This is the Pennsic Independent web edition for Saturday, August 13, 2005.
by Lord Stephan Calvert deGrey
Asst. Editor, Pennsic Independent
If it were not for various bouts of mundania, this would be my twentieth Pennsic. I was squired right down the road from here in a small camp at the corner of Low and Chandler's back at Pennsic XV in what is now humorlessly called E02 and was gladly taken into my knight's household. It was my first Pennsic and I had been in the SCA for about two years. My sword brother had been my best friend since we were nine and he was the one who brought me into this barely controlled insanity.
The War was a lot smaller then. There was no Serengeti. Dragon Trace was where the parking lot started. My kingdom (AEthelmearc) didn't even exist then, not even in anyone's imagination. The Woods Battle was fought down by the Bog. There might have been 2500 people onsite and most came on Friday and left on Sunday. We fenced in a thunderstorm and hid under the shade of the trees. Like many others at their first Pennsic before and since, I met a cute girl. The next year she was my wife. Nineteen years and two children later, she still is, and our youngest is best known for crashing an ice wagon down the very hill where his parents first found their love for each other.
Some things don't change. Some things do. Today, the War is not small. We now have over 11,000 people here at Pennsic scattered among eighteen (and soon to be nineteen) kingdoms. The War is now on officially neutral ground. Instead of a couple of dozen merchants we have over three hundred. The most splendiferous camps of Pennsic XV would be hopelessly primitive by today's standards and the constructions of today would marvel our forebears and the people we were twenty years ago. We've grown and matured far beyond what anyone could have imagined back in A.S. XXI. I'm no longer a bright-eyed idealistic young squire. Somewhere along the way I turned into what is commonly referred to as a "dinosaur." I don't even know how it happened. It happened to my wife and a lot of my friends as well. It will probably happen to a lot of you, too.
The SCA is a medieval re-creation society. It says so right there in Corpora. Many, if not most of us have done some rather impressive work in this regard wherever we have traveled. Many of us have traveled far but still we are all drawn here, like moths to a flickering tiki torch. So I'm forced to ask myself, what makes this place different? What makes this place special?
We have our own local events in hundreds of places scattered over five continents (six if you count Southern Wastes) but why do so many of us come here every August? It's certainly not the weather. Western Pennsylvania in summertime can often be a bizarre cross between west Texas, south Florida and Mount Olympus with scorching heat, oppressive humidity and godlike thunderstorms.
Although we may be a re-creation society this is not the place where we simulate history. This is the place where we make our own. Every single one of the tens of thousands of us who has ever been here has done their share in making this place special. Events that have happened here have become legend. Many of us have been fortunate enough to see and participate in some of those legends. I remember seeing the Ansteorran Army singing "Non Nobis" while leaving the Field Battle fourteen years ago. I remember cheerfully marching to certain doom in another Field Battle where the entire Knowne Worlde fought against us for the honor of the brave queen whose name now adorns Pennsic's most prominent hill. I remember being chased out of the Woods Battle by a bee swarm. I remember seeing many of my closest and dearest friends elevated to the Peerage here, several of them last year alone. Some of my friends are no longer with us, forever ensuring their status as legends. Some of yours probably aren't either. I remember music and dancing and fighting and drinking and drumming until four in the morning and wondering what bargains I can get on Wednesday nights. All of you do too.
We think about it all year long. That is why this place is special, some would even say sacred to us. Here, history isn't just what happened centuries ago in dusty books sitting in the library or on our bookshelves at home. Here, history is what we made. It is accessible to us. "There we were" isn't just the start of yet another tall tale, it is the living history of Pennsic made alive by all of us who have ever been here. We are as much a part of this place as this place is a part of each and every one of us.
All of us have created history in this magical place over the twenty-nine years Pennsic has been at Cooper's Lake. When you step on the field or go to the merchants or sit in a court or go to a party or look at the dancers or any of the countless varied things you can't do the same way anywhere else, remember that you are making more history. You are creating the history and legends of tomorrow. When you live the dream, dream big, then go out and do better. Someone will remember.
By Ld. Peregrine Fairchylde
Staff Writer, Pennsic Independent
The 25-odd rapier fighters who took the field this past Thursday had brought their blades, their bucklers, their cloaks, their masks, their rigid and soft parry devices.
But for what marshal-in-charge Lord Maximilian der Zauberben had in mind for the Early Bird Rapier Tourney, they needed one more item: A pen.
Lord Maximilian was determined the participants would take away more than a won-loss tally at the end of the tourney.
"The idea of the Early Bird is to get to know people," he announced to the combatants, while holding a shovel marked with black and yellow marshal's stripes. "I want talking, not just fighting . . . . You are to get one interesting fact about each opponent."
To that end, he produced worksheets for each duelist that included a space in which to write in some obscure fact about each opponent, eliciting a buzz of humorous speculation from the group.
"I smell like what?" one gentle suggested. "What if there's nothing interesting about me?" another joked.
"They're making us write? I can't believe we have to work," quipped Krieger from Tirnewydd in the Midrealm. "This is supposed to be just killing."
Yet as the fighters paired off on the field, it quickly became evident that each was taken up by the spirit of the tourney, as there was frequently as much talking as fighting going on.
"We tried this last year. My son tried running it," Lord Maximilian, who lives in the Barony of the Roaring Wastes, said. "We got mostly Midrealmers. This year we put it a little bit later in the day and hopefully we'll get a better cross-kingdom turnout."
