Certain events live long in my memory. For instance:
- The Festival of St. George's Dragon, a quintessential Nordleigh event, with stories and challenges and a Dragon with real flames, and many other good things.
- Jubilee in Florence, with its craftspersons' hall and its wondrous feast, and the woman who made the dragonfly dress.
- The Arabic Moot, with its performance of the Tale of the Fisherman, the wondrous strange (to me) food, and many people dressed for the first time in Arabic garb.
- Perigord, with a play about the Gods, the silence of the people filing in to high feast (where my recorder consort got to play the first set, then climb down the back stairs with but a single candle to guide us), then enjoying the foods being brought down from that high feast.
Part of why these live on in my mind is that the attendees and staff were happily putting their research to use. There was a theme that encouraged study, there was an excuse to make things and do things to serve that theme, and there were expectations set and met so that people could enjoy the spectacle without having to worry about stepping on toes.
The Crossroads at Canterbury has joined that list. Let me tell you about the event from my perspective.
On Friday night, I joined the crowd at the Inn, playing games, telling tales, making jests and laughing heartily, then eating a stew that warmed me to my toes, and other good foods to fill me to satisfaction. I dodged the low rafters to move from table to table, meeting various people arriving from near and far. I'm told the Inn was full until well past mid-night, though I retired early to prepare for the next day.
Saturday morning was full of simple pleasures, such as good company, warm bacon, and dry socks. The Inn provided food left from the evening's meal, which kept me well fed to start the day.
The sun came out just as the tournament began, and well over forty-eight combatants came forth to compete for the title of champion. The list fields were small and many, allowing people to witness many bouts. I am told that those who watched the tournament were highly entertained by the antics of those who chose to compete for one of the "populace choice" awards - most valorous, best appearance, and best performance. I am also told by more than one person that the presentation of the favors from the children to the fighters was bested only by the presentation of the favors back from the fighters to the children, for the first was a bit scary, but the second was a wonder to behold.
Throughout the day, the Crossroads were full of people talking, and eating, and participating in various wondrous activities. There was something for most everyone throughout the site.
I saw dancing bears chasing after whomever was holding their fish, and stepping in time to the music and whomever would stop to dance.
I heard wandering storytellers, reading from the Tales, with people listening as they passed by.
I saw reliquaries of gold and pearl and other precious materials, some tiny, some towering over the table; all well-crafted, well-woven, well-strung.
I saw children running after a greased pig or chasing after the munificence of generous people, and enjoyed hearing their rallying cry: "watch out for the littlest ones!"
Geoffrey Chaucer himself came to see the wonders here at the end of his pilgrimage, and sat amongst the bustle of the square, trading riddles with people, and soaking in the sights of the different pilgrims who wandered by.
Musicians gathered at the Inn throughout each day I was there, and found good company and willing players. Hearing the musicians enjoying such an opportunity was a frequent delight.
And then, the day was nearing its end, and people climbed the hill, along a festooned and colorful path, to join the feast.
The feast was set in a high-arched hall, with clean white linens on the long tables. Their Majesties presided, while many of those of high rank served the tables. Torches were lit around the hall, and candles on the tables, before we even entered the hall.
Musicians played and sang about the twin themes of the feast: Chaucer's tales, or Saint Thomas Becket, to the accompaniment of various activities, and for the simple entertainment of the feasters.
- a mumming of the hunt of the stag, with wondrous energetic dogs
- a soteltie mumming of the Pardoner's Tale and the sad deaths of treachery over the root of all evil, followed by the tasting of some very sour (pickled) gold.
- a mumming of the legend of St. Thomas and the birds, in which trained birds were released to circle around the feasters, sing a merry tune to the annoyance of the Saint, soar up into the rafters, then exit the back of the hall.
- a soteltie play of the Miller's Tale, including players pulled from the audience at random and set to play their parts; including barrels hung from eaves, lascivious deeds done in secret, and a well-timed interruption at just at the right ... point ...
We also were visited by the incorruptible body of the Saint himself, which rose up and blessed the crowd at the end of the feast!
And throughout, my plate was never empty, nor was my palate ever disappointed, for every bite was a new flavor, a new texture, a new enjoyment. Rarely have I seen so many meats carved for our pleasure.
Saturday evening, I returned to the Inn and heard many good poems, including the start of the Carolingia Tales, and a tale of the Eastern Army's success at Pennsic, and other good subjects. I wandered the site, braving the darkness to reach another circle where I heard more good stories and songs, then fell into bed, fully sated in body, mind, and spirit.
Sunday morning, again the Inn provided good company and good food to help clear minds clouded by sleep (among other things). A bustle of activity and many helping hands heralded the departure of people continuing on their pilgrimage.
Throughout the event, I saw people enjoying themselves, helping each other, and making use of their studies and research to make their own portion of the event a resounding success. May we find such inspiration, and make use of it, many more times in our lives.