Smile Politely

Found at the Market: The Modern Middle Ages

If you were at Urbana’s Market at the Square this past weekend, you might have felt as if you were transported to a time and place long ago. A time without the modern conveniences of cell phones, cars, or even things we might take for granted such as a sewing machine. This was thanks to the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), who shared their talents and art with market patrons. Rest assured that while the market entrance was transported back in time, the Pandamonium Doughnut Truck was still tucked in the back for that Saturday morning doughnut as usual, along with the other weekly delectable market treats. I stopped to chat with some of the friendly SCAdians and watch some demonstrations of spinning wool, leather working, and weaving.

The Champaign-Urbana SCA’s (also known as The Shire of Würm Wald) driving mission is to research and recreate pre-17th-century Europe to promote historical education and preservation of the arts. Composed of about 50-60 active members, their activities include archery, sewing, rapier (sword) practice, social gatherings, and time for “open arts” in which members can practice various arts such as dance, brewing, or weapon making.

I took part in wool spinning, in which sheep’s wool is spun to thread by hand. It only took a couple attempts before I quickly understood why people in those times might have had just one or two pairs of clothing. The process requires a great deal of patience and skill.

In addition to the local meetings and practices, members often participate in gatherings on the road with other chapters of SCA, joining together for a weekend or more cultivating a unique medieval atmosphere. Each SCAdian individually chooses a time period and place to reenact pre-1600 based on their interests, and so the events bring together quite a diverse crowd. Where else could you experience fencing, archery, costuming classes, feasts with recipes preserved by historical cookbooks, and royal court ceremonies all in one place?

The King and Queen during a court ceremony at last weekend’s gathering called A Simple Day in the Country.

Though The Shire of Würm Wald will not return to the market this 2017 season due to other commitments, be sure to check them out at the University’s Quad Day on August 27th from 12-4 p.m., or for more current news click here. New members of all ages are encouraged to join. Fencing practice is every Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at the Stock Pavilion, and Arts & Sciences meets Monday evenings at various locations.

Special thanks to Liz Sloffer. Court photo provided by the Virtual Herald.

Related Articles