Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements 
by Don Miguel Ruiz

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
    a. Speak with integrity.
    b. Say only what you mean.
    c. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or gossip about others.
    d. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love

2. Don't Take Anything Personally
    a. Nothing others do is because of you.
    b. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
    c. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others , you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don't Make Assumptions
    a. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
    b. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
    c. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
    a. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.

    b. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mentor / Student Relationships in the SCA

Before delving into my personal views on Mentor/Student relationships in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I will give context for my views by presenting my research and personal history.


I was made a squire by Duke Albert Von Dreckenveldt on August 5th, 1985.  I served him for 10.759 days (29.5 years) and was knighted on January 17th, 2015.  His Grace, Albert was knighted in the Middle Kingdom in the year 1973 having never served as a squire.  He served as King of the Middle, and as King of Atenveldt, but has lived in the Outlands since 1978.  While he has spent most of his service as a Knight of the Society for Creative Anachronism as an Outlander, I always considered him a MIdrealm Knight, and followed their customs for squires.  The following is from the Middle Kingdom web site:

  • Midrealm Squire Customs
  • The Middle Kingdom has some unique customs among its squires. This page attempts to explain them, in case you are traveling through our fair lands, or are thinking of relocating here. Please note that these are customs only, and thus are not Society or Kingdom law. So, for example, you can wear a red belt if you like.  Be aware that the long custom of wearing a red belt and/or a silver chain is a powerful tradition. You may freely do so, just be prepared that you will be frequently asked who you are squired to.
  • The use of any of these customs are entirely dependent on the Knight/squire relationship. Some of these are used more in some regions of the Kingdom than others (e.g., blue belts for men-at-arms).
  • Squires typically wear a red belt, or if they are sworn to a Master, a red baldric. The color red is usually meant to show the blood they will shed in training for the accolade of Knighthood. An associated custom is for the red belt to be paired with another color. This second color usually bisects the red (for a two-tone belt). Occasionally you see a red belt with a thin border of color along the top or bottom. This second color is often the main color of their knight's blazon, or household. The wearing of the red belt is the most universal custom in our Kingdom and Society. It is very common for the squire to have their knight's device somewhere on their belt, usually at the very tip.
  • Midrealm squires also wear a neck chain of silver, to show that they are bound by their oath of fealty to serve their knight. It is unadorned. When traveling abroad, if a chain is worn at all, Midrealm squires often adorn them to better comply with the traditions of the host Kingdom.
  • Squires sometimes are allowed to wear spurs, as long as they are silver and not gold (since gold is the color Knights wear). Quite often, they are attached with red (most common) or black (second most common) colored straps to further differentiate them from Knights. Again, the wearing of spurs is entirely dependent upon the Knight/squire relationship.
  • Finally, squires are often allowed to have a defendant. This is meant to help train the squire in leadership and being publicly accountable for another, as they will be responsible for their squires should they become a Knight themselves. These defendants are most often called a man-at-arms, and wear a blue belt. A man-at-arms usually does not wear a silver chain or spurs. Sometimes a Knight will take a person on as a man-at-arms before making them a squire. This is usually done to see if the added public attention and duties will be a good fit between the two of them.
  • The best use of these symbols is to make the squire publicly accountable for their actions, to their Knight and the Kingdom. A Knight will usually take a squire at an event, and in a public ceremony place the red belt and silver chain upon them. The squire then swears an oath of fealty to the knight. At this time the squire is officially a part of the Knight's household (if they were not already).
  • Past tradition meant that the squire was in service to their Knight for the rest of their SCA life. In the past few years, a "year-and-a-day" custom has developed among some Knights, where the squire and the Knight review and renew their vows annually. This is done as a way to make sure that the relationship is still mutually beneficial, since life has a way of changing things. It is quite common for a squire to be released from his oath of fealty when he is about to be Knighted.

See this article for more interesting Midrealm Squire History.

While serving as a squire to His Grace, Albert I wore the red belt, adorned with an etched brass tip bearing his device, and a silver chain adorned with whatever was my current highest level fighting award.

