These are some of my thoughts on the Order of the Maunche, and by extension, many of the Orders of the SCA and the East. It started as a letter (back in April 2012) to a new member of the Order of the Maunche, an arts award.
Greetings and welcome to the Order. As time passes you’ll discover that when I contribute to conversations about the SCA it’s usually to fill in bits from the distant past of the East Kingdom that I don’t want forgotten. I understand that the SCA, the Kingdom and this Order are all organisms that constantly grow and change in response to all that happens to and within them, but I still share with many older people the feeling that there is value in looking back to see how something started, perhaps to check and see if the original purpose are still worthy of being fulfilled, and if so, if those needs are being met.
One example of “evolution” in the East is that, as hard to believe as it is, at one point the functional criteria for the Order of the Laurel was that the individual had introduced a new art form to the kingdom. One Poetry Laurel (Jehan), one Calligraphy Laurel (Peridot), one Dance Laurel (Patri), one jewelry Laurel (Moira), one Costuming Laurel (Kathryne), etc.. If you wanted a Laurel, you had to open up a new area. It’s hard to believe, but for a while that’s the way it was. The sheer weight of talent and skill soon toppled that foolishness. But for a long time Laurels were rarely given for anything but surpassing the rest of the kingdom in skill in a given art.
The Order of the Maunche was created at the same time as the Tygers Combatant to reward those “renaissance men” who did a bit of everything (as the TC was given for using multiple or sometimes “dippy weapons forms”). I continue to bring up the inspiration for the Order as I feel recognition of generalists as a good thing. Some people enjoy exploring every aspect of an art- even across multiple cultures and periods, others enjoy exploring every aspect of a culture, others are drawn to an array of arts without any apparent unifying theme, and they are all good. Occasionally one hears of a Maunche being given for someone who is just so good at an art that it would be unthinkable to not recognize that skill, but “we can’t give it to her yet, she’s only been in for three years, what will we give her later?” (back when the Kingdom was only a decade old, we didn’t worry about that), or “his skills are Laurel level, but he learned it outside the SCA”. I deplore this practice as both turning the Maunche into a “baby Laurel” without recognizing that the Laurel doesn’t need a stepping stone, just because Companions of the Laurel are higher on the Order of Precedence, and both are given for achievement in the arts. Most of all, I’d hate to lose the original concept of the contribution of those who do not specialize but do many art forms. As when the Order was created, it’s a different goal, and one worthy of recognition in it’s own right.
The second thought I want to share has to do with our verbal short-hand of talking about the members of the orders as rewards not recognition, and of the members as the “thing” rather than companions of the Order. The SCA, as part of its attempt to recreate the past, and following the pattern of Knighthood, decided to call groups of people recognized for skill “Orders”. In the real world, and order is a group of people who comes together to achieve a goal they hold in common. The members of SCA orders embraced this and their common goals tend to be to support and encourage whatever art or skill for which they each were recognized. This alone puts a level of “teaching requirement” on a companion of the Maunche, as well as the duty to be an example of the Order that reflects well on the Order as a whole. In as far as possible, it’s good to refer to “Companions” rather than “Maunches” (or Laurels, or Tygers), and remember that the Maunche is the group or the award, not the individual.
My perspective on polling is that this kingdom is huge. The Crown cannot possibly know everyone (thank goodness for the internet), and neither can you. Don’t worry about it. All you have to do is share with the Crown what you know about those you know. If you are in a part of the kingdom where it’s hard for the Crown to find out about, you have a bigger opportunity to be helpful by sharing what few others know. However, the King and Queen are the ones who collect the information from all the Companions of all the Orders all over the kingdom and decide who they will induct. We aren’t voting. We are advising. So give the most useful detailed information you can to their Majesties, and your part of that job is done. Yes, each set of Royalty has its own perspective on what an award is given for, and who they think needs to get one, but since the individuals on the throne change frequently, the varied perspectives allow for better coverage of all the criteria involved.
Finally, once you have that badge and title, people are going to look to you as someone who knows more than most. I hate to say it, but while you haven’t lost your right to be frivolous, you should remember that even when they don’t ask you questions, they’ll be looking at what you do and assuming that you must do it right, or you wouldn’t have been made a Maunche. You only need to discover once that someone has copied something you’ve done and replicated your shortcut or kludge rather than your hard won research to feel really insecure about doing anything wrong again. It can seem immobilizing. Try not to let that happen. We come to the SCA because it’s a place where we can relax, be with other people who enjoy what we enjoy and who get our jokes. Don’t lose that, or the recognition the Crown wanted to share can become a punishment. Keep doing what you have been doing, enjoying all the SCA has to offer, and remember the joy of doing something beautiful, authentic and fun. More important is to be careful about using the common modern disparaging style of jocularity. In the modern world, people make fun of their friends. That keeps us humble, but at the same time, if you extend that disparaging style to the work of others, it’s too easy to extend a criticism to someone who isn’t close enough to you to “get the joke” part of it. Although being a Maunche doesn’t have written requirements for virtues, you will be admired, and thus, you have more ability to inadvertently hurt. Be careful always to phrase things in gentle ways. Trust me on this one, it’s way to easy to hurt people with remarks you never thought hurtful or would even ever reach their ears. That said, I’ll repeat- keep having fun. When you stop having fun here, it’s time to leave the SCA.