courtesy-msg - 2/24/08
Courtesy guidelines in the SCA and period. Hand-kissing and bowing.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: adn at mayo.EDU (Ann Nielsen)
Organization: The Internet
Greetings unto those who peruse these missives on the Rialto from Lady Therica!
I personally feel this is one of the things that makes the SCA delightful. It's
a way of showing interest, respect, and honor, all rolled into one. Of course,
there are those who will use the art for their own means, but those are the
type of people who will use *anything* for their own means. (Haven't you ever
been 'unvoluntarily' hugged by someone whom you KNOW isn't hugging you just
'cause he/she "likes" you?? Yeech. And it's worse when they try to kiss you.
Yeech yeech yeech. There are a couple of people who try to take these liberties
with me, and I've been doing the Bible thing --- turning the other cheek ----
and it's certainly been taking them by surprise. Or, I offer them my hand.
Truly confuses them. >:-) (evil grin)) I would much rather have someone kiss
my hand than intrude upon my personal space (ie., hug, kiss, etc) without my
permission. And a REALLY good hand-kisser --- well, it's not hard to recognize
when it happens, since I turn into Therica-the-Puddle (melt, melt). Alas,
REALLY good hand-kissers are far and between (although there's a fair amount
of pretty good ones). One of these days I've been thinking of teaching a
hand-kissing class. After all, who better to teach it than the recipient???
Re: Proper form for writing Scadians
29 Jan 92
From: bmorris at access.digex.com (Beth Morris)
Organization: Express Access Public Access Unix, Greenbelt, MD
In article <moonman.696561731 at camelot> moonman at camelot.bradley.edu (Craig Levin
Pedro Alcazar) writes:
>...How does one address a letter
>to a fellow gentle, and what manner of address and form should one use
>within the letter if it is an inquiry? Or an informal letter? Or a
>request for purchasing? Etc.
> It seems that we must try to emulate our noble predecessors,
>who were always writing letters, but, alas, the forms for
>correspondence are poorly taught in this day and age.
Good my lord, I greet you well.
Item, as regards the letter-writing habits of our esteemed forebears, I
recommend to you the collected Paston Letters, Lisle Letters, Letters of
Marsilio Ficino, The Plumpton Correspondence and similar manuscripts.
After reading through these letters, you will doubtless feel more comfortable
with the forms and addresses of the folk of the time. And there are
within the Paston Letters alone, letters that can serve as models for
event reservation letters, award recommendations, letters of inquiry,
orders for items, chatty family letters and most of the other forms
that are of use to us in the Society.
I also commend to your attention an article by Elizabeth Bennett/Mistress
Alys Gardener, which appeared in the Pikestaff A&S issue a year or two ago
(but which the esteemed Lady Ellisif might have copies of), on writing letters
in persona. Certain items must be stressed:
If it is a business letter of the SCA,Inc., it should be written as a business
letter - typed if possible, and observing the modern forms.
If you are trying to transact vaguely period business (eg making an event
reservation), include the pertinent information again on the back -
legal and Society names, amount enclosed, on- or off-board, etc.
As regards the patterns of speech, and this would likewise answer the gracious
Sybilles question about *forsooth* speech, I can only recommend steeping your-
self in the speech (or in this case, letters) of the times. I usually reread
a bit of the Pastons before trying to write one.
Written the Wednesday next after the feast of St. Agnes, at Lochmere in
Atlantia by your faithful
(If anyone would like a sample of a letter written in this style, you have
but to send to me at bmorris at digex.com, and I will gladly provide.)
From: Joe.Bethancourt at f148.n114.z1.tvbbs.UUCP (Joe Bethancourt)
Subject: Hand Kissing
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 10:28:02 -0700
IOSEPH OF LOCKSLEY'S HANDY GUIDE TO CAVALIER HAND-KISSING
-Ioseph of Locksley
(c) copyright 1993 W.J. Bethancourt III
Hand-kissing is a wonderful means of greeting a lady. It is very
common, and unfortunately very commonly abused, in the SCA. Hopefully, this
short article will help us do it right.
