Becoming a Pelican

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(Added to the An Tir Wiki with the permission of the author, Mistress Rowenna de Roncesvalles. Nov XLIII/2008)

Unto Your Majesties of An Tir, Your Highnesses of Tir Righ, and the Order of the Pelican in Tir Righ,

During the Pelican Council at November Investiture, I promised to send you the notes I made at the Crown Council held in AS 26 (1991) in Vulkenfelt in late June or early July (all I remember is the 90°+ heat) during the Reign of King Davin and Queen Octavia. Here they are.

It was my first Pelican meeting and it seems some sort of disagreement had finally come to a head and the Order spent some very productive hours figuring out just exactly what was required of a Pelican. I took copious notes. Unfortunately I didn’t write down who was speaking. None of the thoughts expressed are mine, but I agree with all of them. I’ve grouped comments together when I could. I hope these words will help further understanding of what the Order feels is necessary for a successful candidate. As well I include a few other insightful comments made at the time.

On the dreaded PLQs:

Maturity: A Pelican gives good solid thoughtful advice to the Royalty, to their equals, and to the populace at large; sets politics and popularity aside when serious decision-making is needed; and is able to see people as people and not icons of perfection. They think before they speak and never write a letter while angry.

Commitment: A Pelican eagerly serves the Kingdom, not just the King; serves An Tir, not just themselves. They are not walking around with a checklist loudly proclaiming that they’ve been in the SCA for 10 years and done X, Y, and Z, so where’s their Pelican? A Pelican is someone whose work has been done out of a sense of responsibility for, and devotion to, the Kingdom. They would have acted the same had there been no peerages and awards in the SCA.

Respect for Others: A Pelican listens attentively and gives thoughtful comment in a mature way. This doesn’t mean they agree with everyone and always say the politically correct thing, but will display what is commonly called “people skills”. They treat everyone, high and low, with courtesy. The last thing we want is an arrogant Peer.

Dedication: A Pelican will continue as they have begun, that is, to serve even after they have a peerage. This is actually the hardest attribute to live up to. When young, we have energy, health, time, and resources to devote to the SCA; but as we grow older there are lower levels of all of these things. Often service goes even more behind the scenes and seems to disappear.

Integrity: A Pelican is honest, trustworthy, and sincere. When you talk to them you get a heartfelt response and not just what they might think you want to hear. They give credit and praise to others rather than taking it all for themselves. They do not carry on vendettas. They are not out for personal aggrandizement. If they say they will do something, you can count on them to come through.

Well-roundedness: A Pelican must have a certain amount of basic medieval skills as outlined in Corpora. They can dance, play chess, know basic heraldry, etc. These are the minimum requirements of a peer but usually this doesn’t come up in discussion because someone without these skills isn’t on our candidate list.

On the Specific Attributes of a Pelican:

  1. Innovation: The candidate has created and implemented some completely new idea or process that is beneficial to everyone. A straightforward example of this is waterbearers. Melissa Kendal saw a need to provide fighters, marshals, heralds, and spectators with water. She started bringing water to local events and getting ladies and children to offer it to the populace. The idea spread throughout the entire Kingdom.
  2. Administration: The candidate has held offices on the local, Principality, and sometimes Kingdom levels. They have written reports on time and handled all the paperwork Lots of people take on offices but we are looking for someone who does an office with exceptional skill; who does more than just the minimum.
  3. Responsibility: The candidate has taken it upon themselves to speak out about problems in a non-confrontational manner and to fix them without waiting for permission or for someone else to do it and they keep on doing it often for years. They will often be called troublemakers but are thinking about the good of the whole not their own popularity or SCA "careers". They are not afraid to bring up the hard questions and make people fix them instead of letting everything slide and then finding scapegoats to blame for the mess. They have also taken it upon themselves to learn how the SCA works and have at least read Corpora and Kingdom laws.
  4. Impact: The candidate will have (often because of #3 - Responsibility) made a significant contribution to the Kingdom or Principality as a whole. The important word here is "significant". If they left tomorrow would they leave a noticeable hole?
  5. Organization: By this we usually mean autocrating. There are people who autocrat many many events but just putting on an event is not enough. What we are looking for is someone who is an outstanding autocrat whose events seem effortlessly co-ordinated and memorable in some way. This trait can be found in officers as well but what we’re looking for is not someone who invents paperwork for the sake of looking like they are accomplishing something. The candidate must have come into an office in a state of total chaos and made it function with efficiency and simplicity.
  6. Leadership: The candidate provides an extraordinary role modal. The perfect Peer can never be fully realized but is an ideal towards which we should continually be striving. Do they motivate, teach, inspire, and set an exemplary example?

All of these attributes make up what we call "Service" and a candidate for the Order of the Pelican must do what they do, not just well, but supremely well, and they must do a great deal of it usually for a long time. "Is it enough?" (or as Master Edward the Stuffy would put it: "Is their pile deep enough?" – RR) is a question that must be answered for every candidate individually. The work done on retinues is a valuable learning experience but is not considered service to the SCA as a whole. It is personal service to the Royalty and they have many ways of rewarding that service. Work done during a reign does not count towards a Pelican since that is what constitutes a Royal Peerage. Work done before and after a reign does definitely count. Therefore, when we look at someone’s "pile", it is a very specific "pile". We are not looking for, or demanding, perfection. No one scores 100% on everything. Each candidate is discussed on their own merits and, except for the basic minimum required skills, service and PLQ's are re-examined every time. This takes a lot of thoughtful discussion and cannot be done in a hurry or on a schedule (or just by reading a resumé (which no one had back in AS 26 – RR). What we are looking for is someone whose service can sincerely be described in words like those already mentioned (i.e. beneficial, exceptional, non-confrontational, significant, outstanding, and extraordinary – RR). If we aren’t hearing words like these during a candidate’s discussion, they’re likely not ready – yet. It is far better for the person, the Order, and the SCA if a Pelican is given a little late rather than too soon.

There can often be a profound difference between how the Royalty sees the giving of a Pelican as a reward for service and how the Order sees the giving of a Pelican as a recognition of achievement.

Becoming a Peer is a lifetime sentence and should not be offered, given, or received lightly.

Mistress Rowenna de Ronçesvalles de Navarre, OL., OP

I posted this in my Livejournal and Facebook and was asked to add my comments to the bottom of this page - so well here ya go


A link to this essay was sent to me with the instruction to forward to my "service geek friends" The article is a good one but doesn't say anything I didn't already know and I can't think of anyone I associate with that really that doesn't get it already. Service to the SCA is done as part of being in the SCA, not to further your rank or achieve a goal. It is offered and done because you can do something, you see a task that needs doing and see that you can not just do it but do it well and make the game more fun for all. You understand that as a hobby group people need to fill all the roles, not just have fun - someone has to be the choppers of wood and haulers of water. As soon as "service" is a chore it is time to step back, take a break from that flavor and find something else to help make the game/hobby/club continue