The Duties of a Bard

I’ve long said that the first duty of a bard is to observe. If we do not stand as witness for the events that surround us, then the stories are not available for those who come after us

Here is my current personal rubric:

Observe If we don’t notice the story, it may be lost
Remember Accuracy matters.
Reflect Find the narative threads in what you observed
Recount Identify the ways in which this narrative may matter to your potential audiences, both identified and to be found later.  Craft the story you want to tell
Rehearse Make good art.  Strive to be the best performer you can be.  If the narrative is important, the quality of the performance shows this more than the content itself
Relate Make the performance matter to the specific audience you are in front of, whether it’s 1 person or 1000, whoever they are and wherever you are.

History is the narrative that our descendants will tell about us.


The Method to the Madness

How Bardic Madness came to be and why.

It all started when I decided to go to an A&S fair, in Back then (1990), Northshield was part of the Middle Kingdom, so the fair was set up in the Middle Kingdom old A&S style. I thought that with my newfound interest in poetry and bardcraft, I ought to do something. So I figured I would write up a sonnet. But when I went to look at the documentation rules, it was a mail in category, so I couldn’t actually enter it as the date had already passed. I had just met Irene Tacita and invited her to come along to the event with me, so even though I wasn’t sure about what to do with the poem, I went to the event anyway {it was effectively our first date, and her second event}. During the day I spent some time talking with Mistress Sonja of Prague, then Kingdom Minister of Sciences. She listened to my angst-riddled concerns. I think I managed to not whine too much. At the end of the conversation, I said, “So … I suppose if I want things to be different, I ought to come up with an alternative that I like better and see what people think about it… Thank you for listening to me … I think I have an idea about what I want to do”

On the way home from the event, Irene got to be my sounding board for what such an event might look like.

The plan:

A place where everyone could be heard. Where anyone who wanted to stand up and perform would have a chance to share their work with others. The performances were deliberately single-tracked. Some classes in between the performance times would also be scheduled.

The theory was:

  • An event to encourage composition and performance
  • One track of performances so everyone would hear everyone.
  • A range of topics/activities so people could find things to do that were interesting to them
  • For the range of types of performances that bardic included.
  • Challenges should not generally be answeable in only one format
  • Not primarily contests, because judging would slow things down.
  • The criteria was challenge yourself.
  • Classes were a secondary thing to the performances, because we wanted to maximize performance time.
  • And a post revel to sing until we were sung out.

Patronage as a shared idea came later. The first three years I did the emcee until feast and asked someone to serve as feast herald to announce the performers for the. Challenges. I tasked them with listening carefully to the performers during the day and adjusting the performance order to prevent inexperienced performer from having to immediately follow star, and to talk to the performers about their pieces to vary the tempo. When for Bardic IV i got asked by two people to be the herald and when Rosa note and Johannesburg wanted to offer a contest challenge for the Northshield Motet, that gave rise to the idea of asking people to sponsor challenges. Throwing it open to people to volunteer was Wilhelm Dichtermann’s idea.

Initially class periods were in the morning and performances were in the afternoon. At Bardic IV we discovered that had limitations. We did 16 challenges. The brotherhood of the Iron Chair was a thing. Wilhelm Dichtermann entered every challenge.

Of note at Bardic IV, the creation of a meta-challenge: Gregor Villjemson told a unified story through all of the challenges he entered.


There were already several events in Northshield that happened either annually or ocassionally which moved from one location to another…

A&S moved from one location to another year after year. The Dance Seminar had also been going on — it moved about from place to place, this brought people together and encouraged something of a community of fellow-dancers, and brought the expertise to different places each year. This seemed like a good idea, so we ran with that.

There was also Royal University of the Midrealm which moved around.

The idea of doing a bardic event like this was somewhat crazy. I heard that more than once — so I embraced it as Madness.

My background at the time: I’d been in the SCA for 5 years. I had just started to get recognition as a performer.

