Society for Creative Anachronism
Welcome to the Middle Ages, compliments of the SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism. This is the Middle Ages the way it should have been, without the plague and the Inquisition, where grownups can beat themselves silly and still remain friends.
Whether you knew it or not, southern Idaho is in the Kingdom of Artemisia. Inside the kingdom, there are different baronies, one of them being the barony of Thousand Eyes, located outside Idaho Falls.
Our guide for the day was the Baron of Thousand Eyes, aka Chuck Wemple. He told us that the SCA is about creating a society, with its own government, its own laws and customs, its own way of treating each other. "We have a large group of people from all walks of life, who share a common love of medieval history and that love takes different forms for everyone."
Chuck, a nuclear scientist by trade, introduced us to archers and musicians and crafts people, and to a big group of folks who do seem to enjoy beating each other with swords and sticks. Nobody gets hurt, though, because they are all wearing appropriate armor for the occasion.
In the SCA, the king is determined on the field of battle, which is why the king is usually a good-sized fellow. But one of the most honored ceremonies -- and definitely the highlight of our day -- is the knighting ceremony, bestowed only on someone deemed worthy by his peers.
A local favorite, Yuri the Yak Slapper, had waited fourteen years for this big day. In this gathering of several hundred people, Yuri, aka Ed Cash, was definitely the most excited. "I stayed up all night vigiling and talking with people," he told us.
Ed has adopted the persona of a 12th century Russian captured and raised by Mongols. That's one of the attractions of the SCA; you can become just about anyone you want.
"They're my family," said Yuri. "Everyone is wonderful; they are so supportive, and the honor and chivalry and the courtesy that is shown to everybody is what inspires me."
The knighting ceremony is not something that one usually gets to see on television; it's a ceremony with lots of symbolism and lots of tears.
"It's always a very moving and emotional time when someone is being recognized as a peer,""says the Baron; "particularly the knighthood. That is the real honest to god brotherhood. We refer to it sometimes as a game, but what you saw today is very serious business."
After the tearful hugs and singing, we interviewed Yuri the Yak Slapper, one more time. "This was incredible," he told us. "This is what you work for. And this is just the beginning. I will never ever forget this day."