Monday, November 29, 2010

Colyne Stewart's Event Reports

Between 2002 and 2007 I wrote around 80 event reports to ensure that the happenings of the days not be forgotten. Copies of most of these reports (originally published in various SCA journals) are now on this blog and can be viewed by clicking on the appropriate tags. I hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Short Treatise on the Giving and Receiving of Tokens

Colyne Stewart, Sep AS XXXVII (2002).

I have now been in the SCA for nineteen months. In that time I have been the recipient of a dozen tokens and have given two. Some people may not realize the power that giving tokens has, especially if they are new to the Society. When I first started I soon noticed the rings and other items that many people carried about their neck or hung from their belts. Curious, I did some research and found an article on ring giving by Master Hector of the Black Height. In it, Hector expounds on what he perceives Ealdormerean culture to be, and a great part of that culture is ring giving.

The giving of rings was a very important custom to certain cultures in the past, cultures that some of us now play. Saxon, Norse, Germanic. The giving of a ring was a bond between the giver and the receiver, the circular band representing an unbreakable bond. This practice is still with us in the mundane world, just go to a wedding ceremony.

This ring giving is wide spread within Ealdormere. If someone does something that pleases and/or impresses you, you give him or her a token (usually a ring). The giving of this token shows the recipient that their acts have been noticed, that they have been appreciated. It makes them feel like they belong.

I received my first token from Baroness Gaerwen, which was given to Thorfinna and I to thank us for the gift of a set of playing cards and an “I am SCAnadian” t-shirt we had given to her and Cynred. This token I have worn on a necklace to almost every event I have been to since.

Tokens are important. I was brand new when I was given this ring. It made me feel like I belonged. Later tokens were given to me for the friendship I had shown others, or for my bardic offerings. Those tokens I received for my poems and stories encouraged me to continue telling and writing them. They made me feel that my work had merit.

That’s the receiving, but what about the giving? After reading Hector’s essay I thought, yeah, easy for you to say. Give away tokens. Who am I to give anyone a token? He’s Master Master Baron Serjent Hector. I’m nobody. You see, I had missed the point. The very point of Ealdormerean ring giving is that anyone can do it, that everyone should do it. It does not have to be done in public, though publicly stating your appreciation of someone’s self or work gives the giving more power.

Finally I came to realize this. I could make people feel the way others had made me feel. I could make people feel appreciated, that they belonged, that they mattered.

And so at Ealdormere War Practice I gave my first token: to Lady Ivanna the Oblivious, for her bardic talents, done at the bardic circle on Sunday night. As is common for some tokens, I asked her to hold it for a year and a day, and then to pass it on to someone who inspires her. In this way our tokens gain a history as they travel from person to person (and in some cases, from Kingdom to Kingdom). At War I gave another. This time to Alaani, a member of Septentria’s allied mercenary Household, Mjolnir, who watered me during battles. I walked from my camp to hers (each being as far apart from each other as possible) to find her not in camp. I waited but she did not return. Finally, I left the token with one of her house brothers. The next night, in the pouring rain, she walked all the way down the hill to thank me. I just saw her at an event last weekend and noticed she was wearing the ring.

The giving of these tokens made me happy, because they made the recipients happy. And they will only be the beginning. I have begun to acquire a collection of gifts that I plan to carry with me to give to those I deem worthy.

Who am I to decide who is worthy of a token?

I am an Ealdormerean. It’s what we do.

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

The Role of the Ursine Bard

Colyne Stewart, Sep AS XXXVII (2002)

My time as Bard of Septentria, in conjunction with my Lady Thorfinna, is swiftly coming to a close. In January or February it will be time for another to fill this role, and this short work is meant as words of encouragement for whomever that may be, and whomever comes after.

Thorfinna and I had been in the SCA just less than a year when Cynred and Gaerwen, Thegn and Baroness of Septentria, called us into court and asked us to be Their bards. This still astounds me. It is true that we were both members of the Bardic College of Ealdormere, and we had both written a few pieces, but we were, I thought, bardicly unknown. Neither of us had performed, and truth be told I had no intention of doing so. I don’t know who put forward our names to be the Baronial Bards but they have done us a great service.

We could not, of course, turn down such honour, and later that month Master Hector of the Black Height, our predecessor, took us aside, gave us the ring of office, and told us of our duties. Among the things he told us was that it was our responsibility to open and close singing/story-telling at feasts and bardic circles within the borders of our Barony (unless the event was at the Kingdom level). He told us it was up to us to keep legends alive, to keep Septentria vibrant and strong through story, song and poem. His passion for the position was easily discerned, and when he was done we felt even more daunted by the task set before us. Now, this was not bad intimidation, it was good intimidation. The office obviously meant a lot to Master Hector, and hence, it meant a lot to us. We both take our responsibilities seriously.

However, as fairly introverted individuals for a time we dreaded attending Septentrian events. Neither of us wanted to get up and perform. But we did. We were honour bound to Cynred and Gaerwen, to the people of Septentria to fulfill our duties. So we sang at Snowed Inn (me very poorly). At Bad in Plaid I told my first story (‘The Tale of the Badger Broccan,’ which broke the Thegn and earned me my second ever token). As each event came we became more comfortable and now I am rarely nervous when I perform. (Outwardly anyway. My hands still shake, but I don’t dread the act anymore. In fact, I like it now.) Being made Ursine Bard forced me to participate, instead of just observing. It has been one of the greatest gifts I have been given.

