Welcome to the Order

Congratulations!

You have just been invited to join the Order of the Laurel in Caid. You are probably confused, delighted, scared, elated, stunned, and uncertain how to proceed. This booklet is an introduction to the decisions you need to make before your elevation, and a taste of what will happen afterwards. This will not answer all questions, but it should give you a starting place. It specifically addresses the customs and traditions of the Kingdom of Caid. Customs vary throughout the Known World, so things are slightly different elsewhere.

If you have any questions, call, write, or e-mail either a Companion of the Order that you feel comfortable talking to, or the Secretary of the Order.

A companion booklet provides some of the rationale and historical reasons behind the way the Order in Caid does things. You may not need that information right now, but it does provide some answers to “why?” and “how?” that may help later.

I. Before the Ceremony

Over the years, the ceremony has evolved from “ambush the candidate in the kitchen, bring her forth before the populace in her kitchen-prep clothing, and swear her in”, to “inform the candidate well ahead of time, and provide great flexibility in matters of announcement, vigil, and ceremony.” This can translate to a sometimes bewildering set of options. The following topics seem to cause the most concern and questions.

  • Announcement — this is your news to tell or share. The Order and its members are expected to keep the news of your impending elevation private unless or until you indicate otherwise. We expect you to extend the same courtesy to other candidates who have not yet been elevated.
  • Planning the Ceremony — Your elevation ceremony is important to you. It is also important to the Order; it is our opportunity to publicly recognize and celebrate your joining our Order. In this way, your elevation is also our ceremony, in which all candidates are welcomed and which represents who and what we are. The next section of the booklet addresses this.
  • The Vigil — In the past few years, Laurel candidates have often chosen to hold a vigil before the ceremony. A section of the booklet also addresses this.

A. Planning the Ceremony

When and Where: The time and place of your elevation is at the pleasure of the Crown, but They often leave the decision to you. If a particular event or type of event has special meaning to you, you may request that of the Crown. However, please remember that any choice must be made by the Crown since They alone can elevate you. If the suggested event is not within the tenure of the Crown that has decided to admit you to the Order, They can only pass on Their recommendation, to be acted upon at the pleasure of Their successors. This is generally not a problem, but you should be aware of it.

Who: The ceremony will occur during Court. The Master of Ceremonies for Court is the Crescent Herald, who works out how the Court events will be scheduled. He (or she) also has the words to all the ceremonies. You should request a copy of the ceremony from Crescent. Depending on the event, Crescent may or may not actually officiate.

Once a decision has been made as to the time and place of your elevation, please notify the Laurel Secretary. This might be done by the Crown, however it is always good to double check. The Secretary will notify the other Companions of the Order so that they can be present at your elevation.

What: Here is a sample of choices you can make:

  • Many candidates have had members of their household process in with the candidate, carrying a banner with the candidate’s arms.
  • It is common to have one or two Companions of the Laurel (called escorts) come back from their place at the foot of Their Majesties’ thrones to accompany the candidate. If you want to do this, who would you choose?
  • One candidate used a canopy, others have used it, and it is still available
  • Many candidates have arranged with friends to provide music or song as they walk forward.
  • Would you like to memorize the oath of fealty beforehand? In English or in another language appropriate to your persona? If the latter, then you need to arrange for the translation.
  • Do you wish to be dubbed by the Queen’s scepter? The King’s scepter? A sword? No dubbing at all?
  • Do you wish to present symbols of your industry? (e.g., needlework tools and perhaps a bit of embroidery; a song or musical instrument; a piece of jewelry you’ve made, etc. ) Traditionally, these are small enough to fit on a pillow.
  • Are there other bits of regalia or pageantry you want?

Your medallion: Traditionally, your medallion will be provided for you by a member of the Order. The Secretary and the Crown will arrange for it.

Your Scroll: As you probably know, your elevation entitles you to a scroll. Normally, you will be given a promissory scroll at your elevation. If you tell the Scribe Armarius afterwards that you in fact want a scroll, then it will be assigned. However, if you wish it to be presented at your elevation, you may make arrangements with an artisan to have it ready in time for your ceremony. Once an artisan has accepted the commission, either you or the artist should notify the Scribe Armarius. That officer will arrange for the scroll to be checked, sealed, signed, and delivered for your ceremony.

