What is a Huscarl of Calontir?

Written by Sir Halvgrim Aðálraðarson. Originally Published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 10, 2004

(Note: Though there are Archery Huscarls (The Boga-Hirth), I have not had much interaction with members of the Order and have also heard less of their opinions on what they think a Huscarl is. This article mainly refers to the fighting order as that is where my experience and point of reference comes from. In no way is the lack of information on Boga-Hirth meant as a slight, I just don’t have any basis to go on what their opinions might be. I was able to get the opinions of one their members and one of the members of the Boga Fyrd,but alas even though I do use some of their words in the below article both of their  words apply to both orders and not just the Boga orders. Any Boga-Hirth (or anyone else for that matter) that feels compelled to submit an addendum to this article is more that welcome to do so!  –Halvgrimr)

Wow, that may seem like and easy question to answer but so far in my limited experience as a Huscarl I haven’t been able to pin down a precise answer.

When I wrote What is a Fyrdman of Calontir? I had been a Fyrdman for some time and thought I had an idea of how to answer that question, so I tried but its worth mentioning that even since then some of my views have changed on that subject;)

Anyway, I have less experience as a Huscarl but I will try to answer the question to the best of my knowledge. This time around I will be using more points made by others than the last time thought. Over the months that I have been a Huscarl I have tried to listen very carefully to the message when this subject is brought up. From various emails and personal conversations I hope to convey the things that I gained from those interactions.

Lets get the easy stuff out of the way first. When asked this question most folks fall back to Kingdom Law. Kingdom law states:


There shall exist within the Kingdom of Calontir a system by which recognition is given to fighters and archers through titles that reflect their skill as fighters or archers, and as representatives of Calontir. The higher rank is that of Huscarl of the Hirth of Calontir. The Hirth shall be composed of two equal but separate branches:  the fighters, called the Iren-Hirth, and the archers, called the Boga-Hirth. An individual may qualify and be granted membership by the Crown in both branches of the Hirth.

Elevation to the Hirth rests with the Sovereign, after consultation with such members of the appropriate branch of the Hirth as the Sovereign shall  desire. Any such elevation shall be proclaimed by the Crown to the populace at an official Court of the Kingdom of Calontir or upon the field of honor.

Elevation to the Hirth shall confer upon the recipient a Grant of Arms and shall entitle such individual to all rights, privileges, and ensigns, attendant thereto. HUSCARLS may be styled and announced in the Calontir Order of Precedence as such. The Hirth shall be ranked equally in the Order of Precedence with the Orders of the Cross of Calontir, the Silver Hammer, and the Calon Lily.  Membership in the Hirth shall assure the recipient, according to seniority, of a position in the Calontir Order of Precedence before those Grants of Arms not given with any Order, but after the Kingdom Great Officers 

The Hirth may adopt, by approval of the Crown and by mutual consent, such rules for its internal governance as the Hirth may find useful, such bylaws not being in conflict with the Laws and Traditions of Calontir.

IREN-HIRTH:  Elevation to the Iren-Hirth may be conferred upon those individuals meeting certain minimum requirements; including authorization in all weapon systems with expertise in at least two.  The fighter must also have demonstrated support for the Calontir army during inter kingdom-level conflicts. Other qualifications considered shall include leadership, activity level and teaching.  Said individual must also always display unquestionable honor both on and off the field.

Huscarls of the Iren-Hirth may bear the badge of the Iren-Hirth, emblazoned: Per chevron embattled sable and argent, two battle-axes in saltire argent and a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

BOGA-HIRTH: Elevation to the Boga-Hirth may be conferred upon those individuals meeting certain minimum requirements; including authorization in all weapon systems with expertise in at least two.  The archer must also have demonstrated support for the Calontir army during inter kingdom-level conflicts.  Other qualifications considered shall include leadership, activity level and teaching.  Said individual must also always display unquestionable honor both on and off the field.

Huscarls of the Boga-Hirth may bear the badge of the Boga-Hirth, emblazoned:  Per chevron embattled sable and argent, two longbows in saltire argent and a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

Ok, that’s what Kingdom law says about what it takes to become a Huscarl but that doesn’t really answer the question at hand though, at least IMO.

A Huscarl is so much more that a set of prerequisites (as are members of any others order), what we are seeking is above a list of prereq’s I think.

Perhaps we could look to the origins of the Order to see if that helps. Since most of that was covered in Master Brummbar von Schwarzberg I won’t go into much of it but I highly recommend it to those that have never read it.

Unfortunately, as I stated in my previous article about the Fyrd, though Master Brummbar’s words are wise, many (including Brummbar himself) are quick to point out, the ideals set forth in the beginning of the orders are from a time long ago. Calontir has grown and changed since then, the Order has evolved since then too so looking to the Origins of the Order might not be a productive route.

Alrighty then, now that we got the law and our origins out of the way, lets look at some of the more common stereo types that Huscarls get labeled with:

  • Pipe Swinging Monkeys
  • Thugs
  • Machine’s/Implements of Mother F’ing destruction
  • The guys I’d want with me at a real bar fight
  • others that I am sure I am missing

(I have personally have always hated that damn bar fight thing but I understand the comparison. I’d like to think that we are more than a bunch of Thugs that swing a big stick but to some that is what we are.)
>I think Kaz summed all of these up when he sent me this:

“I believe that there should be a comradeship among Huscarls, that is bred of a common vision of being a ‘F’ing mo-sheen of dee-strukshun’ in loyal service to the Crown. I believe that there is a certain attitude that a Huscarl is not only permitted to cop, but should be expected to have. A Huscarl should stride the land in size 22 boots with the attitude of dangerous greatness – and it should not necessarily be expected to see high culture or civility in them (though they should be expected to possess chivalry, most definitely). These, after all, are not the graceful masters of the deadly dance, they are more like the Bradley armored vehicle of the medieval army – style to hell, but gets the job done every time without need for concern.”

While this belief is great an expresses how many of us feel, there surely has to be more and while I am more than willing to accept any of the above monikers I am also wanting to dig deeper for a connection to our Historical counterparts. Some may not need to do so but I have a desire to do so and I know others do too.

So can we look to the Huscarls historical counterparts (Housecarls or just Coerls in some cases) for some help in figuring out “What a Huscarl of Calontir” is?


Lets look at Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of Huscarl (or the closest thing to it):


also spelled huscarl , Old Norse húskarl (“house man”) , Danish and Norwegian hird (“household,” or “household member”) member of the personal or household troops or bodyguard of Scandinavian kings and chieftains in the Viking and medieval periods.

Well we are often called the Kings Men but rarely (if ever) have I heard the Order called the Kings Bodyguard1so that doesn’t seem to help our efforts in a search for this answer much.

As with the Historical Fyrd, the historical Huscarls evolved as time passed, so I guess the biggest hurdle to overcome is to determine whether we are talking about the Old Norse meaning of the word or the meaning as applied to how it was used by the English Military thanks to Cnut, who introduced them to England.

My idea of what a Huscarl is embodies a little of both (with a dash of a few extra things throw in there;)

In Old Norse a housecarl was thought to have been both loyal servants/household members attached to a predominant house of the time or members of the local dróttins comitatus (warband.)

It is from its Old English meaning that we gets the vision of the grizzled seasoned veteran serving his liege lord. These were the Kings Men and with their weapons and skill they along with the ‘Gestir’ (the ‘Royal Police’) enforced his will/law during times of peace.  They were the ones who carried unpopular edicts or messages to (or collected taxes from) the population. I suppose somewhere between an FBI agent and an IRS inspector. They could over-rule the local Jarl in the King’s name, and woe betide anyone who went against them, as they would have to explain their actions to the King. They were supposed to be courteous and protective towards loyal subjects but ruthless towards his enemies.

In war their function was as bodyguards, but given the Norse tradition of leading from the front, they, and the King, would be first into action and last to leave it. At Maldon, Brytnoth’s Hearth-troop die rather than leave his body, an incident extolled in the great poem. At Hastings some of the fiercest fighting apparently took place after Harold’s death and again, centered on the remains of his Huscarls fighting to defend their Lords body. (BTW some have suggested that Harold’s decision to deploy his Huscarls along the whole front line was a serious tactical mistake that deprived his army of it’s most dangerous and aggressive body of troops.) These are the professional soldiers that we so easily identify with today and as said before it is Cnut that we owe thanks to this visage.

No matter what visage of Huscarl (either ON or OE) the common over-riding quality seems to have been loyalty. Without land to defend of their own (until retirement) or other landowners with whom to plot, their personal loyalty to their King seems to have been higher than that often expressed by knights during the ‘high’ medieval period (more on this later also). Anglo-Saxon and Norse literature also has many examples of the love expressed by a Lords household troops for their Lord, and though this sort of comradely love is difficult to express in today’s cynical, materialistic world I believe we in Calontir do well at recreating this atmosphere.

On a whimsical note, some people have even suggested that the Huscarls were organized in a similar manner as the Jomsvikings. Personally I hope not, and for several reasons the main one being that even thought in every random mention of them I hear they were the ‘bad asses’ of their time, a simple search thru the sagas reveals that in every battle they were part of the side they supported LOST! I assume that’s karmic retribution for their their reputation for changing sides half way thru a battle! Add these things to their treatment of women as non-equals and you see that nothing is gained by comparing the Order to them!

The acts of the Jomsvikings  were so far removed from the normal concept of the days they were written about that some have suggested that the whole Jomsviking story is one of fiction, written by later period authors to illustrate the unavoidable disgrace and failure that will attend those who go ‘pirate’ and do not swear allegiance to God’s anointed representative – the King.

OK, back on topic, we have determine that the Historical Huscarls were known for their loyalty, I think this aspect is also a key factor in the Huscarls of Calontir also so we do gain from comparing the two.

I personally see the Order as a combination of the two (ON and OE) (but with a few extras to boot, more on that later.)  Normally by the time that you have become a Huscarl of Calontir you have shown without a doubt that you are both loyal to Calontir (and her ideals), an member of “The Tribe” (our household) and are a seasoned veteran of war. So I guess we are getting closer to an answer but I think we are still needing more to round this picture out.

So in the interest of comparisons I have heard and been part of several conversation which compared Huscarls with Knights.

As both were in various ways Kings Men they inevitable carried out some of same duties and responsibilities.

When asked what he thought a Huscarl was,  Lord Eric St. Ledger replied:

“Not being a huscarl, I cannot say what it is, or should be, to be one. I can say what you appear to be to others (at least some others). The Hus, at least to some of us, are sort of like elder brothers. To fail in the eyes of your king or to be found wanting in any matter is a fate unwanted and largely dreaded by every true gentleman or noble. It is like failing your father. To some extent, the Huscarls carry with them the king’s physical presence. They are our comrades in arms, but more. The Huscarls are a projection of the king’s visage, closer to the crown than we are, like an elder brother is often seen to be somewhat closer to your father than yourself. He is trusted more, he has been at the father’s side longer, and therefore you feel that in his approval also rests the parent’s sanction to some extent. Like wise, his disappointment in you carries with it more unpleasant sensations.”

When posed the same question,  Lord Gwalchmai “Saeth” Saethydd replied:

“A huscarl IMHO is someone who puts their kings honour and glory before own, a person who will selflessly serve their king and kingdom. A teacher, someone who will take Joe Newbie to the side and say hey, your doing a great job, but, you might wanna try this or that. A leader, someone who will take control of the situation should his/her king fall and lead troops to victory for the glory of Calontir. A Huscarl should be cocky enough to know they are good, but humble enough not to say so. IMHO a Huscarl should act as though they are a member of the Chivalry, even though they are not…..yet.”

