A Heian New Year Celebration

February 14, 2009 AS XLIII

Barony of Grey Niche 

                The Barony of Grey Niche holds four events each year following the four Celtic ‘holidays’ of Imbolc, Beltaine, Lugh, and Samhain. These fall roughly in February, April, July, and October. Candlemas is the ‘late-period’ name for the holiday or holy day falling in early February, being the mass for the blessing of the candles. Its name is used in place of Imbolc. The Barony of Grey Niche traditionally has Candlemas as a one-day arts and sciences event with little to no actual martial activities. Each year the theme for Candlemas varies based on the autocrat organizing the event. This year the theme was Japanese, looking at the Heian period in Japanese history as submitted by the autocrat, Sugihara Naome.

                The feastcrat for the event was Baron Serafino Benitini. Reservations were coordinated by THL Cormac the Bald. The site was the Singleton Community Center in Bartlett, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis. This was a dry site.

                The site opened at eight o’clock on Saturday, February 14th. Mistress Alysia Gabrielle de Fougeres was the acting autocrat for the day as Sugihara was restricted to bed suffering from pneumonia. The activities of the day were held predominately in three rooms of the Community Center. Two rooms were large classrooms. These were split in half with invisible lines so that two classes could be offered in each room at the same time. One room contained Classrooms 1 and 2. The other room contained Classrooms 3 and 4. The two rooms were across the hall from each other diagonally.

                The third room used in the Community Center was the great hall or auditorium. A stage filled one end of this room with doors connecting it to the hallway that ran the length of the community center with doors to restrooms, classrooms, building entrances, etc. The other end of the auditorium had doors to a kitchen, exits, and smaller rooms for storage or prep-work for the theater.

The stage was the fifth classroom for classes at the event. The troll or reservation table was set up next to the doors connecting to the hallway. Tables for the arts and sciences entries were along the wall opposite from the troll table. The registration table for the arts and sciences entries was at the end of the room near the doors to the smaller rooms. Grafin Kenna was in charge of the arts and sciences competition and registered all of the entries. She was assisted by Mistress Brigit Olesdottir, who also sat at the table, and Baroness Dredda, Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences.

Classes began at nine o’clock in all five classrooms. There were four hours of one-hour classes from nine to one o’clock with one class being two hours in length and another having the potential of being two hours in length.

The first set of five classes had started by the time I arrived on-site. ‘Hands On Japanese Bookbinding’ by Mistress Arielle and ‘Japanese Theatre’ by Mistress Vashti were in Classrooms 1 and 2. ‘Japanese Kites’ by Mistress Anyeta and ‘Gyotaku – Japanese Fish Printing’ by Master Kojin were in Classrooms 3 and 4. ‘Hands On Knitting’ by Duchess Linnet was on the stage.

After signing-in at the troll table, the continuation of the Silent Service Auction by the Order of the Diamond Chalice was set up near the entrance to the kitchen. THL Cormac provided one of the site’s folding tables, Viscountess Miriel brought the service bid forms, and Baroness Dredda provided tape to attach the papers and sign. Where the first Silent Service Auction had twenty-six services, this one had just seven. These were placed on top of colored construction paper, as had been done at the first auction. The metal table stand that Maistir Rory brought for the first auction but did not use, instead using the large floor tripod, was used for displaying the auction’s sign at Candlemas.

Six members of the Diamond Chalice offered seven services for bid at Candlemas. These were those services not bid upon at the first auction which had been a fortnight prior at the Genghis Khan 1220 event held by the Shire of Blackwood. The auction was scheduled to run from ten o’clock to two o’clock ending immediately after feast. The seven services available for bid were:

1.        Ambrielle Llewellyn (Vogelburg) – Run a List at One Event

2.        Dafydd ap y Kinith (Axemoor) - Marshal at an Event

3.        Miriel du Bois (Grey Niche) – Archery at one Event

4.        Robert von Flusswasser (Dragouns Weal) – Will Help Create Your SCA Publication

5.        Sarah MacGregor (Ardanroe) – Heraldry Class at one Event

6.        Tegan verch Dwgan (Axemoor) – Basic Breadmaking 101

7.        Tegan verch Dwgan (Axemoor) – Ghost Feastcrat One Event

At nine-thirty registration of entries in the arts and sciences competitions closed and a brief judges meeting was held. Judging of the static entries would take up the rest of the morning. Entries in Costume Review would be judged at ten-thirty and Performance Arts entries at eleven o’clock.

