The origins of the Iren Fyrd and Hirth

Written by Master Brummbar von Schwarzberg. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

*The missive below was a message Master Brummbar sent to the Fyrdlist about our heritage.*

I have taken some time before starting this, since I didn’t want to rely completely on my memory. I checked my files, which turned out to be a good idea, it was a long time ago and memories do tend to meld together sometimes.

When the Fyrd and Hirth were founded the requirements were a bit different than now, and just as Calontir has changed and grown so has it’s fighting orders. The Fyrd and Hirth were created shortly after the Midrealm Crown recognized Calontir as a “Region” within the Kingdom. Geoffrie of Wareine asked the regional officers to create awards within their respective areas; Geoffrie (Seneschal) created the Cross of Calontir, Robert Sartor (MOA) the Lily, William of Bellwood (MOS) the Silver Hammer and myself (Marshal) the Fyrd, Hirth and Sword. 

Calontir didn’t have a regional ceremonial leader, the position of warlord coming a bit later, so the first awards, including the first fyrdmen and huscarl, were appointed by a committee of the newly recognized regional officers. 

The first Fyrdmen were Stephen Ironhand, William of Bellwood, Ternon de Caer Liant, Guillaume le Chein Blanc, and Humpk D’Bohunk, and I was given the honor of being the first Huscarl.

As a man-at-arms in the Midrealm I had noted that it was often difficult for a fighter to gauge were they stood in relation to other fighters. There were Knights and everyone else, squires could be anyone from a raw novice to one on the verge of receiving the accolade. The following is from the first printed description of the Fyrd and Hirth:

“Within the Region of Calontir we have adopted a system of giving recognition to the fighters through titles that reflect their skills as fighters and representatives of the Region. The first title is that of Fyrdman of the Fyrd of Calontir, the militia of the Region. The higher ranking is that of Huscarl of the Hirth of Calontir, the elite guard of the Region. 

A Fyrdman of the region of Calontir must be proficient in at least two weapons systems, and always exhibit the best of conduct on the list and off. 

A Huscarl must exhibit mastery of at least two weapon systems, but must also be competent with the other weapons and must have fought in an SCA war or border raid. He will exhibit unquestionable honor, both on the list and off. 

Selection of members of the fyrd is initially that of the regional knights marshal, but can also be done by the combined members of the Hirth and Fyrd. The selection of members of the Hirth is also initially that of the regional knights marshal, but can also be done by the members of the Hirth.”

It was one of those situations, right place at the right time. Unlike long established population areas of other kingdoms our region was new with nothing but a few new groups and a small population. This made it easy to establish these titles without having to evaluate a multitude of long experienced fighters and play catch-up in awarding the titles. Calontir had only 40+ fighters at the time making it a fairly easy task. Following the creation of the positions of Champion and later Warlord, the responsibility of selection was passed on to them, yet still required impute from the members of the Fyrd and Hirth.

As stated one requirement for Huscarl was participation in a war or border raid, this was difficult since there was only one of each to go to each year, Pennsic and the Middle-Meredian Border Raid. 

As Calontir grew and passed from Region to Principality. The Fyrd and Hirth became Orders and not just titles. Prior to this if you left Calontir you lost the title of Fyrdman or Huscarl. 

One of the biggest and most controversial changes came in AS XVI, in an effort to encourage archery activities, I added archers to the Fyrd and Hirth. The Calon army didn’t exist at that time, it started organizing under the War College I established in AS XVIII, with Sr. Juan, Ld Pavel, and Ld. Lars as its staff. Requirements changed little until after AS XXI (1987) when it was added that Fyrdmen were required to support the army (I don’t know the exact reign in which this change was made since I haven’t been able to find all of my old copies of Calontir Law later than AS XXI).

I would like to make a brief comment on some of the past discussions on the Fyrd list concerning what constitutes support of the army. 

IMHO this is highly subjective and can vary from Crown to Crown, perhaps the Fyrd should request of each Crown at the beginning of their reign as to what they consider to be support of the army. After all, the members make recommendations to the Crown, but the final decision is the Crowns’.

As to the accuracy of the Fyrd and Hirth in relation to their historical counterparts, I admit that it isn’t very exact but it is close. Few SCA titles and orders accurately reflect history. I wanted to create a two level system of skill recognition and the Anglo-Saxon fyrd and hirth lent itself quite well to my design.

I hope that this brief history will help you better understand your heritage as a Fyrdman or Huscarl.

In service,

Brummbar

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