *by* the Pennsic staff (obviously, if the state government shuts down fairs and festivals, it's not the choice of the Pennsic staff). The deadline for paid, online pre-registration for Pennsic 49 falls on June 16, and that is also the deadline for refunds. Yet some other SCA branches have offered refunds after the cancellation of their events (Pennsic is a different beast altogether, though, because of its sheer size -- it's kind of a partnership between the SCA and Cooper's Lake Campground). I don't think the Coopers want to give back huge amounts of refunds, and I really don't think people will be happy if they can't get refunds from a canceled Pennsic. So ... we shall see.

Anyhow. Back to my own Kingdom of Atlantia.

Just since this crisis began, Duchess Adelhait and the Kingdom Web Minister have put together a page called Virtual Atlantia, a central location where online gatherings and classes can be posted. People can even get University of Atlantia credit for teaching or attending classes!

One of the first online Kingdom-wide happenings was a Saturday afternoon in which the participants in a Zoom meeting started to read aloud The Decameron by Boccaccio. Reading aloud a book of stories "told" by people stuck on an island during a huge plague -- what a medieval thing to do! There were about 15 or 16 of us, including a few bardic Laurels, and we managed to get through the introduction and all ten of the stories from Day One in about three hours. It was enjoyable, but I have no idea when we will take up Day Two.