The class size for Duchess Linnet’s “Hands On” Knitting was eight. Class attendees were encouraged to bring needles and yarn but some materials would be provided. Her Grace would also be available during the rest of the day, when not teaching her other class, to assist anyone from the class or help anyone who could not attend the class get started in knitting.

Mistress Arielle taught the stab method of Japanese book binding. Several people watched while she and three class attendees each made their own book. While I did not get a copy of her handout, I think the reason it was called ‘stab-binding’ was that you used a tool similar to an ice pick to stab the holes in the paper and then used needles to lace the pages together with thread, thereby having the potential of stabbing yourself numerous times with the needles. The books themselves looked lovely but had a potential flaw in the lacing. It could be loose, not a tight lace.

Mistress Vashti’s ‘Japanese Theatre’ class became a two hour class. She had one attendee, Lady Lewen de Wakefield, when I observed, but reported having a few more earlier. Her class was a lecture on the history and forms of theatre and included books, copies of plays and poetry, masks and fans.

As both Laurels’ classes took over an hour, Mistress Jane Beaumont’s “Dip Pen Calligraphy” class, which was to be in Classroom 1 of the room, began late but ultimately turned it into a room with three classes occurring at once. The calligraphy class’ size limit was ten and a handout was available to take home for only one dollar. Mistress Jane had between four and six students in her class. The other ten o’clock class that would have been held in Classroom 2 of the room, “The History and Art of Kumihimo” was canceled as the instructor, Ogawa no Ryugo Uchiharu, did not make it to the event.

 Mistress Anyeta’s ‘Japanese Kites’ was a big hit for the older children and perhaps some adults as well. She had a wonderful handout about the history, appearance, and types of kites in Japan including a glossary and list of websites of interest. I was happy to be able to pick up a copy of her handout.

Master Kojin’s ‘Japanese fish printing’ was also a big hit for the adults. I had seen this class taught year’s ago by his wife, Mistress Margery of Crosgate. Both were here today having made the journey from the Barony of Iron Mountain and brought both of their teen-age daughters, who took many of the more craft-like classes. For this class you did not have a real fish. Instead a wooden or rubber fish was used as a stamp with the ink rolled on it and then pressed on paper. There were about ten or fifteen sheets drying when the class ended.

Mistress Anna Nikki, a nickname for her longer Russian name, followed Mistress Anyeta’s kite class with a “Documentation Roadshow”. She used a cute handout, Documentation for Gummy Candy by Lord Joe Smith of Somewhereshire, to teach how to critically evaluate documentation and recognize the good from the bad so that you would create good documentation for your entries in the future.

Lady Amelia van Hemessen followed Master Kojin with a two hour class on “Ikebana”. Ikebana is Japanese flower arrangement. Amelia presented the history and several styles, after which those attending made arrangements. A five dollar fee was charge to cover the costs of the flowers, containers, moss, pebbles, rocks, and other supplies. Between eight and ten ikebana arrangements were made. These were then taken to the auditorium to display on the end of the stage and later on the tables, both high table and those eaten at by all us regular folks. I was very pleased with my small arrangement and after the event gave it to my Mom, with whom I was staying over the weekend.

                Lady Amelia did have a Performing Arts entry in the competition and since her class went from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock and she needed to change for the performance, the judging was not actually finished until right before feast.

                Meanwhile on the stage Duchess Linnet followed her knitting class with one on coil baskets. There was a class size limit of eight and a two-dollar fee for materials.

                At eleven o’clock Duchess Ilissa the Nightwatcher followed Mistress Anna Nikki’s class with the ‘Japanese Art of Unpersuasion for the Gentle Sex’. This was basically a self-defense class for ladies. A few gentlemen attended to assist with the demonstrations and practices. It gave a completely different atmosphere to the room for those of us meditatively contemplating layouts, plants, and stones for the floral arrangements.

                Across the hall in Classroom 1 Duke Kane had a packed table of twelve or fifteen gentlemen warriors for “Battle Tactics”. Classroom 2 in the same room was to be Lady Ashikaga Nanban Shimofuri’s class on ‘how to make a pair of Period Hakama to fit nanban/gaijin’; however, she had not arrived as of eleven o’clock. Mistress Alysia acted as the substitute teacher and used one of my classmates from Ikebana who had finished his arrangement and was dressed in full Japanese garb as a model. The three to five people attending the class took notes on constructing the pattern from Mistress Alysia’s on-the-body explanations.

                Lady Katinka White Hair followed Duchess Linnet on the stage at eleven o’clock with a class on making “basket liners” as an “SCA Life” category craft.

