Your Title Doesn’t Mean Jack, Part 2

I don’t know who this lady is but I know I like her!

Well, it seems I hit a nerve.

My blog was really never intended to be much more than my occasional ruminations and rants and wanderings with regards to my two main hobbies; performance magic and the SCA. I thought I was doing really well when I posted something that got 250 views that were mostly not me. On average I think I get about 20 views because my closest friends like to keep tabs on me.

As I sit and write this I have had just under 8000 unique visitors and just under 10500 views. I’ve heard both publicly and privately from people all over the country.

I am shocked, stunned, and truly humbled.

That being said, when I woke up this morning I had a few things I was thinking about that I wanted to further elaborate on with regards to this topic. But with all the comments I’ve received I think there are a few more things I’d like to address as well.

When To Use Your Titles

Now these are not, in any way, a hard and fast set of rules. Far from it. This is just my guiding principles.

I only use my most immediate titles (Baron and Master) when I am doing something official but not necessarily specific in nature. In most courts I am one or the other.

When I am fighting as a heavy fighter I use no title at all because I have no title that relates. I’m not a knight, viscount, count, duke, etc.

When I am fighting as a rapier fighter I use my Guildmaster title if it’s appropriate for me to do so.

I apply this to my regalia as well. I can always wear my baronial coronet and my Laurel/Pelican medallion. But I only wear my Golden Branch when I am operating as a former Bard of The Mists. Otherwise there is no point for me to do so really.

As you can see its really a process of careful selection based on circumstance. And certainly there are variations again. For example my apprentice, although she is a Peer in her own right as a Pelican, chooses instead to use her honorific of Madam from a lower ranked award as opposed to Mistress. And the Baroness of my local Barony chooses to use the title “hlaefdige” rather than Baroness, a term I am given to understand is closer to “lady of the household”.

And still they choose to use these titles only when acting in some official capacity.

There is a difference between using a title when it is appropriate and using a title to gain something over someone else. It seems an obvious point but clearly enough people have experienced problems that my words from my previous post resounded with more than 8000 people.

Peers Have Asses And You Have Feet

One of the things that seems to come up frequently is that people of “lesser rank” aren’t allowed to call out someone of “greater rank.” I’ve heard the complaints and occasionally I’ve actually heard that this is a “rule” in the SCA, a misconception I have gone out of my way to correct every time I’ve heard it. I’ve tried to encourage people to speak up no matter who they are and no matter who they have to speak up about, but the fear is understandable.

I recognize that it’s relatively easy for me to say the things that I am saying. After all, I am a Peer, and High Muckety Muck, and I have a bowl full of alphabet soup. But that hasn’t always been the case and I might even argue that one of the reasons why I have all these titles and awards is because I was willing to call out the bullshit around me when it needed to be called out.

We are trained to give respect automatically to people of high rank, and of course “The King’s Word is Law”™. But I can tell you, as an example, that at an event I was at when it got back to my lady that the King himself was saying something untrue about her and I she did not hesitate one moment to go and speak to him about it.  She is even more formidable than I when it comes to such things.

As I said in my previous post, no one is beyond being held accountable, no one is beyond noble behavior.  Not even the King.

Some people needed to have their asses kicked. And it does seem that people need to be reminded on occasion that ass kicking can go both ways. Peers have asses and you have feet. Don’t be afraid to use them.

Sometimes “Being Nice” Translates To Not Saying What Needs To Be Said And That’s A Problem

There are many people who are willing to say that they are blunt and don’t have a problem getting in people’s faces. Most of the time that’s just talk unfortunately. The number of people who will actually follow through is great deal smaller.

That isn’t a dig on any of us though really. I mean let’s face the facts here; we as an organization are largely made up of the school kids who weren’t always the most popular, the people who were often bullied because they were in to Dungeons & Dragons, or were more interested in science and history then they were in sports. We are as a group very non-confrontational.

It is hard to confront anyone. It is even harder to confront someone who “out ranks” you. We spend so much time playing this game and being invested in the identity that we create, that we forget sometimes that it is a game.

But it can be, and often is, one of the greatest games there is to play.

In the years I have been in the SCA it has impacted how I operate in the “mundane” world. I get strange looks from people for holding open doors; I’ve lost a job because my integrity didn’t allow me to do something my employer wanted me to do; I’ve been complimented on my manners.

Amusingly enough I have even been asked if I was gay because I was “so polite.” No joke! But imagine what must be going on for the person who asked me this question, that they associate polite with gay, and that in their world a straight male is expected to be less polite in general.

Frankly I consider all of these things to be good things. That the person I have become over the years because of the SCA is really the kind of person I want to be. I have often said that the point of this game is to discover how to be the best possible version of ourselves that we want to be.

