By Maestro Filipo De Sancto Martino aka That Guy Phil
Secluded in the woods on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, in the jewel of Æthelmearc known as the Shire of Heronter, I mixed a jug of Manhattans by candlelight some ten feet from where a great friend sat vigil. It’s Harvest Raid, baby. It’s an afternoon, two nights, a day, a huge feast, and a wake up at one of Æthelmearc’s premier events. It’s an exclusive SCA getaway. Your social directors out-do themselves every year by cramming as much fighting, fencing, thrown weapons, archery, entertainment, food, drink, and socializing into every minute in a rustic camp cut out of thick wood on the shore of a beautiful lake. For a SCAdian it doesn’t get any better than this outside of Cooper’s Lake. Frankly, if Cooper’s Lake had a VIP campsite secluded from the rest of Pennsic with the best scenery and facilities tailored to a discerning limited and lucky few; Harvest Raid would be that VIP site.
I digress, but that’s what I do.
My apologies for being late on this assignment. The lovely estates of the Casa De Martino and my beautiful family within were more appealing than writing. I did find myself engaged in the great works of the changing demands on one’s lands as the seasons change. So before some would fear that a man who once published thousands of pages be stymied by a short report, or that a man who laughed at people who mocked his ability to spell or use grammar correctly would now hide from the spotlight of a blog, I shall once again put medieval-sounding cliché to work and pound this out like a blacksmith striking a red hot ingot.
I digress, but that’s what I do.
This year was very special as it hosted the Coronation of Their Majesties, Tindal and Etain.
The last courts of Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle, which spanned from Friday night to Saturday morning, were very impressive and set the pace for the magic that was to make up the whole weekend. Friday night saw two separate courts.
The first took place in the dark of night in the illuminated Fencing Pavilion where Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle sent Baron Benedict Fergus atte Mede to vigil to contemplate elevation to the Order of Defense. The second court took place soon after on the stage of the Main Lodge where first Their Majesties Timothy and Gabrielle inducted Baron Tadhg Sotal Ó Néill into the Order of the Gage. His Knight, Duke Maynard Von dem Steine, and his Pelican, Duchess Líadain ní Dheirdre Chaomhánaigh, placed the medallion around his neck. Watching this was THL Ian Kennoven, who was retaining for Their Majesties. Was this a mere coincidence? I think not. Prepare for a classic ambush in court. To his surprise, and only his surprise, he was called before them and became even more surprised when the Order of the Chivalry was called forth to take him off to vigil. And yes, my friends, this was only Friday night. It was relatively early Friday night as much Vigil style activity, snacking, socializing, and cocktails prevailed. I did mention mixing Manhattans in a large glass jug.
A ten-thirty AM Saturday court meant a leisurely Harvest Raid breakfast. Yes, they serve breakfast. Coffee, oatmeal, French toast, and good company in the Main Hall made a good start for the day. It’s nice to settle into the day’s activities without being rushed. I hate running from troll to have to find a changing room and a place to stow the gear while I sip back the rest of my Tim Horton’s black coffee in its glaringly non-period coffee cup. I hate dashing about spilling coffee while saying quick hellos all the time knowing I’m making myself later than I want to be. No worries, mate. This is Harvest Raid. I have time to be social while chilling as if I were in some European bistro.
Court was awesome. TRM Timothy and Gabrielle gave some great people some well-deserved awards. Check out the court report when it comes out. It was grand. I’m not mentioning any names, but one guy’s head became so swollen with pride that his head no longer fit the Court Barony Coronet the King had made with his own hands. You have to be careful, some of these awards can go to your head. The elevations of now Master Benedict Fergus Atte Mede to the Order of the Master of Defense and that of now Sir Ian Kennoven truly portrayed the personalities of each man. They were well done and very inspiring.
During the court, the Oracles of Delftwood appeared to share great cryptic visions and to warn TRMs Timothy and Gabrielle that their time was running short. I believe there were promises of rivers of blood, locusts, and general old school natural disaster doom theory paradigms and such. It was very well written and performed.
The Oracles of Delftwood would appear a few more times as court progressed from the end of TRM Timothy and Gabrielle’s court and segue into the Coronation. The guards, retainers, seamstresses, and court personnel were thanked for their hard work during this reign and were released from duty. His Majesty then released His beautiful, gracious, and generous Queen Gabrielle from service. At as many Coronations as I have seen, this moment is always emotional for all involved.
The Heir, Sir Magnus Tindal, came forth to claim his right to the throne. His Majesty expressed great joy that the Prince would be succeeding him. Kingdom officers stepped forward to confirm Prince Tindal’s right of succession.
With that, King Timothy removed the crown from his own head and placed it upon Tindal making him the 37th King of Æhelmearc.
His Majesty Tindal then called for His Inspiration to join him.
Reclined regally upon a lectica, Princess Etain was carried into court surrounded by an ornate procession of oracles, warriors, retainers, Roman banners, and more. It was a spectacle to behold. The Roman presence was carried off so very well. It was a pleasure to see SCA theatrics merge with pomp and circumstance. Note to you readers out there, it is truly appreciated when people go that extra mile to bring the show to life. The newly established court took positions around the dais. Kingdom officers and the Peers of the Realm all came forward by Order to swear fealty. All the usual traditions and procedures were followed, officially launching the Reign of Magnus Tindal and Etain, Augustus and Augusta Æthelmearc.
