Editor’s note: This is part of our monthly Club Hub series highlighting the community service and social clubs operating in the Herald-Standard readership area.
It’s not time travel, but the Society for Creative Anachronism may be the closest thing.
With a branch at California University known as the Medieval and Fencing Club, SCA is devoted to research and recreation of pre-17th century skills, arts, combat, culture and history.
“It’s a worldwide organization to study the culture and times of the Middle Ages,’’ said Cindy Speer, secretary for the Dept. of History, Politics, Society and Law, who serves as advisor.
People may join because they are interested in sword fighting but then discover archery, thrown weapons, sewing, embroidery and bookmaking.
“Anything you can think of that they did pre-1601, we can find someone to teach you,’’ said Cindy. “It’s a society that you get out of it what you put into it.’’
Members don’t have to be California students. The youngest are 18 while the oldest is Cindy’s mother, Cynthia Speer, 75, of Low Hill, who enjoys fencing.
“The society is so inclusive. Everybody is so friendly,’’ Cynthia said. “Nobody’s trying to hurt each other. Everybody’s trying to have a good time.’’
“It’s a chivalry-based organization,’’ noted Cindy, “so we take care of each other.’’
Derek Coldren, of Vanderbilt, portrays Mathias Ben al Tabai, a Hebrew from the first century, as he practiced tournament fighting during a recent Thursday night meeting in Hamer Hall with Cameron Ferrante, of Pittsburgh, who portrayed a Viking named Ulf.
Members often take on the persona of someone from another time, allowing them to better understand the life.
“I choose Tudor era, 1500s,’’ said Cindy, who portrays Gabrielle de Winter from the Court of Henry VIII. “When I wear my full Tudor outfit, I stand differently. I don’t have pockets. I fold my hands over my waist because of the boning in the bodice. It makes you walk and move very differently so you understand a little more.’’
Cameron, who had no trouble moving while wearing 70 pounds of chain mail armor, said, “One of the misconceptions is that people in heavy armor can’t move. Armor was tailored to its wearer most of the time and is more flexible than people realize.’’
Nicole Coldren, president and Derek’s sister, is in the process of creating her persona: “I’m doing the Amazons, which is a huge era. You can be anywhere from across the top of Russia all the way to western China to northern Greece and the time period is vast: from 1,000 B.C. to 500 A.D.’’
Besides learning, these are actual sports.
“It’s exhilarating for me,’’ said Cameron. “I’ve been doing martial arts since I was eight and this is an extension of it. It’s a fun, full contact sport.’’
Derek added, “I like it as a stress relief, especially when I was in college here. I really enjoyed doing this and the fencing. It’s a good way to relax and good exercise.’’
Fencing since she was 12, Nicole is now learning from Cindy, whose skills have made her part of the Order of the White Scarf.
“Wearing that white scarf signifies she’s an amazing fencer,’’ said Nicole.
Through SCA, members earn awards granted by the king and queen of each kingdom. This area belongs to the Kingdom of Aethelmearc, which includes western Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia. Each kingdom has a grand tournament twice a year in which a prince and princess are chosen to train for six months before serving as king and queen for six months.
For anyone interested in trying SCA, the California University branch is hosting the Fall Aethelmearc Academy, a free event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Convocation Center. There is a parking fee and participants are asked to dress in pre-1600s clothing. Those without proper clothing can email Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those involved, SCA is more than fantasy.
“The people you meet are absolutely wonderful and you’re accepted no matter who you are. It’s an amazing organization,’’ said Cameron. “That’s the biggest thing I get out of it. The fighting’s fun, but the people you meet are just phenomenal.’’