“Atenveldt At Thirty-Three” by Duke Arthur of Lockehaven, MSCA, OL, OP. While this was written for the Kingdom of Atenveldt, much of the history discussed and the questions is raises are common to all of the Known World.
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: http://www.florilegium.org
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
[This article was first published in “Southwind”, the kingdom newsletter for the Kingdom of Atenveldt. However, much of the history discussed and the questions it raises are common to all the kingdoms of the Known World – Stefan]
Atenveldt At Thirty-Three
by Arthur of Lockehaven
What? Atenveldt is thirty-three years old? How can this be? It just happened yesterday. Let me check on this. (Now where did I leave my reading glasses? Oh, here they are on top of my head.) Yep, I guess it's true. It’s been a third of a century since the Kingdom of Atenveldt was born!
That means that it has been more than thirty-five years since Richard Ironsteed came back from a science fiction convention in California, with a few copies of a new publication entitled Tournaments Illuminated. Richard and Michael of Moria planned to write a science fiction fanzine, but perusing these early TI’s Mike said, “Hey Rick, let’s do this instead.” The Kingdom of Atenveldt is now thirty-three years old, but that is when it all began.
Soon a handful of us started meeting at Rick’s house. We had the most basic questions like, “where do you get a costume?” and “what is rattan?“ I doubt that any of us ever imagined that people might be looking back, with interest, on these events, from so many years in the future. We were certainly not looking that far down the road. We had much more immediate concerns. We had to figure out how to make costumes, find out how to make a sword out of rattan, and be sure we had at least two swords left unbroken, so we could finish our tournaments! But somehow Atenveldt made it. We crawled from childhood, through adolescence, and now we find ourselves in adulthood.
There have been many changes since the early days when “two towels pinned together at the shoulders” passed as a beginners costume. We have advanced far beyond the freon can helmet, and mattress pad armor. But as comical as these old images may appear today, they do not embarrass me as they show just how far we have come. They also remind me that, contrary to the emotional pull of nostalgia, everything really is better now, than it was ever was in the past.
I am constantly amazed at the high level of artistic expression found in the kingdom, and throughout the SCA. I am impressed with the serious research we have spawned, on a great number of esoteric subjects, and on our ability to apply, and even innovate, new technologies to better explore our varied interests. I am amazed at our ability to successfully offer the size and type of events we do today.
Another development, which was not at all assured at the beginning, has been a clearer focus on “chivalry,” and what it can mean in a 21st century organization. This is a significant development as every group needs common values, for it to grow and survive times of stress. The SCA has evolved its own standard of chivalry; not one that is a relic of a past age, but one that is meaningful for those in the organization today. Even if this standard is not perfectly expressed, or accepted, the SCA remains one of the very few places, in the modern world, that I find people sincerely discussing chivalry, as a living concept.
Another significant effect the SCA has had is the role it played as a “default Alma Mater” for many of the historical re-enactment groups that flourish today. At one time, the SCA was the only game in town. Today, even among the most authentic of historical re-enactment groups, you will often find that they began with, and are often populated by, people who “started in the SCA.”
The SCA was not destined to become what it did. It could have followed a myriad of different paths and become something else. At first even the SCA wasn’t sure what it was going to be. Its founders, in the West, debated whether it was going to be primarily a science fiction/fantasy organization, or one more historical in nature. I think it moved more in the direction of history than fantasy, but not very far. The “creative” part of SCA has always been alive and well. We did not become an historical re-enactment organization, but we did put up a “big tent“ where people, with a great variety of interests, could find what they are looking for. We became a complex social organization, not as much based on history as upon a romantic ideal, of an historical time period.
We don’t select Kings as they did in the middle ages. We don’t fight like they did in the middle ages. We use golf carts, radio headsets, plastic armor, nylon tents and Coleman lanterns, but in terms of recreating a real living society, I think we have far exceeded anyone’s expectations. We formed a complex social organization that offers friendship, and a sense of belonging, for thousands of people. We developed an organization worthy of what we call it - “The Society.”
When I came across the Society for Creative Anachronism, I thought that the most significant word in its title (probably because it was the most obvious), was the word anachronism. “Hey, are you guys in a play?” was a common question when we walked into a store, on the way to or from an event. It seemed very important to others, and perhaps to ourselves, that we were different. We were out of place. We wore “garb,” we wore armor, we were an anachronism!
Later I came to believe that the word creative was most significant. We were not simply an anachronism, we were creative anachronists. We found our own way of doing things. We made up our own language (“troll”, “far speak” “Known World” etc.). We made up ceremonies, and rituals, that mattered to us. We found creative ways to live a life that we could not find in the “mundane” world. We were creative anachronists.
Today I realize that I was wrong in both of my previous assessments. Clearly, the most significant word in our title, is the very first word - society. We have created a “society”. We formed a group of people that voluntarily associate with each other, based upon common interests, and beliefs. We have developed traditions, institutions, activities, and a standard of conduct, that makes sense to us. This is the very definition of the word “society.” It is the most significant thing we did. We created a society.
Atenveldt started off so small that you could pretty much know everyone in it. This made for a fairly tight social group, and as with any extended family, emotions could be extreme from one moment to the next. Today the SCA is much larger and people can spread out more. They can choose which part of the group they wish to associate and identify with. Smaller groups, such as baronies and households, seem to offer a sense of family and belonging, much like the feeling the entire Kingdom had, in the early days. Today the SCA is even worldwide. You can travel throughout the Known World and experience the common (though like any living culture it offers different flavors and textures in different regions) culture and sense of belonging, wherever a branch of the SCA exists.
As the group got larger it matured in many ways. I remember discussing how difficult it was becoming, at a “war,” to wait in line for forty-five minutes, to use the park’s concrete bathrooms. I remember someone suggesting that “perhaps we might actually rent our own porto-jons” for SCA events! That seemed like a huge step at the time. (Remember, we used to collect the site fee, for a revel, by passing a helm around the room asking people to toss in money. After one trip around, if we didn’t have enough to pay for the hall, it went around again.) We are more organized today, and more official than we ever were at first. (We now rent a hundred porto-jons at a time!) But the most important part of the SCA has not changed. We are still a group with a common culture. We are a society.
I have never been more convinced than I am today, that the best time to be in Atenveldt is now, and the best thing to be is a beginner. It is appropriate that we acknowledge our founders - Ironsteed and Moria. We must also remember our dear friends who are no longer with us. (There are far too many on this sad, and growing list.) We can thank Ioseph for jump starting the arts in Atenveldt, and the fighters who went out there in mattress pad armor, because if someone had not done these things, for the first time, we could not be enjoying Atenveldt’s current high level of social, and material culture. We should also acknowledge the many generations of leaders that moved this Kingdom from such a tenuous past, to the size and strength we enjoy today. Most importantly, remember to thank yourselves, the current active members of our Society, for supporting the Kingdom and keeping it alive. More than any one, it is our current army of volunteers, who work endless hours for the group, that makes Atenveldt a success. My sincere thanks to each and every one of them.
But now, after briefly nodding in recognition of the past thirty-three years, I believe we should all immediately turn around and face the future. It’s been fun, but the future is where Atenveldt is headed, and that is what I am most interested in.
So, Atenveldt, what’s next?
Arthur of Lockehaven
Copyright 2004 by Mike Cady. e-mail: <mhcady at cox.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.