Repost: Game of Crowns


 

This is a nice article found on the Web and reposted here. The original article was found on Starring NYC on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday afternoon on Staten Island, and in the field in front of me, two medieval knights were hacking away at each other with swords. Women in long, loose, flowing gowns watched the fray while, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Mongol warrior stroll by.

 

 

 

The East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism was more surreal than I had imagined.

 

 

 

I am not a natural LARPer (that’s Live Action Role-Player). Outside of a handful of school plays and friends’ parties, I have always avoided dressing up. And although I would love to attend Comic-Con—famed haven for science-fiction and fantasy fans like me—I would never dream of appearing dressed up as my favorite Doctor or member of Starfleet. I’m simply too self-conscious to ever lose myself in a character.

 

 

 

Still, Game of Thrones got me daydreaming about what life must have been like in the Middle Ages, and when I bumped into the Society for Creative Anachronism online, I decided to jump feet first into the closest thing to Westeros.

 

 

 

Founded in 1966 by a group of history, science-fiction and fantasy buffs, the Society is an organization dedicated to recreating the Middle Ages and Renaissance. On any given weekend, members gather from miles around, dressed in pre-17th century costumes (or at least attempts at period clothing) to fight in armor, sing songs, show off their skills at dressmaking, leatherwork or carving and eat a medieval feast. Most people create a persona for themselves, choosing a historical period, name and place of origin for their character and researching all thoroughly. The Society encompasses 19 chapters, or “kingdoms”, across North America, Europe, Asia, South Africa and Australia and has nearly 60,000 participants worldwide.

 

 

 

Consider it a cross between Live Action Role Playing and a Renaissance Faire: a chance to step out of the mundane, modern world into days gone by.

 

 

 

On the day I arrived, the East Kingdom—which extends from Delaware to Quebec and Newfoundland—was holding its Spring Crown Tournament: a series of one-on-one combats to decide who would next be crowned king. I was greeted by a SCAdian (as the Society’s members call themselves) dressed as a Tudor noble and directed to a tent, where I donned my garb: a billowing red and gold gown with a drawstring neckline and trailing sleeves. It was hardly my style, but I hadn’t any garb of my own and preferred it to the form-fitting, dark pink velvet dress I had also been offered.

 

 

 

Sir Han Diablu, my guide. Photo: Edirin Oputu
Next, I was ushered to my guide for the afternoon: Sir Han Al Cyani Ibn Atai Akarel Diablu, known in the mundane world as M. Dwayne Herron. Diablu hails from Baghdad at the end of the Third Crusade, a time when the city was an international center of learning. Herron is a New Yorker who joined the Society while he was a student at the High School of the Performing Arts. “I got involved sort of by accident,” he said. He and his classmates were rehearsing one weekend when he tripped over a large bag. “This thing that looked like a garbage can rolled out,” he said. It was his friend’s armor. Herron followed him to a combat practice session and has been a member ever since—this is his 34th year in the Society.

 

 

 

Although he enjoys competing in tournaments, Herron insists that there is more to the SCA than fighting. Participants have the chance to learn everything they ever wanted to know about medieval arts, crafts and sciences. One person might be an expert on embroidery, another on cooking. Herron himself does leatherworking and makes chainmail. At the SCA, members all teach and learn from each other.

 

 

 

Coats of arms of knights competing in the tournament. Photo: Edirin Oputu
After I had watched a few bouts in the lists, Herron led me around the tents. A red, gold and blue pennant caught my eye. The coat of arms (a goblet flanked by two open hands) belonged to a master brewer in the brewer’s guild, Baron Ernst Nuss von Kitzengen (also known as Ernie Martinez) and the motto read: “Tenesi oblectis per peram facis”/ “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” It might as well have been the motto of the entire Society.

 

 

 

Across the field from the Baron’s tent, Joliet Hicks (the Hon. Lady Joliet De La Rue) was keeping a gaggle of children busy with classes on heraldry and making tassled bookmarks and “edible subtleties” (desserts). “It’s an opportunity to teach living history to the future of the society,” she said. A little boy in a blue tunic sidled over to her shyly and thanked her for helping him build a castle out of wafers and sweets. “That smile is better than any award I could ever get,” she told me.

 

 

 

Erika Falle joined the SCA at the age of 7 and has grown up in it. She introduced her husband to the organization and their young daughter is a member too. “In the normal, everyday walk of life, I’m Erika, but here I’m Lady Maria,” she said. “You grow up chivalrous. You grow up knowing kings and queens, and dukes and duchesses, and you get a little zing when you say your parents are baronets,” she said. Falle is Baron Ernst’s protégé and a “pelican”, dedicated to service. She has spent most of the afternoon on a quest from the Baron: getting 50 royal peers, apprentices and squires to explain what it means to them to become or take on a protégé. So far she has 21 responses, set down in a beautifully-bound red leather book. The Society is her second family. “It’s a special connection,” she said. “In the SCA, this is the life you choose, as opposed to the life that was chosen for you.”

 

 

 

Beyond the quirky costumes and nerdiness, the handmade armor and heraldry, I feel this must be the Society’s real appeal: a sense of community.

 

 

 

“We’re all history geeks,” Hicks told me. “The Society is what you make of it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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