Shimofuri arrived just before twelve with her daughter and travel companion, a rapier fighter she ‘stole’ from another Kingdom. As the Order of the Laurels were holding a meeting at Candlemas at noon and did not want it to be a public meeting, which, originally located on the stage would make it, they took over the room that contained Classrooms 1 and 2, moving the noon class in Classroom 1 to the stage, there being nothing scheduled at noon for Classroom 2.

Baron Uliam McUliam’s class “Understanding Musashi: A Guide to Reading The Book of 5 Rings” was held on the stage instead of in Classroom 1 due to the swap with the Laurels for their meeting. Lady Zhara um Nikko followed the Ikebana class with “East Asian Condiments”. Her class consisted of a lot of food items, which the participants were able to sample along with notes and handouts. While her class was in Classroom 4, Classroom 3 of the same room was open as Ogawa no Ryogo Uchiharu was not present, and so ‘Traditional Origami’ covering the history of origami, was not held. Instead, with that side of the room available, Shimofuri gave her version of the “Period Hakama” class. One couple had brought fabric and a hakama was fitted to him, the fabric arranged and cut and pinned with stickpins so that it could be sewn once the husband and wife returned home.

I had not brought fabric so had started a fitting to record measurements. Unfortunately during this time THL Cormac discovered he needed every table the site had for set up for feast. Thus I departed to close the Silent Service Auction early, roughly around twelve-thirty, taking everything down so that the table could be used in the feast table set up. This was the second time Shimofuri’s class had been held and I had missed out. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.

The Silent Service Auction at Candlemas raised twenty-five dollars for the Royal Reception with five of the seven services bid upon by THL Ravenswar Brackae, incoming Kingdom Seneschal, each at five dollars. The five services he obtained were:

1.        Ambrielle Llewellyn (Vogelburg) – Run a List at One Event

2.        Dafydd ap y Kinith (Axemoor) - Marshal at an Event

3.        Miriel du Bois (Grey Niche) – Archery at one Event

4.        Sarah MacGregor (Ardanroe) – Heraldry Class at one Event

5.        Tegan verch Dwgan (Axemoor) – Basic Breadmaking 101

The funds collected from today’s auction were given to His Majesty just before feast. This gave a grand total of $561 raised by the Order of the Diamond Chalice, $516 at Genghis Khan 1220, $20 raised shortly thereafter with a bid for Baroness Barbara’s service, and $25 raised today at Candlemas.

By twelve-thirty all of the arts and sciences entries should have been picked up. However, two tables still have projects on them until the end of the day. Also at this time the request was made that everything be picked up from the two rooms down the hall that had been used for classes. That way only the auditorium and kitchen would need to be cleared at the end of the day. Shimofuri’s trio had at this time finished the pinning of the fabric for the Period Hakama and had gone to the kitchen to assist with the serving of feast. At her direction I picked up all of her class materials and extra clothing in Classroom 3 and put it next to my things inside the auditorium.

Feast was limited to 100. The high table was set up in front of the stage. His Royal Majesty Havordh and Their Excellencies Dagan and Mahsheed were joined by Lady Zhara and others. There were four rows of tables the length of the auditorium for everyone else to be seated at. The room was decorated with red banners hung from the ceiling crossing the width of the auditorium, the ends of the banners hanging down the walls and bearing Japanese characters upon them. A mobile of assorted origami creatures from turtles to various birds hung down from the center point of the room. Bamboo candleholders in sets of two, one tall and one short, each wrapped with greenery and bearing inside a fake candle (the battery operated type) were set at all of the tables. Each place setting at the tables had an origami box containing packaged goodies along with wrapped chopsticks on the table and mochi on a brown paper napkin.

The feast was delicious. I joined THL Gwyneth and assorted members of House Telemark, the Barony of Small Gray Bear, and the Barony of Grey Niche, and summarily was joined by the Master Kojin, Mistress Margery, one of their daughters, Mistress Arielle, Lady Amelia, and Baron Dulinn.

Children served water and hot tea, the ice machine being broken so there was no ice. The first remove was miso soup with tofu. This was formed from dashi soup stock, tofu, miso paste, green onion, and shitake mushrooms. Served separately from the soup was oshitashi spinich, which were effectively spinach balls. The second remove was pork teriyaki with shiso rice and tsukemono. The third remove was chicken yakitori (grilled chicken) with shiso rice. Mochi on the napkins were one dessert and anko (a sweet red bean pudding) on crackers was served as the other dessert.

