About the Shire
Harpelestane is a historic recreation society that investigates and re-enacts fighting, arts, crafts and sciences from the dark to middle ages. We differ from most historical re-enactment groups in that we cover the time envelope of the fifth century to the sixteenth centuryOur focus is not to put on shows or demonstrations but to enjoy ourselves while recreating history. Our member’s personas represent everything from Knights of the War of the Roses, to Vikings from the Ninth Century, to Sixteenth Century ladies. Our activities include medieval armoured combat, renaissance rapier combat, archery, medieval and renaissance dancing, historical cooking (and feasts) and historical costuming. Anything that would have been done in the dark ages, middle ages or renaissance (barring things like pestilence and torture) can be done in the shire.
Harpelestane is part of the Kingdom of Drachenwald (Europe, Africa and Middle East), which is a Kingdom within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). We cover all of Scotland but most of our members live in the Central Belt.
What is the SCA?
The SCA (or Society for Creative Anachronism ) is a non-profit organisation which is devoted to the study and recreation of the mediaeval and renaissance periods as they were and as they might have been. Founded in California in 1966, the SCA has grown into an international organisation with over 30,000 members world-wide. This "Known World" is divided into kingdoms; regions ruled by a King and Queen selected by combat at a regularly scheduled tournament, where each aspirant to the Crown fights for the honour of crowning his or her consort. Within each kingdom are smaller groups - Principalities, ruled by Princes and Princesses also chosen by combat, Baronies, Shires and Cantons. All of these groups are run by appointed officers who form a kind of civil service for the rulers.
SCA members are interested in all aspects of life prior to 1600 A.D. They can study a wide range of arts and sciences: armour construction and safe, authentic tournament combat; costuming and textile arts; cooking and brewing; heraldry; dancing and music; calligraphy and illumination; and practice them too, at feasts and revels, at tournaments and at various events and meetings. SCA events are open to all, members and non-members alike, with the proviso that attendees must make a reasonable attempt to fit in with the SCA's standards of dress and behaviour. Everyone is expected to wear some form of period costume, however simple - the SCA doesn't attempt to enforce perfect authenticity, but admires and encourages accurate reconstruction of dress and equipment.
Throughout the SCA, there are events nearly every weekend. Here in Harpelestaine we try to hold an event each month to bring the members of the shire together. The shire also hosts bigger events such as “Dancemoot” which is a day dedicated to medieval dancing, ending with a grand ball. Details of these and other local events can be found on our calendar.
The events are where we gather to engage in our various pursuits in the SCA. To fight in a tournament or war, to show off our latest creations, to take or teach classes, etc,
At camping events, we'll entertain guests in our encampments; and at larger events we'll catch up with friends from far away.
Dances are documented activities that were important during many eras that the SCA re-enacts, including several where it was expected that noble ladies and gentlemen knew how to dance. Much of a people’s history and culture can be discovered through the study of their dance (just look at Italy and England in the later middle ages).
Heavy Fighting is a unique art and sport within the SCA. Lords and Ladies of our Society engage in full speed, full force, un-choreographed combat, more similar to a martial art than most re-enactment fighting. Due to the nature of the armour and weapons, combatants come out of these brutal "deeds of arms" unscathed and ready to do it again. Nowhere else will you be able to enter into contests of medieval weapons skill with the raw intensity that you can in the SCA.
After safety, Chivalry is the most important aspect of heavy list fighting. Our combat system is one based upon recognition of blows received. Victory is never taken, but rather it is given by the man-at-arms in recognising the worthiness and skill of their opponent. This culture of combat is one of great justice and trust, for it places weight upon the honour and integrity of all involved.
Armour in the SCA is fashioned after historical examples and made of a variety of materials - metals, leather, and plastic -with modern equipment hidden as much as possible. Whether one chooses to portray a Norman Knight, a Saxon thegn, a Norse huscarl, a Byzantine cataphractos, a Scottish esquire, or any other variety of man-at-arms is immaterial - in the SCA all of these co-exist on the same battlefields and list fields together.