I had recently moved from Jararvellir to Nordskogen. While in Jararvellir I had made friends with folk in Windhaven while serving as Northwatch chronicler. So knowing that I wanted the event to end with a good post revel. I approached windhaven about hosting the event and having posterevel at Halati’s house {the house where postrevels often were for Windhaven events. Halati is a superb and amiable host who is fascinated with and excited to talk about many different things}.

I had never autocratted an event before. I had only done one office, specialty newsletter editor, and I only really started doing the bardic thing about a two years before this.

I got my Willow (Midrealm AoA arts award) in bardic at nordskogen warlord, July 1990. So at the time I started the project, I had not yet received my Willow.

The first Bard of Nordskogen contest was January 1991. Cristoforo won.

1991 was the year of my travel boast about which is another story and the year I was apprenticed, shortly after Bardic I.

1991 was pre Internet. We used seneschals flyers to advertise events.

Some notes for those interested in possibly organizing an event based on this model:

Know the community you want to serve. What made the first event work was that I spent much of the year before the event on the road traveling to the groups in Northshield to meet people and find our who the performers were. And I invited them to come and they did.

I also tried to scale and set the challenges to be achievable and interesting to the people that I thought might come to the event, making some of them a bit of a stretch for the more accomplished performers and composers while some of them were simpler for those starting out. Different places that have adopted or adapted the model have tweaked the balance of easy and harder challenges to fit the community in that area. Northshield Bardic varies somewhat based on where in the kingdom it takes place.

Moving the event yearly seems to be important for preventing a group from developing a proprietary interest in the event.

We created the position of provost of the event who is responsible for representing the interests of the community and organising the event year over year. This position is not generally an officer or guild head, just the person who does the job. This autonomy from the system forces the provost to stay closely aligned with the community of performers since their only power is persuasion.

The provosts of the various bardic Madness events try to collaborate and attend each other’s events this is the closest we have to a formal governance structure.

Patrons are sought to encourage excellence in the various performance areas. Ideally the patrons sekected for the various challenges should follow up with the entrants in their challenges and try to engage with them beyond the event itself to help encourage their further growth.

The reason for calling them challenges was to avoid the timing issue and effort cost of formal judging.

The event continues to be an active and vital part of the kingdom 27 years later, and has spread and taken root in at least two other kingdoms, with an initial event having taken place in a third. The event embodies a method but not an exact template. If you are interested in trying to spread the Madness further let me and/or the provosts of the existing Madness events know and we will work with you.

“…We are only mad north-northwest, when the wind is southerly we know a hawk from a handsaw”

Play is the thing.

Impossible is largely an unprovable assertion.


Some history notes principally of interest to Norþshieldingar:

Bardic College: History

“[The charter was] crafted by Lord Raven, C.M. Joserlin, and signed and sealed April 30th, 1994 by Jafar and Catherine, King and Queen of the Midrealm.

“The College held its organizational meeting at Mermaid’s Retreat on May 21st of that year and Ld. Raven was appointed the first Speaker.

“The College holds its annual business meeting at Bardic Madness each year, to choose the new Council members and Speaker.

“Our intention was to create an organization with a minimalistic structure, so that people could not get caught up in the “inner workings” of the college: The only purposes of the college are to encourage bardic performance and bardic activities by and among all people in Northshield, whether they be “professed performers” or not, and to support composers and performers in their work, whether or not they consider themselves “part of the college” or not.” –from the original webpage hosting the charter,, last updated March 17, 1998

Council members are elected at the Bardic College’s one yearly meeting, held at Bardic Madness in early Spring. Two council members are elected every year, and terms are two years long; at every meeting, one of the outgoing council members is chosen after elections by the four current members to the be the Speaker.

Here is a timeline of the College, starting with the first Bardic Madness (which preceded the College):

Bardic Madness I, Shire of Windhaven (Fox Valley, WI), 1991


      • (Wilhelm Dichtermann’s first event.)

      Bardic Madness II, Shire of Shattered Oak (Eau Claire, WI), 1992Bardic Madness III, Shire of Silfren Mere (Rochester, MN), 1993

      • Finn Rex attended this and requested a tourney be held. This was the first event in Northshield not in a Barony which drew royalty since the days of Corin and Myfanwy.
      • Finn was presented with the Northshield “straw poll” results which were tabulated at the Seneschals’ council meeting that morning.

