[Ansteorra-rapier] White Scarf Anniversary

Chris Zakes dontivar at gmail.com
Sat Mar 10 03:04:57 PST 2012

Fair Greetings,

A third of a century ago, on a cold, wet Saturday night, history was 
made. During court at an event called the Tournament of Chivalry, Her 
Highness Tessa of the Gardens announced that she and Prince Simonn of 
Amber Isle were creating an award to recognize prominent rapier 
fighters in the Principality of Ansteorra. That was the beginning of 
the Order of the White Scarf, and to the best of my knowledge, it was 
the first official recognition of any sort for rapier fighters in the SCA.

At that time, there were maybe thirty or forty rapier fighters in 
Ansteorra, and a few handfuls scattered about the rest of the Known 
World. Benign neglect was about the best we could hope for from most 
of the powers-that-be and outright hostility was a pretty common 
reaction to the presence of rapier fighters.

We've grown a bit since then, but now the White Scarf is facing a new 
challenge. The SCA Board of Directors has announced that they are 
forming a committee "focused on developing a set of options for 
potential implementation of a new peerage for Rapier Combat and/or 
Cut and Thrust Combat."

For many folks, their initial reaction might be "Hooray! It's about 
time!" But think about this a little more. Throughout its history, 
the White Scarf has always meant "the best of the best" in rapier, 
and it has earned a level of respect similar to the peers in many 
places. But it's still a grant-level award, and is only used in 
twelve of the nineteen kingdoms of the SCA. If a rapier peerage is 
set up, then I see three possibilities.

1. The White Scarf maintains its current precedence as a grant-level 
award, but there's now a peerage-level award that outranks it. We'd 
no longer be the best of the best.

2. The White Scarf becomes the new peerage. But this idea has several 
problems built into it. Do all existing White Scarves automatically 
become peers? (Does that include the ones that haven't been active 
for many years? What about the ones who've died?) If not, who decides 
what constitutes "inactive" and which White Scarves get the new 
peerage and which don't?

What happens to the kingdoms that don't use the White Scarf? Do all 
the members of the Order of the Golden Rapier, Bronze Ring, Dragon's 
Steel, Meridien Order of the Blade and Queen's Rose automatically 
become peers too? If not, why not? In Ealdormere the Order of 
Thorbjorn's Hammer is given for all martial activities, not just 
rapier. Do we say that the rapier-Hammers get to be peers but not 
those for armored combat or archery?

There's also this: SCA heraldic rules won't allow a grant-level award 
and a peerage to use the same name and insignia, so if the new 
peerage is called the White Scarf, then the existing Orders would 
have to be shut down, and anybody who doesn't get made a peer would 
not be allowed to wear their Scarf any more.

And, of course, if the White Scarf goes from being the top-level 
rapier award to being the top-level rapier award, what have really 
been gained? Does having a peerage automatically make you a better 
fighter, a better teacher or a more polished courtier than if you 
just have a grant?

3. The Order of the White Scarf is closed and replaced with a new 
peerage and a different intermediate award. If that happens, then 
inevitably the White Scarf and much of what it means to the SCA would 
fade into the mists of time. Is that a desirable outcome?

So take a moment to reflect on where you were and what you were doing 
on March 10 AS XIII, and to raise a glass to the folks who started 
the Order of the White Scarf.

But while you're doing that, give some thought to where we are going, too.

Happy White Scarf Day, everybody!

             -Tivar Moondragon

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