Lumberton going medieval

By HASKEL BURNS,

For a few days last week, Lumberton was transported back to medieval times when Gulf Wars returned to the city for the 28th year, bringing knights, kings, jesters and more to King’s Arrow Ranch.

Gulf Wars XVIII, which ran from March 9-17, hosted about 3,200 people from around the world – including approximately 2,000 on opening day alone – who took part in recreating and experiencing the events, lifestyles and cultures of pre-1600s Europe. Billed as “A War With no Enemies,” the event was established in 1991 by the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international “living history” group dedicated to studying the skills and arts of the Middle Ages.

Gulf Wars is attended by members of about 20 SCA kingdoms from the United States and Canada, including Gleann Abhann, Ansteorra and Trimaris. While at Gulf Wars, the vast majority of the knights, kings and other medieval figures refer to each other by their SCA names, rather than their real-world “mundane” names.

“The SCA itself, it’s an international organization, and there are kingdoms and groups who have set up in Europe, Germany, and there’s actually a new group that just set up in Thailand,” said Megan Barnes, a member of Gleann Abhann who served as media coordinator for this year’s event. “They all show up here and demonstrate any kind of activity that would have been done during the Middle Ages, whether it’s fighting, the clothing that we wear, or any kinds of arts and sciences that would have been done.

“It’s for fun, knowledge, sharing what we know with other people, and receiving knowledge from other people. Someone may know something that I don’t know, and I may have learned something over the past year that someone else wants to know. So it’s that exchange of information that seems to draw us together, plus that underlying fun and fellowship that we all share.”

For many participants, one of the main draws of Gulf Wars is the fighting and battles, whether that be jousting, field battles, sieges, archery or other forms of combat. Fighters use a wide variety of weapons, from rapiers and swords to heavier weapons like pole arms and axes. For safety reasons, many of the weapons are made of rattan and plastic, and metal weapons such as rapiers are blunted and tipped to prevent injury.

“You can fight with open hands, you can fight with a dagger, you can fight with a sword,” said Nadja Ramthuner of the Kingdom of Ansteorra, who competed in a fencing tournament at Gulf Wars. “So when you come into war, before you do any fighting, you need to get inspected, so someone will come and look over your armor. 

“The requirements are, you need to have a mask with certain size perforations on it, and you have to have abrasion-preventative material over any exposed skin.”

Adjacent to the battle fields is an area devoted to jousting, where armored combatants face each other on trained horses. Lora Greymare, who was teaching a jousting class last week, said participants attempt to accurately recreate the forms of combat and training techniques that are found in late-period manuals of the era.

“So several of our folks have been studying it really intensely, and it’s become an official activity in the society,” she said. 

A short walk from there will bring attendees to Artisan’s Row, where participants can take classes in courses such as European dance, woodworking, period cooking and chainmail weaving. Gulf Wars also features Merchant’s Row, with vendors offering everything from medieval-style food to period-appropriate clothing, jewelry, metalwork and weaponry. At Valkyrie Forge, which sells armor and accessories, the staff hand-crafts some of the items and outsources others to different suppliers.

“We have the sundries that you would use day-to-day, things you would use for fighting, and one of our friends actually makes the jewelry (that we sell),” said Sir Olav, who helps run the shop. “Some of the more entertaining things are like little shaving kits, which is modern-use, but we can make a few nifty things that you can use for your day-to-day use, not just while you’re doing re-enactment.”

Gulf Wars participants also wear various colors of belts and collars to distinguish between status or rank, including a white belt for heavy combat knights, white collars and medallions for Masters of Defense, and a red belt for knights’ squires in training.

“So they are training to become a knight,” Barnes said. “Individuals like myself, with a green belt, are on the path for learning and training for arts and sciences, and we do all manners of arts and sciences – calligraphy, blacksmithing, dance, research.

“And I’m under the training of a Laurel, who are designated by a wreath of laurel leaves that they wear on their head. I’m also wearing a yellow belt, which means I’m a protégé – individuals who have done outstanding service to their kingdom or group.”

For more information on Gulf Wars, visit www.gulfwars.org.