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Salient talks with Hanna Mason and Chris de Lisle of the Victoria Medieval Society.
What is the medieval society?
Chris: We’re a group of people who get together and do medieval things basically. We cook medieval food, we have medieval feasts, we make medieval clothes and crafts and we hit each other with medieval sticks in medieval armour—basically, if somebody is interested in it, there’s someone around who is doing it.
Hanna: The SCA (the Society for Creative Anachronism), which we’re a part of is a worldwide society so it has branches in cities all over the world. There are maybe 100,000 members worldwide. We choose our kings and queens by combat. The King of Lochac reigns for six months, every six months we have a tournament to decide who is going to be the new King of Lochac. The partner of the person who wins becomes the King or Queen. The cut-offs are very loose, we do have a few Romans in the group, and quite a few Vikings, and that goes all the way through to Elizabethans.
Quite a mixed bunch then?
Hanna: It is—it’s really neat when you go to a feast and you’re in your nice 14th century garb or your Elizabethan garb and you sit down next to a Viking.
Chris: It’s shocking how many mild-mannered people there are in Wellington who have a suit of armour in their closet and a forge out back.
Which is your favourite century and why?
Hanna: My favourite is the 14th century—the period that I re-create is late 14th century Wales. You get the tournaments, you get the pageantry, it’s really the ‘high chivalric’ age. The armour looks gorgeous as well and the clothes, you’re really starting to get into ‘fashion’. Especially the men’s clothes…it’s quite hilarious the things that they are doing – adding long tippets on to their hoods or things on their sleeves.
Chris: I tend to like the 1100s in Greece, which is the height of the very late Byzantine Empire. It’s really over-the-top decadent stuff, super luxurious, super glorious, sort of thing. They use gold thread in everything, they have enormous great big hats, like turbans but…vast. They were basically
trying to do anything that was odd
or interesting or ridiculously over
How did you become interested in medieval society?
Hanna: For me it’s always been an interest, when I was seven I made bows and arrows in the backyard. They didn’t usually work very well but they were fun. Then when I was thirteen I got involved in archery with the SCA down there and so that was the start of it for me—I was sort of hooked.
Chris: When I was really little I liked dinosaurs, and so when I got older I got interested in Egyptians and Romans and then got involved in medieval society as well. It’s really interesting how people lived and how things are different now.
Is there a King of all Kings?
Hanna: We have a Board of Directors who organised the running of the society and make sure that we don’t get too bothered by legal things. But we’re quite good at keeping the legal aspects separate from having fun. You get wars between Kingdoms as well.
Chris: And wars within Kingdoms—I think Canterbury went to war with Tasmania a couple of years back over Antarctica.