minstrel: Bardic Madness South

Cerian Cantwr cerian at minstrel.com
Mon Sep 13 21:39:08 PDT 2004

It's that time of year again.  Please feel free to forward this message
to any gentles or e-lists you think might be interested.  Hope to see
you there.

cerian at minstrel.com

PS: We're also looking for people to teach bardic oriented classes
     and act as patrons for the various challenges.

Bardic Madness South VI: The Feast of St John the Fool

Greetings and welcome are bid to all Bards, Troubadours, Trouveres,
Minstrels, Minnesingers, Jongleurs, Singers, Storytellers, Poets, Scops,
Skalds, Fillids, Olaves, Griots, Wordsmiths, and Friends of these arts.

Today, November 20th, is the feast of St John the Fool, patron of fools,
waterfowl, and lozengy fabric. We're fairly certain that John lived in
some century or other - we haven't yet decided which one to blame. Next
to nothing is actually known about his life. We intend to fix that.
After all, making up tall tales about people and then calling them,
quite literally, gospel is a very period practice.

The purpose of today's challenges is to encourage the participants'
creativity and artistic growth.  They are not meant to be competitions -
everyone who takes part can consider themselves a winner.

Your response to the various challenges may be in many different forms.
Song or story are the most obvious choices; however juggling, magic,
instrumental, or dance can also express an idea or tell a tale.  All of
these could be used to answer a given challenge (though perhaps not all
at the same time :-) .  Our desire here is to be inclusive rather than
exclusive.  If you have something to share that doesn't quite fit or
that stretches the definitions a little, then fire away.

It is our wish to create a "bardic safe zone" - a friendly place where
you may feel free to experiment and try new things.  If you've never
performed before, now's your chance.  You'll be hard pressed to find a
friendlier and more supportive audience.  We would be delighted to see
lots of first time performers.

Please remember, in order to make sure as many gentles get a chance to
perform as possible, we ask that you limit your performances so that
they run less than five minutes.

The event is hosted by the Shire of Baile na Scolairi (Bloomington, IL)
on November 20th, 2003.

For more event information, see the website at
http://tilted-windmill.com/bms6/  Additional information will be posted
there as it becomes available.

For questions about the days bardic activities (challenges, teaching a
class, participating in the concert, or serving as a patron), please
contact the provost:
    Cerian Cantwr
    cerian at minstrel.com

For questions about the site and logistics, please contact the autocrat:
    Catalin Zöldszem
    catcheen at verizon.net

The Challenges

Fyt the First:

Pass the Tale:
All those who wish to participate get up together, and tell a tale from
beginning to end.  The challenge’s patron will 'conduct' by pointing to
the person whose turn it is to continue the tale, and deciding when it
is time to end.

In the Gardens of the Sultan:
The traditions of Persian poetry date back to the 7th century.  Examples
of the qasida form exist as early as the 900s and are still being
written today.  Metrical requirements vary depending on time, place, and
language - the form has been adapted by a number of different cultures.
Once established, each piece contains only a single meter.  The qasida
also has no set number of lines, examples exist ranging from ten to over
one hundred lines.  The one glimmer of consistency is in the rhyme
scheme.  The first two lines rhyme with each other and all the even
numbered lines (aa ba ca da).  Here is an example:

The web's a funny and eclectic place,
With varied facts and fancies you can trace.
Some things are common, scattered far and wide -
While others hide, as if held in disgrace.
Poetic forms of Europe can be found,
For sample sonnets freely show their face.
But Persian forms are hidden - hard to find,
Through many useless pages you must chase.
While references exist, samples are few -
To find them you must run a ragged race.
So even though the web's a wondrous tool,
The library would be a better place.

Further details can be found in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and

Wholly Disorder:
It's well known that St John was a member of the order of the Monks of
Sans Nomen - the chroniclers of the wily weasalope. Though what these
mad monks were like and why John joined their mis-order (let alone
remained) is shrouded in mystery. Help us get in the habit by telling us
something of these men of whole cloth. Bonus points if you can answer
the question, just what the heck is a weasalope anyway?

