Building a contemporary Medieval fantasy


Illustration by Elyse Taylor

“Kill” your friends, don’t injure them. This is the motto of the SCA swordfighter.

For the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international club that studies and recreates the Middle Ages, sword fighting is a common activity. Both heavy sword and rapier fighting, archery, throwing weapons, camping, sewing, art, history, calligraphy, lost crafts such as lace making and carding wool, belly dancing and cooking have a place in the Society.

Many members of Arrow’s Flight, Utah Valley’s SCA province, choose a persona with a historically accurate name, interesting background and garb. The idea is to immerse yourself in history from an anthropological standpoint and enjoy doing it.

Kristine Alvarez, known as the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the exchequer (treasurer), for Arrow’s Flight, said she particularly likes immersion into studying and living history.

“It’s dressing up for grown ups,” she said. “How cool is that?”

The persona and study of history are not truly necessary, but they keep things engaging for many members. Some change their persona when they want to try a new way of dressing or study a different culture of the time period.

The club meets every week for “fighter practice.”  Other gatherings, like workshops for armor building or sewing circles, do happen, but the regular social gathering for men, women and children is the fighter practice.

Such fighter practices may include drills for heavy fighters, a calligraphy class and children’s art activity and play rehearsal. Some members even trade recipes for the dying art of home brewing in order to try a chocolate or kiwi-strawberry mead at alcohol permissive events.

This group of friends knows each other well. The society is, however, quite welcoming of new members, so anything on anyone’s mind is discussed. These are the friends who feel the loss when a family has to move to find work. They are also those who show up to help said family move. Such an organization is like a large family with branches across the globe. Members travel large distances to attend events or make sure to stop at a local event or fighter practice when on vacation.

“Wars” with other groups are assemblies of many sword fighters in giant battles, often with merchantsmedieval, collegiums and tournaments accompanying them.

The SCA also presents a yearly fundraiser for Toys4Tots and provides medieval history lessons with sword fighting demos at schools, libraries and scouting events.

Many families enjoy the SCA, especially in Utah County’s Arrow’s Flight Province, because it’s a place to do fun activities together. Some also appreciate that, although there are many club members who are LDS, all faiths are welcome.

Gwyn Briggs, SCA name Elizabeth Stefanson, is a Dixon Middle School student who likes the SCA for the sword fighting she gets to do using foam swords, camping, wearing fun clothes and making those clothes together with her mother.

Gwyn’s mother, Chana Briggs—also known as Bronwyn Ceredigion—agreed that the sewing and family time are great aspects of the society, but she said that a person involved with SCA must be careful to watch both money and time because the cost of gas, supplies, event fees and more can quickly add up. There is, after all, at least one event going on in the kingdom nearly every weekend.

Paid membership is not required for practices and events, but it is necessary to hold an office or to fight for the crown. The $3 non-member fee at events and waivers for sword fighting and every child in case of emergency are so much of a hassle that nearly all minors in the local group are card-carrying members.

Such waivers may make people concerned about the safety of the group, but, since the group started at a costume party in the 1960s with broom handles for swords, only two people have ever died on an SCA battle field. One of those had a health condition which acted up at that time and the other’s armor should not have passed the required safety inspection. Rules and safeguards are in place to make the activities as safe as possible. It is only fun for everyone if you “kill” your opponent and then the fight restarts and you can “kill” him again, not if you injure him and the fighting stops.

Steve Briggs, known as Stephen the Other, has been in the SCA since he was eighteen. He said he enjoys the family time, too, but what makes the SCA special and unique for him is being able to get out a week’s stress by “hitting someone with a baseball bat” in the fun and controlled environment of heavy sword fighting. Heavy rattan wood swords are used, so the reference is quite fitting. Other fighters such as Alex Alvarez, known as Rodrigo De Castilla Leon, agree that sword fighting is very useful for relieving stress. For the night owls, some people go out after the practice to  “post revel.”

The local group, Arrow’s Flight, meets Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Council of Provo on 310 W. 500 N. in Provo. Further details can be found at www.Arrows-Flight.org and more information about the SCA is available at www.SCA.org

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