The Lansdowne Outdoor Recreation Department Association Park transforms into something entirely different from just a park as summer starts warming up.
LORDA serves as the pastoral setting for something truly anachronistic every year around this time. It becomes part of the Barony of Ruantallan – the Canton of Distant Shore – a completely anachronistic and novel political region crafted for the sake of immersion.
But the immersion into another anachronistic era goes far beyond new names for an area that constitutes Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
On Saturday, the park was filled with an assortment of canvas tents, cook fires, and banners with medieval devices, such as black boars and blue lobsters, rippling in the late June winds. This year marked a bit of a departure from the usual time LORDA Park goes back in time, since the event usually coincides with Canada Day.
Across the park, people could be seen donning armour and brandishing imitation weapons, engaged in medieval sparring – or just relaxing. Needless to say, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) was making its presence known in Lansdowne.
Saturday’s event was a “war camp” for a much larger anachronistic event known as Pennsic, an event later in the summer in northern Pennsylvania, where groups of 10-12,000 people meet.
Mistress Briana Douglase (Wendy Regular), who serves as a seneschal (branch representative), said the event focuses mainly on pre-1600s history, with people dressing and living in a way to recreate the way of life from that time.
True to form, participants camped all around LORDA Park were engaged in a number of quintessentially medieval and renaissance style activities – from fighting in armour, to dying wool and cooking.
Although there is a strong sense of camaraderie in the “war camp” occupying LORDA, Regular noted that there is much less commonality in what inspires people.
Costumes, and activities engaged in throughout the day were inspired by a number of different cultures, from various historic periods – which adds to the fun.
“We try to recreate everything in the past – that’s what our draw is. Some people make garb from different periods, and some make calligraphy and illumination on scrolls (which serve as awards for achievement at SCA events),” said Regular who herself was dressed in garb recalling an ancient Scandinavian.
“People are trying to recreate history, and we call it ‘period.’ We try to get it as realistic as possible – that’s where the anachronism part comes in.”
Although many costumes and elaborate, pennant-festooned canvas tents were impressive – and perhaps a little intimidating for the uninitiated – Regular said that people can get as deep into the immersion and anachronism as they want. That could be charging into battle in plate armour, or just pitching a tent, maybe trying their hand at calligraphy or merely enjoying the atmosphere.
The fighting aspect is central – but not obligatory – at SCA events, said both Regular and Alex MacDonald (“Chatelaine Gaston Lecordier”).
At Saturday’s event, many were engaged in two types of sparring: heavy armoured fighting and light rapier fencing.
Greg Bennett (“Bjorn”) noted that the combat is demanding, but “not that bad,” as he removed several layers of mandated armour and protective covering he wore before lumbering into battle in one of the open fields.
“You get used to it. It tires you out, and there’s definitely a strategic element to it. Physical conditioning is a big part of it.”
“There’s something for everyone,” said Regular, as she watched a polearm duel between Bennett and another participation, where they struck at one another with weapons and armour that meet the many rigorous safety codes the SCA observes.
That “something” includes activities for those less eager to don plate armour and swing a rattan great sword.
Across the field, while several people in tunics and ancient garb were practising their archery, Lexie Arnott (“Lady Katherine”) was eager to talk about her focus on ancient dyeing techniques. Arnott noted that many people at the camps research areas of interest from ancient times, learning age-old techniques, and eventually reaching a point of mastery where they can teach others.
“I dye fibre for people, and some I just help them do it,” she said. “The idea is to teach it to do it themselves.”
Arnott’s interest in medieval fashion eventually put her on a path of research that familiarized her with the nuances and differences between Elizabethan, Persian, Viking and Anglo-Saxon dyeing techniques.
Eventually, her skill at dyeing brought Arnott to tablet weaving – something not at all uncommon among the denizens of Ruantallan.