The Kates, and about 12,000 other Pennsic attendees.
- Pennsic War 34 / XXXIV From the web site:
The Pennsic War is a 2-week long SCA camping event held annually in August. Last year, over 11,000 people attended. The scheduled activities include large melee battles, tournaments, archery, stage performances, dancing, and hundreds of classes on medieval topics. The marketplace has over 200 merchants selling a variety of wares.
2005 08 05 - 2005 08 21
USA::Pennsylvania::Slippery Rock::Cooper's Lake Campground, a 500-acre site.
To determine if the East Kingdom or Middle Kingdom should have possession of the Disputed Lands.
- How: report by Alexander Blazej
- Monday the 15th
- I arrived sleep deprived and eager to enjoy my first Pennsic. I was disorient by the size of the event. Some Pennsylvania natives I befriended said the official head count never rises above a certain threshold because if it did Pennsic would officially become a town and be legally required to provide fire and police services. Pennsic does have a daily printed newspaper, "The Pennsic Independent", a broadband Internet access booth, and free shuttles that service only campsites at the event.
I delighted watching the variety of garb mill about in the marketplace. With so many people there was a vast temporal and geographical span of attire, many styles I had never before seen. The large market place itself was an ongoing "event" to view: beautiful jewelry, temping period nick-knacks, ornate garb, a library of books, a food court and much more. I happened upon a Tinkers street performance. I would have been distracted admiring their attire, but their skillful and fun entertainment was even more distracting. I really wish I videoed their performance.
Daytime is hot and humid. Each day about 130 classes are held, huge battles are fought, the market entices and people hang out. The Media section has audio recordings of two of the classes I went to, some footage of a fort style huge battle. I bought periodish shoes, food utensils and bells; and resisted temptation to buy more.
Then comes evening... Instead of mosquitoes, fireflies. Though the days were hot, the night was pleasantly warm, one could comfortably walk about nude. I found the only time I needed a flashlight was when I was in my tent: the week of Pennsic had essentially a full moon every night; at night the forested areas of Pennsic blacked out the moon, but the streets were beautifully lined with tiki lamps. Every night of Pennsic has several parties / festivities. The "standard" party is a gathering of people talking and drinking by fire light, usually accompanied by drummers and belly dancers.
Monday night Hannah, Undeen and I went party hunting. I took some pictures of a couple adorned in glow sticks and moving their glowing baubles in fascinating rave style patterns. In the forested area we traveled off the path, in the dark; Undeen had the misfortune of stepping into a bog. The muddy slime caused her to itch and burn, so we headed to the showers. Tired from the trip, Hannah and I went to bed relatively early (maybe midnight).
- Tuesday the 16th
- I went with Hannah to watch about 15 fighters battle not in honorable "gentleman" combat nor wearing standardized virtual armor, but instead competing using field realistic war rules. For example a fighter instantly dies if struck while unarmed, or pushed (or inattentively goes) outside the combat zone. The armor actually worn and weapon actually wielded determines which strikes are considered "good". As I recall, if you have a single handed non-mace weapon and your opponent is wearing plate mail, you can only score a hit if you strike in the face plate, behind the knees, or similar unplated area. Otherwise your weapon strikes are considered inconsequential. To me gentleman combat is like watching American football: quick sprints of action with lots of long lulls. By contrast, this warfare style combat style was intense, the strategies more varied, and pace relatively uninterrupted. Both the participants and observers enjoyed the contest. I'd like to see more combat done using war style rules.
Tuesday night, I party hopped. First the Grand Ball doing period dances, then the West Kingdom encampment party. I didn't stay long as Hannah and I joined Undeen to explore. The party we spent the most time at that night had a pair of fire breathers aweing us like fire works, except the fire was so large and close a burst of heat came with spectacle. One of the fire breathers concluded his show by sitting next to the camp fire and singing fun & naughty songs, including the "Pennsic Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Gang Bang". Hannah and I finally went to bed around 5am.
- Wednesday the 17th
- Hannah and I went shopping, attend the Bawdy Campfire Songs class, then watched "The Best of the Best" invitational tournament, where His Highness Dmitriy competed.
Wednesday night I joined thousands of others in a late night shopping speed termed Midnight Madness. I tasked myself with at least glancing at all the stops and see the extents of the market place area; after couple hours I had successeed in my task. About midnight the shops stated to close, and I searched for he Enchanted Ground, a place where everyone in attendance is expected to be in persona, to join their bardic circle. Yet, by the time I found the encampment they were beginning to get ready for sleep. My desires to explore parts of Pennsic lead me on a long walk around the southern reaches of the event site, occasionally entering encampments to explore and socialize.
- Thursday the 18th
- I finally got to see a huge battle, a fort siege. It's impressive to see two sides, very roughly three hundred fighters per side, in combat. The style of battle lead the actual fighting to happen at choke points. Yet still, with so many bodies it's hard to see the details of the battle, and so it's easier to view the battle as a blurred mass of motion. The action was choppy, with a battle wide "hold" being called roughly every 3 minutes.
Hannah and I eventually left the battle and had a great time taking a dance class.
Thursday night Hannah and I teamed up with Vyncent and Vittoria to party hop. For more details of the night read Vittoria's event report. I'll correct one omission in Vittoria's report: during the Bawdic Circle (where hilarious and bawdy songs were sung), Her Highness Hannah held an unofficial court during which she presented to the assembled two pins. One pin was shaped as a large legged galloping phallus and riding atop it a lady beating it with a whip. On the other pin was the image of a disembodied open vulva with angel wings. Her Highness, in recognition of Vittoria's success in conjuring Vyncent's affection and her skill as a courtesan, inducted Vittoria into Order of the Phallus Eques and presented her with the token. Then Her Highness, in recognition of me "flying on the wings of love", inducted me into the Order of Vulva Volante and presented me with the other token. Vittoria pointed out that "membership is retractable". I stated "the only thing better than this honour, is to be innour".