      Bardic Madness IV, Shire of Turm an dem See (Sheboygan, WI), 1994

      • This event was held at a stay-over site which we had from Friday night through Sunday.
      • It was after this one that Raven started talking about founding a college, which was chartered in April of that year and held its first elections at Mermaids that May.
      • Wilhelm entered every single challenge.

      Inaugural council members, May 1994

      • Brendan O’Corraidhe
      • Nawson ben Mas’ud
      • Wyndreth Berginsdottir
      • Owen Alun
      • Speaker: C.M. Joserlin, called Raven

      Bardic Madness V, Colleges of Nordleigh (Northfield, MN), 1995

      • Event information and list of challenges
      • This was the year that the basic format of challenges and classes intersecting started.
      • This was the year that Thorbjorn the Graysides performed the “Ta dum” sonnet to end the evening.
      • Elected: John Chandler Greyfeather
      • Aelfreda, called Goonie (?)
      • Speaker: Owen

      Bardic Madness VI, Shire of Western Keep (Brookings, SD), 1996

      • Morgana bro Morganwg met Wyndreth Berginsdottir at this event.
      • Dafydd, Gwyneth, and Ian attended. Ian gave out tokens.
      • The first singing of “Shield my Kinsmen”.
      • Elected: Herr Wilhelm Dichtermann
      • Rosamund of Trenchfield
      • Speaker: Wyndreth

      Bardic Madness VII, Barony of Jararvellir (Madison, WI), 1997

      • Conn and Kassandra (Prince and Princess of the Northshield) attend.
      • Cybele of Rowangrove receives her Award of Arms.
      • Elected: Lord Owen Alun
      • Lady Cybele of Rowangrove
      • Speaker: Chandler

      Bardic Madness VIII, Shire of Inner Sea (Duluth, MN), 1998

      Bardic Madness South I, called Jongleurs and Japes, at Grey Gargoyles/Tree-Girt-Sea (Chicago, IL), December 1998

      Bardic Madness IX, Shire of Rudivale (Grand Forks, ND), 1999

      • Tarrach and Fiona attend.
      • Elected: Lady Kudrun the Pilegrim
      • Berwyn (?)
      • Speaker: Cybele

      Bardic Madness X, Barony of Windhaven (Fox Valley, WI), 2000

      • Event information and list of challenges
      • Owen hands off North Provost position to Wilhelm.
      • Kudrun and Cybele enter almost every challenge.
      • Elected: Lady Ysolt Pais de Coeur
      • Lady Eliane Halévy
      • Speaker: Dahrien

      Bardic Madness South II, St. Carol on the Moor (Charleston, IL), Dec. 2000

      Bardic Madness XI, Shire of Mare Amethystinum (Thunder Bay, ONT), 2001

      • Saeric and Kenneth attend.
      • Elected: Bantiarna Deirdre inghen ui Bardàin
      • Lady Charissa de la Sirra
      • Speaker: Kudrun

      Bardic Madness South III, Shire of Greyhope (Valparaiso, IN), November 2001

      • Bardic performance given by almost the whole population of Greyhope. For many of the individuals, this was their first bardic performance ever.
      • Attended by several carloads from Calontir, Ealdormere, and Northshield.
      • First challenge entry involving participants from three different kingdoms.
      • Speculation begins on the possibility of “spreading the madness further”, i.e. additional Bardic Madnesses in other Kingdoms.

