Apprenticing Ceremony Planning

I’m taking an apprentice soon. You might have guessed from prior posts. But now there’s a ceremony to plan. How do you go about that? How does the ceremony reflect the peer relationship?

I’ve written about peer relationships before. Sort of thinking out loud. That becomes real when I take Honorable Lady Astrid Esbjornsdottir as my apprentice at Mag Mor‘s coming Cattle Raids event.

Astrid and I have been friends for years. So making this a formal SCA thing won’t be a big change. I just have a reason to be bossy and she has one to request more of my time.

Now we’re working on what we want for the belting ceremony. Just like the peer relationship itself there’s leeway in creating what you want it to be.

Belting ceremonies vary between kingdoms, between peers and even between associates within the same household. They can be high persona, SCA formal or casual. It can even be “make it up as you go.”

And you can become an apprentice without a ceremony. But that’s no fun. You can even have a peer relationship without a belt. Or remain an independent thinker completely.

Calontir is widely known for its ceremonies. It seems we create one for even the simplest frequently occurring happening. Yet there’s no prescribed apprentice ceremony. So how do you create a belting ceremony?

Of course you begin by talking with each other. Especially since communication is the key to a peer relationship. S a good place to begin is discussing each ones personal expectations.

First determine a few basics.

  • Period-ness, if any.
  • Persona basis. This is easier if you want simple SCA or you share the same time, place and gender.
  • Responsibilities for who does what.
  • Control. Who gets their “wishes” most and why.

There are also two questions you want answered. Does the candidate have any prior ties to others to give up? And does the soon-to-be apprentice still agree to the relationship as you’ve discussed it?

With those in mind you can move forward with your planning. First determining the type you want. There are three basic types.

  • Generic SCA or Kingdom format
  • Persona or specific era model
  • Or a combination

If you decide together you’re both happy with a commonly used format there are ceremony outlines you can find and just change the details. This is the easiest and can be impromptu, even spontaneous.

If you both have similar personas a ceremony based on them would be straightforward. Especially if your era is later. You’d have some research to do. But there’s plenty available. You can look into apprentice indentures and workshop practices. See what was expected of a master and apprentice. If you both enjoy research you can spend months creating the most period based ritual. It’s up to you.

If your personas are very early or from non-Western European cultures but you still want a persona based ceremony your research will be complex. There’s just fewer specific references for you to draw from. So you’ll have to be more inventive with your ceremony.

With early and non-Western personas you can use historic literature or extant artifacts for sources. For example if you’re Viking you might base it on their legal situation and include the role of law speaker. Or use the common SCA belting ceremony but combine it with references to your persona through peoples’ titles, accouterments and the location you choose.

The important question to answer in my opinion is “Will the apprentice feel completely bound?”

One way to make the ceremony memorable is to have it in a beautiful location. The Cattle Raids event where we want to do this is held on a modern county fairgrounds site. Unfortunately – except for some trees – it’s totally without medieval ambiance from any era. And of course that shaded area is where the fighting will be. So there’s no help from the site itself. That situation is common in Calontir.

With a bleak venue you do what you can to create your own setting. After talking things over Astrid and I agreed to hold ours inside the large hall but – hopefully – borrow a lattice divider the site has. I’ll hang a tapestry I have on it for a backdrop and place a small period-like carpet on the floor. We’ll use the tablecloth with my arms on the site’s 8 foot round table. And add candles and food offerings in pretty bowls.

Astrid has asked her long time friend Count Volkmar Katzbalger to speak for her in the ceremony. Her Excellency Aleit – Lonely Tower’s Baroness – will “approve” the relationship as an overseer of the Kingdom’s lands.

We each have friends we specially want to invite. My first Laurel – M. Agnes de Lanvallie – lives in the Outlands now but my second Laurel – M. Amanda of Coldcastle lives less than a days ride. If she can attend, Amanda would enjoy seeing her lineage increase.

Since we’re both scribes we want to invite the current Kingdom Signet, Lady Zafara Baabur. With Astrid being in the SCA longer than I she’ll have friends attending the event we don’t have to formally invite. I just have to ask the site voice herald to announce the happening that day.

The ceremony itself is usually only ten minutes and it’s lead by the peer. That’s me. Astrid will have few lines to remember. But I have some words to write. I’m too chicken to just wing-it. And I want to speak from my heart. I know I’ll ramble or freeze up if I don’t have them to read.

I’m not perfect as a Laurel or a person. I don’t know the answer to everything and strive to study and grow myself. I want my words to encourage Astrid and those listening to research and work diligently. To add to their medieval persona and surroundings. And to always be honest and frank in discussions.

Some ceremony’s include asking if the soon-to-be apprentice owes fealty to anyone else. And whether they’ve forsworn that connection. Astrid owes no fealty to anyone but Calontir. I haven’t decided yet if I want to include that question in the ceremony. For us it would only be a bit of show. But it is important to ask her in front of witnesses if she still wants to become my apprentice.

As to fealty I don’t ask it for myself. I will ask her when possible to swear fealty to the Kingdom of Calontir. I will promise to encourage and guide her to the best of my ability. And if I am unable to guide her in a new interest I will recommend someone who can.

While it’s appropriate in some cultures to kneel when giving an oath, as I’m asking Astrid to swear to the Kingdom she won’t be kneeling. But she will offer her hands in a prayer position and I will gladly take them wrapping them in the green belt. The prayer position reflects on her service to God. The belt wrapping reflects on our committed relationship.

I will then give the green belt to her plus a sash she can wear when she wants. The green belt is a visible sign the wearer has made a commitment not only to a peer but to exploring more and deeper skill paths whether or not they result in being welcomed into a higher order.

She tells me she has a gift for me. Which is sweet but also period appropriate as an apprentice’s family was expected to give things to the master as “payment”. Knowing Astrid this isn’t payment but a fervent gift, probably one she created herself.

After the belting and gift presentation I will tell the people watching “If you see Astrid doing something beneficial or beautiful – as she often does – give her the praise and credit for it is well deserved. While she seldom does this, any failures she may make are my error for I have not taught her well.”

Astrid will then formally be my apprentice

I’m very nervous about all this. I don’t do well speaking to groups. I was a terrible local court herald, well known for misspeaking lines. I’m afraid I’ll screw things up. And want to make Astrid’s apprenticing the memorable milestone she deserves.

Related Prior Posts:

Categories: Musings

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