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Laura Austin Photo \ SCA members demonstrate deadly force fighting as used in battle in centuries past as Glenn McCartney supervises.

Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival set for Saturday at DEF

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– The Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival is coming to the Desert Empire Fairgrounds & Events Center on Saturday, May 4. The Barony of Naevehjem, a local kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), will be on the grounds with a wide range of exhibits and antics. (see News Review, April 12 edition, Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival coming to DEF, May 4)

Terri McMechan, a Lady with the SCA, tells us about some of the many delights in store. Inside Desert Valley Hall will be “a full court procession so that people can see what court proceedings would be like in the SCA.” The court procession will include the Baron and the Baroness sitting up there in their work garb. You will have a herald who makes announcements, and people will be brought up for awards. Usually, what happens in court proceedings is an award ceremony. So we’ll be doing something along those lines just to show people what that looks like.”

Also in the hall will be demonstrations of spinning yarn, beading, brewing, weaving, and armor making. “There are different materials that our fighters use to make their armor, and lambalar is one of those, and it’s a weave pattern. And so they will be showing how to create that.” 

Outdoors sounds exciting.  “We will have two different fighting areas; we will have a rapier, which is like medieval fencing. In a way, it’s different than actual fencing. There are different techniques, but it’s called rapier. We will have our hard-suit fighters doing a tournament out there as well.” Read on to learn how they use deadly force in their fights. “We will have someone who does combat archery, and she will demonstrate what that is in the SCA. How it works and what it looks like.”

There will be events so kids can participate. One is called “Whack a Knight.” It is like it sounds. Kids will have swords to whack a knight. They will also have a chance to fight a dragon.

The News Review spoke to a few members of the Barony of Naevehjem and a lot of it is like speaking a foreign language since their practices are from another century. Everybody has an SCA name. Let’s introduce them (and apologies for misspellings). Chris Carter goes by Ashkham. Jenna Tamblyn is Jora Fokadottio. Stacy Anderson is Baroness Anastasia Bela. Glenn McCartney is Liammacian of the Bloody Foreland and a baron. We previously introduced Terri McMechan, who is also Lady Aesa Thorfennisdotter.

The SCA started in Berkeley in 1966, and the local organization started about 33 years ago. “There are maybe 35 of us who are actually members of our organization,” says McCartney. Now, there are people who play with us who are not members. You don’t have to be a member to play, but you get benefits from being a member. You get some newsletters, and you also get some price breaks at events.”

“Typically, from 500 to 1650 is about the area of study,” explains Tamblyn. “There are some people who dabble in earlier time periods, but typically not anything after 1650. We just kind of cut off at that point.” “We used to be just European or mostly European, but we now encompass all cultures,” adds McCartney.

Carter explains how he named himself Ashkham, “I was looking for a name because I had really gotten interested in actually all things Mongolian history. And as I was learning about it, I realized how it was the biggest empire in history, covering this large swath of everything from Asia, which was really, really close to Europe. And a lot of people actually don’t know much about the history of the Mongol Empire as it gets into the Middle East. And that was a period of time that I found actually really interesting. I got more into the research of it, and just became more interested in how all things are entwined with different cultures and how that actually still exists in some places today.”

“When I chose my persona and my name, I got into Viking for a while, Icelandic Norse. Loki was actually the founder of Iceland. And so I built off of that as being a daughter of that, and so I studied more of the early Icelandic periods,” says Tamblyn about her SCA name.

Anderson kept it simple, trying to find a name similar to her own, a Russian derivative.

“So I am about half Irish. I decided I wanted to have my persona from Ireland. And so I’ve always liked the name Liam. And that was great, but it’s the Bloody Foreland. I was looking at a map of Ireland. And I found this little peninsula off in North Western Ireland called Bloody Foreland. I decided I wanted to be from there,” explains McCartney.

“I’ve gone through several different personas in my 27 years of being in the SCA. I started off as a 14th-century Italian woman, and then I moved into the Viking era because of my Viking heritage. So, I decided to go with a Viking-ish type name. Thor is actually a family name. Then it lent itself to the persona. So I’m actually Thor Finn’s daughter,” explains McMechan.

Many members were drawn to fighting when they joined the SCA, but most have expanded into the arts as scribes, weavers, brewers, cooks, and all things of the age.

“I am our local youth officer,” says Tamblyn. “So I tend to run more of the children’s activities. I have learned a lot about medieval children’s games like Landmass Bluff. We do Bachi, which is like lawn bowling. It’s still a game that’s played today, but it does have medieval roots and you can actually trace it back pretty far. So I do a lot of that kind of stuff with the kids. We do try to keep it very family-friendly.

  “What you’ll see at our events is there’ll be a pavilions set, so they’re medieval style tents where people can come and gather. We have a field setup for the fighting. We typically have a tournament, so other people who do the fighting will come up from LA as well. They’ll have a tournament to see who’s the better fighter that day. There’ll be Arts and Sciences activities. There will be period competitions for people who are studying different arts. They will bring their piece to be judged against others and to see who wins, and we usually have a cooking contest as well.” A variety of classes are generally included.

This is what makes the fighting so exciting to watch. McCartney explains, “What has been prevalent for a long time has been what’s called heavy fighting. That’s the full contact armor. You know, hard-hitting melee.”  Tamblyn adds, “It does differ from a lot of martial arts in that this is full contact, which means they’re hitting full force. They’re not pulling the shots.” McCartney continues, “We are also hitting killing force in the killing zone, which is why you have to wear the protective gear. The group wants folks to know that their swords are made from rattan, a type of bamboo. These will shatter on contact and not injure participants.

Those interested in learning more or joining the SCA should show up at Upjohn Park at 6 pm on Monday nights. Often, children’s activities will be included.