I have heard many others make similar statements but the best comparison I have yet to hear is that of His Grace Valens. The following was his input from a discussion on the Huscarl list:

“I view the difference between huscarls and the chivalry in light of the ages they represent.  The huscarls are a 10th century group who’s greatest virtues were loyalty, and skill at arms.  Chivalry, at least the SCA’s romantic construct for that group is much more aimed toward a 13th or 14th century ideal.  Different times focused on very different virtues.  No doubt a 10th century huscarl would have been laughed at by the knights of 300 years later.  I haven’t found anywhere that implies that noble birth was a requirement or even a general quality of the huscarls serving the Saxon kings.  Three centuries later your parentage was one of the overriding requirements for knighthood.

I think the two different orders represent the different qualities of the different ages.”

In that same thread Gaius posted what I found to be a profound statement, I will remember it always and so that others may also I would share part of that thread with you now:

“And this is why, when the Norman noble makes his claim on Harold’s throne, your fingers grasp tight the axe and kite, and your will bends iron chain and human souls around our good King’s feet.  You are a Huscarl.  Your spirit, axe and blood stand between your King and His foe.  Your thoughts are your own, but your actions are His.  Your virtues are your King’s virtues, and your vices His vices, for you are His arm, His will, and His men.  When the world looks upon you, it is His reflection that stares back at them through reputation and deed.  You defend and further that by the weight of your axe.

The Fyrd protect the Land, the Chivalry protect our Kingdom, the Huscarls, however, protect a  man…. who is our King.  As long as there are people to till the earth, there will be Fyrdman to defend it.  As long as there remains even the idea of a kingdom, their must be Chivalry to defend it.  But should our King ever fall in battle, his last breath given up to the wind, then at that moment, there can be no more Huscarls, for they must all have fallen around Him.

This, to me, is the essence of what it is to be a Huscarl.  To set your feet squarely in the historic idea of it.  Understanding the difference between a Huscarl and a member of the Chivalry, begins by understanding the difference between duty to a man, who is a king, and duty to an entire kingdom, which happens to be ruled by a man.  Within our structure, these lines often blur, but were this life and death, our job descriptions would be significantly different, I believe, than what we assume now.”

Another close non-Calontir friend with an interest in historical perspectives suggested that the word of an 11th century Huscarl could be worth more than that of a 14th century knight since the Huscarl has only his word to give or defend. Whereas the knight has more interests to protect and might do so anyway he could. (I can imagine some in the SCA would have a problem with that but this is not meant to offend anyone just to offer an opinion.)

While these are great observations and could be close to the truth, in our quest to determine “What is a Huscarl of Calontir”, it doesn’t help. We have two separate orders for a reason. For a Hus to proclaim that he is the same as a Knight would be at best …unwise;)

I think it is fair to say that both the Hus and the Order of the Chiv share alot of the same important attributes. It has been suggested that these attributes include honor, leadership, mentoring, skill, and knowledge.  In a perfect world, they would all be at equal levels, but this is by far a perfect world.  It should be noted that mentoring, although is important, is not necessary considered important to some people.

Although the attributes mentioned above are shared attributes between the orders, obviously there is a differing  level of skill in each of the attribute between the orders (ie, a knight has higher levels of each than say a Hus) but this isn’t always the case. I think that this is what makes the journey from Hus to Knight a natural progression. Note that I do firmly believe that it is a progression but not everyone completes the journey. This is natural IMO as not everyone wants or is able to do so.

We all know that the orders share similar traits but we also know that they are different. So we are still no closer to a good answer that we were.

What next?

Where do we go from here?

I can’t say, I can tell you what I believe but as sure as it will be hot in Hades tomorrow, someone will have a different opinion. I guess that’s one of the cool things about our quest for an answer, as far as I can tell there is not a right or wrong answer to this question!

Anyway, it is sometimes said that Calontir’s most devoted/loyal subjects bleed purple. I think that for a Huscarl nothing less is expectable.<. Aside from the prereq’s to be a Huscarl I firmly believe that the Huscarls are the Defenders (the last line of defense if you will) of Calontir and her ways.

I believe we are the ones that are responsible for the future of Calontir’s Army (if not Calontir herself). We are the ones that will determine what will become of our current customs and practices, we are the ones held accountable for what The Falcon Army will become in the future. Some may say “NO!, those things are the responsibility of the Chiv” and maybe they are right but if so it should at least begin in this Order, the more deep seeded the better IMO.

I believe to be made a Huscarl of Calontir is one of the most fulfilling things there can be for fighters in Calontir, I know it was for me. Sure its gotta be great to be Knighted but I have on more than one occasion heard it said “I don’t care if I ever get knighted, I am a Huscarl and thats enough for me, its all I have ever wanted.” Whether the Chiv approve of this is another question, but I know its said. Hearing your name called when the order is assembled is an uplifting experience, one that so far in my 30 years of existence has only topped by three things (those being getting marred, holding my daughter for the first time and hearing her tell me she loved me for the first time, but I digress;)

So, here we are at the end of our journey thru trying to figure out “What is a Huscarl of Calontir.” I would thank you for joining me on this journey but I must apologize for the fact that we are really no closer to an answer that when we started.

Maybe we weren’t meant to find one solid, exclusive answer.

Maybe as with alot of other things in life, there is no answer, just the journey……….OK that was corny, even for me!;)

But just consider that there really is no answer, alot of things with the SCA were written loosely so that many different people can interpret the writings to suit different situations. My ideas of a Huscarl may correspond with the guy to my right but be considered radical by the fellow on my left.

So to go back and rephrase my earlier corny statement, I guess that in truth, there is no answer to this question, only varying opinions.

1) Actually after consulting Master Craig’s The Chronicles of Calontir”, Volume I, Foundations, page 11, paragraph 2 I found a reference to this:

“The Hird would be the guard of the warlord (and later prince) and the Fyrd would be the militia.”

Drx’s “Get Em on the field” Latin Lessons

Written and Prepared by Master Andrixos Seljukroctonis. Previously Appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003


Ever wanted to join in those famous Andrixos “Waiting for the lay on/during a hold” Latin Lessons but were just to intimidated by not knowing exactly what was being said?

Well fear no more Master Drx has put his words, complete with a pronunciation guide,  to paper for those that are better at learnin’ from paper!

So get the jump on your fellow fighters and learn the wisdom that flows forth from our most famous Byzantine (well sort of;) so that at the Next war you to can stand proudly and say things that will make most folks say, “Huh?”

You’ll be amazed at the things you will be able to say by the time you are done, things that range from, “Do you wanna go?” to “Hey sailor, new in town?”, other people will marvel at the things that come out of your mouth!

So by all means work diligently to increase your knowledge, for to be Calontiri means to exercise your Mind for War as well as your Fighting Skill!

Onto the lesson:

       Do ya wanna go?
Visne ire?
(Wissnay eeray?)

   You alone please me.
Tu sola mihi placet.
(Too sohlah meehee plahket.)

You’ve got a pretty mouth.
Os pulchrum habes.
(Ohs pulkroom hahbays)

     We are a flock of sheep.
Sumus grex agni.
(Soomoos grecks ahgnee.)

      Sheep with teeth.
Agni dentati.
(Ahgnee denTAHtee)

   We have a plan.
Consilium habemus.
ConnSILLeeoom hahBAYmoos

  It is a clever plan.
Consilium callidum est.
(ConnSILLeeoom CALeedoom est.)

      It is too clever to fail twice.
Non potest vinci bis.

     It is so clever, you could slap a tail on it and call it a weasel.
Si caudatum, mustela sit.
(See cowDAHtoom, moosTELLah sit.)

This is a weinie plan.
Hoc est consilium farcimen.
Hohk est ConnSILLeeoom FAHRkeemen.

   We are surrounded by madmen.
Insani adsunt.

    Perhaps you do not understand my desires.
Fortasse meas cupiditates non intellegis.
(ForTAHsay MAYas cooPidiTAHtes nohn intelLEGis)

Hey sailor, new in town?
Eheu, nauta, novusne in urbe?
(AYoo NOWtah, nohWOOSnay in ERBay?)

You have a beer.
Cervisiam habes.
(KehrWISee ahm HAHbays.)

    I have no beer.
Cervisiae careo.
(KehrWISee eye  CAHR ay oh.)

What kind of friend are you?
Qualis amicus es?
(KWAHlis AHMeekoos es?)


Your mother wears army boots.
Mater tua caligas gerit.
(MAHtehr TOOah CAHLeegahs GEHRit)


I have a polearm.
Securem habeo.
(SayKOORem HAHbayoh)


Your head broke my polearm.
Caput securem fregit.
(KAHpoot SayKOORem FRAYgit.)


 Damn Rhinohider.
O Atenveldtus

Waterbearing Administration: Or How to Run Waterbearing for a Large Event

Written by HL Aoibheann ingen Taidhg. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003.

From the outside, Battlefield Waterbearing appears to be a simple operation. Jugs are filled with water or Gatorade and distributed to those who need it. In reality, orchestrating the waterbearing for even one day of battles requires significant amounts of planning,
tactical sense, charisma, tact and the ability to change the plan on the run. Some of these skills can be taught in a classroom, others are learned through experience, still others, unfortunately, can not be taught.

Firstly, by Battlefield Waterbearing, I mean getting water to many hundreds or thousands of fighters. Many of the things in this article will apply to smaller or tournament events, but are not necessary for them to run smoothly. Much of this information is based upon personal experience at wars such as Lilies War, Estrella War, Gulf Wars and Pennsic.


Why Waterbear?

Waterbearing can be very rewarding. You get to meet lots of people, watch the battles from a closer vantage point, and have huge amounts of fun. While all these things are nice, the main reason that we waterbear in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is to prevent heat related injuries. With that in mind, we are trying to get as much water into fighters as they can hold. If the battles are two or three hours long, the people on the field should have to pee at least once.

Advance Planning

It is much easier to plan waterbearing for a battlefield if you have knowledge of the battlefield site(s) and your resources.

  • Where are the water sources? 
  • Are those water sources close enough or should you plan other arrangements to get water on the field? 
  • How many fighters are expected in the battle?
  • What is the expected forecast? 
  • Will there be tables and shade flies available for the waterbearers’ exclusive use?
  • How will water be stored?
  • How many waterbearers do you have to rely upon?

Some of these questions should be answered by communicating with the Battlefield Marshal and the Chirurgeon in Charge1. Other answers are at the discretion of the Waterbearer in Charge.

Sanitization & Storage

The key thing that we are trying to do is to prevent people from getting sick. We are working with the Marshals and Chirurgeons to make sure that everyone on the field is as hydrated as possible. The last thing that we want to do is make them sick. We could contribute to sickness by not sanitizing our equipment, or on the other extreme, feeding people bleach water. Either could have disastrous consequences.

To lessen the chance that people will get sick, we need to sanitize intelligently. Bleach should be used in a 3% solution. Each gallon of sanitizer solution should only have about a ¼ cup of bleach. If bleach is the sanitizer of choice, make sure that all the bleach is rinsed before sending the bottle, cooler or hose back into service. Better yet, let the item dry completely. As it dries, the bleach will evaporate, leaving something that is clean and not bleachy.

Food grade sanitizer can also be used to similar effect. It can be bought in tablet form or liquid form. Either is mixed with water to produce a sanitizing solution. It is not as likely as bleach to make people sick if it isn’t completely rinsed. However, I wouldn’t want to drink it. Read the directions on the bottle for quantities to be used.

For either type of sanitizer, set up a five gallon bucket or other container to sanitize items as they get dirty. Clean up at the end of the battle will be easier if you sanitize as you go along.

At the end of the battle, everyone will be tired, but it is much easier, and sanitary, to clean up and put things away at the end of each day. The person who is in charge of the next day will love you for it.

Changing the Plan

It is tempting for all decision making to be made by some central authority, however if you have multiple water points on the field, each must have someone who is knowledgeable and officially in charge of that point. As the Waterbearer in Charge, you need to be able to give those working for you a general sense of what needs to be done and allow them to implement it for themselves.

