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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Renaissance

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Medieval visitors make an impact on 'Stormy Loch'

It's probably no coincidence that the counterculture movement and the Society for Creative Anachronism both started in 1967 in San Francisco. They might be a little older now, but in talking to the medieval membership, you get the idea they're much the same breed of people.

Several dozen SCA members from throughout the Iowa kingdom descended on Chautauqua Park Sunday to conduct medieval reenactments in conjunction with Storm Lake's Labor Day celebration. The irony was strained. Beach Boys and Jan and Dean lilted surf lyrics from the KC car show in one part of Chautauqua Park as lords and ladies swung their broadswords and recited bardic poetry on the other.

The irony of ironies is that computer programming and software authoring and engineering are the biggest real-life occupations for SCA members, who say they would prefer donning attire from the fourth through sixteenth centuries and tippling wassail or ale to any of the more high-technology pastimes today.

Maybe after staring at a computer screen all week, a little wassail sounds pretty good.

Master Malcolm, known as Neil Maclay during the week, is a retired computer programmer with a degree from the University of Maryland. He came to the Eastern Shire of Loch Meadhunach (that's Emmetsburg to you and me), a few years ago.

A 23-year SCA member, Master Malcolm showed up at a SCA fighting practice in 1981 "and found that I enjoyed it very much. It's smelly and noisy unless you really love it. It's very educational."

While SCA members may not be total purists, there is indeed a lot of education in their presentations. Magnus Anskagg helped Javier Cruz don 40 pounds of chain mail to show just how hard it must have been to fight in the semiprotective attire. Anskagg told those present that chain mail protected a warrior against slashes, but not thrusts or blunt-force trauma caused by mace blows.

A seasoned SCA war reenactment veteran, Anskagg, known as Mark Judisch, a Des Moines firefighter during the week, led 800 troops in a charge last week in the Pennsic Wars outside Pittsburgh, Pa., an event that attracted 12,000 SCA reenactors.

Master Malcolm said SCA members choose to use rattan, or solid bamboo, for weapons, to prevent injuries. That allows fight reenactors to give a semblance of reality to their battles.

"It's real fighting with fake weapons or fake fighting with real weapons but rarely real fighting with real weapons," observed Master Malcolm.

While some groups, such as pre-1840 rendezvous reenac-tors, take costume and weapon details very seriously, SCA reenactors are largely out to have fun at what they're doing.

"We're not a pure reenactment group," Master Malcolm said. "We tend to just make an honest effort."

Besides dressing up in period clothes, SCA reenactors try out recipes, music and dance from Old World history. Calligraphy is a popular art form.

The personas vary. Taking the name of a famous person such as King Arthur is pretty much out of the question. So reenactors are encouraged to take on a persona of someone fictitious or at least an obscure person.

With his Scottish ancestry, Master Malcolm found his persona quite fitting. His great-grandfather came to America with the gold rush.

Despite its somewhat obscure and eclectic beginnings, SCA has grown to 35,000 paid members throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. ""It feels very nice to just go into a low-tech, handcraft environment and put all that behind," Master Malcolm observed.

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