B. The Vigil

What is a vigil? The vigil is an optional event held prior to a candidate’s elevation in which the candidate is given time to reflect and to be surrounded by close friends and Members of the Order. It is not intended as a celebration, but as quiet time. While the candidate is not required to have a vigil, many find it useful as a respite from the chaos that can often surround an elevation.

Why do we have vigils? The vigil provides a quiet place for the candidate to contemplate what it means to join the peerage. It also allows Members of the Order a private forum to offer words of wisdom and advice to the candidate before his/her elevation. It also provides an echo of a medieval elevation to knighthood.

Is it required? No, but it has become customary.

What happens in a vigil? Members of the Order will drift in and out during the vigil, offering moral support and words of wisdom. This may be the first time you meet some of the Companions of the Order. At some point, the Crescent Principal Herald will read the Invocation. Their Majesties and/or Highnesses often also attend briefly. The candidate may stand vigil over the tools of his/her trade. The candidate may also choose to have a book and pen available for visitors to write best wishes and words of wisdom.

Who can come to a vigil? The Members of the Order and the candidate, of course. Some people choose to restrict their vigils to only Members of the Order, while others choose to include those people who are close to the candidate. It is the candidate’s choice as to who they wish to attend the vigil, though it is often recommended that some time be set aside only for Companions of the Order. The Secretary will inform all other Companions about the candidate’s vigil, though the candidate may also send invitations if he or she wishes.

Where is the vigil held? The vigil is held in a private place, away from the rest of the event. It is often shared with other candidates that will be elevated that day to the same Order, particularly if it is in a room provided by the event autocrat. At other times, it could be in a closed pavilion, in which case the candidate can provide his/her own. If the candidate wishes a vigil, he/she should inform the Secretary of the Order, who will arrange with the autocrat of the event for a place for the vigil.

When is the vigil held? The vigil is usually held early in the day at the event. It has also been done the night before, or even the weekend before the event. A “virtual vigil” (done on-line via e-mail) has been done for one candidate who lives thousands of ocean miles away from the rest of the Order. It is the candidate’s choice as to when the vigil will be held.

II. The Ceremony for the Elevation to the Order of the Laurel

The elevation ceremony itself contains elements of:

  • Theater (there is an audience watching)
  • Recognition (your work has been noticed and appreciated)
  • Law (your rights and responsibilities within the Society are changed)
  • Tradition (Society, Caid, and historical precedents are all represented)
  • Heraldry (you are being granted a Patent of Arms, and the ceremony is performed at court with heralds organizing it), and probably other things as well.

Don’t miss your entrance cue. The event herald prepares a list of what will happen when during court. You or a designated friend should find out what court business precedes your elevation (by one or two). When that piece of business starts, you and any procession members should start gathering in the back of the hall or immediately outside. If you plan to wait in the vigil room, have your friend fetch you in time to be near court when you are called forth.

Let the audience see what is going on. If you have a group of people accompany you, arrange with them to either move to the edges of the hall to stand, or to kneel once they have gone as far as they will or can go.

Cameras and videotaping should be unobtrusive.

Vocal Projection. During the ceremony, you are speaking to the King and Queen. It is wonderful if you speak forcefully enough for the audience to hear you, but not required. The Herald will make sure they know what is going on.

A Typical Elevation. A common ceremony choice is for the Order to be called forward by the Herald. When they are all assembled, one person stands up and asks Their Majesties if it is Their will to increase the numbers of the Order. The Monarchs say yes. Once given leave, that Companion, and possibly others, will go to the back of the room and then escort the candidate forward, as his or her name is announced to the audience by the herald. The candidate may carry examples of his or her industry upon a pillow, or other household members may carry them in front of the candidate. When they reach the Throne, all the escorts fall the sides (allowing the audience to see), and the candidate goes to kneel on the pillow before the Thrones. Examples of the candidate’s work, if present, are then handed to Her Majesty (usually) .

