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First Word

To say that Atlantian Twelfth Night was busy would be an understatement. With eighteen members of House Corvus in attendance and the subsequent induction of two more, an apprenticing, a protégé-ing, meeting after meeting, and, oh yeah, an SCA event going on in the background, I think everyone had their hands full. But what a joyful busyness!

The weekend was marred by a few SCA injustices: some typical, some unique. News of a specific Laurel being given at Atlantian Coronation was disheartening. Once again, a person has obtained through guile and deceit what other people have been denied despite honest work and effort. Sadly, this is an all too familiar scenario and one with which everyone in the Society must eventually learn to cope. Good people, and I think the majority of people, pursue their various interests because it’s what they want to do and not for the promise of rewards which may, or may not, have any particular value. Rest assured, that when you achieve something within the SCA, it will be due to your merit. Draw patience from the fact that ALL good people recognize your diligence. And the rewards garnered by the dishonorable will hang from their necks like the prison manacles of a thief.

The second situation, however, was (and remains) more difficult. When the Crown violates Kingdom Law, their Heirs support that decision, and the Kingdom Seneschal colludes to disguise the infraction, no good can result. Ultimately, it diminishes the very fabric of the SCA and, most assuredly, erodes the wonder that our organization affords the new, the inexperienced, and the uninitiated.

To the many, many people who came forward to protest the Crown’s behavior regarding Hidden Mountain, I give my respect and admiration. But the whole affair is still too much like witnessing a rape and then watching the rapist walk free.

Like many historical wrongs, however, the experience also serves as a warning to people intelligent enough to learn from it. When someone’s rationale for doing something becomes “because I can,” it begs the question, “What the hell are you doing in the SCA?” A person like that obviously has severe character flaws and, while the SCA is a very forgiving organization, it can’t really provide the sort of support or therapy that someone like that requires.

Despite how it may appear on the surface, I actually had an awesome time at Twelfth Night. It was a wonderful experience. Honestly though, it had absolutely nothing to do with the event itself. The enjoyment came exclusively from the company. And what company! So long as there are good, honorable, and loving people in the SCA, I’ll always be proud to be a member. And, so long as all of you are in the SCA, that will always be the case. --BRAN

Peter Says...

Often, throughout my time in the SCA, I've been asked about Households from newcomers, people who have been in awhile but never took the plunge, and others simply looking to gather information about a specific Household in the SCA. At one point, the questions were so numerous that I even set up and was teaching a class to newcomers about Households in the SCA and their place in the scheme of things. All of this got me to thinking at the same time "How important are SCA Households?" It took me quite a while and a lot of travel to other Kingdoms to figure out the answer to that question. I think that we can all agree that, while the activity level for Households is at a low ebb at this point in Atlantian history, Households in Atlantia have developed into one of the more driving aspects of the SCA that you will find. It’s not the same in other kingdoms, as the importance ascribed to them is not nearly as high. There might be one or two in other kingdoms that are currently a driving force, but nowhere as much as here. So why is that important and what difference can that possibly make to us?

Households in the SCA are traditionally formed with a specific focus in mind, whether it is service, fighting, A&S, drinking buds, or friendship. Generally speaking, the Houses with no real focus don't tend to last long and Houses with a TOO specific goal tend to dissolve when that goal is reached. Case in point: Andover, which was really formed to help Susan and Jason while they were running Sacred Stone, and which also began to dissolve when they stepped down.

Households are attractive to me as I grew up in a large family and attended a college that was surprisingly Greek-heavy (no I don't mean large, Balkan people) and I've found that the similarities are really startling. That's right: all of my analogies will be of a Fraternal nature. I do realize that, in the SCA, participation in Greek-letter organizations is sort of rare in our SCA population base. But that just means that the analogies will be more pertinent, as most folks will not have had to do an organizational analysis of this kind before.

I've had to do this many times before dealing with my Fraternity's desirability/marketability in a limited population base (i.e. a school student body). If you're familiar with the positive aspects of Greek life (yes there are many...) you'll recognize the parallels.

