History Part I

This document is taken from a compendium of knowledge collected
and distributed by Mistress Isela di Bari in A.S. XXXIV (1999).


Now in it’s 12th year, the Barony of Darkwood has enjoyed a memorable and illustrious history. Before Darkwood became a barony at 12th Night in 1987, four groups more or less existed but were somewhat isolated from each other distance-wise.

Originally there were two “groups”. The first one was located in Santa Cruz, consisting of students from the University there, and called itself “The College of Saint David.” Eventually, some graduates from the university in Santa Cruz formed the Shire of Caer Darth with their first meetings at the home of Master Frank the Fortunate and Mistress Sabrina Goldbender (one of our Barony’s first peers).

The second group was located in Monterey. This group changed and evolved, starting with the “Peerless Visions”, followed at the end of 1985 by a group calling themselves Clich Maclavver Nah (meaning “No Gossip Here”), and then succeeded by a group of mostly heavy fighters. Eventually this last group became Montaigne du Roi (Mountain of the King), although it was also called Montahn der Roy or Koenigsburg. Finally, in 1985, this group petitioned the Crown and became a shire with “15 or 20 gentles, most of them men” signing the petition, as once recalled by Darkwood’s founding Baron, Sebastian von Baden. Sebastian happened to have been a former principality seneschal living in Salinas at the time when he participated in the petitioning.

In April 1986, the Hawkshaven group held its first meeting and 6 months later, in October, petitioned the Crown to become a shire. Their first group activities included dancing lead by Muriel de Pays Perdu and also fighter tournies held at Christmas Tree Park in Gilroy, current site of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Back then, the infamous Helm Luncheon was simpler in terms of presentation and types of food offered; but it was always a lot of fun to see whose helm lunch would receive top bit. Even the Groveling Contest was highly competitive and enjoyed by the populace.

It was during this time period that thoughts of alliances grew stronger, especially one between the two shires of Caer Darth and MdR. However, Baron Sebastian had a Dream. He and several others wanted to bring these separate shires together for two reasons: (1) To remove isolation between groups (located about an hour from each other), and (2) To allow people to play the SCA game locally instead of always having to travel north, the location of most courts and pageantry as well as the best-attended fighter practice. (Before the current Santa Clara site for fighter practice, fighters met in the East Bay.)

Desiring to pursue his heavy fighting career, Sebastian envisioned setting up the barony, getting it established, and then turning it over to another. “Fliers were published announcing meetings, committees were formed to come up with a name and device, and a slate of officers was established (Singefu Waerfast was to be seneschal).” Singefu (aka Cindy Renfrow) also happens to be the author of the current books Take a Thousand Eggs or More and A Sip Through Time.

Although admittedly Sebastian’s “vision” did not receive 100% approval by the local populace, the seneschals of the various shires actively pursued the dream. Some people feared that the identity of their own shires would be lost once it became a barony. Sebastian attended the shire meetings but did not actively participate until the plans were firmly established. In fact, he budgeted $200 a month just for gasoline expenses to travel to these meetings. By this time, he had moved another 50 miles south to King City for a teaching postion.

The name “Darkwood” was initially an interim name given by Sebastian around October 1986, because of the unsettled issue about what to call this new Barony. A host of Welsh names had been proposed, including Arean Aber (Silver Bay), Maed du Gall (Flushed with Mead), and Nullog Aber (Misty Bay).

Unfortunately, the name Darkwood conflicted with Mirkwood, a name for a group in Maryland. Apparently, the heralds felt the names were too similar. Henceforth, Darkwood’s name was translated into Gaelic Coille Dubh (pronounced by Darkwoodians as “Coil Doob” and by Irish folk as “Killeh Doov”). However, even Coille Dubh was bounced by the Laurel Queen of Arms who declared the Gaelic name an even more direct conflict. In the end, we were allowed to register the name Darkwood, thanks to a “letter of permission” from Mirkwood. Shortly thereafter, the Darkwood device, commonly recognized as a black oak tree on a field of white with three gold laurel wreaths on a black chief, was approved.

At 12th Night in 1987, the Crown officially recognized Darkwod as a barony, consisting of three cantons: Caer Darth, Montaigne du Roi, and Hawkshaven. (One interesting side note mentioned by former Drum Chronicler Master Eoin Toirr an Dhragoin…”the baronial banner was painted just before court” and wasn’t even dry when Darkwood became a barony.)

Originally, this Barony was conceived with the idea of operating as Palatine Barony, as is often the case when located in remote areas, such as the Far West. In a Palatine Barony, two barons are selected every year; in this case with the “Summer Baron” selected by right of arms, and the “Winter Baron” chosen by an Arts and Sciences Tourney. However, this “vision” of Sebaastian’s was denied when the Steward of the Society and the West Kingdom heads of state decided after consultation “not to approve Darkwood’s Palatine status with the Board of Directors”.