The ceremony itself begins. It includes receiving a medallion and a scroll or promissory. You should pass the latter to a Companion kneeling behind you, who will see that it gets to a member of your procession, or to you later. Among the last acts is swearing an oath of fealty, either between the Crown’s hands, or on a sword. Swearing fealty is optional, but usual in Caid. You may choose to be dubbed. This is done with a scepter or sword. The Queen returns your symbols of industry, and you will be charged to greet your companions. If you are the only elevation at that time, then you lead the group to the back of the hall for hugs and congratulations. If there are other candidates, then you join the group kneeling, and your procession, if any, should leave.

III. After All the Celebration Dies Down – Miscellaneous Stuff to Know

Read the Laurel Charter. This tells how the Order governs itself. As of 1998, Caid was the only Kingdom with Order Charters (the Pelicans have one, too). But in 1999, It is a public document that explains how the Order functions — the criteria for becoming a Laurel, the mechanisms for voting on candidates, the mechanics of calling meetings and getting the word out, the function of the Secretary of the Order, definitions of active and inactive members, and other things. A copy of the Charter is given to Their Highnesses so that They may read it and find out how we function. But in particular, it helps the members of the Order remember from year to year “how things get done.” It is our organizational memory.

Their Majesties, of course, are free to call whatever meetings They wish, including meetings of the Peerage, collectively or by Order, whenever They choose. The Laurel Charter is not intended in any way to hinder Them, dictate methods, nor limit Their Majesties’ powers. However, given that the SCA is structured to have a total change of rulers every few months, the Laurel Charter provides a continuity of tradition and action for the Order that is independent of Their Majesties’ experience or inexperience in the role.

Paying Dues. The members of the Order in Caid are expected to provide the postage and photocopying money to fund the mailings of the Order (meeting notices, ballots, minutes, and notification of candidate elevations). This is a few dollars per person per reign, and is handled by the Secretary.

Meetings. The Order calls two meetings a year to discuss candidates, approximately mid-way through each reign. This is generally held at a Companion’s home, usually on a Sunday. Their Majesties are invited. Other than Their Majesties, only members of the Order may attend the candidate discussion portion. Dress is modern. Generally there is a potluck at noon and then the meeting starts around one. You do not need to bring your feastware. The custom of late has been for the newest companions of the Order to bring a bottle of bubbly (alcoholic or non, at their discretion) to toast them with.

Be prepared for a full day’s meeting. You will be sent an agenda ahead of time. Names and topics may be added at the time of the meeting, though names added at a meeting will not be discussed until the following meeting. If you are unable to make a candidate meeting, please write the Secretary concerning anything you would like mentioned at the meeting. All companions will be sent a copy of the minutes, and those not present will get an absentee ballot. The latter must be returned promptly to complete the tallying.

Other meetings may be scheduled to address specific topics or projects, and committees might also be formed (such as one to revise the “Welcome to the Order” booklet). Membership on these committees and attendance at special meetings might or might not be restricted to Laurels, as required.

Other people may treat you differently. You know you haven’t changed, but others sometimes feel you have. You tend to get the respect you earn — the medallion can sometimes predispose people to respect you (or not, it works both ways), but it does not of itself keep that respect.

Up until now, you’ve generally been treated as an individual. You will find that now you are often referred to as part of a group, with motives, attitudes, and opinions attributed to you because of that.

Sometimes another Companion may do something ill-advised, and you may be judged “guilty by association.” Try not to let it bother you. You are not obliged to defend someone simply because he or she is a Laurel. We are all individuals with our own foibles and frailties.

Apprentices. Caid has not traditionally been filled with Laurel apprentices or Pelican protégés, though there are more and more these days. One certainly does not need to be an apprentice before becoming a Laurel. We suggest that you take some time to get used to your new position, determine what being a Laurel means to you, before rushing into taking an apprentice or several. If you wish to take an apprentice, fine. The individuals involved, not the Order, determines the apprentice-Laurel relationship and its terms. Green colored belts are commonly given to apprentices by their Laurel, but that belt color is not restricted. Only white belts are restricted, to knights.

The address list. The Secretary maintains an address list of the members of the Order, with e-mail addresses, if desired. Please let her know if your entry needs updating. This list is also distributed to the other Companions.

Social media groups. Our Order Secretary will add you to any private social media groups or email lists for Caid. Or, you can find and add yourself to other Laurel focused social media and email groups (with confirmation of your new status as a Laurel).

