When I wandered down into the midst of an SCA heavy-weapons practice (or, for those of you who aren’t savvy to the acronym: Society for Creative Anachronism) one Sunday morning back in April, I really had no idea what I was getting into.
My original intent in infiltrating their weekly get-togethers was a combination of my love for all things physically violent and simple curiosity. Those who have seen any sort of SCA activity will know what I mean, but for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, I will describe the scene.
Imagine, if you will, a group of men and women gathered in some random vacant field, decked out head-to-toe in period-authentic Medieval armor, all wielding a variety of weapons with which to slash, stab and bludgeon their fellow comrades-in-arms. These individuals are hard at practice, training themselves and others for future tournaments in which they will one day demonstrate the skills they have honed by slashing, stabbing and bludgeoning their fellow comrades-in-arms with the aforementioned weaponry.
It’s enough to make just about anyone scratch their head, wonder for a moment if there is such things as the Twilight Zone, and join in on the medieval merriment.
Those adventurous thrill-seekers who do give into their compulsions to approach an SCA-sponsored activity will not be disappointed. When I made my own daring entrance back in April at USF’s practice field on 50th and Holly Drive, I was immediately taken under the wing of the area’s most veteran warriors, who were extremely friendly and helpful. They gave me handfuls of pamphlets and some background information on the organization and the practices that were held weekly.
The SCA is a nonprofit, educational organization whose members research and reenact the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is an international association with 17 “kingdoms” worldwide. Most of the state of Florida makes up what is known as the Kingdom of Trimaris. The Barony of Wyvernwoode is the name of the local chapter of the society within Trimaris. It encompasses the city of Tampa and nearly all of Hillsborough County.
A king or queen, appointed by virtue of winning a large number of statewide tournaments within a year, rules each kingdom. This year’s king is Mark Legget, a.k.a. Earl Gunnar Oxnamegin, who was among those nice enough to show me the ropes and whose official coronation will be May 31.
A staff of officials, headed by a baron and baroness, looks after each barony within a kingdom. Wyvernwoode’s baron and baroness are Carl Riddlemoser and Lory Cropper, and they act as local representatives for the ruling monarch of the kingdom. They also orchestrate the calendar of events within a barony and are the ones who plan the practices that are held almost every weekend.
After I’d been schooled in the politics and preliminaries of the SCA, I was finally ready to strap on some armor and begin hacking and whacking away at anyone willing to stand still long enough.
But fighting, even training to fight, in the SCA is not something to be taken lightly. There are codes, regulations and rules to fighting in the society that rival those of any professional martial arts studio.
There are two kinds of fighting within the SCA: heavy weaponry and light weaponry. Light weaponry deals mostly with the art of fencing and is still a relatively new branch in the organization. Therefore, its rules and regulations are not as well-defined as those of heavy weaponry.
Heavy weaponry fighting is an umbrella term for just about every other form of weapon that can be used in a standard SCA-sponsored tournament. The basic sword and shield are standard fare in heavy-weapon fighting. Fighters are broken up into households that are ruled by knights. Knights are veteran fighters who win their status through major tournaments and serve directly under the ruling monarch of the kingdom. Various medallions distinguish them or, most notably, by a white belt that announces their level.
Next in the line of succession come the squires. Squires, who serve the knight whose household to which they belong, are knights-in-training and are distinguished by red belts.
Last on the totem pole are men-at-arms. Men-at-arms are individuals who show promise as good fighters and have been selected by squires to serve in a knight’s household. Their black belts easily distinguish them.
For those interested in gaining access to a household, the best way is to simply start showing up for practices. Eventually, those who demonstrate dedication and the basic skills needed for fighting will be noticed and given the option of “guesting” with a household for six months. If the trial period goes well, the individual can expect to become an official member of the SCA and enter the household either as a squire or a man-at-arms.
But the society is not just about Medieval fighting styles. There are plenty of activities for those who are interested in the culture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance rather than the weaponry. On the third Tuesday of each month, a workshop on Medieval arts and sciences is held at Borders Bookstore on Dale Mabry Highway after the official baronial meeting.
Those looking for more information on Wyvernwoode’s calendar of events will want to pick up a copy of the barony’s monthly newsletter, The Wyvern’s Tale, which can be obtained from a fighter at a meeting or from the Wyvernwoode Web site.