      Bardic Madness XII, Shire of Rockhaven (St. Cloud, MN), March 16, 2002

      • Wilhelm announces he is moving to Calontir and steps down as Provost. He names Eliane Halevy as new Provost starting with Bardic Madness XIII.
      • Elected: The Honorable Lord Aleksandr Vasilevych Lev of Volynia
      • Lord Cerian Cantwr
      • Speaker: Ysolt

      Bardic Madness South IV, Shire of Vonspring (Lansing, MI), November 23, 2002
      Bardic Madness XIII, Barony of Jararvellir (Dodgeville, WI), February 22, 2003

      • See photos from the event: TE Leif and Astrid’s photos on Their website
      • Event website
      • Schedule and list of challenges
      • Several carloads of visitors from Ealdormere come to add their talents to the day. Second-biggest Bardic Madness ever, held at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, in a lovely hall with an inlaid Compass Star in the floor. Their Excellencies Leif and Astrid, heirs to the Stellar Throne, sponsor a challenge, then stay until the very end of the challenge performances. Master John Chandler and Lord Heinrich co-autocratted.
      • Elected: Lady Ciara of Tor Aerie
      • Lord Dahrien Cordell
      • Speaker: Lady Charissa de la Sirra

      Bardic Madness South V, [location?], November 22, 2003
      Bardic Madness XIV, Barony of Castel Rouge (Winnipeg, MB, Canada), February 14, 2004

      • Pictures from the Unofficial Northshield Gallery
      • Event schedule, class list and challenges
      • Baroness Faerisa and THL Kolbrunna worked magic with an all-subtlety feast. THL Aleksandr Vasilevych Lev of Volynia autocratted. THL Madeleine from Windhaven, after many years as a Bardic Madness patron, broke her silence and performed in one of the challenges. Princess Anne and Lady Heir Giulia attended.
      • Elected: Lady Katherine d’Amiens
      • Baron Berwyn AEthelbryght of Ackley
      • Speaker: THL Cerian Cantwr

      Bardic Madness South VI, Shire of Baile na Scolairi (Bloomington, IL), November 20, 2004

      • Event website
      • Titled “The Feast of St. John the Fool”. John is the patron saint of fools, waterfowl, and lozengy fabric.
      • Steward: Catalin Zöldszem

      Eliane Halevy:

      • XIII: Jararvellir
      • XIV: Castel Rouge
      • XV: Shattered Oak 2005
      • XVI: Huron SD
      • XVII: CAM?
      • XVIII: Misting Waetru
      • XIX: Border Downs
      • XX: Windhaven 2010


      • XXI: Schattentor 2011
      • XXII:
      • XXIII:
      • XXIV: CAM 2014
      • XXV: Nordskogen 2015
      • XXVI: Rokecliff 2016


      • XXVII: Jararvellir 2017

      To Vie


      verb vies, vying, vied

      1.  (intransitive; foll by with or for) to contend for superiority or victory (with) or strive in competition (for)
      2. (transitive) ( archaic) to offer, exchange, or display in rivalry
      This is a word that is under-utilized in the SCA, and in many performance contexts.
      The notion that underlies “vie” is that you are contending with one or more people who are worthy of recognition for their own efforts.  It is the basis of how SCA combat is decided — I offer to bring and exchange my best on the field, and my fellow contendors make the same agreement.  When you are giving your best, you can tell whether someone else has a better best than you.  When you bring your best to any endeavor, when the result comes you can walk away proudly.
      The question is what is “best”  — in performance there is a balance between ego, excellence, and empathy.  Your best should be that which encourages others to likewise bring their best,  so at a bardic circle for example it is good to not monopolize the performance time, but also it is good to keep things moving.   In formal competition,even if there are third party judges,  it’s also good for you to be your own judge and to acknowledge the people who impress you.
      This can go too far, in the sense that there can be a culture extreme empathy — of “everything is awesome”  — even when that’s not true.  There are times and places for gentility (someone stands up to perform for the first time), or at occasions such as Bardic Madness where the whole point is encouragement to go beyond whatever is the current comfort zone.
      But there is also a balance of ego — people need to learn that there are many performance venues that can be found  if one has the courage to go seek them out; and excellence — if you are seeking a place to perform, you have to realize that you are now vying for the audience’s attention.  And it’s also important to realize that even if you have the attention of the audience, you must also be gracious — don’t monopolize the venue if there are other performers, and be respectful of the audience’s time, especially if the performance is taking place outside of a scheduled venue.
      You can always make the choice to bring your own best engagement to the performance, whether in the role of performer, or the role of audience, sponsor, or peripheral listener.   The quality of a performance is  not measured by the quantity of the audience, but by the quality of the interaction between the performer and the audience.
      Though the etymology doesn’t support it, I always think of “vie” in both the English meaning given above, and the French cognate.
      C’est la vie.