The turnout included veterans of rapier fighting as well as relative newcomers. Krieger, who had been fighting for about a year, was enthusiastic about the format.
"This is incredible," he said. "This makes meeting people incredibly easy and darned fun."
Gillian de Whittemere of the East Kingdom found a bout partner and drew him to the picnic table under the pavilion.
"First the paperwork, then the bloodshed!" she declared.
With about six bouts happening at any one time, there was copious laughter and lots of conversation both on the field and off of it. Lord Maximilian, who was Midrealm Rapier Marshal last year and commander for the first rapier war point battle, said he wanted gentles in the rapier community to get to know the people behind the masks.
"You never know when you'll say, 'Hey, I do that, too!'" he said. "You recognize faces; this gives you the chance to put names to faces."
And that, he hopes, will reinforce the camaraderie and healthy rivalry that he has seen develop amongst rapier fighters across kingdoms, and encourage them to spend more time with each other off the field, as well.
For his part, Lord Maximilian said, an interesting fact about himself he'd share would be that he has an alternate persona, "Corporate Bob," a magician whose deadpan routine has been featured at the Coxcomb Academy's performances in years past.
Doffing his gear after declaring himself done for the day after a half-dozen bouts, Richard van Utrecht of the Midrealm had high praise for the Early Bird Tourney.
"I love the format, love the idea of having to go out and meet new people," he said. "It makes you think, especially in the heat."
One interesting tidbit he'd learned, he said, was that one of his opponents had made a helmet and entered it in an A&S competition, only to have the helmet go missing.
After 45 minutes of fighting, the tourney was called to a halt and Lord Maximilian sought to select a victor - which, he had warned in advance, might go to the person with the most victories, or the most opponents, or who had learned the most interesting fact.
And what had the fencers learned? "His house is full of Portuguese flags," one offered. "He single-handedly set back East Kingdom fencing five years," said another. "He's building a pagan community center," proclaimed a third, and a fourth proclaimed, "He was struck by lightning last year and was out partying the next night."
In the end, Phoebus Craythorne of the Shire of Mirage Forest in the Middle Kingdom was proclaimed the winner, and received a stuffed parrot for his efforts.
"I got the bird at Pennsic!" he exulted.
Part 1: The Great Pennsic Migration
By Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
It has often been observed by wise and revered people who are, technically, me, that the SCA is more than an enjoyable historical re-creation society. The Society is also a replay of history in a microcosm. Our organization had some pretty barbaric tendencies at that party in Berkeley 39 years ago; today we are an enlightened culture full of beauty, service and chivalry who only occasionally put on chain mail bikinis.
But if the SCA itself is a high-speed facsimile of medieval culture, Pennsic War might be considered a portrait of the Middle Ages painted at warp speed. For seven days we all, in essence, relive a little re-creation of medieval Europe right here on the shores of Cooper's Lake every year, and that's what I'd like to explore with you day-by-day on the pages of this paper.
This concept occurred to me as my traveling companion, Baroness Ceridwen, and I were on our Pennsic cross-country driving sojourn because, the fact of the matter is, after spending five or six or seventy-three hours driving across New Mexico, you start to think up some pretty weird stuff. But the gist of my idea was this: From land grab to the end-of-the-world party, the days of Pennsic mimics the events and eras of the Middle Ages. For example, Pennsic always begins with a great migration.
Long ago, at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the nomadic tribes of the Asian steppes, such as the Goths, Huns, Lombards, Chandels, Osmonds, Bu–elos, etc. started to feel a longing, an urge deep down in their bones to get the heck away from home and go and kill something for goodness sake! Similarly, round about mid-June we too begin to feel a primal urge to venture away from our familiar surroundings. So, like those barbarian hordes of the dim past, we load up our armor, costumes and pavilions into our SUVs and rental trucks and set out for a new and different place. (Of course, the ancient barbarians didn't have the luxury of modern modes of conveyance; they had to make do with sport-utility donkeys and rental camels.)
Making the great Pennsic migration from California is certainly an interesting experience. Ceridwen and I have a running contest each year to see who will spot the first SCA car on the freeway. She was the winner this year when she saw a pick-up on I-40 near Oklahoma City with an Outlands bumper sticker. By the time we found ourselves calmly following a double-axle trailer carrying a pirate ship down the highway in Missouri, we knew we were pretty much being swept along in the irresistible force of the Pennsic migration.
Ceridwen and I thought we were being pretty sly, cruising along the road without any trace of our SCA-ness showing to the outside world - that is, until we stopped for gas in Effingham, Indiana, and the guy at the next pump said, "Hey, y'all headed for Pennsic?" Then we realized that when we'd stealthily packed our camper, the last things we'd fit in as were closing the rear window glass were my tournament shield, emblazoned with my heraldry, and the illuminated sign for her merchant booth. We'd basically been a rolling billboard for Pennsic for the past 2,000 miles.
All of us, like those barbarian migrants long ago, aren't quite sure what we'll find at the end of the journey each year, but we know it will be something wonderful. And we, at least, can take comfort in the fact that no matter what our great migration holds, there's chocolate milk, a cool lake and days of glorious battle waiting for us at the end of the trip.
"Here Comes the Reign, Sir Guillaume!" is a brand-new book of Guillaume's hilarious and irreverent tales of life in and around the SCA. Get your copy at Ceridwen's Closet at space #74 in merchants row. Those of you playing along at home can buy Guillaume's books and CDs by migrating to his website at www.SirGuillaume.com.