So, after a brief overview, and far too many links, I promised my loyal readers a more personal perspective. As I mentioned before, events are rather hazy in my mind at this point. (I can barely remember my wedding, you want me to remember college?) So, if anyone reading this can update me on any errors, please do so. Eicart, I’m talking to you!
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I was in college at UC Irvine when I joined the SCA group there. We named ourselves the College of Fenwood Knoll, after prominent geographical features of the college (a nearby marsh, lots of trees, and a hilly central park). The device we created included a ring, reflecting the shape of the center of the UCI campus, and a crane, reflecting the waterfowl found nearby. I met most of my best college friends in that group, and through friends of those friends I met Anthropapa, so I do have a certain soft spot in my heart for the whole thing.
Some people participated out of a love for similar activities like larps, others from a love of costuming and history. Our group came to be known locally for its focus on period dancing. Some friends were attracted by the pagan-friendly atmosphere, others to the mead brewing. A few people even made a trebuchet! SillyBilly would be so proud.
We attended many events, from balls featuring dancing and royal presentations, to afternoon tourneys, to multi-day events. Those last are what linger more strongly in my memory: camping with friends at the Estrella War outside Phoenix, and the Potrero War outside San Diego. These were my first experience with camping itself, no less with a large SCA event.
(I’m on the far right. That hat was pretty lame, but the sun was really scorching.)
Imagine what is called “car camping” (meaning, not backpacking or wilderness camping), and then double or triple it. Because we couldn’t just bring tents, sleeping bags, and a cooler. Ohhhh, no. We had to bring all that plus our garb, armor, feast gear, a sunshade, food, and lots and lots of water, because these events were in the desert. We also brought stuff to make the campsite appear less modern–cloths and rugs to cover things like coolers, wooden folding chairs, lanterns, etc.
Days were spent checking out the merchants, watching and participating in battles, napping in the shade, and possibly stirring up a few dances. Nights might involve drinking of mead and other liquids (this was college, after all, and honey mead is truly a drink sent from heaven), watching belly dancers, and sitting in camp shooting the breeze. (I refuse to incriminate myself any further regarding college-age activities.) There were also arts and sciences classes and demos, and bardic circles.
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I do clearly remember spending countless hours in the university library, scouring medieval and renaissance art books for possible garb and persona inspiration. We spent many hours in our dorm sewing up tunics, houppelandes, chemises, and surcoats. I remember making garb with my friends at all hours of the night before big events, and tracking down cheap fabric and trims all over Orange County. I remember learning new skills like sewing without a pattern and blackwork embroidery.
Looking back, I can see that this played up to two of my lasting loves: crafting and researching. Back then it was the art history and clothing sections of the UCI library; now it’s Google. I still could use a lot more patience and skill in sewing, but since then I’ve learned to knit, crochet, and felt. So there’s definite scope for starting afresh. One of these days I’ll get truly medieval and learn nålebinding.
(My friend Nikki [no, I don’t remember her SCA name!] dancing at an event at UCI.)
There was a small element of superiority over “mundanes” (people not in the SCA)–I know more about 14th century women’s clothes than you do!–and an element of gratitude to be surrounded by people equally if not more geeky than me. It was like God’s gift to the procrastinating Humanities major. Being in a group based at a university, we hooked up with students from other universities at events, so there was a social aspect to it as well. It was a bit like being in a fun club, having a very consuming hobby, and enacting a fantasy all at the same time.
(Pick a century, any century!)
So, we’re considering going to a few events soon, as a family. Two old friends from Fenwood Knoll live a few hours away, and they’ve recently started going to dance practices in their local Barony. The siren song of researching medieval garb and fabric shopping is calling me. The kids have already informed me of their chosen tunic colors, and we bought some fabric. I feel the need to make a little more effort toward authenticity and consistency in garb this time. I even thought of a persona name already, based on a Swedish ancestress of mine from the mid-1500s. (Though I’ll not be dressing the way one Swedish archaeologist thinks Viking women did. That’s just embarrassing.)
There’s a coronation in April, and a war in June. I’ll definitely keep all my loyal readers informed, and I’ll certainly be better about taking photos than I was in college!