      Coloring Perception

      Musings on the changing perception of color over time

      I was listening today to Radiolab’s Colors episode. They mentioned the “wine-dark sea” of Homer, and talked about the perception of color as it varies across culture, language, and history.

      This got me thinking about how color was used in narrative and in poetry in different times and places during the medieval period.   There are certainly differences in nuance, and may be differences in outright perception.

      This is a topic that has a long and rich history within literature studies but it’s something that bears some thought for those of us who are trying to re-create authentic style in our composition, and for those of us trying to understand the texts that we are preparing for performance.

      Here are a few references and commentary on various aspects of this topic to serve as jumping off points for discussion or further research.

      Some psychology/linguistics/anthropology links related to this topic.

      • In a study of the Himba people of Namibia (Reviewed in an  APA Article) and  another reference   (the second is in French, Google Chrome does a good job translating and it’s worth the effort). Roberson, et all find that the Himba do not perceive a difference between blue and green.  The second reference talks about differences in perception of green between English and Korean speakers.
      • In Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution (1969) Berlin and Kay argue that color perception evolves sequentially and is related to language terminology.  This is an older study and their position has elaborated since then but this is a good early study on the topic.

      Another point worth considering is what colors were available in various media such as painting and dyeing at various places and times.  It is often the case that technological change drives perceptual or societal change.  The ability to re-create a given color is likely to emphasize the need to describe it more exactly, so there is probably a coordination between the development of color technology and the way it is described in writing and performance.

      Finally some links to various aspects of color perception in English literature, specifically. There is extensive writing on color in literature.  These are just three examples relevant to three different periods.

      • The Old Salt Blog discusses the fact that in Shakespeare’s the Tempest, the sky is referred to as blue, but not the sea, and the theory is presented that the color shift in perception about the sea occurs around 1700.
      •  In the Chaucer Review there is an interesting article about “Aspects of Chaucer’s Adjectives of Hue” (on JSTOR).  In this article the main colors referenced by Chaucer are white, red, green, yellow, black, grey.  He uses french terms for the color blue and it’s not the most common color he references.
        His primary use of color is to describe people, (red-face and hair, green-envy, brown-work outdoors, yellow-hair), then after that to describe things in nature (red, white, green — “the main interest being flowers, not foliage.”), Third his interest is in clothing (black, green, white primarily but also purpure, azure, scarlet and some others), then animals (white, black, grey are most common), then stones and minerals.  The article also lists which poems have the most color references and talks about color symbolism.
          There is emphasis in this article that when color is used in Chaucer there is often a moral component.  This is certainly different than the modern sensibility where color has emotional overtones or even is just purely aesthetic.
      • In Miscellaneous Notes: Color Words in Anglo Saxon (Modern Language Review April 1951),  Lerner discusses the use of color as used in Anglo-Saxon poetry and shares  an interesting insight:  He belives that the there is an important difference between the dominance of “hue” in modern color perception versus “brightness” — which he argues was more significant than hue in understanding Anglo-Saxon color perception.  He points to usages of  brun which has a sense of “shining” versus wann  which has a sense of “dull”, and shows examples where each of these are used across multiple different hues.

      Some of the questions that come to mind from the above that would be good jumping off points for discussion:

      • How should we use color in works we are writing?  Is there an aspect of how color was perceived in the various times and places that we should try to re-create in our own works, at least some of the time?
      • What did color mean in the poems and stories we read?
      • What items get described with colors in various periods?
      • How did the categorization of color affect the metaphoric, literal, and physical view of the people who lived in the period we study?

      In your preferred time and place, what color is the sky?

      If you have links or suggestions of articles or other material in these areas that you have found helpful, or if you’ve researched or written something yourself, please comment below.

      The long version … How Owen got started in the Bardic Arts.

