Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chapter Three: In Which Edyth Gains a Family

It might help to read Chapter One & Chapter Two first.

In the Middle Kingdom (and I'm sure other Kingdoms), a student is like a man-at-arms. There's an agreed associate between Master and student, but it's not formal. On the books, I was a student for 9 months. In reality, it had been clear to both of us fairly early on that something more formal was going to happen. Even better than that, we agreed pretty quickly that we wanted to go about it a certain way. So here, at the end of my tale, is how I became an apprentice to Master Cellach McChormach.

Interestingly enough, as he and I discussed what an apprenticing ceremony might be for us, we agreed that it would be best done as a business transaction. So yes, I'd spent all this time realizing that being somebody's apprentice wasn't just all business, but there we were, agreeing to start the whole thing off that way. It made a huge amount of sense to us, though. First, apprentice contracts are period. Second, an apprenticing is a civil relationship, so an oath like what would be done for a squiring felt out of place.

Period apprenticing contracts are interesting things. They dictate what behaviors each party would be allowed and/or required to do, both in the relationship and as people just living their lives. Women apprentices, for example, were often expressly forbidden in their contract to marry. And most medieval no-no's (like gambling or engaging in lewd behavior) were also highlighted as things not to do under contract. The contract is worked up twice, on each side of a single sheet. After signing and sealing, the contract is cut apart in a zig-zag or otherwise uneven line so that the two piece could be matched back up to prove their authenticity if needed. This jagged cut was known as "indenturing", so a contract of this type (and the relationship it dictated) could be referred to as an "indenture".

We asked my mom, THL Elspeth Clerk, to create the contract for us. Unlike most extant contracts, we liked the idea of a simple illumination in the center, so she created (knowing it would be cut) a vine band centered on a blue stag (a charge on His Excellency's device).

For the sealing, I created a silk fingerloop ribbon in my colors, and he made sealing wax using beeswax and frankincense. A simple die created for coins acted as his seal.

Border Raids, on May 16th, was wet. It rained on the way there. It rained when we started setting up. It rained during the battles. It even rained into our car. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that the contract was sitting (we thought safely) in the backend. Which was steadily turning into a puddle as the rain trickled through a crack in the roof. The scroll case could have been waiting for us anywhere else in the car, and would have been fine. But no.

I'm very proud of everyone involved in the discovery and rescue of the document. Nobody panicked or totally lost it. The scribes on duty that day came to our aid, drying the contract and pressing it to keep the wrinkles at bay. I'm so thankful to them and their quick thinking. And I'm so proud of my mom for everything she did to create the scroll and for not crying when she discovered it's state.

Comfortable with the fact that we at least still had a contract to sign, even if it was damaged, here's how the ceremony went down:

Master Cellach started everything by explaining what we were going to do and a bit about the use of indentures in period. It was important to us both that when we were in the moment of actually doing the apprenticing we weren't mixing mundane explanations with period practices. So when he finished with the information, he requested that we all shift our minds to being medieval.

After asking me if I was ready to proceed, I requested that the contract be read out loud so that our witnesses would know what it was we were about to agree to. He was adamant that he should read the contract rather than the printed text (still taped to the back), even with the damage. I have to give him props for that. Here's what the contract says:

"This indenture witnesses that Edyth Miller of Fenix places herself in apprentice to Master Cellach macChormach of the Middle Marches to learn what arts as she may and to serve him after the manner of an apprentice from the 14th day of the reign of Ragnvaldr III and Arabella III, and she shall not be released save by word of one of the said parties, or through her attaining mastery of her craft. During which term the said Edyth shall strive to be an eager and dedicated student to learn and further her craft and shall serve the said Cellach as master in all things lawful and honest, well and faithfully, courteously and diligently to the best of her power. She shall honestly and obediently bear and hold herself both in words and deeds towards her said Master and all his with dignity as a good and faithful apprentice ought according to the custom of the Kingdom of the Middle during all the said term. And the said Cellach shall keep the said Edyth as his apprentice and shall freely teach that which he knows, provide guidance and support in her endeavors, treat her with dignity and respect, and for her fidelity and all and singular aforesaid covenants on her part shall protect her from those who might do her harm. In witness whereof the aforesaid parties have set their hands."