Toasts were made to the Crown, the Baron and Baroness, and the Heirs. During feast Lady Amelia explained the Dutch play from which she performed a scene as her Performing Arts entry. It was really fascinating as the play occurred just prior to Martin Luther’s posting of his doctrines on the church door but the themes regarding religion and salvation were remarkably similar. It gave a new light on Dutch culture.

At the conclusion of feast the feastcrat was summoned and he and his staff were applauded. The hall was then quickly cleared of all tables and the chairs were rearranged to face one corner of the auditorium near the stage where the guest speaker would be.

Sachiko Matsushita, Ph.D., is the Japan Outreach Coordinator at the University of Memphis. She has a long history of study and scholarship in Japanese cultural history and came to present and discuss The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. This 54 chapter work of literature gives a detailed look into the court life and culture of the Heian-era of Japan. It was also being celebrated by the Japanese in 2009 on its 1000 years of existence, having been written in 1009.

Dr. Matsushita gave a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the work, the characters used for writing the work, both Chinese and Japanese, the style, and the themes. While she had originally over an hour to give her presentation, Dr. Matsushita was still going strong at four o’clock and had not yet gotten to the tale itself. Due to the fact that everyone had to be off site by five o’clock, her presentation had to be cut short and she concluded with the themes found in the work leaving the audience to look at one of the three English translations from 1922-1933, 1976, and 2001 for the actual story.

The room was quickly rearranged for court with the resetting of the chairs and positions of the three thrones. The Baronial herald of Grey Niche announced His Majesty and Their Excellencies entrances and His Majesty’s court opened. King Havordh said that due to the press for time the business of Their Excellencies would be held first. His Excellency asked if Her Excellency would be his Valentine with the presentation of a handmade valentine.

Mistress Alysia as acting autocrat was summoned. She thanked everyone for coming, announced that photos had been taken for the bed-ridden autocrat, and that 151 people were here today. Grafin (Countess) Kenna was summoned to give the results of the arts and sciences competitions. There had been two competitions, a Regional A&S Faire of completed and not quite finished projects and a Japanese theme A&S competition. THL Gwyneth Caerr was the winner of the Regional A&S Faire with her knitted mitten, having finished one mitten but not the second. Lady Rihannon(?) from Meridies was the winner of the Japanese theme A&S competition with a beautiful silk fan entry.

Mistress Nerak (of Gladdenfeld) was summoned and asked that Sir Kane Redfeather and Sir John the Bastard known as Bearkiller come forth. Sir Kane went to find Sir John. While waiting, Aisha and Nadia(?), a couple, were called forth and received tokens of thanks and small valentine candy boxes from Their Excellencies for their service to the Barony. When Sir Kane returned with Sir John, Mistress Nerak presented both with white belts which had been worn by her husband, Sir Starhelm Warlock, who passed away a few months back. “These should be worn by a knight,” she said tearfully, “and I have no use for them.” The two knights took the belts solemnly.

Cameron, (Cammer the Hammer) a youth still two months shy of 16 and son of The Widow was summoned.  He entered from the hall, kneeling before His Majesty who motioned for him to move to the boy’s right. Cameron knelt before Baroness Mahsheed who motioned for him to move again. With him kneeling before Baron Dagan, His Excellency presented Cameron with the Order of the Azure Estoile for his service as a youth. Sir Rey Ribeaumont then came forth and asked that he might speak having business with the lad. At this time Sir Rey took Cameron as a squire. Following cheers and applause of the populace, the Baronial court was closed.  It was mused if this lad might be the youngest squire made in Gleann Abhann.  ?

Kev was then summoned before His Majesty. This turned out to be Mikive Sufut, who would soon become Lord Mikive Sufut with the receipt of an Award of Arms. Sir Rashid ibn Hilal was then summoned. His Majesty spoke of those who wished the knight to be recognized for his work and thusly called for the Order of the Silver Lamp. Sir Rashid was inducted into the Order; however the scroll was very hard to read both by the court herald and by His Majesty. Mistress Jane was chastised for a difficult scroll. His Majesty also noted that the Silver Lamp had been busy and noticing other people and, oh, that person is your Excellency! And so Baron Dagan came to kneel before His Majesty and joined the Order of the Silver Lamp, though a reading of the scroll was not attempted again. A plug was made for Art Wars by the Order and they were sent off to give hugs.

Sara un Eiko, who I now suspect was really my faulty hearing of Lady Zhara um Nikko, was then summoned. His Majesty mentioned all of the Middle Eastern theme things that she did but that today she wore Japanese garb and face paint and hair. For her service she received the Onyx Chalice.

