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What’s with all the “Kingdom” stuff?

Unlike most pagan groups, who organize as a coven, or a grove, or a study group, or a circle, we have chosen to organize as a metaphorical kingdom. Many of us are romantics, drawn to the medieval archetypes of chivalry, noblesse oblige, and knightly codes of honor. Others simply find a well defined leadership structure with a clear code of honorable behavior suits them better than a consensus-oriented nonhierarchical group.

We work a lot with archetypes as ways to improve ourselves and connect with our deeper spirituality. Specifically, some folks in Asphodel have taken on a roles as knights and nobles and so forth, just as others here have taken on roles as Priests and Priestesses in service to particular deities. Both are just as much about making a spiritual commitment to fulfill an archetypal role as they are a personal commitment to fulfill certain responsibilities in the community.

THE DISCLAIMER: Much of the terminology used on this website reflects our metaphorical kingdom structure. These terms are understood among members, and are never assumed to have legal standing outside of Asphodel. It is understood that "citizenship" in Asphodel refers to voluntary membership in a religious organization and in no way affects one's citizenship status in the United States or any other nation. Asphodel does not encourage or in any way require members to reject any of the laws, responsibilities, or privileges associated with United States citizenship, and strives always to operate in complete compliance with the laws of the local, state and federal government.

Q: Are you a historical recreation group, like the SCA or LHA?

No, although many of our founding members were involved in historical reenactment of one kind or another.

As an organization we are inspired by both ancient and medieval eras, we do not attempt to recreate them exactly. We may use a flavor of a particular period in order to create an atmosphere more conducive to our goals, and we also use antique practices and traditions as a way to connect with our ancestors, but we might mix and match, or draw from completely nonhistorical or fantasy sources. We're quite open about that fact. Most of us are romantics, in the sense that we find certain ancient aesthetics appealing, but we are not interested in experiencing the lives of those people as they were exactly. We are trying to reclaim what we find beautiful and useful, creating a modern pagan community that is nonetheless connected to its roots. We call this reinterpretive sacred theater. Reclaiming, not recreation, is our intent.

And no, this isn't a LARP or any other sort of role-playing game group either. We're a church.

Q: The Middle Ages were Christian, mostly, right? Aren't you trying to rewrite history?

For your first question: That's correct. Throughout most of medieval times, most people had converted to Christianity, and life rotated around the Christian calendar. We are not recreating history, we are creating the image of a time that never was. We're quite clear on the fact that it never was. We aren't claiming that what we do completely resembles the way it used to be. Parts of it do, but the ways in which they are arranged are entirely our invention. We are choosing to reinvent our personal roles in ways that perhaps could have developed, had Christianity not taken so completely over our past, but only been one of many religions.

Q: Isn't all this Kingdom stuff a little pretentious and silly?

Yes, a little, but we're okay with that. We're aware it can look rather strange, especially when we break out the fancy hats. We are well aware that to an outsider it is just a bunch of floofy titles and silly hats, but within Asphodel, we know how much responsibility comes with each silly hat, and how much work went into earning every floofy title. We don't expect anyone else to care about our titles, but it does have a great deal of meaning to us. This hierarchy provides the structure for both our religious practice and our relationships with each other, even if we only bother with actual titles on certain formal occasions.

One way of explaining it might be to say that our titles are a reflection of the way in which we conceptualize leadership positions in Asphodel, not a reflection of the extent of the authority held by our leadership. In practical terms they neither have nor want more authority over their membership than any reasonably honorable leader of any other Pagan group. So on one level, there are aspects of this that we don't take anywhere near as seriously as some people seem to think. Most of us have a quite solid grasp of reality, and we understand the limits of our metaphorical kingdom. On another level, though, there is a spiritual truth that goes well beyond metaphors, and we take that very seriously, even if we joke around about the other aspects of it.

Q: What is a noble?

