Gram-Letter1-art - 6/7/09
"A Pilgrim's Journey Planned" by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA. A series of articles on various crafts and medieval life written in first-person style. This is number 1 of 11 articles.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
"A Pilgrim's Journey Planned"
by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA
To my most wonderful grand-daughter,
Upon news that you wish to leave the warmth of home and hearth, and make forth plans to go upon a pilgrimage....I send you both love, and hopefully, helpful advice, and hope you shall share it with those companions of which you plan to travel, for surely you shall not make such a journey alone, and I would wish you all to be of prepared means as possible, so I may welcome your safe return to mine old arms, and fading eyes.
The right season for planning being is between the times of Fall harvest and that of Spring's plantings.....As that time quickly approaches, even now as I put mine quill to fine parchments, it brings me of a mind to write this instruction for yourself and those others who would wish to go upon a Pilgrimage in the new year.
Though I may be long of wind on this discourse, that should be expected, for it is mine nature to be thus, and I cannot, at this late time in my years, change a lifetime of careful habits, as they serve me well, when it comes to the teaching of that which was not known before to the gentle folk who come to me for instruction, I wish to leave no stone unturned, nor avenue un-explored, for thus should be the way of all who would share their knowledge, so please bear with me as I ramble, and perhaps you will understand, and indulge an old woman, who loves you, and would see you well prepared, for only by the grace of our Lord, shall I still be here, to welcome you home from your adventures.
For the pilgrim to set out upon a journey, he, or she, for surely are women oft upon the pilgrimage path as well as men...must be well prepared in the effort, for the success of such an endevour depends much upon what planning shall preceed it....having made many such quests, in my youth, and even more recently in my advancing age of wisdom, I speak thus as one who knows only too well, the pitfalls of poor planning.
You must needs to remember that to travel light, is essential to the well-being of thy feet, for surely they will suffer more than any other part, and all unnecessary burdens should be thus avoided....how-ever, as I speak, I must add that one cannot leave with-out some belongings, and these I will tell thee of in the proper time of each.
That you may make a joyful journey, there must be thought put to thy clothing, most firstly of all.
You will most certainly need the protection of a cloak of wool. For the dampness of nights, it shall be thy only blanket, with-in the days of dreary rain, when no other protection is afforded your comfort, it shall shed the worst of the rain, and maintain with-in some measure of warmth, such as it shall be under circumstances which may be most discouraging.
You will need a hat, of wool, with a wide brim, for the shedding of rain to thy cloak, and the avoidance of it down thy neck, where it would both soak garments beneath, and would most surely result in a chill for which no relief could thus be found, unless you were fortunate to fall upon the kindness of a cottage of good and pious folk along thy way, who would welcome you to come into the dry warmth of their hearth...Even-so, such can only be prayed for, upon the occassion, even God does not guarantee that your feet will have led you to such a folk, at just the right time of need.....and so you should have a sturdy hat, upon your head.
Upon this hat, you will surely wish to attache tokens of your journey, with which to identify either your destination, or most especially the proof of having completed your pilgrimage, to reveal to all upon your journey home. This is most usually done by turning up the front brim of your hat, and attaching them there, above thy face, for all to see and know......when first setting out, you will generally prefer to have a symbol there of the crossed staffs of the pilgrim, which is known far and wide, and even the children, and those who have no learning, nor will ever be to look upon the scriptures and understand the glory of their teachings, with their own eyes and minds in comprehension, even they will know you for one upon a sacred journey of the soul. Thus will you be a source of awe and inspiration to those who can most likely never make such a journey, for mayhaps their heart is most willing, but it is pledged, with their body, to serve an earthly lord, who would not allow such a loss of labor from his fields, even though to be granted such a boone from him, would surely find him favor in God's eyes, so sadly is it that he would have more care for his purse, than his soul, for such is the nature of such men, so count your self most fortunate, to have the freedom to plan such a journey, God willing, it shall be a safe and most fulfilling one.
