Wilson Park was host to an unusual event this month when members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) gathered for sparring practice.
More than 50 people from Arkansas City, Emporia, Oxford and Wichita — as well as Norman, Oklahoma City, Stillwater and Tulsa in Oklahoma — converged on the rotunda for a day of medieval fun and games.
Half a dozen or more participated in armored combat.
The group even drew a crowd of local teens who watched the swordplay.
“They were here earlier, left and came back,” said Tammy Miller, who served as a field marshal during the event, keeping everyone safe and within the boundaries of the “battlefield.”
Society of Creative Anachronism
SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe.
Members of the society belong to the “Known World” — a conglomerate of 20 “kingdoms,” with more than 30,000 members residing in countries around the world.
SCA members dress in clothing from the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, attend events that feature tournaments, have royal courts, and participate in feasts, dancing, various classes and workshops, and much more.
The culture of the society is so strong that some individuals use their SCA name in their everyday lives.
For instance, a woman known only as Aaloch said her given name now exists only for the Internal Revenue Service to use.
Renaming is a tricky art
Members of the society take painstaking care to choose the names they use in the Known World.
Individuals research the country and background of the names they end up choosing for themselves.
Miller is known as Gwenne Margareta Melinnith within SCA circles.
She has been recognized for her work not only in marshaling, but also in heralding. Heralds make announcements to the general populace during SCA events.
During the sparring event earlier this month, she fulfilled both of those duties.
More than just fighting…
While the most eye-catching aspects of SCA might be sparring or the armor created and worn by those who participate in it, those are not the only attractions for enthusiasts.
Aaloch spent the entire afternoon hand-stitching a garment.
“I actually rented a storage unit to do stained glass once,” she added.
Crafting is done the same way it was done in the Middle Ages.
From sewing and weaving fabrics on specially built looms to metal work, those involved in SCA invest time and practice into creating works with tried and true methods.
…but fighting is the main event
Individuals who participate in sparring are required to adhere to safety regulations in order to minimize physical danger.
In fact, all participants who enter the battlefield are required to sign waivers beforehand.
“We don’t want to hurt our friends,” Miller said. “We just want to ‘kill’ them.”
The sparring is as close to real combat as possible — after an opponent taps an extremity, the “victim” must quit using that particular limb.
Sometimes this ends with opponents facing each other on their knees or with one just arm, somewhat reminiscent of the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
There is no malice between the combatants, who follow a code and offer up a measure of politeness when it comes to sparring.
In some cases, this can be as simple as ensuring a “wounded” opponent isn’t facing the sun when he or she continues to fight.
A medieval return
In two months, SCA will have another event in Cowley County.
From 9 a.m. to roughly 6 p.m. Dec. 2, members will gather at Camp Horizon to participate in crafting and sparring.
“It’ll end when it ends,” Miller said of the uncertain finish time.
Members of the public are welcome to watch the event, but there will be a $15 entry fee.
Those wishing to become involved in SCA can call (620) 259-9080.
Callers are asked to leave a message and an SCA member will contact them as soon as they are able.