Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pennsic 42 - On a pilgrimage I go

There is a living history experiment in the making.
This coming July I plan to attend the biggest SCA event of the year.   I will be attending the Pennsic War in Pennsylvania.  There are thousands of other anachronists who attend the annual event as well.  The varieties of personas that will be displayed are almost as vast as the number of people who attend.  I've been in the SCA for over 10 years and this year I decided to try something new to add a little bit more depth and flavor to the experience. 
I am working on a very small kit of things to bring and I plan on attending the War as a Franciscan friar from the 13th century.  I plan on only bringing items which are proper period items constructed in a period manner.  Technically speaking, friars did not have any property of their own.  Whey then set out on a pilgrimage they would travel in small groups and one member of the group would have community property (belonging to the church) which they could all use.  That collection of items might include things such as quills, ink, parchment and personal hygiene products.  Since I am the only friar that I know I have constructed the following back story which I shall use on my trip.
My Name is Brother Matthew.  I was once known as Ercc Glaison or simply Ercc (pronounced Eric).  I lived a long and sinful life of various inappropriate indulgencies in various regions.  At one point I found myself donning the grey wool of a friar with the less than wholesome intention of misleading people and by doing so relieve them of any moneys that they saw fit to allow me to relieve them of.  I robbed, conned and stole whenever I could.  Shortly after donning the robes of the order I felt a change in my life.  I felt less than whole even after my acquisitions were successful.  I reached a point in my life when I desired to understand more of why I was put on this earth.  There had to be more to it.  As I had already donned the robes of the order I began seeking out knowledge of my true brothers.  While doing so I found a new life.  I shed all my worldly possessions and fled from my sinful ways.  I sought redemption and when I found it I sought to repay the many debts that I accumulated.  My life has changed since I donned the grey wool of the Friars Minor.  I hope that it shall continue to change on my pilgrimage back to my homeland of Hibernia.
Number one question I get when I inform people of my decision to make this trip is:  "Why?"  That is a long and complicated question although it has been posed to me as a simple single word question.  I decided to capture a response to that question here so that I can simply refer inquirers to this information.
Here are some of my reasons:
·         Listening: While I am an anachronist, I am also a struggling Christian.  I am not a Catholic, although I play one on the weekends.  I have always loved the saying that goes something like this:  The man who refuses to listen when you scream will often struggle to hear when you whisper.   I feel that my life has always been too cluttered.  Years ago life may have been simpler.  I don't know for sure.  All I know is that now I often feel that I am too busy to simply sit and listen for the whispers of God.  I have long desired to set aside such a time to allow myself to listen.  For that reason I will shed EVERYTHING modern and focus on what I would have focused on in the 13th century, as a friar.  I will serve silently and listen.
·         Service:  My life has too long been made up of tasks which revolve around servicing my own needs and desires.  I hope that by devoting a week of service to others it may spark a desire to continue down such a path when I return home.  Life is too short to live it for oneself and I'm hoping that this week will help me change my focus in life.
·         Inspiration:  By my actions and my complete immersion into the "role" I hope that, in passing even, I inspire one person.  If my actions, service and sacrifice serve as an inspiration for one other person to take a bigger step towards authenticity, service or faith I will be contented.
·         Shoes:  I love to go barefoot.  I always have.  The reason I often give most people is that simply "I hate shoes".  That is correct, but there is more.  This may sound corny so I won't admit it in person, but is closer to the truth that simply "I hate shoes".  When a child sleeps on his father's chest he might notice that he can hear his father's heart or feel his father's breathing.  I think that the earth is a gift from God and when you make physical contact with it, you can hear it breathing.  Sometimes when I walk through the woods (barefoot) I stop and simply touch a tree.  If you focus your thoughts you can feel the life in the tree.  In some strange way I have always loved the closeness I feel to the earth when I am barefoot.  I feel constrained and filtered when I have to wear shoes like a music lover might feel if forced to wear ear plugs his whole life.  Yes, walking on rocks and hard earth hurts.  Yes my feet get toughened up, but it still hurts.  I don't exactly know why Brother Francis chose to go without shoes most of his devoted life.  I sometimes wonder if he felt closer to God by doing so.  I do.

Personal Inventory:
- Grey wool robe & hood, rope belt and cross

- Pilgrim's bag (scrips)

- Small 2.5 ounce hand blown drinking glass in leather cup holder

- Wooden bowl & Wooden Spoon

- Small scissors

- Linen thread on wooden spool

- Needle case containing (bone needle, thorn needles and brass needle)

- Leather penner and goose quills

- Pen knife

- Rosary made from olive pits

- linen wash rag & linen towel

- Bible

- Leather canteen

- Straight razor

- Eye glasses & case

- Dozen brass pins (to use gifts for A&S displays)

- Linen coif (to prevent too much sun burn on my bald melon!)

- Bone Comb

- Ear scoop

- Linen shirt and brais (just in case I have to bathe in public or wash my robes)

- Sandals (just in case)

- Small cube of bees wax in leather pouch

- Waxed tablets with brass stylus

- Leather box to carry waxed tablets

- Wool blanket and small amount of hemp rope to tie up blanket

- Hand drawn map

- Wooden sign "Will work for food" Flip side "vow of Silence"

- Small amount of parchment and small writing plank

- Leather pouch for parchment

- Stoneware jar of Ink

- Stoneware jar of olive oil (for my sure to be burnt bald head)

- Lye soap

- Letter of introduction

- Walking stick

There is only about a week left before I hit the road.  I really need to push to get the last couple things done.