      How Owen got started in the bardic arts:

      The key points:

      • My first day at camp:  When I found the courage to take a stand
      • The day I found my harp: When I met the muse for the first time
      • The day I performed my first poem: When I found an audience

      In middle/high school I did theatre.  Mostly tech (lighting, sound, set,
      and costume), but occasionally I got stuck acting. I got started the
      summer between 6th and 7th grade when I went off to an 8 week summer camp.

      I was standing in line for dinner the first night, and one counselor was
      talking with another “Yeah — the problem is that all these kids will want
      to act, none of them will be primarily interested in helping out behind
      the scenes with the tech stuff”   A sudden flash of inspiration struck me
      about how no one ever achieves anything without being willing to take

      I turned around on the spot and said “Who says no one wants to do
      tech — my name is…  and I want to learn.”  This was more or less when
      I overcame my shyness about speaking out, though it was several years
      before I linked this lesson up with performing.

      The fall after summer camp, I started playing string bass in middle
      school.  I was waiting for my best friend to finish an after school
      violin lesson, and made some sort of half-snarky comment, which resulted
      in the instructor looking up at me and saying “You’re tall enough —
      tomorrow you’ll stop by and we’ll get you started on Bass. (reference the
      observation in the previous story about risk-taking — I couldn’t exactly
      back down).  Later that year, I fell in love with harp music when I heard
      Alan Stivell’s Renaissance of the Celtic Harp and made some comments about
      wanting to learn harp some day.

      So I went to high school, and had a serious crush on a girl in my class.
      She had joined the cross-country running team, and so I, of course did, too.
      (The silly things we do).  The coach was also in charge of organizing
      volunteers for the local Renaissance festival, and had arranged for his
      team to have a games booth to raise money.  So we showed up (I’d made my
      own costume), and no one really had any idea what to do to draw customers.
      So I listened (the first duty of a bard, right?) and figured out how the
      busking thing worked, so I started calling out to people to come try their
      hand at our game.  We raised $500 that day, I lost my voice, and got the
      assignment to be in charge of the booth for the rest of the fair.   This
      was when I learned that making a fool of yourself can be done deliberately
      and with dignity.  (That was Saturday. Sunday I learned the power of

      But I never applied the (Saturday) lesson to actually get as far as asking
      her out on a date.  We wound up having a brief conversation shortly before
      we both headed off to college, where we asked each other why we hadn’t
      gotten together, but she was going to UVA having graduated a year early,
      and I was probably going off to college a year early as well — leaving
      HS for college without waiting for the diploma.  This was when I realized
      that not saying what you feel can have as big or bigger consequences as
      saying, exposing your inner self, and possibly failing.  If there was one
      thing I would have done differently in high school it would have been to
      have had the courage to tell her how I felt about her.

      When I went off to college, I discovered that I missed having music to do
      (the String Basses belonged to the Middle and High Schools), and the
      December of my junior year in College when I was home, my dad surprised
      me by saying “here’s some money go buy yourself a harp, then.”

      So I drove into Baltimore and found one.  There was a small,
      bullet-holes-in-the-sign store across the street from Peabody Music
      Conservatory, called “Ted’s Music Shoppe”  I went in and there was this
      huge 5 foot harp hanging from the pillar.  I pointed at it, and Ted’s son
      took me next door to the warehouse, where 5 bins back on the right were
      several more of it. She was the third one from the right.  I looked at her
      and she spoke to me: “Get me out of here, NOW! and I might even let you
      play me some day.” (I’m not used to having musical instruments talk to me
      like that, but it was very clear and vivid).  So we left.  The price he
      asked was exactly what I could afford.  ($375 for a 5 foot floor harp.  I
      figure the harp talked to the owner because that wasn’t a haggled price,
      and even back then (1984) that was about half of what the price should
      have been).