However, in order to achieve that we have to be willing to protect and defend the environment that allows us to do these things. We have to be willing to step up and challenge the people with “ranks” and “titles” and remind them that just because they are Duke Sir Master IveDoneItAll, it doesn’t mean that they get to backslide into being jerks about it.

We don’t want to be confrontational. It’s against our nature for the most part. We want everyone to just get along and we certainly talk about how the SCA is one big happy family. But in a lot of ways we aren’t. In a lot of ways this family sometimes has a crazy aunt or uncle that needs to be reminded that they aren’t the be all, end all of all things SCA related.

We don’t want to be confrontational but sometimes we have to be willing to step up and be the ones who say “hey, this BS isn’t cool. It isn’t noble, it isn’t honorable, and you are being a jackass.”

That’s the price.

So What Do We Do? What Do Our Titles Actually Mean?

I want to make sure that I head off a potential misunderstanding.

I am not against awards, ranks, and titles. I mean, obviously I’m not. I have a nice tidy collection of them. More than a lot of people even realize. In fact I was told this morning by a friend that they had no idea how many awards I actually had until I wrote my previous post and shared my alphabet soup in it, which was to me a compliment.

First we have to remember that we are a meritocracy. Our awards and titles are not something to confer new respect or value to who you are. They are there an acknowledgement of what we have already achieved. Not every award is a Peerage, but a line from the Peerage ceremonies is a good one to remember regardless of the award; that you will “continue to do as you have done.”

Second, we have to remember that as we climb further up the award ladder, such as it is, that what we are doing is making ourselves more visible and thus more of a target, both of admiration and potential derision. We climb up and we become the model others might use to emulate. Or the example others might use to learn what not to be.

Somewhere I picked up a bit of wisdom that was directed at Peers specifically, but I think should apply to everyone –

“Remember that you are the first person(Peer) someone new to the SCA is going to meet.”

This is probably the last article I’m going to write on this topic for some time. I feel like I’ve pretty much said it all and my readers (all several thousand of you now apparently – * gulp *) are obviously pretty damn smart. You’ve listened to what I’ve had to say and you’ve been kind and generous in your response.

Thank you. I hope that I can continue to provide other words of interest in the future.

Yours in Service,
Baron Master Master Jua…. Ah screw it,


About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on October 15, 2015, in SCA. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Carrek MacBrian

    It has always seemed to me that accepting a title is more about accepting the responsibilities to emulate the ideals inherent to the title than anything else. Whatever power or authority one may derive from it is proximal to supporting the associated virtues.

    “You have been invested in recognition of making the society as a whole better; keep doing that.”

  2. The lady in question in the photo is Duchess Adrielle Kerrec of Ealdormere.

  3. Gabrielle underwood (Aka Adrielle)

    Glad you like the shot :). I tend not to take myself too seriously :).

  4. So I’m not a SCA member. I’ve always been fascinated by the hobby, and I’ve had friends who have been long standing members. I’ve considered, on and off, joining.

    After reading your post, which is really the first internet post about the hobby that I’ve ever read, if the hobby is worth getting into. I’m hoping, for your sake as much as for mine, that the answer is an enthusiastic “yes!” but I don’t get that feeling from this post.

    So how about it? Would you encourage someone interested in the hobby to participate, or do the sort of caustic people so threaten to overwhelm it that it isn’t worth it?

    Your alphabet soup comment amused me, by the way. It isn’t limited to SCA. Plenty of lawyers have “Atty. Joe Smith, BA, JD, Esq.” on their business cards as if one didn’t know that Joe has a bachelor’s and a juris doctor based on his esquire suffix. And of course stating that you’re an attorney by title and an esquire by honorific is gilding an already self-important lily.

    Thanks for the post.


    • Ahem. That second paragraph should start “After reading your post, which is really the first internet post about the hobby that I’ve ever read, I’m wondering if the hobby is worth getting into.” Apologies for the error, I’ll just leave my law review honorific at the door.

    • santiagosgrimoire

      Indeed it is.

      Please don’t take my complaint as a “be all end all” of what the SCA is like. Far from it. I’ve been playing this game for almost 30 years now. It’s been a profound and productive part of my life. It’s taught me a lot and I can honestly say that it has made me a much better person overall.

      The fact that there are parts of the SCA that I find problematic has more to do with how much I love it and want to protect it and help it grow than it being a troubled or difficult place.

      We all get to play in the SCA to whatever level and/or degree that we want. For many years I was perfectly content to remain below the sight line and just hang out with my friends. As I grew, so did my desire to be more a part of what the SCA is all about.

