As practiced in A.S. 51, by HL Vǫlu-Ingibiǫrg
A vigil is a time set aside for a peerage candidate to listen and reflect. (A peerage candidate is someone who has been announced in court as deserving a peerage, but not yet been through the elevation ceremony which usually takes place during a later court.)
Royalty and all peers who wish to do so will gather to “put someone on vigil,” which involves taking the candidate to a tent or room and having some private, secret ceremony. (Rumor has it that this involves shaved flaming baby ducks. I do not know, and no one who does is allowed to talk about it.) In reality, I’ve been told the secrecy is so that the ceremony feels special and thought-provoking to the candidate. A laurel-candidate told me he felt this part brought “a connection to peers you didn’t know you were part of.”
After this initial mini-ceremony ends, the peers will disperse, and the second phase begins. (This phase is sometimes jokingly called “trial by conversation.”) The candidate will sit in the tent, usually for at least six hours (more if it’s an overnight vigil), and receive visitors. (This has some root in the medieval idea of instruction during preparation for a knighting ceremony.) The royals will generally be the first to visit; in the meantime other folks will begin arriving.
You do not need to be high-ranking, or even friends with the candidate, to speak with him or her. The only thing you need is to have something to say to the individual sitting vigil. Some people will go to express appreciation for the candidate’s skill or hard work; some to offer congratulations, warning, or advice. I was told by a candidate that for him, these visits further deepened the feeling of inclusiveness, of Calontir as an “us.”
If you wish to speak to the candidate, either by yourself or with someone who agrees to go in with you, head to the area near the vigil tent or room, find the person with the waiting list, and ask to be added. Depending on how early you arrive, and how talkative the people ahead of you are, it may be quite some time before you are called. If you’re a ways down the list or need to go do something, you can leave; traditionally, if your name comes up before you get back, you will go next after your return.
If you can see into the vigil tent and no one else is there, someone is probably fetching the candidate water or food. Do not go in without being called; there is always a waiting list, and it’s usually long.
While you’re waiting, try the tidbits at the nearby vigil table. Hospitality was an important concept in the middle ages, so vigil foods (snacks) are prepared or obtained by the candidate’s friends, intended to honor the candidate by refreshing visitors. Food that is tasty, period, and matches the candidate’s interests will impress visitors. Also in this area, someone will likely have a book where you can write a message for the candidate, whether or not you plan to speak to her or him. The great number of visitors can blur things together in a candidate’s mind, so leaving a note in the vigil book may be a good idea.
Once you are called in, there is no special ceremony or format to observe—nothing you’re particularly supposed to say or do. A visit may take five to ten minutes, or less if you’d like. Speech with someone sitting vigil is a short snippet, or distillation. Follow the candidate’s lead, but keep in mind that you can always catch the individual later for an extended conversation. Take more than fifteen minutes, and you’ll likely seem greedy. (Remember: there is always a waiting list, and it’s usually long.) When you leave, the candidate will thank you for the visit, and sometimes will give a personalized token. (e.g. Francis, a metalworker, gave fire-starting flints.)
Afterward, go enjoy the rest of the event. The candidate will usually be elevated at court at the end of the day he or she sat vigil. Some participants in the elevation ceremony will speak softly, so you’ll want to sit close in order to be able to hear. Get there early!