Stuck in the Middle or,
On being a Grant of Arms recipient.
Much has been written on how to become a Peer of An Tir. Many documents explain in great deal how to become a Knight or a Laurel or a Pelican and certainly this is appreciated because you can be directed to the Internet and learn enough to start to form questions. But what are the steps before becoming a Peer?
Oh, we have heard the answer to questions such as, "What is an Award of Arms?" and have even probably asked this at one time. It's the question that usually follows, "How do I get an Award of Arms?" that can be answered in so many ways that it brings about confusion. Chances are you won't get a Grant of Arms without getting your Award of Arms (AoA) first so let's start with that.
What is an AoA? Personally, I always answer this question with a simple, "It's an Award of Arms." Knowing that the next question is at the heart of what the person is really wanting to ask, I wait or just go on into the preamble.
An Award of Arms is a piece of paper that essentially says, "Thank you for joining our nutty band of medievalists." I have never forgotten how the first line of mine reads and quote this even thou I understand other AoA scrolls may have different wording.
"Where as it has come to our notice, through great and diverse methods you have greatly enriched the Kingdom…"
For me, that is more than just a "Thank you." It's recognition that an AoA recipient has value and is sharing that with the rest of us, even if compared to other people the experience may be limited. It means that this person should be encouraged to stay. "We like you."
Unfortunately, some people may be forgotten or lost in the cracks. These people are no less deserving but for themselves they should take comfort that they have friends in the SCA, that they offer help and jump in regularly and just like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, all they are missing is a piece of paper.
Ok, on to the next rung of the ladder, the Grant of Arms. Generally those of us that become exceptional as AoAs will be recognized once again. The Grant of Arms is the next level and is given to those that have started to excel in one of the main areas of SCA interest. When I first started out in the SCA there were only two Grants. These were the Jambe de Lion and the Goute de Sang. Now there are five; Goutte de Sang, Grey Goose Shaft, Jambe de Lion, White Scarf, and the Hasta Leonis. These are considered to be one step away from being Peerage. If you talk to a Grant level recipient you will find out that the "one step" is a very long step indeed. It may take years and a lot of work.
So, what does it 'mean' to be at the Grant of Arms level? Welcome to the middle of the pack. You'd think it should be nice and calm here but you'd be wrong. Most people who have gotten to this rank are creating wonderful Arts and Sciences, running events, contests and even mucking out biffies. This is the core of experience making the SCA run. They sit in council to ensure your branches run easily. They organize large, medium and small events. They come up with the wild ideas that add to the fun that is part of recreating the medieval age.
I can hear it now, "WAIT! Not everyone that sits on my branch's council is at the Grant level and there is some Peerage there also!" Good, that means your branch is most likely moving forward and has varied guidance. There is no reason why someone with no award or just an AoA cannot become a prominent person in your branch. Watch them. One day the rest of your branch and people outside of your branch will notice what these people are doing. These people are on their way and there may be more. The Peerage is probably lending their experience to your group.
Being at the Grant level for me means taking on all of the duties of my aspirations as duties to be carried out now. If I am to be recognized for what I am doing and elevated to the next level I must become that next level now. One duty that exists for all peerage is to be an inspiration for the populace. For obvious reasons no one Peer can inspire all the populace. Should I wait till I am made a peer to inspire those around me? No. It's said that awards of any kind are recognition of what one does and is. Therefore I should be the best Peer I can be even though I am only a Grant level. This is aspiration.
This brings me to a phrase I have adopted over the past few years, "Into the breach!" This phrase is typically thought of as a command given to troops when a castle wall is broken or breached. The troops then charge forward into the break in the wall with the hopes of winning the day for their Lord. Well, in an area that Peerage is lacking or perceived to be lacking, it is the Grant level that must rise to the occasion and inspire those around them. They must set the example of chivalry and courtesy that is needed. The Grant level becomes inspiration while aspiring to become a Peer.
Inspiration, aspiration and "Into the Breach", this is what being a Grant level is about. Inspiring those around you by what you do and who you are to set the example. The Grant level aspires to the next level while honing those skills that will make them a Peer of the Realm. It is said that true aspiration is never met; we can only get closer to it. Lastly, "Into the Breach", means that a Grant Level is to stand proud yet humble, to be teacher and student and to do what is needed and what is wanted.
So, here we are. The Grant level is laboring up the ladder of rank. Grants want to look forward and climb higher but still have a lot of contact with what got us here. Grants are surrounded by those that need our help, guidance and examples on one side and those that we learn from and follow and make proud to the best of our ability.
How to be a Peer can be written in many forms in many documents but can be summed up by saying, "Peerage is excellence." To be an Award of Arms level you don't need documents or teaching; Just a, "Thank you for enriching our little group, we finally noticed." To be a Grant level we also don't need documents and teaching but we also do. The Grant level means… everything.
Apprentice to Master Cathal Sean O'Conlin,
In service to the people of An Tir,
HL Hucbald ap Urp, JdL