Tag Archives: SCA

I really miss living history

8 Jan

I first started doing living history when I was 12 years old. I always had the next even marked on my calendar, and was constantly thinking of new things to build for the events. I loved going to our weekly meetings, getting together at friend’s houses and doing crafts nights, and sword practice on Sundays. I had somewhere I felt I belonged.

Well the group I was so fond of growing up fell apart, and some of my treasured bridges burned. I joined a new group that I was ok, but I hadn’t grown up with them. Plus they were mainly based 4 hours away, so I couldn’t go see them regularly. What really put a kink in my hobby was college. I suddenly had almost no time to work on medieval things, let alone the space and money to do so. My re-enacting fell to one event a year, and I lost myself.

I didn’t have sword practice regularly, and so I started to forget. I had my suit of armor, but it stood solemnly collecting dust in my bedroom. I no longer spent evenings in the living room, with a mug of hot chocolate, a fire roaring in the hearth, and my favorite medieval movies on while I sat there and sewed together whatever item I was working on for the upcoming event. That was my childhood, and now it’s really depressing.

I feel like over the years of not really doing anything, I lost a burning passion, a passion that set me apart from other people. I had something I loved and could talk for hours about, but now that’s gone. My girlfriend has a passion like that for gaming, and while I listen intently to her lectures on the subject, and even participate in games with her, that is and always will be her passion, not mine.

I want my passion back. This all peaked my senior year in college. Right before I am to graduate I come to startling realization that I no longer have a passion for anything. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist working in castles. I wanted to find things that re-enactors would then research when trying to create things for their camp. I spent years preparing to pursue that career, worked in internships, field schools, weekends, even traveled to England for a month, only to decide that I had lost my love for it.

Now I’m afraid of becoming just another cog. Another bland slice of bread. Nothing special about me when I put on my dress shirt and tie to go into work.  I really feel I’ve lost something unique and defining about myself. I want it back.

I hope that now I’m going to graduate and get a job, I’ll have some more time, and money for that matter, to pursue my hobby. I want to become more involved in my living history group, perhaps join others as well. I want to go to events more, get more connected. I want to find another western martial arts group to train with, get back in shape. I want the excitement from my childhood back.

The downside to being accurate

14 Jan

When does being as historically accurate as possible become a negative in living history? I think it’s a grey area between not having fun, and hampering your interactions with the public.

I love the middle ages, and I love being in a late medieval living history group, but the big downside to doing the middle ages is the social structure. When the group members are hanging out, not doing an event, we’re all equal, tax paying adults, yet the situation changes when we’re at an event.

As it is in most living history groups (I’d guess) the people with the most money and stuff are at the top of the group, and everyone else falls down below to make up the pyramid.  (Reenacting wise, not talking about group politics) This pyramid then comprises the rigid medieval social structure.

I’m a jobless college student, who can barely afford the gas it costs to get to an event, so needless to say I’m towards the bottom of this social structure. I have an ok archer kit, but it’s not the $10,000 + suits of armor 3 other guys in the group have. As such, they’re the “gentlemen” and I’m a mere yeoman. I have to serve them at the table. They get to wear nice clothes, eat fancy food, and tell me what to do around camp.

While it’s ok, it’s not nearly as much fun as it would to be one of those gentlemen, dressed head to toe in steel, the stars of the show. The sad thing is, I know how much fun it is, I did 100 years war living history with another group for 6 years before my current one where I had my own suit of armor. I got to dress up and be the badass one, running around doing demonstrations, pretending to be a statue just to scare little kids, etc… It was amazing! But now I’m just an archer. My lower standing in the camp is historically accurate. I can afford less stuff, and so the people who have more stuff order me around.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really fun to dress up and stand around in camp. My favorite part is acting as camp sentry, that way I get to put on some armor, wield a big pole ax, and look intimidating.

As for hampering your ability to talk to the public, I think there is some point when being perfectly accurate is ridiculous. If I wanted to really show how a yeoman plucked from the 15th century would act if suddenly dropped in a 21st century event I’d be running around freaking out and killing people because he wouldn’t know what was going on.

But that’s an extreme example. How about this one, I can’t see shit. I wear glasses normally, I can read things up close fine, but get more than 6 feet away and you become blurry. (Not much of an archer am I? ~_^) I just recently got contact lenses. For the first time in 9 years I will actually be able to see at an event! But then, contact lenses aren’t historically accurate. Should I not wear them despite the fact that nobody can tell and I’d be having trouble getting around camp?

What about deodorant? This is one I’ve often thought about. Should I not wear deodorant? Even if it’s unscented? Am I trying to replicate an authentic smell of a lower class medieval yeomen archer, who’s in the field on campaign? How do I even explain that to the public? “Hi,….. don’t walk away! I smell like shit for a reason!” Erm…yeah….

Should I stay in character, try to fake an accent? Speak in middle English or Latin? How will the public understand me then? They won’t learn anything. I also can’t scream at the women in camp, or hit them, even though a male in the middle ages probably would have gotten away with that no sweat. (Not that I’d want to)

While I do think trying to being as historically accurate as possible is a good thing, there are limits. Lets face it. Life back then sucked. People got sick, died, were underfed and over worked. You were trapped in an extremely rigid social class while the people at the top milked you for all your worth. History is often romanticised by the movies and in books, when in reality it was hell.

Reenactors are in the wonderful position of being able to dress up, go play, and come home to a hot shower, tv, Nyquil, and the Bill of Rights. I guess that’s what makes the past fun. The fact that you can go and experience it, but in the back of your mind you know that if anything goes wrong, you have the safety net of modern society to catch you.

Living history vs farb…..

13 Jan

First off, I want to say that there is nothing wrong with people who commit farb crimes, as long as they are not at an event that is trying to show the general public “how it was back then.”

For non living history/ reeanctor readers, jargon definition:

Farb: a derogatory term used in the hobby of historical reenacting in reference to participants who exhibit indifference to historical authenticity, either from a material-cultural standpoint or in action.

I know this post is going to sound arrogant and condesending, but that’s not how I mean to come across. I’m sure doing LARP and SCA* stuff is really fun, I know people who have a great time doing it, I have nothing against that. What I do have something against is those same people coming to living history / reenacting events that are open to the public and bringing their farb ways with them. (*I am aware not all SCA is the same, and that some groups try very hard to be accurate.)

The point at those events is to educate the public, and to have fun doing it. If you’re not interested in properly educating the people by presenting as accurate depictions as possible, then go have your own group event. Just don’t come to a educational one with your drink coolers, pop up tents, plastic armor, and stainless steel swords. Again, there is nothing wrong with having that stuff, using it, and enjoying yourself, but just not at these events.

Some people think it’s just too much work to get the real thing, and put an expert kit together, but the quality shows. Let me give you some examples.

In camp: farb with coolers, pop up tents, bamboo mats, and obviously no period cloth for clothing:

farb1farb2Ok now here is an example of a non farb campcamp1camp2

Can you spot the difference? How about a compare/contrast with armor and fighting?

Farb:

armorfarb1armorfarb2

Ok, now for the non farb guys:

non farb 1non farb 2

Can you tell a quality difference? One group looks like a renfaire and the other looks like a movie set?

I must admit, when I first started doing living history at age 12, I was a farby. Here is the proof:

It takes time, a long time to put together an expert kit, but the effort you put in it really shows.

The two living history groups used as good examples in this post are Lord Grey’s Retinue and The Guild of Saint Olaus.