      When you take on those levels of interest and concern, then you become sensitive to the problems and want to a) point them out and b) try to solve them.

      Believe me, warts and all, the SCA is a grand and wonderful place to be and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  5. Thank you! I reckoned that’d be your answer, although I was pleasantly surprised by your statement about personal growth. It’s wonderful that the hobby has made you a better person.

    Who knows? Maybe I will join.



    • santiagosgrimoire

      You are welcome.

      The truth is that I am lucky. In most every community I am a part of (the SCA, the tech community, the magic community) I am surrounded by people who love and care about what they do. That sort of thing can’t help but rub off on you.

      Someday, if you decide to join and our paths cross I hope we’ll meet and remember this conversation!

      I hope to see you around a camp fire someday!

  6. Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch

    1) The lady in the photo is Duchess Adrielle of Ealdormere btw.

    2) Not all SCA kingdoms use “the King’s word is law.” In Ealdormere (where we view that as a dangerous and wrong headed POV), our Laws say explicitly that The Crowns are the First Servants of the People.

    Your first piece nails why I don’t play anymore. Thank you.

    Once known and occasionally still: Baroness TSivia based Tamara v’Amberview, OL, OP, Master Chirurgeon (much alphabet soup)

  7. Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch

    Not all SCA kingdoms use “the King’s word is law.” In Ealdormere (where we view that as a dangerous and wrong headed POV), our Laws say explicitly that The Crowns are the First Servants of the People.

    Your first piece nails why I don’t play anymore. Thank you.

    Once known and occasionally still: Baroness TSivia based Tamara v’Amberview, OL, OP, Master Chirurgeon (much alphabet soup)

  8. I’ve been active in the SCA for 30+ years now (started when I was 16, in high school). In all those years, I’ve gotten 4 awards. AoA, GoA, Meridian Cross (for A&S), and Sovereign’s Pleasure (for helping the King out a few times). I almost never use my title, I never wear my GoA circlet, and I never put my “alphabet soup” behind my name. I’ve royally pissed off Peers in my day, mainly because I did call them out on bullshit. Quite often publicly. Tends to make sure you don’t get too many awards. But, I still enjoy the SCA. Thanks for a great article!

  9. Tessa the Huntress

    One of my protégé’s (now former) was elevated to a Pelican this weekend.. the first piece of advice I gave him during his vigil. “just remember you will be someone’s first Pelican”. Granted, he has the personality and empathy, so I don’t think he would ever be a bad example. But I still think every peer needs to remember those words.

    I haven’t read your first post, yet.. So, I will go read that now.


  10. Santiago, while I appreciate your point of view, I respectfully point out you are viewing it from the peak of the honors pyramid. I have been in the Society for 40 years, and from the point of view of someone who is not a peer, your observation about the Society being a meritocracy is at best deluded and at worst an outright falsehood. In the interest of full disclosure, the last time I was nominated for a peerage (the Pelican, not that it matters), half the Pels thought I was long overdue and the rest would have seen me in hell before allowing my elevation. A peer who felt I had the right to know told me that at the conclave where I was discussed, one of my supporters asked the leader of the Over My Dead Body Club what it would take for her to agree to my elevation. The reply? “I will support his elevation if it can be established he is dying of a terminal illness and will have the grace to shortly expire.” It was made clear that it did not matter how much I knew, what offices I had held, how skilled I was, how much work I had done, or even if I possessed the virtues of a peer. They just didn’t like me, and I was not socially acceptable. So, no fancy costume jewelry for me. Not then, not ever. Sorry about that.

    I’d like you to think about that for a minute. Especially consider it in light of how I usually sign SCA correspondence, with which I will end this rant. It is a rare Sovereign who has the courage to do what is RIGHT rather than what is expedient. Their oaths on acceding to the Throne are given at best lip service, particularly the charge about giving justice to the people. It’s easier to defer to the opinions of the peers, rather than investigate and make decisions on merits.It’s not a meritocracy, it’s a popularity contest. He or she who has lesser skills but is adept at kissing the proper asses is the one who will become the peer. The Society has the social dynamic of a typical suburban high school. If you aren’t socially acceptable (I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which means I do not really understand how popularity works), you will not receive the rewards (or awards) that you have earned by deeds in the SCA. This, plus being the primary caregiver of an autistic son, is why I don’t play much in the SCA any more.

    Funny thing. I thought that the rules in the Great Book of Laws actually MEANT something, that they apply to everyone, impartially. Aspergers people tend to take rules seriously, to believe that words mean what they say. You can guess the degree of my disillusionment when I finally realized it was merely high school society all over again, just in garb. Nor am I the only person by any means who has been fucked over this way.