Besides the performing at feasts and fires I wrote poems and tales of Septentrians (and others) who were doing great things. I wrote for Kings, Queens, Duchesses, Lords, Ladies and those who had no titles. (These I usually sent directly to those I wrote of.) I wrote of our great Households and our strong army. I wrote of events I had been to, and gave these to newsletters and posted them to elists, as part of a bard’s duties are to tell the people of world events.

All these things are important, my successor (whomever you may be). Do them all. You are part of a long, proud lineage of filigh, scops, skalds and bards. You are the Voice of the Bear, the voice of all the people of Septentria. When you open your mouth, the Bear roars.

Write. Tell. Story, poem, song, article; it matters not the form. What matters is the telling.

I do not know who you may be, but if you have been chosen you are worthy. You are Septentrian. Feel the pride of Septentria. Feel pride in yourself.

You are the Voice of the Bear.

You are Septentrian.

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Quick and Dirty Banners

Laird Colyne Stewart, Jan AS 37 (2003)

Here’s a down and dirty, step-by-step method to making attractive painted banners for display in the SCA. As I was going to be selling copies of The Ursus at a table at Berus’ Bar and Bar Room Brawl, I wanted a banner that would catch everybody’s eye. So I sat down one night and just made one.


  • fabric
  • coloured thread (same as fabric)
  • thermoplast or heavy card stock
  • exacto knife
  • paint
  • brushes
  • yardstick


First I cut a piece of fabric that was about 64” wide by 48” long. As I looked at it I realized that my material was a tad thinner than I wanted, and the piece was two big. To fix this I simply folded the piece in half and cut it so I now had two 32” wide by 24” long pieces. I then took these pieces and sewed three edges together so it resembled an inside out pillowcase. The open edge was to be the top of the banner. This type of banner might have hung oddly as the back and front were two separate pieces only joined on the edge, so I sewed three straight lines across it to hold the material in place. These stitches are invisible except for close scrutiny and will help the banner hold its shape. (If I had used a single piece of thicker material I would not have had to do any of this.) Setting this aside I went on to my hanging loops.

For the loops I cut four pieces of 2” wide by 10” long material and did a double hem on all four edges of each piece. My Lady has since suggested that I could have cut eight pieces and sewn two together to form four double-thick loops. They would have been sewn as the main banner, turned right-side out and had their open edges hemmed.

Whichever way you do it, take your main banner and pin a wide double hem on the open side. Then take two of your loops and pin them to either edge of this hem. Measure out about 5” from each one and pin the other two loops. Then stitch along the bottom and the top of the hem to ensure durability.

From the thermoplast a friend of mine had cut a stencil of the Septentrian bear with an exacto knife. I placed the stencil on the banner and painted it red. I then removed the stencil, let the paint dry and I had a completed banner.


The type of banner I made was technically called a gonfalon because of the way it hangs. If I wanted a banner that would be flown like a flag or standard I would have done exactly the same with a few variations. Firstly, I would have painted the two sides first, before sewing the two pieces of the main banner together. Second, The loops would be replaced by ties and be placed down the side of the banner (possibly with some along the top as well).

Stitching across a double-sided banner runs the risk of thread crossing paint of a different colour. I would suggest just trying to use thread that is light coloured and these stitches should be almost invisible except for close inspection.

Armorial Display: Banners, Standards, and Heaters, oh my!, The Honorable Lord Eldred Ælfwald, Gordian Knot Herald,

Armorial Display: Suggestions for SCA Usage, Master Hirsch von Henford, OL, OP,

Making Heraldic Banners, Baron Modar Neznanich,

Kingdom of Meridies Guidelines for Construction of Banners, Flags and Standards, Master Johannes the Black of Athanor,

Usage and Specification of Medieval Flags, Lord Richard of Woodenbridge,

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Once More into the Meat Grinder: Reminiscences of a first time Pennsic Fighter

Colyne Stewart, Sep AS XXXVII

I had been to Pennsic XXX in my first year of being in the SCA, and I had watched all the battles. I was in training for armoured combat, and was an authorized Level One Scout. As such I couldn’t fight that war, though I was able to take part in the Woods Battle and see the fighting up close. It was amazing to see so many fighters in one place, and I longed to be amongst them.

So I traveled home and continued my training and finally authorized at War College six months later. Between then and Pennsic XXXI I joined the army of my Barony, the Isengesitha of Septentria, with whom I fought once. Luckily I had trained with one of the best shieldmen in Ealdormere, Lord Brandt das Lederwerker, and under his instruction my skill grew. I was praised by my Thegn at fight practices, for I actually knew enough to stick to my shieldmates. (You would be amazed at how often shieldwalls slip apart.)

So, with almost no war experience, I set out for the big one. Pennsic XXXI was hot, very hot and humid. I don’t deal with heat very well, and often found it hard to breath. To top it off, I had a very bad stomach flu at the time. I knew I likely wouldn’t be able to fight every day, so I decided on doing it every other day.

On the second Monday, Ealdormere and the Northern army met to practice together. My Lady and I armoured up and joined our countrymen on the field. The two armies were mixed together and divided up into four forces. I was in the pink army, under the command of Kaylah the Cheerful. The armies then fought a series of engagements two on two, rotating allies with each battle. I only managed to hang in for three engagements, and did fairly well. In the first battle I stuck to my wall but was killed fairly quickly. In the second I survived for quite a while until I tripped on a corpse and was struck by an enemy spear. In the third I did my best, even striking an opponent on the head, though he did not accept what I thought was a good blow. I ended up dying in this battle as well. The heat then did me in and I stripped off my gear.

