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Re: Courtesy: An Immigrant's Perspective

Poster: kuijt@umiacs.UMD.EDU

Greetings unto Cheapside, and especially unto Ambrosius
Caliensis, from Dafydd ap Gwystl.

I was interested to read your "Immigrants Perspective" post, and
am inspired to respond.

Briefly, the various issues you touch bring up the following different
responses in me: (in no particular order)
1) I share your concerns
2) My impression of Atlantia doesn't match what you describe
3) What you see as lack, I see as Interkingdom Anthropology

1) I share your concerns:

You speak about mundane attitudes and conversation topics at events.
I, too, hate that.  Even when I'm guilty of it, as sometimes happens.
This issue has been around in every Kingdom since the dawn of time, or
at least since the dawn of the idea that we should try to pretend we
are in the Middle Ages.

I've been to several different kingdoms; this concern is universal.

You also mention "a 'costume-party' mentality, and a
pervasive lack of interest in the idealistic pursuit of the
re-creational and hence chivalric aspects of the Society".  
Let me bring to your attention that the first SCA event was not a
serious attempt at re-creating anything, it was a costume party.
Nothing more, nothing less.

That doesn't mean I disagree with you--I couldn't agree more.  _MY_
enjoyment of events is heavily linked to the re-creational and chivalric
elements of our game.  But we play by consensual rules, and there are
lots of people who are more interested in a less rigorous effort.
And they aren't wrong, just because I don't like the beer-swilling
part as much as they do.

In Atlantia right now, as (I expect) in most kingdoms, there are
some events that are more aimed at a good party, and some events that
are more aimed at a particular re-creation.  If you are more interested
in the latter, I draw your attention to the several Night on the Town
events, or the Knight of the Heart tournaments, or the Challenge of
the Seven Deadly Sins last year, or many other events.

2) My impression of Atlantia doesn't match what you describe:

I am quite surprised to hear you imply that Atlantia is not arts-oriented.
I have had several long conversations with Duchess Jeanne, the previous
Society Minister of Arts and Sciences, and your statement directly
contradicts her opinion and mine.  Atlantia has a flourishing arts
establishment, one of the best in the SCA.  Our University is the
best in the SCA (admittedly, I've only taken classes in four Kingdoms,
but many Kingdoms do not even have a University, and ours is very

I suspect that you are projecting.  In particular, I think your
criticism may be accurate and fair enough -- within your discipline.
I confess, I know nothing of Early Music, and very little Latin
(modern or Medieval).  Latin and Early Music hold little interest
for me compared to medieval furniture, playing cards, tournaments,
and thousands of other physical artifacts.  If you had many friends
in Tir Ysgithr who enjoyed Medieval Latin and Early Music, you were
blessed and I understand your disappointment in not having such a
support group here.  Do not despair, though--we, too, have music
and latin scholars.  Right near you, in Ponte Alto, in Lochmere,
and in Highland Foorde, are some very talented musicians.  (They
aren't me, though :^)

3) What you see as lack, I see as Interkingdom Anthropology:

One of the most interesting things to me, in my travels across several
kingdoms, is the cultural differences between them.  This is what I mean
by Interkingdom Anthropology.  Things like bowing to furniture, and
sumptuary laws, and whether courts are prized because of their
standardization or their innovation, and whether they should be long or
short, pompous or creative.  Whether "squire" was a rank or a job,
whether Laurels, Pelicans, or squires can wear chains.  Whether a
peer would be properly labelled all, some, or almost none of the time,
either verbally or visually.  Whether "killing from behind" was OK,
and face thrusts, and polearm butt-spikes, and combat archery.

None of this is right, or wrong, in any particular kingdom.  It is
just different.

Ambrosius, many of the things you mention are just Interkingdom
Anthropology.  For example:

--"Pompous Courts".  The "best" Atlantian courts, in
the eyes of many people in this kingdom, are brief, creative, and
attention-grabbing.  Long, pompous courts are considered deathly

--"Kneeling in the presence of Their Majesties."  In Atlantia, this
always occurs when TRM are sitting in formal court (except when
necessary to make announcements heard, etc.).  At other times the
environment is less formal.  There is nothing wrong with this--it
is just different from what you are evidently used to.

--"Bowing whenever anyone with metal on his or her head passes by."
This is not the universal custom in Atlantia, although it is more
common in the south (near Meridies, which has that custom) than
in the north (near the East, which does not have that custom).
For my part, even if I wore a coronet (which I don't; it might
interfere with my many hats), I quickly tire of inspecting how
everyone's hair is parted.  I bow when being formal; I nod or smile
when being informal; that is one of the ways I use to define the
occasion as formal or not.

--"Anyone below a court baron is prohibited from wearing even an
ornamented circlet."  This is VERY strange to Atlantian-born people.
There are no sumptuary laws in Atlantia (beyond the standard SCA
ones--white belts, ducal coronets, etc).

--"Being introduced and addressed by my Societal and NOT my mundane
name when at an event."  Frankly, this is _your_ problem.  Educate
your friends.  Nobody _ever_ introduces me by my mundane name at
an event.  In fact, the reverse is true--some people with whom I
became friends through the SCA hardly know my mundane name.

If Atlantian Customs are not to your taste, that is too bad.  It
is hard to make the transition from one kingdom to another sometimes;
I've seen people who have had a lot of trouble (both moving from
Atlantia to other kingdoms and vice versa; and even moving from
one kingdom to another outside Atlantia).  This is one of the most
common situations that an immigrant must resolve.  I hope that you
can become comfortable here.

One thing you might do would be to attend that fair institution,
the University of Atlantia.  It is held at least twice a year, and
many of the sessions (at least 1/3 or 1/2) are not far from you,
in Virginia or in Maryland.  You could share your knowledge of
Latin, and meet many others with similar interests in early music--
there is often a whole track of music classes, jam sessions, and
I don't know what else (I'm usually elsewhere, although I like
the sound of their tootling :^).  I'm sure that the chancellor,
Mistress Deirdre O'Siodhachain (who reads this net) would welcome
an offer to teach a class in one of your specialities.


Dafydd ap Gwystl, generic peer
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