The Kitsap Medieval Faire and the people behind it are gearing up for the 35th faire. The faire is presented by the Kingdom of An Tir, part of the global nonprofit, the Society for Creative Anachronism. This story is the fourth in a series about the Kingdom of An Tir.
The Kingdom of An Tir is exactly what it says in the name: a kingdom.
With territory that includes Washington, Oregon, the northern tip of Idaho and part of of British Columbia in Canada, An Tir is a far-reaching kingdom, one of 20 in the “known world” — which includes more than a dozen countries. Each kingdom, of course, has a king and queen, and includes numerous baronies, run by a baron and/or a baroness.
“In May and September, we hold the crown events,” said Master Arontius with the Kingdom of An Tir, known in the mundane world as Aaron Rogers. “This is where anybody who wants to be king and queen come together at a tournament, and they are paired off against each other over the course of a day, and they fight each other until there’s one man or woman standing, and that person has won the right to be king or queen by right of arms of An Tir.”
In An Tir, a new king or queen is chosen every six months (they’re officially crowned in July and December), after a grueling tournament. Whoever wins gets to choose their “inspiration” as their partner in ruling the kingdom. If a woman wins the tournament, she will be crowned queen, and she will get to choose her king, the number two authority in all of An Tir.
“The crown tournament is where the most honorable and chivalrous combat is found, because there’s so many witnesses there, so many people watching,” Arontius said. “But it’s not just combat. We consider it very important that the king and queen carry the honor of the people, the honor of the kingdom. It’s incredibly important that they not only fight well, but they carry themselves as royalty. They have to have that nobility.”
Once the monarch’s reign ends and the former king and queen step down, they are then given the title of count or countess. If a count or countess become a monarch again, then following the end of their second reign, they become a duke or duchess, and are given additional privileges, such as the ability to hold their own court.
But each kingdom is large and covers a vast amount of territory that’s where the baronies come in. The barony in Kitsap County is called Dragon’s Laire, and is ruled by Baroness Eilidh and Baron Conchobar Mac Eoin.
“We treat them as royalty, because it all matters,” Arontius said. “Since they’re direct representatives of the king and queen, we pay them that royal deference.”
Barons and baronesses are appointed by the king and queen; they don’t have to fight for that honor.
Aside from the royalty, one of the highest class achievable in the Society for Creative Anachronism is the peerage.
“If you think of England itself, nowadays, when they want to recognize or honor someone special, they give them a knighthood,” Arontius said. “The SCA works on kind of the same strategy.”
There are four different types of peer in the SCA: knighthood, for heavy fighters; masters of defense, for rapier fighters; the laurels, for arts and sciences; and the pelicans, for service to the kingdom.
“It goes beyond just excellence in a chosen craft or chosen field,” Arontius, a pelican, said. “A peerage fulfills all the requirements of Arthurian mythos of knighthood. All the peers, no matter what discipline, are expected to be chivalrous, honorable, be leaders … and go out of their way to treat people with respect.”
Arontius said it generally takes “around 15 years to gain a level of mastery that peerage requires.” SCA members are nominated for peerage by the masters already appointed, and everyone in that respective order discusses whether the nominee meets all the requirements, after which the name will be given to the king and queen, who will then appoint the nominee as a peer.
“Everybody’s path is a little bit different,” Arontius said. “The easiest one to talk about is the knighthood, because it’s so focused on fighting ability … the fighting with a sword and shield is a highly precise technique. You wouldn’t think so; you’d think bashing each other with a rattan sword is like being a caveman, but it’s not. It requires discipline, knowledge and practice, practice, practice.”
He said watching some of the heavy fighters is like watching a martial artist in a kung fu movie — almost mystical. He said he’s even seen a heavy fighter, wearing armor weighing 30-40 pounds, do a back flip in order to hit someone with their sword.
The masters of defense is the peerage for rapier fighting; this peer group is called such because “rapier is tied to defense more than knights are,” Arontius said.
“It’s a little easier for them, because they actually have written materials that are fairly easy to translate,” Arontius said. “But those styles are more complex in some ways. It takes a lot of finesse.”
The laurel wreath was a symbol of artistic endeavors in the Middle Ages, which is where the next group gets their name.
“For the laurels, we’re talking a wide spectrum of artistic endeavors,” Arontius said. “Anything from cooking to painting to garb to scribal … These people have taken it to the nth degree to precisely hone their craft.
“We’re talking museum-level quality,” he added. “Some of the laurels do such in-depth work, museums and colleges actually seek them out for information.”
Finally, the pelicans are the last peers of the SCA. They were named thus based on a legend from the Middle Ages that said a pelican will pierce its own breast to provide for young in need.
“They would give of their own selves to what they were serving,” Arontius said. “These are people that are a little bit different from the rest. They are the service people of the society. The have spent upwards of 15-20 years serving the society and the kingdom and the branches as officers, recreating events or running huge events. These are people who have done huge amounts of service.”
And even though the peerage is bestowed by a king or queen, the truth is, the peerage is society-wide. A member who has earned the rank of master in their peerage can go to any other kingdom in the entirety of the known world, and still be recognized as a master.
Learn more about the Kingdom of An Tir at www.antir.sca.org. Learn more about the Kitsap Medieval Faire, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 3 at 8707 SW Sentinel Peak Way, Bremerton, at www.kitsapmedievalfaire.org.