Anachronism group mixes history, fun

CORVALLIS — The clash of swords on leather armor and metal helmet echoed recently across the county park in Adair Village. The purpose: battle preparations.

Not far from a site that once hosted thousands of soldiers marshaling for battle in World War II, some members of a nonprofit society dedicated to studying far older battles gathered to prepare. A group of about 10 warriors — garbed in a mixture of period battle gear that spanned several centuries and nationalities — were skirmishing on the grass in both tribute to (and the occasional violation of) history.

There was a medieval Germany mercenary clad in the chain mail of an Italian warrior and a homemade shield that appeared to borrow part of its protection from a chrome hubcap.

Tents were being struck as the warriors about 50 other members of the Society for Creative Anachronism met Sunday, the final day of a weekend get-together to share their appreciation for all things pre-1700 — and to prepare for a big Fourth of July regional get-together in Gold Beach.

"We meet somewhere just about every weekend," said SCA ambassador and press escort Mathea Volpella da Perusia, whose 21st-century name is Meredith Alden.

Alden, who lives in Salem, works in Corvallis as an analytical chemist during the week. But her passion for history (her parents had to beg her to leave the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu when she was a teenager) has found its outlet in her alternative identity. On weekends, she dresses as an apothecary's daughter who lived sometime before the 17th Century.

Although what she calls "The Shire of Coeur de Val" (town of Corvallis) has had an active SCA branch for many years, the members recruit but don't often publicize.

In fact, she was an escort on Sunday, she said, not only to ensure that no one got in the way of a swinging weapon, but also to try and get out the positive message that this was more about history than dress-up.

In the 47 years since the SCA began as in a May Day party in a back yard in Berkeley, Calif., there have been some cultural shifts with other history-inspired recreational events, such as Renaissance Fairs and the more recent Live Action Role Playing by people interested in fantasy fiction.

The SCA, Alden said, is an international nonprofit educational organization, dedicated to the preservation, research and recreation of the crafts, arts and experience of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. That covers about 500 years or so, give or take.

The weekend camping activities are suspended during the winter, but there is indoor feasting on featured historic dishes.

Jeanne C. McCartney, a technical writer from Salem (aka the Countess of An Tir Berengaria de Montfort de Carcassonne), said the last winter feast featured foods of Spain and Portugal that would have been quickly butchered and then prepared, such as Portuguese beef hash and minced Moroccan chicken.

Other common dishes were things such as a one-dish meal of toast with eggs and apples.

While the SCA members value history, they are well-educated and successful people in the 21st Century.

Alden's husband, whom she met through the SCA, is a brewery consultant. She kept control of the goings on Sunday via a walkie-talkie that resembled a cell phone and that was clipped to her dress.

With another practice skirmish set for the following weekend in Coquille, members of the Society for Creative Anachronism wanted to be prepared for the big event — a gathering of the various historic time periods, nationalities' costumes and authentic looking weaponry and fighting styles that will be in active use during the Fourth of July "war" in Gold Beach.

It takes a lot of communication.

"Frankly, I don't know they held the Middle Ages without the Internet," Alden joked.

The group always is recruiting, and all ages are welcome. For instance, the warriors practicing in the park included a 17-year-old girl and a man who recently turned 60.

"He was just recently knighted," McCartney said. "He's an honorable man."

AP-WF-06-08-12 1946GMT

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