Armored alter egos clash on field of battle, cooperative to keep alive medieval traditions
In a small secluded woodland in north Denton, an old knight and a young Viking meet on a field of battle. They move as if they’re dancers, circling each other with swords and shields raised high. They thrust and stab as they test each other’s defenses, searching for the perfect opportunity to land the killing blow.
It’s early on Monday night, and a crowd of warriors gather to watch Sir Dunchad Mor MacRonan, the old knight, dispatch his young opponent, who is simply known as Hakon the Blacksmith.
MacRonan’s scale mail shimmers in the fading sunlight as he moves his shield to block Hakon’s incoming attack. But the young Viking is powerful, big like a giant with a long red beard and wild bloodshot eyes that promise a fate worse than death if the old knight’s defenses fall.
MacRonan, however, has faced many opponents on the field of battle. He moves gracefully despite his 60 years of age, blocking each of Hakon’s attacks until the opportunity to strike reveals itself — then he moves in for the kill.
No, this isn’t a scene from Game of Thrones. It’s actually just another Monday night at North Lakes Park, where members of the Canton of Glaslyn, a live-action role-playing group, meet to practice their medieval battle skills.
“I’m more into it for the fun of it,” says MacRonan, a.k.a. James Moore, an employee of Miller of Denton. “It also beats walking a treadmill.”
Moore’s girlfriend introduced him to live-action role playing more than a decade ago. A lover of history, he was hooked and began creating his knight character.
Today, Moore serves as Knight Marshal for the group and oversees training of new warriors like the Viking blacksmith — Jeremy Smith, a University of North Texas graduate student.
“I wish I would have learned about the organization when I was younger,” says Moore, watching as Smith works to perfect the dance of battle with newcomer Donald Lynch Jr., another graduate student.
A historical perspective
The fictional Canton of Glaslyn lies in the Barony of the Steppes and the Kingdom of Ansteorra, an ancient realm that covers Texas and Oklahoma. The Seneschal (or leader) of the Glaslyn group is Lady Maura Mac a’ Phearsain, whose real name is Laura Olson. In Ansterorra, she’s a 16th century widow who wields unimaginable power.
“Widowed women had more power than single or married women,” Olson says.
Olson says the current incarnation of the Canton of Glaslyn has been meeting at North Lakes Park in Denton for 15 years. They claim about 40 registered members.
She joined the group because of her love of history and the enjoyment of personifying a character from a time period that she loves: the Middle Ages.
The Glaslyn group is part of a larger organization known as the Society for Creative Anachronism Inc. It’s a historical society dedicated to recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. The society was formed in 1966 and has grown into a worldwide organization with thousands of events occurring yearly across five continents.
The society’s “known world” consists of 19 kingdoms that cover more than 700 local branches across five continents. For example, the Kingdom of An Tir covers Oregon, Washington, the northern tip of Idaho and territories in Canada. The Kingdom of Atenveldt is located in Arizona, while the Kingdom of Trimaris includes a majority of Florida and lays claim to Panama, according to the Society for Creative Anachronism website.
The kingdoms are divided into shires and baronies for metropolitan areas and principalities for larger regions.
Each kingdom is led by a king and queen who hold court, give awards and make proclamations. Kings reign for a six-month period only. Halfway through their tenure, a tournament is held to crown a prince who will later become king. Judges score competitors based on the number of hits landed in a fight. Hundreds of warriors will gather to compete for the crown, but only the strongest of them will rule the kingdom.
Battling over titles, however, isn’t the only competition. There are also tournaments for individuals and teams, tactical melees and large-scale wars with thousands of participants. But these wars are not choreographed like Civil War re-enactments, so the outcome is based exclusively on the skill and training of the warriors.
Olson says society members include people from all ages and professions, from blue-collar workers to doctors and lawyers. Members will spend many hours perfecting their costumes, learning the history of their characters and honing their skills on the battlefield or in the kitchen cooking medieval dishes.
“The society allows people to share that common love of history,” Olson says. “It also appeals to people who have always dreamed of fighting with a sword and shield because they see movies and shows like Game of Thrones.”
CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878 and on Twitter at @writerontheedge