Unbeknownst to most, a war has broken out between the West Kingdom and the Kingdom of An Tir near Gold Beach. Like most wars, a crazy reason was concocted for the war: Which cake was better? But rather than blood and death, there was sweat, bruises and compliments amid the clash of arms and battle cries.
The event was organized by the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is a non-profit educational society, an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating medieval cultures.
I infiltrated the war like a common man. I paid my dues and the former princess of the Principality of the Summits took pity on me and lent me clothes. The Lazy J Ranch near Gold Beach was filled with medieval tents. A multitude of colorful flags bearing coats of arms floated in the wind. The tents were not the easy-to-assemble polyester type, but were canvas and poles. I was told that anyone arriving would be inundated with volunteers to help pitch the complicated tents, even at 1am.
People were dressed in medieval period clothing from many nationalities around the world. Luckily, you didn’t have to. Everyone was friendly and loved answering my questions. After a brief walk through the hordes of tents, I made my way to the battlefield and saw warriors wandering around with chariots of armor and/or a squire wearing layers of armor and weapons. Eventually, 150 warriors (in my opinion) girded their armor and practiced heavy weapons or a rapier. Then they gathered in the makeshift castle bounded by hay bales and canvas walls. After the rules of engagement were discussed emphasizing safety, the battle began. Blunt arrows rained down and “dead” warriors, determined by an honor system, went sitting on bales of hay outside the castle. Eventually the arrows ran out and there was a fierce clash as the warriors with shields fought their way past the spears and spears to do close combat. Between frays, fruits and drinks were distributed to dead and living warriors. Many compliments were shared as the Warriors discussed tactics for their opponents to successfully “kill” them.
As a castle, the siege finally came to an end. Amid the imaginary castle carnage, a squire has been knighted by reigning King Sven Fallgr Gunnarsson and Queen Rauokinn Eyverska Starradottir of the Kingdom of An Tir. A steel sword was brought in and sworn to loyalty. According to the future knight’s preference, he was knighted with his own sword, a rattan sword wrapped in yellow and blue duct tape, weathered and frayed from its use over the year.
At the equestrian field, warriors learned to fight on horseback. I could only imagine how difficult it was to control a horse and a gun. Next, armored infantry warriors helped desensitize the horses to the touch of shields and weapons and the sound of their armor. The rule is never to hit the horse. For the practice of jousting, the warriors learned to ride horses in full armor and very noisy. I recoiled when a warrior fell from his horse to the thud of a huge pile of metal hitting the ground. He was back on his horse soon after. Eventually, he rode a horse, played with a light javelin, and hit a small target painted with a red heart.
At Town Square I had a delicious steak meat and mushroom pie, although I was tempted to try the Scotch egg.
At the end of the day, it was the court. It was formal and long. I had learned throughout the day that Kings/Queens/Princess/Princesses are awarded to winners and their wives after winning combat tournaments. There are three elite orders: Knights – obviously masters of sword fighting, Pelicans – masters of service, and Laurels – masters of arts and sciences. I found out in court that the award ceremonies were long, written scripts. However, the outfit and decor was gorgeous and looked like an ornate movie set. An award recipient came to the ceremony with an entourage dressed in green and she was carried on a palanquin.
The Society for Creative Anachronism was formed at a 1966 UC Berkeley medieval studies graduate and author Diana Paxson’s backyard party. There was a “Grand Tournament” of helmets, masks fencing, a semblance of costume (clothing) and combat with plywood swords. , padded maces and fencing foils. It ended with a parade. The SCA was perpetuated by many science fiction writers of the time such as Marion Zimmer Bradley. Today the SCA has expanded into many medieval arts with illuminated scrolls, tournaments, wars and ceremonies.
The “A&W” Anti versus West War is an annual event (except during the pandemic) but each county and principality has regular meetings to explore medieval arts, battle and history. If you’re interested, start with the website: https://www.sca.org/ You can find meetings near you, using your zip code once you’ve browsed the huge website. Or you can attend events like me, as a regular mundane.