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Pennsic Highlights

Monday, August 29, 2011

I have been off line for awhile, mostly because of a major SCA event that I went to called Pennsic.

As many of you know, I'm a member of a living history organization called the SCA--a group which researches and recreates the life of nobility from between 600 CE to 1600 CE; roughly the middle Ages and Renaissance of Europe, as well as the cultures that had contact with Europe during that time period. Pennsic is perhaps the largest of the SCA events, lasting 2 weeks, including battles, tourneys, classes, performances, acres of merchants, parties, courts, and over 10,000 people coming from literally all over the world.

I am not sure it is possible for me to do it justice, but I have been asked for war stories so I will do my best.

I taught a class this war; that is a first for me. Teaching at Pennsic can be rather daunting, as people come from literally all over the world and many of them are both more knowledgeable and more talented than myself I'm sure. But I taught my class--on the history of Kumihimo, looking at complex braiding and how it was made and used in the SCA period in Japan--twice and both times I had about 20 people attend and it was very well received.

I fought in my first war point battles--both for rapier (I have shot archery for war points before, but never a battle).

The first war point battle I fought in was the Town battle. We were massively outnumbered--almost 2 to 1--and our goal was to prevent the East and it's allies from getting their flag into 2 of 6 buildings (marked out by straw bales). The challenge--we didn't know which of the 6 buildings they would be going for. Others on our side were trying to get our flag into 2 of the buildings, but Pentemere's (my region's) job was to defend. It was crazy. We were fighting in relatively tight alleys between the "buildings," facing a sea of blue tape (red tape marks the Middle and allies, blue the East and allies.)

We lost all three of the Town battles, but we made the East work for it, despite being so badly out numbered. It was crazy; at one point we had backed into one of the buildings we were trying to defend and we looked behind us and the group guarding the other door had all but disappeared, so we fell in to fill the gaps. All three battles, our group was one of the last groups to be defeated.

The second battle was Field Battle. I don't know the numbers for that one; I know that we lost a number of our fighters who were also armored fighters because the armored battles started late that morning, but I imagine so did the East. The open field battle basically is both sides lining up--in a line, in blocks, whatever--and trying to circle and demolish the other side. Is not a resurrection battle, so it doesn't last very long. Most field battles last about 5 minutes on average; despite being massively out numbered again we managed to hold the field for over 11 minutes--and yet it felt like it lasted mere seconds. The second field battle, the Middle was able to set up fortifications of straw bales, and by using the fortifications we managed to even the numbers significantly. However, the King decided that while we could have out waited the East and won eventually, it wasn't fair to our allies to sit in a fort for 4 hours waiting for the East to attack, so we were ordered to perhaps the first column charge ever on the fencing field. Which was crazy, wild, and we actually pushed the East way back as a result. We weren't able to keep up the momentum, still being quite out numbered, and eventually fell back to the "fort" which was eventually overwhelmed and defeated.

I was not able to fight in the woods battle because of allergies. I wish I had been able to, as it not only sounded like an epic battle, but also one we won. However, as walking up Mt. Aislin the night of the Woods battle triggered a bad asthma attack, and the woods battle was fought entirely uphill, it was probably wise that I did not.

I did however, fight in the Aethelmarc Novice tourney, which is for fencers who have been fencing less than 3 years and who have not won a tourney. I did not win, but I did not stink, either; I got a lot of double kills (need to work on defense, apparently), and I got complimented on my new shield (MacEoghain fencing champion shield, which will go to the new champion once we finish painting it) and for fencing cleanly and honorably. Which to me at least was a huge compliment.

I also took a lot of classes this Pennsic. I took a class on Japanese calligraphy, which was fascinating. I will probably never make award scrolls--certainly not in real Japanese calligraphy, as I neither read nor write in Japanese--but there is a psuedo Japanese script that I want to learn so that my husband and I can exchange poems that look Japanese--esque but are still legible (in English). With that class, I can also recreate actual conji as well, assuming that I know what it looks like.

I took a class on Japanese accessories, which covered things like leg wraps, hats, tabi, and period obi (which are narrower and simpler than the Obi most of us are familiar with). Most of it was outside of my time period, but it was still interesting and instructive.

I participated in a round table discussion which was absolutely fascinating on the lives of women in SCA period. Because we came from different research backgrounds, we talked about Russian, Irish, Polish, and Japanese women in particular (based on our various areas of knowledge), though we also talked about general issues such as the role of the Catholic church, primogeniture, matrilinenal/matrilocal/matria
rchal societies (as opposed to patrilocal, patrilineal, and patriarchal) etc. The women who participated in the roundtable were both well informed and widely read, and it made for a fascinating discussion.

I took a class exploring possible influence on early period clothing from Baghdad, both on Europe but up the silk road into China and even Japan.

