Society recreates culture of medieval world


A once-open field is now a sea of armor. Five hundred men stand across from 500 others, ready for a battle of weapons, balance and skill. As chests are knocked and swords swing, the sound of laughs, friendship and joy prevail. This is a not a fantasy. This is reality for the Society for Creative Anachronism.

SCA is an organization that recreates the society, arts and skills of Europe before the 17th century. The group began in 1966 in Berkeley, Calif., and now has 30,000 paid members in 19 kingdoms, or regions, worldwide.

Jim Meadows, a first-year graduate student studying social work, has been involved in SCA for 20 years, where he assumes the role of Taran the Wayward.

“There’s nothing like it in the world,” Meadows said. “When you’re fighting in a battle, wearing all of the armor and fighting full combat against 500 men, it’s exhilarating.”

Society members engage in medieval practices from full combat and armor to pottery and feasting. The Shire of Okeborne Keep, the Tuscaloosa chapter of SCA, has fencing and fighter practice weekly, with arts and sciences meetings every month to learn and perfect skills from making cheese to dancing.

“We’re interested in the living culture rather than the recreating of certain historical figures or events,” said Kerry Kennedy, artist in residence at the Kentuck Arts Center and member of the Shire of Okeborne Keep. “We have different governing bodies for arts, service and combat, and you can earn titles and awards for your involvement. I am in the Order of the Laurel for my work in the arts.”

The organization operates through local chapters that are grouped into regional kingdoms. Tuscaloosa is in the Kingdom of Meridies that spans Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee. Events can take place within kingdoms, or internationally.

“It’s very popular on college campuses and military bases,” Meadows said. “I’ve been to an event on a military base in Germany, and if we have an event here, there will be people from all over the world that attend.”

Gulf Wars will take place in Mississippi in March and is a week-long, international SCA event with culture and combat events.

SCA members research their crafts, and many are experts in the field, Kennedy said. She became involved in the group after meeting members from Birmingham at a Renaissance fair.

“We’ve gotten to know a lot of people with similar interests, and we all tend to be curious as to how things were done in the past,” Kennedy said.

Robert Shuster, a first-year graduate student studying geography, said he found a family atmosphere in the Shire. He said the group is lighthearted, even during battle.

“It’s just a good group of people and a good group of friends who like to be silly and have a great time,” Shuster said. “A lot of people felt that they didn’t have a place to belong, but have found a family in SCA.”

Meadows said the group puts an emphasis on medieval times as they should have been. Chivalry is expected of men, and dignity is expected of the ladies.

“It really is a world where men can be the chivalrous gentlemen, and being chivalrous is expected. That’s [the] mark of being a man,” Meadows said.

Kennedy said the group is open to newcomers and encourages visitors to come to practices, ask questions or get involved. Anyone is welcome to attend fighter practices at the Park at Manderson Landing Sundays at 2 p.m., and the group is on Facebook as The Shire of Okeborne Keep.

“When you show up, people are in their armor and beautiful garb, and silk flags are raised, and arrows are flying. If you’ve ever been interested in that, here is your chance to live that dream,” Kennedy said.

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