I do not know where the customs for taking a Man-at-Arms, or the tradition of the blue belt originated.  I first encountered the Man-at-Arms in the early 1990s in the northern Outlands.  A knight, Sir Haroun— squired to Olaf, who was also squired to Albert— began taking gentles as a Man-at-Arms.  He explained that this was a way to get to know the people to see if the Knight/Squire relationship would be a good fit.  The practice has now become common in the northern region of The Kingdom of the Outlands.  Over time I noticed others within the SCA, not just knights, were taking students with blue belts, and styling them as Man-at-Arms.  On researching the subject, I discovered that there really are no rules governing this practice— only customs.

I am the Seneschal (local branch president) for the SCA Shire of Aarquelle.  It was established in 1983, and has had its ups and downs over the years.  When I took over as Seneschal in 2009, the membership was very low, and dissolution was being discussed— not by us— for this group.  The group has always been small, and it has never had an active resident who was a Peer of the Realm.  As the group grew and flourished, I tried to teach the new members about every aspect of life within the SCA, but with no Peers here, complete instruction lacked.  This is not to say that we do not have Peers who visit here quite regularly, but the feeling in the group was, "We don't have one of our own."  So, about a year before becoming a knight, I took on a student, Shield Maiden (Man-at-Arms).  I felt that this would be a great way to model the Mentor/Student relationship for the local group.  I made her a blue belt with a brass tip bearing my device, and a braided tiger strip.  I make a similar pattern for my squire's belts. (See the photos below)

Mentor/Student Relationships in the SCA

Many good gentles in the SCA take on a mentor relationship with another, younger (in terms of SCA experience) person for the purpose of instruction.  The mentor in this case has knowledge in some aspect of life in the SCA that is generally regarded by the student as expert.  The mentor and the student agree to enter into a relationship, and some sort of public or private ceremony, in which oaths are sworn, is customarily performed to mark its beginning.  In many cases there is an outward, visual accoutrement worn by the student as a symbol of this relationship.  Some examples of these relationships are:

  • Knight / squire: Heavy combat, chivalric arts (red belt)
  • Laurel / apprentice: Arts and sciences (green belt)
  • Pelican / protege: Service to the SCA (yellow belt)
  • Master of Defense / scholar: Rapier combat, cut & thrust combat (red collar)
  • White Scarf / cadet: Rapier combat (red scarf tied around arm)
  • ??? / Man-at-Arms: heavy combat (blue belt) (See above for some context)

None of the above listed relationships are as simple as their descriptions.  The knight / squire relationship, for example, is listed as a relationship for instruction in heavy combat and the chivalric arts, but it is much bigger than that.  A knight will teach squires about comportment, armor construction and maintenance, and much more.  All of the other mentors listed above teach their students about every aspect of the SCA in which the mentors are familiar.  It is the nature of the relationship.

Unless their agreement states otherwise, Mentor / Student relationships are not exclusive.  Mentors may take on additional students, and students may feel free to at least go out and learn from other mentors.  This is especially true if the student wishes to learn a skill that their mentor does not possess.  If one of my students were to ask me about blackwork, for example, I would quickly direct her/him to Duchess Selene.  A person may even be student to more than one mentor.  This tends to be an exception rather than the rule, but it does happen.  In House Dreckheim, there is a gentle lady who is protege to a Pelican, and apprentice to a Laurel.  Both Peers are within the same household, but I would not regard this as a requirement.

Do not think that the relationship is one sided either.  Simplistically, a student may have skills and talents to teach the mentor.  My squire has taught me a lot about art.  Mentors learn a lot more than just skills from their students.  It is said that you do not truly know a subject until you are forced to teach it.  I did not seriously examinee my beliefs of chivalry and the graces of comportment until I was faced with teaching them.

To me, the greatest part of the mentor / student relationship is the family that is created.  When a mentor takes on a student, that student becomes part of the mentor's SCA household in the very least.  To me the bond becomes even stronger.  House Dreckheim is a family— a family of people that have chosen to share their lives together.  It is a bond that transcends the SCA.  We don't just see each other at SCA events, we get together in the mundane world often for parties, holidays, dinners, movies, etc….  The relationships begin with the common interest that is the SCA, but it moves well beyond for our Household.


Oaths are an important part of medieval life.  They were absolutely binding verbal contracts between people.  I think they are important in the context of the SCA's game, and insist on their use.  It is through their swearing, and their keeping by which our honor is tested.  Below are the oaths that I use when taking on a student.  Their text illustrates what I think is important in my relationships, and adds atmosphere to the ceremonies and relationships.  The parts are memorized, but we have a herald standing by to feed lines when the nerves override the memory.  

