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Festival celebrates medieval times

July 13, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Renfrew Park in Waynesboro was the scene of ax throwing, catapulting and various forms of armed combat along with gentler displays of sewing techniques, medieval art and period clothing.

The annual Renn Faire is held by the Society for Creative Anachronism, a nonprofit educational group dedicated to reliving the experience of the medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe between 500 and 1600 AD.

The local chapter, the Shire of Montvale, derived its name from the mountains (Monte-) and valleys (-vale) of the area.

Each member adopts the persona of someone who could have lived during this time period. They dress in period clothing and assume manners appropriate to the persona.

Barbara and Christopher Thompson of Lancaster, Pa., met at a Society event several years ago and have been married for five years. They camped out for two nights at Renfrew in a large, white medieval-looking tent complete with candle chandelier.

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At Society events, Christopher Thompson is known as Angus the Tailor of 14th-century England. He was working on buttons Saturday and took time to explain the medieval games displayed on his table.

The game Nineman's Morris is at least 1,000 years old and has been found carved in benches in English monasteries. Alquerques, a variation of checkers, is included in a book of games written by a Spanish king in the 13th century.

Barbara Thompson's Society persona is Brangwayna Morgan, a 12th-century English lady. She was embroidering in the split stitch style on the edge of a sleeve, which will receive gold inlay in a technique known as couching.

A small crowd gathered on the lawn to watch Lord Dominic Seymour, also known as Steve Osmanski of Fayetteville, Pa., fire a scaled-down catapult. Also called by the French word trebuchet, a full-sized catapult would have been 20 feet tall with a 40-foot arm made of a tree trunk and a counterweight of 6 tons - about the size of a minivan, Osmanski said. It could hurl a 200- to 300-pound stone 300 yards, and two or three hits would breach the stone wall of a castle.

The invention of gunpowder made the trebuchet obsolete.

"But even if gunpowder hadn't come along, the trebuchet would have made castles obsolete," he said.

Osmanski was catapulting softballs Saturday and not using a counterweight. He said he uses the catapult during combat re-enactments, firing a 1-pound foam "Nerf rock."

The seneschal, or mayor, of Montevale, is Nancy Wagaman of Shippensburg, Pa., known as scribe Ann Sarasin within the Society.

"We have a good time," she said, "but we do serious research also."

An artist, Wagaman is researching the techniques monks used when making the paintings in the large, colorful altar books used to educate their congregations.

Many people at that time had poor eyesight, Wagaman said, and many could not read. She is not satisfied with the commercial washes available, and is trying to find out how the monks surmounted problems with various pigments.

William Kyle of Blairs Mills, Pa., portraying Baron Master Cahan Kyle, an 11th- to 12th-century Scotsman, is a bard, or storyteller, in the Society, which he has belonged to for 31 years. His wife, Marcia Kyle, and daughter, Malinda Rose Kyle, 7, attended with him in period clothing. Marcia Kyle, portraying Lady Tirza Bithe Reaboughes, made the elaborate Elizabethan-style dress she wore. She has been a Society member for 20 years.

Both Kyles are accomplished cooks and bakers, making much of the food sold at the event from period recipes.

William Kyle, a disabled Vietnam veteran, is self-employed as a draftsman, designer and writer. He received his Society titles and a Pelican medal for his work for the organization.

Kyle said people in the Society have a thirst for knowledge.

"A large portion of the members have a college education," he said. "Some are professors. We have a love for history, for education.

"And we like playing dress-up," he said. "We don't want to grow up."

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