Saturday, one of my favorite people was elevated to the Order of the Pelican. For those not in the SCA, the Order of the Pelican is a peerage order at the same level as the a knight. However, instead of prowess at arms on the battlefield, the Pelican is chosen for their hard work and service to the SCA. They serve as officers, run events, organize projects, and whatever else needs to be done at a high level. By the way, the other bestowed peerage orders are the Chivalry, which is someone who has great prowess with rattan fighting, the Master of Defense, which is someone who has great prowess with steel fighting, and the Laurel, which is someone who has great prowess with an art or science. There’s also the Royal Peer, which is someone who has served as royalty in the SCA. A person can earn the right to be a member of any or all of these orders.
For those who don’t know Conna, I hope someday you get to meet her. She is one of the sweetest, most helpful, and talented people you could ever meet. I was honored and excited for her sponsor, Elasait, to choose me to write the ceremony.
One reason she chose me is that I am currently the Lanner Herald of Calontir, which means I’m to help make sure ceremonies happen. I took this job in part because I love ceremonies, which is why I took such pleasure writing the funeral in A Lake Most Deep and the stepping down ceremony in I Am a Wondrous Thing. I also took this job because I wanted to make ceremonies more interesting and fun. Conna’s ceremony is an example.
It dawned on me I’ve never really talked about how I shape ceremonies and what I think about when I’m writing them. With Conna’s permission, this post is an annotated copy of her ceremony that people who have always been interested in ceremonies can perhaps use as a reference.
Many kingdoms have a set standard for each ceremony, but I am not a fan of that. I aim to make every ceremony special for the recipient, because it is their day in the sun. However, the first rule is the ceremony is for the recipient, not for me. My job is to give them or their sponsor interesting options, but if they want something standard and vanilla, they get it.
Like when I write scroll texts, I want to shape ceremonies around the recipient’s persona. It would be odd for a Norse persona to be given a ceremony that is appropriate for the Hundred Years War, and vice versa. So, my first step is to find out, if I don’t already know, what time and place they like so I can focus my research to match.
Determining the time and place for Conna was easy. I drew upon the writings of Alphonso X, the Wise, King of Castile from 1252 to 1284. Alphonso is one of Conna’s great inspirations. She’s studied his writings and, especially, the many cantigas he wrote. Taking from his work would be very powerful for her.
Even for those I know well, I always start by asking their sponsor a number of questions, not just the time and place of their persona. What does the recipient want? What are their likes and dislikes? Hopefully, I’ll find out some inside jokes. I’m looking for anything that makes the ceremony more personal.
Again, for this ceremony, that proved easy. Elasait said to me she wanted to retrieve the protege belt she gave to Conna years ago. For those not in the SCA a protege is to a squire what a Pelican is to a knight. Each bestowed peerage has the opportunity to take students and guide others in the SCA in what they’ve learned. A token, usually a belt, is given by the peer to the student to show the connection.
If a squire is elevated to the Order of Chivalry, part of the ceremony includes a moment where the squire returns the tokens showing their station as a student to the knight. However, if a squire, such as myself, is elevated to a different order, like the Order of the Laurel, he or she has the option of keeping the tokens and remaining a student of the peer, or returning the tokens to his former peer. This is a completely personal choice. I gave mine back to Fernando when I was elevated. Conna chose to keep hers ten years ago when she was elevated to her first peerage.
So Elasait wanted to make sure that was in the ceremony, and that gave me the hook.
This is often one of the greatest challenges of a ceremony. Very rarely in Calontir does a peerage ceremony happen without everyone in the audience knowing it’s going to be a part of that court. Many people will know who is sponsoring the candidate and know when that person is called into court that the elevation ceremony is beginning.
In general, ceremonies are formulaic, so again most people know what’s going to happen in general terms. The sponsor will come up, ask to elevate the candidate. The candidate and the order to which they will join are called up. Also called up are the speakers in the ceremony and close family members. The speakers will talk about the candidate to the Crown, who will confirm that the candidate should be elevated. Then, the accoutrements of the order will be bestowed. The candidate is dubbed, swears an oath of fealty, and the scroll is read. There are some specific differences, like the buffet for the Chivalry and the different accoutrements to each of the orders, but that’s the basic structure.