Squire Oath

In ancient times, knights would take men of noble birth under their care so that they may learn chivalry, and prowess at arms.
The most important aspect of the knight-squire relationship is that it is a continuation of the chain of fealty. My squire swears an oath of Liege Fealty to me, as I do to the Crowns of the Outlands.  Liege Fealty is a pledge of absolute service, obedience, loyalty and fidelity without any specified limits.  In this way everyone has a place in the feudal order. I feel strongly that everyone should be responsible to someone. In taking on a squire, I am not just getting a fighting buddy. This relationship is just as important, and just as binding as the bond between my king and me. While I am directly preparing _____________________ to become a Knight, in the long run I am doing my part to preserve The Dream of the SCA.

Ask if it is still _____________________’s intent to swear fealty to me this day.  Please kneel before me on one knee, and support the sword girded on my by my liege lord, the King of the Outlands.

I, _____________________, make this oath to you, Syr Gerwyn y’ Teigr: 
—That I shall study and faithfully apply myself to the development of my skills in combat, in the arts & sciences, in service, and in the courtly graces, and I will share that knowledge freely with all
—That I shall always act in a way that brings honor and fame to my lord and to House Dreckheim
—That I shall not forget my lord’s generosity, but will faithfully offer wise counsel to him as I may
—That when the war horn sounds I shall be in the forefront of fierce battle, forging ahead with my lord and friend, coming to the war-call carrying my weapons
—And though I would lay down my life than see harm come to my lord, still should the poisoned point or aged edge strike him down, then I shall not flee a single foot-length from the field, but rather shall advance into the enemy army, slaying as I might, to avenge him
—And by my vow, may my own edge twist and turn against me should I fail to keep the oath I make this day, before this assembled company

_____________________ , I, Gerwyn y’ Teigr have heard your oath, as has this assembled company. Hear then my oath to you: 
—I shall teach you, encourage you, listen to your counsel and needs, learn from you and support you in your quest for knowledge
—I and all of my kin shall stand as oath-helpers in all of these things
—And with treasure and with love shall I reward you, granting good gifts as you merit, round rings of gold rolling from my hand to yours
—And that from this day forward among your new kin in House Dreckheim shall you sit in the feast hall, with sweet mead filling your cup
—And finally, my sword shall stand between you and those who would treat you and yours unjustly, my strength and my war-kin beside you boldly, for bare is the brotherless back
—My fights are now your fights as your fights are now mine
—To all of this may this assembled company witness my words, and hold me faithful
—And by my vow, may my own edge twist and turn against me should I fail to keep the oath I make this day
—And long may Saga keep this day in memory



I will begin talking to the assembled company about the following:

-- The most important aspect of the knight-student relationship is that it is a continuation of the chain of fealty. 
-- My Man-at-Arms swears an oath of Simple Fealty to me.
--This is different from the oath of Liege Fealty I swear to the Crown. 
-- Liege Fealty is a pledge of absolute service, obedience, loyalty and fidelity without any specified limits.
-- Simple Fealty is a pledge of loyalty, obedience and service. The parameters of simple fealty are within set limits, pre-determined by the parties involved.

I will then call you forward, and ask you if it is still your intention to become my man-at-arms.  You will then make your oath, while standing and supporting my sword.  It should include the following points, and any others of your choosing.  Think about what is important to you, and also, think about your SCA persona's culture.

--I swear this day to study and faithfully apply myself to the development of skills in combat, in the arts & sciences, in service, and in the courtly graces, and to share that knowledge freely with all.
--To provide aid, service and assistance where it is needed.
-- And to always act in a way that brings honor and fame to myself, to my knight and to House Dreckheim.

Then I will make my oath to you.

After that, I'll put your belt onto you, and welcome you to your new "chosen" family.
--I shall teach you, encourage you, listen to your counsel and needs, learn from you and support you in your quest for knowledge.
--I and all of my kin shall stand as oath-helpers in all of these things
--And that for the next year and a day you shall sit in the feast hall among the kin of House Dreckheim, with sweet mead filling your cup
--To all of this may this assembled company witness my words, and hold me faithful
--And by my vow, may my own edge twist and turn against me should I fail to keep the oath I make this day
--And long may Saga keep this day in memory