To date, this was the biggest engagement I had been in. There were approximately three to four hundred people taking part in the exercise. Folks had been warning me that fighting in large numbers can be intimidating, but I was never nervous. I was also not hopping up and down with excitement. Rather, I tended to go into battle with determination to do my job, which was to defend those behind me.

On Tuesday I rested through the woods battle. When Wednesday came I pulled myself out of bed (did I mention I also have a sleeping disorder?) and trudged up the hill for the Hadrian’s Wall Battle. In this scenario, the field had been split in half by hay bails with five small gaps. In each gap was a hay bail, coloured red on one side and blue on the other. Our goal was the take the gaps and turn the bails onto the colour of our army (in this case blue, for we were fighting for the East). It was an hour and a half resurrection battle, which meant if you died, you went back to a certain point and could then reenter the fighting.

The Baronies of Ealdormere fought as one unit, that day under the leadership of Baron Brand of Ben Dunfirth (as I recall). We were lined up in a column and when the fighting began we were run into one of the gaps. It was a meat grinder. I watched as those in front of me were chopped to pieces and dropped to the ground. Then, suddenly, I was in no-man’s-land, on the end of a very short shield wall with a line of enemy spearmen bearing down on me and with no friendly spears behind me. From eyewitness accounts I just had time to look around bewildered before I was killed. I dropped to the ground and was soon buried under bodies. After a few minutes a hold was called and the dead left the field. I ended up having to go through the Middle’s lines, with my sword on my helm to show I was dead, and come off the sideline very far away from my resurrection point. I hiked up the incline towards our end, and heard my name called. Alaani, a member of my home canton, and a member of Septentria’s allied mercenary House, Mjolnir, watered me. Throughout the rest of that war she took very good care of me on the field. I then went to the res point, and reentered the fray.

Quickly I was grabbed and set in a column again and for the course of that battle all I did was run into the jaws of death to be killed within seconds. One time when I died I twisted my hip awkwardly and couldn’t get up right away when the hold was called. I finally crawled up a hay bail and limped off. That was it for fighting for me that day, as they were calling the last five minutes. I gave my shield to my Thegn and watched.

Due to a timekeeping error by our side we thought only those five minutes were left. It was actually seventeen. The East ended up expending all its energy on a big push far too early, and the Middle was rested and ready when it really came down to crunch time. The East ended up loosing this battle, though the fighting was hard.

As it turned out it was the only war point battle the Middle would take that war.

I don’t think a resurrection battle with small points of engagement makes for a good battle as all the conflict is localized in those few places, and people are just thrown in with no regard to personal safety, since everyone can just res and come back.

Thursday was the bridge battle, through which I rested. Then on Friday I marched up the hill again to partake of the field battle. As the armies gathered a bagpipe could be heard playing, and this really contributed to my enjoyment of the day. I find that musicians on the sidelines of battle add a lot to the experience.

This day the Baronies were under the command of Sir Baron Menken Brechen of Skraeling Althing. Unfortunately, everyone with a Crown, and some without, ended up giving us orders. It was a big mess. In the end we were again lined up in a column, about four or five across. First a row of shields, then spears, then shields and so on. When the cannon roared we pressed forward and quickly fell into a kill pocket. A hold was called and I gazed about, ascertaining this unfortunate fact. When the call to lay on came again a Middle soldier, on an adrenalin high, came smashing through our wall on his knees, accepting no blows until Menken soundly bashed him on the noggin.

Then the noose tightened. Our small group was pinched off from retreat and we were quickly overwhelmed. I fell to the ground dead and waited for a hold to leave the field. A group of Isengesitha had gathered, so I went over to them to watch as Syr Ed the Red’s banner flew across the field while he and our allies wiped out the remaining Midland forces.

All of our allied Kings then addressed the troops, and King Darius of the East was proclaimed Imperator by his troops to great cheering and clashing of shields.

So what feelings was I left with once the fighting was all over? Accomplishment, that I had actually done it. Pride, in myself and my countrymen and allies. They say that there is no love like the love between soldiers, and I can understand that now. I think our martial activities help pull us together, to make us feel like cousins, like brothers.

Fighting’s a good thing. (And its fun too.)

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

The Handy-Squire’s Poncification Guide: How to Look Good in the Lists

Colyne Stewart, June AS XLI (2006)

Occasionally in an event flyer you may notice a tournament coming up that has appearance requirements. That is, they may ask that all obviously modern bits of armour be covered up. The tournament may also have heraldry requirements (say, three items of heraldry) incorporated into your armour. You may then look at your kit, see all the plastic bits, the hockey glove behind your shield, and your running shoes and decide that you’ll have to skip the event.

Not so!

With a little effort you can easily disguise your modern bits, proudly display your heraldry for all to see, and look good in any tournament!

Part One: Covering Up the Main Body
Lots of people have plastic armour in the SCA. It is cheaper and easier to make, lighter to wear, and generally requires less maintenance. Many knights wear plastic armour. So how can you easily cover up your plastic body harness, arm harness and/or legs?

If you have an early period persona the answer is: clothes. For instance, if you have a Norse persona, a large Norse T-tunic and some loose pants will cover you from your shoulders down to your feet. It’s not really any harder than sewing normal garb, you just need to take measurements with your armour on¸ and make sure you have a full range of motion without any hindrance (especially in your armpits).

