A day in the pseudo-Middle Ages


Last chance at escapism before the school year starts: Skatje, her friend Nathan, and I are heading off to the Minnesota Renaissance festival today. I don’t know about this; hanging out with a gang of people pretending it’s the 13th century is a bit too much like meeting up with creationists.

Comments

  1. Gene Goldring says

    Royal Ale Festival, Hookah Bar, Highland Fling, Wine Chocolate & Romance, Royal Wine Tasting, Frogwartz Magic School
    Looks like you should take a date and loose the young ones.

    I noticed they aren’t holding the Flaming Trebuchet Team Toss Competition or the Medieval Jell-O wrestling Championships this year. What’s up with that?

  2. Todd says

    I’m not sure what any of that has to do with the actual Renaissance, but it does seem to have a lot of beer. What’s the problem?

  3. Fox1 says

    I’m taking the kids camping this weekend, or I’d probably be there, as well.
    I could’ve gotten in for free if I worked the MN Herpetological Society booth, but I wasn’t that impressed with how welcoming they are of new members. *sigh* I’ve found geek organizations to be just as insular, clique-ish and self-absorbed as the PTA or whatever, lately.

    Oh well, have a giant turkey leg for me!

  4. fusilier says

    Good Ol’ SCA – where the Middle Ages meet polyester.

    Oh, sorry, Lady Otelia d’ Alsace, I didn’t mean you. Would you please put the hewing axe down, now?

    (Ouch. that HURT!)

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  5. Eric TF Bat says

    The medievalists I’ve seen aren’t all that interested in history, really. They’re mainly there to selectively recreate just the parts of reality they like, ignoring the rest, even though any reasonable person would say the combination is patently ridiculous and thoroughly disconnected from reality.

    So, yeah: creationists.

    However, the medievalists I’ve seen have one advantage: some of them have sex occasionally. And another: they don’t take themselves seriously 100% of the time. And another: they’re not all complete gits. So there are three significant differences. No worries!

  6. paul says

    I happened to be visiting Quebec City one time during a medieval festival. A girl dressed as a skeleton came up to me and asked “Voulez-vous danser avec moi?”. There were jousts, a big feast with the meat still turning on a spit, a danse macabre as a group paraded through the street led by a man with a cluster of dead rats hanging on a stick. At one point a troop of horsemen armed to the (medieval) teeth forced their way though the streets. There was also some kind of dance in the round that anybody could join. The steps wer simple and you could move about to the accompaniment of medieval instruments. This was in old Quebec, which is not an example of medieval architecture, but is old-looking and built on a rather steep hill below the Citadel, so the overall effect waas quite uncanny.

  7. obscurifer says

    My partner went to our local Renaissance Festival a couple of years ago in a Star Trek outfit. It was funny to hear the mandolin player playing the Star Trek theme as he walked by.

  8. Jewel says

    My partner went to our local Renaissance Festival a couple of years ago in a Star Trek outfit. It was funny to hear the mandolin player playing the Star Trek theme as he walked by.

    That’s brilliant!

  9. Morse says

    The good thing about a Ren-fair is that if you get accosted by a creationist, it is perfectly within the norm for you to run them through with a sword.

  10. Graculus says

    So there are three significant differences.

    Well, it’s a lot more sex than Trekkies get, and there is *copious* amounts of drinking involved.

    Which reminds me, I have to replace a buckle on the dog’s chainmail….

  11. Stogoe says

    Oh, it’s not like dealing with creationists. It’s more like free-form live-action D&D. They’ve overlaid swords, armor, and medieval fashions onto their modern cultural assumptions.

  12. peter says

    the nice thing about ren faire people, compared to, say, creationists, is that a much higher percentage of ren faire people can admit that it’s not really true. (though it is generally considered impolite to challenge them on the current year whilst they are “in character”)

    having recently been to the o’reilly “Maker Faire”, ren faires seem to be a bit like that, but without the electricity… (and as someone else pointed out, more sex) certainly the SCA was there for both, but I really wish they would live up to their middle initial more…

  13. says

    We have a great time at the Bristol Renaissance Faire every year (northwest of Chicago, near Bristol, Wisconsin). Anyone who can’t enjoy a day at a renfair is taking life way too seriously.

    When we went this year, there was a group of about 6-7 Trekkies there. While we were listening to Tartanic (tribal fusion techno bagpipes and drums), one of the Trekkies got up and started dancing a jig. David Macejka, who plays a VERY large drum in Tartanic, always takes his drum out into the audience at least once and has a few people hold it for him while he plays. In this case, he made a beeline for the Trekkies, so while about 3 Trekkies were holding up his drum, the other guy was dancing a jig.

    Now that’s what I call entertainment!

  14. Graculus says

    It’s more like free-form live-action D&D.

    As a D&D player/LARP referee and an SCA member, I have to say that you have no idea how wrong you are.

    They’ve overlaid swords, armor, and medieval fashions onto their modern cultural assumptions.

    Yep, that’s why we bill it as “Medieval Era: The Good Parts Version”. The SCA isn’t about re-enacting the Middle Ages, it’s about history geeks having fun.

