Chatelaine-art - 11/24/00
"Chatelaine/Hospitaller/Castellan" by THLady Rayne Moyra O’Ciaragain.
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
Class instructed by THLady Rayne Moyra O’Ciaragain
Meridies - Summer 1999
In different Kingdoms the name may be different. Some call them Chatelaines, others Hospitallers, and still for others they are the Castellans. Because my current Kingdom of residence is Meridies I will use the word common to this Southern Kingdom...Chatelaine. Let’s start with a definition of the word. The Known World Handbook says a Chatelaine is the Officer in charge of greeting and helping newcomers. Also loans costumes, feast gear, etc. as needed, and organizes accommodations for out-of-town guests. The badge that identifies them
is an ornate gold key upright on a green background.
In Meridies the Kingdom Chatelaine is one of the Lesser Kingdom Offices. The current Kingdom Chatelaine’s name, address, telephone number and e-mail address is listed in the Kingdom Newsletter ‘Popular Chivalry’.
Most Kingdoms have an award for outstanding service in offering assistance and aid to newcomers. In the Kingdom of Meridies ‘this award is called The Order of the Guiding Hand and members of the Order shall be entitled to place the initials C.G.H.M. after their names.’ It is given to ‘those persons who have served the Kingdom well and faithfully by giving encouragement and assistance to newcomers and any who have need.’
What a Chatelaine does varies from group to group. In most groups, the Chatelaine is responsible for providing an introduction to the Current Middle Ages to new or prospective members. They should be available to advise newcomers of the conventions of the Society, their Kingdom and group; and for encouraging participation in the group. The Chatelaine can provide access to educational information such as handouts, booklets and other materials. In all of these activities, the Chatelaine's main charge is to represent the SCA accurately and favorably, and to encourage all members to do likewise.
The Chatelaine is a very important office within a group. Without new members, the SCA would cease to grow. Without the influx of new energy and new ideas, the same people would keep doing the same things year after year until they’d burn out or drop out. Without positive public exposure, the Society would suffer from stereotyping, rumors and have a hard time interacting with others.
All Chatelaines should have the resource materials to do their job properly. Examples are a current copy of The Known World Handbook, the Organizational Handbook (a.k.a. Corpora), Kingdom Law, the Fighter’s Handbook, SCA publications "Welcome to the Current Middle Ages" and "Forward Into The Past: An Introductory guide to the SCA", local group flyers, etc.
In many groups, the Chatelaine or the Chatelaineís Deputy is also responsible for Demonstrations (or "demos" as they're commonly called) and for the Gold Key Office.
There should never be a conflict between the Chatelaine and the other group members at a Demo. The Chatelaine is the responsible officer. Not the Herald or the Fighter Marshall - even if there is fighting at the demo. Demos ARE NOT another word for ‘fighter practices’. Not all demos have fighting. While some demos can be mostly all fighting. All demos should have an opening (in which we explain in very simple terms what the SCA is), a middle (in which we do just what we were asked) and a conclusion (in which we thank the hosting organization for having us and answer any questions). If there is fighting, our safety and age requirements MUST be explained. Always caution children not to attempt to recreate what the fighters are doing at home.
The Office of Gold Key maintains a collection of clothing, accessories and feast gear that a group keeps on hand to loan to guests and new members. New members should be encouraged to make or acquire their own garb as soon as possible rather than borrowing from Gold Key indefinitely or for long periods of time. The Chatelaine or Gold Key officer is in charge of maintaining this collection; making sure it gets to and from events where it will be needed; and setting up a system for loan and retrieval of the articles. Neither the Chatelaine or the Gold Key officer is responsible for making or providing permanent garb for newcomers.
But let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of being a Chatelaine. In reality every member who has contact with a new person is a Chatelaine. But it is the Chatelaines responsibility to aid, encourage and assist newcomers. What this means is you answer questions, offer information, be friendly while using your common sense. A Chatelaine must always be above any group politics. Never spread rumors or gossip. Many a newcomer has bolted for the door after being inundated with negative gossip and backbiting. If your group is experiencing some internal difficulties, keep it to yourself. The old adage ‘If you can’t say something nice....’ really applies here. It is never a wise thing to try to enforce a positive through negative wording. An example of this is: ‘I am sure that you have heard such and such terrible thing about us, but it isn’t true.’ or ‘Have you heard that this or that goes on at events? Well, sometimes, but not really.’ If your listener has never heard the negative information, why put such thoughts into their head? If they ask, be honest...always, but be positive about the SCA.
When speaking with newcomers avoid speaking Scadian (notice how that sounds just like a ‘real language’), Old English or in the local slang. Remind yourself that just because you understand what you are saying does not mean that your listener does. Look at this sentence ‘In a fortnight, we are going to get together at dinnertime over at the Seneschal’s house. The Marshall will do a class on spinning mail while we illuminate scrolls and write sagas about the mundanes we encountered at our last event.’ Do you understand every word? Let me rephrase it for you: ‘In two weeks, on Tuesday - the 15th of August, at 12:00 noon, the group plans on going over to Lord Bryan’s House (that’s Steve Brown - the group president). Jody Perkins, who’s club name is The Honorable Lady Kasandra, is the group’s Fighter Marshal. She supervises the combat for
the group. At the meeting she is going to teach how to make the little rings that you put together to make chain mail. While she teaches, the rest of us will be painting award certificates and writing stories about the last SCA get-together we all went to. We would love for you to come. Would you like the directions?’ Well, did you understand it correctly???
Always be sure to formally invite the newcomer to all group activities. Do not assume because you told a new person that the group is going over to Lord Ericís home to sew garb, they will know that they are invited. Furnish clear dates, times and directions.
Be respectful of the natural curiosity of new members and visitors. Remember ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question.’ Always try to answer their questions honestly and concisely. If you do not know the answer to their questions DO NOT guess or make something up. It is much better to admit that you do not know it all, but you can put them in contact with someone that can help them. Chatelaines are not expected to know everything about everything. They are a resource for information, not the keeper of all knowledge.
After meeting the newcomer take them around and introduce them to other SCAdians. There is no reason to feel possessive or overly protective of them. Both the Chatelaine and SCA members need be reminded that too much information can be just as bad as too little. Be careful not to overwhelm newcomers or physically crowd them. Many SCA members are very friendly; physically hugging everybody. It is better to let the newcomers get to know you before assuming they like such physical contact. Sometimes in our enthusiasm we can get carried away when we meet a new person. We try too hard to show them how friendly and interesting the SCA is, but if we are not careful we can both physically and mentally overload a person.
Never make promises of time or help that you are not able to fulfill. Be honest with yourself and your limitations as well as with the newcomer.
One of the best things that a Chatelaine can do is to be courteous and chivalrous at all times. To set a good example whenever possible. In many cases the Chatelaine is the first real contact a new person has with the SCA. Without realizing it you are representing the entire Society to that newcomer.
Some Chatelaines have to be reminded to ‘play the game and have fun’. So here is your reminder:
‘Play the game and above all - HAVE FUN’
Copyright 1999 by Raine Philips, <SirCaedmon at centurytel.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and 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.