The primary duty of the office of the Chatelaine is to be the first point of contact to those new to the SCA, or new to the local area. The Chatelaine is expected to read and uphold the governing documents of the Society, the Kingdom, and the local group(s).
As an initial point of contact for those new to the SCA, the Chatelaine is the individual that will get newcomers “fitted” for their first event, and would be responsible for maintaining a Gold Key of garments, as well as dishes, or at the very least cups, for new contacts to use at their first event(s). Maintaining a Gold Key does not mean the Chatelaine is responsible for making all the clothes and donating all the dishes, although they should make sure the items are in good repair and ask for donations or assistance when needed. The Chatelaine is also responsible for making sure that this Gold Key makes it to local events.
The Chatelaine is also expected to know things… lots of things. That does not mean your Chatelaine will know everything, but a good Chatelaine will know where to find information. For instance, if someone wants to learn to cook 14th century food, the Chatelaine should either be able to point that person at someone relatively nearby who can either teach them or who will know someone who can teach them (like a cooking guild).
In this vein, the Chatelaine must keep an open relationship with their local officers. The other local officers will be invaluable help in providing directions and information. When Sally comes to her first event and starts hearing all these crazy names, she is going to want an introduction right away to the Herald that will help guide her into her new life. Same goes for Samantha that is going to need to meet quickly the Knight Marshal who can give her all of the information she needs about the next fight practice.
One of the most important things a person can do as Chatelaine in the East (and this is relevant to any group, really) is to know the Kingdom: the borders, the area oddities, the law of the land, that sort of thing. Certainly the Chatelaine isn’t required to know every single group and name them off by heart, but it is important to have a good idea of the states/territories the Kingdom includes. The East Kingdom begins with the State of Delaware in the South, then expands upward in a sort of a funnel shape into the eastern half of Pennsylvania and New York, includes all of New Jersey and other states north and east of that, and up in to Canada, where we get the honor of claiming those areas to the north of our most North and Eastern states.
The Chatelaine, being the first person that many people in the SCA meet, also has a duty to recruit new members, as well as try to retain both old and new members. It can be exceedingly discouraging for people to hang around feeling like they don’t fit in or they haven’t quite found their niche. It is imperative that the Chatelaine be at the very least a welcoming and warm person who always to try to keep people engaged. New recruits don’t always jump in quickly, so it’s important for a Chatelaine to always keep a lure out. Retaining people can involve making people feel like they, their help, and their opinions are wanted and needed – because they are. Chatelaine can be a very tiring, but very rewarding, job.
-Mari Clock van Hoorne
editing assistance provided by Mistress Catrin o’r Rhyd For
** This is the first in a series of articles about the different jobs commonly seen but not always commonly understood in the SCA.