Mistress Sadira leading a weedwalk in the Barony of Thescorre. Photo by Baroness Katja
The Weedwalks are a long-standing tradition at the Pennsic War: every morning at 10 a.m. class-goers can meet up with a teacher and walk around Pennsic getting a lesson in the local vegetation.
Because the teacher changes with each day, a student can find different plants, a different location, or different information depending on the teacher.
The Pennsic Weedwalks as they are today are operated by Master Emrys Eustace, known as “Broom” (Joe Marfice) and Mistress Sadira bint Wassouf (Patricia Chakalis). Sadira is the queen of all things botanical, and although not the first to lead weedwalks at Pennsic, her incarnation is the longest surviving.
“I originally learned from a man called Whitefeather, who may have been the first to do official weedwalks at Pennsic. My first Pennsic was #11 (1982) and as I recall there were two classes: Water-bearing/Chirurgeon training or battles and the weedwalk. (Not sure if there were others or if these were the only two I wanted to attend). I began leading walks after a person from another state led a walk, making several serious misidentifications.”
“I was ever so grateful when Master Broom started organizing the consortium, because I had done weedwalks for quite a few years before that and was feeling the strain of huge groups of people who wanted more.”
Master Broom agrees. “I only took over from her when she was getting tired of doing many daily walks, and then mundane matters took her away from Pennsic.” Later, Master Broom organized the weedwalks into a consortium with multiple teachers. He insists, “I am merely the organizer; (the teachers) all are the reason the Weed Walks exist.”
Sadira loved it: “I came back in 2014 to this lovely consortium and all their creativity. What a gift!”
Other teachers have included Raziya bint Rusa (Elizabeth Burdick), Juliane Bechaumpe (Ann Fairhurst), Rue (Jen Sadler), and Layla Al-Zarqa (Kelley Morgan).
Master Morien McBain, hopes to foster a Forestry Guild here in our Kingdom, and is off to a great start, with online classes and lively discussions, plus and outdoor activities already in planning and even scheduled! He sat down with Gazette to answer our inquiries.
Tell us about yourself (name, title, etc.)
Hello! I’m Morien MacBain, and I really like to lurk about in the shrubbery, tie knots, and set things on fire. In addition, I’m a big fan of chopping things with axes, rowing about in boats, backpacking about, and eating plants and animals. I also ride – but do not eat – horses.
Tell us about the new group (name, goals, etc.)
At the moment, our group is called the Æthelmearc Wilderness Skills Study Group (find us on Facebook!), but we hope to soon be the Æthelmearc Royal Foresters when we become a chartered branch of the Known World Forester’s Guild!
How does one get involved?
Ideally, I’d say join our FB group, as well as the Known World Forester’s Guild and East Kingdom Royal Foresters groups. Then check out any and all documents in the “Files” sections that strike your fancy, but especially the New Member’s Guide . As well as Foresters 101.
He’s a lovely fellow, and the Warden of the Guild of Foresters for the East Kingdom. You will be applying for an “affiliate” (out-of-kingdom) membership. Æthelmearc’s program is just getting started, so we’re operating under the aegis of the East’s program until we have our own set up, and getting as many affiliate members as possible operating in Aethelmearc is an important early step.
What are your hopes for how the Forestry community grows and functions here in our Kingdom?
Our application to the Guild for a “Letter Temporary” is in draft, and is making the rounds collecting signatures. We’ll have several members advancing to the rank of Forester by the end of the summer, I’d say. I anticipate we’ll be in a position to apply for Æthelmearc’s own Regional Charter by this time next year. Hopefully whoever is on the thrones at that point will sign our Charter! We will be patrolling and protecting all their Sylvan wilds, after all!
How does the East come into play?
We turned to the East Kingdom Royal Foresters since they have the best-established and most accomplished body of people doing this in the SCA. They’ve been instrumental in helping Atlantia, Meridies, and An Tir get their kingdom programs running, so working with them while we get our ducks in a row was the obvious choice. They have been incredibly supportive, and we look forward to working with them going forward, although of course I hope our progression to a full-fledged chartered kingdom program of our own will come quickly!
What specific kinds of things can people learn about, research, and do?
Good night, it’s astonishing the wealth of skills we can get up to!
-Period fire making
-Travel by boat, horse, and on foot
-Stealth and leave-no-trace camping
-Orienteering and celestial navigation
-Wilderness survival (including cold and wet environments)
-Foraging wild edibles
-Hunting, fishing, and trapping
-Skills challenge courses
-Weapons and gear of outdoor life
-Sign cutting and evasion
-Recreation of pilgrimages
-Preparation of period trail rations
-Identification of trees and herbs, and their many uses.
The list goes on, and people can go insanely hardcore, or just try a few things that interest them. Glorious stuff!
What got you interested in this?
I’ve been running around in the woods since I was six. I was in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, The Order of the Arrow (the Scouting national honor society), and I was in the Army, where I got to mess around in the woods in various places, so I’m a big fan! I’m also into the modern bushcraft movement, which involves watching lots of old-time wilderness skills being brought to modern people to keep them alive (both the skills and the people, I suppose).
What are your favorite pieces of forestry/wilderness advice for the re-enactor?
“Two is one; one is none,” meaning you should always have a backup for each crucial piece of gear you need in the woods (multiple blades, ways of starting a fire, methods to purify water, ways to signal for help, etc.). Also, hydrate like a crazy person when you’re thirsty, hungry, hot, cold, tired, irritable, being chased by wolves, whatever! DRINK WATER! Also, purify your water, even if the stream looks fresh. Waterborne illnesses like giardia are no joke! Essentially, read everything you kind find by Dave Canterbury and especially Mors Kochanski, that guy was a beast!
What’s the essential gear? Or how can I get started?
Essentially, you need some green garb, good boots, and a decent knife (preferably single-edged), and a desire to learn about the natural world and all the adventures, lessons, treasures, and mysteries it has for us!
Get online and find other Foresters near you, and start getting out in the woods and waters together (I love getting out there solo, but even I admit that a partner makes stuff safer and usually more fun.)
Here’s a clip on the topic by Llywd Forester, the founder of the Guild on the topic of gear and getting started. Good stuff!
Any parting thoughts?
I’d like to add that forestry has opened up a sweet new dimension in my Scadian life, and that wealth of skills that one can study and practice can be a real ornament to a life and balm and oil to a weary heart! There’s been a rich air of mystery and romance around people with the skills to live and thrive in the wilderness for centuries, and recapturing, practicing, and transmitting those skills to new generations connects us with a profoundly human part of ourselves which many of us have almost forgotten was there!
We’re not the Sylvan Kingdom for nothing. Æthelmearc is covered by woods, and we have deep wells of wilderness skills in our area. We have some amazing people coming together to train and share skills. Come and join us!