For late period personas the approach is very much the same. A long sleeved surcoat, split in the front and back, looks attractive and will cover you from shoulder to calves. They also flare dramatically when you fight. Houpelandes also work well if you only need to cover your body harness and already have period-looking leather or metal legs.

Don’t worry if you have a plastic gorget. With your helm on you likely won’t be able to see it. If it does still show, consider attaching a cloth or leather mantle to your helm.

Part Two: Covering Up the Hands
Lots of people like to wear hockey or lacrosse gloves when they fight. Sometimes it’s for comfort, sometimes it’s a matter of funds (hockey gloves cost a lot less than steel or leather gauntlets). You may wear one glove behind your shield, or you may wear two so you can fight great weapon or two-stick.

To easily cover a hockey glove you need only make a cloth mitt that can slide over the glove. It’s not especially pretty, but is much better looking on the lists than an obviously modern sports glove with a logo or company name emblazoned on it.

Part Three: Covering Up the Feet
The easiest thing to do to cover up your feet is to buy boots. Real medieval style boots can be cost prohibitive (especially if you’re buying them just to fight in), so some folk will buy motorcycle boots or other similar styles that don’t have laces. The next best things are leather boots that do have laces.

If you have to stick to running shoes because of budget restraints, health reasons or for comfort, you can make a shoe cosy out of leather to wear on top of your shoes.

Part Four: Heraldry
As stated previously, sometimes a tournament may not only have appearance requirements, but may have heraldry requirements. Here are some easy ways to add some heraldic content to your kit. Remember, your heraldry represents you. It tells people you are on the field. You should be proud of your heraldry and try to display it as much as possible.

Surcoats, Tabards, and Other Coverings: There are a few ways you can add heraldry to your fighting garb. You can emblazon your device directly on the front of a surcoat, or on the front and back of a tabard. Alternatively, you may not actually put your device on your garb, but you may use all the colours from your arms. (So if your device has blue and gold in it, use blue and gold material for your fighting garb.) If you have charges on your device or badge, you could use them as a decorative trim. For instance, if you have gold fish on your device, put gold fish around your cuffs and hem. If you have a motto you could emblazon that around your hem instead.

Something else you can do with a tabard is attach flaps over the shoulders, on which you can display arms or badges as well (perhaps those of your household, barony or kingdom).

Helms: Just as you can make your fighting garb in your heraldic colours, you can (if you so desire) paint your helm in them. Generally, this is only done to great helms, but could be done to any helm.

Torse and Mantle: A torse is a band that encircles a helm and displays the wearer’s heraldic colours. A mantle hangs from the torse, and is also done in heraldic colours. The dagging of the mantle can also be cut in some way that represents aspects of the wearer’s heraldry. (For instance, someone with a spade in their device may cut their mantle dagging to look like spades.)

Crests: A crest sits atop your helm, and displays some aspect of your arms. For instance, if you have a lion in your arms, you may want to place a lion on your helm. Generally, people in the SCA don’t fight with their crests on (if they have them) as they are usually the most time consuming bit of fighting heraldry to make. Some people will sew and stuff a crest, others may be lucky enough to have easily found objects in their arms. (People with flowers in their arms could make a crest of a bowl of flowers.)

Favour: Likely the easiest bit of heraldry to make. Favours can come in many forms. Often they are hung off the wearer’s belt, but they may also be hung off the arm, sword or other location. The most common favour is a representation of someone’s device. It could be yours, or it could be the arms of the person you are fighting for. If you don’t have your arms displayed on your fighting garb, having it hanging off your belt is a good idea. In that way, if you are not carrying your shield, people will still know who you are. (“Hey, that’s the yellow tower squire fighting with that pole-axe!”)

Shield: The most obvious place to display your arms is on your shield. An unpainted shield is boring. One that proudly displays your arms not only looks great when you are fighting, but can be set outside your tent, or hung over your chair, or be used in other such ways to proclaim your presence at an event.

So there you have it. A few easy steps that will tidy up your kit and get you noticed in the lists. It’s so easy, why wait until you have to do it? Just go ahead and do it.

Arms: Arms or Armories were so called because originally displayed upon defensive
arms, and coats of arms because formerly embroidered upon the surcoat or camis worn over the armor. The term coat of arms, once introduced, was afterward retained, even when displayed elsewhere than on the coat. In the days when knights were so encased in armor that no means of identifying them was left, the practice was introduced of painting their insignia of honor on their shield as an easy method of distinguishing them. Originally these were granted only to individuals, but were afterward made hereditary by King Richard I, during his crusade to Palestine. They may be divided into two general classes: (1) Public, as those of kingdoms, provinces, bishoprics, corporate bodies, etc. And (2) private, being those of private families. These two classes are again separated into many subdivisions, founded mainly on the different methods by which they were granted.
Badge: A distinctive mark; a cognizance. It is somewhat similar to a crest, but was not
placed on a wreath, nor was it worn on the helmet. The badge was a possession of princes, noblemen and other gentlemen of rank, and to this day is retained by some of those houses. The badge of the Plantagenets was the broom plant (Planta genista); the line of Lancaster had a red rose, while the badge of the house of York was a white rose.
Crest: Originally the crest was the ornament of the helmet, or headpiece, and also
afforded protection against a blow. In the early rolls it was scarcely noticed, but in later armorial grants it came into general use. Crests, like arms, were sometimes allusive. Thus, Grey of Wilton used a gray, or badger, and Lord Wells a bucket and chain. In the early days of the crest it was confined to persons of rank, but in later times it has been included in every grant of arms.
Device: An emblem, intended to represent a family, person, action or quality, with a
suitable motto. It generally consists in a metaphorical similitude between the thing representing and the person or thing represented.
Mantle: The cloak or robe behind the shield, sufficiently large to include the entire arms.
Those of sovereigns are of gold doubled with ermine, and are called pavilions.
Motto: A word or sentence carried on the scroll, and supposed to have some connection
with the name of the bearer, the deeds of his ancestors or as setting forth some guiding principle or idea.
Torse (also Wreath): The roll or chaplet above the shield, supporting the crest. It is
supposed to represent a twist of two silken cords, one tinctured like the principal metal, the other like the principal color, in the arms. Wreaths may also be circular, but the straight wreath is by far the more common.

