Posted by: wrmcnutt | May 5, 2009

On Your Elevation –

Obligatory Orientation Paragraph: For the newcomers, I belong to a really big historical re-creation group, the Society for Creative Anachronism.  There’s a lot to say about us, and we do many, many things.  But the most dynamic and visible thing that we do is put on real suits of armor, pick up simulated weapons, and bash each other with them.   For those of us who are active for a long time, are proficient in our medieval skills, and show leadership potential, there is a recognition we call a peerage.  Becoming a peer in the SCA is not unlike becoming a First Degree Mason.  For 99.99999999% of the world, the fact that you are becoming a peer means nothing.  For those few for whom it matters, it is a big deal, indeed.  The ceremony by which you become a peer is generically referred to as you elevation.

So, you’re going to be elevated?  Congratulations.  All those piles of forms, batches of beer, papers on etruscan snoods, and bruises have finally paid off, and in four weeks, you’re going to be a new Laurel/Pelican/Knight.

You’re going to get lots of high-flown, philisophical advice over the coming weeks, especially at your vigil.  But if you are anything like me, you can use a little advice out where the duct tape meets the rattan.  These little tidbits came hard won, either by myself or other peers who can testify personally to the consequences of not seeing to these details in advance.

First of all, you should not be in charge of anything the day of your elevation.  I know . . . this comes hard to Protege’s.  But the reality of the day is that your brain is not going to show up for work.  It’s going to be thinking about where you’ve been, and where you’re going.  And likely will also be plied with call manner of congratulatory liquor.  You will be in no state of mind to be making decisions.  You can help with things.  Help move tables.  Help run the list cards back and forth.  Help chop the onions. Just don’t try to be in charge. Don’t be Autocrat.  Don’t be Constable.  And above all, don’t be HEAD COOK.  I might be eating feast, and I don’t care to eat armored carrots with herring seasoned with maple  syrup dill sauce  just because YOUR mind wandered at a critical moment.

Second, don’t fight on the day of your elevation.  I know . . . this is hard for squires to take.  But the day of your elevaton will be the ONE day that your foot finds the one gopher hole in the field, and you break your ankle.  Or you end up on the bottom of the pile and dislocate our shoulder.  Or, like me, your opponent’s full weight is behind the shield rim that bears down into your forearm.  I lucked out.  It only felt like a crack.  But I resigned from the list.  Just ask yourself, do you REALLY want to take the chance of having to rush back from the Emergency Room to make Court for your own elevation?  Would the wonderully hand-embroidered tunic your lady made for your Knighting Ceremony accomadate a cast and sling? And what about the post-elevation celebration?  Most pain meds prohibit the use of alcohol.  Trust me:  don’t fight the day of your elevation.

Third, get a new belt.  This is easier for squires.  They’re going to GIVE you a new shiny white belt.  But for us Laurels and the Pelicans over there, we’re going to need a new one.  I was literally standing in the processional for my elevation when I realized that they were going to take my green belt away, and I wasn’t going to have anything to hang my pouch from.  Every single belt I owned was green.  All of them were going to be obsolete in 20 minutes.  Note to friends and relatives of incipient Peers: Brown and black belts are great elevation gifts.

You will want to give careful thought to your vigil.  The very best people to get advice from are also the ones that are too busy to sit down and have a quiet, serious conversation with.  At your vigil, you will have their undivided attention for as long as you want. And that’s never going to happen again.  So leave plenty of time.  My own started at seven PM on Friday night, and my consience wouldn’t let me keep the staff any longer when it hit 1:30 AM.  And I could have gone on for hours longer.  A friend of mine is having her vigil at one event, and her elevation at another.  I think it’s a neat idea. On the other hand, a subtle signal to your vigil guards that you need to be rescued from someone who’s hogging your vigil time might be in order.  One friend of mine used a particular wine.  If she called for the Pinot Grigio, it meant “find a Laurel to boot this guy out of here!”

Speaking of your vigil, take a look at the location.  I wanted a secluded spot, quiet and some small distance away from the ruckus of the rest of the event. Not a long walk, but I wanted a little quiet.  I chose a glade in the woods not far from the Great Hall where Thor’s Mountain normally holds our events.  Being able-bodied myself, I forgot that some of the best people to get advice from are now on the Permanently Busted List, and have mobility issues.  Downhill on slick grass for twenty yards is casual for me.  My Laurel and certain others had difficulties. 

Fifth –  Be both vocal and realistic about your elevation ceremony and related stuff.

