[NR] Having a little event with magic

willowjonbardc at juno.com willowjonbardc at juno.com
Fri Feb 22 17:23:00 PST 2013

I am sorry for double posting on the Northen and Anstoerra list, but some people wrote me and asked about what I talking about. Here is an article I put out many years ago that might explain what I mean. 
Making Magic for a Little Event<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
By Duchess Willow de Wisp, OP, OL, OR, Lion of Ansteorra
When we talk about having Magic at a little event people often get discouraged because it seem like to much of a job, but that is not true. Think of what makes magic at a big event. You might feel the Magic at the list field with the banners and Heralds and the excitement of the fighters fighting.  You might feel the magic at the Green dragon tavern at the War with the candlelight and the music. You might feel the magic at a fire with people telling stories of the war or their European homes.  You do not feel the magic at the whole event. It is a sort of fragment set and your mind latter puts it all together. You overlook the parking lot and the basketball backboard. What is true for a big event is true for a small event.
Look at the area where the event is happening. A good site should have several areas where people can mingle and flow space from one to another. Then look at which will serve what purpose. People mingle and talk about food. Where ever you put the food will end up as a bottleneck and because it is a place where everyone is mingling it will have the level of persona of the people at the table. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try for magic. 
Think about the dessert board at a medieval feast or those dessert areas at a banquet. They were a feast for the eyes. Candlelight is good and you should go to the trouble of a tablecloth and some kind of decoration. Please no paper. If you have paper or plastic or cans please put them on a separate table far enough away as to not be in the frame. You want the table to have brass, wood, ceramic or silver serving items. . While glass is period most people do not know that and if they do know they know modern glass doesn’t look right. Now if you have a “proper” glass piece please show it off.  This is the time to show off all your neat things you cannot bring to outdoors events. 
I know it is improper about showing off, but a proper table with period things that all go together shows a lot about your knowledge and taste and skill as an artist. If your table looks like a Norse table with things that go with the culture, or a Norman table or a Renaissance table you are teaching people about the culture without words or effort.  I can tell you now that as a Laurel I understand the research that goes into doing something like that right and I am personally more impressed by someone showing research at our events than all the papers in the world.  Also your art or others art has a greater impact in this kind of setting than sitting on a judging table. 
On the table go as far as you want, but it is not necessary to go overboard. This is a good thing to delegate. Put something proper on the wall behind the table. Just fabric is OK. People in the middle Ages did that. If the Event is in someone’s home their banners would be proper. Real Weapons are good. If you don’t have any ask someone. That quiet person who collects weapons is often pleased to show off his stuff and if you nice about really pleased to be asked. 
Try to have a show piece that people can see when they come in. Just like Lion’s tourney would have a medieval troll booth the first thing people interact with set the tone of the activity. 
This can be a fabric covered wall and period looking chair with a table and candle or a standing candle stick. There is a very good chance that someone in your group has these things. If not a fabric covered chair and a simple candle stick will do it.
The next two areas you should think about is your main gathering place and your sort of mundane area. In a little event both are important. You want people to pretend to be in a medieval land, but you also want them to mingle as people.  You will need a place that feels medieval and an area that is sort of EDW (Everyday world). You need them far enough apart so they are not infringing on the other. 
Your society area should have sitting places. The sitting should be in a circle. You want people to interact as a whole. Drape everything in fabric that looks EDW. I have often gone to the effort of putting things in the bedroom to clear out place.  This is almost “too far” but I like the results. Of course I am considered on the far end of the continuum which Duke Carodoc further out then me. Just do your best. The people who enjoy this kind of thing will used their imagination and those who won’t often do not notice.   
Walk into the room and think about what people will see. If you have a B&B they should be the center of this gathering, but if they are not try to put someone who can spin the dream about them. Give them someone to talk to and spaces for people to sit and interact. Period chairs are nice, but if you have person sitting on your chairs then they are covered up. Heads and bodies will cover a lot so look up and behind. Try to remove or cover up all the EDW. Fabric and banners and medieval stuff should be put up. (Note: When you put up Fabric you want it to start from the ceiling and fall to the floor or the end of sight. You do not want to put it up sideways, unless it is a tapestry like the Bayou Tapestry. That goes in a long strip around the room.  
So now when someone enters the room they see a medieval tabloid. This sets the mood.  As I have said the lighting should be low or candlelight. If you do have standing chandeliers put something under them they leak wax. Music is nice if people are not doing singing. 
Usually people do smoke or they just like being outside. If you can, please decorate. At least put covered seats out there and torch light. If the weather is nice put rugs out there. These rugs are for sitting so leave an area in the middle for entertainment, but if you plan on Middle Eastern Dance put a rug in the middle. You need enough light to see by. I like to circle my area if I have the torches. In the SCA we often use white Christmas lights like they do in modern Middle Eastern parties. This is a generic accepted practice so go for it. Lights =energy. People are attracted to lights in the night. Just as people can be lured from one spot to another at an outside event people can be encouraged to flow from one area to the next. 
Think of your other area as a conversation pit. People talk best when there are no more than 3 people in a line. Rearrange your furniture so people can sit face to face and in small groups. Low lighting or candle lighting is best along with low music background noise.  Talking to your friends is a period activity and when it is done in a period setting it feels right. This room should have low music. Another thing is nice is some smells. Not too much because some people just cannot handle incense or scentsy things.   
Time spread of your little event. One of the most common mistake people make is to spread the event out too long.  No one’s knows when to show up and often you do not get enough people at any one time. In the past I sponsored event that were two parts. We would have classes during the day and then stop and come back for a revel at night. I would start at dark then look for a noise increase about 9:00. I you say the event starts at 7:00 this is when the people get there.  Hopefully some of the planned persona activities start taking place then a climax about 11:30 and then people would start drifting off.  You don’t need to close down the party at this time so just let people stay and enjoy themselves. It is a treat from the modern world to be able just to hang around until you are ready to go. If you have rugs and pillows and coverings do not be surprise if you have people sleeping in your backyard. 
I found a little after sunset to be the best time to start a small event. When it is dark enough to light the candles. If you can handle it no electric lights, except for LEDs in the house and yard. Torches should be by the front door or leading people to the back yard. I would try to have performers for the first two hours. For a good bardic circle you need at least two good bards that can keep the thing going if the people in the circle do not have things to perform. Try to seed people before hand by asking them to come and perform that “so and so” piece. To keep the mood up you need to keep away from modern pieces or pieces that have very modern subjects in them. Tell people your vision for the event. You want people to feel the Magic and ask your performers to help with that vision. 
Talk to people in the area and describe your vision and ask them to help. Magic cannot be done alone it takes people working together to make it. Make sure to talk to your leadership and all the peers in your area and any nobles and all your more intense persona players. Adjust your plans to include their ideas. For this event to work it needs to belong to everyone not just you or your household.
I hope your little event with magic is a success. I have found this size event to be the most fun to organize.
Willow, a fellow autocrat
How to Sleep Like a Rock
Obey this one natural trick to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.

More information about the Northern mailing list