The SCA: Luddites or Rocket Scientists?

The Kingdom of the West enthroned its newest King and Queen during the weekend of August 23rd and 24th at an annual event called Purgatorio. Somebody told me that the event got its name from the temperatures that normally prevail in Hollister, CA this time of year. However, the weather this year was mild, never climbing higher than about 80° F. Besides, though it’s been since high school that I last read the book, I don’t recall Dante describing the place as particularly warm.

One hopes that it is not an inauspicious omen for the reign of King Uther and Queen Kara when it started with a technological failure. The propane fueled torches ran out of magical burn juice, and when the sun set during their investiture, people resorted to reading proclamations by the light of pocket-torches.


Yes, you read that correctly: Propane fueled torches.

But doesn’t the SCA strive to re-create the Middle Ages? Don’t the people in the SCA disdain modern technology?

To the first question, I think it’s more accurate to say that the SCA strives to re-invent the Middle Ages. “The Middle Ages as it should have been” is their motto, and it should have included anti-biotics, gender and racial equality, zippers, eye-glasses and, evidently, propane.

To the second question, keep in mind that when the weekend was over, a very large percentage of Scadians went home to high tech jobs. Engineers, college professors, software designers, and yes, rocket scientists. Scadians tend to be among the most technologically savvy people I know. If I told you what I do for a living you’d plotz, so we won’t go there.

There is no doubt in the mind of any Scadian that it’s a game. In fact, it’s called “playing” in the argot. If you go to a typical SCA event, you’ll find signs of high tech everywhere, from REI tents to water that doesn’t have to be boiled before you can drink it. But where else are you going to find such a large group of people who still know handcrafts? People who not only sew their own clothes, but weave the fabric. Make their own candles and the sconces to hold them. The quality of which is much higher than the cheap plastic crap most people buy at Target.

Yes, fighting with a sword is an archaic and rather useless skill in the age of automatic weapons and fighter jets, but tell the truth — wouldn’t you really like to try it out?  Don’t tell me you haven’t day dreamed about swinging the sword like Errol Flynn. And does the age of the automobile really make horse racing obsolete?

Yes, for the most part, high-tech is a good thing. But sometimes it’s fun to turn it off.


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