Different people organize things very differently. What works for one person could turn out disastrously for another. If you have given your crew all the information you have, then they will usually do what works best for them. You will still need to be available and
approachable if people have questions; encourage those under you to use you as a sounding board for ideas if they aren’t sure. During a battle, you will notice that some things are working, and others are not. Take some time to figure out how to tailor your
efforts to the situation you are in. 

Here are some things that can help:

  • When there are not enough jugs, and at the end of battles, have someone “glean” the empty jugs,
  • After all the jugs have been “gleaned,” if there still are not enough jugs, send some runners out to switch full jugs for partials and to consolidate the partials. Empties will be filled faster, getting more water on the field.
  • Set up the table(s) to allow for traffic flow, so that waterbearers can trade empties for full jugs on one side of the table while the filling happens on the other side.
  • Encourage the use of interchangeable containers and straws/lids.
  • Send water into battle with “dead” fighters. Remind them to return the jugs.
  • Be open to different waterbearing equipment and techniques. Fighters will drink more water when they are comfortable with the system. Allowing multiple options on the field does not hurt.
  • String clean jugs together and hang them up from a sunshade or other structure to dry.
  • Use FRS radios to communicate quickly between different sides of the field, and/or resurrection points. If other departments on site are using these radios, clear the channel with the event staff.
  • Mark containers that have strong Gatorade or pickle juice.


As far in advance as possible, find out what the scenarios will be. This includes finding from the Marshals where waterbearers will be allowed during resurrection battles, wood battles, fort battles. Confirm with the Marshals that waterbearers are desired at all the resurrection points (put someone in charge of each point). It also includes knowing what direction the battles will be fought, how the fighters will be leaving the field and what the expected timetables for battles will be.

If you have not experienced a resurrection battle at this war, find out from others what to expect. Some 45 minute resurrection battles take 45 minutes, others take two and a half hours.

Use this information to determine where the best place would be for field water points. Remember to keep in mind safety for the fighters (what is the closest place to have a point) and waterbearers (Is the terrain safe? Is it too close to the field?). Often times the Marshals’ will have a specific plan in mind. Please consult them. Arrange to be in on the Marshals’ meeting at the beginning of the day.

Having an idea of how many fighters are expected will determine how many full jugs of water are needed to start the day. You will rarely have more full jugs at any time than you did at the beginning of the battle. It is better to estimate high than to estimate low in your planning, because it will be nigh impossible to make up the difference. Plan on ten jugs (5 water, 5 Gatorade) for every 100 fighters. If you are using containers smaller than 1 gallon, increase that number proportionally.

Sometimes, it helps to draw a diagram of the field and detail a plan of attack. On the diagram, list:

  • water points
  • water sources
  • resurrection points
  • fortifications and other landmarks
  • where will the fighters congregate when they come off the field
  • inspection and muster points

This diagram will give you a clear idea of where inefficiencies are in your plan.

  • Where will the fighters gather before the battle?
  • Is there a better place for a temporary point during this battle?
  • Where should resources be focused after the battles are over to catch fighters as they return to camp?

Useful Equipment

Each person or group may want to have a kit of waterbearing equipment. Some indispensable items are:

  • sunscreen
  • funnel
  • knife
  • scissors
  • extra straws/tops
  • vinyl tape for marking
  • permanent markers
  • trash bags
  • duct tape
  • towels/wash cloths
  • spray bottles
  • string
  • aprons
  • five gallon or larger storage containers that do not require thumb pressure to operate
  • cutting boards
  • containers for fruit and pickles
  • sanitizer (or bleach)
  • radios
  • batteries
  • folding tables
  • Gatorade
  • hand sanitizer
  • paper and writing implement

Interpersonal Relations

Many of the below items are common sense, pointing them out can’t hurt.

  • Make sure that the people who are working with you know that you appreciate their efforts. Try to learn their names. Say “thank you” often. 
  • Offer criticism constructively; do not make people feel stupid for their mistakes. 
  • When someone has a complaint, listen. Sometimes what they are really complaining about has nothing to do with the first words out of their mouth. 
  • Try to handle complaints, and criticisms out of the public eye. Do not allow a spectacle to erupt; if everyone is watching you, they will not be getting water onto the field.
  • Remember you are dealing with volunteers.
  • Waterbearing is not baby sitting. If children are not being helpful, send them back to their parents or camp.
  • No one has the right to waterbear. Keep an eye on those who are on the field. If necessary, ask anyone who is being consistently irresponsible to leave the field (after talking with them).
  • No one has the right to yell at you or those who work for you. If someone isn’t being constructive, tell them you will talk with them later. After they calm down, talking will be much easier. Bring a third party to the meeting.

Multiple Day Events

During multiple day events, you will need to constantly reevaluate your supply needs. Make sure to send people off site for supplies before you need them. Running out of Gatorade on the last day of battles is disastrous. Powdered Gatorade stores reasonably well. Purchase more than you need and store the rest for next year/event.

While it usually is not necessary to spend every waking minute on the field, check with the person in charge each morning to make sure they understand what is expected of them. If there are not enough people volunteering, they may need your help as another pair of hands more than as an organizer.

I cannot teach everything that is needed to run waterbearing successfully. Each Kingdom,  event, site and individual will have their own quirks; not all this information will apply to every situation. Hopefully this has given you a better idea of some of the things that need to be considered when running waterbearing.

[1] Kraus, Cindy (SCA: Tamara Tysjachyvolosova) “Re: Food for Thought” Online posting, 11 Mar. 2003.  9 Apr. 2003 FourthCompany <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FourthCompany/message/177&gt;

Getting to Know the Army of Calontir

Written by HL Richard deBleys. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003

In order to maintain a good fighting unit in Calontir, there are some basic pieces of information that everyone who plans to support the army may want to know. The very first thing of note is that the army is more than just fighters, much more. We in Calontir have the honor of being supported by the best water bearers, soup kitchen, and accessory personnel that an army could every hope for. Without those groups, the fighters are truly just that, not a true army. What I would like to convey in this missive is the importance and function of the various groups within our army, that when combined as a whole, make us the presence we are, recognized throughout the entire known world.

I will breakdown the army into three categories: Support Personnel; Fighters; and Command Structure. Much of what is written here is already known by most of the army; please keep in mind that this is written from my perspective, as more seasoned members of the army, as well as my own experiences have explained things to me from several wars past. The important thing to remember is that everyone who wishes, may wear the kingdom tabards or colors, fighter or not, we are all one army, and in support of Calontir.


Support personnel are what really make Calontir so unique in my opinion. After having built friendships with fighters from other kingdoms, and comparing notes as to what happens when we get off the field, the Calontir soup kitchen is viewed as the envy of the known world. In addition, when they see our water bearers walking around with dried fruits, beef jerky, pickles, and sometimes popcicles, in addition to the normal water and gator-aid, other kingdoms are left aghast. Even all of this does not include the people who volunteer their time and energies to help get our fighters to the field by use of their vehicles, wagons, or just their hands to help carry equipment, along with their voices at muster to sing and march with us.

Water Bearers

What Do They Do?

The water bearers in their most basic sense are the people who bring water and gator-aid to the fighters, to ensure everyone stays properly hydrated and refreshed. Without the water bearers, fighters time on the field would be severely limited, and exhaustion would quickly end a days fighting. In addition to the liquids, our water bearers also tend to keep a stash of other items on hand including regular and dried fruits, beef jerky, pickles, and sometimes popsicles when it is possible. They also will sometimes have available cool towels for the back of necks, and misting set-ups. I know all of this sounds like pure luxury for a fighters convenience, but it is what makes our water bearers so especially great, and has led to them being titled Angels of the Battlefield more than once. We won’t even mention all the marriage proposals I have heard after a particularly well-timed visit.

Who Can Be One?

Anyone who wishes to support the army can be a water bearer. We have had every type of person of both genders, and ages from young child to older adult, all water bearing to the best of their ability. Many of the water bearers enjoy watching the battles from the sidelines, and being right in the middle of the conversations after fighting or even on the field during prolonged holds. As a safety requirement the water bearer should be able to understand basic field calls, such as “Hold” which means “Stop”; as well as calls for a Chiurgen, a medically trained person; and marshals calls of “Water Bearers Out”, this means that the fighting is about to commence again at the call of “Lay On”.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

I have yet to meet a fighter unhappy to see water bearers – please keep in mind that not everyone likes having water poured or sprayed on them while others love it, simply asking reveals the fighters preference.  To those who decide to water bear, or even fighters who water bear instead of fight for what ever reason; I would like to personally offer my thanks for services performed in the past and those sure to come. My appreciation is not alone, to that end I would like to remind everyone that the water bearers have earned a place in our Kingdom forever, and have earned the first ever Falcons Heart, an award highly acclaimed for a groups service to the Kingdom. In addition they have earned the title of 4th Company on the field, a reminder to all that they are a highly esteemed part of our army which we value as much as, or more than the fighters themselves.

The Soup Kitchen

What Do They Do?

The Soup Kitchen is run by a group of people who are interested in supporting the army, specifically by feeding it. After a long hard day of fighting it is a huge comfort and motivator to know that back in camp there are people who have made chicken noodle soup, and are ready to serve it up to the army when they return from the field. What typically happens when fighting ends, is that the army musters on the field; we receive comments from the general and / or the royalty present on the day’s events. We then march back to camp, yet again singing, mostly dragging our gear now, worn from the day; only to find that there has been a busy crew of folks, sometimes the support personnel who helped drag gear to the field that morning, or some of the water bearers, that have made the Royal Pavilion ready to receive a tired army. As a typical there is soup, more jerky, fighter biscuits, fruits, sweets, and sometimes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After a long day baking in the sun it is amazingly refreshing to relax with some foodstuffs, and swap stories about the days activities.

Who Can Be One?

As with water bearing, anyone who wishes to help with the soup kitchen is certainly welcome. Again all age gaps and genders are erased in this arena, as any help or service is that much that another did not have to do. Even if you feel you can only wash the soup pot when it is empty, that is such an incredible help, because keep in mind at this point it is late in the day, everyone is tired and that is a detail level that is usually the least looked forward too because it is symbolic of everything being completed for the day, and many folks just dislike doing dishes. I have seen young people go off and wash the pot, and come back to huge thanks for what seems a small task on the surface, trust me all appreciate it.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The soup kitchen is more than just about food, it is the common spot for camaraderie, and relaxation. It is the best place to hear different perspectives on actions of the day, and an excellent place to discuss events for the evening, as well as muster times and events for the next day. As for the appreciation, the soup kitchen has deservedly received the second, and to my knowledge the last Falcons Heart Award. It seemed only appropriate that the water bearers received theirs on the field, and the soup kitchen received theirs following that days fighting back in camp. If ever anyone ever says that the soup kitchen staff is not part of our army, they are in for a huge wave of counters, and should be prepared to take a lot of heat, because the soup kitchen is very much a driving force for us, and very much part of our army.


What Do They Do?

Chirurgeon’s are the folks that patch us up if ever the need should arise. They supply bandages, and any type of medical assistance that people may need. Many times the assistance they give is simply the suggestions of “You should really get that to the hospital” or “It does not look bad, just don’t pick at it” or the statement “I do not know how bad it really is. It is your decision to go to the hospital or not.”  They not only administer to the fighters but the populace as a whole.

Who Can Be One?

