For more info
If you think you might be better suited to historical sports than modern, the Society for Creative Anachronism has room for you. Armored combat practices are held in Bend on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and archery practices are held on many Wednesdays in La Pine. Further information and contact information are available at http://corvaria.antir.sca.org/wp.
A general “revel” will be held at Ponderosa Park in Bend from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 27. The gathering is open to anyone interested in medieval history.
CULVER — Sophia Harris says the simplest way to describe her typical weekend plans is that she is “going to a fencing tournament.”
But it is a little more involved than that. Harris, a 21-year-old about to start her junior year at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization that allows history enthusiasts to meet and recreate the world of pre-17th century Europe. The activities include just about anything you could dream up, from historically accurate handicrafts and cooking to music and, yes, sporting events. So when Harris says fencing tournament, what she means is fighting with a medieval-style rapier, a long, thin steel blade, all in period(ish) garb.
Harris, who goes by Kathren of Carnforth at SCA festivities, was named the rapier prize tournament champion at the Shire of Corvaria (that is, Central Oregon) Harvest Festival & Summits Archery Championship, held Saturday at Culver City Park.
“It’s a civilian’s weapon, not a military weapon, so you wouldn’t carry it around to battlefields or anything,” Harris said of her rapier, which was a gift from a swordsmith friend. “But we’re pretending it’s the 12th century and we’re trying to kill each other. The style of sport is like fencing, but we are doing it in the historical way, that maybe you would use it to defend your life if you were insulted.”
For each of the sporting activities at the Corvaria Harvest Festival, which includes a heavy weaponry tournament and archery shoot in addition to the rapier tournament, athletic skill and experience are helpful, but a healthy imagination is absolutely necessary.
On Saturday, entrants in the Summits Archery Championship first had to present themselves to the prince and princess in attendance and explain their motivation for entering the tournament. The winner was declared the next year’s “Captain of Eagles,” who has the responsibility to “promote and encourage the art of archery in times of peace” as well as additional roles during war. (The Kingdom of An Tir, which covers Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Canada, goes to war against The West Kingdom — aka Northern California — at Gold Beach on the southern Oregon Coast each Fourth of July holiday. Numerous veterans of the conflict insisted it is great fun.)
The reigning Captain of Eagles is allowed to devise new and interesting challenges during each archery shoot, and this year the traditional opening rounds were followed by a “mounted challenge,” which required competitors to shoot the final rounds while sitting astride a barrel. (Some SCA chapters west of the Cascades incorporate real horses and equestrian events such as jousting and mounted heavy weaponry into their activities, but Corvaria is, for the moment, a horseless shire.)
Lady Ragna Brandulfsdottir (known as Jeri Weaver, 72 and of Redmond, during daily life), said she was familiar with archery before joining the SCA, but she never competed until she attended the Harvest Festival in 2015.
“My husband’s a bow hunter — he’s off hunting at the moment — but when I found out they could do the period-style archery, I thought I’d give it a try and I enjoy it,” Weaver said. “I competed in archery in my first tournament, and somehow I managed to come up the winner — accidentally, I think. Last year’s event was when I was the one organizing the shoot, and we had knights in castles, and they had to shoot the defenders. It was a little bit different. Everyone does it different.”
Competitors can either make their own bows of wood or purchase one made in a historical style. Some modern allowances are made: Fiberglass bows are allowed, so long as the fiberglass sections are covered with leather. Arrows, though, must be wooden, and many archers make their own.
“This one I purchased from a Hungarian maker — it’s a horse bow, designed to shoot off a horse,” Weaver explained as she showed off her own bow. “There are no cams, the circular things on compound bows. There are no bow sights allowed. Basically, it’s a stick and a string and your skill.”
Heavy weaponry tournaments are one of the most hotly contested activities at SCA events, in part because winners of certain tournaments are proclaimed king, and in part because it is fun to sword fight with your friends. While rapier and archery equipment takes a great deal of expertise to make, most heavy weapons and armor are made by the competitors at regular fighter practices. “Swords” are typically made of rattan wood — which breaks cleanly, reducing the chance of jagged edges should it shatter — while ax heads are typically made of rubber to reduce the chance of real harm. Fighters can — and do — wear real chain mail or even commission a motion-picture quality suit of armor from a real armorsmith, but many construct their armor by cutting out pieces of plastic and sewing leather over it. Shields can be made of plywood.
Once out on the field, it is up to the fighters to decide if a blow would have caused serious damage were the two fighting with real weapons.
“The people who have been fighting for years, they teach that: This is what a good blow feels like, this is kind of a skippy blow,” explained Baron Ivon Drenger (Gerald Barber, 53 and of Vancouver, Washington). “Especially for (hits to) the helms, you can get a shot as you’re ducking away, and it will glance across. And so it may look like a killing blow from the populace’s version, but both people who are involved — the guy who ducked and the guy who is swinging — know that just skipped across the top.”
Some modern materials, most notably duct tape, are too practical to not be used in SCA activities, and it is fair to say that the group is much more dedicated to safety and accident prevention than participants in actual medieval tournaments. But perhaps the biggest difference between the SCA sporting contests and their medieval predecessors is the willingness to let everyone participate, including men and women of various ages and fitness levels.
“Typically, at a competition like this, it would only be lords,” Barber said. “If you weren’t a lord and you didn’t have money and land, you weren’t playing. You were a serf working the fields.”
“Even with archery you would probably have the sponsorship of a lord,” added Dennis Riddle, better known at SCA events as Lord Tighearnan Cearrbhach O’Faolain, the Seneschal (president) of the Shire of Corvaria. “To a large extent, the archery in particular was training to be in somebody’s army. The competitions were to keep skills sharp.”
Harris, the college student and rapier competitor, said some participants take adherence to historical accuracy a little more seriously than others. Some fighters, for example, extensively research historical fighting styles and refuse to use moves that were not used before 1600, but Harris said she is not fixated on historical perfection when it comes to her fighting style or even her weapon.
“I would say the balance is probably a little off from what it would be in period, a little lighter or heavier,” Harris said of her blade. “But we don’t actually want to kill our friends, so we don’t want them to be perfect. We would really like our friends to get up so we can stab them again next week.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0305, email@example.com