Social Theory of Households (long)

Jeanne C. Stapleton jstaplet at
Fri Jan 17 09:55:50 PST 1997

> Countess Berengaria de Montfort de Carcassonne, OP, wrote:
> >
> > OKAY!  Another question:  define "Great Household".  I've heard
> > this elusive term for years; an unscrupulous viscount in Oertha
> > tried to tell us that this was a Board-recognized designation with
> > so many peers and so many officers (this was years ago) and of
> > course there's no such thing anywhere in the governing docs.
> > 
> I'd like to give my opinion, and expound further on households. 
> Here's my pfennig to the discussion:
> When I first joined the Society 14 years ago, I was told that a
> Great House was any house that had members in more than one kingdom.
>  Anyone could form a household, but it was recommended that there be
> at least three members, one of whom should have an AoA or better. 
> This was to ensure that at the household had at least a certain
> amount of experience in the Society.  No household had official
> status, and it was considered faux pas to use household titles in
> court, or to conduct household business at a populace meeting or
> court.
So this is one of those "customs".  Well, my household counts as a 
"Great Household" then.  At this rate, "Clan Mood Feather" will take 
its place in that august company as well.  :-)

> Somewhere this went by the wayside, what with ships' captains and
> their "crews" spending inordinate amounts of court time "gifting"
> the crown before all, hordesman coopting populace meetings to honor
> their "khan", and other similar occurrences.  Households used to be
> small groupings of like minded individuals who needed each other. 
> Occasionally they would grow, as a light attracts a moth.
As I stated earlier, households are a weird organism.  We can't bar 
them, because people are going to organize along lines of common 
interests and activities, and it is natural to develop a familial 
affinity for such persons.  I have this whole sociological theory 
developed about why the SCA is so successful with so many people who 
don't aspire to be part of the "ruling class" nor seek office nor 
rank; I believe that we've had the props of an extended family and 
village knocked out from under us in our modern, mobile society, and 
further have lost faith in our power to effect change in our society 
at large.  Therefore, we instinctively crave our "made" family in the 
SCA.  For some, even local groups get too large, impersonal or 
political; therefore they seek a "safer" environment in the form of a 
household, fighitng unit, clan or tribe.

> Newer members seem to think, however, that "powerful" households are
> directly equated to "large" households.  And thus we have young
> households whose primary outward activity is to snag more members,
> regardless of similarity or complementary interests and skills. 
> Seldom do they have a clue as to the history and social mores of
> this kingdom.  Often they sow discord.
This is truly unfortunate.  A wise household always embraces new 
members with a bit of a waiting period for all parties concerned to 
get to know one another.  A "numbers" game is a bad idea.  But I can 
see where people would join households early in areas where they are 
the name of the social game; it's hard to sit alone at a feast when 
all the households have coordinated table settings and are having a 
rollicking good time!

> Households have always been a political force.  Their mere existence
> is a political statement.  When you declare an affiliation, you open
> one door and close another.  This can be good.  Sometimes it is bad.

Sometimes it's forced upon you by external forces.  "If you're for 
them, you must be agin me."  And other such mature tripe.  :-)

>  I have seen many promising new members sucked into these types of
> houses, only to disappear when their "dream" turns sour.  One in
> particular stated that she told her husband after her first meeting
> "I'm home!".  Then a household with this predator problem snagged
> her up.  She became disillusioned and bitter as they used her as a
> pawn against others.  She was told the only way she could get
> anywhere was make costumes, for free, for others.  Mostly her house.
>  She was a professional seamstress and refused.  Eventually she
> stopped coming to meetings or other public gatherings.  Her husband,
> who joined at her desire and showed promise as a fighter and
> motivator, told me she thought it was no longer "fun".  What!  Have
> FUN with your HOBBY!!!?  I was not surprised.  I continue to keep in
> touch with both in the hopes they will try us again, as some have
> returned and stayed.  We shall see.
This is a truly *awful* story.

> This is but one example of many.  Households can be a good thing,
> but we must evaluate what purpose the house serves.  As a grouping
> of friends whose skills complement each other, they are a strong
> part of the fabric at the grassroots level.  As an entity to advance
> the agenda of a few against the will of the many they often go too
> far.
True on both counts.  I have heard of an idea that I'm told had its 
roots in a barony in Caid, and I'm not sure if this is urban legend 
or not:  the idea was a "baronial household", but the members were 
all the new people, and the ultimate idea was to "graduate" from the 
baronial household after 6 months-a year and form households or their 
own or join others.  It sounded like a useful way to learn new things 
and meet people, under the direct guidance of the B&B, and not commit 
to any one group too early.

Households are a marvellous tool for accomplishign the management of 
large events.  I like having a group of people I know I can count on 
to form the backbone of my "staff".  I like working with people whose 
work habits and foibles I know.  Case in point:  I love to cook feast 
with two other women from my household who live in Oertha.  However, 
we have this weird habit that has just evolved over the years that 
many do not understand:  when we enter the site kitchen at the start 
of the day to cook the feast, we have to have the "fight" to 
establish territory.  Wise members of our household kick everybody 
out of the kitchen and guard the doors for about half an hour until 
we're through; then everything's fine and runs smoothly for the rest 
of the day.  If that process is disrupted, nothing goes right.  One 
very nice, well-meaning lady once tried to arbitrate and was startled 
when we all three turned and snapped at here.  (NB:  we're all 
friends who have known each other for years; do not try this method 
with people you don't know well!)  My point is, I like being able to 
work with these people because I know what to expect, and I don't 
spend half the day making mistakes in my cooking wondering, "Now what 
did she mean by that?"  That's the beauty of a household.  They're 
there, and they'll understand.

I'm going on at length again; pardon.  However, one more pointlet:  I 
find that groups in the SCA tend to seriously overcorrect for 
perceived problems.  Having households is not the problem for a local 
group; finding mutually agreed upon projects and endeavors to turn 
all that lovely focused energy towards usually is.  It is not 
required that people sever all love and loyalty and allegiance to 
their household in order to become "just one of the officers" in the 
local group; human hearts and minds don't work that way.  The trick 
is in getting people to not look *only* or even *first* in all cases 
to their households when asked or required to obtain volunteers or 
people to help.

This case extends upwards to the local groups, in fact.  People have 
a *very* local focus about recommending someone when asked for a 
person to teach or help.  Example:  Shy Lady A comes to her group 
meeting and asks nervously about learning Italian dance, because 
she's really interested in learning it for her persona.  Instead of 
pointing out that two groups up the road is Loud Lord B, who's 
terribly knowledgeable about Italian dance, reads Italian, has 
primary sources, etc., the group will often point her to Lady C, in 
the local group, who "kind of" knows something about "traditional 
Irish" dances and can possibly help her out.  *This isn't what the 
lady asked for*, and the act may be to promote "group spirit" over 
the quest for true and accurate knowledge.

Oops...gotta run...professor alert...
> Talen
> ---------
> Centurion Talen Gustaf von Marienburg
> Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war!
> talen at
Countess Berengaria de Montfort de Carcassonne, OP
Barony of Caerthe
Kingdom of the Outlands

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