SCA Name & title: Baroness Hilderun Hügelmann, OP
Most people call me Hilda (informal) or Baroness Hilda (formal). For those readers that don’t know, the “OP” up there stands for “Order of the Pelican”.
Years in the SCA: 23
How did you find out about the SCA?
A freshman activities fair at the University of Pittsburgh. There was just one little table with two guys sitting there, chatting with people and giving out pamphlets called “Forward Into the Past”. I didn’t really talk to them, but took the pamphlet and read it when I got back to my dorm room. It captivated me! I’d always loved fairy tales growing up, and here it was in real life! I’d found my people! All without going to a single meeting. (I did go to one shortly thereafter)
Where did you start, what was your first event?
I started in the College of Cour d’Or in the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands, on Four Towers Campus, which was the University of Pittsburgh (CMU was Thistle Campus). My first event was a Cour d’Or Schola in a park near Pitt, early September 1997. I remember meeting folks that day who would become close friends for many years, and some of them still are today! I learned about troll and dice games and bardic circles and sonnets. I had my first sideboard with cheese and grapes and pasties – still a favorite today! Between reading that pamphlet in my dorm room and the event, I went to a newcomers’ meeting, and went back to my parents’ house, full of excitement. My mom sews, and I told her I needed garb. We went to the library, found a (bad) clothing history book, stopped at Minnesota Fabrics, and found a pattern that we modified… and made this…. questionable…. outfit out of yards and yards of fake satin polyester. I wore it very proudly to the event. When people asked me about it, I whipped out a photocopy from that book we found, and said, “Look! It’s period!” I did that to four or five people, and to a person, they smiled or laughed and said I’d fit in well. They were right!
What is your persona? Why did you pick this persona?
I don’t have a strong persona. I wear the things people make for me. I wear things I think I look nice in. At one point, I decided I was from turn of the millennium Hildesheim in Germany. Later, I decided that I’m probably from early 15th century Ipswich, England. Who knows? Maybe both? Maybe something else at some point. I think I’ll always be Hilda, though. For the first year in the SCA, I didn’t pick a name. Then at my first Pennsic, I bought a book called “Uppity Women of the Middle Ages”. There was an entry for a woman named Hilda. So in a hammock in the trees of Old Tuchux Hill, I chose Hilda. My entire circle of 8 or 9 friends at the time had Irish and Scottish persona (Braveheart being very popular at the time), and every one of them, when I told them I chose Hilda, said, “Oh! That’s so…. Uh…. German….” That still makes me laugh. I didn’t pick the rest of my name (fuller first name and surname) for another year and half.
Do you have any group or household affiliations?
I am a very proud member of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands, currently lucky enough to be serving as their Baroness. I have lots of friends in various households and communities and so forth, but I have never found it necessary to join a household to have a ton of fun and interests in our area. The Barony is amazing, and its people are amazing. They are my beloved community. I do have three proteges, and my husband has one, as well. I’m also still extremely close with my Pelican, and she has her associates. We don’t consider ourselves a household in the least, but they are family.
Tell us a little bit about your life outside the SCA.
I am currently a Senior Compliance Analyst at a major U.S. retailer, specializing in Corporate Compliance and Ethics. That means that I work with Policies & Procedures, Code of Ethics & Conduct, Risk Assessments, Training, Data Aggregation & Analysis, and other things related to Organizational Ethics and Compliance. I don’t think I would be where I am today professionally without the lessons learned in the SCA. I also have a Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics, am very happily married, and have two children, boys ages 12 and 13. SCA is my main hobby, but I also like dancing, singing, yoga (when I actually do it), movies, the beach, and other various things.
What SCA activities do you or have you participated in?
Dancing, heraldry, thrown weapons, singing, hand sewing, teaching, organizing, researching (mostly Livery Collars; ask me about them!!), cheerleading every type of fighting, exchequer of several types, seneschaling (local and admin stuff at the Kingdom level), and Baronessing. Probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.
Tell us a little bit about your SCA experience (jobs, offices, duties, etc.)
Going backwards: Baroness of the Debatable Lands, Deputy Kingdom Seneschal (mostly administrative), Kingdom Social Media Officer (founding), Reign Coordinator, Barony Seneschal, Barony Exchequer, College of Heralds Exchequer, Head Troll for many events, Class Coordinator for War Practice (6-ish years), College Seneschal, Laurel Staff (heraldic stuff, under Elsbeth). Probably some things are missing, but those are the main things. Really, I like to say my specialty is bureaucracy. If you have questions about any aspect of policy, finances, procedures, organizational structural stuff, social media, cultural stuff, zip codes, heraldic stuff, rules stuff… anything that feels like it’s behind the scenes… feel free to ask. Oh. And I’m one of the Staff Editors for the Æthelmearc Gazette!