      So I had a harp.  What to do with one?  I spent several months learning to
      tune it, and fumbling about with it.  That summer I was staying in Madison
      WI (University) between terms, so I went down to State St (pedestrian mall
      near campus) and played street harp — there weren’t any other harpers,
      the other musicians played saxophone, guitar, clarinet.   I didn’t really
      make any money at it, but one day this guy came walking up with a Mandolin
      on his back and asked me if I’d ever heard of the SCA.  (I had, from
      gaming, from the Renaissance Festival, and from another group, called
      Dagorhir, which I was in in Maryland while in High School.)  So I figured
      — “they could use a harper, even a not very good one” — so I went to my
      first SCA fight practice that night.

      I played harp at events for 4 years, sang a little bit with the
      Jararvellir Music Guild, was Herald for the Dance Seminar (which involved
      doing more or less what I’d done at the RenFest) but didn’t do any
      “bardic” stuff — writing/sharing my own work (I’d gone to postrevels and
      sang along, but not led anything) until the week I left Jararvellir for
      Nordskogen.  My girlfriend and I had suddenly broken up, and the town was
      too small to have all the same friends and not be on speaking terms.  I’d
      spent a lot of time the month before I left hanging out at Thorbjornstead
      (Thorbjorn the Greysides’ home, with him, his wife, daughter, and the
      various people who lived there).  The previous winter, my harp had
      suffered an accident when I slipped on the ice, and Tjukka (there is only
      one Tjukka) who was living there, helped me to repair it.  Tjukka also
      offered to help me move to Nordskogen, which was a godsend, since I had
      little money at the time, and would have had real trouble getting
      everything moved without him driving behind me in a van with most of my
      stuff (mostly books). He was at the time staying there because he had very
      little money, too, but he wouldn’t let me even pay for gas.  This is where
      I learned that one can speak with simple actions more loudly than with
      mere words.

      I wrote a poem for Thorbjornstead, and read it to them the evening
      before I left.   (Strong blow the winds of fate to sea).  A month later,
      at Nordskogen Warlord tourney (the first W in WW), I performed that
      piece at a bardic circle.  They looked at me and said “That’s very good,
      do you have anything else?” — I had to tell them that I didn’t. 

      I left the circle and went off and walked around the site and
      “The Smith” came to me — I wrote it down and went back to the circle, and
      said “Here’s another one.”  And that’s when I realized that I could write
      poems and that people would listen to them.  But that I should expect to
      have to perform them.

      It was funny two weeks later when we were all in Jararvellir for their
      summer event (Warriors Day, the second W in WW), and the Baroness
      of my new group was talking to the Baroness of my old group, and
      said “why didn’t you tell us you were sending us a bard?”  “who” “Owen”
      “Owen?” “yeah, nice poetry” “He does?” <blink>! <blink>?

      The following spring I went to A&S and wanted to enter a sonnet, but found
      out that you couldn’t enter a sonnet at regional, because it was a mail-in
      category.  So (after griping a bit) I decided to do something to make it
      easier for people like me who wanted to share their poetry to have a place
      to do so.

      But that’s all prelude:  when did I know I wanted to be a bard?

      The Thursday after that Nordskogen Warlord, I went to fighter practice. I
      had two new pieces I’d written since the event and O wanted to share them. 
      The first was a forgettable filk about the events of the weekend, and the
      second was “Fly Dragon, Fly” — I sang them for Angus Ulrich, who had been
      the victor in the Warlord Tourney, (and was therefore the subject of the
      filk) — he listened to both of them and then said:

      “Owen, there’s more to you than beer and twinkies”

      Which, coming from him, still  amounts to possibly the greatest praise
      I’ve ever received.

      That was when I decided to try to be a bard.

      On Nobility and Patronage

      This is in a similar voice to that of “The Book of the Patron”

      — but it speaks to what is quite probably my favorite quote and best guidance for anyone who would seek to be a patron, or actually for anything at all.

      Patronage and Social Interaction (in the Bardic Arts and Elsewhere)

      Be noble! and the nobleness that lies
      In other men, sleeping but never dead,
      Will rise in majesty to meet thine own.
      James Russell Lowell. 1819-1891.

      Let us speak first of nobility.  What is nobility?

      The Noble is in command of their own time and resources, judges himself
      and his actions by his own standards, and does things to do them well.