    I can understand some of why the Society works — or fails to — the way it does. But one suggestion I would make to you swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictators with delusions of godhood (yes, I am tarring the lot of you with the same brush, even those who might not deserve it, because you are not playing by the rules in the Book of Laws) regarding your “recommendations” (read: VOTES) to the Crown as to who deserves elevation into the peerage. When someone fails of nomination, have three or four peers of that order meet with the individual and tell him or her WHY. You’d like to see a few more A&S event wins? You really need to do a term as a kingdom great officer to put you over the top? Some people have problems with your reputation? Let’s talk about it and see if there is anything to it. You were accused of something by a Veddy Impawtent Poisen? Let’s see if there is anything to that. Some peers resent your beating the crap out of them in their own fields? The order feels it’s just too soon, you haven’t been a member long enough, even though the work is outstanding? Whatever it is, sit down in private and discuss it with the failed nominee frankly and fully. And listen to what he or she has to say; do not go in with preconceptions! But you wearers of the prestigous costume jewelry owe honesty to the people, and from what I can tell we are not getting it.

    I have the honour to be, &c.,

    Alexandre sur le Mer
    Baron of the Court
    Life Member of the Society

    PS: re awards as popularity. After the fourth time I was bounced off the peerage polls, and about the fifth time I was bounced off the polls for Kingdom Orders of High Merit, the word got around. Three separate groups wrote petitions praying the Crown to make me a Court Baron. Ultimately, a third of the kingdom signed one or another of them. The consensus seemed to be I was worthy of recognition and as the peers would not do it, the People wanted the Crown to act directly in a way that required no polling. I was astonished when informed of the facts in the case — and that when the award was announced (I was not present), there was a standing ovation that went on for minutes. I think this proves my point.

    PPS: When I caused the Life Membership to be created, the Board of Directors suggested they ought to make me a peer for outstanding contributions to the Society. As I expected others to follow my example, I declined, not wanting to set a baronetcy-style “buy your honors” precedent. No one since has followed in my footsteps. I kind of wish now that I had accepted the Board’s offer. Try to do what is right and shoot yourself in the foot, eh?

    • santiagosgrimoire

      As I am not a member of the Council which made the decision(s) about you I can not speak to the specifics. At this point I have only one side of the story.

      However, that being said, I have watched this kind of thing happen here so I can only relate to you what my experiences are.

      For starters you might be interested to know that my wife and I were offered our Laurel’s at the same time. And a few months later she was offered her Pelican and I was told “Keep doing what you’re doing, we’re watching.”

      I didn’t get my Pelican for another 14 years and over that time it was made pretty clear to me that I was also an “over my dead body” candidate to some of those people. What I discovered eventually was that my attitude was what was holding me back. Once I began to think “well, clearly they don’t like me so screw them” it poisoned my attitude and they noticed it. The things you’ve said in your post remind me of that, especially you’re willingness to paint everyone with your broad brush of “swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictators with delusions of godhood”. If a candidate was presented to me with such an attitude it would give me pause too. And I would hazard a guess that those people who are/were in support of you probably are the ones who understand your particular situation and challenges.

      Again, around here, we do make efforts to guide candidates who could make it with just the right support and push. I got where I finally got to because Peers gently guided me where I needed to go to fix my own bad attitude. Gently was necessary because I was more than willing to tell people to fuck off too. I am surprised that no one apparently did that for you, especially those Peers who were in support of you.

      Considering how many people were willing to sign petitions in support of you it seems clear to me that you have earned a certain amount of respect. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are a mertiocracy, it only points out that there are people who can and will gum up the works.

      Where I am we do not vote. We recommend. The King and Queen decide, and yes, we’ve had Royals who have overruled the wishes of the council both for and against candidates. So I’ve seen plenty of examples of Royals who are willing to do what they feel is right based on their perspectives and considerations.

      I also have personal knowledge of Royals who literally lied to a council just so they wouldn’t have to be the ones to perform a ceremony for a candidate they personally didn’t like.

      I do know that other Kingdoms “vote” and in cases like that, well, yeah, there is more of a “popularity contest” problem to deal with.

      I wish that I could offer you some better perspective, but I hope this helps in some way.