    But there is a serious re-creational (as opposed to recreational) side of the SCA, one that casual observers either don’t see or don’t notice. There’s the brewers, the woodworkers, the weavers, the scribes and illuminators….. You probably looked right past all their hard, authentic, work to the showier, less authentic stuff.

  15. BaldApe says

    So they re-enact the parts they like, and ignore the parts they don’t. How is that different from what anybody else does?

    It’s an excuse to violate ordinary social norms, get drunk, and scandalize those uptight mundanes.

  16. says

    Back when I was in college, the Ren Faires were first starting up, and my girlfriend and I used to go hang out (for free) as semi-cast members, just wandering around in costume and adding local color. My role was the village idiot. I used to sit around in the dust playing with my toes and babbling to myself in C code.

    I don’t think they tolerate gate-crasher cast, anymore, but it sure would be fun to send a group of people to ham it up as medieval theologians. Sort of like the village idiot gig only you get to dress better.

  17. David Marjanović says

    My role was the village idiot. I used to sit around in the dust playing with my toes and babbling to myself in C code.

    LOL!

  18. David Marjanović says

    My role was the village idiot. I used to sit around in the dust playing with my toes and babbling to myself in C code.

    LOL!

  19. Tom Buckner says

    I went to a Ren Fair in Cambridge, MA a long time ago, and they had combat tournaments going. I mention this only because of the absurd imbalance which struck me. Some guys (scrawny types like me) would dress as knights, with armor (probably not real, functional armor) and wield swords (wooden things that wouldn’t bisect a loaf of bread). Others, usually big lads who probably worked as bouncers, would go as barbarians: no armor, just lots of bearskins and such, and armed with a quarterstaff. A real, fully functional broomstick about seven feet long. Invariably the boucer with a broomstick would beat the snot out of the diminutive Don Quixote with the fake sword. When the knight landed a blow it was as nothing; a real sword would have cleft the barbarian’s arm from his body, his head from his shoulders. The quarterstaff, on the other hand, clearly hurt. Bell-ringing, helmet flying, cringing, painful to watch. The knights, invariably defeated, slunk off to their chiropractors, leaving the bouncers to vie for the prize under conditions of real combat. I wonder if the organizers ever wised up and started making barbarians use nerf sticks.

  20. OptimusShr says

    “hanging out with a gang of people pretending it’s the 13th century is a bit too much like meeting up with creationists.”

    For the win!

  21. PuckishOne says

    Quoth Eric: “The medievalists I’ve seen aren’t all that interested in history, really. They’re mainly there to selectively recreate just the parts of reality they like, ignoring the rest, even though any reasonable person would say the combination is patently ridiculous and thoroughly disconnected from reality.”

    The SCA as I’ve always understood it is about staging the Middle Ages “as they ought to have been” – no feudalism, no widespread disease, no illiteracy and rampant religious excess…in other words, not a mote of historical accuracy. But damned good fun nevertheless. Now, if you’ll excuse me I must go see if I can be shoehorned into last year’s corset, as there is much wenching to be done!

    (And yes, I know…utterly hopeless geek.)

  22. says

    Oh but there’ll be Puke & Snot, jousting and juggling, fine arts and craft, huge turkey legs and general merriment all round. Unlike creationists, these folks have a sense of humor -it’s the renaissance, not the Dark Ages.

  23. Ragnor says

    I try to go to Michigan’s Ren Faire at least three times, and yes – I dress up funny. Beer, insults, weapons, Shakespeare performed in a mud pit – what else could you want? And for the straight men and lesbians – plenty of ample bosoms about to spill out of the top of corsets. There are even a few women wearing their dresses in the French style – with a little hint of areola peeking out, although I don’t go that far.

    My favourite act is a fencing / comedy duo with very dirty jokes. To quote them, “If your kids understand these jokes – you’re a bad parent!”

    Yes – we know it is pretend. I am a biology / history double major, and my specialty is Renaissance England. But it is fun to be able to legally skewer your children with foils and eat “dead meat on a stick” and “the King’s nuts”.

    Yes, I am queen of the uber-geeks.

  24. Captain C says

    I have several friends who have been involved to varying degrees with this scene (from paid extras to making a living travelling from fest to fest); in addition to the “good parts” version of late Medieval/early Renaissance that they put on (and thankfully leaving out the “bad parts” such as plague, animal and people poop everywhere, and all the nasty torture and execution), there were also a lot of seriously good craftspeople (as noted in comment #19), not to mention the fact that many of these people know how to have a raging good time.

    As implied by comment #20, it might be fun to go as an Inquisitor, or pompously verbal theologian, just to stir things up.

    (“babbling in C code” nearly made me spit orange juice all over my computer)

    PZ, find a good chocolatier (is that even a word?), and have more fun by remembering, unlike creationists, most of these people leave the 15th century when they leave the gates. Just look at it as unusual and fun dress-up party.

    Wally @ #18:

    I caught Tartanic about 2 or 3 years ago at the Arizona Ren Faire and liked them enough to buy their CD. There are a lot of fun, talented, creative musicians involved with this scene.