First of all, one kisses the hand in only two social situations:
1) If you already know the lady, and she offers her hand, or
2) If you are being introduced to her, and she offers her hand.
DO NOT run around grabbing any lady's hand, and kissing it, at
random. They might just eviscerate you on the spot, and any person witnessing
said evisceration will only point and laugh at your social faux pas. Or help
out by handing the lady a dull knife or two......if she offers her hand to
be kissed, kiss it. If not, DON'T!
(You can "cue" her to offer her hand by extending yours. Be prepared,
however, to convert the extension into a flourish of your reverance to avoid
the embarrassment of standing there with your hand out looking like a beggar
asking for alms......)
There are several degrees of hand-kissing:
1) With -dry lips-, bend over the hand in a courtly manner, and
make the motions of a kiss over the back of the hand. Do NOT touch
the hand with your lips. This is correct when first introduced,
and is always correct in any situation.
2) With -dry lips-, bow as above, and kiss the back of the hand,
GENTLY. This is correct if you know the lady already. It is
NOT correct if you have not been introduced previously.
a) You can express "I am overwhelmed by your beauty" by not simply
bowing, but by -kneeling- before you kiss her hand. This gives
a good opportunity to look longingly into her eyes. Make sure
her arm will reach you as you kneel....if you yank her over on
top of you, you will need to move to another planet and change
your name. Remember the axiom: "The Society -never- forgets!"
Or, if you are lucky, accept your evisceration stoically.
The above forms are the generally accepted means of hand-kissing.
What follows are more -intimate- kisses that should NOT be done simply
whenever you want to, but ONLY to those ladies that would enjoy it........and
be ready to apoligize PROFUSELY if they take offense! If you are unsure AT
ALL of the lady's reaction, DON'T DO IT. You don't know her well enough to do
it if you can't be -absolutely sure- of her response. (Don't let your own ego
get in the way of your analysis of her possible reactions...!!) And, needless
to say, (but it -must- be said) these last three are extremely -off limits-
to ladies under legal age!
3) Bend over the hand, gently turn it over, and, with -dry lips-,
kiss the -palm-. This implies extreme admiration for her beauty,
and adoration-at-a-distance. Close the lady's hand on the kiss,
afterwards, and murmur something nice, like "I pray you, keep this
as a memory of me..."
4) Bend over the hand, gently turn it over, and with as dry a tongue
as you can manage, lick it. This implies extreme admiration for
her beauty, and a wish for a more....ah....intimate aquaintance.
It takes a great deal of sprezzatura ("cavalier attitude") to
carry this off well. Don't try it unless you are confident of
your ability to deliver on the implied promise.....and you are
very confident the lady will not kill you on the spot. Don't try
it if you can't "play Cavalier" very well indeed, because you will
only come off as a lout otherwise.
The last form might be considered offensive by some. DO NOT try it
unless you are on very intimate terms (not necessarily sexual!) with the
lady. I have made Duchesses' knees buckle with this one:
5) Bend over the hand, just a little, so you can look into her eyes
(you will need to raise the hand a bit to do it), gently spread
the fingers apart, and, with a dry tongue, and using only the
tip, lick gently between two of the fingers, on the web. This is
an obvious promise....DON'T do it unless you are willing and able
to keep it.
Notice that I have always specified "dry." Wet, sloppy kisses are Not
The practice of sucking on fingers is gauche, and the business of
kissing the hand, and continuing the kisses up the arm is simply stupid, or
good as a comedic turn. Clicking the heels as one kisses her hand is out-of-
When saying farewell, one may kiss the hand -if it is offered-. If
the lady offers her cheek, kiss it as in (2) above, gently and with -dry-
Hand-kissing is an art form, and should be used along with courtly
bows, flourishes of one's hat, and all the rest of the "bells and whistles"
that go with courtly behaviour.
But......tread lightly! When you kiss a lady's hand, you go where
even angels fear to tread.