First both Fraternities and SCA Households are by invitation only (unlike the general admission standards of the organization itself). Second, invitational standards can be, and usually are, totally subjective (making no sense to the outside world). Third, both are drawing from a limited population base. Finally, both are highly competitive in recruiting qualified people for the aforementioned reason.

Now that that's out of the way, the question that I'm never asked, though, is the one that’s most often on the tip of someone's tongue, “Why am I (is he/she) not in that Household?" or, even worse, "How do I get into that Household?" The first one is far more legitimate than the second, as the first evinces a simple curiosity, while the second betrays an entire personal agenda, which is far more potentially dangerous to the Household in question.

We all have people in mind for membership in Corvus (except for me, since I absolutely won't heap that kind of work on anyone) and usually, no, in fact, almost always - they are invited into the Circle. We can get used to that very easily. All that induction success rate means is that, when it comes to membership in Corvus, "great minds tend to think alike".

When someone gets nuked on the FYC list and subsequently gets blackballed (the traditional voting method to veto a prospective membership in a Fraternity), we can start to ask the first question above: "Why not them?" First, we ask ourselves and later on, when we get a little more confidence in the matter, we ask the rest of the House. For me the answer is pretty easy and I'll explain.

I have a great many friends from College who are extremely near and dear to my heart. We had common interests then, played for the same Rugby club, ROTC, had most of our classes together, etc. I never once considered them for initiation into the Mystic Circle of Alpha Sigma Phi. It was totally out of the question. Why? Am I some form of elitist snob who had to have something to hold over their heads to prove some form of perceived superiority? Absolutely not. The membership of ASP was selected on the basis of having already established in ourselves a certain philosophy and approach towards life. It was an approach none of my other friends chose to pursue. Does that make them lesser than I am? Not in the least. It just makes them and their pursuit of life different - not better or worse.

Also, after initiation, it was explained to me that the future quality of ASP was now my responsibility as, being a freshman, I would have the most contact with prospective members in the future. And, as such, I would have to serve as a guardian of our standards and philosophy. The same is true of House Corvus. Once we are in, the future quality of our household in entirely in our hands. Whether we prosper or fail is our absolute responsibility.

The same is true of the SCA, in that, while I have many friends in the SCA, in actuality, very few are of Corvus caliber.

Wow...That's pretty bold. How do I justify that statement?

I look at the individual closely in all possible ways. I look at their SCA life and their behavior in the SCA. If their behavior has been poor or questionable in the past, what on earth makes me think that they will somehow miraculously change because they are inducted into our circle? If they have an agenda, that is to be questioned as well.

Also, as far as I'm concerned, our survival and future prosperity is a team effort that requires commitment. Commitment, as defined by the Non-Commissioned Officer's Handbook or the U.S. Army, is the willful subordination of one's own desires and goals to that of a larger organization in order to achieve a greater good. If the FYC candidate's contributions are not ever likely to exceed their potential contribution to Corvus, we're beating a dead horse on that one. Furthermore, just like a Fraternity, just as the candidate will inherit the reputation of House Corvus, we will inherit their reputation. This works both ways, in that, I've seen bad groups recruit good people to "fix" their reputation problem and I've seen good groups get suckered into buying one of those dead horses.

We had that problem in Alpha Sigma Phi. Matt A. was then and, I'm sure, still is, a walking penis. I asked everyone, WHO AGREED with this assessment, why on earth did you let him in? All he did for four years was create messes for others to fix. The answer from the undergrads (I was an Alumnus at this point, but you DO join for life) was that they thought that it would help him. The ultimate wrong answer. We were not then, nor now (nor is Corvus) set up to be a rehabilitative organization. We cannot fix people, nor should we even try. It took my College chapter eight years to recover from Matt. That's why I'm careful.

Also, while I believe that a person's private affairs are just that, if their personal real-world life is in such a state that the fallout from it bleeds over into the SCA, that makes their personal life a Corvus concern with regards to their membership potential. Neither Corvus, nor the SCA should provide that particular type of hidey-hole from reality as that does nothing but afford the person an opportunity to dodge their real-world problems and avoid dealing with them. That would also promote a sort of irresponsibility that will come back to haunt you later. I guarantee this. When their personal life is stable, then they might be the kind of person for whom we are seeking.

