A Day in the Life

Homeschooling and Medieval Living

Gulf Wars and the SCA

on February 1, 2013
Me in a period Viking costume

At Gulf Wars, I become Caiterina O’Hara, in Viking costume

Today, I will delve into my love and passion, the SCA. The SCA is the Society for Creative Anachronism. From the SCA website:

” The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our “Known World” consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.”

In March, I will be attending my fifth Gulf Wars. Gulf Wars is a week long event where the members of the SCA gather together in Lumberton Mississippi to enjoy the classes, combat, and fun of the Middle Ages. There are usually about 4,000 people in attendance. It usually takes place during the week of spring break (this year, March 10-17, 2013). You don’t have to be a member to attend, but you do receive a membership discount. For the week you are there, you must wear an attempt at pre-17th century clothing (that we call “garb”). There is a Page School for children ages 5-12. We also have teen activities nightly and a Wee Ones quest for those under five. For the adults, there are classes, dances, parties, chivalric combat, rapier combat, archery, hounds, falconry, jousting, shopping, bakeries, food merchants, bardic circles around the fire, fancy courts, and much much more. It is the most fun my family has all year.

I have been asked by several newcomers what to expect at their first Gulf Wars. So, I am including my experiences. Keep in mind that this view is from a member of Staff. It will be different for a fighter, royalty, artist, or virtually everyone else. This is my typical week.

My family (consisting of my husband, my 14 year old daughter, my 11 year old son, and myself) usually arrives early (the Friday before) and we help with set-up. When we arrive, we go to our encampment area (about a mile from the main activity area and Page School) and set up our tent. We usually camp with a group called Loch Ruadh. This is an SCA group based in Benbrook, Texas. Our tent is a 10 X 20 garage pavilion that we bought at Sam’s (for around $200). I love it. It looks medieval without being a real pain to put together. There are some who camp in an actual medieval period tent. They are gorgeous to look at but rather expensive (usually around $1500). Then, we unload our van and set up camp. We take the normal things you usually take camping. We have our cots and bedding, tables, chairs, camp stove (with two large propane tanks), ice chest and box with food for the week, lanterns, garb for the week, and toiletries. After set up, we then go to see the Event Steward. This is the person in charge of the event. This year, it is Master Erik of Telemark. He then lets us know what all needs to be done on site. My entire family pitches in. My husband usually helps set up pavilions. I am the Page School Department head, so I go to inventory and sign out the supplies for the Page School. My daughter acts as runner and messenger. She is 14 and knows the site layout well by now. She also looks for her friends from last year. My son is 11 and usually helps me out  at the Page School. We will continue this routine until the Page School opens on Tuesday morning.

We usually take a break on Sunday and help out at the front gate. Site officially opens at 7 am on Sunday. So, we all get dressed up in our fanciest garb and help out at registration. My husband and I sign people in. My daughter answers questions and directs people. My son runs doughnuts and coffee to the volunteers and those standing in line. We usually have so much fun that we usually don’t leave until well after lunch time. I would love to stay even longer but I have the Page School to check on.

On Monday, we help out around camp. Many Loch Ruadh people get there on Sunday or Monday. So we help them set up and get camp all laid out. We have a communal kitchen and dining area. We set up the tables and make them look pretty.  We visit with friends and enjoy ourselves.

On Tuesday, I arrive early at the Page School pavilion. I get ready for our 10 am opening. I make sure that the coordinator for the day (my friend Nan) is there and ready to go. At ten, we sign kids in and direct them to their table. This year we will go see the opening ceremonies (a parade with pageantry and horses), followed by medieval indoor games. We break for lunch from 12-1. After we sign everyone back in at one, we have outdoor games until three. After the kids are all picked up, my kids and I head back to camp to check in with everyone. I like to hear how they spent their day. Terrence usually fights with the other chivalric fighters. My husband usually hangs out with the blacksmith and learns how to make some beautiful tools. He will also help build a period building. Many others take classes on weaving, scroll painting, book binding, costuming, woodworking, cooking and many others. At six, we gather for our communal meal and visit with each other. Afterwards, my family heads down to the Page School for teen activities. On Tuesday, that includes an SCA 101 class. This class teaches them what the SCA is all about. There will be talks on youth combat, Arts and Sciences, and service within the SCA.