Hence, it’s almost impossible to make ceremonies completely different from each other. One of the places you can make a ceremony unique is to find a way to start the ceremony in an unexpected way. I’ve done a number of different things, but in this case Elasait’s requirement about the protege belt gave me the opening.
Here’s the opening as written:
Herald: Their Majesties grant the petition of Mistress Elasait ingen Diarmata.
< Elasait approaches the throne >
Elasait: Your Majesties, I come here to seek redress. I hesitate to name it theft, but there is one amongst your people who for over a decade has held something of mine and it is time that she finally return it to me.
Damien: This is a serious charge. Who do you thus accuse?
Elasait: I accuse my protégé, Mistress Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill.
You’ll see the first line is the most common way we start off ceremonies. The sponsor is granted a petition to speak to the Crown. Most often, they say something like “at such and such event, you granted my boon to elevate the candidate to this order, is it still your will to grant this?” There’s nothing wrong with that opening, but we do it all the time so I tried something different.
Now, I’m a bad, bad man for suggesting this opening. However, it was something that no one who knows Conna, or for that matter, knows how ceremonies work, would expect. Elasait had to think about doing this for a few days, but in the end agreed that this would be a fun way to kick things off. And when she went into court she put on her stern teacher face and blasted it out. Fantastic job with that.
As a side note you’ll see that I put all of the speaker’s names in the ceremony. There’s an argument to be made that I should use Their Majesties’ titles instead of their names, but this document is written to be a script, hence I’m focusing on making it as smooth as possible to perform. It’s easier to see your name than your title. However, since I don’t know who the herald will be when I’m writing it, I leave that in there. In the case of other speakers below, you’ll see both their role and their name. Again, I just put the name in, if I know it, or sometimes it’ll be both because the speakers get added in later. However it happens, the point is to make sure people can identify their part easily and quickly.
You can see I use italics for stage movements and instructions, bold and underline speakers, and I always write them in 14 point Garamond. It doesn’t show as well here, but I put in extra white space to make the separate lines easily readable. I also put extra page breaks between sections so that, at least for the herald, they can move from page to page while other things are happening and it doesn’t distract from the ceremony. People often rewrite ceremonies to their own preference but I start it out with as much differentiation as I can to make it easier and quicker to read from while it’s happening.
Getting back to the action, Elasait has just accused one of her best friends of stealing from her in court. I had spoken to Conna earlier in the day and knew she had no idea about the ceremony. So I knew to watch her face. It was priceless. The absolute last thing she expected. Yes, I am a big old meaniehead.
Issabell: We grieve that such acrimony might exist between two peers of Our realm.
Damien: And have you witnesses to support your claim?
Elasait: I do.
Issabell: Then I shall have my herald call them forward.
Herald: Their Majesties call forward all who would bear witness is Mistress Elasait’s claim.
< The speakers all come forward and arrange themselves to the sides of the throne. Master David, even if he is not a speaker, should join the speakers >
This is even meaner to Conna, really, though it flows better arranging this as the next step. Conna was just bursting to come up after that start, but now she has to wait for all her speakers. It’s not terribly common for the speakers to precede the candidate, but there’s no real set order to get sponsor, candidate, speakers, and order up there. All that you have to do is make sure that all the people that need to get up for the ceremony know when they are supposed to go up.
A note on the last instruction. Master David is Conna’s husband and I usually find a role such as banner bearer or speaker for husbands, wives, children, and parents if I can. If there’s no specific role, I still specify that they go up to where they can watch. They may not be needed for the ceremony, but I’m a sentimental guy. Anyway, let’s give Conna chance to participate.
Damien: Herald, call the accused before us that she may defend herself.
Herald: Their Majesties invite forward, Mistress Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill
< Conna comes forward >
Issabell: Mistress Elasait, what item is it that you claim belongs to you?
Elasait: When Conna was elevated to the Order of the Laurel, she deemed it improper that she then return the tokens I had given her as my protégé. I agreed only reluctantly that she keep them then, and the time has come for her to return these tokens.
Damien: Why do believe the time has come?
Elasait: Because I believe she has earned the right to be named a Pelican in her own right, and to put aside the tokens of a protégé forever.