A noble is someone who has made a serious, spiritually-binding, lifetime commitment to the Kingdom of Asphodel and her people, and whom the King and Queen of Asphodel have invested with a patent of nobility for their great service and consistently noble behavior. What is consistently noble behavior? Chivalrousness. Honesty. Integrity. Loyalty. Dependability. Generosity to others, including the frequent opening of one's home to others. Nobles get a coronet and the right to be called Lord or Lady So-and-So within Asphodel. They are sometimes referred to as church elders in our paperwork.

Q: So can I be "Lady MoonDragon" (or "Sir Walter" or "Queen Esmerelda" or "Emperor Steve"...)?

You can call yourself whatever you like, and most people will likely try to address you that way, out of courtesy. That said, our official titles are, for the most part, job titles. You don't get one just for showing up, and it is rare to get one without establishing a life-long commitment to Asphodel. Bella does grant rank to militiamen liberally, so colorful and enthusiastic participation in our twice-annual militia drills is perhaps the quickest route to getting some manner of "official" title. (Militia titles, however splendid they are, do not have status outside of the militia.)

Titles taken or awarded outside Asphodel may or may not be recognized as legitimate "foreign" titles, depending on individual circumstances and/or the issuing agency. If you have a good reason for using a title, and take the title seriously, we tend to respect that. (And, yes, we generally consider "my gods told me to" as a good reason, even if your word is the only thing you've got to back it up. The gods rarely provide documentation for that sort of thing.)

If there is a specific path you would like formally recognized, or would like to study while a member of Asphodel, please suggest it.

Q: How do I become a noble?

Only the King can make someone a noble, and aside from knighthood, it is done at his discretion. How to start? First, act noble, all the time, even when you think no one is paying attention. Suggestions on how to go about this are listed in the article on this site: Noblesse Oblige, Or What's With This Lady Thing Anyway. Second, volunteer for a job. Third, if you have been actively involved for at least a year and feel called to make a lifetime commitment to Asphodel, chat with one of our nobles and ask if they will sponsor you in a request for nobility.

Q: What's this about making a lifetime commitment? What if someone wants out?

If someone feels the need to be released from their oath of fealty, this is always granted. They only need to come to the King, in person, and request it in front of two witnesses. We have no desire to hold people against their will. However, oaths are very important to us in Asphodel, and we take them seriously. If someone does not fully intend to remain actively involved in Asphodel indefinitely, it is not appropriate for them to swear fealty, no matter how invested they are in Asphodel for the present moment. On a spiritual level, by taking such an oath you are binding your fate to that of Asphodel by the strength of your sworn word. People have different understandings of what that means, but it isn't something that should be done, or undone, lightly.

Q: What would happen if I were to get a patent of nobility?

You would be required to do the following things: 1. Swear fealty to the Crown and become a vassal. 2. Behave like nobility as much as possible. 3. Take a class on etiquette and manners, and what that means in the context of "nobility". 4. If the King calls and requires a service of you, you have to show up and do it, unless there is a good reason why you can't. (The King is a reasonable person and has no wish to endanger anyone's job, family, or health. He would never ask anyone do something that was illegal, immoral, or in conflict with the edicts of their gods. If he does, the person is encouraged to tell him to take his crown and stuff it.)

Q: Do I have to swear fealty in order to be a member of Asphodel?

No. Absolutely not. Only nobles are required to swear fealty. Members need only abide by the general rules of Asphodel, like they would abide by the general rules of any other group that they might join.

A very small number of members have chosen to swear fealty of their own accord, but this is in no way expected or even encouraged. It does not grant them any special standing in Asphodel, nor does it make them nobility.

Q: Why would anyone want to swear fealty? Isn't that like being a servant, and therefore degrading?

Service does not have to be degrading. In modern America, we often think of service to another person as being a degrading thing, because the only times we usually see it is when someone is being forced into it for economic or social reasons. However, competent service to another can be a wonderfully spiritual thing that can aid instead of damage someone's self-esteem. In actual medieval times, a duke would find it an honor to personally wait on the King who was his liege lord, and he would in turn be waited on by a lord. It wasn't just about nobles who never served anyone and peasants who did all the serving. It was a chain, as it were. That's one of the things we are trying to reclaim - the concept of consensual, honorable service.