  • Often the vigil and the elevation ceremony are planned by the Peer, and the initiate has little input on the proceedings.  If there is something you really want, or someone you must have speak, don’t expect your peer to read your mind.  Talk to him/her and avoid disappointment. 
  • If you are planning your own vigil/ceremony, run it by the Crown before you make too many commitments.  Making Peers is the privilige of the Crown, and one of the fun parts of the job.  They’ll want to have input.
  • Think carefully about your garb.  If your elevation is going to be in Southern Meridies or Trimaris in July, maybe full on Tudor is not the best way to go.  I live in East Tennessee and did that to my Lady Wife in September, and I thought she was going to fall over.  And we had my poor Dad in a wool tunic  . . .
  • If you’re going to have mundane relatives attend, don’t forget that they will need medieval slip covers.  One other thing about modern family.  It’s recommended that each one get a sidekick, to tell explain what’s going on.  You’re going to be too busy.

That brings me to the subject of the “drive-by” elevation.  This happen to you when you’re not expecting it.  If you are utterly set on making your own garb, or otherwise having something just so, you need to talk to your Peer about it.  “M’lord, should the day come that you bring me up, and the Order and the Crown concur, I would wish my parents and my spouse to be present for my elevation.”  When you see a vigil or elevation that you like, talk to your friends about it, so that your preferences are know.  For myself, I don’t particularly like the “SURPRISE!  You’re a peer now!” approach, but I know some folks for whom it’s appropriate.

Speaking of garb, I know you’re going to want to tart up to the nines.  But don’t make your own elevation garb.  I know, this is hard on the tailors among us, but trust me, the time will telecope far shorter than you can imagine. A couple of my friends made their own garb, and the week leading up to the elevation ceremony was far more stressful than it needed to be.  In fact, I think that you should invoke the 1 month, 1 week rule:  Any project not started one month before the date, should be dropped.  Any project not completed less than 1 week from the date should be dropped.

Oh – and I can’t speak for the Pelicans or the Knights, but for us Laurels, and all you incipient Laurels:  when your friends come to you and ask you what you want your laurel wreath to be like, the word light should be part of the description.  Mine is exactly what I wanted, and it weighs about four tons.

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  1. loved reading this one, and so timely for LIz 🙂

    • I’m glad. Liz is ever my muse and my inspiration.

  2. Have you considered submitting this to TI? I can think of a few folks who need to hear something like this.

    • You know, I never thought of that. I should look into it.

  3. What Laura said. So wish I could be there this weekend. I, too, think she’s got a good plan in separating the dates of elevation and vigil. Where is here elevation, again? Surely not RUM?

    • Elevation date is pending.

      • Oh, good – we can’t be there this weekend (first ballet performance and birthday party) but I do at least stand a chance at seeing her elevation.

  4. I second the submit it to TI idea. It would make a great and much needed piece. (not that I know anything about being elevated — but I have lots of friends who get to enjoy that honor!) For a TI piece, you might want to touch on gifts more — but the belt thing is a really great idea. Hadn’t occcured to me.

  5. I stumbled across your page via a link from a friend of mine’s page, and I was intrigued by the title of the blog.

    So, of course I read it.

    The belt thing…where was that advice when I was being Laureled? All I have had for YEARS have been green belts, and it never occurred to me to find anything other than a green belt, as my mind was elsewhere. I was elevated the Saturday of Gulf Wars, so it didn’t even register that I would need a belt until the next event I was packing for.


    Anyway, very sage advice on planning a vigil


  6. Great advice on the belt.

    I have a couple of outfits that were more or less centered around my yellow belt!

  7. Very good advice. I remember chatting on the steps to the cabin because I had D with me and there was no way he was going to let me talk vigil-ly with you. The steps of the cabin while he was asleep inside were nice.
    All these years – never thought of the belt question. Makes sense though.
    I agree with the others that TI can benefit from this.

    • I remember that time as well. I was so very glad you were willing to come so far to be with me on my special night. I still miss you.

  8. I’m sorry, but WHAT!!! Is LIZ getting elevated this weekend and no one bothered to call us!!!!!!!

    arrrrrgh! I wanted to BE there!

    • Well – if you guys would, you know, come to events occasionally, you’d get more news.

      But no, Liz’s VIGIL is this weekend. Her ELEVATION is TBA. Probably Silver Hammer or Border Raids.

  9. ahem. you know we come to as many as we can. and probably more TM events than SD ones at that.

  10. Very wise council Master William. A lot of little considerations I don’t think I would have thought of. I think the projects time-line you gave is spot-on: the 1 month/ 1 week rule will be a staple for alot of my event planning in the future. Thank you for this posting.

    • Thanks – it’s just little stuff, but it makes the day go smoother. The month/week rule originally came out of Pennsic planning. When we were developing our camp we often had many projects open right ’till the last minute. Made for a stressful Pennsic packing. Nowdays, if the project isn’t started July 1, or finished August 1, it gets dropped until next year. Then I realized that that applies to ANY major undertaking.

  11. But, William, those 4 ton laurel wreaths are so handy for flinging at people that forgot their documentation! (sez the laurel who owns the matching one of yours) *grins*

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