[Bards] Wordfame, and Some Thoughts on the College

Kathy Elliott bardkat at verizon.net
Thu Nov 2 10:02:18 PST 2006

Rodger of York and I knew each other from high school.  We met again a few
years later at a Loch Soilleir fighter practice.  We both fell in love with
the SCA, and wanted to go to an event.  Quest for the Clover was coming up
in three weeks, so we made plans to carpool.  We got *very* lost, and what
should have been a one and a half hour trip lasted over six hours.  All
those FM roads and cow pastures sure do start to look alike in the dark!

We arrived well after 2:00 am.  We were tired, lost, didn't know anyone else
at the event, couldn't figure out the site map indicating where we were
supposed to set up camp, and between the two of us we only had one beat up
tent that neither of us knew how to put up.  (I think it was his mother's.)

We inadvertently set up the (very ugly) tent in what I think was going to be
the gathering area of a household's campsite.  (We saw an open space, and I
took it.)

The next morning, no one from the household said one word about our tent.
Rather, they welcomed us and invited us to share their pavilion by the list

The head of the household was a great fighter, and that day he was
victorious in both the rapier and chivalric lists.

That evening, at my first bardic circle, I performed "Today."  (I thought it
would be appropriate - I mean - it's an old song, right?)  Then Duchess
Sieglinde gave me a string of beads as largess, and she performed "Come
Share the Dream."  I was completely blown away.  I remember thinking, "Wow!
I want to do THAT!"  I also started thinking that maybe the song I did
really wasn't appropriate, and how *could* I ever do "that?"

I was not asked to perform again that night, and I didn't volunteer.  To
tell you the truth, I was a little embarrassed.

The circle went on for awhile longer.  I sat in the back.  A bit later, the
head of the household whose camp I'd crashed - the winner of both lists that
day, approached me.  I was amazed.  He'd been called into court three times
- he must be very important!  He wanted to know why I wasn't performing
anymore, and I told him because I didn't know anything appropriate.  So he
taught me.  We did some simple sing-alongs that night!

I started attending the weekly fighter practice held at his home.  Every
week, after practice, we would sit in the living room and sing.  He and his
lady-wife gave me the use of books, cassette tapes, and a network of people
who love music.  His wife was the researcher - she enjoyed period Scottish
ballads.  He also enjoyed period songs, he loved anything about Ansteorra,
and he even composed a few songs, but his true passion was for Irish songs.

At events, if there wasn't already a bardic circle, you could count on one
at their tent.  Their circles were warm, welcoming, and open to everyone -
newcomers, kings, and laurels all found a place there.

When I moved to Ravensfort about 6 months later, I stopped going to the
weekly fighter practices in Stargate on a regular basis.  But I always went
to the bardic circles in front of the tent!

Years later, even after that fighter became the king, he continued to host
some of the finest bardic circles I have ever attended.  And still, everyone
was welcome - from newcomers to royalty.  One of the best I remember was,
again outside his tent, at Pennsic.  Finnacan, I think you were there that

I later learned that there were at least four members of the College of
Bards at the circle at my first event.  But none of them offered to teach,
or to help me become "one of them."  Instead, it was a fighter who first
took me under his wing.

That fighter, William "the Bear," was - and is - a supporter of the bardic

I know of at least 4 other people Bear took "under his wing" who did not
feel welcome in the bardic college - some of them had been flat out told
that their kind of performances were not welcome.  One of them was left in
tears by the criticism of a member of the college.  It doesn't matter which
members of the college were involved, and it is likely that these
individuals were really trying to help the new bards improve their
performance and simply lacked tact.  I'm sure these individuals were not
actually "officially" representing the college - but how would a newcomer
know any of that?  Would they have given the same criticism if the college
hadn't existed?  Probably.  But because they presented themselves as
"Members of the College of Bards," their words were given more weight by the

I was never a part of the original Bardic College.  I hadn't even heard of
it until I'd been playing for almost a year, and only then when I asked
Baroness Alix about all the hash marks on her sash.  I was never invited to
join, and I never felt like I was a part of it.  I don't think I was
excluded on purpose, it just never occurred to anyone to include me - or
maybe the members of the college in my area were simply overwhelmed with
their own commitments, and didn't have time.  When Simone revised the
charter, I must have been under a rock, because I don't recall hearing
anything about it then, either - and I certainly would have wanted to get
involved.  (It sounds like that happened in 1999, though, which is when I
got married.  My thoughts were elsewhere!)  When I was the Kingdom Bard,
there was no information passed on to me about the college or its history.
I don't know where it was lost, but it's not with the pass-down regalia.  (I
actually started asking a few questions then, but decided not to pursue this
particular can of worms just yet.  I'm glad it's been opened now.)

It seems to me that several factors contributed to the dormancy of the
Bardic College.  One of them - perhaps the most important to me - was that
some members of the college were not helping everyone feel welcome.  In
fact, some members of the college came across as snobbish or unapproachable.
I'm not saying they *were* snobbish or unapproachable, just that some gave
that impression from the outside.  If something is broken, you do need to
"fix it."  It seems to me that we as a community are now on that path.

We do need to know our history, which is why I have shared my personal story
about Bear, but let's not dwell on the mistakes and misunderstandings of the
past.  At some point we simply have to trust that all of us - bards, kings,
queens, peers, royalty and newcomers - all of us try to do the best we can
for our kingdom.  Our opinions of what's "best" may certainly vary, but no
one is out to deliberately sabotage the bardic community.

With all that said, know that I am in favor of a new college.  I agree that
an organized group can help us grow both individually and as a community.
But, as we grow, we need to ensure that we don't grow full of ourselves, and
that there is always a welcoming place in our circle for both newcomers and

I think we need to actively look for new performers and "fringe" bards and
invite them to join us.  It's very easy to get caught up in the "magic" that
happens with a good circle, and before you know it you've got an
unapproachable-looking group of bards that appears to be "hogging" the
limelight . I like the "play pass or pick" circles for that reason.

If you want a "show" instead of a "circle," that's fine, but let folks know
ahead of time.  In fact, it might be kind of fun to organize a "show" with a
couple of good performers for an hour or so before the "circle" to help draw
a crowd.  Hmmmm . I may have to play with that idea ...

I also prefer using either the term "college" or "guild," as they seem to
link us to the known world bardic community through the bardic colleges and
guilds of other kingdoms.  Just out of curiosity, does anyone have a copy of
another kingdom's bardic college/guild charter?  I'd like to know what has
worked (and what hasn't) for others.

My two pence worth,  (now you know why I'm not a storyteller!)

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.ansteorra.org/pipermail/bards-ansteorra.org/attachments/20061102/34399639/attachment.htm

More information about the Bards mailing list