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So, you wanna be a squire?

(Things to ponder about squiring to Sir Myles Blackheath. This essay is humor-enhanced in places. The first of your challenges is figuring out when I’m kidding and when I’m touching on important truths. And when I’m doing both.)

First and foremost, squiring is about becoming a knight. If you want to hang around us folks and you like the martial arts but you’re not sure if knighthood is for you, that’s ok. We’re happy to have you around. The more the merrier! There are several archers, men-at-arms, equestrians, etc., etc., hereabouts that wear the blue & white but that will most likely never put on a red belt. And that’s fine for all concerned. But squires are specifically aimed at knighthood. It’s a job description, not a rank.

This brings us to a matter of nomenclature: I draw a very sharp distinction between becoming a “knight” and becoming “a member of the Most Noble Order of the Chivalry of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, Inc.” Both are highly worthwhile things and in a perfect world they would be synonymous within the SCA. But it is not so, so we need to acknowledge the differences.

For me, knighthood involves elements from many things: the path of the warrior, historic and romanticized chivalric imagery, modern military officer disciplines, traditional masculinity concepts, and even some downright- tree- huggin’- new- age- hippie- stuff about centeredness and self-actualization. Your mileage may vary but the important thing to note here is that the process of becoming a knight is internally directed. No one can make you a knight. No one can keep you from becoming a knight. It’s entirely your show. I can (and will) give you some pointers and assist where I can-- but you have to do it yourself.

On the other hand, becoming a member of the Most Noble Order of the Chivalry of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, Inc. is almost entirely out of your hands. At best, you can influence events somewhat. I can influence them somewhat more, the Order of Chivalry can collectively influence it a fair amount, but ultimately, the Crown holds all the decision making power.

What this boils down to is this: you focus on the former and let me worry about the latter.

The next question you have to answer for yourself is: “Do I want to be a squire?” or “Do I want to be Sir Myles’ squire?” This is largely a matter of shared vision of what it means to be a knight and the best way of getting there. It is not necessary that your interpretation and mine match exactly— it won’t. But it makes sense that they should overlap to a significant degree. If not, we’re setting ourselves up for potentially painful disappointment.

This is why I have the mandatory waiting period. Once you’ve expressed an interest, you’re immediately taken into the house and invited (and expected) to spend some time with us. We tend to do a lot together, both in and out of the Society. So, it’s nice if newcomers get along with the family. I have trouble envisioning a scenario where an applicant could have a good knight/squire fit with me and yet not get along with the rest of the gang, but I s’pose it’s possible. The important part of that time is finding out if what I think "What Right Looks Like" is compatible with what you think. Here's my first promise to you (and we haven't even met yet): If you decide that you want to be "a squire" as opposed to "Sir Myles' squire"-- and there are lots of good reasons for this-- then we will drop the matter amicably. If you still want to squire to somebody, I will do my level best to help link you up with a knight I think can best help you on your path. No foolin'.

Let’s assume you’ve survived the breaking in period and you’re still glutton enough to want to pursue it further. There’s a number of things, some SCA-specific, that you need to have done to make it to the next step. These are affectionately referred to as "The 12 Labors".

Squire applicants must, at a minimum:

1. Have submitted a persona name and either arms or a badge.
2. Have developed at least a one-sentence persona description to include culture and century.
3. Be a paid member of the SCA.
4. Practice courtly graces. Specifically, courtesy to members of the opposite sex, respect to the Crown, and basic SCA social etiquette.
5. Actively practice at least one art or science.
6. Have a demonstrated record of service to the SCA at the local level or above.
7. Be proficient in one weapons form and familiar with at least two others.
8. Be a Marshal or have initiated the MIT process.
9. Participate in a martial activity other than Armored Combat.
10. Read the SCA Handbook (Corpora).
11. Read the Laws of the Kingdom and/or Principality in which you live.
12. Be willing to take on a Man at Arms.

If these sound an awful lot like the requirements for knighthood in the SCA, it’s no accident. Since I feel strongly that the entire point of being a squire is the active progress toward becoming a knight, I try to make everything involved with it a reflection of knighthood. The taking of a Man at Arms is an excellent example. It is a primary function of all Peers of the Realm to take and train students in their area of expertise. Also, it is widely expected that knights be leaders. So, I require my squires to act as mentors to other new fighters to get used to the role that they will assume as knights.

I take the metaphor so far as to refer to my squires as “my knights”. Consider: they are all grown men* of age, with the wherewithal to afford their own arms and armor, to found their own house, and to arm and equip their own lance. They are of noble blood and bear a noble title granted directly from the Crown. Their profession is arms. By any reasonable definition, they are knights. Now, of course in the SCA context where "knighthood" means something very specific this is handled very, very, quietly and with all due respect to the prerogatives of the Order to which they aspire. Still, as part of the squiring ceremony, I tell them each that this, their first day as a squire, is the last day they have the luxury of acting like one. We become what we pretend to be; act like a knight long enough and consistently enough and you'll eventually become one.

If all goes well and the aspirant still wants to sign on, we will negotiate the contract. That’s what the oath of fealty is-- a contract. I promise something, they promise something. While all the ceremonies to date have a great deal in common, they are also each unique because each candidate swears their own oath. I advise squires-to-be to consider this carefully. There is a power to words and I take oaths seriously. Since there is no guarantee that you will ever reach your goal, the knight-squire relationship is theoretically a lifelong commitment.

This should give you plenty to ponder for awhile. There are other things down the road, like the Annual Squires Dinner, the Chivalric Quests, Winning of the Spurs, etc. These can be discussed in time. While there are few hard and fast rules, one is carved in stone:

“Whatever makes the Viscountess happy.”

*All men-- so far. No bias against women here, it's just worked out that it's been all guys to date.

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