Every weekend, hundreds of men gear up in full suits of armor with swords and axes by their side. The battle begins until one team is left standing victorious over fallen warriors.
One of these men is expert fencer Owen Townes, a former Orlando resident who now lives in Georgia. He has been participating in medieval re-enactment events like these for the past 12 years.
“It’s the closest I’ve got to understanding what it’s like back then,” he says.
Townes is just one of over 60,000 participants in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a nonprofit educational group that aims to study and recreate the cultures and histories of medieval European cultures.
The Orlando chapter of SCA, which is called Barony of Darkwater, does many things to connect like-minded individuals. Members run Middle Age and Renaissance recreation events and recreate medieval and Renaissance combat as well as participate in special interest groups for glass making, fiber arts, calligraphy and illumination, herbalism and more. Charles Hill, who is the Orlando chapter’s seneschal (or president), says almost every art or craft from any time period you can think of is covered.
Hill has been involved with the SCA for 18 years. He was first drawn to the group in high school when he was participating in community theatre. His fellow actors were involved in living chess in a Medieval Faire, so he went to see them perform. Once he began talking to the SCA members there, he was hooked.
“When I first joined the SCA, they said there were no strangers, just friends you haven’t met,” Hill says. “I found that to be more true in the SCA than anywhere else in the world. I have gotten lifelong friends and a support network in many places across the globe.”
Once they join, members are tasked with creating a persona, which involves choosing a specific time period along with appropriate outfits called garb. Townes chose the Norman Conquest England time period while Hill chose to be a golden horde Mongol because of his interest in Mongolian culture, astronomy, alchemy, philosophy and religion.
“It was a personal journey that took me many years,” Hill says. “A process of seeing how my interests worked within the framework of the society.”
SCA members also practice activities like jousting, archery, music, cooking, blacksmithing and fencing. Since it can be difficult to pick up any one of these on your own, SCA members are constantly learning from each other to master them.
Townes’ specialty of fencing is what connected him with the Barony of Darkwater group. “I’m a really good fencer so the Central Florida group asked me to come down and teach fencing,” he says. “We had the fights and fencers, all while in garb and armor.”
While each member has his or her own job, family and responsibilities outside of the group, SCA is the common tie that binds them all together.