Chirurgeon’s require some special training in the sense that this is a position where a basic grasp of first aid, or how to treat basic injuries is essential. Often times people who are in the medical profession in real life are drawn to the role of a Chiurgen in our society because it brings not only a level of professional knowledge to the role, but it makes people more apt to approach them for assistance.  However, anyone who wishes to be one can go thru the training that other experienced persons will lay out. There is a formal process, and one should inquire to an already qualified Chiurgen for specifics on how to be one.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Just like all of us in the SCA, these folks are participating in their hobby. We are all responsible for our actions, and health, please do not burden these people with random complaints. When a formal visit with a Chirurgeon is made, there is paper work to be filled out, as to the nature of the visit. Some people take this role very seriously, and some may over react to a situation, depending on the amount of training and exposure they have had to SCA style injuries; others are just over reactive style personalities. Some Chiurgens may not take the injury seriously enough. The biggest thing to keep in mind, is that you are responsible for yourself, use your judgment in relation to how you want to be treated, or not treated.

Other Support Persons

What Do They Do?

The other support people I refer to here are those folks who assist the army in whatever other way they can. Many of those people will help carry gear to or from the field; they will help the water bearers or soup kitchen. If they are not able to make it to war, they send useful items, such as foodstuffs, or commission equipment such as scutums, or they help defer excess costs of items. All of these things are incredibly helpful, and very much appreciated.

Who Can Be One?

As with the other support areas, nobody will be turned away from helping. The only thing needed is a desire to assist the army in whatever way is deemed necessary, and then follow through with the plan.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

This group of supporters, like the others are all people volunteering their time and efforts. Many of them are not fighters, just people interested in helping in what ever way they can. Many of the people we see in this support role are also water bearers, or soup kitchen helpers, or both. To them I again wish to share my thanks and adoration.


Fighters are the most obvious reason for why there is an army standing in the middle of a barren field on a scorching day. Many people in our society have gotten involved, just for the ability to hit people with sticks, and not get in trouble for it; it is not my intent to recite the Rules of the List here, but anyone wishing to participate in these activities should familiarize themselves with them. SCA style fighting is unlike most other martial activities in the world, it combines endurance, as well as large and fine motor skills, coupled with tactical thinking, team unity blended with individual effort, communication, and most of all individual personal honor. Without honor on the field, there would be no point in any of us playing this game; and without the honor off the field, many people would be driven from the society with no interest in returning. Please remember that if you fight, you are entering a contract of trust with all of the other fighters. You are stating that you trust when they are struck a good blow they will acknowledge it, and that when you are struck a good blow, you also will demonstrate on your honor the acknowledgement of the shot. There are times when a shot will be delivered by you that is questionable as to whether or not it was sufficient for the other fighter to acknowledge; give their honor the benefit of the doubt, perhaps something was caught weird, or what felt good was really blocked somewhere along the line, or perhaps the force level was not sufficient. In all of these cases, keep your honor and sense of fair play in mind, talk to them about your opinion in a reasonable manner. After all if an opponent says no to a shot, the worse case scenario is that you get to keep fighting; and if there is regularly a repeated problem, remember it is their honor questioned not yours. If you receive a shot that you believe is questionable, immediately discuss it with your opponent. Sometimes in large melees this is not feasible, in those cases do the best you can, but by all means never deny a good shot you receive just because someone else did, your biggest victory on the field will always be in keeping your honor intact no matter what else happens.

With all of this having been said, I would now like to move into a discussion of the various levels of fighting within Calontir. In our Kingdom, we have an award system that acts as a hierarchy ladder, it is not done this way to belittle anyone, rather it is to help foster improvement and use as an outward sign the level of skill on the field shown. There are essentially five divisions of fighters within Calontir; they are Unauthorized Fighters, Man at Arms, The Fyrd, The Hirth, and The Chivalry. I will deal with each area separately. In addition, I will address Archers individually as a category, even though there are archers from every category mentioned above.


What Do They Do?

The Archers of Calontir are the people who pick up bows and arrows, crossbows and bolts, and stand in the heat of the day shooting not only for their enjoyment, but also for the honor of Calontir. At every war, there are points awarded for skill on the archery list, and we have many gifted Archers who go to these shoots to represent the Kingdom, off the heavy weapons field. It is important to note, the ranks of the Archers are recognized by the community, and have divisions of Saether Fyrd, and Saether Hirth within their ranks whether those individuals fight heavy weapons or not. These ranks are known to be excellent marksmen on the field, and to show all of the qualities of their heavy fighter brethren off the field. Although there is a difference of where an individual earned their award, it should be noted that the qualities of honor, courtesy, and behavior are no different, a Saether Hirth and an Iren Hirth are both Huscarls in our society, and as such reflect similar ideals both on and off their respective fields.

Just because an Archer prefers ranged weapons, does not mean that none of them fight heavy weapons, in fact there are many individuals who are dual Fyrd, or Hirth, thus they fight with both heavy weapons and shoot combat archery on the heavy list field. Many Combat Archers, when they run out of arrows, will pick up another weapon system and go directly into the thick of melee combat. Some may even put their bow down for the day and only fight heavy; it is strictly their choice. It should be noted that all Combat Archers in Calontir are heavy weapons authorized, and as such wear armor, and can be engaged in melee combat if they choose not to yield to an incoming opponent. More than once I have seen one of our Archers throw down their bow, draw a melee weapon, kill their attacker, only to pick up their bow and resume shooting.

Who Can Be One?

Anyone who can pull a bowstring or cock a crossbow can be an archery list Archer. Much to my delight I have seen many young people participating in shoots, and even better I have seen a true effort to organize children shoots at major events such as Lilies War.  In order to be a Combat Archer, you must be an authorized fighter, with an understanding of how to properly dispose of your bow if you wish to engage in melee. You will also become aware of how to build your own arrows, since we use golf tubes with a tennis ball attached to one end as our arrows on the field they shoot a little differently that wooden shafts with steel tips. Before you scoff too loudly, shoot one, hit something with one, and then giggle at just how much force a tube and ball can deliver.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

As with all martial skills, practice is required before anyone can truly claim a high level of competence.  If you begin shooting and realize you cannot hit the broad side of a barn (literally) then all that says is that more practice is needed. Some people have natural abilities that transfer well into ranged weapons, other just need to work harder. Remember to have fun, after all we are all here to enjoy ourselves, otherwise we would not be playing the game. On a serious note, please keep in mind that when shooting target archery, you are wielding a live weapon, able to seriously injure or kill someone if safety precautions are not followed.

Unauthorized Fighters

What Do They Do?

Technically, anyone who does not fight fits this category, but what I am referring to here are the people who have an interest in fighting, have been in loaner armor, and after some practice decided that they want to authorize and fight. So the real question many of you may be asking is, why include a group that is not yet really able to take the field. The answer to me seems obvious; these people are our future, all of us went through the growing pains of the desire to fight, but just lacked the skills or equipment to actually see it to fruition. These people are the ones at home all of us practice with, they are the ones learning shot and block mechanics, learning to move, how to read an opponent, and building the endurance needed to participate in larger more intense battles. I believe it is the role of every authorized fighter to help these people develop into a better fighter. Keep in mind their goal is to authorize.

Who Can Be One?

In order to fight, there are a few basic requirements. One is age, a fighter must be at least sixteen in order to begin fighting, and even then it is asked that the teens guardian witness what it is we are doing on the field, and then sign a waiver for their charge to be allowed to participate. Gender does not matter. However, finding armor that covers the critical minimum parts of the body does. These areas are the head, neck, kidneys, elbows, hands, groin, and knees. Before anyone takes the field they are inspected by marshals who are trained to check these areas for safety purposes, no matter how long the individual has been fighting, or their status in the society. Anyone can practice; in fact it is highly encouraged. Some groups even have sets of armor intended to be loaned out to people who wish to try out fighting to see if it is right for them. Many individuals have their own set of loaner gear for this purpose as well. If you truly have a desire to learn, just ask around someone is sure to help you.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The unauthorized fighters of today can very easily be nurtured into the Chivalry of tomorrow. We all began with a desire, and all still carry our dream; to help a new fighter achieve a step toward that dream is to push us all further toward the goals of our society as a whole.

Man at Arms

What Do They Do?

A Man at Arms is the very first title bestowed on an authorized fighter. As soon as a fighter takes their first authorization of sword and shield, and passes, they have entered the ranks of this group. The Man at Arms category is the largest group of fighters in the Kingdom. They range from newly authorized fighters, to experienced fighters who have not yet crossed into the ranks of the Fyrd for any variety of reasons. Although they are the bulk of the forces assembled, we in Calontir do not use them as throwaway troops who go marching in a cluster to their doom. We have a tendency to team the Men at Arms with more experienced fighters for a few reasons. First and foremost, the only way to learn is to be told or shown what needs to happen, and in melee situations, the only way to do that is for them to be near some action. Typically a Man at Arms will be given direct statements, such as stay with this person, follow this direction, and so on. The reason again is not to belittle or show dominance, but rather teach them what tasks are needed, and get them used to the idea of melee situations. It is very confusing the first few times in large groups, and the only way to overcome it is by experience. After a while, they will be able to read opposing formations, and know from past history what needs to happen, or where to be in a line, or better yet, be able to inform others as to what needs to happen; this is a sure sign they are on their way to the ranks of the Fyrd.

Who Can Be One?

As stated above, anyone who meets the minimum age and armor standards can authorize as a fighter. As part of the authorization there will be marshals, some of which you may not know, watching and commenting on performance. There will be the question “Have you read the Rules of the List?”. This is a key question, because the Rules of the List are safety guidelines that every fighter should be familiar with. As for what is involved in authorizing, the new fighter will be watched for: how well they are able to defend themselves, throw shots, acknowledge hits, how they cope under pressure, and their overall field safety. It is not important to be a good fighter when authorizing, just a competent safe one.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Once someone has authorized their first weapon system, sword and shield, the authorization includes: all shields and single hand weapons, including those with a thrust, as well as the ability to shoot combat archery. If it is your intent to shoot combat archery, it is vital that you understand the rulings on how to dispose of your bow in a tight melee situation, as well as the safety regulations involved.

The Fyrd

What Do They Do?

The Fyrd are the first acknowledged award after authorizing in Calontir. On the combat field, the Iren Fyrd are the sergeant level commanders who often are found at wars directing melee traffic, operating in small skirmish groups, and sometimes, acting as commander for the day for whoever the General may be. The Iren Fyrd are also the Queens personal guard, whenever Her Majesty opts to take the field, it is the privilege of the Fyrdmen to escort, and protect Her, along side Her champion. So that She is not unduly swamped with bodies, a single detachment of four, or five Fyrdmen is selected to be Her escorts on the field. The Saether Fyrd are the Archery List shooters, some of which do not fight, that make shooting their prime focus. It is their skill with bow that earns them the title, and they shoot for the Archery points, and honor of the Kingdom when they take the line.

Who Can Be One?

In order to qualify for the Saether Fyrd, the archer must show proficiency with one archery system, be an accomplished archer and show honor both on and off the field, all while promoting archery. In order to qualify for the Iren Fyrd, the fighter must: support the army of Calontir, they must be authorized and proficient in at least two systems, and show honor both on and off the field, while actively promoting fighting. Both of these awards are AoA level polling orders, with recommendations being filed from the order to Their Majesties.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

It is crucially important to note that just because someone meets the authorization requirements to fit the order, does not mean that they are automatically in. The comportment of the individual both on and off the field is taken into consideration; as is required by Kingdom Law; in order to properly evaluate the individual. Because of this, combined with the appropriate skill level required, there are some who have been fighting for a very long time that are not members of the orders. The reasons for this are many, and often subjective; for instance if there is an individual who is proficient with two weapon systems, but is frequently rude, hits excessively, or has a habit that some people just can not kill them no matter how hard they are hit; those traits will be discussed, and the individual will not be voted into the order. Support of the Army is vital for a number of reasons, it gives the fighter exposure to the way Calontir operates as a group, and helps to form the bond that keeps us all functioning on the field. It also allows members of the army to get to know an individual, so that when they are brought up in order meetings, people know who is being discussed.

The Hirth

What Do They Do?