I was not able to take the class, because it was rescheduled to a time I couldn't make, but I still learned some basics of silk painting by talking to a lady about how to do it. As there seems to be interest, we may be having some Pentemere (southern Michigan) and/or clan (household) silk painting days to make banners so that we can have beautiful silk banners for next year.

While I am not much of a partier, and tended to spend my evenings around the campfire in our camp, I did attend 2 parties. The first one was the 40th birthday party for my barony (now 43 years old; it took awhile to plan). People came to the party who used to play with the group years ago. The organizers had cakes not only the baronial device on them, but the cantons as well (the local groups that make up the larger barony). They had hired performers and brought memorabilia from the past... including the very original war arrow for Pennsic (which has a long but funny story behind it). That was very cool. Plus we got to hear stories about the Barony of Northwoods 30, 40 years ago. Which was a lot of fun.

The other one I attended was the Andelcraig Haffla, which is basically a middle-eastern styled party centered around drumming and middle eastern dancing. I don't dance--I've learned a little bit, but not enough to really be a dancer, and anyway my hip was killing me that night, but I love watching the dancing, and the food and company was incredible. On another night, we went to a middle Eastern dinner, also in Andelcraig's camp, and the food was UNBELIEVABLE. So delicious.

On another night, we had our clan dinner, which meant we had another night of really good food (frankly, we ate incredibly well all war long--both delicious and even healthy, it was wonderful) and members of my household who camped elsewhere came up to eat and socialize.

We had small baronial court at the Baronial party and we went to the Midrealm court, which despite the fact that it had 40 items of business (!!!), including a number of peerages, managed to last only 2 hours... and yet the King and Queen spent time with each and every person who came up before them and it didn't feel rushed at all. It was a fantastic court. Of the highlights... one of my good friends received a Willow, an award for arts and sciences she very much deserved, and groups of scribes had gotten together to replace the scrolls lost when two separate families lost their homes to fire in the past year. That was a lot of scrolls--all hand done and beautiful.

I also did a lot of shopping, though usually pretty focused shopping as I was very busy and had limited time to shop. I got a new set of Viking garb, 100 g. tama for the takadai my husband is making me (tama are the weighted bobbins for kumihimo; the takadai is a type of braiding stand), some hard to find (and expensive) books, a silver oak badge since I received that award last winter, some really durable (but, again, expensive) baskets--one for shopping at events, one for putting my craft/arts/science supplies in when I go to events--hand made soaps and lotions (because I can't use most commercial stuff), perfume to replace a vial that spilled when we moved, and a handmade, handbound book, for taking notes at events in.

While I did not actually buy anything this year, one of the most magical experiences at Pennsic is Midnight madness. It is when the illusion of the SCA period is most vivid. Imagine, if you will, walking a medieval village at festival, with lanterns lighting the walks, jugglers and fireaters and dancers and musicians in the streets competing for your attention, and tons of wares--often marked at great sale prices--on display. Yes, it is true that no where in the real middle ages did you see Vikings and Japanese samurai and Middle eastern men and women and Franks and Celts and Tudor-era lords all sharing the street, but it's an incredible, magical experience.

I did not serve as much as I had hoped. Other than the class I taught, I did not help out with A&S as I had planned as non of the open times fit my schedule, nor did I help with the Pennsic watch as I had planned (again, because of schedule conflicts) . I did however help by water bearing the first armored battle (which I believe was the broken field battle--a very long, grueling fight). I helped with stuff around camp as well, especially in the first week when we had to set up most of the stuff for camp.

It was a crazy busy Pennsic. I hope the next time I go, I 1) manage better to balance between volunteering, arts and sciences/classes, fencing, archery (which I didn't do at all this year) and finding time for me in there as well. and 2) that I manage to not screw my hip up as badly as I did this year. But it was an awesome Pennsic.
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  • RAIN454
    Well that explains where you've been :) Pennsic sounds fun, esp for you who loves the sport so much. Its nice that you and your friends share the same interests...makes for a lot of fun gatherings (as I can see...hehe).
    emoticon back!! You've been missed!!
    3422 days ago
    *happy sighs* Ah, the memories you've stirred. :) Thanks for the report! (And Mt. Aislin? LOL Did it get bigger? In my day it was always Aislin's Hill...I still remember a magickal night on the battlefield with stars, spread out on a cloak with a dear friend, wondering what all that rustling was we heard around us,and waking up the following morning to look out of my tent to find someone had crafted a likeness of the Uffington Horse up there - probably stepping right around us while we *blush*).

    3429 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/29/2011 11:40:20 PM
    Wow, sounded busy and fun! Congrats on doing so well with the fighting and the teaching. And good luck with recovering from all that!
    3429 days ago
  • 4CYNDI
    Thanks for sharing your Pennsic stories. I loved reading about them and it makes me almost want to pack up and go next year... of course notice the almost, as it's across the country for me.

    Glad you had such a great time. Sorry you aggravated the hip but it sounds like it was worth it.
    3430 days ago
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