Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Interview with Viscountess Moria the Black

The Ealdormere Gazette presents a conversation with Viscountess Moria the Black, OP, 12th Princess of the Principality of Ealdormere.

When did you first join the SCA?

My first SCA meeting was on April 30, 1985. I remember because the week before I had gone to meet a friend whose birthday was that day and he had told me he had to go to this meeting first. I met him afterwards, and members of the Canton were with him. I had no idea what the SCA was, but they briefly described it to me and asked if I wanted to come back the next week for the meeting. At the meeting, the people I met asked if I would be interested in going to St. Catherines that upcoming weekend with them. I agreed and we made arrangements to carpool, with no idea what the SCA really is and we drive to this church in St. Catherines. One of the group had brought a piece of loaner garb for me and gave me a dress to wear (I still had no idea what was going on or why we were there at that point). I just went with the flow, and basically attended my first SCA event without even realizing what an event was. That was Day In May, and just the way people treated me and helped me out throughout the day, it had me hooked. So, I actually found out about the SCA after I had already been to my first meeting and event.

What is your persona?

When I first joined, I was attempting to create a persona based on a 12th Century daughter of a Norman father and an Irish mother. However, as I developed more and more relationships in the SCA, that first basic idea gravitated towards having that person going to live with a Khazarian tribe in the Khazarian empire. Once I realized that the timelines and areas of the things I wanted to emulate didn't quite work together I stopped actually developing my persona and spent more time building an SCA persona, being Moria the Black, who emulated Khazarian, Norman and eventually Middle-Eastern cultures.

To what activities did you initially gravitate?

I was first drawn to fighting. I loved fighting! Unfortunately, within a year of joining the SCA I was involved in a car accident and had severe whiplash, which has prevented me from actually wearing a helm on my head ever since. But as I still loved fighting, I remained involved by running the lists at many events, and eventually becoming list minister for Canada in the middle Kingdom, as well as a warranted marshal. After I had to stop fighting I also became interested in Calligraphy and Illumination as well as Middle-eastern dancing. At the same time I was serving as a Chronicler for Ben Dunfirth and later the Barony of Septentria.

You are a member of the Order of the Pelican; how did becoming a Peer change the game for you, for good or ill?

When I first joined the SCA the thing I enjoyed most was the socializing. I loved going to meetings and events and hanging out with my friends, but I also felt guilty. I felt that since the SCA gave me this amazing opportunity to meet new people and find amazing friends, I owed it. Giving back by serving in many different ways was the way I balanced the enjoyment and the guilt. I served because it made me happy to be helping out the organization that had made such a difference in my life, it created a balance. Each time I was acknowledged for that service however, I felt it tipped the scales back towards the owing to the SCA and I felt I had to do more to deserve that acknowledgment. By the time I was elevated to the Order of the Pelican my attitude had changed and I no longer felt it was a matter of balancing anything out. I was getting as much back from serving as I was giving to the Society. I felt effective, valued and appreciated. Being elevated opened up new avenues of serving to me, and helped me to turn the corner basically. It gave me an opportunity to share in ways I hadn't been able to before, and get to know other's who were service-oriented much better than I could have ever known them before. It also helped me to understand how important the socialization and attitude of people are on the path to peerage. I would say it was for the good overall.

Were you ever a dependant to someone (an apprentice, protégée or squire)?

I was never a dependent of any kind.

You have several dependents of your own. What are your thoughts and traditions when it comes to taking on a dependent?

Ahhhh, this is such a complicated question. For some Peers, they have very strong and clear thoughts about dependents and relationships, etc. Between my vigiling and my elevation I had made the decision that I would not be taking dependents. After my elevation certain friends of mine began to approach me and ask if I would consider taking them on as dependents. After about a year, they had convinced me that we could have strong relationships and not have it affect our friendships to the point where I began to consider it more seriously. Back then, when I agreed to take dependents, I had some pretty strong rules. I would never take more than 4 at a time. It didn't matter who asked who, but I had to be certain that there was mutual respect, and that I believed I could be of assistance to the potential dependent in ways just being their friend would not allow.