I can never forget the statement made by someone that they would “cut off their left nut to be in Corvus.” That also made them unsuitable for Corvus. This Household should never be THAT important to anyone (You are all important to me and my friends, but we must keep this in perspective as well). Anyone who NEEDS to be in a household that badly is probably not what we are looking for either.

I'm not saying that these are, or will ever be the set of standards used for the review of FYC candidates. But they are mine because I've learned the hard way that they work. Every time.

All I'm saying is that we must always look at the whole picture that someone presents - who they are and what they will represent to us. And that this be done before ever allowing someone to casually stroll through the gates of Corvus and adversely affect the future of our House for which we are all responsible.

[I asked Baron Peter to begin writing a regular column in the Raven Roundtable after Atlantian Twelfth Night. After six hours in the car talking about a variety of SCA topics, it’s clear that Peter has interesting views that I think we’d all benefit from his sharing. Sometimes I disagree, mostly I agree. But, whatever your own thoughts, I encourage you to share them either here in the Roundtable or online.]

The White Lie

I’ve written a variety of period-style poems since I’ve been in the SCA. I originally started writing them as a sort of mental exercise. Period poems have a wide variety of challenging forms: be they verse patterns, rhyme schemes, or syllable counts. Studying them was enjoyable and recreating them became even more so.

It doesn’t take too long to start to appreciate the content of period poetry. Many of them stand as lyrical witness to romance and courtly love, medieval ways of thought, social and political commentary. You can look at all of my work and see similar themes throughout. It’s those poems that are inspired by the joy and wonder of the SCA that are my favorite. Subjects like Hidden Mountain and Duchess Niobe continue to fill my heart to bursting. Still, there are other sources of inspiration, not all of them so bright...

The Broken Chain

One Knight, one ring, tied to ancient glory;
The Chain, forged in the burning hearts of men,
Ring by ring, the endless, chivalric story -
Promise that Camelot appears again.

Look to that Dream shining so very bright,
The beacon ‘round which innocence flocks;
Argent girdle promises noble knight,
The white lie that lures souls to the rocks.

He stands mute observer, knight’s sword undrawn,
And watches as Truth is raped by whim,
Pure heart violated, yet fate foregone,
Hidden paradise lost for Faith in him.

Expectation higher than pedestal,
Succor abandoned for a Queen’s pride,
Once gleaming chain now made forever dull,
Checkered back turned while injustice decried.

She laughs uncaring and condescending,
Breaking faith - pleasing as a people’s heart,
Speeding one man’s honor to its ending,
Setting Crown and Kingdom forever apart.

Where is his princess as the dark draws near?
Warm inspiration that spurs good souls on -
Without that love good can ne’er persevere,
Without her helping hand all hope is gone.

Proud lineage slips softly into night,
Save for baleful moan of the black wing’d bird,
When knight chooses something other than Right;
Broken chain: casualty of broken word.

Two men stood deaf to a nation’s call,
And, for weakness of chain, they broke it all.

Corvus: Italy Update

We had an opportunity at Atlantian Twelfth Night to discuss the dates for the House Corvus trip to Italy this Fall. We’ll be leaving the evening of Friday, November 12th; arrive in Rome on Saturday, November 13th, and return home on Saturday, November 20th. Right now, I’m working on bringing the whole trip in at $1500 per person.

Along with the many sites to see in Rome, I think we can comfortably include visits to Pisa, Pompeii and a few days in Florence. While I like Venice personally, it can be very expensive and I think not nearly as important as other places upon which we should focus our attention. We seemed to agree that Rome and Florence were the most important to us and I agree with that. But I’m sure we can fit in a few surprises as well.

There’s just about ten months between now and our departure. I can set up just about any payment schedule that would make it easier on people. But, as always, the sooner you pay, the better. I’ll need some sort of deposit going in to it and the final trip payment completed no later than September 12th.

Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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