[Ansteorra] Vigils for White Scarves

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace sirlyonel at hotmail.com
Tue May 8 08:29:59 PDT 2007

Salut cozyns,

On the matter of vigils for White Scarves, Master Robin dit qe:

>It has happened, but extremely rarely.  Ansgar received his White Scarf at
>the same event that Cedric received his Laurel, and Cedric asked his friend
>Ansgar to "share" his vigil.
>The White Scarf is always in a politically sensitive position, because
>fencing is looked down on in many kingdoms, and still illegal in one.  We
>cannot act like we think we're peers, but our responsibilties to the 
>community parallel those of the Chivalry to the fighting community, the
>Laurels to the arts community, and the Pelicans to the service community.
>There are knights right next door in our neighbor Gleann Abhann who believe
>that we are acting like peers because we take students.  Others in other
>kingdoms think we're getting "above ourselves" because we hold meetings 
>the Crown.  But we are expected and required to do so.
>So we need to be especially careful not to look like we're claiming peerage
>privileges we can avoid.  Vigils are too close for comfort.

Perhaps this is true. I've been surprised by the level of venom toward the 
rapier community in the posts on this topic on the SCA Chivalry board. The 
folks in the West, An Tir, Caid, and Atenveldt don't seem to be too 
concerned about it.

The folks in the Middle and the East appear to be the most harshly negative. 
Several arguments have been leveled from those kingdoms by individuals 
concerned that rapier fighters are gradually attempting to coopt ceremonial 
aspects of the Chivalry. One of the sillier comments (I thought) came from a 
Midrealm Duke who said, "no doubt next time a Bronze Ring (our grant level 
fencing) is given someone will say "Hey lets have a vigil and while we are 
at it were is my patent of arms?"

>From an historic perspective--both Medieval and SCA histories--the whole 
vigil furor surprises me. Medievally speaking, the vigil as part of the 
knighting ceremony grew out of the establishment and proliferation of the 
orders of militant canons (Templars, Hospitallers, Teutonic, and so forth). 
A canon was expected to sit vigil before elevation to adept status just like 
any monk, nun, or priest would do, and that eventually became a requisite 
step in many knighting ceremonies (there were many variations). That 
incorporation did not, however, make vigils a perquisite of the Chivalry. 
Anyone could sit vigil, and many did for various life-changing events: 
journeymen testing for mastery, bridegrooms before their weddings, palmers 
before going on pilgrimage. Also, medieval vigils were a lot less social and 
celebratory than ours--typically a night spent alone in a chapel praying and 
contemplating the life change in question.

SCA-ically speaking, vigils have not always been the norm. When I was 
knighted in 1991, I had only seen one vigil (in the East Kingdom two years 
earlier). No one offered the option, and I didn't think to ask (of course, I 
was in a state of shock at the time). The next four knightings I saw in 
Atenveldt all included vigils. I did not see a vigil for a Laurel or Pelican 
until I came to Ansteorra. The Midrealmers say they began doing vigils at 
Pennsic 10 (26 years ago), and the East appears to have begun theirs at the 
same time. Across the various kingdoms, vigils have become the norm for the 
peerages over the past fifteen to twenty-six years. I've also heard that a 
few unbelted Crowns sat vigil on the eve of coronation. Ideologically, then, 
I can see why a vigil has become synonymous with "elevation to peerage," but 
I still don't see that it need be so.

En Lyonel
Impedimentum via est
(The obstacle is the path)

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