Order of the Pelican


If you are not familiar with the Order of the Pelican, It is the highest award given in the SCA for Service to the Society. It is one of the SCA Peerages, equal in standing with the Knights, Laurels, Defense and Royal Peers.

Pelicans are the people who organize event after event, hold offices, do the paperwork, run around starting new groups, and so on. Members of the Order are called “Master” or “Mistress/Dame” and wear a medallion with the symbol of the Order – a Pelican in its Piety. In medieval times it was thought that pelicans stabbed their breasts and fed their young on their own blood in times of famine, thus the pelican became a symbol of self-sacrifice beyond the call of duty.

Here are some thoughts on what Pelicans do:

  • They don’t just do the work–they take responsibility.
  • They don’t just do the office–they improve the office’s reputation, responsiveness,
    organization and/or effectiveness.
  • They don’t just put in the effort–they inspire others to work above their level and have fun too.
  • They don’t just take on easy, fun, or high-profile tasks–they slog away at tasks that are nasty, boring, difficult, or messy until the situation is resolved.
  • They don’t just burn bright and burn out–they delegate and pass on knowledge and responsibility in a way that builds the group.
  • They pour oil on troubled waters and rain on spotfires, not the other way around.
  • Their name brings immediate positive recognition from their local group, and/or their chain of officers.

Sometimes you hear people talk about different kinds of Pelicans.
The PAPERWORK PELICANS are seen as the ones who take up office, keeping the Society and the Kingdom running through dint of often-unseen effort.
The PEOPLE PELICANS are the ones who actively mentor and nuture others, passing on skills and experiences to build stronger, more effective groups throughout the Kingdom.
The PRIVVY PELICANS are those who are first to an event, dig the privvies or undertake other grunt work, and are often the last to leave. Most Pelicans would combine elements of all of these.

A (totally fictional) thought experiment
<strong>Person One has been a member for 10 years. In that time, they have held four offices, filing their reports on time, attending officer meetings regularly. They have stewarded an annual event for 8 years which is themed around their particular interest in X. It runs to budget and has good support from the local populace. They teach classes in X once or twice a year, and have had a household of 8 people that functions as a tight unit.
Person Two has been a member for 10 years. They have held two offices. In one, they took over temporarily from a faltering Officer, cleared up the accounts, got up to date with the reporting, trained a deputy and set up procedural/support structures that would help avoid or mitigate the situation that led to the initial problem. They have stewarded two events. One of these was a major event which involved them organising and supporting a number of sub-steward teams that led to the local group having a batch of competent stewards who went off and organised other events.
Which one do you see as the Pelican? 

Other thoughts on peerage and the role of Pelicans
Knights hit things. Laurels make things, Pelicans make things happen.
The Master doesn’t talk, he acts. When his work is done, the people say, “Amazing: we did it all by ourselves!”

Many people in the SCA work hard, without necessarily being Pelicans. They may slog away, for example, washing dishes after feasts and do that year after year. A Pelican is someone who may start off washing dishes, but who then progresses to organizing dishwashers, comes up with ways to entice people into volunteering, develops a manual for how to recruit dishwashers or how to ensure proper sanitation procedures are followed, and does all this in a courteous way that doesn’t lead to people being browned off or burnt out. That is the difference between work and service, between a hard-working member of the populace and a member of the Order of the Pelican.

It is a Pelican’s job to do their best to make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Everyone including the Pelican. That’s why it is important for a Pelican to be able to assess tasks, to figure out of they really need to be done, to figure out who would enjoy doing them, and to work out ways to make them enjoyable if they are not naturally fun tasks.

Take the George Bailey test (from the film It’s a Wonderful Life): pretend, for a moment, that the person in question never ever participated in the Society.
Look at the result and see how much you like or dislike it.
How big a hole in how many hearts do you see?

From the Kingdom of Lochac

It is commonly said that Pelicans are not made, they are recognized.
They are recognized by the Order as worthy of elevation.
They are invited to the Order by the wish of the Crown.


What Do You Need to Qualify?

The two main points under consideration by the Order are Peerage Qualities and Body of Work.

Potential Pelicans will have the Peerage Qualities required by Corpora.
a. They shall have been obedient to the governing documents of the society and the laws of the kingdom.
b. They shall have consistently shown respect for the Crown of the kingdom.
c. They shall have set an example of courteous and noble behavior suitable to a peer of the realm.
d. They shall have demonstrated support for the aims and ideals of the Society by being as authentic in dress, equipment and behavior as is within their power.
e. They shall have shared their knowledge and skills with others.
f. They shall have practiced hospitality according to their means and as appropriate to the circumstances.
g. They shall have made every effort to learn and practice those skills desirable at a civilized court.

To this end they should have some knowledge of a wide range of period forms, including but not limited to literature, dancing, music, heraldry and chess, and they should have some familiarity with combat as practiced in the Society.
They should also participate in Society recreations of several aspects of the culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Essentially this means that Peers do not break the rules governing the SCA (Corpora) and show respect to the Crown and Kingdom.
They are noble and courteous to everyone and not just those they think are important.
They demonstrate and support the ideas of the SCA — eg, they dress pre C17th with accoutrements and avoid discussing computers at feasts.
They teach.
They assist those who are unable to assist themselves.
They display renaissance knowledge including dance, music, heraldry, period board games and an idea of how combat works in the SCA.
They should be active in the SCA.

Of the Peerage Qualities, some are more important than others — you can be the greatest chess player in Caid, but if you lack courtesy and willingness to teach, don’t start embroidering those pelicans on your cloak! Conversely, if chess has never been of much interest to you, but folks fight to get you to organize their events, don’t worry too much about how to become a Master overnight.

How Do You Get Noticed?

If you are keen to become a Pelican, consider talking to some Pelicans whom you respect about your goals and what you can do to achieve them. Even if you don’t want to enter into a formal protégé relationship, you will find it useful to have a mentor or two with whom to sound out ideas or to discuss any issues or frustrations you meet. If you don’t feel that you know any of the Order well enough, contact the Pelican Secretary, who can put you in touch with someone suitable.

Who Makes the Decision?

The Pelicans as a group decide if we would like someone to join our Order, and make a formal recommendation to the Crown that the candidate be recognised. The ultimate decision and invitation rests with Their Majesties. The candidate is asked if he/she wishes to join us; not everyone says “yes.” There is no obligation to become a Peer, and candidates may take as long as they like to decide. If the candidate declines, it’s not set in stone — they can change their mind later and we can all discuss it again. If the candidate accepts the invitation, the next step is to decide when and what sort of ceremony they would like in being elevated to the Order.

What Happens Then?

Once you come to the attention of the Order, your name will come up at a Pelicans’ Meeting. The Order will collate and assess your peerage qualities and body of work, table any letters of recommendation, and generally determine what level you are at, any assistance you might need to progress, and continue to keep an eye on you. If it is thought appropriate, you will be placed on our Watch List; later, when you are deemed ready, you will be formally Discussed. This process may take some months or years, depending on what you are doing and how you are doing it. Please note, you won’t be told about any of this. The candidate lists are highly confidential and any leaks are taken very seriously. And just because a Pelican suggests you do x or y, don’t take it as an indication you are under consideration — they may just be trying to be helpful!