All definitions taken from Pimbley’s Dictionary of Heraldry (

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

A Small Treatise on the Helm Show

Laird Colyne Stewart, AS XLI (2006)

Sometimes at tournaments in the SCA the organizers will hold a helm show before the actual fighting begins. The helm show (or helmschau) was a fixture in tournaments beginning in the 15th century, and were designed to both allow the participants to display their heraldry, and to allow the ladies of the gallery an opportunity to participate more fully in the tournament.

René of Anjou, Count of Provence, Duke of Anjou, Bar and Lorraine, and King of Jerusalem and Sicily, wrote a treatise on the holding of tournaments in 1460 called Forme et Devis d’un Tournoy, in which he lays out exactly how a helm show should progress.

First, he says that the helms (along with banners, pennons and crests) should be brought into a hall in a specific order, and carried by specific people:

…they should bring the banners, pennons, and crests of the captains to the cloister, to present them to the judges: and afterwards all the other banners, and helms with crests, as described before, in the order that follows:

First, the banners of all princes should be brought by one of their knight chamberlains, and the pennons of the captains should be brought by their senior valets or carvers.

And the banners of the other knights banneret, by gentlemen, as they wish.

The princes' helms should be brought by their squires.

And the helms of the other knights banneret, knights and squires, by gentlemen or honest valets. (René)

The tournaments judges, accompanied by a herald, would then lead the ladies and any knights, esquires or others who would attend about the room a number of times. The herald would identify each helm’s owner. At any time, if any lady feels one of the participants has ever treated her in an ill manner, she can touch his crest. The following day the judges would consider each accusation, and if found guilty the offender would be beaten about the shoulders soundly, to make sure he thought twice before ill-treating a lady again in the future.

At the same time, if the judges should find a man who is a known liar with no honour, or an usurer who lends at interest, his helm would be cast to the ground by the herald. Those found guilty of such crimes are arrested by the lords, knights and squires present, and beaten until he yields hi horse. The offender is then strapped to the list barrier upon his saddle and left there until the tournament was concluded. His horse was given to the trumpeters or minstrels.

If the judges should find someone who had married a woman who was not of noble birth he would also be beaten until he yielded. His weapons would be thrown to the ground, and he and his horse would be led to a corner of the list and placed in the care of a herald or Pursuivant, and there he would remain for the duration of the tournament. If he tried to flee, he would be strapped to the barrier upon his saddle.

Should the judges find a combatant who is not of noble birth, but is considered to be a virtuous warrior and worthy of participating in the lists

he should not be beaten the first time, except by princes and great lords, who, without hurting him, should beat him with their swords and maces, and this should always be considered to be an honor. And this will be a sign that because of his great goodness and virtue, he deserves to be at the tourney, and from then on no one may reprove him for his lineage in any place of honor where he is found, at the tourney or elsewhere. There too he may bear a new crest, or change his arms if he wishes, and keep them thereafter for himself and his heirs. (René)

Once the helm show is over, the banners, crests and helms are carried out of the hall in the same manner in which they were carried in.

In the SCA we off course assume that we are all chivalrous fighters and would never speak ill of anyone or act in any way improper. At the annual tournament hosted by Ardchreag at Snowed Inn each winter, there is usually a helm show held. Each participant in the tournament would place their helm upon a table, with banner and crest if they possess them.

The queen would then lead the consorts of those taking part in the tournament along the table. (To date we have never had any grievances laid.) The consorts and Her Majesty would then confer and grant a prize upon the owner of the helm they thought most striking.

A helm show is a small thing that does not take up much space or time, but adds greatly to the atmosphere of a tournament.

Barber, Richard and Barker, Juliet. Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages, Winfield & Nicolson, NY: 1989.

Bennet, Elizabeth, trans. King René's Tournament Book (Forme et Devis d'un Tournoy, 1460)'un%20tournoi%20du%20roi%20Rene/index.html

Knighthood, Chivalry & Tournaments Resource Library: The Gallery,

The Imperial College of Heraldry of the Holy Roman Empire,

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Clank the Dishes, Chip the Plates: What I Learned About Serving at Feast

Laird Colyne Stewart, Feb AS 37 (2003)

I had never even served before when I volunteered to coordinate serving and dishwashing for Snowed Inn II: The Baronial Investiture Edition. I think partially the fact that I had never done it before is what drew me to the job.

The very first thing I did was to consult with the feast chefs to see how many people they were planning on having sit feast. I was told eighty, plus head table. We were using tables with eight people to a table, which meant ten tables, plus head table. Together we decided that one server per table, plus two for the head table, would be adequate.