Our wording differs from the period contracts in that we treated in more like an oath. We did not include specific behaviors (like me getting married) or things that he had to provide (like fabric or clothing). We like it this way, since it was much more comfortable for us to sign it, knowing that we weren't agreeing to anything we had no right to demand from each other.

After reading the contract, he asked me if I was still in agreement with it. Essentially, he was asking if I still wanted to be his apprentice. I agreed.

Using pen and ink (dip-style nibs), we signed the two sides together. Nobody got close enough to photograph our signatures. Which is a shame, really, since I'd been practicing.

I'd been wearing the ribbon I made on my arm, so I removed it and explained to our witnesses that the ribbon was to act as my authentic mark in place of a seal. I folded the ends of the contract up to protect the signatures. Then I cut the ribbon in half and threaded it through slits already cut into the contract. The wax had been melting over a candle up to that point, and was ready to be poured over the ribbon and pressed with the seal. It did have to sit a moment, but it dried pretty quickly.

While the seals set up, he proceeded with the markings of my association with him. First, since I don't typically wear belts (full disclosure: I had been wearing a belt all day before changing to keep my skirts out of the mud), rather than giving me a green belt as a symbol of my apprenticeship, he had made a green wool open hood for me. (Which is totally awesome.) For the days that I didn't wear the hood, he gave me a brass and enamel badge made in the style of a period funerary badge. It is a green belt encircling his livery of blue and white lozengy. This was made by Lady Faydwynn Randve. (And is also totally awesome.)

About the time I was getting my ribbons into place, Their Majesties joined us. With the seals set and carefully lifted from the tiles with a butter knife, Cellach asked His Majesty if he would do us the honor of indenturing the contract. Using a pair of period scissors, he cut the wavy indenturing line. This left one half with the body of the stag and the other with the stag's head upside down.

With the contract indentured, and gifts given, we concluded the ceremony. Hugging and applause all around.

His Majesty said it best later on in a Facebook comment. "A period ceremony, bringing friends together, making family, and everyone enjoying the experience. THIS is what the SCA is about. Thank you to all who were present."

My heart has been so full. I see this hobby not only from a new perspective, but with a new family by my side. I am no longer afraid. My ego has come to accept and understand that I'm not better than needing help. And I have gained so many new friends that I would have never known if I hadn't reached out. I have a partner I am inspired and encouraged by, and I am ready for the road ahead. However long, and wherever it may take me.

(Photos of the ceremony are courtesy of Countess Vukasin of Lozengia and Lady Marissa von Atzinger.)

[Disclaimer: This is my story and my perspective. I'm sharing it because you, dear reader, are my friend. It's not meant to be taken as advice. It's simply my testimonial.]


  1. Love the contract, the scroll, and the etymology of "indenture"! Thanks for sharing.

  2. The ceremony sounds completely lovely! Congratulations and thank you for sharing your journey with all of us.

  3. I'm touched by your candor in describing how you faced your fears and forged ahead with a series of decisions that will benefit you greatly as a scholar of (various) medieval arts. Thank you for writing these posts, and good luck on your continued journey!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm over here in the West and I will be following your journal in an effort to gain mastery over my own wardrobe.

  5. I appreciate your honesty in telling the story of your journey. This is something I thought I was over, but I find myself struggling with it again after moving to a new kingdom where I have to find a new Laurel. It's hard. Congratulations on finding such a good partner to help mentor you on your path! The ceremony looks beautiful.

  6. Congratulations! Richly deserved. I have thoroughly enjoyed observing your journey thus far and look forward to seeing your future endeavors. Thank you for sharing your successes (and sometimes the not quite up to your expectations.) I have no doubt that we will be seeing more great things from you in the future.
    Baroness Martha, OL