A Burning Tradition

1017629_213471375478723_2011213679_nThe procession was somber as the rag-tag group carried the ship through the tent-lined paths to a clearing. There, a woman dressed in a dark linen tunic started a fire with flint and steel.  She used her hand to protect the tenuous flame from the wind until it caught the tender, then her bobbing torchlight led the way through the dusky stillness to the water’s edge.

Though a crowd had gathered, few spoke, as the designated individuals lit their torches from the main flame and set their part of the boat on fire. From time to time, pained sounds escaped, as if someone were trying not to cry and failing. Fragile tendrils of smoke curled into the still air, then a man stepped forward to propel the vessel out into open water. It rode the lake’s small currents, heading for the center.viking-boat-on-fire

This ritual has been going on since Pennsic War 30. (I just came back from 45) So for the last fifteen years, Baron Garwig of the Kingdom of Ealdormere, has been creating a Viking ship to burn in the memory of loved ones lost.viking-ship

I can’t really explain to you how moving it is to have this tangible way to express your grief.  Those who have lost a friend, family member, or beloved pet, come and place mementos such as a favorite collar or piece of jewelry on the craft. The year I lost my grandmother, I put a shield on the lovingly constructed ship, and I was honored to be one of those chosen to carry it to the water’s edge.

viking-ship-lake-picThese special moments are important in our lives. I wanted to share this Pennsic tradition because I think it embodies much that is noble in the human spirit: compassion, a willingness to help, and a desire to remember.

If you want to learn more, Pennsic has its own newspaper, and one of the articles dealt with this subject. http://pennsicindependent.com/node/322  The Pennsic Independent is a great way to discover more about what goes on at ‘war.’

Do any of you have traditions that bring family and friends together? I’d love to hear about them. Until next time… www.Dawn-Ireland.com

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Pennsic War Artisans

Pennsic

Every year my husband and I attend Pennsic War. Now, this is not a real battle, but it is a contest between the East and Middle Kingdoms. Let’s just say it’s a huge event, with over ten thousand campers, that is sponsored by the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism.)

One of the things I love about this event are the classes. There are some very talented and knowledgeable people in the SCA and when they come to Pennsic they offer to teach, most of the time for free. I’ve taken classes in: playing the harp, herbs, falconry, metal working, wood carving, basket making, sprang (a one thread weaving method) and more. The aim is to keep alive the skills that were used in history until 1600.971910_213470635478797_99285153_n - Copy

Every day of the event, Artisan Row hosts a discipline, anything from glass blowing to spinning. You can go and chat with the artists and decide if that particular skill is something you’d like to explore. Or you can take a hands-on class. They even have Guilds for people to join that encourage members in their pursuit of interests such a brewing and lace making.

Every year they have a display of the various arts that members have created. They are judged for authenticity, but most of us walk around to admire the beauty of a book that has been illuminated, or a horn that has been carved with detailed figures.

Oh, and the classes can also highlight something you don’t want to do. Case in point, I always thought I’d love to have falcons. But after taking the class, I discovered you have to be with them twenty-four/seven, and feed them cut up pieces of small animals. Of course, the clincher came when my instructor described helping two other men tag a Golden Eagle. The bird broke free and put its talons through my instructor’s forearm. The other two men tried to loosen the bird’s grasp without hurting the animal, but it was impossible. How did my instructor get free? He had to play dead and the bird let go. No, much as I admire the beauty of the birds, falconry is not for me.

If you’re interested in Pennsic War, you can visit: http://www.pennsicwar.org/penn45/

Do any of you attend anything similar, or have classes like this in your area?

If you want to find out more about me and my new time-travel story, Highland Yearning, you can visit www.Dawn-Ireland.com

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