Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My introduction to the SCA

The first time I encountered the SCA was in the now defunct Shire of Crannog Mor. I was a freshman at Appalachian State University and went to the club expo during orientation. Crannog Mor had a student group and were lucky enough to have the table right in front of the door to the room. I'd been reading fantasy books since I was little and loved the period of time they tend to be based on. I had no idea that people actually formed groups where they emulated it!

 So there they were, all dressed in garb and welcoming people as they came in and asking me if I was interested in the Middle Ages. I spent a good while talking to them and took the pamphlets they had giving an introduction to the Society.

 Their introductory meeting was held in the student union and I eagerly attended. Their seneschal (who would later be my roommate and maid of honor) came and started telling her friend about how the woman at the information desk, when asked where the SCA meeting was, replied, "Oh! Those medieval people!" She then proceeded to write in on the board in parentheses underneath the name of the group. They told us about the SCA, showed us pictures from events, and invited us to join them for pool in the game room after the meeting.

 As someone who was never very comfortable in social situations and didn't have many friends, this felt both welcoming and intimidating- welcoming because they were eager to have me, and intimidating because...well...they eager to have me. I wasn't really used to that. On top of that, the shire's actual business meetings were held off-campus. I had been very sheltered all my life and hardly left my house except with close family and to go to school. I was ready to get out and go to college, but leaving campus was a bit more than I could muster- especially given that I would be relying on complete strangers for rides to and from. Even when I joined the fencing club the next semester and found out two other members were in it, and never took them up on their offer of giving rides to the meetings.

 So because of that, I didn't have any other interactions with the SCA that year until the very end. Another new member lived in my dorm and did become active in it. Rodney went to fighter practice every week. It was headed by Karl Helweg from fencing, who was a viscount and so had a lot of how-to advice to give. Upon his urging, I went to the last fighter practice of the year at Karl's house and it was an incredible amount of fun. I'm strong for my size, but I'm also small, so Karl's heater shields did not agree with me. I was able to keep it held high (mostly), but ended up just holding it still and blocking with the broadsword. Karl seemed really impressed that I'd be doing that my first time fighting, so that was really encouraging. I left Boone eagerly awaiting the Fall semester when I could do it again.

I spent the entire sophomore year going to fighter practice and got to where I felt like I was almost ready to authorize. The only event I was able to go to was at the beginning of the year, though, so I didn't. Practice was a lot of fun, but I got the impression that the business meetings were less so and never did go to one. We did some armory as well. Karl and Rodney, and I made me a breastplate and started on pauldrons.

 I was still doing sport fencing and found a teacher back home over the summer, Burt. Turned out he was also in the SCA (seriously, they were everywhere!) and did classical fencing. He taught me the parries and had me doing drills all summer. We also fought a couple times, and at one point he brought live steel and had me play around with slicing water-filled soda bottles in two.

 The following year, I attended fighter practice less often given that I was starting to be busy with classes and met Bob, who is now my fiancé, at the start. I didn't get to go a single time my senior year. Karl moved to the Principality of Oertha (Alaska) partway through. Rodney kept up fighter practice, but I was just too busy to go.

 The next year, I moved to Iowa City for grad school. I wanted to get back into the SCA and contacted the local group, the Shire of Shadowdale, where I currently reside. Lady Aemilia Sabine picked me up from the airport and let me spend the night at her and Sir Dirk MacMartin's house when my landlord's office was not open like they told me it would be.

This was the point where I became an active member instead of just an active fighter. I spent the next three years going to meetings when I could and attended events there and in the neighboring Shire of Deodar. This past year was my fourth, and at our St. Columba's Day event, I spent time at the herald's consultation table talking to them and discussing the design for my device. That was when I caught what one might call an "SCA fever". They were really impressed by my sketch and encouraged me to learn how to do book heraldry so I could draw for other people. I spent the next few weeks going through lessons on Master Modar's site and others. I drew a design (which I'm quite proud of) for one of Master Einarr's clients (it won't be used, she's since decided on a different design) and on Mistress Dorcas' advice, made heraldry flashcards to teach myself animal attitudes. By that point I was hooked. Turns out there were heraldry commentary meetings locally, held by Master Gawain, which I've been attending since.

My fiancé had been finishing school at App State this entire time, so I've been going back to Boone over breaks. This is our last summer here since he just graduated, and right before I left Iowa City His Majesty Anton Cwith gave me the honor of an Award of Arms for my efforts in recruiting, heraldry, and illumination at the pre-print tables. I wasn't expecting that and I'm incredibly grateful. It was made even better by the fact that my friend, Verena Näherin, was given hers at the same time. What a fantastic way to end the school year. :)

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