      The Servant does things to please another, judges himself and his actions
      by another person’s standards, and does things to get them done.

      Nobles often also serve.  Noble service occurs whenever one volunteers to
      serve and when one’s own standards exceed the expectations of those who
      one is serving.

      Noble comes from the French noscere — to know:

      1. To perceive or apprehend clearly and certainly; to understand; to
      have full information of; as, to know one’s duty.

      2.  To be acquainted with; to be no stranger to; to be more or less
      familiar with the person, character, etc., of; to possess experience
      of; as, to know an author; to know the rules of an organization.
      (from Webster)

      To know is therefore to have a relationship with the subject.  To be noble
      is to have a relationship with the world and people around you.  A
      relationship of understanding and respect.  It is this special and quite
      real relationship that transcends the game we play and makes it something
      more. We are not just here to learn history, or study strategy, or do cool
      crafts, but also to call forth this thing from within ourselves.

      Patronage is ultimately the act of standing in a noble relationship to
      someone else, an artist, a student, or anyone, and encouraging them to
      strive for their own nobility.

      On Performance, Persona, and Patronage

      Performance and Persona are fundamentally interlinked topics.  How you present yourself and who you present yourself as provide part of the context in which the other material you present will be viewed.

      This is something I wrote many years ago.  This is written in the persona of the author of a “Medieval How To” books, like  Baldesar Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier” or Raymon Llull’s “Of the Order of Chivalry”  — so it reads as very didactic.

      The basic points still seem relevant to this discussion.

      Performance is the sharing of experience.  Performance requires
      venue and an appropriate arena. Venue is the guarantee of an
      audience.  Arena is the location where the performance takes
      place. While many types of performances can be accomplished
      with minimal arena (storytelling, poetic recitation, etc),
      no performance can be accomplished without a venue.

      The creation of venue is the job of the patron.  The patron
      guarantees an audience for the performance.  This can take
      many forms from sponsoring and announcing a public entertainment,
      to simply requesting a song or story while standing in line
      waiting for feast.

      When a performer has no patron they must act as their own patron.
      This is called busking.  One special form of busking occurs when
      the performers stand as patrons for each other.  This is
      frequently called a bardic circle.

      Every performance has a patron, whether it be a single
      individual, or a group of people acting together.  When a
      group of people are acting together as a patron, it is usually
      advisable for them to appoint someone to speak on their behalf. 
      This person may be titled the emcee, host, herald, or such other
      name as suits the occasion, or may simply fulfill the function
      without special title.

      If a patron wishes to sponsor an entertainment, they should
      announce it in advance, so that an audience may gather to hear it. 
      If it is an open entertainment (for any performer who would come)
      then this should be sufficiently in advance that the performers will
      have time to prepare appropriate material. The announcement should
      state what kind of material is requested or that it is simply
      “open to hear anything on any subject”.

      Performers would do well in turn to note that in places where
      the custom is that most or all circles are “open subject,” the
      announcement may omit this point — however it is always polite to
      inquire if you are not sure whether your piece will be acceptable.

      It is the duty of the patron to request the performance.  If a
      circle or other entertainment is to be conducted, it is the duty of
      the patron to open the circle, either by performing or requesting
      the first performance. The patron sets the rules for how performances
      will follow each other, whether it is “free for all,” “pass the lantern,”
      “bear pit,” “by request,” or some other method.

      Depending on the method chosen, and the community of performers
      present it may or may not be necessary for the patron to exercise
      active control of the circle subsequent to the start, however it is
      the patron’s responsibility to step in or make requests as appropriate
      to keep the circle going, and if time or space limitations require it,
      to close it at the end.

      A good patron is one who is able to encourage performance effectively.
      The art of the patron is thus to set the rules for performance of the
      entertainment in such a way that they do not become tedious to the
      performers or the audience or detrimental to the performances.

      The patron is also a performer.  One who acts as a patron should strive
      to give the best performance they can, in order to better encourage
      excellence from the persons performing for them.

      (from “The Book of the Patron” — (c) 1998)