Within moments of morning court ending, all SCAdians present launched themselves into the daily activities. Court chairs were pulled down quickly and list ropes soon replaced them. Industrious people of Æhelmearc hustled armor bags, bows, axes, and knives here and there heading towards their various places of play. I sipped on my drink and took in all the enthusiasm and building anticipation and delight in activities about to begin. I was inspired and went to lunch. Don’t judge me. I wasn’t the only one because that line for the sideboard was long. I had never seen the Main Hall that packed for lunch. Considering court had just let out as the food was hitting the tables, may have had something to do with that. Socializing may be the SCA’s greatest activity. The tabled bustled with “top notch” greetings and conversations. It was good to see people enjoying each other’s company. We are truly a social organization.
This day hosted the Kingdom Heavy Championship and another leg of the Æhelmearc 500. During Evening Court, Their Majesties called forth the top five finishers in the Heavy Weapons Championship. They named Duke Duncan Von Holstern the winner and new Kingdom Heavy Weapons Champion. Sir Byron has an excellent account of the tournament and finishes here.
The Æhelmearc 500 (aka AE500) is an ongoing bear pit series now running over a year. The bear pit goes on until one fighter has amassed fifty wins. All the points that each fighter achieved that day are tallied with previous scores from the previous AE500. Duke Maynard reached fifty points first that day and leads in the series’ total point score.
Harvest Raid is legendary for its huge feasts. Duke Cygnus set a bar that many still try to reach. This year’s “feast with out limits or bounds” was prepared by Margaret of Enniscorthy and her staff. There were many fine dishes and everyone walked away full. At one point we needed to bring people back to the tables exclaiming, “We know you are full and cannot eat another bite. You can’t imagine that more food would be coming, but we remind you, ’This is Harvest Raid.’” Some would say that her best dish of the night came out last and that was a sumptuous Goat Stew and some very nice Pork roast.
In the darkened candlelit hall there is magic. The tables are full, the smiles are broad and the stories and laughter flow as freely as the drink. Plate after plate of joy is passed around. I look at the head table and see the Crowns of Æthelmearc. It is all as it should be. There should always be Crowns at Harvest Raid. It just seems right. It’s a noble and legendary event. The children eat a little and then scamper off to play with their new friends. The raised hearth behind my head becomes a perch for small children. Gwendolyn the Graceful walks from table to tale entertaining each with a song. Lodthin Viccarsson and my wife Cordelia discuss each dish. Life is good.
A special treat came from Sir Ian Kennoven who presented to the Crowns of Æhelmearc with an exquisitely ornate and tasty treat. Upon a festively decorated table of fine ornate linens did Sir Ian present a hand made sugar tower filled with candied almonds and two small siege weapons. He invited His Majesty and His two awesome children forward to take turns shooting the mini ballista and catapult at the tower.
The crowd cheered and laughed over the amazing spectacle. When the walls came down, the children came forth and collected broken sugar walls and almonds in bare hands and ran to their family tables to show their spoils of war. It was truly a grand and generous gesture by one of Æhelmearc’s finest.
The children were a big part of the weekend. It was good to see the children playing together at their own games and at a few pre-planned activities. Harvest Raid is a beautiful site and it was great to see the kids playing hide and seek along the wooded paths by the chapel and playing by the lake. His Majesty and His children took time to launch homemade ships into the water. It was nice to see the children be children and enjoy the day. The children were called up during court to receive gift bags, which greatly occupied them. It was fantastic to look outside the hall windows to see the children sprawled upon the patio enjoying toys and treats from Their Majesties.
Harvest Raid is all about the woods, the lake, the Main Hall and the campsites. The Hall where people come together, the fields that hold great tournaments and the wooded paths that free the soul. It is so scenic and in so many ways so surreal. You find yourself so removed from everyday life that what you need to do thousands of miles away drift away like the smoke from campfires. There is something magical about walking from a camp down wooded paths to field with a cloak for warmth and a lantern for light. I have found great peace walking through areas where the moonlight is cut by thick spider webs of tree branches. With an ornate axe at my side and cold ale in my mug I find something lost now found enveloped with in this primordial atmosphere. I am so deep in the moment all worries are cast asunder. I hear the crackling of a bonfire in camp. The laughing and boasting of my friends cuts the cool air and echoes over the lake.
We have been fortunate to camp in the same cabins, in the same spot, for over a decade. Many of the faces have changed through that time. Life calls out to many in different ways and takes them in different directions. They are not forgotten as we tell their stories. We recall past Harvest Raids and share memories of tournaments, great feasts and greater friends. We tell of the boar hunts, and the running of the bulls. We talk about what had better games, the Plague Party or the Viking Party. It was fifteen years ago that my Knight, Duke Maynard was knighted by King Cygnus. We happily recalled his vigil, which included fighting bouts against all comers including the Black Knight who took no blows, vows of silence, and more. We remembered other vigils like that of Sir Tristan. Fifteen years ago I proposed to Cordelia, my beautiful wife and best friend. Many good things have happened in those woods by that lake. So many good times and good friends that it is a mandatory yearly pilgrimage for my family and me.
It’s Harvest Raid, baby, and it doesn’t get any better than this.
Still mad as a hatter and “Get Down Tonight” after all these years