Medieval and modern worlds collide
The College of St. Felix expresses renaissance culture on campus. With a focus on historical accuracy, this club aims to bring the middle ages to UA
In the Highland Commons Bowl stands a group of students, known as the “current Middles Ages” or The College of St. Felix, with their knight armor and swords ready for battle.
The College of St. Felix is part of the The Society for Creative Anachronism SCA, an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating the arts, skills and traditions of pre-17th-Century Europe.
If it was done in the Middle Ages, you’ll find someone in the SCA interested in recreating it.
With a range of educational backgrounds, this group of individuals meets every Thursday night to pursue a shared passion and explore all the Middle Ages has to offer, according to Aaryn Pemberton.
Pemberton, a junior studying physics, is the seneschal, or the president, of the organization and makes sure the club is well-represented on campus through club fairs and activities the SCA puts on during the year.
“We are a living history,” Pemberton said. “The SCA is 100-percent audience participation. There are no actors; it’s all volunteer, and if you don’t participate, you won’t get anything out of it.”
The SCA highlights all things Middle Ages, from fighting to calligraphy to beer brewing and wine making and even blacksmithing. The organization allows club members to dive into the past and learn all this history outside a classroom.
The SCA provides awards for the different activities that members complete during their time with the organization, according to Pemberton.
The club really focuses on the learning experiences members gain throughout their time with the SCA, aiming to be historically accurate and gaining skills that other organizations on campus cannot offer.
“We try to do everything as close to the Middle Ages as it was done,” Pemberton said. “It’s actually really helpful for anthropology majors, history majors, medieval literature majors and anything like that.”
Many of the club members are there for that sense of belonging and to be part of the fun activities the SCA holds.
Kota Flemming, a graduating senior studying anthropology and bioarcheology, is the art and science minister and the chatelaine or “new person greeter” of the club. She handles most of the outreach and club activities.
Flemming was introduced the same time Pemberton was, at a club fair, and both were unsure about joining the organization before discovering their passion for it.
“We really found out that this was something we were super interested in,” Flemming said. “We both love history and are both nerds, and this is really bringing that fantasy world of the medieval era to reality.”
The SCA on campus is part of a bigger “kingdom” known as the Kingdom of Atenveldt, which covers most of Arizona, including the Tucson chapter, the Barony of Tir Ysgithr.
The Barony, currently led by Earl and Karen Billick, the baron and baroness, was founded in 1973 from the UA chapter and has “flourished throughout the years with talented armored fighters, skilled artisans and tireless workers,” according to Earl Billick.
Like the chapter of St. Felix, the Barony of Tir Ysgithr bestows baronial awards to those deserving recognition, hosts arts nights, archery practices, bardic circles, the occasional meetings and a weekly fighter practice each Tuesday evening at the southwest corner of Reid Park.
“We are the supporting organization of the college group,” Karen Billick said. “We support them in helping make sure they have officers and help when they have bigger events outside campus.”
The College of St. Felix partners with the Barony by bringing in different people from the Barony to teach activities and skills to students in the club.
Being part of the SCA is something the Barony encourages because it “provides a social atmosphere” for those interested in history or reinactment, according to Earl Billick.
“Before we [Pemberton and I] stepped in, they [St. Felix] were kind of segregated from the Barony, and we wanted to interact with them more,” Flemming said. “We go to their practices, we talk to them and we hang out with them.”
Flemming make it clear their chapter is its own separate unit that belongs to the bigger unit, giving the UA chapter its own sense of power.
The club continues to open itself up to the community through the various events it holds. The next event, “Sable Knight,” will be held at Himmel Park on April 1.
The overall theme of the event is that Sable represents all that is holding a student back from enjoying what they want, whether that be deadlines, midterms, homework or stress.
“The spirit of [the event] is to fight back against all those things that keep you from doing what you really want to do,” Pemberton said.
There will be other activities at the event, including April Fools’ Day activities, Easter activities, arts and science showcases and more.
“We proudly support the university group,” Earl Billick said.
For many of its members, the SCA is a place for community, learning and family.
“There’s just a lot of skills that aren’t practiced in the world today that this community offers, and it grows you as a jack-of-all-trades,” Flemming said.
You can find event information on the group’s Facebook page: SCA, the College of St. Felix, or find the group practicing in the Highland Commons Bowl every Thursday.
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