I posted a message to the Ealdomrere e-list asking for volunteers to serve and I had my compliment of twelve within twenty-four hours, plus a number of back-ups. I did this so that we would not get caught short day of the event. Generally this doesn’t happen, you can always find people willing to pitch in and help, but I don’t like to leave things to chance.

As the event drew closer I continued to stay in touch with the chefs so they could advise me of any dishes that needed special attention. I also had small favours made for the servers: shot glasses from the dollar store, upon which Lina Carville painted the Ardchreag arrows. (I tried to etch the arrows on the glass but, well, we won’t go into that fiasco.)

The hosting canton (Ardchreag) made some special tablecloths for the event, and the chefs crafted special plates for Their Majesties, Highnesses, new Excellencies of Septentria and retiring Excellencies.

I set up a floor plan for feast, which I cleared with the chefs, the autocrats and the rest of the event staff. We placed head table at the top of the feast space and put two columns of five tables down the left and right, leaving the center of the hall clear for bards and dancers. This was sent to all the servers so they could see what table they would be serving.  I drew the feast sign-up sheet in advance so we could put it out when the time came.

So here I was planning my little heart out when I forgot what should have been obvious. I should have asked who was going to sit at head table. Instead I assumed that the retiring Excellencies would be sitting there and we all planned around them sitting there. A note to head servers: consult with Their Majesties Chamberlain or entourage in advance and verify how many people will be sitting at head table. Thankfully this snafu was quickly and cleanly resolved. Her Majesty was most gracious when I abjectly apologized for the mix-up.

A half hour before feast started I held a server’s meeting where we went over how feast would be served, what dishes would be tricky, and verified what tables everyone would be serving. As the center of the hall was for entertainment we were not to walk through it. (On top of everything else, I became the entertainment director.)

Some feast chefs feed their servers before feast, some after. Ours fed us at exactly the same time as everyone else. We had two tables in the back and after we had all served our tables, Thorfinna gra’feldr and I would get the same course for the servers and bring it to the servers’ tables. We would eat while I kept an eye to the kitchen and when the chef gave the word we were back in action. Due to the number of courses and dishes being served, we needed to bring the plates and bowls of the previous course back after serving the present course. So, say, when we brought out the ham we had to take back the salad bowls. You get the idea. This was explained to each table when they were first served.

Now, Thorfinna and I, who were serving head table, never officially introduced ourselves as we were pretty sure everyone up there knew us. However, if I were to do it again I would introduce us just as a nice formality and just in case one of those did not know our names, or had forgotten them. It’s just a nice little touch.

Also, after talking with our baron afterwards, who has cooked many feasts but never sat at a head table before, we decided that we should have offered to carve the courses for those sitting at head table. Folks in expensive (often silk) garb are not in the best position to be reaching across a table covered in food to try and cut up a whole chicken.

To ease pressure on the servers we recruited a drink boy on the spot who wandered the hall filling glasses. This gave him something to do, gave us more time to eat ourselves, and made things run smoothly. He was also given a token. (His though was not a shot glass; I didn’t want to have to explain that to his mom.)

When feast was over the servers cleared the dishes and were freed from service. All during feast three poor souls had volunteered to wash dishes during feast. (Remember, I said that plates had to be used more than once? Well, they needed to be cleaned.) At this point they were relieved and some fresh washers came in to work. I didn’t plan the ‘after feast’ washers in advance at all, as I usually see a plethora of volunteers to do so at events but we didn’t get enough this time. If I ever organize the scullery again, I’ll make sure I have some firm ‘after feast’ washing commitments lined up. The ‘during feast’ washers were also given decorated shot glasses.

All in all things ran very smoothly, with only a few matters of etiquette coming to the fore. I personally found the experience to be a lot of fun. I hadn’t served at feast before because I thought I would miss out on the camaraderie, but you still get to interact with the people at your table, with the chefs, and with the other servers. I will definitely serve again.

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Basic Shieldwall Techniques

Laird Colyne Stewart, June AS 38 (2003)

When reading over this article, keep in mind that it was written by a melee fighter with only two years of war experience under his belt.

1. How to Stand
Stand in a row putting the left edge of your shield under the right edge of the shield of the person to your left. This makes a rigid line of interlocked shields that makes it harder for enemies to break through. Go into a defensive stance and brace your wardoor against your forward knee. Hold your weapon perpendicular over the shield. You want the weapon to be high enough for you to see between the top of your shield and it. Once combat starts you need to be vigilant with your weapon. For a shieldman, a weapon is more for defense than offense. This will be covered in detail in a later section. Remember if you swing your weapon that if you hit your shieldmates, you can kill them. Be careful.

2. Setting up the Shieldwall
If you some of the shieldmen have tournament size shields, intersperse them with your wardoors. If you have at least one left-handed shieldman, put him on the left end of the line. More experienced shieldmen should be placed strategically in the line. If the line is short, put one in the middle (if you have more, on the ends as well). If the line is large and you have more experienced shieldmen intersperse them with those less experienced.

