Middle Ages. Some people watch it, read it or play it. We found Montrealers who live the Middle Ages every day. In gymnasiums or church basements, they are training their skills to be great members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
7h42 invites you to discover Montreal’s chapter of this parallel society: the Barony of L’Ile du Dragon Dormant [Editor’s note: Sleeping Dragon Island].
This is the first photoreport in a series of three.
7h42 talked to the Barony’s journalist: Philippe De Rouville.
I would like to talk about your equipment. What are your weapons made of?
Well … our weapons are not exactly made of bamboo, but a type of bamboo that is full (and not empty, like bamboo is), which is rattan.
And your armors, how much do they weigh? In what type of metal are they made?
Armor crafting is not limited to a single type of metal. Some fighters will make their armor in plastic, covering them with a tabard. Protection is more important than aesthetics. We have a complete guide explaining the places that we need to protect and with which type of materials we have to minimally protect them.
But to avoid folds in the armors, the range of materials is very large. The most commonly used is 14 or 16 gauge steel. It goes as far as aluminum alloys made for planes, which gives an incredible resistance for a minimal weight.
Because the armor is specifically conceived by its user, each armor has a different weight. But every fighter carries an average of 25 to 50 pounds of equipment (11 to 25 kg).
It must be cool to wear a metal alloy that was made for planes.
My helmet is in fact made of this type of alloy … and some shields are as well.
How do you choose your weapons? For example: sword or battle axe?
Interest. In short, if somebody is interested in a particular style, he simply crafts what he needs. That’s all.
There is no mandatory or imposed style, but certain combat styles are very common, like the sword and shield combo. And the majority of good fighters will be able to handle a lot of different weapons.
And what are, roughly speaking, your fabrication standards?
Uh yes … wait. You craft other things?
Armors, shields, etc. A large number of things we use in the SCA (Ed. Note: Society for Creative Anachronism) is hand-made: the clothes that we wear in the events and even, sometimes, the beer that we drink there.
The banners, thrones, tablecloths… In short, everything that helps “recreate the Middle Ages” during the events. Music instruments… There’s an “art and science” aspect in the SCA. It is less spectacular, but important nonetheless.
When you participate in tournaments, are there some rules that impose a particular fighting style or weapon choice? Are you still free to choose what weapon you want to wield hen you fight in groups?
Well, if we talk about one on one fights, it’s up to the fighter to decide, generally. Although certain types of tournaments can impose variants or particular fights, making the fight more interesting.
If we talk about melee fights, where there are several fighters, it’s still up to the fighter’s choice, but everything is thought out to create a group strategy. A fighter can bring a 9-foot spear (2.75 meters) to a group fight, because he can count on his teammates to protect him with their swords and shields.
Do you participate in a lot of tournaments?
It depends on the person. The more “committed” fighters do, I would say, between two and four tournaments and three to five wars per year.
What’s the difference between a war and a tournament?
The number of people fighting at the same time would be an easy answer. But the stakes are different. Each event has its own stake.
Tournaments are games that can be played between members of the same group or the same region. While wars are more often fights between Regions or Kingdoms. Like, one Region fights another one.
There are some wars that are made to decide to whom Pittsburg doesn’t belong … at least, it was the initial stake. There are tournaments that are held to crown a King, etc.
And the Barony, it’s a Region?
The Barony of L’Ile du Dragon Dormant is part of a Region called “Tir Mara”, which covers all of the Province of Quebec and the Maritimes. And Tir Mara, as a Region, is part of the Eastern Kingdom, which covers Tir Mara’s width and goes down south, a couple of hours past New York.
For example, in our Kingdom, the closest groups to our Barony are: the Barony du Havre des Glaces, in Quebec City, and the Barony of Cordwood, in Plattsburgh.
To the east, it’s the Kingdom of Ealdormere, with the Barony of Skraelig Althing, in Ottawa.
And I think that it all started in California?
Absolutely. In a backyard in Berkeley.
How do you consider the SCA? Is it a live-action role-playing game? Historical reenactment? Something else?
Uh, well, it’s hard to categorize. There is a part of serious and modern, but also a part of play. I would say that it is closer to historical reenactment, but the SCA is not defined by a specific period or location.
People are themselves, but with medieval names. It’s not unusual to see, for example, to see a fifteen-century samurai sitting on the throne with a ninth century French lady by his side.
The SCA covers nearly 1,000 years of history and there is no discrimination, as long as it is not “fantasy”.
We call it “Modern Middle Ages”.
One night that I came to see you, three persons received “belts”. What does it mean?
It’s difficult to explain, but it’s very precise. Roughly speaking, they received belts from Lord Pellandres, who is a new knight.
This belt is a northern tradition, in our Kingdom. It is less common in the south. In short, Lord Pellandres chose three persons as his “man-at-arms”. He accepts to guide them, to train them, to help them and to support them. All that so they can become better fighters. The nature of this relation varies from one knight to the other.