The Hirth are the second acknowledged award after authorizing in Calontir. On the combat field, the Iren Hirth are the Commanders who often are found at wars as the Generals, and Group leaders taking charge of the Army. The Iren Hirth are also the Kings guard, and a group of them are often selected to escort His Majesty, along with his champion, whenever He decides to take the field. The Saether Hirth, are highly skilled archers who take the line to shoot for the Kingdom in war point and tournament situations.

Who Can Be One?

In order to qualify for the Saether Hirth, the archer must show proficiency with all archery systems, be a highly accomplished archer and show honor both on and off the field, all while promoting archery. In order to qualify for the Iren Hirth, the fighter must: support the army of Calontir, they must be authorized and highly skilled in all of the weapon systems, as well as show honor both on and off the field, while actively promoting fighting. Both of these awards are GoA level polling orders, with recommendations being filed from the order to Their Majesties. The ranks of the Hirth are filled from those members of the Fyrd who meet all other requirements.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

 It is crucially important to note that just because someone meets the authorization requirements to fit the order, does not mean that they are automatically in. The comportment of the individual both on and off the field is taken into consideration; as is required by Kingdom Law; in order to properly evaluate the individual. Not only the comportment but also, the highly skilled aspect is taken into consideration.  The members of the Hirth are consistently skilled in the weapon systems, and consistently supportive of the army as well as consistently honorable…. Consistency is the key.

The Chivalry

What Do They Do?

The Chivalry is the highest possible rank to be earned in our society. It is not unusual to find a member of Chivalry in charge of the army as the General. These fighters are chosen from the ranks of the Hirth, and as such already meet those requirements of being able to fight with any weapon system, but the Chivalry goes even a step further. The members of the Chivalry have an exceptional skill with any weapon system, and should show unquestioned honor both on and off the field. At wars, the Chivalry are not necessarily the ones in charge, but individuals are often asked if they would operate with specific units. The reason for this is simply, some kingdoms will respond more positively to a member of Chivalry, rather than an unbelted fighter who is in charge, like a Huscarl, or Fyrdman. In our kingdom, the Chivalry are typically quite willing to go along with any plan laid before them, no matter how unusual it may seem. Many times they will offer their opinion of the success rate, or even make a suggestion for an alternative, but if the original is still followed, they will go along with it allowing the plan generator a good education by results. This is not necessarily the case in other kingdoms, where Chivalry does not follow the orders of an unbelted fighter.

Who Can Be One?

The ranks of the Chivalry are chosen from the ranks of the Hirth. They look for those members who display exceptional skill at arms, and unquestioned honor at all times. The Chivalry is a polling order that discusses candidates, and votes on them before allowing a member to be made.  The order then begs a boon from Their Majesties and if granted calls the candidate forward. The candidate will sit a night on vigil, in contemplation, being visited by peers of the realm, and other guests who discuss what is involved in taking on the responsibilities of the order, and encouraging the individual to not take the task lightly. After vigil, at the following court, Their Majesties will again ask if the candidate wishes to become a member of the order, if it is a positive response, they will bestow the accolade on the individual.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The Chivalry is the pinnacle of achievement for many fighters, and although many aspire to that goal, not all succeed. The Chivalry are known throughout the world by what they wear; a gold chain, a white belt or baldric, and spurs; these symbols of the position show everyone that the individual has achieved something great indeed. As a result of achieving this pinnacle, the Chivalry are expected to continue to display the highest level of courtesy, and chivalry possible to all.


The Command Structure of Calontir is a little different than many of the other Kingdoms, but as in all, the King and Queen are the overall rulers of the army, and have the right and privilege to oversee, or over ride any decisions made by their commanders. Their Majesties appoint a General, who will command the army for a war season, and return the mantle back to Their Majesties when the specified time is up. Once a General is appointed, they select Unit Commanders, to run sections of the army or companies depending on the General; such groups are divided as main body commander, skirmisher commander, reserve commander, and so on. In the individual units, the plan will be communicated as to how each group is to perform, and what their jobs are. There are some specific formations used, and their proper coordination depends on all of the army working well together as a whole. As a difference in rank shown; a man at arms will be instructed where to be, and who to work with; a Fyrdman will typically be given a specific job, such as keeping a traffic lane open; a Huscarl will be given the option of assignments; and the chivalry will be asked if they have anything specific they want to do. The General will oversee all aspects of the combat, and ensure the army, as a whole is where it is needed. The General will also interface with other Kingdoms in cases of a multi-kingdom war, and co-ordinate our operation with those other units.

The General

What Do They Do?

The General of our army is appointed by Their Majesties, and as a result has the main voice to the rest of the army, and as a symbol of this, marches in front of our army with Their Majesties at musters carrying the Generals banner. The General will appoint people to drive sections of the army, either breaking it into companies with a company commander for each section, or breaking it into sections by function such as; main body, reserves, skirmishers, or flank control. These Unit Commanders will attend meetings as requested by the General to discuss strategy, and their units function, as well as to help determine the best use of tactics for specific battles.  Often, if a General is not already a member of Chivalry, they will appoint one as a lead role, this is due to the fact that some other kingdoms do not respond well to the input of unbelted fighters.

Who Can Be One?

The role of General is an appointed title from Their Majesties to someone they see fit to command the army. It is usually a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Although the General is either a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl, it is not unheard of for them to assign a member of the Fyrd to control the army for a specific battle, or for a day. It is important to note that the General is appointed as a position of respect, and Their Majesties could have chosen anyone in the kingdom to act in this position, their choice is a status in its own right, and as a result earns the respect of the entire army for faith in their leadership.

Main Body and Reserve Unit Commanders

What Do They Do?

The responsibility of Main Body Unit Commander and Reserve Unit Commander are much the same. The main body is comprised by the bulk of the forces of the army, and is comprised of all ranks of fighters from Man at Arms up to Chivalry. The Main Body typically moves slowly since it is so large, but has the most punch when it is actually time to fight, again because of size. It is not unusual to put 50% of the army in Main Body, and another 30% in the Reserve Unit. Upon impact with an opposing force, in a static battle, the Main Body will do the main fighting, and as they begin to loose members, they are fed replacements from the Reserves. In an active battle, the two units may act somewhat independently, but still travel together as one large unit, the difference being the conditions on the field. The main body will continue to move toward the objective, with the reserve following until a flank is identified as attacking, in which case a section of the reserves may turn to deny the flank, then join back up with main body.

Who Can Be One?

The role of a Unit Commander is appointed from the General, and is an excellent opportunity for the Fyrdmen to show their unit command prowess, and is usually a task given to individuals who have been in several melees, and can take orders, or give them as the need arises.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Although the General is either a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl, that is often not the case for Unit Commanders, they are typically Huscarls or Fyrdmen. This having been said, there is usually a member of Chivalry who is “the designated belt” to deal with issues from other kingdoms that do not recognize unbelted fighters.

Skirmishers and Flank Control Commanders

What Do They Do?

The Skirmishers and the Flank Control, or dog packs, perform much of the same function, which is to intercept opposing forces quickly to allow the Main Body to catch up and deal with the opposition.  The Skirmishers typically operate out in front of the army, and are comprised of about 10% of the forces. They are fast moving and usually have 9foot spears, pole arms, and a few secondary shields to keep an enemy at bay by dueling, with them and not allowing the enemy to close distance quickly.  The same is true for the Dog Packs as well, except they are typically broken down into even smaller groups, operating beside, or behind the Main Body watching for specific breaks in the enemy formations that might cause our troops to be flanked. The Flank Control Dog Pack Unit then breaks out to intercept this attacking unit, if not dealt with they buy time for the Main Body or Reserve Unit to wheel around and deal with the flank attack.

Who Can Be One?

The role of a Skirmish Commander, or a Flank Control Commander is to select his people based on speed, and how well they operate with a small tight unit. This unit commander is selected by the General, but often with Packs, two or three individuals will be asked to put together a Flank unit to operate as a deny unit, or even an attack unit to force an enemy main body to turn while our main body moves in for the main assault.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Anyone given command of one of these units should realize the importance of being fast, and the sometimes need to speed-bump an enemy force, many times at sacrifice of their own lives.  Of course it is better to complete the objective and join back with the main unit; however frequently this is not possible.


 In conclusion, the army of Calontir is a group of people, who enjoy getting together and playing out in the sun, and striving for one goal, furthering the honor and respect of Calontir throughout the entire known world. Our fighters are there, supported by a myriad of other personnel, and operating under the direction of a command structure, all striving to make the most of our vacation time and provide enjoyment. The best way to see the army is to participate in it in some way, then stay for the evenings festivities, after all Calontir is know for their courtesy and hospitality not only on the field, but in the social life afterwards. I encourage all to pitch in, come play, and above all have fun supporting the army.

Basic Melee Skills (Fighter 202)

Written by Duke Chrystofer Kensor and Syr Lars Vilhamsson. Previously appearing in the Online Bird of Prey Volume 8, 2003.

Teaching Melee skills with a limited number of fighters


(Small numbers translate up)

The purpose of this paper is concerned with the training of melee skills to a limited number of fighters.  I address basic to advanced melee skills, and provide examples and training techniques you can use in your local group, with as little as three combatants.

I’d like to stress the symbiotic relationship between melee and fighting.  Melee is about achieving an objectiveFighting is about killing.  You have to fight to achieve your objective in melee, and to achieve your objective in fighting (winning) you have to kill your opponent.

I believe it is every Calontir soldier’s duty to be ‘melee-aware,’ (i.e., know how SCA melee works before you get out in the field).  New fighters are trained well above the level of training we ‘old timers’ had when we began fighting. This trend will continue to improve as long as we learn from new experiences.  With the level of training constantly increasing, I propose that there are certain melee aspects that need to be  ingrained in newer fighters.  We try to do this on a semi-annual basis, spending a couple of hours at war maneuvers to teach basic shield wall tactics, how to use a pole in melee, etc., but many more basic concepts of melee can be at least introduced, at the local fighter practice.

For the commander, consider tactical war games.  Each piece does not represent one soldier, but a whole company.  That is how you can think about SCA combat when you are planning command decisions, OR how you can train the small number of fighters in our local group to fight melee.  This mentality of training not only aids you in the development and implementation of new strategies, but gives your fighters important melee attacking  and defending skills which, when combined with the rest of the army, enhances the performance of the Calontir war host.

Lars tells us that we fight for four reasons – Safety, honor, fun, and to win.  Safety first, as we never want to hurt (just kill) our friends; honor, as that is a watchword of our Society and part of why we fight; fun, because why would you fight if you weren’t having fun, and finally to win.  Fighting is competitive, and winning is the conscious objective of the fight.

The paper is divided into four sections:  Weapons Use, contains basic information on how to fight in a melee environment; Engagement, covers when you are engaged versus when you think you are engaged; Movement, details repositioning yourself for better target opportunities; and Tactics, enforce some ways to quickly dispatch your opponents.

Much of the information contained within is the culmination of the war leaders of Calontir through the ages.  I must however, specifically attribute Sir Lars Viljhamsson with teaching me (and many of us) these basics.

This paper assumes that you are an authorized fighter of Calontir, with some experience in SCA fighting, be it melee of any size or just at practice.


Weapon’s Usage

Weapon’s use in melee differs from that of individual combat in the fact that you are presented with multiple targets on multiple opponents at any given time, and you are forced to recognize these targets and the threats. These targets are constantly changing, and decisions as to their effects need to be assessed on an ongoing basis.  The wrong decision made, and you are dead, or at best, a target is lost.  The melee environment is a fluid one, constantly changing until the last blow is swung.  In this part of the text, we discuss basic melee fighting concepts, taking advantage of combined arms.




