Marcach, literally horsemen, are the famous sportsmen and sportswomen among the Selkie, although their sports do not only amount to horseback riding, but also a variety of other combat sports: Fencing, archery, horseback archery and mounted combat are practiced.
It comes as little of a surprise, that four of the Ambassadors of the Selkie, Marla Faorach of the Tribe of Cork, Leonard Lách of the Tribe of Galway Ava Coileán of the Tribe of Westmeath and Liliane Lile of the Tribe of Fermanagh, are Marcach. After her return from Sadera, Asteria Sclábhaí of the Tribe of Fermanagh joined the ranks of the Marcach as well.
As in times long past, the Marcach were also mercenaries, the central authority for them was the Mercenary-Guild of Redruth until 1899, until the Marcach-Guild of Redruth was established, its residence being Crúb House near Redruth.
- 1 History
- 2 Sports
- 3 The Conradh - The League
- 4 The Youth League
- 5 Comórtas - The Full Tournament
- 6 Traditions
- 7 See also
The origins of the practices of war known as Horseriding, Horsearchery, Archery, Fencing and Sworddances reach far back as the Age of the High Kings, if not further, historians are not quite sure. The first well-documented full tournament, or comórtas, of Horseriders was held in 45 BCE, by Lugh the Seafarer.
Historians also assume, that the first tournaments were held long before, albeit in smaller scale and without being essentially a folk festival. It remained a way for warriors to stay in shape and to earn money even without fighting and killing. Tournament Fighters were also 'in' for a while.
The transistion from Half-Warrior-Half-Sportsman to Full-Sportsman began in earnest in 1890, when Marcach-Mercenaries encountered machine guns in battle for the first time, with predictable results.
The Own Guild (1899)
Until 1899, the Mercenary-Guild of Redruth was responsible for all things Marcach, mainly because the Marcach were still hired out by the banner to the highest bidders, but in 1899, around 400 Marcach (there is no exact number, but the most quoted number is 412) under the leadership of Finnegan Fuasteoir of the Tribe of Monaghan split off and founded their own guild, the Marcach-Guild of Redruth, which resides in Crúb House.
Sworddancing is the youngest form of these sports, usually associated with the rise of the Orders in the 4th Century and associated with High King Áed the Hunter. The light swordswomen, especially of course Enya, of Claimhteoir, the First Swordmaiden, were the foundation on which many of the Orders established themselves.
According to that theory, Sworddancing among the Selkie has its origins in acrobatic armed dances of cultic purpose, elaborate in all of its forms, specific meanings attached to every movement. With the establishment of the Orders, the meaning of a military exercise was added.
Also an often-quoted possibility of the origin of sworddances with the Selkie is the long-standing tradition of Sworddances in Kyrenaia, the Raqsat Alsyf, usually performed by specially trained Handmaidens wearing the Fustan Raqis Alsyf.
It is known, however, that one of the arts Aífe the Banshee was trained in, was Sworddancing in accordance with her homeland's traditions - this long pre-dating direct contact between Selkie and Kyrenaians.
Although not all sworddancers these days are women, most are, like Fiona Fáscadh of the Tribe of Fermanagh, Ava Coileán of the Tribe of Westmeath or Amy Laoch of the Tribe of Dundalk. While 'Sworddances' were attempted with other weapons as well, mostly lances and spears, these never really took off.
A special league for Crossbow Archery exists, but is usually fought on foot.
Horseriding is a discipline usually divided into two sections, the Swordriders and the Lancers, named after their preferred weapons, the sword and the lance. It is not unusual for a rider to be proficient in both weapons.
Essentially, there are three 'Game Modes', so to speak:
- Ringing: Ringing means, that the rider has to use his or her weapon, be it a lance or a sword, to pick up rings hanging above the ground at certain heights, thus collecting points.
- Charging: Charging is a Game Mode only done by Lancers, in which they charge at a puppet resembling an armoured man, mounted on a swiveling mount so that it could turn. From one arm dangles a ring, the other holds a soft flail. The aim is to get the ring without getting hit by the flail. The contestant receives three points for getting the ring without being hit, one for getting the ring and being hit and none for not getting the ring. With each round, every Charger having the chance to obtain the ring three times, the field is halved until only a winner remains. With each round, the ring gets smaller, too.
- Comhrac or Bouting: Bouting are horse-mounted fights, where the objective is to beat the opponent by either disarming him or her or by lifting him or her out of the saddle or by attaining the Point-Maker, a piece of the armour usually seen as a killing blow (usually, this is the helmet or other headgear). The usual result is by disarming.