It’s not like a karate belt, which signifies a reached level. It symbolizes the relationship between the man-at-arms and the knight.
There is also a red belt, who is the squire. The squire and the knight generally have a tighter relationship than the man-at-arms and the knight. And someone who becomes a squire is generally on a good path to become a knight himself.
I also saw, on my pictures, that you have a blue belt…
I am also a man-at-arms, for Lord Angus.
There are a lot of knights in the Barony?
Two. Lord Angus and Lord Pellandres. There is a third one in Quebec City, Lord Mohammed, who is the first knight from Quebec and to whom Lord Angus was the squire.
To become Baron, you don’t have to be a “noble”, a knight?
Absolutely not. First of all, in the SCA, every member is considered “noble”. The Baron title is a ceremonial role granted by the King. Generally, the people of a Region and the King name a Baron for a three years term.
Roughly speaking, the term “barony” is defined by the number of members in a local “chapter”. Starting from a township, which has a few members, then to a lordship, then to a barony.
So, the knight title, what do you gain from it?
It doesn’t give something. It’s a recognition given by the King. To become a knight, the other knights of the Kingdom have to vote for you. And the knight-to-be needs to prove his chivalrous behaviour inside and outside of fights. He is therefore the equal of the other knights.
Similar distinction exists for those practice Art and Science and for those who serve.
In short, if I see a knight, identified by his white belt, there are some good chances that he will be a nice guy, in a certain way, and that he will be an expert fighter. Therefore, I’m going to be able to learn from this person.
Is there a higher title than “knight”?
Knight is the highest distinction for combat. There are also titles that can be obtained by the Crown Tournament, but that’s a whole different thing.
Generally, the person who wins the Crown Tournament becomes Prince or Princess for six months. After that, they rule as King or Queen for another six months.
His functions are somewhat like those of a Baron, but for all of the Kingdom. Not only a single group or Region.
After being King for six months, the person receives the title of “Count”. A person who is King and was already a Count (that means it’s his second time as King), becomes a Duke.
A Duke is not only a good fighter, but he won the most prestigious and contested tournament in the Kingdom more than once.
It is not necessary to be a Knight to become a Prince, a King, a Count or a Duke.
Are there bigger territories than a Barony?
As a local group, no. But when more than one Barony or groups join together, you have a Province. It can lead to the formation of new Kingdoms. But local groups keep their titles and their sovereignty.
I saw some non-members of the SCA and the Barony participating to armoured combats. Is that something you often see?
Absolutely. It’s not necessary to be a member to participate. Members support the organization with their subscriptions and they generally have a small discount on the entree fees of events. But a non-member can participate. No problem.
There are some functions that a non-member can’t do, however, like being a Marshall (referee) or occupying a position as a group officer (sitting on the Board of Direction).
And what kind of injury do you risk when fighting?
It’s ironic, because my friends and I found out that there were fewer injuries in the SCA than in live-action role-playing games, where they use foam weapons. That’s because we have rules regarding the strength of our armors. They have to protect us for real.
That said, we risk the same kinds of injuries as hockey players: torsions and stretchings due to bad movements. Often, it’s bruises. But nothing that, generally, takes more than one or two weeks to heal.
Fractures are possible, as well as concussions. But it’s very rare. You have to compare us to other events and medieval associations. The SCA has more than 100,000 members. Injuries are impossible to avoid.
What is the worst injury that you’ve witnessed? If you ever witnessed one.
That I saw? I would say … someone a little dazed, putting one knee on the ground.
You have to understand that to fight within the SCA, a person has to be accompanied, then he can obtain an authorization “licence” by the Marshalls. It’s them who figure out whether a new fighter knows how to behave on the battlefield and if there is a danger for himself and the others.
The armors are also inspected before each fight, each practice and events. So everything is controlled and that level.
What causes injuries, most of the time, is the calibration, which is hard to do in a melee fight. Calibration, roughly speaking, is the necessary strength needed so that your adversary determines whether a blow is good or not.
We all know that there is a large range of body sizes. A tall and sturdy fighter will take heavier hits than a small and thin one.
I have a last question. I would like to know your complete SCA name, title and functions.
I am Renaud Mauclerc de Lusignan, I am the Chronicler of the Barony of L’Ile du Dragon Dormant.
Thank you very much, Renaud.
Achievement unlocked: Dragon Knights discovered!
You now step forward and localize two paths.
The first one leads to the second half of the same gymnasium, where other members of the Barony are practicing their fencing skills – check back next week to learn about Dragon Fencing.
The second path leads to a church basement, in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood, where you will find other members of the Barony wielding real bows and arrows.
Tonight it’s Halloween and some of them are costumed.– check back in two weeks to learn about Dragon Archery.