(Oletan, että kirjoittaja on tapahtuman järjestäjä, Judith)
So, you want to party the medieval way? We in the SCA attempt to recreate and relive various aspects of medieval life, especially the social aspects--- with more or less success at accuracy. The most important social aspect of that bygone time consists of the party, the noble (or ignoble) celebration of various events and anniversaries. But how did our noble forefathers truly revel? Was it the drunken, orgiastic dumbekafest that graces so many parties at larger events in our Society? Was it the stiff, formal styling as prescribed in several late period dance manuals? How can we know? The literature and chronicles of the time actually do provide us with fairly detailed descriptions of myriad types of parties and celebrations, ranging from the highest nobility to the peasants. In this issue, I would like to present a memory of a more formal party, specifically a Ball happened in 1503. The chronicler, one Anton von Lalaing, was a member of the retinue of the archduke of Austria, Phillip the Handsome, and he traveled with his liege lord in progress on one occasion to the city of Ulm, located in southern Germany. The following is my translation of the original record:
On Sunday, the third of September, all women and maidens of the city gathered together after lunch to dance before my lord in a very beautiful building intended only for dancing, which they call “Dansehuss” in their language. Here my lord found himself among very beautiful and very gorgeously attired women. And they have there this fine regime: they have all the women arrange themselves according to rank and so sit upon the benches, and if one accidentally sits further up than she is allowed, then one would send her back to her place, for it is a custom in Germany that all, be they man or woman, go according to their station. And in order to begin this dance, two men, in a certain way overseers who carry staffs in their hands, get the first lady and lead her to the highest ranking lord, which happened to my lord, and they hold this to be a very great honour. And then this high lord must begin the dance and then all other [men] fetch the ladies and follow suit. And when this dance reaches its end, the two overseers come again in oder to fetch the next lady in order and pass her on to the nest ranking lord, and so one after the other until all high lords have had their dance. And then everyone dances as they like. And no man is so brazen that he would dare to begin a dance if the overseers do not offer it to him, for they would consider it dishonourable were he to do so. And when the king comes, he does so with four dukes, two in front and two behind, ach carrying torches if it happens at night, and if it is day, then they go in procession without a torch. And if a duke dances, then four counts do it, as stated above, and each in order of their rank. And if there are not so many princes present, then the four highest ranking always perform this, which is considered a great honour.
This very formal style of ball combines aristocracy with a strange sort of democracy; while the leaders of each successive dance are chosen by order of precedence, each and every person will have the chance to lead. This format could be easily adapted to an SCA function, especially something as formal as a coronation, and then everyone would have the chance to dance their favorite dance (limited by the abilities of the musicians, of course).
Unfortunately, our good Herr Lalaing does not provide us with details such as the food and drink that accompanied this welcome celebration, but it does seem to imply that everyone was dancing, and the highest ranking knights, at that! A cautionary tale, perhaps, to those princes in our courts, whom we see only rarely upon the dance floor?
While these formal sorts of celebrations do seem to be common, our medieval forefathers did also indulge in the looser, bawdier version of revelry--- but I am reserving that for another edition of “Partying the medieval way”.