Rattan - similar to a solid bamboo - is used to construct the wide array of weapons (sword, axe, spear, mace, pole-arm, the sword of war or great sword, dagger, and others) that are used by armoured fighters during combat. Instead of snapping and splintering, rattan fibres separate along the length, which greatly reduces the risk of injury: a worn out piece of rattan looks a lot like a broom. Most new fighters choose to begin with sword and shield, but many branch out quickly into the use of one or more of these chivalric weapons, finding different pleasures and challenges.
Deeds of arms are conducted at weekly practices, tournaments, melees, and wars. These are held inside and out, depending on the availability of an appropriate hall and the prevailing weather.
Throughout most of the time that the SCA recreates, archery was used in one form or another. Whether it be for hunting, for war or just for sport, the medieval period was full of skilled archers. Archery played a distinct role in many battles (such as at Agincourt during the Hundred Years War), and many cultures relied heavily on their skill as archers as a means of conquest (such as the nomadic warriors of the Asian steppes). To recreate the historical archery experience we try to use the materials that were used historically. Wooden shafts for arrows and crossbow bolts, feather fletching for arrows, Long bows, Self bows, Recurves and Crossbows made to represent their medieval equivalents (no Compound bows).
As the name implies in target archery we only shoot at non-living targets. Practices are held regularly outside while the weather is nice, and sometimes inside if the space is available. Many events will have Archery tournaments as well as open shooting for fun and practice. Tournaments give folks a chance to measure their skill against others and compete for prizes and fame. Often there are tournaments held with various themes. Some tourneys are held to pick Champions and others are to find the most promising novice
Arts and Sciences
It doesn't matter if your desire is to master a craft, or just dabble... If they did it "then", more than likely you'll be able to find someone in Harpelestane doing it now.
We have people in the shire that are second to none in
- Calligraphy and Illumination
- Music and dance
- Historical research
- Armour making
- Historical jewellery making and metalwork
- Cooking for feasts
- and much more.
Harpelestane's members can help you find local contacts and may be able to provide you with some guidance in terms of researching and learning these and other medieval arts, crafts and pastimes.
Fencing / Rapier
Safety and consideration for our fellow rapier fighters is a foremost concern in SCA rapier play, followed closely by the ideals of Honour, Courtesy, and Chivalry. We utilise various types of metal blades and modified modern fencing gear to recreate civilian combats from the late 1400's down through the end of the SCA period, 1600.
We differ from Olympic style fencing in our use of slicing cuts, secondary weapons such as daggers, extra swords, cloaks and the like, and non-linear movement; we're not restricted to the back-and-forth movement found on a modern Olympic strip!
Hits are determined the same way in armoured combat, vis-a-vis the honour system based on recognition of the blows received. However, our blows are not struck with nearly as much force as armoured combat.
The SCA term Heraldry can mean one of three things...
Identification - Personal, territorial and group 'logo' heraldry deals with artwork called 'blazonry', which you might know as "coats of arms", or the decoration on a shield. SCA Heralds help members devise their very own distinct personal armoury, which the member can then register with the Society. That way the armoury belongs to the member alone.
Names - Heralds who study names will help members choose an SCA name that is appropriate for their SCA persona. For example, if you want to portray a 16th-century Scot, a Herald can help you find a first and last name that would be appropriate for that place and time.
Protocol - Protocol heralds are "Masters of Ceremony" and "Criers", the people you hear crying "Oyez!" (pronounced "o-yay"). They inform us of what's going on during an event, who's fighting in the Lists and who's being given what award in Court. Protocol heralds also enjoy keeping track of ceremonies and the Order of Precedence, which can be a quite complicated and daunting task.
Harpelestane's Heralds can help you get started if you’re interested in this.
Food and feast has always been part of medieval culture. A feast can be planned at various "authenticity" levels, like camp food. The epitome of modern SCA feast cooking is a collection of heavily researched medieval dishes, prepared by a large volunteer cooking staff, served in numerous courses, to the accumulated diners.
The "basic rule" is that foods that were not in general use in Western Europe before 1600 are discouraged. These include potatoes, capsicum peppers (chilli pepper family), pecans and chocolate. Coffee and tea, as modernly understood, were basically unknown or extremely rare (though coffee and chocolate and Pepsi max are frequent "broken rules".)