Members take up swords for a battle reenactment Thursday during the Society of Creative Anachronism.
OPHIR — The tents were up and the cry was out: The Renaissance Festival is here!
Anne “of Whaleshaven” Neal rolled her eyes. Renaissance? Whomever was spreading that word was only off by a good 500 years.
“That was later,” she said, as she repaired a beaded necklace. “This is medieval times. A Renaissance fair is there to entertain you. We’re here to help you have a good time.”
And fight — a lot.
The field in which Neal and hundreds of others were gathered this week was the scene of the Society of Creative Anachronism’s (SCA) annual battle, pitting The Kingdom of the West — the northern California area — against the Pacific Northwest’s Kingdom of An Tir.
“There will be fighting — lots of fighting,” a welcome pamphlet reads. “Heavy fighting, rapier fighting and combat archery.”
They didn’t go unnoticed, even though their campsites, marketplace and battlefields are located 2 miles up Euchre Creek north of Gold Beach. The event continues until 4 p.m. Sunday and is open to the public for a fee.
“We beat each other up, kill each other a lot and drink afterward,” Neal said, smiling. “It’s a great time.”
The society got its start in 1966, after a graduation ceremony in which a gathering based on a 19th century recreation of medieval life called the Last Tournament began an era of research into the Middle Ages.
“They got dressed up as knights and they liked it so much they did it annually,” Neal said. “When their kids grew up and moved, they took it with them.”
Today, more than 36,000 members representing 19 “kingdoms” throughout the world, dress in Middle Ages clothing and attend events that feature jousting, rapier and other war tournaments; royal courts, feasts, dancing, and classes and workshops that teach blacksmithing, leatherworks, weaving, needlepoint, armoring, cooking and carpentry, among other skills.
Thursday, hundreds were milling about, socializing, admiring shiny silver swords and colorful woven baskets for sale, attending a workshop on healing herbs, or another on spinning, or checking with the field marshal to ensure they had “their minimals” to enter battle.
For many, that’s why they made the trek — most of them hundreds of miles.
Thursday, the two kingdoms staged for melee, with combatants’ armor clattering, arrows readily accessible in quivers and looks of determination in the eyes of those heading to war.
“Let’s battle!” one yelled.
Swords were raised, pikes at the ready; arrows took to the air, and they clashed. The skirmishes were quick and violent, with combatants stabbing opponents and backing off assessing the situation and jumping into the fray again.
The “dead” walked from the field, weapons held over their heads to differentiate them from those still fighting. The last one standing was the victor for that set of matches; the throngs of men, the sunlight glinting off their silver armor and chain mail, slowly plodded through the field to the brambles; from there, battle would ensue at the crossroads before they tried to overtake — or protect — the castle.
On the sidelines, others were preparing feasts, many using iron kettles, brick ovens and charcoal briquets to be true to the era. The aroma of meat wafted on the air, into the marketplace where jewelry, metalware, pottery, linen and weapons were sold.
Others were busy studying astronomy, cartography, siege engineering and physics, mathematics, languages, or weaving linen, making candles or forging iron tools.
To the side of the marketplace was another arena, this one staked out for rapier, or sword, fights, similar to fencing bouts.
Some SCA events feature jousting, with horses leading the charge and knights trying to unseat the opponents running toward them with long, sharp lances.
“Rapier combat is based on a system of honor and chivalry,” the SCA website reads. “Because the combat is full-speed and unchoreographed, the combatants themselves determine if the attacks they receive were successful based on the angle, location and force of the strike.”
Weaponry ranges from daggers to two-handed great swords, halberts and guisarmes; shields feature the emblems of kingdoms and shires.
“At the major events, our engineers bring out their ballistae, catapults and trebuchets and join in the fun,” the site reads. “We have both controlled demonstrations of siege weaponry using realistic ammunition, and combat siege engineering that uses specially-designed, padded ammunition.”
Activities continue through the weekend; entrance fees are $45 for non-SCA members.