When you started in the SCA what goals did you have?
As many goals as any 17 year old college freshman has for a hobby. To have fun.
What are your goals now?
My only real goal is to facilitate fun. That takes many forms, but that’s what it boils down to. My personal motto is “Levitate et Caritate”. It means “With Levity and Affection”. I want people to find joy and love in everything they do in the SCA. That’s always why I do what I do. Always.
What was the most intimidating thing you encountered in the SCA?
I was always really intimidated by Royalty…until then-Prince Christopher and then-Princess Morgen asked me to be on their retinue in 2006. I said I wanted to, but hedged, indicating that they were scary now (I don’t remember the exact words). Then Christopher surprised me by pulling me into a hug and said something like, “No we’re not. We’re friends”. I’ve never been more caught off-guard by a hug! Since then, I haven’t been intimidated by Royalty at all. The Crown is a job. They’re people. In the space between the hat and the throne, the heart remains the same. On a less warm and fuzzy note, I also find it intimidating and uncomfortable when people think I’ve done or said something I did not say or do, or ascribe intention that I did not have. I’ve had several locally high-profile positions in the SCA, and with those, people will always discuss and have opinions about things that you do that affect them. I accept and welcome that as part of the roles I’ve chosen. Hopefully they come to me or someone who can talk to me with feedback – good or critical – all feedback is welcome! But it can be difficult when people believe things that simply aren’t true, and worse when no one talks to you about it. Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence, and the majority of my experience has been lovely!
After the unexpected shutdown ends, what is one thing you would like to accomplish in the SCA?
Building up the feeling of community and camaraderie in my Barony again. I have been at a loss as to how to really do it well when everything is online. I try, but it’s so odd and difficult to feel it, let alone try to build it up in the group. I have high hopes that we can facilitate that community love when things open up more. And do it safely.
What advice would you give to a new person in the SCA, or if new yourself what question would you ask and who would you ask it of?
Try lots of things, meet lots of people, go to events and post-revels and meetings, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, or for advice or help. The SCA is made of a huge rainbow of people and experiences. Try as many as you can for as long as you can before you choose a path. Find your own way to play. Now ask me what advice I’d give to the more experienced, higher ranked people! (It’s: Let people find their own way to play, especially newer folks…. Give advice generously; give platitudes, criticism and sketchy or irrelevant stories sparingly… Let them choose their own path, and continue to be a resource even if their path not like your own.)
If you magically woke up with an SCA talent you do not already have, what would it be?
I would love to create something beautiful. Whether it’s a scroll or token or chair or even a killer wrap shot or memorable bouts in the list. I am good at making and facilitating (to me) beautiful processes and procedures and other background stuff, but such things are rarely treasured in the way objects and experiences are.
If you had to join the SCA in another “era” (1970, 1980, etc.), what “era” would you pick and why?
I wouldn’t. We are better now than we ever were. I joined almost exactly when Æthelmearc became a Kingdom. I wouldn’t change it.
Don’t be modest, what award or honor would you like to receive above all else and why?
I have been privileged enough to be well recognized and accoladed for my work and activity in the SCA. I have all recognitions that I think I’ve worked enough toward.
That being said, I think the Jewel of Æthelmearc is the most important Kingdom award that we have. I don’t know if I’d ever be worthy of it, but that’s the one I value the most, of the honors that I do not have. I also hope that my research progresses enough someday to warrant an invitation to the Laurel. It’s interesting stuff!
If you could pick one thing you would like to see more of in the SCA, what would it be?
You know, I could get philosophical here, but the real answer? Open post-revels. I feel like we’ve gotten more and more stratified into our established friend-groups over the past 10 years or so. For example, I hear more and more of people saying they’re “from” a household rather than a geographical area. That still sounds so strange to me, as it wasn’t done around here when I started. Or, I see more and more people go to events and do particular activities and then go home without much socializing, outside conversation in the immediate activity. It feels so transactional. I wish people would come together and laugh and party together, with no artificial boundaries. Knowing each other is the best way to understand each other, and to hear about our history and its stories, and to have a good time. More open post revels, please.
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Thanks for asking me to participate in this article! This is such a great way for us to get to know people we may never encounter in the ‘wild’. Vivant to Populace in Focus and the Æthelmearc Gazette staff!
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