Monday, June 1, 2009

Comitatus

My life is so enriched by my knowledge of epic, chronicle, and folktale. In challenges and in triumphs, I find the repetition and reformulation of these ancient patterns and recognize the universality of my experience.

Recently when I was getting dressed to go present a paper at a conference, I was conscious of making choices tailored to help me succeed in the events to come, like Sir Gawain against the Green Knight or Beowulf against the dragon.

It was kind of a biggish conference, and I was quite nervous. As I was scrutinizing my wardrobe choices in the mirror, I realized that I had girded myself with my comitatus. My mom had been with me when I bought the dress. My necklace was a gift from my oldest best friend to be the 'new' on my wedding day. My earrings were a bridesmaid gift from my college roommate. None of these women was physically going to be in the room with me when I read my paper; however, they were with me, their small yet powerful tokens reminding me to believe in myself because they believe in me and that even if I totally flubbed the paper, they would still love me.

Comitatus is a word we bookish types learn when we take Brit Lit Survey I and read Beowulf. It refers to the hero's posse, the band of brothers, the faithful friends that come along on the journey. The comitatus provides support and camaraderie, and, when necessary, commiseration.

That day, I took Mom and Brea and Julie with me. They were my band of sisters as much as my colleagues who were also in the panel.

This gift of comitatus is one of the most powerful things I can give or have ever received.