Shire Des Forges is a local branch of The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a non-profit educational organization of people who enjoy the (admittedly romanticized) history and ideals of the Middle Ages. We are the kids who used to daydream about Robin Hood’s adventures and enjoyed Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie just a bit more than most. Now that we have grown up, we have found something better than just deaming… the SCA! We reenact armored fighting, medieval dancing, feasting, and medieval arts & sciences. We’re not limited to European history; we enjoy aspects of pre-17th Century cultures from all over the globe. We subscribe to a code of chivalry and courtesy which is far too absent in everyday life. We have kings and queens, scribes, musicians, artisans, knights in more-or-less shining armor, and a huge bunch of fun. Come join us!
Unlike a Renaissance Fair (a paid entertainment where you only get to watch but don’t get involved), we actually participate in the history. We learn the hands-on skills of the artisans, don armor and compete in actual tournaments, cook and eat amazing feasts, brew, sew, and do whatever else we want to do and learn and create. We make the fun for ourselves!
Our historical re-creation gatherings are called “events”, often held at a rented church camp or state part, where we can live in the middle ages for a day, a weekend, or at special events a week or two. At a typical event there will be knights and squires in armor having tournaments, a royal court where the sovereigns present prestigious awards to recognize outstanding accomplishments, a sumptuous candlelight feast, music making (bardic circle, a kind of medieval jam session), and a grand revel (a ball with dancing and merry-making). In between all this, there are often period games being played, merchants with authentic wares, classes on many different topics, and so much more. It’s a blast!
This whole thing began as a very special theme for a birthday party in 1966 – a “Grand Tournament” in the finest Medieval tradition! The attendees had such a great time that someone asked “When can we do this again?” and that Grand Tournament has developed into the huge international organization it is today. Our “Known Worlde” is currently divided into twenty kingdoms. Most are here in North America, where we started, but we’ve spread to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Antarctica, and even the International Space Station! The SCA is one of the largest hobby organizations there is, with well over 20,000 paid members. Many times that number choose to participate without a membership (you don’t have to be an SCA member to be involved, but it helps!).
Local chapters in Alabama are part of the Kingdom of Meridies (pronounced muh-RID-ee-ays, a Latin word for South), which also includes Georgia, most of Tennessee, and the panhandle of Florida. We are ruled by a king and queen who change every six months, based on the winner of our Crown Tournament. Within the kingdoms are larger and smaller types of groups – Baronies, Shires, Cantons, and Colleges to name a few. Here in Trussville, Alabama, we are a medium sized local chapter (shire). Our name, Shire Des Forges, translates as the Shire of the Forge, which recognizes the regions roots in the iron and coal industries.
Our members adopt a “persona”, like a character in a play, to help keep the event’s atmosphere more authentic. It’s also a way to express the time and place they find most interesting. Folks are known in the SCA by that name while at our events. Members can also create and register a unique heraldic “device” – you know, the design shown on a Knight’s shield which was like their trademarked logo back in the day. The device for our group is at the top of the page. If you see it at an event you know our group is there. It includes a torch in remembrance of the torch once held proudly by the statue of Vulcan in neighboring Birmingham, and also represents the light of learning which guides our path.