Pageantry is a big part of the SCA – colorful heraldric banners waving in the breeze, fighters processing onto the field to do battle with their opponents, shining armor, and bright maille. The first time someone attends a major war or combat-centered event, especially a Crown List, the spectacle is quite something to behold.
In Meridies we have a great tradition that one will see at both spring and fall Crown Lists, as well as at Meridian Grand Tournament (MGT). It’s a list shield tree. The list shield is not used in every kingdom, but it definitely has a special place in the hearts of Meridies. For those who don’t know what a list shield is, it is a small light-weight shield, displaying the arms of the combatant, that is hung on a specially-constructed wooden display “tree.” The tree serves as a visual aid to the populace, so they can readily tell who is matched against who in upcoming rounds, who is armoring up, etc., depending on the placement of the shields on the tree.
The vast majority of fighters bring their list shield to these tournaments. Once in a while, regardless of how many times they are reminded, someone forgets their list shield at home. Hey, we understand, real life happens. But this is where the fun begins. Typically, as a good-natured mark of shame, the list mistress/master would provide the unfortunate combatant with a replacement, a plain white paper plate. The combatant could then use markers or crayons and draw a rough approximation of their arms on the plate, which would then be displayed throughout the tournament on the list tree. We lovingly call these the Paper Plates of Shame.
Being the trouble-maker and rabble-rouser that I am, I had a better idea. At Meridies’ Spring Crown List 2019, I just happened to be the autocrat/steward of the event. And I decided we needed something a little more creative. After giving it some thought I came up with the Bedazzled Shields of Shame: a glittered and bedazzled Hello Kitty and Sparkle Unicorn. In the lead up to the event I posted a photo of the Bedazzled Shields of Shame on the Kingdom page. Now, let me explain. I never expected them to be used. I fully expected that no self-respecting fighter, male or female, would want to use said Bedazzled Shields of Shame. After all, they were childish. It was expected that any fighter would see my post and immediately pack their list shields in their armor bag.
Wrong. Boy was I wrong. By happenstance two fighters did indeed forget to pack their own list shields. And, rather than use the old paper plates they chose instead to use Hello Kitty and Sparkle Unicorn. One combatant was a Duke, the other an Earl. Needless to say this made my heart very happy. It was a point of much ribbing throughout the tournament. But what really surprised me is the fun everyone had with these humorous list shields. I started getting requests for more, such as Rainbow Bright, Care Bears, My Little Ponies, ad infinitum. Fighters said they would purposefully leave their own list shields at home if they could use one of the new Bedazzled Shields of Shame.
At first glance the list shield tree looked like any other. In the past the white paper plates had stood out like a sore thumb. As humorous as they were meant to be, the Bedazzled Shields of Shame blended in better than the paper plates. Then people would do a double-take. I even went so far as to blazen the “arms.”
Although I gifted the Bedazzled Shields of Shame to the Kingdom, I don’t know if the Meridies list staff will ever use them again. I hope they do. Most everyone loved my goofy little shields. As much as we get caught up sometimes in period correctness and proper decorum, sometimes it’s helpful to have something a little more light-hearted and fun. After all, what represents the “anachronism” in “Society for Creative Anachronism” more than Hello Kitty and Sparkle Unicorn shields? Besides, the SCA could always use more glitter.