Issabell: Well-beloved is she, no doubt, but this is no small thing. We would have that Order advise Us and all such witnesses that might help.
Herald: Their Majesties invite all members of the Order of the Pelican attending to join Them in Their court.
< The Order of the Pelican comes forward >
As you can see, I’ve arranged that this ceremony will work like a court case. This legal structure is convenient for peerage ceremonies and I use it the vast majority of the time. The sponsor has a suit, brings it before the Crown, provides witnesses to attest to the case, and the Order serves as the jury. Obviously, we don’t get to the point of having a ceremony written if the decision hasn’t already been made, but it’s still a good way to structure things.
Damien: Mistress Elasait, call your witnesses.
Laurel (Aislinn): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXXI, Law ii): Masters who teach the sciences and the pupils who learn them, must have a hall where they may live in health, and rest and take pleasure in the evening, when their eyes have become weary with study. It should, moreover, be well provided with bread and wine, and good lodging houses, Conna has provided both a hall and been a teacher in that hall >
This begins the section where all of the orders of peerage and the populace speak about the candidate. There is no set order for which peerage goes where, however, I believe that the order to which the candidate will be added should always go last to confirm all the rest. I usually have the populace go right before them. Other than that, I may just choose randomly or I may have a sequence of topics that works best. It’s just whatever feels right.
Often, a ceremony will have a line that says something like: “Master Cooks-All-The-Feasts, will you speak for the Pelican?” There is nothing wrong at all with having the sponsor or the Crown saying this. In fact, it’s sometimes easier because everyone gets an explicit cue that it’s their turn. I will often try to avoid it, though, because if we prepare the speakers well (“you go after Mistress Pointy-End-In-The-Other Guy”), it’s not that difficult to arrange. By excluding the prompting lines, you speed up the ceremony a bit, and that’s sometimes really nice, especially in courts with multiple ceremonies.
You’ll also note the most important part of making every ceremony different. It is also the part that takes the most time to create. This is my basic structure of what the speakers are told to say: <own words, suggested topic – cool stuff related to the persona here >.
The people chosen to speak are close to the candidates. They love them. They want to put that love and friendship into words. This is not something you can script.
However, you can give them guidance and inspiration. Oddly, it doesn’t take much to make a ceremony feel like it’s from a particular time and place. If most of the speakers reference something of the time and place in the midst of their words, that adds the spice that makes the ceremony taste Norse, Hundred Years War, Pictish, Persian, Japanese, or whatever. I do the research to find relevant prompts, but it is up to the speaker to use any or all of that information. Again, this is a very personal moment and speakers need to have the freedom to show their heart and it only takes most, not all, of the speakers tossing in that spice to flavor the pot.
As I said before, Conna’s focus of interest is Alphonso X. I chose to pull from his Siete Pardidas for the witnesses and, as you’ll see, the Estoria de Espana for the bestowed items. These just felt right. I tend not to overthink things when I’m looking for inspiration, especially in an area where I’m not an expert. If it sounds cool to me, I put it in my notes and see if I can fit it into the ceremony. As a side note, when I’m looking through the texts of the period, I cut and paste out more passages into my notes than I’ll need. Sometimes a passage doesn’t work and needs replaced, or you need another one because there’s an extra speaker or seven. It’s nice to have a little extra just in case.
Anyway, here are the rest of the prompts for the witnesses:
Chivalry (Ariel): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law xiii): For although our calling is rude and bloody, as it is concerned with wounds and death; nevertheless, our minds should not refuse to be naturally pleased with things which are beautiful and elegant, and especially when they wear them; for the reason that, on the one hand, they confer joy and comfort upon them, and, on the other, it induces them to perform intrepid deeds of arms, since that they are aware that they will be better known on this account, and that all persons will pay more attention to what they do; therefore cleanliness and elegance are not impediments to the bravery and ferocity which they ought to possess. >
Master of Defense(Ravasz): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law iv): It is the duty of peers to protect the Church, the monarchs, and all others. Prudence will enable them to do this to advantage, and without injury, Conna has shown great prudence >
Royal Peer(Lucian): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part I, Title I, Law xi): The law-maker should love justice and the benefit of all, Conna has supported the Crown >
Populace(Anne): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title XXI, Law xiii) A peer should practice purity among themselves and it ought to be manifested in their good qualities and their habits, they should also display it externally in their clothing, and in the tools which they bear, Conna has done so time and again >
Pelican(Owain): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Siete Pardidas Part II, Title X, Int.) All people are necessary, none can be excepted, for all are obliged to live together in order to live properly, be protected, and be supported, Conna has guided all around her >
Issabell: Mistress Elasait, well have you proven your case.