And: NEVER EVER force your attentions on the lady in ANY manner. Such
an action is the mark of an uncultured boor, and places you in the category
of "waste of food and air on an overcrowded tourney field."
Permission is granted for this article to be reprinted in SCA and SCA-related
publications. Send a copy of the publication to Joe Bethancourt, PO Box
35190, Phoenix, AZ 85069
From: polito at lhasa.berkeley.edu ()
Subject: Re: The Shaking of Hands
Date: 28 Jul 1993 15:47:22 GMT
Organization: U.C. Berkeley Math. Department.
Greetings! Patrick O'Reilly (teh at cis.ksu.edu) writes:
>In regards to the light kiss on the hand, when I was a fresh newbie,
>and was attempting to learn some of the practices for a late 16th
>century Irish-man, an individual taught me that when being introduced
>to a lady, (and if the lady offered her hand), one should bow somewhat,
>take the lady's hand, and make a kissing motion just short of actual contact
>with her hand.
>Like I stated, this is just my understanding and what I have been taught,
>whether these are actually the truth, or in period, I am not positive.
Well, it certainly would be period for a late-16th c. Italian. One of the
dance manuals, Caroso, has a section on etiquite which describes
hand-kissing, among other things. If I remember correctly (will someone
out there with the book check me on this?) the gentleman takes the ladies
hand, brings it to his llips, and then kisses his *own* hand where it is
holding hers. The same section have all sorts of interesting details on
period manners, all spelled out meticulously, with warnings about the
ridicule you will be exposed to if you do not follow this advice. It's a
lot of fun to read, in fact.
From: sherman at trln.lib.unc.edu (dennis r. sherman)
Subject: Re: Shaking hands
Date: 28 Jul 1993 20:00:52 GMT
Organization: Triangle Research Libraries Network
Greetings to the Rialto from Robyyan.
(Jenny Lynne Semenza) writes:
>>Italian. One of thedance manuals, Caroso, has a section on etiquite which
>>describeshand-kissing, among other things. If I remember correctly (will
> Does anyone have a citation for this book/manual? Domo Arigato in
26. Caroso, Fabritio. Nobilta` Di Dame. Translated by Julia Sutton.
Venice: Presso il Muschio, 1600; reprint, Oxford, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1986. ISBN: 0-19-311917-X.
Robyyan Torr d'Elandris Kapellenberg, Windmaster's Hill Atlantia
Dennis R. Sherman Triangle Research Libraries Network
dennis_sherman at unc.edu Univ. of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
From: justin at dsd.CAmb.INmet.COM (Mark Waks)
Subject: Hand-kissing; Pennsic shopping; High-level SCA Politics
Date: 30 Jul 1993 17:09:26 -0400
Organization: The Internet
Greetings unto the Rialto from Justin du Coeur,
>One of the
>dance manuals, Caroso, has a section on etiquite which describes
>hand-kissing, among other things. If I remember correctly (will someone
>out there with the book check me on this?) the gentleman takes the ladies
>hand, brings it to his llips, and then kisses his *own* hand where it is
Actually, it's even a shade stranger. From pg. 96 of the Sutton
Before you come to the point of taking [the hand of] your lady,
doff your bonnet with your right hand, and immediately switch it
to your left; then pretend to kiss your right hand (but without
bringing it into contact with your mouth), while she does the
So you actually each pretend to kiss your own hand; this image I get is
really quite a far cry from the modern hand-kiss, which I suspect might
well be Baroque...
> The same section have all sorts of interesting details on
>period manners, all spelled out meticulously, with warnings about the
>ridicule you will be exposed to if you do not follow this advice. It's a
>lot of fun to read, in fact.
Indeed; the advice ranges from sublime common sense to some really odd
period quirks. (And some of his analogies are really quite entertaining;
for example, he describes the straight-down reverence, which I assume to
be the demi-plie common to much of our dancing, as looking like the ladies
"truly resemble a hen about to lay an egg". Of course, that's better than
the places where he describes such movements as looking like you need to
It's one of the better period reads I know...
