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An Historical Recollection

Here's a letter of light reading written in AS XXXVI regarding the early days of the College of Boethius and in support of the proposed siblinghood betwixt the College and the Shire of Heatherwyne, supplied from the archives of the "Boethius E-List" for your information and amusement... {8^)


    Unto all the members of the College of Boethius,
    Lady Adelicia Marie di Rienzi sends greetings:

    I called Madeleine Aurore des Milleroses, our founding Seneschal, a couple of nights ago. We jogged each other's memory enough to recollect the circumstances under which we and others founded the College of Boethius. So return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...

    Madeleine and I became friends when we met as fellow transfer students at Pomona College in the fall of 1982. (We were in the same sponsor group.) She had been in the SCA in Caid and also in the East Kingdom for a couple of years before that, and naturally she dragged me in.
    I don't remember how we got the idea to start an SCA College in Claremont, but I believe that Madeleine had been a member of an SCA College when she was in the Eastrealm. Apparently, at that time there were no other SCA Colleges as such in Caid. There were college and university SCA groups, to be sure, but they were typically incorporated as cantons of their local barony.
    We began to get Boethius rolling in late spring of '83, with about three or four members. We had the idea to pattern ourselves after Colleges in other kingdoms, notably the West, where the tradition was then to name an SCA College after a patron saint. I rather liked the idea of calling our group the College of St. Cecil... but in the end, we all agreed that we would break the mold and name our College after someone secular, especially since we had Christian, Jewish, and Pagan members right from the get-go. (Okay, okay, the real Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, c. 480 - c. 524 AD/CE, was a Christian cleric and a martyr, but not a canonized one.)
    Madeleine knew her way around Caid much better than I did, being local. (I'm from the West, but I never did much with the SCA up there.) So I think she was already familiar with the Shire of Heatherwyne as it was at the time -- bear in mind, this was almost twenty years ago! -- and didn't really like the idea of subsuming our identity in theirs. Heatherwyne was dubious about us at first. A few of their folks seemed hostile, though at this point I don't quite remember why. There were a couple of real jerks in the Shire at the time, who seemed to belittle everything and everyone on general principles. (I haven't seen those particular assets to humanity in many, many years, though.)
    But I think the main problem with Boethius-Heatherwyne relations stemmed from the fact that Heatherwyne was at that time a fighting shire, first and last -- stick jocks 'R' us! -- and none of us Boethians were fighters at all.
    We were entirely about the arts: We danced and sang (quite well, actually!), we were into research and costumes and cooking, and most especially, we loved courtliness and playing in persona. At events we often used to sit in the Boethius "pavilion" (a cheap blue dining fly, but it was home), beguiling the time between combat rounds by reading poetry aloud, singing, playing instruments, eating tourney food that was as authentic as we could make it (no Coke cans here!), finishing our sewing projects, having discussions in persona, and inviting passers-by to partake of our hospitality, which they often did.
    Sometimes we could get enough people interested in a round of dancing on the green. I used to bring my viola to events pretty regularly -- still do, in fact -- and played for the dancers. (I'm a mediocre violist at best, but I can play Sellenger's Round while dancing it -- want a demo sometime??? ;-)
    To give you an idea of how non-fighting-oriented we were, we chose the first Champion of Boethius with a hand-kissing contest! Okay, all this nostalgia is telling me I need to reassemble my scattered household and get back to doing more of this very same stuff! That, and I need to come to more Boethius events... last year's anniversary was wonderful!
    Anyway, the point of all this is that Boethius and Heatherwyne didn't have very many interests in common. The "Heatherwynos" were not *at all* into persona play, they weren't into medieval music or dancing, and they knew that as a source of new fighters, we weren't even on the map! That said, we did have friends in the Shire -- I remember several delightful and helpful people who came regularly to help us with on-campus demos, which we held fairly frequently as a means of recruitment. And we needed those recruits: In order to be recognized as a College, we had to meet the same requirements as any other Kingdom group at that time, namely, we had to have a minimum of five paid-up SCA members, a seneschal, and a herald.
    We met these requirements sometime during the academic year 1983-84, achieving "incipient" status. Boethius was very active that year. We went to lots of events (maybe too many -- I had all I could do to keep my grades out of the tank!), we entered contests, we served at banquets, and we sang a *lot*. Zenobia wound up illustrating an entire Crown Prints by herself. His Majesty Jason Griffiths of Shadowhurst (sp?) heard us singing at one event and publicly praised us at closing court. (His then Queen, now Duchess Natalya de Foix, has always been a supportive patron of Boethius.) In other words, the College was highly visible. Of course, we didn't realize this at the time -- we were just having fun.
    After Jason and Natalya stepped down, their new Majesties, Adrian Buchanan and Ealasaid Nic Chlurain as I recall, must have taken notice of us. At one tourney where the King was present, we formally petitioned the Crown to grant us full status as a Kingdom College. This was more of a grand gesture on our part than a practical step, but it had quite an effect.
    Pompous persons that we were, we replicated the ceremony of the principality of Caid's petition to the West to be granted full kingdom status: We dressed the fairest fair maiden among us (Melissa Galwith -- I've lost track of her) in a pure white gown and had her approach the throne barefoot, then kneel before his Majesty to present our scroll of petition, while the rest of us followed her in a respectful procession and then knelt also. Well, how could he refuse? His Majesty Adrian, a generous and free-handed soul, magnanimously granted our request, and life was wonderful! For a little while, anyway...
    You see, this incident took place shortly before Adrian stepped down as king. He was succeeded by Duke Jason again (with a new Queen, Maestra Isabella Antonia de Aranjuez), who "re-incipiented" us! To this day, I'm not quite sure why -- maybe another old Boethian will remember. Ostensibly, it was a paperwork thing. We were angry and upset at first, as you might well expect. However, eventually the problem was ironed out, and we achieved Kingdom-level College status, the first group in Caid ever to do so.
    Other colleges and universities followed our example. The College of the Voyagers (Caltech) was the first one, I think, then San Ambrogio (UCLA, now dormant, I believe), then Leornung-Hus Torres Rewel (UCSB, dormant), then Fenwood Knoll (UCI), and probably others, too -- you guys would know more about the status of other colleges than I do. And now it seems the tide is turning away from Kingdom-level colleges.
    I and the other Boethian alums I've talked to are rather sorry to see this happen, but I think our qualms are more emotional than practical: It's the end of a tradition, it's an irrevocable step, it might be considered a loss of prestige to step down and be a sub-group, it could cause problems if relations with Heatherwyne go sour, hrrumph, hrrumph, etc.
    However, I do see practical value in making the transition: No more kingdom paperwork (huzzah!); someone to tide the College over between periods of dormancy, especially right now, when relations between Boethius and Heatherwyne seem to be better than ever; the mutual benefit of access to each other's resources, and so on.

    In the end, it's almost twenty years later (ack!!!), life goes on, and things change. The College of Boethius is your college now. We alumni will support your decision, whichever way you decide.

    Yours in service to the College and the Kingdom,


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