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

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