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Fencers, artists attend medieval festival


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Combatants wearing full armor dueled with rapiers and wooden swords while harpists and flautists played for the nearby dancers.

The Society for Creative Anachronism gathered in Dunn Meadow Wednesday evening for an activity fair and demonstration of medieval fighting, dancing and music.

Artisans at tables showed off their handmade chain mail, bone drinking vessels and tablet-woven belts.

The SCA is an international, medieval-interest group comprising more than 3,000 paid members and another estimated 3,000 unpaid enthusiasts of the milieu of Europe between 600 and 1600 C.E., according to the official SCA website.  

The Middle Kingdom of the Society’s “known world” includes the constellation region of Indiana, among five other states and part of Ontario, Canada. Indianapolis is considered a barony, and Bloomington, also known as Mynydd Seren, is a shire.

 IU students make up about 10 of the 70 local members, member Paul Friebus said.
Wednesday’s activity fair was the group’s third time demonstrating their abilities in Dunn Meadow, Friebus said.

According to the group’s pamphlet, members can participate in “arts and sciences” such as armoring, calligraphy, ceramics, cooking, dancing, gardening and herbalism, leatherworking, metalworking, music and more. The “martial activities” include armored combat, fencing, equestrian activities and archery.

Members and local residents John Cash and Mike Squires sat at a booth featuring quill calligraphy on deer skin parchment beside a mortar and pestle for grinding stone to make ink.

Squires said the main activity is fighting. The “heavy fighters” use wooden swords wrapped in padding, wear full armor and battle nationwide in groups of as many as 3,000, he said.

Friebus, a fighter, said the heavy fighters and fencers typically meet at Rhino’s Youth Center during colder months and at Bryan Park during the summer. SCA member Scott Wilson, whose society name is Earl Sir Brian, commercially produces rapiers at Darkwood Armory, a Mississippi-based business.

Bloomington shire members purchase and personally customize the rapiers, Friebus said. Darkwood Armory also produces jousting supplies, daggers, defensive arms and other related products, according to its website.

The musicians in the SCA meet in the Indiana Memorial Union, but the archers must meet outside Bloomington city limits to comply with the city law prohibiting archery, SCA member Robin Green said. The restrictions permitted her to bring only a broken arrow to Dunn Meadow, she said.

The archery group often meets for practices at Green’s house outside Bloomington.
Green displayed her Hungarian horse-bow, which is made from horn, wood and sinew. It is named for its ease of use on horseback compared to the unwieldy English longbow, she said.

Member Cindy Rogers, whose society name is Rhiannon Redwulf, played a four-octave harp to accompany a medieval partner dance in which students and society members were introduced in a rotation.

Cindy has been a member for almost 50 years and has watched the organization shift toward greater historical accuracy, she said. She chose her name during a time when naming conventions were less precise, and said there are now people within the SCA who help new members choose an etymologically correct name based on their area and period of interest.

Friebus’ society name is Peter Grau von Bremen. “Von” indicates noble standing in German. All members of the SCA are characterized as nobility to prevent mistreatment of would-be serfs and to encourage new members to join, Friebus said.

The organization’s international 50th anniversary celebration is scheduled for 2016 in Indianapolis. Members from all over the world will be in attendance, and some have already made travel arrangements, Friebus said.  


Follow reporter Alec Priester on Twitter @alecpriester.

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