Have you and your dependents formed a household?

Having been one of the first six members of the Rozakii household, I had a very strong household that I had been an integral member of for many years. Though I eventually left the Rozakii and didn't have a household, at the time, I had made the decision that my dependents and I would not form a household, as I felt it would cause too many conflicts in loyalties and obligations for everyone involved, as most of my dependents were either very independent people or had their own households. As the years have gone on, and my dependents have been elevated, and taken on their own dependents and I've taken on others, what we have formed is a family, rather than a household. Without planning it, or deliberately setting it up, we have most definitely become a family, with various branches and relationships.

What is your proudest moment in the SCA?

I actually have two moments in the SCA that I am most proud of, they are equal in my heart, and one that actually leads into the other. The first was Pennsic 25, opening ceremonies, Roak and I were Prince and Princess and we had put a request out to all Ealdormereans at Pennsic that year. We had established an Ealdormerean camp down in the area Septentria used to be and we had asked that everyone who could come to that camp, wearing Ealdormerean red, so that we could march up the hill as one unit, unified, and showing our strength to show the Knowne World that we were indeed strong enough and together enough to be a Kingdom. We were processing up the hill towards the Middle Kingdom, and we had a cart with armour in it, that had been a gift that Pennsic. There had been a mishap just at the beginning of the Midrealm camp and the cart began to roll backwards towards the people marching behind us. Roak, myself and HRH Osis had braced ourselves and caught the back of the cart. We pushed it up to the top of that hill, and had just released the cart. I turned around and looked back to make sure everyone behind us was okay, and I saw a line, two by two, of scarlet, snaking down the hill, around two bends, and all the way back to our royal encampment. It just didn't end, and it was a glorious sight. I was so proud to be Ealdormerean that day, and then I heard the singing, as everyone marching up was singing!

My second proudest moment was at Ealdormearn First Coronation. I had been helping in the kitchen for the feast, as my Barony was hosting the event that day. It had been a very long week for me, and an extremely exhausting day with a lot of work having been done for the final Kingdom things. I was in the kitchen helping set up serving trays, as all the Royal peers of Ealdormere had agreed to serve feast that night, when Master Hector tapped me on my shoulder and very quietly asked if I would join him in the feast hall. He looked at me and said he had a new song, and he wanted me to be there, because he felt if it hadn't have been for me he wouldn't have had the opportunity to write it. I loved everything Hector sang but I was torn as I was worrying over getting the next remove ready to go and not wanting to delay the feast, so I hesitantly entered the hall and stood right where Hector placed me. The next thing I knew Hector was standing on a table in front of me and addressing the hall. Then he sang "Rise!" for the first time. I was blown away, and I couldn't help but cry. I looked around the room as almost everyone was standing and cheering and joining in and the hall was just vibrating with sound. We had come so far, and it had been so much work, and this was the culmination of years of effort by so many people, and in that moment, I felt we had finally made it, we were really a Kingdom.

You are a former Princess of the Principality of Ealdormere. How has the kingdom changed since that time? And what traditions did you begin that are still followed today?

I think I was very lucky to serve as Princess when I did. It was a very focused time, where the people of the Principality were beginning to pick up steam on our transition towards Kingdom. We had a very clear path, and a goal, which gave our reign a clear focus, and helped to have almost all the people united and joined together. It was a high energy time, and it made it easy to flow through the reign and enjoy that united feeling. After we became a Kingdom, that energy kind of ebbed. Over time that united feeling seemed to subside and I noticed more and more division between people as time has gone on. We don't have that clear defined goal that requires everyone working together anymore, and the Kingdom seems far more laid back nowadays. Feasts are not as well attended and the socializing aspect of events has tended to become less and less as many of us have gotten older and tend to leave earlier and earlier because we are more tired by the time dinner time comes around. I miss the old bardic circles and the togetherness we used to have. We also seemed like a gentler and kinder group back then.

