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Renaissance learning: Local group recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe

DeKALB – By day, Norm Read of Kingston is an accountant, but in his spare time, he wears armor and becomes Aleid van Groningen, a 12th century knight.

Read doesn’t work at Medieval Times, and he hasn’t discovered a time machine. He is one of about 50 members of the Barony of Carraig Ban, the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The SCA is an international organization with more than 30,000 members dedicated to researching and recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. Members dressed in Middle Ages and Renaissance clothing attend and host events featuring armored combat tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing and workshops.

An upcoming SCA event, the Tournament of Flowers, will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at Hopkins Park, 1403 Sycamore Road in DeKalb. The event will include heavy weapon and rapier challenge tournaments, a blacksmithing demonstration, medieval baseball, dancing and calligraphy classes. A tavern-style feast will be served at 5:30 p.m. and will cost $6 a person.

The group meets for fighting practice at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at Liberty Park, 1012 Lewis St. in DeKalb. Monthly meetings usually are held on the second Sunday. The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at O’Leary’s Ale House, 260 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

“You never know what you’ll see at an event,” said Rachel Scheffler of Malta, who also is known as 14th century Baroness Epona Brodin. “Some have archery, falconry, hounding and equestrian events. There are also lessons on milking goats. At one event in Wisconsin, I learned how to sheer a sheep and process wool.”

The SCA began as a graduation celebration in Berkeley, California, in 1966. The Barony of Carraig Ban was founded in 1974 at Northern Illinois University. Nora London of Sugar Grove, known as 14th century Dame Nicholaa Halden, was a founding member.

“I love that there’s always something new to learn,” London said. “Some say that we teach post-apocalyptic skills, the base skills needed for a zombie apocalypse. Over the years, I learned how to cook over a fire and I’ve done costuming and embroidery. Everything is hands-on. You learn as you’re doing.”

Everyone in the SCA is nobility, unless they choose to be a peasant. The SCA has an elaborate award system, with titles and ranks earned and bestowed upon members.

SCA members get to choose their persona’s name and history. Characters are picked from pre-17th century Europe and include people Europeans might have come in contact with, including people from Asia and the Middle East. Since the SCA is historically based, members wear period clothing to match their persona.

“The fighting can be glamorous, but we are so much more than that,” Scheffler said. “We work on costuming, armor, cooking, jewelry, dancing, calligraphy, really anything you can think of. I joined Carraig Ban when I was 16 years old, and anybody any age can join. My daughter attended her first event when she was 6 months old. We have police officers, people in IT and the military in the SCA. We even have an astronaut who took a SCA flag with them to the International Space Station.”

Read said he loves being a member of the Barony of Carraig Ban and hopes to continue to share his love of history and armored combat with others.

“I first joined the SCA when I lived in the Twin Cities,” Read said. “I met my wife in the SCA. It’s nice to be around others with common interests. I’ve learned so much while in the SCA, including armor and leather making. It allows me to be with friends and to get away from the modern world.”

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