Of course, the problem with a chain is that it has ends, and one of those ends is the bottom. To make up for this, the "bottom" of our chain - the general membership - is not obligated to do anything but behave decently while at events, and they are rarely even asked to do anything but participate in ritual and bring potluck. (They can, of course, volunteer to do things if they wish, but if they just want to hang out, that is fine too.) Service is only for those in liege fealty relationships, where the consent is clear and aboveboard, and the limits are also clear.

Q: I want to design arms for myself. Can I do that?

You can design all the arms you want, but if you want them officially recognized as Asphodel arms, we'd need to find a new Herald. Asphodel heraldic rules are a little different from classic heraldry. For example, certain symbols have special meanings from pagan symbolism. Nobles, Knights and Chatelaines can use the shield-shape badge. All others get to use a diamond-shaped, square, round, or oval badge.

Q: What's all that spiritual about this nobility thing anyway?

Working with the concept of noblesse oblige can be a very empowering spiritual discipline. It's often a bit difficult for folks in this society to get their heads around, but some of us have found it to be a very useful tool for self-improvement.

Q: What rank can I have?

If you are made nobility, you can choose your own rank. You can have any rank except King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Knight, Sir, Dame, or Bushi. There are actually only three ranks of nobility in Asphodel. The highest rank is royalty (King, Queen, Prince, or Princess), the lowest is the Knights (Sir, Dame, or Bushi) and everybody else, in the middle, is all equal. That's why they can choose their own rank. It doesn't matter if you decide to be a Countess or a Duke or a Margrave or an Earl or a Lord or a Khan or a Viscount or a Marchioness. We don't care, you're all equal anyway. Really stupid titles, of course, will be vetoed. You cannot be the Grand Poobah. Only Shaka managed to pull off Great Elephant, although we might consider Great Hippo if we are feeling sadistic enough.

Q: What is a Chatelaine? Are they nobility?

A Chatelaine (SHA-tuh-lain) is the head of a major Order or a Guild. They are not nobility, but worthy of respect for their talents, skills, and knowledge. Their titles are Master or Mistress, if you care to address them as that, but most find that somewhat awkward.

Q: How do I get to be royalty?

Either 1) Convince the royal family to adopt you (possible, but extremely unlikely) or 2) Start your own #$%&# kingdom.

Q: I'm still uncomfortable with this king and queen stuff. This is America! We don't have royalty here. Isn't royalty just an opening for potential tyranny and abuse?

Any kind of leadership can be an opening for tyranny and abuse, and sometimes the worst offender is unspoken leadership. Here, the leaders are clearly seen and can be held accountable. Certainly, in past centuries, kings were responsible for rather horrid abuses. However, this is not an Iron Curtain kingdom. Anyone who feels that the royalty of Asphodel is abusive can vote with their feet and leave. It's a check-and-balance situation. Pagans, on the whole, (and Asphodelians in particular) are an independent and cussed sort, and don't tend to act like doormats when it comes to their spirituality. If the King abused his power, he would have no kingdom in short order. Like everyone in Asphodel, the King and Queen are using the archetypal/spiritual power of their roles to improve themselves as people, rather than to exploit others.

Q: But why use the words king and queen and nobility, when they're so laden with negative connotations from years of tyranny and abuse?

For the same reason that many Pagans use the word witch. It's an act of reclaiming and reframing. It's because these words have strong connotations that they have power. By reclaiming the archetypes, we can use that power in a positive way. We do not believe that all power corrupts. If that was really the case, then the only good people would be powerless ones, and that would be a terrible thing. We believe that people can be better and stronger than that, at least with each others' help.

Q: What if I'm still not comfortable with a hierarchical group?

Then Asphodel might not be the right group for you. That's all right; no harm, no foul. There are plenty of nonhierarchical Pagan groups out there. You are still welcome to attend our rituals, classes and events anyway, if you like. Our leadership hierarchy has very little impact on how rituals are run.

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