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Long Live the King

By Joe Starkey



How does a Middle School history Teacher from Dallas become A Moorish Tiger, Knight of Spain and two-times King of Ansteorra? The simple answer is Force of Arms. The true answer requires some background. These are the Current Middle Ages in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The Society for Creative {{more}} Anachronism, , is a non-profit educational organization which is dedicated to the study and re-creation of crafts, customs and ideals of pre-seventeenth century European culture. While most members create a persona fashioned from people and times in Europe, they are free to become a person from any culture known to Europe during the time period from 600 ad to 1600 ad. Members try to re-create life not as it was, but as it should have been during those times. They attempt to embody those lost ideals of Chivalry, Courtesy, and Honor. They ignore the prejudices and extreme cruelty shown to those “not like us” and attempt to create a society where you earn your way, not just by force of arms or skill at a trade, but by being of benefit to your fellow players. Many join for the “glory of combat” – the chance to dress up in medieval armor and hit other people with sticks made to look like swords and other medieval weapons. Others join for the guilds and the opportunity to learn skills such as court dancing, weaving, calligraphy, music, leather work and jewelry making. Most of geographic Texas and Oklahoma is overlaid by the map of the Kingdom of Ansteorra. This Kingdom is one of 19 that cover the globe. Each is ruled by a King and Queen who are chosen by personal combat every six months. Coronation involves four main events. The departing King holds court to recognize those who have given outstanding service during His or Her reign. . Outgoing was King Abdal-Mahdi Jamal ibn Hakim known in the mundane world as Robert Kelley and by friends and here as Mahdi for short. During the week he is a Dallas history teacher who started CSA in Waco in 1989. He had graduated from Baylor with a degree in Education. However, as he said “every bad experience with students, parents and supervisors that you can think of” happened to him during his first year of teaching and he started seeking other employment. During this series of jobs, role playing friends encouraged him to come out to SCA events and dangled the possibility of “getting to hit people with sticks.” He states that you generally tell what movie was playing at the time a person joins by the persona they chose. His garb is styled on the Moors after they swept thru Europe from Spain and was influenced by the movie “Monty Python.” Lady Valeria Richila Navarro known in the mundane world as Mrs. Valerie Kelley joined shortly after the movie “Lady Hawke” came out. They met at an SCA event and carried on a long distance romance by telephone and courted at SCA events. They both began careers as teachers after the birth of their first son and continue to teach U.S. History at the middle school in Dallas. The second main event is the Tournament to determine the King’s Champion. This took place in the morning prior to the descending court of King Mahdi. Crown Prince Aaron MacGregor started the tourney giving his expectations for the person who would be his Champion. The Champion has the responsibility to answer all challenges to the King during his reign and must either be at all events attending by the King to carry the Sword of the Kingdom or make arrangements for a Knight to take his place. Thirty five fighters of the Kingdom desiring to perform these duties entered the lists for the Field of Honor to become Champion. The tourney started as a Bear Pit. First three fighting areas were marked off and two fighters placed in each. The winner of each combat would hold the field until defeated or until he or she had won 5 consecutive bouts. The fighter leaving the field got into a line of fighters waiting their turn and re-entered the field of combat as their turn came. The winners were responsible for reporting the number of their wins to a recorder. At the end of the designated 90 minutes of combat, the six fighters with the most wins were called to a elimination tournament to earn the position of King’s Champion. Lothlann had the most kills in the Bear Pit with a total of 33 wins. His Grace Hobarton became King’s Champion after 24 kills in the Bear Pit and then winning the elimination round with the top six fighters from the Bear Pit. Approximately an hour after the descending court, the ascending court and coronation of the new King begins. Preceded by loyal Knights and Squires, Aaron MacGregor approached the court. He was stopped by the nobility of the Kingdom and asked “Who are you?” The first answer was his full SCA name. Challenged again, he replied “I am a Knight.” Challenged a third time, he claimed his right as King. Again the challenge and this reply “I am Ansteorra.” Thus establishing the fact that King and Kingdom are one. A last challenge was “by what right do you come?” and the only answer allowed by the SCA is “by Force of Arms”. The nobility gave way and Aaron ascended the throne. First crowning himself and then calling his Lady, Her Grace Britta MacGregor and crowning her Queen, He called for and appointed his officers of the Kingdom. Last of the main events is the Feast. Lady George known in the mundane world as Delia DeFabio prepared a feast of roast beef, carrots, potatoes, rolls and peach cobbler with whipped cream for 160+ people. She had many willing helpers in the kitchen including galley slaves Cailyn, Kaitlyn and Austin. As with all medieval feasts, the participants had to furnish their own table setting of plates, cutelry and goblets. The Throne and those at His table are served by squires and pages. All others come to the kitchen for their food and take it back to their feast tables. Bards and musicians entertain during the meal. Mahdi gave me both