-- Justin du Coeur
From: cctimar at athena.cas.vanderbilt.edu (Charles the clerk)
Subject: Re: A couple of questions . . .
Summary: responding to hand-kissing
Organization: Tabard Inn Society/Citie of Eoforwick
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 1994 05:14:48 GMT
To all upon the Rialto doth Charles the clerk send his greetings!
Having returned from Pennsic and being in an irresponsible mood, I decided
to glance at the Rialto (after ignoring the previous twelve thousand
messages), and I found a question that I can address.
Liam O'Donnabhan writeth:
> 3. At Pennsic, my lady was entranced by the idea of having her hand
> kissed, but did not know how to respond, other than a "thank you my lord."
> One gentle suggested the accepted response is "nuzzling the neck" of the
> person giving the hand kiss. Comments?
Hand-kissing is used primarily to replace shaking hands with a lady.
Shaking hands simply feels too modern to us, whereas hand-kissing is a
more "romantic" custom from the past. Certainly, very few of the cultures
we purport to recreate had this custom, but most didn't shake hands,
either. Erasmus reports that the English custom, in 1500, was to kiss on
the lips as a greeting, but I suspect this would not go over well in the
SCA. Thus, hand-kissing is a sort of SCA compromise solution.
This preamble mostly serves to explain that there are few period
responses. As an inveterate hand-kisser myself, though, I can say that I
do appreciate a smile as an acknowledgement. It is also generally
possible for the lady to gently squeeze the man's fingers with her thumb.
It is not really appropriate to thank someone for a greeting, nor is a
more intimate response required.
There are apparently some boors who manage to kiss the ladies' hands in a
lascivious fashion. The appropriate response to this is a slap. The lady
should be able to decide what degree of intimacy she will permit.
Aside: it is possible to drop smoothly to one knee and kiss a lady's hand
without looking away from her face; this is difficult at times, especially
when meeting a lady in the swimming hole, but possible.
-- Charles, student, in Eoforwick, Septentria, Ealdormere
From: sward02 at mail.coin.missouri.EDU (Shannon R. Ward)
Subject: Re: hat ettiquette
Date: 24 Apr 1995 14:27:22 -0400
Organization: The Internet
Wolfgang von Hesse asked about hat ettiquette (sorry I can't quote directly).
From what I have found in various books of courtesy (dating from
1460-1619) the hat is remove when approaching Royalty or when Royalty
enter the room or when meeting someone of a higher social station, so it
was a sign of respect. If I were a man, I would take off my hat if
trying to impress a lady I was speaking to. Here are some period
examples of what the etiquette books say:
Urbanitatis (c. 1460 a.d., translation by Edith Rickert):
When you come before a lord, In hall, in bower, or at board,
You must doff or cap or hood, Ere before him you have stood.
Hold your cap, forbear to don,
Till you're told to put it on.
The Young Children's Book (c.1500, Translated by Edith Rickert)
.....When your better hands you a cup, take it with both hands
lest it fall, and drink yourself and set it by; and if he speaks to you,
doff your cap and bow your knee.
Seager's School of Virtue (c. 1619)
..Thy cappe fayre brusht, thy hed couer than,
Takynge it of, In speakynge to any man.
..In goynge by the way and passynge the strete,
Thy cappe put of, Salute those ye mete
Hope this helps (if you need references, holler)
Shire of Standing Stones, Kingdom of Calontir,sward02 at mail.coin.missouri.edu
From: corun at access1.digex.net (Corun MacAnndra)
Subject: Hand kissing and bowing
Date: 12 Dec 1995 16:19:50 -0500
Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA
Greetings good gentles,
I have been asked to go into more detail regrading a comment I made in the
sharking thread about hand kissing. First, let me say that Ioseph of Locksley
has a wonderful article about hand kissing in the SCA. If you haven't read
it, I recommend it highly. I don't have his ftp site address handy, but I'm
sure someone out there will post it.
