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Gargoyles visit Middle Ages

Chivalry may be dead, but the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is doing its best to reenact it.

Aimed at learning about the Middle Ages through reenactment and research, the SCA and the University’s Students for Creative Anachronism participate in activities ranging from 1,000-person combats to grand medieval banquets.

Emphasizing their full engagement with the Middle Ages, Society members have rearranged modern-day geographic regions into medieval-style kingdoms and organized various chapters, called shires. The South Side Chapter, called the Shire of Grey Gargoyles, was the first shire founded in the Middle Kingdom, or the modern-day American Midwest.

“The Grey Gargoyles were founded over 40 years ago by students and professors, among them Milton Friedman’s son,” said David Roland, who also identifies himself as Ian the Green for SCA activities. “There is a rich tradition here.”

“The architecture of the University’s campus provides the perfect setting for our activities, and the University has been really supportive of us,” said Steve DesRoches, known by his Society colleagues as T.H.L. Etienne le Couteau DesRoches.

Members of the SCA begin their journeys into the past by taking on new medieval personas and conducting research to create individual histories and personalities.

Second-year Caitlin Tulloch, who is president of the student group, explained how she developed her persona, Caillech imghin Siagart. “I used the University’s wide resources to find various primary sources on medieval womanhood and armor. From there, I was able to craft my character and her armor,” she said.

The SCA plans events and practices around the educational interests of its members.

Reenactment is merely the means, however, by which members learn about the Middle Ages. The SCA’s activities are firmly grounded in research and education.

“The goal of the SCA is to educate people about the pre-17th century world by encouraging people to actively participate in their own education and exploration of their interests,” Roland said.

The Grey Gargoyles, for example, can be spotted jousting in full armor during Sunday afternoon practice on the Midway fields.

Despite their dedication to the club, members admit that they struggle to reconcile their participation in the organization with their day jobs and social lives. They risk facing ridicule from friends, colleagues, and random strangers alike.

“My friends aren’t too surprised that I would participate in the Society,” Tulloch said. “But I always get weird looks when I walk out of my dorm in full armor.”

“I get a fair share of bad reception about my participation in the Society. Although, on the other hand, I have gained a lot of respect for fencing with such large wooden swords,” DesRoches said.

Although Society members strive to relive most of the Middle Ages, they tend to avoid the rougher edges of the politically controversial period.

“We agree that the time period in question wasn’t all fun and games, but learn the history and eschew the bad parts because we have learned from history,” Roland said.

Tulloch joked that the SCA is as much about medieval fun and games as it is about accurately representing the period.

“We recreate the fun parts of the Middle Ages, yet we never reenact the plague, religious persecution, or non-indoor plumbing,” she said. “It’s sort of the best of both worlds.”