somewhere between fascinating and freaky

a couple weeks ago, my family took a sunday trek to a state park about 45 minutes from our home — out in the desert moutains southeast of san diego. we went because the family of my daughter’s best friend is part of a group i’d only heard about through them: the society for creative anachronism. that weekend, the sca was having a weekend-long “battle”.

the sca exists to to study and enjoy stuff from the middle ages — the period (they describe as) between the years 600 and 1600. from what i now understand, the 30,000 members of this organization (!) gather regularly for banquets, dances, lectures, and… yes… battles. we were the outsiders at this event. there were 3000 people camping for the weekend at this state park, and we paid for a day pass.

the best description i could come up with is that it was like a renaissance fair, but for members only (again, we were the outsiders). EVERYONE was in costume. EVERYONE was a “performer”. half the tents were period tents: a-frames and round turretted things, full of rugs and armament and middle-agey bits and bobbles. we arrived in time to see one of the last battles of the weekend, a “resurrection” battle (which means those who are “killed” — any blow to the face or body is an on-your-honor kill — can lumber back to a resurrection point and subsequently rejoin the battle; and the swords and spears and such are all wooden or pvc, with padding and lots of duct tape for safety). there were a dozen or more “war bands” on the field at once, each in war gear appropriate to the time period they embraced, using battle tactics theoretically appropriate to the time period they embraced. there were bands of greeks battling celts battling romans battling who-knows-who-else. here’s a picture of the hot-spot on the battle field…

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oh, and here’s max wearing our host’s helmet (it’s the real deal!), and liesl with her friend in their, uh, costumes (is that the right word?).

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there were merchants and food venders. lots of partying (though our friends were camped in a non-party zone — families, mostly — with a no alcohol rule). lots of insider lingo (there was a term for us visitors even — i’m forgetting what it was). i was politely referred to as “my lord” a couple times, like when someone needed me to move out of the way so he could pull a wagon past with a massive wooden throne on it.

the whole thing was massively surreal. kind of fun. somewhat intriguing. wildly freaky.

it always amazes me when i stumble onto a sub-culture i didn’t know existed.

7 thoughts on “somewhere between fascinating and freaky”

  1. There are tons of Civil War re-enactments here in NC and VA. It is weird to be an outsider and the whole culture with that. One of my “friends” invited me to come see one of them. I just thought why would you want to?

  2. oh! a very dear friend of mine has been involved in this society for many years. He has several costumes and has especially embraced it in a culinary way, – he cooks heaps of middle ages & renaissance food. We were spoiled by the amazing food, and he made me some really fantastic middle ages pants that I wear in public only occasionally. welcome to the brave old world!

  3. This is HUGE in southern AZ…I know a few couples that met through these societies and during their dating relationship had to practice several rituals to keep their place in their group.

  4. Welcome to the SCA! I had much the same reaction as you at my first event, and here I am still, 14 years later. I have done and seen much in the SCA. Now I moderate a nearly 5000 member SCA group on MySpace, so I read a lot about it as well.

    Be warned, there is a dark side to this society, but it can be a fabulous group to raise your kids with as well. They can learn the values of chivalry and honor in a very real way, plus pursue almost any type of activity: creative, physical, mental… you name it. Kids take away some amazing lessons from the SCA.

    It can be hard to adjust though, if you leap in with both feet right away. Just be clear about any personal boundaries you might have, and eventually, you will find others of the same ilk.

    The SCA attracts all kinds of people from different faiths, cultures and social backgrounds. All these can range in moral fiber as well, so ‘street smarts’ is a good skill to have.

    The lingo referring to ‘new people’ could be: newbies, mundanes or virgins. Slang varies by area!

  5. She mentioned the “darker side”. We’ll just say the Lost Boys speak for themselves ;). Honestly though, everyone I’ve met in the SCA (WHOOHOO, finally diving in after a year! GOD BLESS FENCING!) are absolutely the most helpful, friendly, and honest people. The SCA has everything, it’s true. Like to party? (I think that’s the big thing here in the Kingdom of Aethelmearc http://www.aethelmearc.org/ No problem. Are you one of the strange people that’d rather brew liquor than drink it? No problem, there are even competitions for the best drink. Same with the food. Like to get physical. Dress in heavy armor, or even light armor, or be an archer, or a combat archer (Oh yeah, some kingdoms do have combat archers… mmmm fun.) Like to build heavy machines capable of hurling large supplies of tennis balls (also known as a catapult or trebuchet, and people will definitely love you for building one). Women, want to dress in elaborate garb and be the center of attention? I’m getting sore wrists just typing about it all. There’s so much even I don’t know about yet. SOOOO much to do, so little time! I just wish there were more events here in the west WV region.

    Simply put. Ya have a weekend off? Want an interesting vacation? Find an event from sca.org in your “Kingdom”, find the local herald (Sometimes the webadmin as well), and email them. They’ll tell you all you need to know to go. If you really want to get the experience, dress up in some simple garb (10 minute garb: One flap of fabric of simple design, usually cotton, with a hole cut in the center for the head. Let both sides flap in front and back. Wear normal black or white short sleeve shirt. Cinch with extremely long belt. For pants, sewn-fly plaid pajamas are great! Finish w/ boots. Tuck pants in boots.) Then, if you really like it (And I know you will), talk with a few people, meet some merchants, learn how to make your own or even get more garb on the cheap. But no matter what, go in with an open mind, talk with everyone/anyone. Ask questions, learn some stuff. Watch battles, watch competitions, watch strange giant nerf arrows floating in the sky to come sailing down on one poor fellow dressed in armor LOL!

    I’m done now, I swear. It’s just fun, and the more people the better :).

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