In a line, you are engaged with all fighters in the other line, 2 or 200. Combined arms means that you and up to three of your buddies can strike one opponent.  A good way to accomplish this is by targeting different parts of a single enemy fighter, as a shield can only block so much.  In working with another fighter, single out a foeman, and tell your buddy to go high, or low (then you will strike the opposite).  This way, two of you are throwing two different shots, one at say the opponent’s head, and one at the opponent’s off side body, and it is likely they will not be able to block both.  This technique is often used with artillery, but can be used with any combination of arms.


Cross Shooting (a/k/a, Cross Firing)

In melee, you are generally not fighting the foeman directly in front of you.  You are fighting the line in front of you (i.e., that you are engaged with).  In this regard, the majority of your kills (and threats) will come from the foemen in the line that are within weapons range (spear range) from all around.  This is because when you are part of a line, there are many targets (for both sides) that you can not protect all at once.  Throwing shots at these targets (cross shooting) is optimal exploitation for killing.

When you are in a line, you need to be aware of the “make-up” of the enemy line (what is the placement of weapons, how is the unit organized, what is the unit doing, etc.), and look for openings.  Openings generally occur on the sides of fighters (that’s what makes cross firing so destructive). Targets to look for are AROUND shields:  at the base of shields, gaps where legs are vulnerable; shoulder/neck regions where the head is vulnerable; and side pockets between the weapon and shield where you might land an abdomen.

When cross firing, you need to be aware of the fight going on in the line in front of you.  Pay attention to who is throwing blows, and in what succession.  If a spearman is firing, then pausing, then firing, then pausing, you can see the pattern where they have just fired, then are about to recover.  That is the time to make your move:  at the point where their shot is about to hit your line.  They will be hyper extended, and not yet thinking about coming back to a guard position.  Be aware that this (when YOU throw your shot) is the time YOU will be most venerable as well.  Pay attention to people who are focused on another part of the fight.  The person looking over there is an easy target.  People who are not paying attention are asking to be gaked.

There are times when you can’t make the killing blow, but you can help your buddy by creating an opening.  Use these techniques for getting around shields.

Generally we don’t aim for shields.  Newer fighters have a tendency to do this, and we try to correct it.  There are times, however, when hitting a shield is called for.  Smashing down on a shield can be demoralizing and sometimes intimidating for a fighter.  It tires them out (careful, it tires you out as well).  Hitting a shield often opens up a slot for another target (cross firing).

When you have a shield someplace you don’t want it to be, you can use the cross-firing technique to open a slot.  Hook (or press) your opponents shield in one of the corners (or edges).  This will generally cause him to table his shield, and if you informed your buddy next to you, he’s wide open.


Leg them

If you can take the legs of a fighter in a melee, you have reduced their effectiveness enormously.  Sometimes you don’t have time to fight every fighter you encounter.  If you can take their legs, you have destroyed their ability to move around the field, and rendered them fairly useless.  You can come back for them after accomplishing your objectives.

The following two segments, “Wingman,” are exercises that can be done to train basic melee fighting.  For our example, each unit of two will have one each sword/shield (s/sh) and one pole-arm.  The one will be s/sh.




When are you Engaged?

Engagement is one of the trickiest concepts for most fighters to grasp and maintain in the heat of battle.  With constant movement and repositioning, flanks and attacks, engagement in a melee can change in a split second with little warning.  So how can you tell if you’re engaged?


The “Basics” of Engagement:

1. You are engaged with someone when you move within weapon’s range.  That is, the longest weapon’s range of the two of you.

2. To engage with someone you must have eye contact.  Eye contact should be established, before you throw a blow, and this generally means your opponent recognizing that you are an enemy.  Your opponent is supposed to “know” (realize, recognize, have “ample” time to defend himself) that the two of you are engaged before you swing at him.


Depending on the urgency of the attack, you may be so kind as to tap your opponent on the back of the shoulder to get their attention.  If they ignore you, move around to a better position where they can’t.  NEVER STRIKE ANYONE FROM BEHIND, EVER (see #5 below).

You may not feel like being polite.  Pushing, fouling weapons, and the like are perfectly legitimate ways to get your opponent’s attention.  At the least, you may tie him up where someone else can get a kill (cross-firing).

You may not have the time for such strategies.  I encourage yelling at your opponent.  A good blood curdling scream from the bad guy who wasn’t there a second ago, always brings out the feeling of a period moment.  You might even want to introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m a bad guy,” or some such verbiage, before you engage.  When he turns to acknowledge whatever you are talking about, give him a second to realize the nature of your business, then, lay-on (Some times you pick the wrong bad guy to sneak up on. There’s always the chance he could turn around swinging.  Always be on guard when engaging an opponent.  Even the ones you don’t feel threatened by.  They’re the sneakiest)!


3. Two facing lines are engaged when they come into weapon’s range.  When you are in a line, you are engaged with EVERYONE in that line (cross-firing).

4. Flanks are the worst.  More than likely this is where you will have engagement problems.  You’re at the end of a line, on a line that can fold in on itself.  You can be engaged from multiple angles, and armies.  The same can be said if you engage a flank.  The best way to avoid engagement issues is to be aware of EVERYTHING AROUND YOU.

If you are on a flank, and you get pressed from the side, don’t disengage from the fight you are in to engage the new threat.  If you do, you are now engaged on two fronts, and only quickening your demise.

5. Don’t turn around!  Once you are engaged, you continue to be engaged until you leave the longest weapon’s range.  You can be hit in the back if you turn to run, disengage, or just get confused or overwhelmed.  Once you are engaged, if your opponent turns, give him a firm slap on the head.  Just enough to let him know he wasn’t clear yet.  This is the only instance where you should think about hitting someone in the back.  They knew you were there, and they knew you might do it.  Just be friendly about it.

In that same regard.  If you charge through an enemy line, you are engaged with the front rank as much as you are they rank you are facing.  While it is unlikely you will get killed from behind, you will be swung at as you go through the ranks of your foemen.

If you are being charged, don’t panic.  Try to block the charge by killing the lead charger.  If you can’t, keep your wits and your guard, and try to kill others as they pass by you. Do not worry if some of the enemy get through the shield-wall.  There are generally a bunch of great-sword guys hanging out in reserve that welcome that kind of visitor.


Shade (The Buddy System)

Shade is the concept that, in line fighting, you are protecting your buddy as much as you are protecting yourself.  In that regard, you can stay more focused on the fight(s) more directly in front of you, and not have to worry about your flank(s).  Shade narrows your focus.  Again, be aware of everything around you.  If you loose your shade, something’s wrong.

Scutum fighters are a good example of shade.  As shade, they protect the pole-arm fighters abdomen and below, so the pole-arms can concentrate more on killing, and less on their lower bodies.  If a scutum fighter is killed, the shade is gone, and the pole fighter exposed.


Internal Timer (Have I been here too long?)

Important to pay attention to, although you may loose all sense of time when you are in a melee, is your “internal timer.”  This is particularly true when you are in a smaller group, or by yourself.  As the nature of battle can change in a moment’s notice, it is too easy to get wrapped up in killing, and fail to notice the unit closing on your flank, or your buddies running off.  You don’t have to “run and gun,” but be aware about getting too focused on what you are doing, where there are a number of other factors that may change without warning.


Charging (Through/Into, What is the Difference?)

Charging is generally organized by the commanders with one of two purposes in mind:  A heavy press into or the enemy line to push it back, or to penetrate through the line.  A charge can be a whole line charge, or a press through one side to weaken the enemy line/unit.

If you see an opportunity to make a hard press/charge, communicate with the troops around you.  The charge will be situational, and you may not have the support needed to make an effective strike.  Wait for the opportunity, and when the time is right, make the charge.  Tell, quietly and quickly, the people around you that you are planning a charge.  If you just shout out, “Let’s go!,” and run into the enemy line, chances are your buddies are going to watch befuddled as your run into certain death.  If you get a group together, you’ll have more support to make an effective charge.  Be prepared.

Generally, a charge will be INTO a line.  That is to say, with engagement and the intent to cause heavy damage in a short amount of time.  It may be a press to push the unit back, or away from a particular area.  It may be a last ditch effort of a loosing unit to break free, or cause serious damage to a bigger unit (think kamikaze) .  It may be a limited push to accomplish a task like breaking through part of the unit, or inflict other discord.

When charging, keep a high guard, and stay tight & covered until you get into the fray.  When you are all bunched up with the enemy, take advantage that the enemy is just as bunched up, and has less room to swing. With a higher guard, you can move a bit more freely than your opponents (and look at all the heads!).  Remember you’re engaged with most everyone around you, so pay attention to the difference between weapons striking you and incidental contact with shields and armor.

At times, you may be called to charge THROUGH a line (such as a “bug-out” situation).  The objective here it to get through the line/unit, to the other side, without being killed.  Keep covered up.  DO NOT STOP TO ENGAGE (if you do, a clotting effect will occur and the penetration is over).  Move through quickly and determinedly.  Pass through against the flats of shields.  Keep on guard, and get through as soon as possible without stopping to engage.  The gauntlet drill is a great exercise for this maneuver.


Gauntlet Drill –Line up a number of fighters in a row, offset from one another about 9′ apart on the diagonal.  The fighters in the gauntlet should be just within spear range of one another.  Have the person running the gauntlet run up to each fighter, throw a blow, and move on to the next fighter, without stopping to engage.  This teaches a focus on defensive movement, while still maintaining a threat.



Movement – flanking

Flanking a unit is the best!  Flanks are the sides of a line.  They can occur by accident when a line breaks, or naturally when a unit is passing by.  Natural flanks tend to be more supported, but all that changes quickly when the ‘big’ fight is in front of the line.

Flanking is done by engaging the end of a line.  You have the opportunity to run behind the enemy ranks, to break them up, or fight a smaller number of fighters then if you were engaging the front of the line.  A line that passes within weapons range is engaged.

Flanking is often best done when the unit being flanked doesn’t see you until you engage.  Wide flanks, sometimes really wide flanks, are required to make the best opportunity.  In these cases, you need to consider the amount of time it will take you to get to a certain location, and if you can spare that in the overall battle plan.


Passing Around (Small Circles)

Small circles repel big circles.  If you are pressed, pivot off of one of your heels, remaining on guard, and take a step backwards with your other foot.  If you are being pressed by someone going in a straight line, they will continue to go in a straight line when they don’t meet the expected resistance of your shield, and suddenly, their back is open.  This technique works best in the open field when facing a single or single line of fighters.




Who to Kill

In the front ranks of a line, your duty is to protect the artillery in the half rank behind you.  In that half rank, your duty is to protect the first rank, and kill the enemy.  Shields cover the poles, poles fend off presses and lay barrage/suppressing attack fire, and spears exploit targets of opportunity all around.  Look for these targets of opportunity:

1.  People who are not paying attention to the fight going on around them (for the obvious reasons).

2.  People shouting orders.  These people are doing what you don’t want – communicating.  People shouting orders are probably more experienced fighters, trying to get their unit (or section of unit around them) to do something.  Often, that something is motivating them to charge, or take advantage of a situation, you may not be aware of.

3. People wearing crowns/coronets/white belts/or recognizable heraldry.  People wearing recognizable heraldry (as described above) are likely commanders (they at lease advertise that they have some skill at arms).  In many units, the commander is the glue that holds the unit together.  Killing a commander can be demoralizing, and confusing for the enemy.  A lot of the time, more undisciplined units will go into battle with their only command being, “Follow me!”  If you kill that commander, the rest of his unit has to make up their next plan, and depending on the skill of the unit, killing that one commander may effectively take the threat out of that unit.

4.  Threats.  The spearman who has off-ed three of your buddies needs to die.  The first guy in a charge needs to be shown the errors of his ways (and hopefully some of his buddies will trip all over him and slow the rest down).  The fighter who is sneaking up on your right flank can’t be allowed to get away with that.  That sneeky combat-archer hiding behind that shieldman.  If you see something that is “bad” and you can do something about it, quickly weigh the options (Will it get you killed?  Will it save the unit?  Can this be done some other way?  Is it worth it?), and commit.  At the very least, let some other fighters know what’s going on.  Someone may have a better opportunity to correct the situation.