the concepts and the path to the throne. He stated that all of the players in CSA were minorities in at least two senses. First they were someone that had grown up with the vision of Knights on White Chargers and Ladies of the Court and the tales both in history and fairy tale of those times. You have to want to live the ideas and romance of the middle ages in the arts, crafts and chivalry of those times without the prejudices of those times and peoples. Next is the fact that this is both an expensive and time consuming hobby. You must either create or purchase the appropriate Elizabethan garb and armor and then commit to participation in Events that often require travel. Incoming King Aaron MacGregor known to the mundane world as Michael Geisendorff of Midland, TX stated that when he began his quest for Knighthood – he participated in Events at least twice each month at a cost between $400.00 and $500.00 per week for four years. While most do not spend this amount by camping out at events and sharing expenses with friends – it is still a hobby that requires a solid monetary commitment. My weekend expenses for my daughter and I were only $28.00 for site fees for two and for two tokens allowing entry to the feast. We rode to the event in my sister’s motor home towing our car and slept in the motor home with four other participants. My daughter, Sarah has been a SCA member for several years and has her own garb. My sister sewed an Elizabethan tunic for me which saved purchasing or begging my wife to make one. Many folks stayed in motels which added to their cost. We were able to save on meals by doing our cooking in the motor home with food purchased in Abilene. So you can do this hobby without spending much more money than staying home. The path to the Throne requires much more commitment than just being a member of the SCA. The first step is to earn a Knighthood. This requires two major commitments. The first is to become proficient as a Heavy Fighter . Combat is on the honor system with the referee basically being present only to keep the fighters in the designated field and to insure their armor and weapons are up to standard. The players call the hits with those on the arm or leg being merely disabling and requiring the fighter to either do without an arm or fight from a kneeling position. Chivalry will often lead the opponent to discard his own shield or join his foe in the disadvantaged position. Combat wins are not enough to win a Knighthood by themselves. The person is also judged by their composure – they must exemplify the ideas of Chivalry both on and off the field of combat. They must devote time to teaching others both arms and conduct. Fealty to the Crown is not merely loyalty but the dedication of yourself to the benefit of the Kingdom while continuing to develop yourself as a person and Knight. King Aaron MacGregor stated “when you are finally selected by the Crown as worthy to be a Knight – You have reached the beginning of your journey.” As a Knight, you are eligible to participate in the Crown Tourney. This is held three months after Coronation. All Knights of the Kingdom may sign up for the tourney in honor of their consort. Participants fight a single elimination tournament consisting of the best of three combats. The winner and consort become Crown Prince and Princess to serve the Kingdom and Crown for three months. They then become King and Queen by Force of Arms. There are never any elections, never any politics – just the best fighter from the Knights of the Kingdom becomes King. This is also not cheap. King Aaron was crowned here for his second time in 4 ½ years. His first reign involved travel of over 15,000 miles in the United States and a trip to Australia to represent Ansteorra. As he left the throne, Mahdi gave all of the first time participants at a CSA event a small black stone. He told them that this stone represented his vision of the CSA. After court, he related the story of his first CSA event. When signing into the event, each person was given a small black stone and told there would be a prize for the person collecting the most stones by a certain time. Being naturally competitive, he immediately sought ways to gather stones. He discovered being helpful and chivalrous was an excellent way to get others to give him their stones. Close to the end of the competition, a young girl came up and stated she was helping a younger friend who also had a major collection of stones and asked what favor she could do for Mahdi to convince him to give up his collection. A bargaining session began which attracted a large crowd to enjoy this session of Barter. It was finally determined that the favor should be a chaste kiss but the parties could not decide on the length of this kiss. An appeal was made to the King and he both determined the length of time and judged whether it was properly and timely conveyed. Mahdi gave up his stones and the boy won the prize basket. Mahdi took home the concept of chivalry and service that kept him in the CSA where he has been King twice in the last 8 years and is currently serving as Baron of the Steppes in charge of a group in Dallas that has over 140 paying and active members. He remembered the black stones and gave similar ones as tokens of recognition during his first reign. He had not used the stones during this reign until a lady was presenting a prayer rug to the Crown and was wearing a cross she had created inset with a stone presented in the first reign. The Shire of Mendersham is the Abilene group. The leader is Seneschal Her Lady AmaRyah hap Illys de Visclo known in the mundane world as Elaine Starkey of Trent, TX. The shire holds a monthly populace meeting on the 3rd Sunday of the month at The Noodle House, on S. 1st, an every-other weekly fighter practice at various parks, and a monthly thrown weapons fighter practice at a house in the country. Call Lady AmaRyah at 325-235-0643 for directions.

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