3. Placement of Polearms, Spears, etc.
Different commanders set up their forces in different ways. There are generally three oft-used starting position.

i. The polearms and spears are setup behind the shieldwall. This is the most common unit setup. Your polearms and spears will be fighting over your heads. It is your job to stay together and protect the people behind you.

ii. The polearms and spear fight in front of the shieldwall. This method is becoming more prevalent. Always be vigilant, for if pressed the polearms and spears will retreat behind you and you will have to defend them.

iii. The polearms and spears fight in the shieldwall. Some commanders like to place their polearms and spears between shieldmen in the shieldwall. If this is done you obviously cannot lock your shield with the other shieldman. You will be forced to move a bit more in this style as your sides will be exposed to enemy spears and poles. If the spear or polearm beside you dies, you should call out for the wall to close up. You and the shield on the other side of the deceased spear/pole should come together to close the gap. Be prepared for another spear/pole to eventually come and take the deceased spear/pole's place.

4. Moving as a Unit
There are some basic movements that all shieldmen need to know. (At present, Ealdormere does not have a concrete set of commands, but these are ones that I generally hear when in the wall.)

i. Shieldwall Forward! Move forward as a unit until you are called to stop.

ii. Shieldwall Stop/Halt! The shieldwall stops. If you are the one giving commands, remember to never use the word "Hold!" except as a stop command due to an emergency.

iii. Pivot/Wheel Left! The unit moves to the left, pivoting on the person on the left end of the wall, until ordered to stop.

iv. Pivot/Wheel Right! The unit moves to the right, pivoting on the person on the right end of the wall, until ordered to stop.

v. Slide Left! As one the unit slides to the left until ordered to stop.

vi. Slide Right! As one the unit slides to the right until ordered to stop.

vii. Charge! As a unit run right into the enemy line.

viii. Pulse Charge! Some commanders use this command to mean running forward two steps and then re-setting the line. Others use it as a command to break through an enemy line. Verify with your commander before entering battle.

5. Breaking Through an Enemy Line
If ordered to break through an enemy shieldwall you will break apart so your shields are no longer overlapping. Angle your shield about 45 degrees and use it as a wedge on the enemy shieldwall. You want to try and hit them where their shields are overlapping. Remember that if you break through, they will be trying to kill you, so protect your head with your weapon. Also remember that in melees when you attack a line, you are considered to be engaged with everyone in that line, whether you see them or not.

6. Shieldwalls in Combat
i. We are a team. There is one basic principle that all shieldmen need to learn and believe. It is not a shieldman's job to kill the enemy. It is his job to protect his allies. In a melee you are fighting as a team, not as individuals. Shieldmen who run off and leave their wall behind to try and get a bunch of kills usually end up dying themselves and leaving their wall, and their poles/spears behind the wall, vulnerable. You are not out for personal glory, you are out to get a win for the team. It is not unusual for shieldmen to never throw a blow in combat. Shieldmen do not number kills to judge how they did in combat, but rather how many of their mates survived until the end.

ii. Stay Together! When a shieldwall drifts apart it usually ends up getting wiped out. Stay locked against your shieldmates. If you die, call out "Dead!" as you fall so that the shieldmen on either side of you can hear you. They will then close the gap you've left. If someone dies beside you, you and the person on the other side of the gap need to come together. Call out something along the lines of "Gap left/right!" and slide towards the other shield. This lets those on your other side know you're going to be moving, and where you're moving to. You need to close that gap quick, because enemy spears and poles will be eager to take advantage of the hole in your defenses.

iii. Defending your head. Spears will be thrusting at your face, so don't let the gap between the top of your shield and your weapon get too big. Remember that thrusts will come from off on your left and right, not just from in front. You will often never see the blow that kills you. Polearms and axes can chop, so these will try to come down on top of your head. Try to angle your baskethilt up to protect you from these blows. You may have to move your weapon up momentarily to block a chopping blow, but get back into position quick or a spear will get you.

iv. Defending against hooks. Some spears and axes can be used as hooking weapons. They will try to do either one of two things. They may try to hook the edge of your shield and pull it out to expose your leg. If this happens, quickly flick out your shield to loosen the hook, and bring your shield back into place. You need to do this quickly, or enemy spears will come at you while your shield is out. They may also try to hook the top of your shield and pull it down. If this happens keep your shield braced on your knee and lift up with your shield arm. You can then either try to use your weapon to release the hook or catch the hook. To release the hook bring your weapon down under the hook and swing upwards to dislodge it. To catch the hook, bring your weapon down across it from above. Call out to your poles and spears to kill the hook/axe/spear and hopefully they will before you get thrust in the head. Those behind you can also grab enemy weapons and pull them behind your line.

v. Resurrecting. If the battle is a rez battle, run back to your rez point and then re-attach yourself to the end of your shieldwall. If there is a gap in the wall, you can fill that instead. Try not to get in the way of your other allies while doing so.

7. Dying
This is something you will have practiced for your authorization, but we'll go over it again here. If you die you will almost always fall dead to the ground. You should call out "Dead!" and curl up into a fetal position under your shield with your legs crossed above the ankles. (Above! If you actually cross your ankles, and someone steps on you, you risk a pair of broken ankles.) Be aware that you will likely be kicked, stepped on and perhaps even stood on as the melee continues around you. Wait until a marshal either taps you with a stick to tell you its safe to get up and off the field or until a hold is called. Marshals will usually call "Dead out!" during a hold to clear the field.

In some resurrection battles you may find that instead of falling dead you can just pull out of combat to walk back to your rez point. If you do this call out "Dead!" and quickly get out of the way. (This will likely not be possible if the fighting is fierce and there is a great press of bodies. In that case drop and cover until a marshal says you can get up.)