As to traditions, Roak and I inducted the first Lawspeaker, with the intention of having it become a permanent aspect of Ealdormere. It wasn't our idea, it was presented to us, but we saw the potential, and ran with it when we had the opportunity to implement it. We also had a lot of moots during our reign because we were discussing the Kingdom push, and from our first moot we insisted on removing our Coronets during the moot and emphasizing that we were there to listen to others with no repercussions on what was discussed. We also had the first Ealdormere Royal encampment that was open to the public and anyone who wanted to camp there, that has continued to this day as well. I also devised a form for award recommendations and distributed it to all the local groups asking that each group complete the forms and return them to us so we could make award decisions. I believe a version of that form still exists today online. One of the other traditions that I was very proud of, but it hasn't continued because it couldn't, was we were the first Prince and Princess to be crowned by the outgoing Prince and Princess. From that Investiture on, the Crown of the Middle Kingdom no longer crowned our Prince and Princess, it went from Ealdormerean to Ealdormearean after that.

How important are traditions to you?

Traditions are very important to me. I love tradition, even if I've never seen it before. I love keeping and following traditions, and learning new traditions of other people and groups. I recognize the importance of adaptation and change, and I don't resent change, I just believe there must be a good balance between respecting and following traditions and creating new and more inspiring changes.

You were the seneschal of the Principality of Ealdormere when the push came to go kingdom. What kind of pressure were you under at that time? Was the transition smooth, or complicated?

The push for Kingdom had actually started long before I became Principality Seneschal, so what I inherited was a movement that had many different participants and a roughed out plan, but no timelines or step by step action plans. I was actually quite shocked when I received a joint call the day after I became Principality Seneschal from the Crown of the Middle Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom Seneschal telling me they felt it was time for Ealdormere to get off their behinds and seriously start working towards becoming Kingdom! It was actually the Middle Kingdom who gave me a timeline and said that they would like to see us a Kingdom by the time I stepped down as Principality Seneschal, which would be two years. When I discussed it with the Coronet and the Privy Council, and laid out just exactly what we were facing they were wholeheartedly behind it, and we had our mandate. As time went on, the pressure increased, as the Middle Kingdom seriously wanted to see us elevated. The transition was far from smooth, and very few people know exactly how much work it actually took. Each of the separate committees had their own huge work load to accomplish their goals, but very few of us were involved in all aspects of the creation of the Kingdom bid, and everything else that went with it. It's not like today, where you have a great access to the internet and the majority of work can be done online, including meetings, and documentation. Everything had to be researched, revised, correlated and created. We needed to make sure the Laws were viable, didn't conflict with any of the officer policies, Corpora, etc., as well as creating Kingdom handbooks for every office, arranging for a huge amount of documentation and polls for the Kingdom bid itself. During all of this I was still performing my duties as a Principality Seneschal and trying to make sure the Principality continued to function smoothly. As to the transition itself, it was far from smooth. Though the Middle Kingdom was pushing for us to elevate, the Society had quite a few misgivings and issues that had to be resolved before we could actually become a Kingdom. Getting the bid passed was a difficult day, and it was not the end of it. Some of the things we had to change and agree to do to allow the transition to happen put a bit more work and pressure on us, so when it finally all came to fruition it was wonderful and a hard earned accomplishment for all of us.

In your time within the Society how have you seen it evolve? Has this evolution been beneficial or detrimental to its long term sustainability?

I'm not sure if the changes I've seen are the result of evolution and to be expected, or are the direct result of societal changes, but I have definitely seen changes. I'm immensely proud of some of the changes, like allowing same sex couples as landed baronage and now royalty, and a tendency to move away from burdensome and complicated policies and towards more streamlined reporting and interaction between groups and offices, are quite positive and I think enhance the Society. However, I've also seen, and been guilty of, a tendency to back away from the everyday happenings of the Society. I've spoken to a lot of people all around the SCA over the past few years who have all said the same thing, that as the Society has tended to move more and more towards being online, there has been a decrease in consideration, and an increase in division and protectionism. I don't know if that is the result of time, meaning the longer people have been in and the older they get the less time and energy they have for the SCA and the more detached they become, not really seeing the heart of how the Society is functioning and this feeling of a hardening and less friendly SCA is the result of that, or if it is really true. I believe that the Society I originally joined is still here, and the only real thing we are missing is a unifying goal. I still believe if you are in the SCA you inherently have the potential and desire to be kind, considerate and giving and rise above personal differences.