Any newcomers or their first event attendees were then called forth and received tokens from His Majesty. Then any children were called forth and received small boxes of valentine candy or other goodies. Sir John and Sir Kane tried desperately to get any child to go back and get two boxes of candy for them as well.

At this time Their Excellencies realized they had one more piece of business and their court was reopened. Sir John was summoned. He announced that he had been Seneschal of the Barony of two years and had pledged to only be Seneschal for two years. He thanked everyone in the group and kingdom and at this time gave the key to the Baronial post office box to Dame Brenna, the new Seneschal of Grey Niche. The Baronial court was then closed.

Viscountess Brenna then had business. She had lost a piece of her leather belt, a rectangular piece that fallen off, and asked that if anyone found it to let her know. There being no further business court was closed.

All were asked to listen to THL Cormac for directions for the packing up of the chairs, basically to be put on the chair cart or stacked against the wall. Help was needed to take the equipment from the kitchen to vehicles and assist in clearing the auditorium, it being about fifteen minutes before five o’clock.

With the event coming to an end, Shimofuri and I decided at this time to not hold the formal belting ceremony, having attempted at Crown List (she could not attend) and Christmas Revel (we lost out time-wise at court). I presented her with a small teddy bear to take to events, a yellow leather belt to wear with her non-Japanese garb, and one of the yellow clothe Watch bands bearing my badge made by Sarah MacGregor for the Watch to wear at my vigil, which she could wear with any of her garb. I also presented her with print outs of sources for her to obtain on interlibrary loan to research a Portuguese name, as that was her actual persona.

With the Order of the Laurels holding a meeting at Candlemas, many teaching classes and judging, there was a good showing of the Order. These included Mistress Arielle de Brabazon, Master Erik of Telemark, Mistress Serita Vashti al Coya, Mistress Brigit Olesdottir of Loch Ree, Mistress Alysia Gabrielle de Fougéres, Master Damiano Elie Bellini, Mistress Dametta of Arundel, Mistress Julian ferch Rhys, Mistress Anna Nikolaevna Petrakova, Mistress Anyeta the Wanderer, Mistress Rebecca with the Greyhound, and Mistress Ceridwen the Empiric.

Mistress Ceridwen received her permanent Laurel Peerage scroll at this event, made by Sir Leto Darkhorse, which included her device, hopefully to be registered shortly as it is at the Laurel Queen of Arms. Visiting Laurels from Meridies included Master Kojin the Wanderer, Mistress Margery of Crosgate, and Mistress Nerak la Tisserande that I recognized. There may have been others.

                Knights present at the event included Sir John the Bearkiller, Sir Kane Redfeather, Sir Havordh Ættarbani (the King), Sir Leto Darkhorse (though I am not sure that I actually saw him), Sir Padruig Dubhchlogad, Sir Rashid ibn Hilal, Sir Rey Ribeaumont, Sir Uther von Ziemer, and Sir Luther Zeimer.

                Pelicans present at the event included Master John the Bearkiller, Master Erik of Telemark, Dame Brenna Lowri o Ruthin, Mistress Brigit Olesdottir of Loch Ree, Mistress Linnet MacLeod, Mistress Jane Beaumont, Maistir Rory ua Riada, Mistress Alysia Gabrielle de Fougéres, and Mistress Mariel (Miriel) du Bois.

                Attendance being 151 in number was fabulous for a one-day event. The majority of those present came from the Barony of Grey Niche but there were a large number from Smythkepe (including Ceara, Dante, Frederick, Morin – who entered an herbal in the A&S competition, and their daughter Liadran, plus a newcomer who tagged along with Ceara), Lagerdamm (Robert, Sir Kane’s squire and a former local exchequer), and Small Gray Bear (Genevote was home sewing her dress for her elevation but Rashid, Ravenswar, Aellesia, Gwyneth, Julian were there), plus others from Guardian Forest, Hammerhold, Tor an Riogh (Angus, Searles, Dametta, Jane – Ceridwen now in Grey Niche due to her job change), Iron Ox (Shimofuri, her daughter and travel companion), Northover (Rebecca and Havordh), Troll Fen (Erik and Brigit), and Ardanroe (Rory). And then there were many from the Kingdom of Meridies having come from Iron Mountain and Gladdenfeld and perhaps other groups as well.

                Having flown to Memphis Thursday night to visit family and to attend the event, I caught my ride ‘home’, presenting my ikebana arrangement to my Mom, kind driver to and from the event that day. This had been a lot of fun and very educational about Japanese arts and culture.

 Written this 17th day of February AS XLIII being 2009 Gregorian by Maistir Rory ua Riada

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