When walking to your rez point or off the field you can hold your weapon above your head to show other fighters that you are dead. This could save you getting killed a couple more times while you're walking back to rez.

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Why I Fight

By Colyne Stewart, Nov 2002

I think like many others my allure to fighting began as a child. My brothers and I had always been infatuated with tales and movies of knights and dragons and we had many costumes and homemade swords. It was only natural to hit each other with them. In fact, with some friends of ours we even began our own live-action role-playing game when I was fourteen. Of course, wearing nothing but a life jacket as armour, and getting hit with swords made of broom handles hurt like hell. That didn’t last long.

Eventually, and I don’t know why it took so long, we made some boffers and we actually began to do some ‘real’ combat. I had heard of the SCA a few years before (early to mid 90s) and perhaps this new boffering pushed me hard enough to look it up. I knew I wanted to try SCA armoured combat and immediately fell to it, getting taught how to make armour and being taught to fight by anyone who would give me the opportunity to pester them.

After I began fighting I realized something. It was more than just fun. There were many more aspects to fighting as well. Firstly, I noticed the camaraderie that the fighters shared, which in many ways was more honest that what I sometimes see in those who only watch. It is said that the only real love is between soldiers and being shoulder to shoulder with someone as many more someones try to take you out does build a bond. This sense of community and belonging is one of the reasons I still fight.

The other is honour and duty. Yes, yes. I know the SCA is only a game, but I place a lot of emphasis on honour and duty. My word is my bond. So I don’t fight for myself, I fight for Septentria. I consider it my duty as a fighter who resides within her borders who has no other military duties. Perhaps some day I may fight directly for the Kingdom, or another barony, or even a household or citie guard. Who can say. If that should happen I would place as much emphasis on my duties then, to that entity, as I do now. I fight because I love my homeland, because I love my country folk. I want to do the Bear proud, protect her, bring her glory. That is why I fight.

Permission is given to print this article in any SCA publication as long as the author is contacted by email in advance, proper credit is given and the author receives a copy of the newsletter. Please credit the author as Colyne Stewart (mka Todd Fischer), who can be reached at

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Welcome to Colynesburg!

Colynesburg, founded in the old ruins of Greenhithe via secret charter involving a former baroness of Septentria who shall remain nameless

Capital: Þorfinnastaadr

Notable Settlements: The Autonomous Collective of Havencroft; Snæbjörnhus; Erikstaadr

Places of Interest: Pirate Coves; ship yards; embassy of the Principality of Menkenvlad; embassy of [Antarctic group]

Rumours: pirates—most notably Cap’n Widow and Cap’n Bloodfox—are rumoured to be granted safe haven in caves and coves along Colynesburg’s shores.

History: The lands that currently make up Colynesburg were formerly part of the cantons on Ardchreag and Petrea Thule. Western Colynesburg—known as Arowe Bioran—was claimed by Ardchreag, while eastern Colynesburg—known as Pétralandsfjörðr—was claimed by Petrea Thule.

In 1997these two areas were granted autonomy by their respective seneschals and banded together to form Whit’s end (later known as Greenhithe). In July 2002 Colyne and Þorfinna moved from Geolugeat—a small bordertown in eastern Eoforwic—to the Greenhithe territory, upon a manor they called Drew’s End. Though local officials tried mightily to tame the land, it was a wild place. Colyne and Þorfinna began to carefully plan for the eventuality that the local government might fall.

During the winter of 2007-08 Greenhithe was abandoned as “too wild and hard to control” as one kingdom official put it. Sweeping deftly in, Colyne and Þorfinna and their cadre grabbed the reins of power. Before baronial officers could try to stop them, the Plaid Watch had secured all the forts along the border. Claiming themselves to be the Vulpine Region of Colynesburg, they pledged loyal service to the King and Queen (as well as a promise to continue to pay taxes). They also provided copies of a secret document, reportedly signed by a former baroness of Septentria, granting them the rights to claim Septentrian land that was not currently occupied by a recognized local government. The Royalty therefore did not move to intervene.

The area around Drew’s End was made the capital of Colynesburg, and named Þorfinnastaadr. 

Excerpt from my translation of 'The Book of Chivalry'

To examine a squyer that wylle entre in to the order of chyualrye apperteyneth wel / and hym behoueth an examynatour whiche ought to be a knight [snip] Ther fore yf the Examynoure loueth more multitude of knyghtes / than noblesse of chiyaulrye / he is not couenable ne worthy to be an examynour / but it shold be need that he shold be examined / and repreuyd of the wrong / that he hath done to the hyhe honour of Chyualrye…

And therefore a knight / that is a robber & a theef / ought to be taken and deyuerd to dethe by other knyghtes / And euery knight that susteyneth & suffreth a knight to be a robbour & theef / in that doying he vseth not his office / For yf he vsed in that maner / he shold do thenne ageynst his office…
To examine a squire that will be entering into the order of chivalry, an examiner is needed who should preferably be a knight [snip] Therefore, if the examiner loves making more knights than he does the nobleness of chivalry, he is not considered worthy to be an examiner, and further more should himself be examined by his fellow knights and reproved of the wrong he has done to the high honour of Chivalry…

And therefore a knight who is a known robber and thief, should be taken and executed by his fellow knights. And every knight that knowingly sustains or allows a fellow knight to be a robber and a thief is not doing his duty and is no true knight. For by allowing this to continue, he would be going against the doctrines of his office…