How to Confront a Shield-man Backed by Artillery

When closing with multiple opponents, there are two strategies that may be employed, both of which use your opponent as a shield.  For simplicity, let us assume you are a sword and shield (s/sh) fighter confronting a s/sh backed with a pole-arm.

One strategy is to circumvent the s/sh fighter and get the pole between you and the s/sh.  In doing this, you have placed the s/sh out of range, as he cannot fight effectively around the pole.  This turns the situation into a one on one with the s/sh.  This strategy works better in an open field, as you will have to constantly be aware of the s/sh and where they are repositioning to.

To avoid this situation, it’s best to work together and support each other with combined arms (see tactics-wingman).

The other version of this thought is more readily used when you are pressing a line.  If you can get so close to the s/sh that they cannot effectively fight you (i.e., place the flat of your shield on and above your opponent’s shield), you can concentrate your firepower on the artillery behind them. You can also cross-fire to other s/sh in the front ranks.  You will need to exert some pressure on your opponents shield.  At first he may think you are pressing him, but after a bit he will get annoyed.  Also, don’t succumb to the urge to kill the s/sh you’re pressing.  They are helping keep you alive.

If you are confronted in this manner, pivot on your shield foot (if you can) and let the force of him pushing carry him through to “fall” forward.  If he’s pressing your shield, and suddenly it gives away (moves back) he is going to “fall” the direction he is pressing.  (small circles)

Both of these techniques involve being very aware of the situation around you.


Wingman (2 on 2) (Teamwork)

The concept here is to play off one another.  The two of you will line up facing the two of them.  At lay-on, one of you will charge into the enemy line.  Your buddy will be a half step behind you, taking advantage of your attack, cleaning up.  If you are not successful in killing your target opponent, come quickly back around and engage the enemy that your buddy is struggling against.  Your buddy will then, in turn, disengage, and come quickly back around and engage the enemy that you just engaged, and so on.


Wingman (2 on 1) (Dispatch Quickly)

In a two on one, your objective is to kill the one fighter quickly and efficiently.  This is used in battlefield conditions when you can’t spend a lot of time in one given place.  The two of you close quickly and strike at different targets (high/low).

If you are the “one,” review How to Confront a Shield-man Backed by Artillery above.

Melee fighting isn’t about killing your opponents.  Melee fighting is working together to achieve an objective.  Often times that does mean a lot of killing, but at times it means keeping a cool head, and knowing the best way to accomplish the objectives set before you.


Lastly, here are some ways to improve your or your local group’s melee skills:

– War Practice – At least once in a while, have a fighter practice devoted to melee.  Two on one drills can be exponentially increased to accommodate any number of fighters.  Learn how to work with, and play off of one another.  Practice melee situations, especially engagement.  Practice fighting with unequal numbers.

– Take your show on the road – Get together with the next closest group and challenge them.  Have a local ‘war’ event between the two groups to determine who owns that river/road/pile of cookies.  Test yourselves.

– Go to war – The best way to experience what SCA combat is like, it to be there doing it.  Experience gives you insights no practice can.  Experience is our best recruiter, anyone who has been to a major war will urge others to go and share in the camaraderie.

– Focus on the weapons of war – Train in pole, spear, and shield.  These weapons are most effective in melee.

–  Take command! – Take turns in your small local unit.  Command gives you better insight on how things work.  When you have to figure out where to commit your troops in a heavy fight, you soon begin to learn what works and what doesn’t.  Even if you never command a large army, you will have a better understanding of why the generals issue the commands they do.

– Read, game and research – After the practice, hang out with your comrades-in-arms, war game together, play chess, read about tactics and strategies of wars and battles.  Practice thinking ahead.


These are just ideas to get you started.  Be innovative.  Continue to practice and learn from any source available.  When you see something that needs done – do it!  When you see a hole in the line – fill it!  Improvement of our army comes from each one of us, from the beginning shield-fighter to the veteran commander.   Tactical conditioning starts with the individual fighter, and spreads throughout the army with repeated training and exposure (to combat; to new ideas).  Take a leading role in the Calontir army and prepare yourself for the next time Their Majesties call us to arms!

“A Fyrdman’s job is…….” Part 2

The Roles of the Iren Fyrd in the Calontir Army from the point of view of Centurion (Sir) Rolf Eichman. Originally Published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

Unto the Citizens of Calontir which at various times, all comprise the Calontir Army
Greetings from Centurion Rolf Eichmann, Primus Pilus,

I’ve been asked what, as a commander of the Calontir Army, are my expectations of the Fyrdman. This is, in fact, a very good question. Since there are a variety of commanders, there is no doubt some variation in the expectations of those commanders… When those differing expectations are interpreted by fifty (or one hundred fifty) Fyrdmen, the personal interpretation of those expectations probably varies widely.

To me, first and foremost, the Fyrdman is the workhorse of the army. The image of the land holding Anglo-Saxon farmer fits very well — not landless, ignorant peasants; but intelligent individuals who know how to maintain a smallholding, people who know how to get things done and don’t mind if they get dirty doing it. The Fyrd comprises the largest number of troops in the army, over 50% of the muster at Estrella. That means that there are more Fyrdmen than Knights, Huscarls, and men at arms put together. They breath the most dust, carry the most gear, drink the most water. And the Fyrdmen do the most dying on the field. Now, do not misunderstand, this is our vacation, so no one individual should over-reach their mental, physical, or mundane (e.g. financial) capabilities. But as has been said for as long as I’ve been in the SCA, the Fyrdmen are the backbone of the Calontir Army.

As the backbone of the army, I expect the Fyrdman to be able to confidently follow simple commands like “Everyone follow me”; or, “You ten guys go over to that hill and stay there until you die”. Now, I will admit, that there is no set of “simple commands” somewhere that someone could read. Therefore, I expect the Fyrdman to be confident enough and willing enough to ask questions like “Us ten guys are going to _Which_ hill? I see two hills, one with a tree, and one with the rock?”

There are indeed some times when questions like “Why are we going to that hill?” are appropriate, along with “Why don’t we go to that flat spot over there instead, whaddya think boss?” The Fyrdman will be able to tell, from his experience in previous battles, when the commander has the time and energy to chit chat about that stuff. Commanders love to debate and rehash what ifs and might have beens, and that is the most effective way for those who want to try their hand at command to learn. But of course there are times for debate, and times for action, and the Fyrdman will use his continually expanding battle experience to discern whether it is a good time for debate.

The Fyrdman knows his brother Fyrdmen well enough that he is comfortable asking the same questions of his brother, if he didn’t hear all the instructions from the commander. He knows that he wants his back to be watched, that he wants to be partnered with someone — he knows his brother, Fyrdmen well enough that, in the absence of other directions, he can create partnerships or teams of three or four in his immediate area of the battle. He knows his neighbors in the battle line from his shire or neighboring areas… or if he doesn’t know them, he gets to know them quickly to facilitate that team building, and to keep an eye out for the newbie, to make sure that the guy who is too new to dare to ask questions, gets plugged into a partnership with a fyrdman.

The Fyrdman understands his fundamental value to the kingdom. As I noted above, the Fyrd are very valuable because are the most numerous troops in our army — and therefore they do the most dying. The Fyrdman understands his value, he is neither the copper as, nor the gold aureus. The Fyrdman is a good silver denarius to be held in a safe place, then spent as necessary. No Fyrdman should be in a hurry to get killed in battle, but when the time comes to fight, they should sell their life willingly and with valor. It is a rare battle, in which a fighter finds himself fighting valiantly, and walking off the field alive at the end. That rare battle comes as a gift to the fighter (any fighter, King, Knight, Fyrdman, newbie). The fighter does not get to choose when he will have a legendary battle. The Fyrdman (and every other fighter worth his salt) knows that in most good battles, he ends the battle lying in the dirt — and he knows that we all appreciate his contribution the more for his dusty tabard at the end of the day.

The Fyrdman can be relied upon to intelligently follow basic instructions, and to ask prudent questions. He can be counted on to create some cohesion with his immediate neighbors in the battle line. He can be counted on to wait steadfastly in confusing battle situations, and to fight valiantly and sell his life dearly when the time comes. The Fyrdman understands that the above traits are what makes the Calontir Army unique throughout the known world. After 18 years of fighting, I am proud and thrilled every time I get to stand with you all in ranks — I still get butterflies before every battle. I’m looking forward to the next one. See you at Estrella!

“A Fyrdman’s job is…….” Part 1

The Roles of the Iren Fyrd in the Calontir Army from the point of view of Duke JoeAngus. Originally Published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

IMO, the Iren-Fyrd are the most important part of the army. They are the rank & file soldier, as well as the NCOs. By motivating the Fyrd, a crown or general can dramatically increase the size & experience of the army at a given war. I will try to give examples of the roles I see the fyrd holding in the army, as well as what I would like to see from them.

I do not find it an exaggeration when the fyrd are referred to as the ‘backbone’ of the army. They provide a core of experience that allows the command staff to have confidence in themselves as well as their unit. Above all else a fyrdman should strive to be a good soldier. The basics of this are simple: Follow orders to the best of your ability, echo commands, keep formation, working together with other members of your unit. We try to instill these things into everyone. The fyrd should teach by example. The best way to do this is by being a good soldier & setting the example for our new fighters. I am not suggesting that the fyrd blindly follow orders. Fyrd should always be thinking of how to accomplish orders the best possible way. I think many people will tell you that you can be a good soldier & still have individual initiative.

The fyrd supply most of the army’s NCOs. The fyrd who want to learn how to command & take the sargeant position could someday be the general of the army. I don’t believe that everyone has the drive or ability for command, but if you are interested & feel you have a good grasp of how the army works I encourage you to volunteer to be part of the command structure. Without new blood, the command structure grows sedentary. The fyrd most often provide new & different perspectives that allows our army to grow & adapt. Without these qualities, our army will wither.

Returning to the good soldier theme. The fyrd should be aware of what weapons will be effective for the upcoming battle. If we need more scutums, the fyrd should pick them up instead of letting the same people do the same job over & over. This is the same if we need more spears, less skirmishers, more left-handed can-openers. When a call goes out for more X, the fyrd should be the first ones to step up to the plate.

Also, the fyrd should be aware of who is in there unit. Are they new? Are they a hotdog? Being aware of things like this will help you stay alive & realize where strong & weak points of your units may exist. Sometimes calling fire for another person is very helpful, regardless of rank. Overall, small things like these improve your unit.

In the end, I would just like to say that I am proud to be a fyrdman. I owe the success of most of commands to them. They are the largest part of the machine known as the Calontir army. I would like to thank Halvgrimr for allowing me to write this article. It is my hope that those who read it can find something useful.

–Earl JoeAngus, MSCA, Iren Hirth, Iren Fyrd, OT, AoA, QED(Chivalry)
“Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.” – Mark Twain

On Beyond Scuta

Written by Sir Duncan Bruce of Logan. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.

You may ask, “How does this tie in with the ‘Fyrd theme’ we got going?”

the answer is simple, Syr Logan wrote this waaaaaaaay back when he was a Fyrdman, you know back before dirt;)

I have noticed a trend among the ranks of newer fighter that I consider a bit disturbing. Many of them are taking up polearms as soon as they return from their first war. The stated reason is to “get out from under a scutum”” This disturbs me for two reasons, first, the scuta are what Calontir is known for and what makes or breaks our ability to use our tactics, secondly, wars should be fun, no matter what weapon system you use.

To address the first point, the whole “No Heroes” philosophy of the army depends on working as a unit, and the scuta are the base that our units are built on. There has even been discussion in there pages that scuta should be included in cavalry units. If we continue to act as if carrying a scutum is a job only for the new and/or unskilled fighters everyone will want to continue to want to get out from under it as soon as possible.

