Pennsic for Non-Scadians
It occurs to me that I’d best define Pennsic for those who’ve never been part of the medieval recreation group The Society for Creative Anachronism. For the first two weeks in August for the last twenty-odd years, SCA members have camped out at Cooper’s Lake Campground in New Castle, Pennsylvania. (Before that, it was held in Ohio for a few years.) The ostensible reason is to have a War, or rather, a series of melees and tournaments, between the members of the East and Middle Kingdoms and their allies. (The East Kingdom nearly always wins…this year, too.) The real reason is to spend a large amount of time with our twelve thousand closest friends, living in a reasonable attempt at a medieval world. Much revelry ensues.
I think I should probably explain at this point that Scadians are not hostile toward technology. In fact, it is characteristic of Pennsic that there are always folks with laptops who have the latest satellite weather pictures of what’s heading for Cooper’s Lake. I once had a very interesting talk about making kumiss the real old-fashioned Mongolian way with a scientist gentle who’d recently wintered over in Antarctica. Scadians appreciate the resourcefulness of our ancestors and the “good parts” of their world. We do not want to live there all the time, not even for two weeks in August (though some folks give it a very authentic try). But we also do not denigrate the past as a barbarous place populated by persons less human than ourselves.
Sometimes we may take the ideals of the Society and our love of Pennsic a little too seriously. But this gentle is neither the first nor the last to call it a pilgrimage, or this place sacred ground. “Mount Eislinn” commemmorates a lovely and noble queen who fought cancer so bravely that both the East and Middle fought in her name the summer before she died. When one favorite tree at the top of Runestone Hill lost a large branch in a storm, people took pieces of it home. And if you followed the link, you already know about the Runestone, where each year the kingdoms swear its oath again. In a world where ideals are few and honor is mocked, it is not strange that people sometimes go a bit overboard. They’re people in love.
That said, I can’t wait to hear my friends tell their stories about what I missed. The Midrealm won the fencing point! There was an Elizabethan fireworks display! (Now that this guy’s gotten sucked in, he’ll never get out again….) And for the first time at the War, there was sighthound coursing! (Dogs love it, and it’s really medieval….) Also, I’m sure I missed a lot of good bardic circles, siestas in the shade, arts and sciences classes, dances in the barn, wonderful food, wading in the crick, great parties, the latest celestial liquors from the Guild of St. Solange, jugs of sekanjabin (“a refreshingly minty Middle Eastern drink”), drums beating at midnight and bagpipes at dawn, whatever the Horde got up to, fresh chocolate milk from the local dairy, and Mass on the battlefield.
But there’s always next year.