By Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
Being at Pennsic is a lot like living through the whole chronology of the Middle Ages, condensed into a week's time. We migrate and settle during the "Dark Ages" of land grab, then we establish boundaries and open channels of trade, and by Wednesday we are ready to begin what might be referred to as "the Pennsic Renaissance."
During the 14th and 15th centuries, European culture experienced a period of reinvigoration as Flemish traders, funded by Italian bankers, hired Spanish navigators to satisfy the commercial tastes of French aristocrats. Adding to this was a rediscovery of the art and culture of the Classical world, which sparked a new trend in aesthetic sensibilities as crowned heads throughout Europe cheerfully celebrated advances in architecture, music, fashion and cuisine through obscene displays of wealth, prestige and authority.
At Pennsic, the Renaissance comes not in a rediscovery of lost knowledge and artistry, but in the realization of just how many talented people there are in the SCA. This phase of the war develops slowly over the course of several days, beginning with the A&S display on Monday. With so many talented artisans showing the results of their work and research, those of us mortals who thought we had a handle on this whole re-creation thing suddenly begin to feel like chimpanzees throwing mud at a ceiling and calling it the Sistine Chapel. The armor, garb and accessories that we thought were acceptable just a few days ago now seem plain and amateurish; we all begin to scheme and plan on ways to upgrade our SCA equipment.
Luckily we can begin that process immediately by flocking to the numerous arts and sciences classes that are offered during the course of the war, and which seem to be filling up rapidly by the middle of the week. At last year's Pennsic, although my main goal in coming to the war was basically to have the chance to hit all of my friends in the head with a stick, by Wednesday I was voluntarily bypassing battles and tournaments in order to take classes on 14th century head wear, turn shoe making, Shakespearian acting and the history of Bogomilist dogma in the development of Western spiritual thought. Soon I was wondering how I'd survived so long in the SCA wearing nothing but T-tunics and hiking boots, and I vowed that when I returned back home I'd refurbish my entire harness to a museum-quality replica of knightly splendor.
Of course, as always, I've fallen a bit short of that goal in the ensuing year (please don't look too closely at the shoes I'm wearing - I discovered that the reason they call them 'turn' shoes is that making them 'turns' out to be a lot harder than it looks). But still, sometimes the inspiration is just as important as the execution. All it takes is a new idea, a bit of enthusiasm and a colorful imagination to begin a Renaissance, and all of those things are in plentiful supply at Pennsic.
Experience what little culture Guillaume claims he has absorbed in his new book, "Here Comes the Reign, Sir Guillaume!" which features 25 of his best and funniest stories of life in the SCA, sold at Ceridwen's Closet, space #74 in merchants row. You can also marvel at Guillaume's lack of culture by making a visit to his website at www.SirGuillaume.com.