At the Casa Bardicci "Hoity Toity" party Hannah and I befriended another couple. During course of conversation, they invited us to go to their camp, Camp Haveabeer, located at the end of a street known as the Culdislack, where they offered to make us a leather bikini and loin cloth, with the provision that if they made it for us we had to wear it out of their encampment when we left.
- Friday the 19th
- Hannah and I did some last minute shopping, then on the advice of one of the merchants rode one of the shuttle busses so we could sight see (in daylight) some of the other encampments. Most encampments have a decorative gateway, the most impressive was a large beautiful cathedral facade. Some campsites have themes, the most interesting to me was a House that portrayed the Romans, their campsite's focal point being a forum.
Friday night Hannah was exhausted so she went to sleep early, I stayed out and explored on my own. A highlight from that night was when I was at the Pandora's Box encampment. They had a 15x15 foot stage with three belly dancers doing beautiful and sexy choreography to techno middle eastern fusion music from a portable stereo while an observer drummed along with the music. The final choreography was to the Put the Lime in the Coconut song. I'm accustomed to belly dancers making intricate movements with their arms and hands when they dance, but something looked strangely familiar movements to this song. Then it it me, while dancing they were "singing along" using ASL (American Sign Language).
- Saturday the 20th
- About 85% of Pennsic, and all the West Kingdom campsite except Hannah and I, started striking camp to leave the event later that day. Hannah and I went to Camp Haveabeer, hung out as they custom made us a leather bikini and loin cloth. When we arrived back at the West Kingdom campsite wearing our bikini and loin cloth we expect all the westerners to have left, but we were 15 minutes too soon. In an example of Her generosity and desire to please Her populace, Her Hot Highness consented to a photo shoot; however to avoid lectures from those who disapprove, she asks that they not be posted on the Internet.
Saturday night Hannah and I, still dressed in leather bikini and loin cloth, joined about six others from Camp Haveabeer to go to the Tuchux open night, the one night at Pennsic non-Tuchux are welcome to visit their encampment. Even during open night, non-Tuchux can only enter and remain in the encampment while with a Tuchux guide, who is responsible for their guests' conduct. Thorgar, a large tall friendly man and friend to one of the Haveabeer's, volunteered to be our guide. Before entering, Thorgar advised us to be respectful and if things got rowdy to fall into the background.
The Tuchux encampment was banked by trees with a large open area in between. In this area a bonfire about 15 feet across was blazing, the heat was so intense everyone sat about 25 feet away. About thirty Tuchux, mostly men, were sitting facing the fire, talking, drinking and laughing. Next to the bond fire stood a 30 foot teepee. At one point three fire dancers clad in black leather bikinis and chaps made a performance by swinging a tethered ball of fire in each hand while about a dozen men with a variety of drums played. Hannah wanted to see the teepee, so another Tuchux volounteered to be her guide.
I soon noticed Thorgar was gradually becoming more distant. A member in my group passed the message to me that some Tuchux disapproved of the way I was dressed (leather loin cloth), so I took his suggestion and put on his ankle length cloak. As time passed our environment became unwelcoming and aggressive. I no longer felt Thorgar was our guide and us guests, I felt he was now our guard and us his prisoners. One of the low points of the evening was when another Tuchux (I think a clan leader) was circling so tightly around my group I could feel him brush past, as he was trying to pick a fight, shouting "What the fuck are you looking at!" and the like, while trying to establish eye contact with members of my group. As calmly as I could I asked Thorgar, now quite stoic, "What's going on?". Thorgar's response, "No offense, but I don't fucking know you".
Eventually a friendly Tuchux happened by, and via her we relayed a message to Hannah that we wanted to leave. When Hannah rejoined our group the aggressiveness vanished. Thorgar was again receptive to conversation, and complied to our request to leave without comment. As Thorgar escorted us out of the encampment he started to make pleasant conversation.
It was a relief to be outside the Tuchux gates. Thorgar was now fully his previous friendly personality. As he shook my hand farewell, bewildered I asked why he was being so kind now when just moments ago in the encampment he was just the opposite. He a-matter-of-factly answered "that's just who I am". The stated cause of the trouble: my unmanly attire.
Hannah had no idea what had occurred once she separated from the group. The Tuchux she was with were extremely friendly.
My impressions and suppositions:
- Once Hannah was separated from the main group, I believe our group was intentionally herded out of the way by means of intimidation so fellow Tuchux could socialize with Hannah without interference from the rest of us.
- The same basic series of events would have occurred had I entered the Tuchux camp wearing something more modest. I believe Hannah's having left the group was the decisive factor.
- A small but potent minority of Tuchux earned the Tuchux their bad boy / bully reputation.
- Thorgar's initial friendliness and being a friend of one of the Haveabeer's turns out to have little bearing on how friendly he was 30 minutes later. I hope this is not a relativley common trait among Tuchux.
- I suspect the only major source of confilct between Tuchux and non-Tuchux is in male to male interaction.
- I don't how common or acceptable the Tuchux as a whole would describe my visitation experience.
- Sunday the 21st
- Hannah and I awoke still traumatized from the Tuchux experience. We packed our tent and were the last to leave the West Kingdom campsite. The empty stretch of grass that had been our home for a week now seemed desolate without tents.
More Pennsic albums:
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