Now then, on to what I have learned about hand kissing in general and with
respect to period. As a young actor in college, I had the opportunity to
take a class on Restoration theatre. Granted, this is outside our period,
however, I've found the lessons learned valuable and indisputable. That
what I am about to relate was the custom during this period of history makes
it even more appropriate for earlier periods, IMO, and certainly more than
appropriate for the SCA.
To continue, we were taught that hand kissing as we have seen it portrayed
in modern film (or at least films that had been done up to the early '70s),
is incorrect. Big shocker there given the amount of actual research filmakers
did. A Lady's hand was not actually kissed unless she was well known to you,
or a family member. One could, under the right circumstances, actually go so
far as to kiss her hand, but this would be only in the context of courting,
and was not done indiscriminatly with every woman one encountered. In formal
circumstances, one simply bowed over the lady's hand, or, in the case of
meeting someone of nobler station than yourself, the back of your own hand
was kissed, and this could also be done with a stranger of equal station.
Gentlemen, it is more gallant to bow deeply over a woman's hand than to
kiss it, and as Ioseph points out in his article, sloppy kisses are right
out. This, then, leads us to the proper way for a gentleman to bow. Often
I see some poor lad who is not familiar with the etiquette of bowing, and
nearly topple himself trying to be courteous. It's too bad that in modern
society this practice has fallen by the way.
In order to bow reverently and deeply and not lose your balance, your
composure and your credibility in one fell swoop, you should follow this
1. Gathering your balance and standing with your feet together
in a comfortable but stable manner (heels together, feet angled
at about 45 degrees), place the right foot behind you about
12 inches or so and somewhat out to the side. Be careful when
in a crowded room that you don't trip someone who may be
walking behind you.
2. Bending the right knee, keep the left foot, which is in front,
very straight. Do not bend both knees, and do not bend the knee
of the leg in front. (If you're left handed/footed, simply reverse
this entire procedure)
3. As you bend the back knee, also bend at the waist, bowing your
head in the process. If you have taken the lady's hand, bow over
it (see above re: kissing the hand). You may make eye contact if
you choose, though it is not necessary, and in some circumstances
(meeting someone above your station or anyone you wish to show deep
reverance for) it is proper not to.
If you have not taken the lady's hand, you may place your right hand (or left
if you're placing the left leg behind) over your abdomen and your left hand
out to one side, palm open. If you are wearing a hat, you may sweep it off
your head, making very sure not to show the inside of the hat to the person
you are bowing to, and place this in front of you as you bow. You may, as an
alternative, take the hat in your other hand and sweep it out to the side,
again remembering not to show the inside of the hat. I don't recall why it was
considered rude to show the inside of one's hat when bowing, but I do remember
being told this. You can place the hat in such a way so that it lies across
One can bow from the waist, and this is not incorrect, however I find that
the method described above will allow you to maintain your balance better
as well as looking spiffier. This is especially so for those of you who
are doing later period personas. It is also a the fashion among English
Country dancers where one bows to one's partner during the intro music, and
again at the end of the dance. It is also used for a reverance during a
dance, though if the dance is being played too fast, sometimes a simple bow
from the waist is adequate in order to keep time with the music.
I hope this has been of some benefit for the gentlemen out there. Rest assured,
the ladies will appreciate the gallantry of the gesture.
Corun MacAnndra |
Dark Horde by birth | Only 13 more chakra days until Krishna.
Moritu by choice |
From: Coblaith Mhuimhneach <Coblaith at sbcglobal.net>
Date: April 20, 2007 3:46:04 PM CDT
To: Barony of Bryn Gwlad <bryn-gwlad at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: [Bryn-gwlad] uses of "m'lord"/"m'lady" (was: Greetings Unto
Ilariia addressed a visitor to our lands using "m'lord" as a substitute
for his title. Daniel explained that that isn't how the term works,
and suggested something like, "good my lord" instead. Ilariia wrote:
> Thank you for the correction. I have been confused about when to use
> milord/milady and my lord/ my lady.
and Daniel replied:
> So far as I know "milord" = "my lord" = "m'lord" and "milady = my
> lady" = "m'lady".
> But "lord" =/= "milord".