Many people with more knowledge than I have said that we need to practice with scutum toting units more, and I have to agree. Not just to get used to fighting around them, but also to learn how to fight with one strapped to your arm. This would not only increase our melee skills, but would get everyone more familiar with just how a scutum works best for them. 

If you are good with a weapon system you get more respect from your compatriots when you use it, which addresses the first point above, and it is more fun to use, which addresses the second point. Other things that would make a scutum more fun is better communication between the primaries and the artillery. Since it is Pavel’s job to harp on that, I won’t. Another thing is to adopt some of our tactics so that a scutum’s job is not always to “play anvil”” While we experimented with that a bit at Winter War Maneuvers, I think we stopped too soon. 

Granted the two battles we fought with the scuta purposefully worming their way through the enemy ended up with the attackers getting smeared, I don’t think the problem was with what the scuta were doing. Both times I was in the front rank, and when I was finally killed I was in the last rank of defenders. The same was true of the rank immediately behind me. The problem seemed to be that the secondaries and artillery stopped when they came in range and started dueling with the defenders, rather than following the scuta in. I think we should give this tactic more thought (and practice).

Another experiment that worked fairly well was conducted at Estrella this year. As you no doubt have heard by now, Calontir really shone in the last battle (broken field resurrection). While our basic job was the same as usual (take the banner and hold it against all comers), we were not alone in that task.

 As we died off and returned we were no longer a cohesive unit. Instead, we were spread out throughout the guardian unit, basically anchoring the fighters around us, and passing on an enforcing commands that came down the line. We didn’t have a static wall, but scuta ranged throughout the line providing the needed cover for artillery and dropping to hold a line when required. However, they were also involved in charges and flanking maneuvers that seemed to throw the attackers completely off guard. After all, a scutum never runs out of the line and attacks a spear, does it? I for one had a grand time at Estrella and carried a scutum the entire time.

So what do I think we should do? All I can suggest has been suggested before, communicate with the primaries and adapt new tactics to use them differently.

I don’t’ want people to think that I find scutum to be the greatest weapon system ever invented, and that anyone who abandons it is stupid. Nor do I think that knowing how to fight polearm is a bad thing. The more you know about the more weapons systems, the better.

I guess what I want to say is, if you haven’t ever fought with a scutum, or it has been a year or so, pick up one and use it for a while. Not only will you (re)gain respect for those people that have been providing all that cover, but you might, just enjoy yourself.

Having lots of people that can pick up a scutum and do more than just kneel behind it can do nothing but enhance our collective performance, and therefore our reputation.


Greetings to the Warriors of present-day Calontir. Many of my concerns addressed in the above article no longer apply, but I believe the basic premise still holds: humping a scutum is a vital, rewarding, and most of all FUN job in the Calontir army.

Scuta are even more important today than they were then. With the addition of a center-grip, they become a more flexible component of our overall arsenal.

If your local group has some, practice with them. If they don’t, why not investigate getting some? 

Scuta, they aren’t just for bridges anymore.

Sir Logan, Baron Bus-a-doon

Nobility and Achievement and Dog-piles

Written by Colonel Jenna of Southwind. Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 6, 4th Quarter, 2002.


The following is a large excerpt from a post Colonel Jenna made to the Calonet dated 2/9/02, 

Last night, as Mike Eruzzoni held aloft the Olympic Torch, he re-created a most precious moment when he gestured for his teammates to join him. They gathered around him as they had 22 years ago when he insisted that the entire team join him on a medal podium that was literally not designed to hold more than four people. They managed to all fit on there ***BY HOLDING TIGHT TO EACH OTHER***. (Last night, 22 years and some pounds later, that pile of hockey players took up significantly more space…..) I realized just a little while ago, that was the first time I ever saw the Ancient and Honorable Ritual of the Dog-Pile.

O Fyrdmen, who hold tight to each other with your hearts if not your hands, as this guess from a non-Fyrdman and non-Olympian right? I think, and I believe, that the vertical dog-pile on the medal platform at Lake Placid was like the horizontal dog-pile of a Fyrding. It seems to me, that it is a celebration of Us, of We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers. A physical gesture of closeness, of insisting that the Team be together for the good times as they have been together for the bad.

I may be wrong. But I sense that I am not.

After all, as the man asked, I believe in miracles.

The Fighters of Calontir as a de facto SCA Period Fencing Guild

A Comparison of Calontir Fighting Orders and the Historical Guild of the London Masters of Defense

Written By Harold Kraus, Jr., a.k.a., Master Harald Isenross, CoL, Adm. CRN Ret., and Free Scholar*, Originally published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 5, Third Quarter 2002

Advertisement:  I once had the idea that there should be a Calontir Academy of Defense, an association of fighters interested in tournaments as well as researching the Period fighting styles but maybe not so interested in melee or able to go to SCA wars.  My original vision was of a rattan fighting guild with rankings that paralleled the common tiered Period and SCA guild structures.  Advancement in the guild would have been based on individuals achieving the conventional Calontir fighting ranks.  Then I chanced to read Don Dylan’s paper on the London Masters of Defense. Please, dear reader, consider my essay and Don Dylan’s paper, and see whether you agree that Calontir doesn’t so much need a period fencing guild as it is one already.

My source for information on the London Masters of Defense is Don Dylan’s (John D. Murray) exceptional research paper on the same.  In fact, his fine work is the entire cause for this particular essay – my work here is but to introduce and summarize his article for a Calontir audience.  My source for information on Calontir fighting orders is my 15+ years of regular participation in fighting within Calontir.  I can attest to those parts of Silver that Dylan cites, and I have made some study of other earlier manuals.  I also have some interest in studying historical guilds in general.

Don Dylan’s primary interest is in researching the history rapier combat in the context of recreating it with steel blades, whereas my interest is in the recreational study of the breadth of Medieval and Renaissance fencing, of which rapier was just one part.

Who knows, but for whatever reason, the SCA instituted its three levels of arms (AoA, GoA, PoA) that can be mapped to various historical guild ranks.  For whatever reason, Calontir instituted its three levels of Combat Order according to these SCA award levels.  For whatever reason, Calontir’s widely successful combat Orders happen to map to the guild ranks of the London Masters of Defense.  This mapping only spurred my interest in Don Dylan’s article.

In reading Don Dylan’s paper, I find many similarities between the historical institutions he describes and what I experienced in the years I participated in Calontir schools of fighting.  Here is a sampling:

·         Both organizations have conventions for safe exercise of combat skills in non-lethal manners.

·         Both have comparable systems of advancement within organized levels of Rank.

·         In both cases, a primary basis for advancement in rank is demonstration of skills in Prize/tournament play.

·         Higher-ranking combatants perform the assessment of these skills in both systems.

·         Both recognize the importance of the public entertainment value of the Prizes and tournaments.

·         There is a complete correlation of weapons types employed between the London Masters of Defense and the SCA Kingdom of Calontir.

In his closing comments, Dylan confronts very briefly the challenge that the London Masters of Defense’s definition and system of fencing is one that is not incompatible with SCA rattan fencing as practiced in Calontir.

On the following pages, I present a table that more thoroughly illustrates the similarities and correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the rattan fencers and Fighting Orders of the Kingdom of Calontir.  Following that, I have appended a copy of Don Dylan’s paper as it appeared on his web site on March 8, 2002.  The attachment of his paper with his permission doesn’t imply his agreement with my assessment of the correlations between the London Masters of Defense and the Fighting Orders of Calontir.

In my opinion, based on my studies of Don Dylan’s paper, the Calontir Fighting Orders, and guild history, the Calontir system is a reasonable recreation of the period fencing school, excepting the quirk of using rank titles based on Anglos-Saxon military terminology instead of any late period guild terminology.   *I do not think it is unreasonable for a Calontir student of the Period Fencing Manuals to assume the title of Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, or Master as an alternative to his personally achieved ranks of Man-at-arms, Fyrdman, Huscarl, or Knight/Master-at-Arms.


London Masters of Defense

The Calontir Marshallate and Fighting Orders

A late Renaissance School of Defense

An SCA Fencing School

The Crown(incidentally, a Queen for much of that time)

Issues the Guild’s Charter, which establishes sovereign license and authority over the guild.

The Crown(the SCA Sovereign)

Hold sovereign authority over martial judgments and as well as over who is permitted to fight in his/her Kingdom and with what equipment.

The Four Ancient Masters

      Run the business of the Guild

Earl Marshallate (mostly Knights & Masters-at-Arms)

Run the business of the Marshallate


Have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

      Excellence in many weapons.

Knights & Masters-at-Arms

Have a school of lower ranking students.                

Excellence in many weapons.


May have a school of lower ranking students, charging them tuition for lessons.

Competency with many weapons, excluding rapier.


Recognized as knowledgeable teachers.                      .

Competency with many weapons, including Calontir-legal rapier.

Free Scholars

Recognized as a viable student.

Competency with swords.


Recognized as basically competent.

Competency with two different weapons.


Student who have not passed their Prize.

Competency with a weapon has not been demonstrated.


Authorized but Un-elevated fighters.

Competency with a weapon is not required for authorization.


A committee of Masters judge and award all levels of advancement.

Advancement is nominally based on skills witnessed at a Prize.


The Crown judges and awards all levels of advancement in consultation not only with Knights & Masters with the relevant Orders of Huscarls or Fyrdmen.

Advancement is based on skills witnessed at a number of Prizes.


Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Masters for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid admission or may other monetary contributions.


Prizes (incidentally called Events or Tournaments)

Announcements of Prizes are regulated.

Among other reasons, Prizes are held to demonstrate skill to the Crown and Orders for the purpose of advancement.

Prizes are held to entertain an audience that paid site fee.

Armor Conventions

Some armor was worn; likely it was less than full combat dress.

Armor Conventions

Some armor is required, but definitely much less than full combat dress.

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the waist.

No face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intention of witnessing skill with weapons.

(Note, some of these conventions are occasional, varying from time to time),

Combat Conventions

Rebated Weapons.

No grappling.

No hitting from behind w/o engagement.

No hitting on the Ground.

No blows below the thighs.

Lighter calibration on face blows.

Rules based on safety as well as the intentions of witnessing skill with weapons and keeping the combat entertaining and courteous.

Weapons Used in Prizes

Sword, Back Sword, Rapier and Dagger, Sword and Buckler, Sword and Dagger, Staff, Dagger, Two Handed Sword, Bastard Sword

Weapons Used in Challenges

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Target/Cloak/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Axe, Pike

Weapons Used

Long Sword, Back Sword, Sword & Buckler, Sword & Dagger, Two Sword, Bastard Sword, Mass Weapon, Two Handed Sword, Rapier, Rapier & Shield/Dagger, Dagger, Staff, Polearm, Pike


Generally only Masters use rapiers.


All authorized Calontir fighters may use rapiers constructed to Calontir rattan combat standards.

Authorization to play in Prizes

The Prize combatant must acceptable to their superiors (through application for the prize).

Authorization to play in Prizes

All combatants must be acceptable to the Crown, generally thorough the proxy of the Marshallate and the institution of authorizations.

Social Status

These guys all had non-labor day jobs.  Students were likely of the citizen or yeoman classes.  Scholars and Provost had to have totally private means to pay their tuition and buy their gear.  Even the Masters didn’t pull in enough from fees to completely maintain themselves within
the middle class.  The guild schools were beneath the station of the aristocracy.

Social Status

These guys all have day jobs.  They are mostly of the lower middle and upper lower class.  All SCAdians have to have totally private means to pay their event costs and buy their gear.  With the increasing affluence and decreasing mechanical skills of all American income classes, the SCA traditions of making-it-yourself and being accessible to the indigent may become beneath the contempt of the public.