The Crestfallen Tourney (a small history)

by Maîtresse Elwynne Rowenna de Wentworth

Crestfallen is a rattan tourney in which fighters wear crests on their helmets and dress up in all their fighting finery. It can be a very showy (and sometimes funny) tournament. At the beginning, the fighters should process before the crowd, so that all may admire the crests and judge which is the finest.

Here are the rules, as generally run in Bergental. The fighters will proceed to try to knock the crests off of each other’s helmet. The crest should be attached firmly, but not so firmly that it cannot be removed by knocking it off or askew, if it is a flexible crest. A flexible crest must have a rigid base that is a minimum of 2" high. If the crest is rigid, it should be possible with a good blow to knock it off, break it, or knock it askew. When a crest is less than 6" high, the fighter is eliminated from the tournament. The 6" is measured from the top of the helmet. The weapon form used is sword and shield or single sword (can be a great sword), and blows to the body do not count. In fact, feints to the body are not allowed either, and a person may be removed from the tournament on that account. This can lead to some odd tactics that may have little to do with regular SCA fighting, but also can lead to learning to target very carefully. It’s interesting from a novelty point of view, and of course can be very entertaining to those watching.

In the past, awards have been given out for:

  • the winner of the tournament,
  • the best crest,
  • the best heraldic display (overall appearance) and,
  • the best crest death.

The last is probably the most memorable part of the tournament. Those who were at Crestfallen in A.S. 31 may remember my seacat crest. I had made it of papier mache and filled it with bird seed (and some batting, to keep it from becoming too heavy). As it was gradually destroyed, the seacat sprayed seeds all over the place, "bleeding" as it were. Here are a couple more crest deaths from tourneys past:

  • A wild animal head with pampas grass coming out of its mouth. When the animal head was struck, the pampas grass fountained up and out in all directions. (Kale Harlasson)
  • A star with three swords coming in to lean upon the star, made of hard pastry. When it was finally struck, the pastry was instantly pulverized, filling the list with a fine white cloud of powder. (Sir Evan Aethelwald, crest of his device made by Lady Madeleine de la Neige)

Other crests from Crestfallen:

  • Earl Sir Sebastian Nightwind’s St. Sebastian. He got a male doll, tied it to a stake and glued toothpicks to it with fletching on them, making them look like arrows. (the real St. Sebastian was martyred by being shot with arrows).
  • Feathered plumes (Sebastian again. It rained that day……quite sad, really. But the non-fighters were quite comfortable in the sugarhouse, looking out the windows to watch the fighters, and playing games)
  • A lightning struck tower (Watchu)
  • A glove holding a knotted rope (Lyle fitz William, then Damon de la Main)
  • A glove holding some flowers (Halfdan Asgrimmson)
  • A candlestick with candle (Duke Sir Visevald)
  • A paper replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet (Earl Sir Aelfwine)
  • A large red origami crane (Master Kobayashi)
  • A replica of Sir Evan Aethelwald, including helmet, with his device painted on his shield (Thora Milena of Winchester – when his helmet got knocked off they called a hold so that he wouldn’t be unsafely armored for the tournament. Also, at the feast that night he had his own drinking mug)

Some crests from Crestfallen A.S. 32:

  • A unicorn head, filled with candy – very popular with the crowd (Sir Emeric)
  • A wolf’s head (Sir Cameron – went very well with his total heraldic appearance)
  • A dragon (Rolland – it died a slow, painful death, defiant to the end)
  • A bull piñata – (Otto. It "bled" red feathers that floated around the area, and the nose lit up and played music when it was hit. It won best death.)
  • Moose and Sqvirrel (Rossy and Baron Tommaltach. While I don’t generally make a note of stuffed animals used as crests, it was great fun to see Moose and Sqvirrel square off in the lists)

Crests from Crestfallen A.S. 33:

  • A cat standing on its hind quarters, bearing a sword and shield. (maker/wearer unknown at this time. This received best death because when it was knocked over the cat flopped forward on its face.)
  • A golden Eastern dragon (Master Kobayashi) – won best crest this year
  • A green snake wrapped around the helmet, rearing up and hissing (made by William and worn by Fiona O’Maille)
  • A black and white checked tower, made of leather squares sewn together, with red and white plumes on top (Sir Manfred Von Holstern) – it was terrifically medieval and easy to identify from a distance; I was in a tent across the field in vigil, but saw a little bit of the tournament from there.
  • A gauntleted glove holding a white rose (Lyle, whose arms have a hand on it, and whose lady’s (my) arms has white roses on it.)
  • A glove holding a pirate flag (Sichelgaita)

Artists! One thing that seems to keep some fighters from coming up with creative or attractive crests is that they may not be especially good at crafting things. But nowhere does it say that the fighter has to make his or her own crest. The fighter’s lord or lady could do it, or a friend who likes to make things. If you are not a fighter but enjoy making things, this would be a great opportunity to seek out a fighter who is thinking about going to Crestfallen and offering to make a crest for him or her. The rules for making a crest are very simple. Talk to the fighter about their interests or what their device is, and come up with a design. Remember to take into account how the crest will be attached to the helmet.

Fighters! Maybe you have an idea for a crest but no idea how to make it – find an artist! The East is full of artisans!

Crestfallen is a fine opportunity for pomp and circumstance. Actually, all tournaments are fine opportunities for pomp and circumstance. I know of people who wear crests into melees as well. It’s wise to tie the crest in some manner to the helmet in this case, with velcro or some other temporary fastening method on the base of the crest. In this way the crest does not obstruct other people’s weapons (which is illegal), but you don’t lose it on the field somewhere.

Well, perhaps we shall meet sometime on the field or in lists. In the meantime, may you all have a wonderful time in the Society!

In service,

Maîtresse Elwynne

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Last Updated: November 7, 2006 23:17