Part 1: The Great Pennsic Migration
By Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
It has often been observed by wise and revered people who are, technically, me, that the SCA is more than an enjoyable historical re-creation society. The Society is also a replay of history in a microcosm. Our organization had some pretty barbaric tendencies at that party in Berkeley 39 years ago; today we are an enlightened culture full of beauty, service and chivalry who only occasionally put on chain mail bikinis.
But if the SCA itself is a high-speed facsimile of medieval culture, Pennsic War might be considered a portrait of the Middle Ages painted at warp speed. For seven days we all, in essence, relive a little re-creation of medieval Europe right here on the shores of Cooper's Lake every year, and that's what I'd like to explore with you day-by-day on the pages of this paper.
This concept occurred to me as my traveling companion, Baroness Ceridwen, and I were on our Pennsic cross-country driving sojourn because, the fact of the matter is, after spending five or six or seventy-three hours driving across New Mexico, you start to think up some pretty weird stuff. But the gist of my idea was this: From land grab to the end-of-the-world party, the days of Pennsic mimics the events and eras of the Middle Ages. For example, Pennsic always begins with a great migration.
Long ago, at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the nomadic tribes of the Asian steppes, such as the Goths, Huns, Lombards, Chandels, Osmonds, Bu–elos, etc. started to feel a longing, an urge deep down in their bones to get the heck away from home and go and kill something for goodness sake! Similarly, round about mid-June we too begin to feel a primal urge to venture away from our familiar surroundings. So, like those barbarian hordes of the dim past, we load up our armor, costumes and pavilions into our SUVs and rental trucks and set out for a new and different place. (Of course, the ancient barbarians didn't have the luxury of modern modes of conveyance; they had to make do with sport-utility donkeys and rental camels.)
Making the great Pennsic migration from California is certainly an interesting experience. Ceridwen and I have a running contest each year to see who will spot the first SCA car on the freeway. She was the winner this year when she saw a pick-up on I-40 near Oklahoma City with an Outlands bumper sticker. By the time we found ourselves calmly following a double-axle trailer carrying a pirate ship down the highway in Missouri, we knew we were pretty much being swept along in the irresistible force of the Pennsic migration.
Ceridwen and I thought we were being pretty sly, cruising along the road without any trace of our SCA-ness showing to the outside world - that is, until we stopped for gas in Effingham, Indiana, and the guy at the next pump said, "Hey, y'all headed for Pennsic?" Then we realized that when we'd stealthily packed our camper, the last things we'd fit in as were closing the rear window glass were my tournament shield, emblazoned with my heraldry, and the illuminated sign for her merchant booth. We'd basically been a rolling billboard for Pennsic for the past 2,000 miles.
All of us, like those barbarian migrants long ago, aren't quite sure what we'll find at the end of the journey each year, but we know it will be something wonderful. And we, at least, can take comfort in the fact that no matter what our great migration holds, there's chocolate milk, a cool lake and days of glorious battle waiting for us at the end of the trip.
"Here Comes the Reign, Sir Guillaume!" is a brand-new book of Guillaume's hilarious and irreverent tales of life in and around the SCA. Get your copy at Ceridwen's Closet at space #74 in merchants row. Those of you playing along at home can buy Guillaume's books and CDs by migrating to his website at www.SirGuillaume.com.