  25. Hank Fox says

    My pics from the Sterling Renaissance Festival in upstate New York:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hankfox/sets/72157600846944667/

    I love renfaires. Three notable differences I see between the rennie people and creationists are:

    1) Lots of delightful bosoms unashamedly on display at renaissance events.
    2) Ren festival people have senses of humor.
    3) Rennies actually aim to have fun, whereas creationists are tightassed fun-killers.

  26. scote says

    ” I don’t know about this; hanging out with a gang of people pretending it’s the 13th century is a bit too much like meeting up with creationists.”

    Well, it took the Renaissance quite a while to get to England, so long that it just left in the last few decades, so we are probably talking 1500’s…Besides, Ren Fairs are **filled** with geeks so you are likely to find a higher than average population of non-thesists and science geeks. Of course you are also likely to find more pagans, wiccans and New Agers..

  27. Pieter B says

    I’ve been doing the Southern California RenFaire for decades, and I have the best job at Faire: Ale Server. However, I do not wear my “Just so you know, Wicca is bullshit too” to staff meetings.

    Good food, good fermented beverages, good excellent handcrafted items, flirting, bawdiness and music. What’s not to like?

  28. wildcardjack says

    Too bad you didn’t get enough advanced warning to order up a ThinkGeek Chain Mail T-Shirt

    Actually, that might work for you day to day, as you repel broad swipes and make sharp jabs.

  29. Ken Mareld says

    Ohh, what a kick. Ren faires are fun. I doubt you would find an evangelical christian creationist inside the gates. Maybe a few on the outside protesting the displays of ample bosoms and wanton lechery. It’s always good to listen to the entertainers to pick up some new double entendres. Stay away from the palm readers though, they are just weird. Unless she’s cute, the weird might be worth it. Oh, I forget, you have a ‘trophy wife’.
    I am now drooling for buttery artichokes and ‘steak on a stake’.

  30. Ken Mareld says

    Please do post a report. I always thought the ATMs scattered about were perfect irony.

  31. says

    Wait til you see your first chain mail bikini, PZ.

    But be warned:

    The girls wearing them fight. With swords. Really well.

  32. ChrisD says

    #30: I noticed something about your pictures Hank. Everyone has crow’s feet! A sure sign they are all truly smiling and enjoying themselves. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Dawn says

    I love ren faires too. I hit the NYRF in Tuxedo, NY, every year with my family at least twice, and this year child#2 is working at it! We all dress up, lace our bodices tight and have a blast. As the Wench’s guild creed goes, “if you can breathe in your bodice, it’s too loose” and “unlacing is as good as an orgasm”

  34. Nicole TWN says

    My favorite Ren Faire prank was several years ago, at Northern California Ren Faire when it was still at Black Point Forest in Novato.
    A knot of Trekkies in full Trek dress were wandering around. They kept hitting their communicators and yelling “Computer! End simulation NOW!”

    I love Faires.

  35. says

    The Minnesota Ren Faire sucks. If you want a really great pretend Middle Ages, the Texas Ren Faire is the place to go.

    The actors actually do accents and stay in character, and the merchants will bargain.

  36. Graculus says

    So they re-enact the parts they like, and ignore the parts they don’t. How is that different from what anybody else does?

    It isn’t really, but as hobbies go it involves a better chance of getting laid than football fandom and a better chance of getting drunk than stamp collecting.

  37. Peter says

    The knights, invariably defeated, slunk off to their chiropractors

    At which point,their problems really began.

  38. Heather says

    I have to say, the RenFaires I’ve been to are so much more fun than hanging out with creationists. For example, creationists start to sputter and spit when you tell them they have their facts wrong. RenFaire folks just say “huzzah!” and take another tankard of ale. The RenFaire folks also have much more interesting clothing, and a wider variety at that. We saw kilts in abundance, but also lots of other styles. I’ve yet to be accosted by a kilted creationist. For some odd reason, we’ve also noticed there are a lot of really, really tall people at the RenFaire. I have no idea why that would be.

    And Tartanic…we also so them at the AZ faire earlier this year and I bought a CD as well. It is wonderful in small doses, but don’t try listening to the whole thing while carpooling to work. It tends to make people cranky.

  39. dwarf zebu says

    As implied by comment #20, it might be fun to go as an Inquisitor, or pompously verbal theologian, just to stir things up.

    Watch out, clerics tend to take a lot of abuse (which is restricted to verbal if you’re a dressed up mundane) and get teased a lot by the wenches (again, no touchy if you’re not a participant; rules, you know ;)

    As the Wench’s guild creed goes, “if you can breathe in your bodice, it’s too loose” and “unlacing is as good as an orgasm”

    Try having your partner (or some willing volunteer) give you a good scratch and/or massage around the ribcage as soon as your bodice is loose enough and you’ve got something every bit as good as multiple orgasms! *swoon* Oh, and make sure you’re someplace where you’ll have a soft landing.

    Magus, melior, celerus, amplius!!

  40. jackd says

    A subtle distinction for the uninitiated:

    A Ren Faire is to the SCA what an amusement park is to a costume party. The former is an entertainment for paying customers while the latter is a cooperative venture in enjoyment and, when we do it right, education.

    Both pick and choose elements of history for their own purposes.