Damien: We deem that Mistress Conna must return to you all tokens that show she is your protégé.
< Elasait takes the protégé belt back. Much hugging ensues >
How do I choose which passage goes with which peerage? Again, whatever seems right. I’ll cut and paste and read it, then cut and paste a section to a different spot and so on.
I said before that ceremonies have a basic form and that’s to have speakers of the orders and the items. There’s another type of speaker that might be added, and those are speakers of the chivalric virtues. It is rare for me to write a ceremony that has speakers on the virtues and speakers from the orders and speakers on the things. That’s simply too many speakers, and peerage ceremonies are already long.
I’ll do it, if the candidate specifically requests, because it’s about the candidate, but I’ll advise against it. What I’ll suggest instead is that the speakers of the orders and the speakers of the items be prompted with references to the virtues. Something like, “I am Sir Hits-Things-Hard, and I will speak on Prowess,” and “I am Mistress Makes-Cool-Stuff, I bring the medallion, and I will speak on Courage,” and so on. That way we can have the virtues included, which many candidates want, and yet not have extremely long ceremonies.
Anyway, we have come to the end of the court case portion of the ceremony. The case has been proved to Their Majesties satisfaction, and we move on to the actual elevation portion. You see that in this case, we remind the crowd of the nature of the case by ensuring that Elasait gets that belt back. Hugging will usually ensue when the belts get returned.
I put in the stage direction about the hugging so that everyone involved is reminded to let that happen. We all know it’s going to, but sometimes on stage we get too focused on what comes next so it’s just a mild bit of humor people reading the ceremony see that suggests a break in the moment.
Now we continue to the next portion of the ceremony:
Issabell: Mistress Elasait, have your claims been fully redressed?
Elasait: No, Your Majesties. For though I brought suit against her, she is yet dear to me and I would give her gifts for you to bestow that befit her new station.
< Elasait turns to Conna >
Elasait: Alphonso X said a kingdom consists of three main parts. I give you gifts that you always recall each of them.
Cap(Rosalyn): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Estoria de España) First, a good kingdom must have a king at its head, let this cap be a reminder that you ever help the king rule wisely >
(Ed. Note: it’s actually a veil, modify accordingly)
Medallion(Fernando): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Estoria de España) Second, a good kingdom is a body in itself, let this medallion remind you of the traditions of Calontir and the Order of the Pelican>
(Ed. Note: It’s actually a ring)
Cloak(Aoibheann): < own words, suggested topic – Alphonso X (Estoria de España) Third, a good kingdom is served by all its people, who are its arms and legs, let this cloak that covers you be a reminder that you must help all in Calontir as they need >
(Ed. Note: It’s actually a coat, modify accordingly—it’s her laurel coat which has had blood drops added)
Damien: These are wise words indeed. We would have you remember them, now and forever.
Issabell: You are accoutered as a Pelican. All claims against you are resolved.
Now, it’s going to come as complete shock but Alphonso X did not, actually, write about Calontir at any point in time. Clearly, a failing on his part. However, I’ve included Calontir references in these item speeches nonetheless. I simply paraphrased Alphonso with a Calontir twist. Again, these notes are there to give the speakers ideas, not exact quotes.
I obviously include the sources, though. One, I feel like I should as a researcher. Two, it’s also important that the speaker can track down the source, if they want, to find out the context. Some speakers do extra research. Some don’t. Doesn’t really matter, you’ve given them something to work with and a route to go if they want more.
As for the specific items, there’s a base list of items which each peerage gets. This base list can be modified and some of the items are optional. For example, I did not want someone to make me a laurel wreath when I was elevated because I would never wear it. Why waste someone’s time and money? There are times as well that a certain type of item doesn’t really fit a persona, so the item becomes something similar, like in Conna’s case a veil instead of a cap. In cases of a second peerage, as in this case, the coat is often modified to reflect the second peerage. These are things that the sponsor arranges and either they tell you the changes ahead of time or, as in this case, edits the ceremony themselves.
