THE SEED AND THE TREE

By Mistress Diana Listmaker

"How does it feel," you ask, "to look at a field full of pavilions and know it all started in your back yard?"

"How has the SCA changed?"

"Are you pleased with the way we've grown?"

This is not a plea for reassurance. What I hear is curiosity, and confidence.

You know you're good.

But you want to know where you came from, who you are. ... You question me, and the others who were here in the beginning, because we have seen you grow, and in attempting to answer, I learn something as well.

I did not create the Society for Creative Anachronism.

What I did, I think, was to plant a seed in good soil, and like anyone who starts a child, or a book, or any other creative project, the result has been greater, and in some ways different, from what was dreamed.

What has changed? Size. Expertise. Complexity.

What is the same? The Dream.

Over the past week I have been continually amazed at how many of the activities that are flourishing today were implicit in that first event: long lists and careful planning which yet leave room for inspiration and serendipity; the mix of arts, sciences, and fighting which offers an opportunity for everyone to contribute their skills; the inclusion of people of all ages and origins.

The first Anachronists came from the leading edge of the Baby Boom. We grew up in the fifties, that triumph of plastic suburban culture, and we hated it. For the most part, no matter how hard we tried, or our parents pushed, we could not bring ourselves to truly conform. But in the sixties, the Civil Rights movement and the "New Society" heralded the possibility of change. When we gathered for the first Tournament, a catalytic reaction occured. The moment was magic, and no one wanted it to end. And suddenly we realized that it did not have to - if we did not like the world we had been born into, we had the power to change it and create one of our own.

Our parents called it escapist, and so it is sometimes called today. But the thousands who have participated in the SCA over the past thirty years - who have learned, grown, and been transformed - prove otherwise. To dream - of an event, a costume, a sword, a marzipan dragon - may be an escape from a plastic world, but when five thousand people fill a field, when the lady in the gown steps out of the illumination, the sword flashes in the torchlight, and you sit in a feasting hall and eat the dragon, you have not escaped, you have made your dream a reality. That, I think, is the secret. In the Current Middle Ages we have restored the relationship between the dreamer and the doer, between users and the things we use, between those who command and those who serve (whose roles may be reversed the next day).

In the Guild Hall hangs a marvelous tapestry, created by the skillful needleworkers of Adiantum for the Kingdom of the West, which shows the evolution of the Knowne World as a great Tree. The first Tournament was its seed. The wind that whispers through the leaves of that Worldtree bears the murmur of many voices. You can hear them also in the flutter of banners, the sound a silken gown makes as it trails across the grass, harpsong from a pavilion or pipes heard across a field, the clink of armor. The spirit we have created here speaks in that wind, and with it the voices of the ancestors whose skills we are trying to re-learn. In reconnecting with the things we use, and with each other, we restore our severed links with forests more ancient still.

How does it feel to be here thirty years after we first gathered in my back yard? It feels timeless. It feels like magic made manifest.

It feels real.


Copywrite 1996, Diana Paxton
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