  11. You seem an honorable fellow, Santiago, and I think we can agree to disagree on points.

    I know what the Bylaws and the Great Book of Laws say about the peers advising the Crown, though it is the Crown which decides. Operationally, however, in the East Kingdom (traditions differ from realm to realm) if a candidate fails to gather at least 2/3rds and 3/4s is preferable “favorable opinions” from the members of an order, the Crown rarely chooses to proceed — and when it does, it does so from personal knowledge of the candidate. (I was given my Maunche that way, because the King and Queen remembered a time when I was the only Scadian from the next nearest group willing to travel five hours to their group to teach them about dance, heraldry, bardic things, kingdom history, and how to serve a feast, which I did on a great number of occasions. The Principal of the Maunche was so enraged by their decision to admit me when the order was evenly split between the “He’s So Overdue, It’s An Embarrassment Association” and the “Over My Dead Body Club,” when it came time to do the ritual challenge-and-answer used at investing a new Companion, she stood up and departed from form by saying that although the order’s number was not complete, she was so opposed to my admission that she could not in good conscience ask I be called forward. Bear in mind I’d been traveling all over the kingdom teaching three or four different subjects for ten years at that point and had published so many articles in baronial, kingdom, and A&S newsletters, plus TI, that I had no idea how many there were.)

    When was the last time you can remember the Crown overriding the “recommendation” of an order to admit someone who was worthy but disliked? In the East, the answer is in decades. Despite what the Book of Laws says, those recommendations are in fact VOTES. It IS in fact a popularity contest. And it IS against the spirit of the law, if not the letter thereof.

    As I said before, it is a rare Crown that will do what is right instead of what is easy. The cases I am thinking of are from the chivalry. Three times, once before I joined and twice after, a King chose to bestow the accolade on fighters who were regarded as lewd, rude, crude and socially unacceptable. In all three cases, the knights and one Master looked at themselves, realized that a King had put his reputation and personal honor on the line in the belief they were worthy and deserving of the accolade, and lived up to the trust the King had put in them, becoming excellent examples of what chevaliers are supposed to be.

    Funny thing about that: people live up to — or down to — what others expect of them. But few Sovereigns are willing to put their reps on the line for a candidate they believe in unless the order is willing to go along.They have their own awards dreams to consider, apparently. Understandable, but not excusable; it is the duty of a Sovereign to give justice, not to think of himself. It’s ironic that the best expression of this comes from a Dark Horde song back in the days of Yang the Nauseating:

    “A king thinks first of his lands, then of his folk, and then of himself … a little.”
    — from Lie To The Council, by (if memory serves) Azrael the Soul Separator

    While I always stand ready to help people, when it comes to a Peer of the Realm asking me for help, the number of peers I will help without thinking about it can almost be reckoned on my fingers. With the others, I want to know why they are coming to me instead of one of their own. This may sound selfish, but it has taken a long, long time for me to come to terms with the fact there are people who see me as a sucker, who are willing to use me without regard to the social contracts that appear to exist between neurotypicals, things they think don’t apply to Aspergians. As a result, I am not willing to be played for a sap any longer. Particularly not by peers who don’t regard me as worthy.

    Bitter? Yes. Angry about it? Yes again. Holding the peerage in disdain? Mostly. But if the peers have a problem with the way I regard their class, the actions of that class have earned me the right. If you want to make peers by their popularity, go ahead. Just change the laws first so those of us who are not popular with the peers know where they stand and don’t get our hopes of recognition up. It seems little enough to ask.

    Perhaps one day we can get together over a tankard of ale and kick this around amicably. Thanks to the tutelage of Max the Executioner, the best brewer I have ever met, I make quite decent porters and nut brown ales. Who knows? We might even be able to devise a workable solution to the problem!

  12. I find your posts interesting because I WAS never one to drop my title. It always seemed like too much. I really wasn’t a high Muckety Muck. Besides everyone knew what the regalia meant.

    I capitalize the “was” because I moved to a new kingdom. I had worked very hard to get to where I had been and finding myself back at the beginning disturbed me. I had a box full of regalia that no one recognized and a wall full of scrolls that were nothing more than pretty. However, I had two little letters in front of my name that meant the same thing no matter where I was. They were the one thing that I had that would universally show that my prior efforts were not wasted. I always introduced myself as, “Honorable Lady Unpronounceable German Name.”

    Eventually I realized what a freeing boon the entire situation was and even began to enjoy it. The regalia stayed in its box unless I was teaching or trying to be “official.” If I was teaching, the wearing of my regalia was ofttimes more for my own benefit, a reminder, than that of my students. I am aware that it may have appeared otherwise though.

    I am now back in my original kingdom. For better or worse I still have not broken myself out of the habit of starting an introduction with my title, even when wearing the extremely recognizable and unmissable regalia. It was something I had not realized myself until I read your original post. So whether you find it official or officious I apologize. I’ll be working on it.


  1. Pingback: Crapaud #1 and Fighting Titles | Santiago's Grimoire

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