Then Ilariia asked:
> But isn't my lord/lady the way you refer to someone who is titled but
> you don't know in what way and milord/lady the way to address anyone
> whom you don't know?
"M'lord" is an contraction of "my lord", as is "m'lady" of "my lady".
(The relationship is the same as that between "can't" and "can not".)
In the S.C.A., "m'lord" and "m'lady" are used as generic terms of
respect (because, so far as I can tell, everything and anything else
that anyone's been able to come up with that might be is already in use
as the specialized form of address for holders of some honor or other).
So, if you want to speak directly to someone with courtly grace and
don't know their title, you can use "m'lord" as you would use that
title if you knew it. For example:
New Friend: Greetings! How are you this fine day?
Ilariia: Greetings, m'lord. I am quite well. And yourself?
as opposed to:
Baron Muckety von Muck: Greetings! How are you this fine day?
Ilariia: Greetings, Your Grace. I am quite well. And yourself?
It has much in common, as Daniel said, with "sir" and "ma'am" as they
are used in the Old South. Where I grew up, conversations like this
Older Adult: Well, hey, there! How are you this fine mornin'?
Younger Adult: Well, sir, I'm doin' alright. How about you?
What Daniel was trying to explain is that "m'lord", while it can be
used en lieu of a title, is not itself a title, and doesn't combine
with names the way titles do. You might say, "Good morning, m'lord,"
to Lord Tobias, but you would not say, "Good morning, m'lord Tobias,"
just as you might say, "Good morning, ma'am," to an older woman named
"Sofie", but wouldn't say, "Good morning, ma'am Sofie."
Of course, where I grew up we had "mister" and "miss" to draw on, so we
could say, "Good morning, Miss Sofie." Unfortunately, the Society
hasn't come up with a good term of address that isn't rank-specific, so
you're left with the choice of using the gentle's name without one
(which could be considered presumptuous, if you don't know them),
taking a guess (which could be wrong), not using the gentle's name at
all, or being ungrammatical by using "m'lord" or "m'lady" with the
gentle's name. Different people make different choices in that regard.
It bothered me when we first entered the S.C.A. I'm a modern sort of
girl, generally, but the Society's take on respectful discourse is
close enough to what I grew up with to put me in an old-fashioned frame
of mind. I find myself as reluctant to call those with higher ranks by
their names alone (unless they've indicated that's their preference) as
I am to call those my grandmother's age by theirs when I'm visiting her
part of the country. Of course, bad grammar rubs me the wrong way,
too, so when I don't know people's ranks I usually try to avoid using
their names altogether. As Daniel indicated, "Welcome, my lord," works
just fine without one.
From: Coblaith Mhuimhneach <Coblaith at sbcglobal.net>
Date: April 22, 2007 3:08:32 AM CDT
To: Barony of Bryn Gwlad <bryn-gwlad at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: Re: [Bryn-gwlad] uses of "m'lord"/"m'lady"
> . . .you're left with the choice of using the gentle's name without
> one (which could be considered presumptuous, if you don't know them),
> I find myself as reluctant to call those with higher ranks by their
> names alone (unless they've indicated that's their preference) as I am
> to call those my grandmother's age by theirs when I'm visiting her
> part of the country.
> Perhaps my sample space has been atypical, but I've found that the
> higher the rank, the less they seem to care about being called by
> their titles.. . .
The presumption to which I referred was one of familiarity, not rank.
Where I grew up, a first name used alone is familiar. One prefaced by
"mister" or "miss" is polite. A surname prefaced by "mister" or "miz"
is formal. Addressing your peers familiarly, even if they're not
intimates of yours, is acceptable. So addressing an elder, an
employer, a member of clergy, or anyone else entitled to a measure of
deference is not. With my "back home" reflexes activated by the
S.C.A.'s rank system, it feels "off" to me to just call a Peer by his
first name. . .That's part of the reason you had to cringe and shudder
and say "please" a couple of times before I managed to stop calling you
"Master Daniel" (to your face--I still have to consciously edit myself
to manage it).