Many of my friends who are completely virgin to the SCA and all of it's many wonders have been asking me a lot of questions these days. It thrills me to no end to think of some day being able to run into all of my friends at Pennsic War, eventually. Of course, it's not that easy. I understand that it is pricey and to pay that sort of thing you should have at least a basic understanding of what you're getting yourself into and how to go about it. It can either be a blast of fun or a giant cluster of insanity in the midst of 20,000+ people.
Granted, I don't claim to be an SCA/Pennsic master or genius, but I've been to a decent enough amount of events to have seen quite a bit and learned more than my fair share.
Several people have requested I do something along these lines and great a 'virtual tour.' I'm choosing pictures over words, since something cannot be explained any way other than visually. And even in these photographs I can't tell of the sheer thrill and enjoyment that the scenerios they were captured in can contain. I'll do my best though, and attempt to make this as 'newbie' friendly as possible!! I'll also be leaving this post public. Any of my fellow SCA-goers (and strangers), if you have ANYTHING you would like to add in comments, please do!!
This post will be VERY image heavy, so you may want to wait a few moments for it to load.
The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World," as we call the SCA-version of this planet of ours, consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Within every kingdom there are smaller sects such as Shires and Baronys. The very land you stand on is part of some local group! Myself, I used to live on the edges of the Shire of Sunderoak, within the kingdom of Æthelmearc (the home of Pennsic War!). Now that I've moved to Long Island, New York, I reside in the Barony of An Dubhagain, within the Eastern Kindgom. Get the basic idea?
Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (we call this clothing 'garb'), attend events which may feature tournaments, arts exhibits, classes, workshops, dancing, feasts, and more. Our "royalty" hold courts at which they recognize and honor members for their contributions to the group. Every kingdom has it's royalty.
Preparing for Pennsic can be a big task. You'll need an entire list of camping utilities (ie: A tent, sleeping gear, hygiene products, clothing, bottled water, FOOD). It's a very rugged environment, as there is no running water except within the one building of public bathrooms. Some people who camp in designated encampments and households will create their own showers and kitchens, but this isn't something I would suggest for a first-time goer to attempt. If you really wish to join an encampment for Pennsic, but have no 'connections,' look up your local Shire or Barony and ask them if you can tag along with their group. Usually they're more than willing to take you in. This is what I did for a year at Pennsic! In time you'll find a household to click with.
When you arrive at Pennsic on the designated beginning Sunday, the first place you must
stop is at Troll. This is our word for 'the registration booth.' Here you present them with for money for entry, a photo ID, and a license plate number (no one wants to have their car towed. Ew. YDid I mention you must be at least 18 years old to attend Pennsic unless you have a legal court-appointed guardian? Anyhow, you will in turn receive a medallion on a strong to wear around your neck. This is your site token. DON'T LOSE IT!! If you do you'll be given the bright yellow 'bracelet of shame.' :P
After you receive your medallion it isn't uncommon for the wonderful people behind the counters to tell you, "Welcome home," with a warm smile on their face (this, of course, depends on how busy or how hot of a day it is, though...).
And then you park your car, set up your tent, and put on your garb. Only after that can you truly step into Pennsic. At this point there is no turning back. It's as if you've just stepped into another world!
The first week can be fairly slow by day, as people are still arriving. One by one more elaborate and decorative encampments and camp gates will pop up along the four mile radius that is Pennsic's land.
Most people in the SCA have developed personas over time. You'll find everything from gypsies and entertainers to vikings, scottish, barbarians, norse, the possibilities are endless! A lot of SCAdians decorate their camps to go along with these flourishing personalities!
Gypsies and pirates, oh my!
This construction will go on until the second week of Pennsic. It's amazing the extents that some people go to just to have their dream camp.
During the day there is something for everyone. There are always arts and crafts, musical performances, and of course...shopping! Plus, there are normally informative panels about different historical topics of the Middle Ages going on. Or you could venture to Duke Cariadoc's encampment for a true taste of medieval life.
And if you find yourself craving some shade and a cold drink without the troubles of peddling through the food courts, one can always go rest at Your Inner Vagabond and relax on their rugs and cushions while the girls serve many Middle Eastern treats!
Pennsic can get exceedingly hot during the August days. Sometimes it's interesting to see how some avoid the evil sky orb we call the sun.
I once heard someone describe Pennsic this way: "By day...we are a Ren Faire on crack. By night we are a heathen paradise!" I suppose this quote has a lot of truth in it. Just after the sun sets, a time most SCAdians refer to as O'Dark Thirty, things do liven up.
One is left with two options, more often than not...
They can rest within their camp around a fire and have good fun with their household friends! This is especially a wise decision for those who must dread traveling to the "mundane" world for work (ick) the next day, or those who are more family-oriented, older, or just enjoy a calm social gathering. ♥
Or...one can travel down the hill and into the bog. ~cue ominous music~ (I have no shame in admitting that I'm a loyal bog-goer. ;D)
Usually when adventuring to the bog after dark, it's a wise idea to carry a tankard or something that one is capable of pouring alcohol into. If one intends to drink, of course!
I've always told my friends that I could never be able to explain the feeling you can be given when you step into the gates of your camp of choice, lured in by the happy cheers and the sound of a giant drum circle, only to find yourself suddenly facing a bonfire with the site of elegant bellydancers or fire poi dancers performing around it. It's completely surreal, in my mind. To me
that is what makes Pennsic feel like home. It's something that one can't find anywhere else.
Pennsic parties can be incredibly overwhelming to some people, as you're likely to encounter anything...nudists, illegal activities, flogging, obliterated people offering to 'take you to their tent for the night.' Most all of it is meant in good fun, though! It can be slightly intimidating for many.
Of course, there is more to Pennsic than just the parties. Many attend for one purpose: To fight!! Even with fighting, there are all sorts of fields: Archery, heavy fighting, fencing, yet again, the possibilities are endless!
Even some of the armor that fighters can create is fascinating in it's own!!
Friends have asked me, "Do people ever get hurt during the fights?" Though we attempt to prevent it, yes, they do... Though there is ALWAYS medical staff at the ready, should this happen!
All of these things I've covered are only a fraction of what can make Pennsic so amazing! A giant portion of it's fun is the people you meet. Some will be just passing faces that you may have a good time with, where as others will remain lifelong friends!
The last day is always a sad one. Some tear down camp, ready to leave and join the real world again, others, like myself, deny the fact that it's over until they boot us off site.
One way or another, most SCAdians head back to the modern day conveniences, beginning the countdown for when we can go back home...
Disclaimer: I would also like to add that I didn't take most of these pictures. Most of them were captured by the amazing Darter. I know most
of the people in the pictures, but not everyone. I hold no rights to a lot of these pictures. Thanks. :)