On Wednesday morning, I check in at the Page School to make sure things are going well. Then, I see if there are any classes in the Arts and Sciences area I want to take. If not, I go to Merchant’s Row and visit with my friend Floria at the Spinning Toad. She sells cloaks and garb at her shop.  I usually work some for her in exchange for free merchandise. There is a lot of bartering in Merchants’ Row.  My husband takes the kids for some archery and they usually stop off and watch the combat for a bit. My daughter goes off in search of friends. After dinner that night, we head back to the Page School for the Teen Scavenger hunt. They will walk around site and get various people to sign their bingo sheets. They have to find people like “Someone who has been to every Gulf War” (this is the 22nd one) or someone who is a Knight, or the King of Ansteorra, etc. While they do that, I attend Midnight Madness. It takes place from 7-11 pm. There are great bargains to be had. It is sort of a huge retail party on Merchants’ Row. We all meet back at the Page School around 10 to see how everyone did. We give out prizes and have a great time.

On Thursday, I again check in with the Page School before heading off to classes and meetings. There is also archery, the siege target competition, rapier combat, classes, and jousting. While we are out, we usually stop in at the bakery for the wonderful fresh baked meat pies and pastries. There is also a place that has the best peanut butter, jelly, and bacon sandwiches. They are a lot better than they sound. The water bearers give them out to all the combatants. The fighters need the protein to keep them going between battles. We then watch as various battles (with over 1000 people per side) rage on. I stop in at various pavilions and visit with several friends from other Kingdoms. (The SCA is a world-wide organization. Therefor, there are people there from as far away as Australia and Canada. I love hearing their stories from home.) That evening, we return to camp for dinner and companionship. We look at all the finds from last night’s Midnight Madness and hear various war stories. After dinner, my husband and children go off to teen activities (Open Gaming) while I attend Ansteorran Court (my home kingdom). During court, many friends receive awards and make announcements. Then, it is off to pick up the family and head home for some story-telling and singing around the camp fire. There are many traveling bards at Gulf Wars. They usually stop by our fire for s’mores, warm drinks and song.

On Friday, the Page School has a Meet and Greet with the hounds. The teens have an Equestrian 101 class. In the afternoon, there is the great Ravine Battle. Thousands of men and women rush the ravine to come together in a deafening array of clanging armor, clashing swords, and swishing arrows. It is definitely a sight to behold. This is followed by more archery, shopping, classes, and dinner at camp. After dinner, we go off to the Teen Social. The teens gather for games, chatting and visiting. Those interested in dancing will attend the Grand War Ball afterwards. For the adults, there is the Known World Party with a Roman theme. Then, it is a walk back to camp to rest and visit.

On Saturday, I have officer meetings while my husband works on woodworking and blacksmithing. My daughter hangs out with her friends and my son watches his dad at the forge  (across the street from our camp). We get together for lunch at the cafeteria, then head off for the volunteer raffle. At four, we attend the Great Court and Closing Ceremonies. Afterwards, we head back to camp for dinner. I like to go dancing after dinner, so I head up to Bede Hall for the last ball of the War. Later, we all gather around the campfire for more singing and story telling. This will be our last night at war and the atmosphere is somewhat melancholy. We all talk about what went well and what we need to do to make next year even better.

Sunday morning sees most of us up early for packing and loading up. My husband gets our van (from the parking lot nearly 2 miles from us) and comes back to load it.  At nine, I have a post war staff meeting. Afterwards, we help everyone with last minute loading and tying down. We all head out as site closes at noon. It has been a lovely war and we can’t wait until next year.

For more information on this event, check out the website or comment below.

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