Some people feel that the award system is broken, that it can lead to people feeling overlooked while other people they feel may be undeserving of awards—or who perhaps already have many—keep getting more. What are you thoughts on this? Do you have any advice or wisdom to impart on this subject?

I have long believed that those people who are more sociable, outgoing and well-liked tend to receive more recognition and awards. This has been the case all along as far as I can tell. I have actually seen cases where people have looked for reasons to give someone they liked an award, not because the person was their friend, but because they felt the person was a benefit to their group and a good person who deserved something. At the same time, I've seen people who struggle with socializing and personality do some pretty amazing and wonderful things go for decades without being recognized or awarded anything. So, I definitely understand how people believe the award system is broken. I'm one of those people who kept getting more and more awards even though I already had so many. As a matter of fact, if you looked at the Order of Precedence, you would see that I still have more entries under my name than most people in Ealdormere. It wasn't until I became Princess and was part of the decision making team that I realized what it looks like from the other side is not quite what it seems. The reason why those people who are more sociable and personable tend to be recognized more often is because they are brought to the attention of the decision maker's more often. Unfortunately, having only one or two recommendations doesn't tend to get someone the recognition they deserve. More sociable and visible people tend to get more awards because more people recommend them. If the award system is broken, it is more because not enough people are taking the time to recommend people, and probably aren't recommending others for the right things or providing the right information. Every royal couple, or landed baronial couple I have ever known has found the giving of awards the most rewarding and satisfying part of the job. The problem is usually they get one recommendation for a person, and no one else recommends the person and they don't know the person or their work themselves. For a long time I've been of the opinion that Awards are a way for royalty to recognize actions, things and attitudes THEY admire, appreciate and feel deserve recognition, rather than something that everyone is entitled to. However, that also makes it sound like the Award system is nothing more than a popularity contest, which I don't believe it is. Then I read this absolutely awesome blog post the other day about someone's advice to people who would like to be a Peer one day, and recommendations on how to achieve that. While reading that post it made me realize that Awards aren't just for the actual thing that someone does, but it is also for the way in which the person does it. This is something that I have been unable to articulate over the years, because when I try to say it, it sounds so much like a popularity contest, and that is not what I mean. It doesn't matter what your natural personality is, we all have the ability to control the way we treat people, and the way we react to others. Over the years I've watched as people have become very disillusioned and frustrated because they have been doing something over and over and have not be awarded anything for it. Yet, I've seen those same people mellow out and change their attitude toward what they do and why they do it, become more sociable and adopt a better attitude and suddenly the recognition starts to come their way. This really reinforces to me that a lot of the problem with the Award system is that not enough people recommend others and people who feel they are being overlooked have to take a really good look at how and why they are doing the things they believe they should be awarded for.

Do you have any plans in the works you’d like to talk about?

Back when I was Principality Seneschal I began working on a project at the request of the Society. It was then cancelled, and then resurrected numerous times since then. It is what we refer to as the Postal Code project. The Society has always wanted to be able to build a database that contains the zip codes and postal codes of all the groups so that when a person registers their membership, the group that they belong to will be automatically assigned to that member. This project has gone through many different Seneschals, and it has always ended due to the same thing, assigning all the possible postal codes in Ontario to a group is a completely overwhelming job. With that in mind, I agreed to resurrect the project almost four years ago, and I'm happy to say it is almost done. The borders for all the Baronies and shires have basically been set, with just a few administrative paperwork items remaining, and all but a few postal codes are ready to be assigned. Once this project is finally done it will be the result of almost 15 years of work, off and on. I will probably consider this one of my crowning achievements, second only to the creation of the Kingdom.


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