There were some downsides to the yearlong German Peasants’ Revolt of 1524-25, like burned cities, sacked churches, and 100,000 dead. On the other hand, there was a degree of martial activity, along with at least some celebration by common folk, and some vibrant costuming–three crucial ingredients in picking a theme for this year’s Society for Creative Anachronism event in the appropriately Gothic Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. For the daylong affair, rapiers flashed, chickens roasted, and a merry crowd of 150 forgot about their day jobs.
Founded more than 40 years ago, the SCA is dedicated to “researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe,” according to its website, or more colloquially, the Middle Ages “as they ought to have been.” To that end, participants adopt historically inspired personas and heraldry, dress in period garb, and recreate those elements of the past that interest them.
The University of Chicago’s chapter has for six years hosted an annual event, this year dubbed “The Stone Dog Inn: It Could Be Wurst.” Bringing together dancers, fencers, merchants, crafters, and curious onlookers, it offered a range of demonstrations and revels, including in a tavern-style German feast and a “traditional populace pillow fight.” A scheduling conflict with another SCA event in Madison kept attendance lower than it’s been in the past, and none of the SCA’s royalty was present. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves, and in any case folk of noble blood would most likely not have been caught dead at a gathering of (as Martin Luther’s printer put it, thieving and murderous) rebellious peasants. The night culminated around 9pm with some 16th-century dancing, and what the crowd lacked in size it made up in enthusiasm, gamboling to a boombox as bemused Doc Films patrons filed in for a showing of “Quantum of Solace.” Drawings and quarterings may be a thing of the past, but fun is timeless.