A Traveler's Guide to AEthelmearc: The Shire of Heronter

by Duchess Dorinda Courtenay and THF Dagonell the Juggler

The device of Heronter: "Or, a heron in its vigilance azure within a laurel wreath vert".

The Shire of Heronter is comprised of Chautauqua and Western Cattaraugus County in New York State and Warren County and McKean County in Pennsylvania. We are the only local group in AEthelmearc that has a state border running through the middle of it. A resident of Heronter is traditionally called a 'heron'.

Heronter was founded in the spring of 1992. The name means "the land of herons" after the beautiful long-legged birds that inhabit our lands. (Ask our chronicler for the best places to view nesting sites.) From the letter of acceptance for our name and device, "If, as suggested on their forms, they want the Gaelic for 'land of the herons', that would be 'Tir na gCorr'. You might want to pass this on to the submitters." Can you imagine people trying to pronounce that? The Shire originally asked to be called "Herontir", but that was rejected by the Heralds for reasons that the populace of the lands did not understand. For that reason, many original Shire members continued to use "Herontir" for all correspondence until the next generation of Herons conformed. To this day, you may find the misspelling of "Herontir" to be greeted with a smile. (However, "Herontier" is completely unacceptable). The heron on our device is "in its vigilance", meaning that it holds a stone in one claw, and if it should by chance doze while on watch, the dropping of the stone would wake it. The shire motto is "Si esurientes domum itis, vestra hercule culpa est!" ("If you go home hungry, it's your own d*mn fault!"), a tribute to our shire's many fine cooks.

Because of some interesting paperwork glitches, the Shire did not officially come into being until May 1, 1992, but that did not stop the founders from getting to the work of forming a group. The first newsletter was printed in January of 1992, and was immediately followed by a new seneschal policy that prohibited groups from printing newsletters before becoming officially incipient. At Twelfth Night/Investiture, the Shire wished to present a gift to the new Prince and Princess (Ariel and Angharad), and found themselves forced to refer to themselves as "the people from the southern part of the Rhydderich Hael." At the time, there was a claim that the "coin of the realm" was cookies, so we brought them a box of cookies. And then another. And then another. In all, 33 dozen cookies from the small shire . . . er, group of people.

In the early days of the Shire, we had no real sites, so we held "mini-events" at the home of Cygnus and Dorinda. We would dance in a tiny living room, and then Cygnus would cook a feast to which others contributed. Tables were set in the dining room, living room, hallway and sun porch - anywhere they would fit. On other weekends, Matthew and Anna would host A&S nights at their home. During this time, somewhere around one billion chemises and pairs of puffy pants were created.

During the spring of "waiting", it became apparent that there was no bid for the Coronet Tourney that was scheduled to take place in the summer. The "shire" (that did not exist) decided it would be a lovely first event and put in a bid. TRH's Akiley and Bear*, whether brave or desperate, gave the group a chance, and a fine tournament was held and won by Christopher of York for his inspiration, Maurya Sableswan. The group actually was acknowledged in the Pikestaff just before the event was held. It was at this event that the Shire began the tradition of serving not only lunch, but breakfast foods as well, in the hopes of luring people back to a tiny shire with no traditional events. We believe we were one of the first groups to do this.

In the mid-90's, one of our officers had a chance to work with the people at the Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Camp, and received permission to host an event there in exchange for a demo. That "officers' collegium" was one of the poorest attended events ever, but it was the start to an event that the next year was called the first "Harvest Raid". This became the group's traditional signature event, and now includes fighting, fencing, archery, thrown weapons, and A&S. The event is often selected by the royalty for their Royal Champions competitions and over the years we've hosted all but the Equestrian championships. We were also chosen as the event that TRM's Yngvar and Caryl used to elevate the first three peers from the Kingdom of AEthelmearc, including our own Cygnus the Blissful as the first Knight.

The Jamestown Scandinavian Society decided to hold a Scandinavian Folk Festival in the summer of 2001. One of our members saw the advertising less than a week before the event and asked if we could set up a Viking display. We hastily gathered together a few Viking-style artifacts which barely covered one table, set-up one A-frame tent and one thrown weapons target and our resident Vikings spoke to fair-goers about Viking culture. We were asked to return for the festival the following year. With more advance notice this time around, we were able to arrange for an actual walk-through Viking Village consisting of three A-frame tents and several pieces of Viking-style furniture. We were voted 'Most Popular Exhibit' of the festival. The festival is now one of Jamestown NY's largest annual events and over the years, we've expanded our village. We now teach classes in chainmail and horn carving, demonstrate heavy weapons combat and archery, and let fair goers try their hand at axe throwing and Kubb games (think Viking lawn bowling). We even have a village blacksmith!

Heronter is also the home of Emerald Lake Puppet Theatre, AEthelmearc's only traveling puppet show. Shire members have performed The Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard who Lost his Magic, The Ogre's Staircase (A Japanese folk-tale), Herr Schumacher and the Vertically Challenged Members of Leatherworkers Local 348, and many other plays for children throughout AEthelmearc.

A favorite event of many herons is probably our own Twelfth Night, a day of fighting, flirting, feasting and fun! A Lord or Lady of Misrule is randomly chosen by the finding of a silver token in the King Kupkakes. The gentle selects a consort and gets to pronounce ludicrous whims which the populace must carry out. Dinner is potluck and some of our cooks use the event to experiment with new recipes. We also have a pirate's gift exchange (everyone has the option of taking an unwrapped gift or stealing someone else's gift.) following by dancing. A highlight of the evening is the induction of the newest member(s) into the blatantly un-official Order of the Tart.