In spite of this setback, Darkwood held two tournaments during its first year with Duke Frederick of Holland winning the first White Shield Tourney and Lord Marco Nibbione winning the first Arts and Sciences Tourney. Sebasitan autocratted the first White Shield, held in King City, opting for a “medieval style” fighting format with two opposing teams. After the fighting tournament, an “Illusion Feast” (each entree looked like another type of food), was autocratted by Singefu. The King City location enabled the Barony of Tarnmist (San Luis Obispo) to easily participate, which opened the path for a long and lasting friendship between the two baronies. This friendship eventually led to several “friendly” wars to be held at a park in king city between Darkwood and Tarnmist. An event called the “Allthing” (like a roundtable discussion) was the final event for Darkwood’s first year as a Barony. It was at this event that Sebastian asked the question: “Should we keep doing these events as a Barony?” The populace responded with a decisive “yes”.

In June 1989, Sebastian brought June Crown to Darkwood, where Koenigstadt (Salinas Valley area) was granted status as a canton. Within a year, a re-activated St. David’s College was also recognized and Sebastian was admitted into the Order of the Pelican. By this time, Wilhelm von Zweikopfiegen Falke had been serving as baronial seneschal to Sebastian. Sebastian consulted the populace, and with thier blessing, handed the leadership of the Barony over to Wilhelm and his lady Elizabeth of the Blue Rose at 12th Night 1990. When Wilhelm and Elizabeth stepped up, Sebastian was granted the title of Court Baron, even though Darkwoodians refer to him as “Baron Darkwood”. A couple of years later, Baron Sebastian’s tremendous efforts on the fighting field were rewarded when he was admitted into the Order of Chivalry.

Since then, the Barony has grown three-fold in terms of populace. the Baron’s Husscarls, created under Baron Sebastian, has emerged to become a respected and feared fighting force under the leadership of Baron Wilhelm. The Barony’s reputation for fabulous feasts became readily apparent when tickets sold out quickly for White Shield and our local cooks were being recognized for their talent on the principality and kingdom level. Under Sebastian, the Baronial Company of Archers was initiated and under Wilhelm, target and compbat archery grew so that the name “Darkwood” became synonymous with the word “archery” in this kingdom. Two Baronial Archery events are now held annually. The one-day collegiums evolved into the Baronial Arts & Sciences annual outdoor tourney where the “Last Annual Baronial Potluck” has become tradition.

Not afraid to establish new traditions, Darkwood created the Baroness’ Masqued Ball to honor their Baroness and to celebrate the winter yuletide season with dance and feasting. Out of these celebrations emerged the Blue Rose Morris Dancers under the leadership of Sir Robert of Dunharrow. Admirers of tradition, Baron Wilhelm and Baroness Elizabeth created the Baronial Cloak, decorated on the front with the arms of those Darkwoodians who excelled in the fields of archery, fighting, and the arts and sciences. The Darkwood Tree from Sebastian’s cloak and the arms of each of the four cantons and college decorate the back of the cloak. Three times a year, the cloak is passed onto a new and much-deserved recipient. Four years ago (1995), at the request of Baron Sebastian, a white cloak was also created to be passed on from one Darkwood fighter to another who successfuly outfought all other Darkwood fighters on the White Shield Tournament field.

Full of energy, the Barony decided in 1997 to construct a castle to be used for wars and special events. A year later, that castle was used for the vigil of Baron Wilhelm, before he was knighted at Beltane 1998.

Since Darkwood became a Barony, Viscounts Leon von Schrecken, Braun aus Krefeld and Richard of Aldtertree have been knighted and crowned Prince of the Mists. Garick and Talith returned to Darkwood after a stay in Drachenwald and were invested as King and Queen for the Kingdom of the West at 12th Night 1999. Baronial offices have changed hands several times over, and new ones have been created: Wars & Parties, Page School, and Regalia. New Guilds have been established (Water Bearers, Needleworkers, and Cooks) and our Baronial newsletter The Drum successfully continues to record our Barony’s past, present and future.

Unfortunately, our Barony lost a great leader and role model in April 1997 when Baron Sebastian passed away. Fortunately, his legend and “vision” live on in the Barony of Darkwood and continue to inspire those who knew him and those who are new to the SCA.

**** Isela di Bari ****

P.S. Special gratitude to Master Baron
Johann von Drachenfels (aka our former
Chronicler Eoin Toirr an Draghoin) who
recorded the early history of the Barony
as related by Baron Sebastian at Darkwood’s
Arts & Sciences Tourney, A.S. XXVII (1992).