Now thee will also have need of a sturdy staff. If one is of a means to purchase one, then the best by far, is most straight of length, and has upon one end, a spike, with which to make solid purchase of ground both slick with mud, or agleem and bone-breaking of ice, on which to fall, and thus end such a noble quest, far before it's completion. The other end will have a knob, or two, spaced of about one foot, apart, of an apple's size of knob(s) of common lead, or, of fine brass. The one will be upon the head of the staff, and the other at the lower position, of a good height to grasp, while walking, and, perhaps or, to tie above it the cords of a water gourd, the hows of this I will cover in a later missive.
If you have not the means for such a fyne staff, then a staff you will still surely need, for there is other need of it then as an ornament....
While the weather still permits, and the sap flows well betwixt wood and bark, go out into the forest, and choose a most straight and sturdy sapling of oak, of a thickness at the base to equal the breadth of three fingers...cut it with an ax, close to the ground, in order to preserve the thickness of what shall be it's top, and heavier end. Cut the rest of the length, longer in length, than you wish it to be, for when it is ready, it will come to shoulder, or head hight, or more, depending upon your personal preference. Having chosen carefully, your staff shall have no side branching, as if you find it well within the shade of the forest, it will have spent it's energies trying to grow tall and straight, reaching heaven-ward for God's blessed light and warmth, as do all growing things, of who's nature it is to seek out the light that belongs to God.
With a knife, of small size, such as most ladies are want to use, begin, at the large end, to peel back toward you, the bark of the oak, worry not if you fail to grasp all of the inner bark, at first pass, it shall stay moist enough to remove the rest after thee has finished with the outter, which, in truth, takes but minutes to do, if done in the heat of Summer, when the sap runs wet between the two, making the bark come away, like water from a mound of fresh butter, it almost leaps away from it's mooring at barely a touch of the knife.
When this is done, let thy new staff wait awhile, til the inner bark that was missed, reveals itself more clearly, as a dark golden skin, still clinging to the staff like water weeds to the child gone awadeing in the mill-pond. Thus seen more clearly, it is easily removed with the barest scraping of the knife blade. If you have it to spare, and mayhaps, even if you don't, for it won't take much, run both ends well, through the melted wax at the heart of a candle flame's base, to seal the wood ends, and keep them from drying too rapidly, and thus splitting. Then store your new staff, in a cool darkened place, well back from the drying warmth of the hearth, but not out in the weather, for tis not good that it be often dry and wet in a season, but rather that it be protected from such, and allowed to dry slowly, with-in.
While you may well wonder why a good staff is of such importance, let me tell you, that to journey without one is a fool's journey, and though God is said to protect fools and small children, just look about you, and see that while He may protect them sometimes, eventually he seems to bring them Home where they may be eternally safe from all that, and who, would do them more harm......tis soon enough that we must return to our Heavenly father, let us not hasten that voyage, before our ship is destined to leave in it's proper time. The reason you must have needs of a sturdy staff, are for safety in many ways. It helps to support you, when your feet grow heavy and drag slowly, because your legs could not imagine that such a thing as walking, which one has done day in, and day out, all one's life, with little notice, has suddenly become a job over-whelming. Your staff becomes an extra leg, to help pull you along, that never grows weary, as long as you have strength to stand, and lean upon it. It helps you to climb the long hill, to steady your descent down the steep mountain, to vault the narrow path of flowing water, or mud-puddle upon the highway, or keep your footing, on the fording of shallow river crossings.
It is your only protection from all that would try to end your journey; be it by malice, or the torment of wild dogs or those who seek to protect those who feed them. It is all that may stand betixt yourself, and the hunger of wolves, seeking easy prey.
Do not set your foot upon the pilgrim's path, without the best of staves, for to do so would be but to invite the Dark one's attention, and have him end your journey, by cruel means. And this, my dear grand-daughter, would most likely break the heart of me, who even now, worries for your safety, even while my heart sings with joy for that which you plan to move toward in the coming future......
But for now, I have written long into the night, and my eyes grow prickled from strain and the low-burning candle, so I will end this missive, and send it on it's way on the marrow, so you will know your lovely face is in my thoughts, and I will write more to you, of this subject, in the coming weeks, so that by the time you leave, it will be with all the safety my words and prayers may arm you with...for now, God be with you, as He's always been with me.
Copyright 2000 by R.D. Wertz, 858 Agan Rd., Bremen, Ga. 30110. <windsingersmoon at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.