The Caid Laurel Web-site. In 1999, this was an area that we were just moving into. In 2017, this website was updated to a new format. We have ongoing explorations on how we can best use the Internet to help provide easy access to public information about our group, and how we can keep in touch with companions not on the North American continent.

Pentathlon. Yes, of course you can still enter. You are also likely to be asked to judge in some categories. If you have advised any entrants on their entries, do not then judge in that category, for that is a conflict of interest.

How can you continue to serve the Kingdom? There are occasional “Order Projects,” such as the needleworked kneeling pillows, and some on-going research. You should also create an artistic version of your device to be added to the Caid Laurel Cope. There is teaching at Collegium, judging at Pentathlon, and encouraging people to use their talents and develop their skills. Occasionally the Order is asked specifically to participate in particular activities, such as competitions for War Points. But in general, how you choose to serve the Kingdom is something you should consider as an individual. It is your decision.

What Are the Standards for Admission (How Good is Good Enough)?

This is probably among the first questions a new Companion to the Order asks, and it is among the hardest to answer. The criteria that the Order measure against are listed in the Laurel Charter. But while undoubted skill is necessary to get the Order to recommend for admission, it is not sufficient. Some people enter the SCA with well-developed skills and expertise. Others develop their skills within the context of the Society. Some people are very active and high-profile. Others work more in the background, and are steady contributors over a long period of time. Some people have good social skills, others may need to work on those skills. Some are good teachers, others need more practice.

Some candidates may have all the peripheral skills, but the primary expertise still falls somewhat short. Other candidates may have the expertise, but not enough members of the council are familiar with their work. Or perhaps the perception of some members is that a particular candidate needs some maturity, or time for previous bad behavior to be forgotten. Perhaps a candidate is not particularly active at the moment, or perhaps no one has recommended him recently. Perhaps the candidate does not have a strong advocate on the Council, or perhaps there is someone with vocal objections.

Conversely, perhaps an area is isolated, and there are no Laurels nearby at all. This means we have little knowledge of what arts and sciences are being practiced in the area, and how well they are doing. A candidate from such an area may shine in relation to his/her compatriots, but through lack of access to sources, be less knowledgeable than other candidates in the “mainstream.” A candidate might be pursuing an endeavor totally unfamiliar to any Laurels on the council, and doing it very well. But our lack of knowledge may delay that person recognition.

All of these factors are weighed by each individual on the council. And sometimes the vote that looked so favorable at the meeting ends up with not quite enough votes to trigger a recommendation. Other times, a brilliant recommendation letter might carry a candidate that either lives in an isolated place (and thus no one is familiar with the work first-hand), or who is doing something totally unfamiliar to any Laurels currently active on the council.

Thus, the standards for recommendation are measured on many scales in addition to expertise in a craft, and each companion votes, after consulting with his or her peers, according to his or her own judgment. And the Crown, after consultation with the Order, acts in accordance with Their own conscience and best judgment.

The Bigger Questions.

How can you be a Good Example (for you have surely been singled out as one)? What does fealty mean? What does it mean to be a Companion of the Laurel in the SCA? What is honor? What is the appropriate place of historical authenticity within our Society? We cannot answer these questions for you. You must find your own answers, and that often involves discussions with people from all over the Society. The questions are worth asking, and worth finding your own answers.

In Closing

Again, congratulations. We are proud to welcome you to our Order. Remember that receiving a Laurel is not an end in itself, but rather a chance to join with others to bring more information, skill, and artistry to the Society. This booklet, together with the other documents mentioned, should give you a good basis to plan your elevation and to know what you are getting into. However, if you have any questions (we’re sure you will), please feel free to seek the advice of other members of the Order, the Laurel Secretary, and the Crescent Principal Herald.

The booklet was originally prepared by Mistress Mela du Prion and updated by Mistress Gwendolyn of Amberwood with the advice and under the direction of the members of the Order of the Laurel, Jan 31, 1992.
This has been updated again in October, 1999 by Baroness Éowyn Amberdrake, with the help of Mistress Catherine de Steele and Mistress Maria Theresa Ipeñarrieta, again with the advice and under the direction of the Companions of the Order.
Updated a third time in May 2017 by Dame Joan Silvertoppe, with the help of Mistress Caterucia Bice da Ghiacceto, with the advice and under the direction of the Companions of the Order.

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