The highest discipline,
The Conradh - The League
The Conradh is not to be confused with the professional football league, the Sraith.
Several of the educational institutions of the Free Lands, including the Iris Boarding School Complex, maintain Marcach Teams, which were originally supposed to give their members an environment in which they could train with their peers and fellow students, maybe even compete internally. Over time, the teams began to compete in friendly matches and in 1957, the Guild permitted the formation of the Team League.
Competitions of the Team League, which are held as mounted competitions, usually know two stages:
- The first stage is usually held in the mornings, a playful demonstration of horsemanship, , dressage, group manoeuvres and other skills, not aimed at combatting the opposing team, but outperforming them. Usually, the first stage is 'fought' unarmoured, but there have been ocassions, when the first stage was fought in full armour.
- The second stage is usually held at midday or in the afternoon and is the mock combat stage, usually referred to as Team War. The most common form of this is a game similar to Capture the Flag, in which both teams aim at capturing the enemy team's flagbearer while protecting the own. Usually, the teams are formed into several Lances, of which a set number participate. A horseman is thrown out if he or she is thrown out of the saddle or disarmed. The weapons are blunted by cloth.
The Youth League
Starting at the Age of Ten Springs, aspiring Marcach can join the Youth League, which holds their own, particular competitions for the young Marcach, usually under the sponsorship of
Comórtas - The Full Tournament
It is usual for tournaments to be fought with blunted weapons, usually blunted by wrapping cloth around them.
Tiolachan - The Escort
It is customary for men and women of high renown and richness to arrive at a highly ceremonial social event with a Tiolachan, an escort, ceremonial in nature and function. This is practiced rarely these days. Depending on the wealth of the one calling up the escort, this can take the form of a few horsemen to several banners.
When a state visit comes to Fortham, the horseman escort of the guest is considered to be a Tiolachan. It is perceived as an honour by the Selkie to be selected as part of such an escort, as well as it is considered a special honour for the guest to be escorted by a Tiolachan. Two of the most famous occassions during which a Tiolachan was called upon was during the Signing Ceremony of the SEA-Accords in 2019 and the 2020 State Visit of President Flemming of Lillorainen to the Free Lands.
The Remembrance is a small ceremony overseen by a Priest of Calib, the Goddess of Death, remembering the Marcach, who died between the last Spring Festival and Harvest Festival, both in the sports and outside, as those months are the most busy months of Marcach. Those dying in the off-season are usually implicated as well.
Ceremonial Garb is the highest form of garnment to be worn by a Marcach, his or her finest garb and decorated set of armour and weapons, only used for parade purposes and ceremonies, hence the name.
- The Adharc Cup, for Lancers.
First Aid Equipment
Aside from the combat equipment, every Marcach is obliged by rules of the Guild (installed in 1951) to have a small first aid kit on the person and a larger one on the horse whenever wearing the armor and carrying weapons. Punishments for not having such a kit along can range from fines (2 to 5 Gil, 30 to 75 NSD) to exclusion from the competitions. Many Marcach also have their small kit along whenever they wear their utility belts, for example with the Geansai, or on hiking or riding trips (along with the larger kit and their individual survival kit). Many motorists in the Free Lands adopted the large kit for their vehicles.
|Piece||Small kit (on the person)||Large kit (on the horse)|
|Adhesive Bandage Roll, 3 cm by 5 m||0||1|
|Adhesive Bandages, 2 cm by 6 cm||5||20|
|Sterile gauze dressings, 40 cm by 60 cm||0||4|
|Wound dressing, sterile, 10 cm by 10 cm||2||6|
|Compressive bandage roll, 4 m by 10 cm||0||2|
|Compressive bandage roll, 3 m by 6 cm||1||2|
|Gauze bandage, 8 cm by 4 m||1||2|
|Gauze bandage, 10 cm by 4 m||0||2|
|Thermal blanket, 2.25 m by 1.6 m||0||2|
|Bandage scissors||0 (usually substituted with a dagger)||1|
|Pocket face mask||0||1|
|Sterile eye dressing||0||2|
|Hemostatic powder||2 doses||10 doses|
|Thermometer, preferably digital||0||1|
|Painkillers (usually paracetamol)||1 package||2 packages|
|Cleansing wipes, alcohol-free||0||2 packages|
This kit is not to be confused with the first aid kit issued by the SDF to its soldiers. Some Marcach also add in herbal remedies to the medicines, but this table shows the official recommandations.
- Weapons and Armour of the Selkie (not to be confused with the Equipment of the SDF).
- Combat-Sports in Kyrenaia.