Fyt the Second:

Tangle Box:
Given a list of 20 words and a list of tunes, compose a song to one of
the tunes.

Bad Plaid:
St John was almost always seen wearing some form of chequey or lozengy
fabric. It is possible he was single-handedly responsible for the
lozenge shortage of 1482. Spin a song or weave a story that somehow
involves such eye-watering fabric. The evil among you could even sew,
knit, or crochet such an atrocity to illustrate your tale.

Ringworm Tails:
Perhaps the most famous legend surrounding St John is how he made the
mighty Ringworm bit its own tale. Oddly enough, accounts of this miracle
and why he did it, vary wildly. The legend of the Oroborus, a snake that
devours it's own tail, dates back to ancient Egypt and is found in many
times and places. Circle around and give us a song or story involving
such a critter.

Fyt the Third:

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words:
Members of the populace will draw pictures for this challenge based on
the theme: things a fool might use (feel free to define this broadly).
Participants will pull both a drawing and a song out of a hat just
before the challenge starts.  Write two verses and a chorus about the
picture using the tune.

St John was quartered in a (padded) cell at the abbey of St Mugwump the
Vacillating. No one can decide exactly who St Mugwump was, what he did
(the miracle of the fence sitting is thought to be apocryphal), or why
there would be an abbey (located between two opposing scenic views)
dedicated to him in the first place. Tell us of a situation where
someone had difficulty making up their mind - or not.

Period Piece:
Perform a documentably period piece of music, story, or song (poetry,
prose, and so forth are good too). Dig out those reference books, blow
off the dust (try not to sneeze), and see what wonderful and magical
treasures you can find in them. There is a staggering amount of
fantastic material out there. Find something, be it silly or sublime,
and amaze us with it.

Fyt the Fourth:

Given a subject in the morning, compose, calligraph, and illuminate a
text on that subject.  This may be done individually or as a team.

Beware the Kumis Wok My Son:
The Mongols seem to have invaded the feast.  In honor of this occasion,
and their sharp spear points, attempt some Mongolian poetry.
Traditional Mongolian verse dates back to at least the 13th century.  It
tells heroic epics of up to 20,000 verses of varying length.  Verses are
alliterative - mainly on the first syllable, but internal alliteration
is also found.  Lines most commonly consist of 7 or 8 syllables with 3
or 4 stresses.  While some lines do rhyme, it is the exception.  Here is
an example:

Fools now flock to fowl verse forms.
Feathers fly as words do fall.
Freely now flow lines and verses,
For the madness claims us all.

Further details can be found in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and
Poetics.  Additional examples can be seen at

St John is the patron saint of fools, waterfowl, and lozengy fabric. His
greatest contribution to the field (or possibly pond) of philosophy (and
ornithology) was his ground-breaking proclamation, "I am but a duck."
One would have thought that his lack of feathers and aquatic ability (he
didn't so much swim, as plummet) would indicate otherwise. And so, why a
duck? Why not a chicken? Take us on a flight of fancy that somehow
involves ducks, geese, or even chickens. Let your imagination take wing
and give us a tale, song, or poem that is truly for the birds.

Challenge General Rules

- Challenges are not contests. You win by entering and striving to do
   the best you can.
- Challenges are designed to encourage you to try your hand at something
   new, to stretch yourself, to enjoy, and to celebrate the creative
- Read the guidelines for the challenges carefully, like most exercises,
   they are designed to help you develop in specific areas. Try to follow
   them as closely as you can, but stretching them in unexpected
   directions is good too.
- Individuals are welcome and encouraged to give recognition to those
   performers whom they especially enjoy.
- In order to allow the largest number of people to participate,
   challenge entries shall be limited to five minutes or less. Each
   person may enter a maximum of one piece in each challenge and a
   maximum of eight challenges.

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