Social Theory of Households (long)
Jeanne C. Stapleton
jstaplet at adm.law.du.edu
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
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
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...
> Centurion Talen Gustaf von Marienburg
> Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war!
> talen at microtutors.com
Countess Berengaria de Montfort de Carcassonne, OP
Barony of Caerthe
Kingdom of the Outlands
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