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Households and Oaths

Poster: Corun MacAnndra <corun@access.digex.net>

Tehair wrote and forwarded:
>This came from the East Kingdom and I thought it might be useful in
>general for newcomers who have in the past asked about "households."
>Sue Metzler/Tehair MacDiarmada
>Dep. Kingdom Chatelaine

In general this small tidbit is not bad, though I will take issue with one
point below that I consider fairly significant.

>Forwarded message:
>Date:     Mon Mar 31, 1997 12:32 pm EST
>From:     sca east
>Subject:  [EK] re: On Joining a Household
>-Poster: Barbara Collins <collinb1@labs.wyeth.com>
>One thing he missed (I think): beware of households that want you to join
>immediately, and swear an oath of fealty to the leader. Oaths of fealty
>are all very well, but being locked into a group you may want out of in
>two years is really annoying. I happen to know of such incidents, and
>they caused the people in them a lot of anguish deciding _how_ to break
>their word. 

There is a very basic misconception in the SCA about fealty. I know because
I was under this misconception for quite some time until my good friend,
Count Dafydd ap Gwystal (pay attention Dafydd, I'm about to take you name in
vain ;-) cleared things up for me.

I will not attempt to quote His Excellency (is that a heavy sigh I hear from
Gwystalland?), but put simply, an oath of fealty is nothing more than a
promise do to good works (I said I was going going to put it simply).

In the case of the Territorial Baron, it means that I must be willing to
swear to both The Barony and the Kingdom, both in the guise of Their
Majesties, to uphold the laws of both, and to never deliberatley bring harm
to either. I must also be willing to defend and protect the people of the
Barony and the Kingdom itself (usually in the guise of bringing armed
soldiery into the Kingdom's armies) and to act as the Word and Law of the
King and Queen when They are not present, as well as to act as the voice of
the people of the Barony to Their Majesties. These oaths vary from person to
person and Kingdom to Kingdom, but in the main they are nothing more (and
this is not to belittle these oaths any) than the aforementioned promise to
do good works.

Now an oath of loyalty is something else entirely, and this is where the
misconeption comes in, for may people believe that this is what fealty is.
One takes an oath of loyalty when one joins the armed forces of the United
States. I am not a hundred percent sure, but I believe that Federal law
enforcement officers take a similar oath. One can also take an oath of
loyalty to a person (one's knight for example), and in the context of the
SCA this is often called fealty.

No mere household (yes, I said mere) in the SCA, should ever ask its members
to take such an oath. Newcomers should be made aware of this and learn the
difference between loyalty and fealty. In fact, in my personal opinion, one
should be wary of giving an oath of loyalty to a person, no matter how much
one is enamoured of that person. I personally have yet to find any one
person for whom I would swear to lay down my life, though I think it is the
duty of all people to come to the aid of others in trouble or danger, even
if it means risking one's life, but this is an extremely different thing.
Duty, honour and obligation (or, as the Japanese say, giri), are things that
belong to the individual and are for those individuals to maintain for
themselves. Loyalty is something one gives, and it should be given with
great care and forethought.

It has been said before, but I think never enough for we often forget it,
the SCA is a game (a dream to some, to others a nightmare <g>). It should be
treated as such, though what we do in this game should be done with the
seriousness one gives to any hobby they want to do well. It should not come
to rule or govern your life. Remember, you can always quit when you want to,
and no one should be able to hold you back from that because of a

>Households come in all shapes and sizes, but the common point seems to
>be that they're very nearly family. Sometimes I have to admit that they're
>nicer than family!

This last bit is often true. I've heard some households describe as the
family you'd choose if you could. One should be very sure that one is
willing to call all the members of that household family. Family often puts
constraints on us that our friends don't or aren't able to.

Well, I hope this helps, and that it hasn't spawned too much furor, though
I'm sure that some out here will disagree with me on points. Some may see
these comments as splitting hairs, but though the distinction is fine, it's
still there.

Oh, and before I forget, and just because I know someone else will, from the
Pocket Oxford dictionary, 7th edition, 1984 printing that I keep next to the

Fealty, n. duty of feudal vassal or tenant to his lord.

Loyal, a. faithful (to), steadfast in allegiance. Loyalty, n. (legal).
[my note: this dictionary does not conatain a separate entry for loyalty,
but has it added on as I have written it]

I'm sure that others can go to bigger dictionaries (I have another upstairs
that's five inches thick, but I'm not lugging it down here just for this
<g>) or other sources that have similar but slightly more verbose
definitions, but for me, these suffice.

In service,
Corun MacAnndra
Baron Storvik
in fealty to the Barony of Storvik and the Kingdom of Atlantia
member of the housholds of the Dark Horde Moritu and Clan Cambion (no relation)

     Corun MacAnndra   |   Dark Horde by birth   |   Moritu by choice
Though we are not now that strength, which in old days moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time
and fates, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

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