Vigil

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A time of reflection and consideration before becoming a member of one of the peerage orders.

On the eve of the Knighting or Elevation of a Pelican or Laurel it is customary to give the candidate a vigil. This is a time for reconciliation, speaking with the Peers and wise nobles present. It is a time for introspection to consider the responsibilities and joys of accepting the accolade.

In early period, a vigil consisted of the squire spending the night in the chapel praying and mediating upon the step he was about to take. As the Middle Ages progressed, the event became more and more ritualized. The exact form of the ceremony varied greatly depending on the religious and social structure of the area.

In general the following sequence progressed:

The day before his dubbing, the candidate had his hair cut in order to humble himself before God. After this, the candidate would be ritually bathed by his a group consisting of his knight and his knights peers. This symbolized that he was washed free of the sins of his previous life, making him ready to enter his new life with pride and dignity.
The candidate would then be dressed in a tunic of white linen, covered with a red cloak, shod with black shoes, and laid on a bed. The white linen was a symbol of his new purity. The Red Cloak was a reminder that he would be required to spill blood in order to defend his God, his King and his people. The black shoes symbolized death and lying on the bed was to remind him that through virtue he would lie comfortably in heaven.
After this, the squire attended a banquet, receiving the last meal he would receive prior to becoming a Knight. Following the banquet, the candidate began his Vigil at Arms. He placed his weapons before the altar, that they might be blessed. He then remained before the altar in prayer and contemplation throughout the night. To aid the candidate in staying awake through his vigil, well wishers would come to instruct the candidate in the ways, honor and history of the orders of peerage and knighthood.

In period practice, the vigil was part of the process of becoming a Knight. In the context of the SCA, a vigil is given not only to a squire about to be knighted, but also to apprentices or proteges who are about to be elevated to the peerage.