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SCA moment: where pretend becomes practice

SCA Moment; when pretend becomes practice

In my daily practice I have always made a point of using my normal language, my normal dress, and my normal food to share with the gods, wights, and ancestors. To be relevant to our daily lives, the gods, wights and ancestors must not be set aside from them. Having said that, and fully believing it, I will say that there is a magic to stepping into the old times, the old ways.

I was at a wedding this weekend at an SCA event. Our fine hosts, the Wolfpack, were patterened after the Vikings, and our nearest neighbors were the encampment of the Legions (SPQR stood on the pole next to the twin wolves of the Wolf Pack). After the wedding, we gathered around the fire and someone asked about GLBT in heathenry, and I laughed that they should check out the Youtube video “Drunken Norse Mythology” as it is about the best modern college student version of the origin of Selepinir that I have ever heard. After that nothing would do, but they would have me in the centre of the circle to tell the story. We went from about thirty wedding guests to about sixty from the local encampment by the tales end, as skaldship, fire, mead, and edged weapons are things that naturally go together.

It was twilight then, the time betwixt the day and night that belongs to neither. We stood in clothes our ancestors would have recongnized and claimed as their own, with sword and seaxe belted on, axe or spear beside, gathered at the fire to share meat, mead, story and song. I could not let the occasion of a wedding feast pass without a tale of love rather than lust, so I asked if they would have a tale of love, of magic, of promises made at twilight, and the crowd answered with a roar.

As the light faded I wove the tale of Mayday Magic. In that place where people of our modern world gathered in wood girt clearing around ancient fires to honour ways of the past, in that time that hung between day and night but belonged wholly to neither I wove a spell. Some heathens who had heard the tale before smiled wide for they knew what was to come, and charged their horn for the telling. Many SCA who played at ancient games but knew only part of the magic of those times awaited with interest in varying degrees.

As darkness fell, and firelight alone lit the clearing, I told a story of love, dangerous oaths, and magic. As I spoke of the cold inhuman beauty of the elvish ladies I saw those unfamiliar with the old tales caught up in the power our ancestors knew, but modern man had trivialized. Old magic, a mortal man prey for the wild hunt, the old price of blood, the truth of love as death, and rebirth; the tale caught the watchers and taught them carried them through mirth, fear, lust, love, wonder, and joy and left many among them with questions burning in their eyes as what had always been just entertainment suddenly opened doors to questions far deeper than the amusement they thought they sought.

A surprising assortment sought me out afterwards, and indeed gathered around another fire to speak of matters spiritual, as far more people than most at that gathering would guess sought answers of their own. Odin is nothing if not sneaky. I will swear that chance cannot play the part it does without outside help or will; for in sharing the skaldship that is his gift, I have found so many people who had long sought someone to ask questions of our faith and folkway. Thor’s is unquestionably the symbol of the resurgence of our ancient way, but I will contest that the Victory Father remains our single most tireless, most subtle, and most effective, recruiter.

John T Mainer
For Diana Paxson, whose work in founding the SCA has brought us a surprising number of heathens, even as her work in heathenry itself has.

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