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What was a waterbearer?

Note: Waterbearing as an official activity has been banned/discontinued in An Tir due to potential health issues with sharing water bottles.

Waterbearing: Waterbearers help maintain the hydration of fighters and the populous by passing out water, gatorade, and or other hydrating food or snacks. Waterbearing is a great way to get involved in the SCA -- you don't need a lot of special training, and you get to meet new people while you help with the success of an event. Although the society does not recognize waterbearing as an official position, there are people who regularly participate as waterbearers and coordinate water activities at events.

In the Kingdom of An Tir we generaly practice "no touch" waterbearing where the lips of the person do not ever touch the container of water or gatorade. This is usually accomplished with "Sport" or "squirt" top caps on standard sized waterbottles. This is considered more sanitary as it reduces the risk of spreading illness.

At tournaments and wars, it will be common for there to be a waterbearing point - often marked by the following badge: Argent, a goutte de larme within another voided, a bordure azure (basically a blue water drop). This is normally where one goes to volunteer for waterbearing. Even children - supervised, of course - can assist in most situations, and often find interacting with the fighters enjoyable. This is also normally the place to drop off donations of water or snacks.

The waterbearer in charge - that is, the person or people running waterbearing point, will be organizing volunteers. They often will be in charge of the supplies of water, water bottles, cleaning supplies, and so on. They may also be preparing snacks - typically pretzels, pickles, sliced or easily consumable fruit, or other finger food.

What does field waterbearing involve?

The duty usually involves carrying waterbottles, Gatorade, and possibly snacks, to the fighters, marshals, list folk, and onlookers - basically anyone who might need water. Be sure to take some yourself. A few suggestions for waterbearing:

  • Safety first. Don't enter areas where fighting is happening unless a hold is called, and you are instructed or expected to do so.
  • Safety first. Be aware if arrows, thrown weapons, etc. are in use, and keep back to the same safe distance as the populace while they are in use.
  • Safety first. Follow the directions of the marshals at all times.
  • Be polite, but assertive. There's no need to be obnoxious, but many tired fighters may get "tunnel vision" and forget to drink - a gentle prodding may be needed.
  • Ask their preference, if you are carrying both water and Gatorade. Many folks will specifically want one, and not the other.
  • Don't ignore non-fighters. Many marshals, list folk, and onlookers may have been standing in the sun and require a drink as well.
  • Don't ignore non-fighters. Don't forget to stay hydrated yourself.
  • Don't ignore non-fighters. While the royals (and similar) should be well taken care of, sometimes some of their entourage may not have easy access to water. I have found offers of water to guards standing in the sun to be particularly welcome. Of course, don't get in the way of court or official business.
  • Don't be intimated. While you should endeavor to be polite at all times, and remain unobtrusive, your job is important. It's generally OK to venture near (but not into) the Royal Presence, or to walk up and down processional lines, if you are performing your duty.
  • In line with being polite, if you stop to watch the fighting, try not to block the views of those already watching.
  • It's OK to remind gentles about the "no touch" rule, should you see them making contact with their lips to the container. Be sure to clean the container.
  • Processional line-ups at crown tournaments (or similar) often involve armored fighters standing in the sun. They will need water, even though fighting hasn't begun.
  • During tournaments, areas that fighters go to report to the lists, or where they exit the list field, are excellent points to offer water to them.
  • If you get tired, it's OK to take a break.


Symptoms of mild dehydration include thirst, decreased urine volume, abnormally dark urine, unexplained tiredness, irritability, lack of tears when crying, headache, dry mouth, dizziness when standing due to orthostatic hypotension, and in some cases insomnia. Other possible symptoms include cloudy urine and stinging during urination. Blood tests may show hyperalbuminemia. Mild dehydration also has been shown to negatively impact people’s moods. Experiments by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service has shown that dehydration is associated with confusion, fatigue, and negative moods.[9] Mild dehydration, which includes water losses between 1% and 2%, observed in the experiment are comparable to mild dehydration experienced by people in their everyday lives.

In moderate to severe dehydration, there may be no urine output at all. Other symptoms in these states include lethargy or extreme sleepiness, seizures, sunken fontanel (soft spot) in infants, fainting, and sunken eyes.

The symptoms become increasingly severe with greater water loss. One's heart and respiration rates begin to increase to compensate for decreased plasma volume and blood pressure, while body temperature may rise because of decreased sweating. At around 5% to 6% water loss, one may become groggy or sleepy, experience headaches or nausea, and may feel tingling in one's limbs (paresthesia). With 10% to 15% fluid loss, muscles may become spastic, skin may shrivel and wrinkle (decreased skin turgor), vision may dim, urination will be greatly reduced and may become painful, and delirium may begin. Losses greater than 15% are usually fatal.


Meridies Waterbearing Handbook