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January 23, 2008 > Medieval times in the Kingdom of the West

Medieval times in the Kingdom of the West

By Shari Wargo

At one point or another, we have all most likely heard of the annual Renaissance Faire - a time and place where one can "get in into character" and enjoy crafts, vocabulary, garb and feasts appropriate to the Elizabethan age. But have you heard of an organization dedicated to pre-17th-Century that meets and holds events year-round? How about an organization that holds events where everyone is a part of the performance, including those attending the event?

The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA) is an international non-profit organization which, according to their website, www.sca.org, is "dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-Century Europe." Members, and non-members who choose to participate, learn skills in the areas of "Combat & Chivalry," "Heraldry," and "Arts & Sciences."

SCA "provides a supportive community of people with common interests and yet, as a group, we appreciate diversity and welcome it. Imagine the fun of the Renaissance Faire where there is no audience, everyone is a lord or lady participant. There are an endless number of things to explore within the context of the organization. The SCA is full of interesting people and is an easy place to make good friends," said Adina Vischer, media relations for the Kingdom of the West.

Through the SCA one can learn to brew beverages, make shoes, write calligraphy, use a sword, and experience a different time period of the world while still enjoying the comforts of modern times. "We have many master calligraphers and costumers who consider teaching an integral part of their hobby. In the SCA you only become a knight or master artisan if you teach in addition to practicing your skill," stated Vischer.

"I've been in the SCA since 1988. That's almost 20 years now. Over that time I've developed skills in costuming, archery, fighting in armor on a battlefield, music and dancing. I've also developed life long friendships. I've been mentored and I've been a mentor. I learned about supporting an organization, the significance of cooperation and mutual respect," Visher added.

SCA started in 1966 when a group of science fiction and fantasy fans created a themed party in Berkley that went so well that the group discussed the idea of a medieval re-creation and re-enactment group.

The group incorporated as a non-profit educational society and started forming more groups. "A person who is active and enjoys it may move and start a new group in their new location. College students graduate and move and they bring their hobby with them. This is how the SCA in Greece got started," Vischer said. "Members of the military create groups and bring it to new locations as they get deployed. The SCA in Germany, Korea, Iceland and Japan come from these roots. Scientists even brought the SCA to Antarctica when they went down there for research studies. Now that we are in the age of the Internet, people discover it online and either locate a group near them or create their own."

Now, the society is incorporated "under the laws of California with branches across the United States, Canada, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Iraq, South Africa, Sweden, Austria, Greece, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Australia, Japan, and Korea." This organization consists of 19 "kingdoms."

The Tri-City area falls under the "Kingdom of the West" which includes Northern California, Nevada, Alaska, Japan, Korea, and the Pacific Rim. Within each kingdom there are smaller groups called principalities, which also have smaller groups within their jurisdiction. These smaller groups are usually either called a shire, barony, province, college, canton, or stronghold with their proper name or title.

The Tri-City area is nearest to the "Principality of the Mists," which covers the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. Some of the closest groups to us within this jurisdiction are "The Shire of Cloondara," "The Shire of Crosston" and "The Shire of Esfenn." Each shire has its own website and specific area of concentration or expertise from the general activities which all groups have.

Cloondara researches the medieval period to discover the reality of culture and environment during that time and then members re-create the period as they believe it should have been. This means without the prejudice, disease, discrimination and persecution that occurred during the medieval times.

Crosston is located in N.W. Santa Clara County. This shire was founded to focus on the arts, such as vocal and instrumental music, cooking, spinning and needlework, armor making, leatherwork, shoemaking, and equestrian activities.

Esfenn is located in S.E. Alameda County. This shire's specialty or main focus area is in sword fighting tournaments, or "sword tourney."

These groups each sponsor or host an event in their specialty for others in the kingdom to attend. As a shire of the arts, Crosston will be holding an event for dancing and feast in Santa Clara on Saturday, Jan. 26 called the "Crosston Ball." Vischer mentioned that the events range in size from a small local group to hundreds or thousands of participants.

"In December the Shire of Crosston hosted several hundred people for a Ball, and at the beginning of January, the kingdom held its annual 12th Night Coronation attended by upwards of 2,000 people. Workshops and armored combat practices are held on various nights of the week depending on your local area. A person may participate occasionally or as much as they wish. One of the benefits of living in the Bay Area, the birthplace of the SCA, is that we have a dense population of active people," said Vischer.

She added that the SCA welcomes newcomers to attend meetings and events. "Everyone is viewed as a potential new friend. Every local group has a person called the "Chatelaine" who is responsible for looking after new people. All we ask is that people who want to participate make an attempt at pre-17th- Century European costume." If you don't have anything to wear, Vischer suggests calling the chatelaine for your local area and asking if they have extra garb. Costumes are often provided to newcomers on temporary terms. To be a member, SCA charges an annual fee of $35, but you don't have to be a member to attend events. So long as you are dressed appropriately, you may pay the ticket price and non-member fee to attend.

Information about SCA can be found at www. sca.org. For more information about the "Kingdom of the West" and upcoming events, how to become a member or be prepared for an event, visit www. westkingdom.org then click on the "Information for Newcomers &Visitors to the West Kingdom" link.


Upcoming event in the "Kingdom of the West":

Crosston Ball
Saturday, Jan 26
Set up: 10 a.m.
Dance lessons: 1 p.m.
Period pot-luck feast: 5 p.m.
Dancing: 5 - 10 p.m.
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
1957 Pruneridge Ave., Santa Clara
Cost: Donation

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