Medieval Enthusiasts Host Dinner at DOC House

By Chris Leech | 11/7/13 4:00am

If the College is ever raided by marauding barbarians, at least one campus group will be well prepared to defend it. The Medieval Enthusiasts at Dartmouth are a group of undergraduates, alumni and community members that share a passion for all things medieval ­— costumes, archery, fencing and feasting.

The club celebrates medieval culture with biweekly fencing practices as well as a medieval dinner each term. The dinner, called “The Inn at Knotting Cross,” took place last Sunday at the Dartmouth Outing Club house.
The day was filled with fencing, medieval games and authentic medieval food. Attendees were encouraged to wear medieval attire, said group member Vivian Gao ’17, who sported a medieval dress. Gao was also impressed with the meal, which featured bread, olives, cider and honeyed milk appetizers and pork pie, chicken with stuffing and rabbit stew entrees.

In addition to feasting, attendees played a medieval game called Cat and Mouse. In this game, two opponents stand opposite each other on unstable wooden blocks. When the game begins, each player grabs one end of a slack rope and attempts to pull the other off. The player that stays on the longest wins.

Two weeks ago, the group hosted another event at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The gathering was called Williamsfaire, and featured a bowmaking demonstration as well as fencing and other combat exhibitions. The event even involved a display of medieval-style illumination, according to Gao. There was also medieval food available.

But the club is about more than just feasting. According to faculty advisor Christine Toutain-Kidd, whose medieval persona is named Frenya, the group is a subset of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

The Society is an international organization of medieval enthusiasts that promotes learning about medieval times through reenactment, Toutain-Kidd said in an email. Every region involved is a member of one of nineteen kingdoms headed by a King and a Queen - New Hampshire is the Barony of Stonemarche, a part of the Kingdom of the East. Member groups of the society host events that showcase medieval arts, sciences and fighting. Fighting can mean anything from fencing, with limited armor and lighter swords, to heavy fighting, with full suits of armor and full-size weapons.

Enthusiast Veri DiSuvero ’16 recalled one of these fairs as a highlight from her time with the club. The fair, Panteria, took place last May in Thetford, Vermont and offered merchants, fighting, feasting and art.

“The people there were so weird, but they were so cool,” DiSuvero said. “It’s such a great community of people. I learned a ton.”

New member Connor Pollock ’17 said he looks forward to participating in medieval fights and tournaments put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism. He has been working on making his own bows and arrows since he was thirteen, and recently installed a blacksmith’s forge and anvil at his home for smithing armor and weapons.

To him, an integral part of the club is training for and attending tournaments hosted by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

“In order to attend these battles and not totally die, we have to be somewhat combat ready,” Pollock said. “I would love to get out there, however.”

While heavy fighting weapons range from swords to bows to thrown weapons. Pollock said that he is, in particular, “very very fond of axes.”

The college group was founded in the 1990’s by a few members of the College’s Phi Tau coeducational fraternity, according to Toutain-Kidd, who has been a member of the club for around ten years. Some of the founders are still involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism, she added. She has attended numerous tournaments, and has taken part in battles with over 600 other combatants.

“Being on the field facing that many opponents is very impressive,” Toutain-Kidd said in an email, “when the canon fires to signal the beginning of the battle, everybody’s adrenaline level rushes up, and you are just happy to be a part of it.”

Some Dartmouth Medieval Enthusiast alums have even attended the biggest Society for Creative Anachronism event in the world - the Pennsic War. The War has been occurring in Western Pennsylvania every year since 1972, and brings together over 10,000 enthusiasts.

Chris Leech