Damien: Accept then from our hands that which your devotion and service have brought you.
< dubbing right shoulder with scepter >
May your skills ever be increased and offered in service to Crown and Kingdom.
Issabell: < dubbing left shoulder with scepter >
May your courtesy and gentle demeanor ever serve as an inspiration for those who would observe you.
Damien and Issabell: < crossing scepters and dubbing head >
And may your spirit ever follow the goals your heart has set before you.
This is the dubbing, and it’s a basic formula. I rarely change this part, but it is something that could be changed. It might be something that a particular Crown decides to change for all of their peerages, like they change the oath to suit their time and place. However, this is a pretty good set of words and is the standard.
Issabell: Are you now prepared to swear your oath as a Pelican?
Conna: I am.
Oath: Here do I swear fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Calontir,
And herewith give my solemn oath:
To take you as liege of life and limb and truth and earthly honors.
To defend with all my power the rightful laws and customs,
Of the Crown, the Kingdom, and the Society.
To bear you faith by deed, word, consent, and counsel,
To serve, foster knowledge, and strive ever to be worthy
Of the Pelican.
Against all who love, move, or die,
swear I, Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill
TRM Confirm Oath: We hear your fealty freely given,
And by Our word confirm
that We Will never sacrifice you needlessly.
We swear to judge your oaths with mercy,
Your words with honor, and your deeds with justice.
We will it and grant it and swear it so,
As part of their preparation to rule, Calontir Kings and Queens create the fealty oaths peerages and populace swear at Coronation. There are some standard oaths that are often chosen, but they can choose whatever they want. Because they’re doing the orders as a group, the oath is specific to the Crown. However, the oath for a peerage ceremony does not have to be the normal one for the reign and I will always look for an oath that matches the persona.
Some Crowns prefer all to swear the same oath. Since this is Their court, the Crowns get to make this choice. Some sponsors and recipients also want to swear the normal oath. Again, if the Crown accepts, that’s the recipient’s choice. However, in my mind this is perhaps the most personal moment in the ceremony for the recipient and I at least offer an oath to match the persona, even if it’s not chosen. In Conna’s case, the oath was close enough to her persona I didn’t change anything. In contrast, when Severin received her Laurel later in that court, I made darn sure she got a Norse oath to swear because it meant a lot more to her than the normal oath of the reign would have.
At this point, though, we’re basically done. Often I’ll put something here where the Crown announces something like, “Calontir, your newest Pelican.” Sometimes that flows well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the Crown says it whether it’s in the script or not. It’s not terribly important either way. The crowd knows it’s about time to cheer for the recipient, and all they need is some sort of sign when to start.
There is one last thing that’s in the script though:
Read Scroll Text
Another side note. It’s a little tricky for the herald to actually know when to start reading. In general, you need to let the cheering begin to die down before reading. Each second waiting for the right moment tests your patience, especially when Their Majesties are turning to look at you with a look that says, “Read the scroll NOW or I’ll get a woodworker to make stocks and a blacksmith to make locks,” but it’s better if it’s timed right even so.
I always put the scroll text in the ceremony, if I’ve gotten it ahead of time. I have a blank in my template that says:
Scroll Text: If at all possible, put the scroll text in the ceremony. It will help the herald out.
Again, we’re trying to make this a ceremony that is easy to perform. As you can see, there’s little for a herald to do after everyone is called into court until this point, but they must follow along prepared to prompt Their Majesties or a speaker if needed. By adding the scroll text in the ceremony, it makes it easier for the herald to read, or at least it has when I’ve been the herald.
I’m not going to include the scroll text here because I didn’t write it, though I hope that they post it on Facebook or somewhere because it was really good. I also thought Elaisse, Ingeborg, and the performers did a fantastic job singing those portions. It was such a fitting thing for Conna.
Well, there you have it. A blow-by-blow retelling of that miscreant Conna ingen Ui Chearbhaill getting called into court to get her just desserts.
If you have questions about writing a ceremony or would like to volunteer to do so, just drop me a email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get you started.