This feature was originally published in Black Press Media’s Prince Rupert Northern View newspaper in March 2019.
Prince Rupert could be going to war with Smithers. That’s if members of the Society for Creative Anachronism decide to play it that way.
The territorial conflict comes after 10 medieval-minded Rupertites held an exploratory meeting Monday, Feb. 25, and voted unanimously to establish a local SCA group.
The SCA is an international non-profit organization headquartered in California that is devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat and culture.
According to Prince Rupert resident Greg Butts, the city currently lies within the boundaries of an existing SCA shire called Tir Bannog, headquartered in Smithers.
“That’s a long drive for somebody from Prince Rupert,” Butts said.
Also known as Lothar the Gregarious, his SCA persona, Butts is the leader or “seneschal” of the new Prince Rupert SCA group formed Monday. After the meeting, he sent an official email to the Tir Bannog seneschal requesting that they sponsor the Prince Rupert SCA.
If they accept, members of the Tir Bannog shire would shadow members of the would-be Prince Rupert shire for six months and recommend to the larger kingdom of An Tir, which encompasses most of B.C. and other parts of the Pacific Northwest, whether or not the Prince Rupert SCA can separate and stand alone.
Butts said that although the Prince Rupert SCA and Tir Bannog can decide to play war, the shire borders will likely shift peacefully after the six month period.
Either way, there will be a lot of paperwork.
“It isn’t just as easy as collecting a few members together and then paying for your memberships and boom,” said Butts. “No, it’s like the Rotary Club or any other club. You have a board of directors, you have a president and an accountant. We just call them different things.”
Butts has been involved with the SCA for more than 20 years and has lived in Prince Rupert for two. He and his wife Katherine, who is also involved with the SCA, moved here from Hamilton, Ontario when Katherine got a job working as a senior fisheries biologist at the Lax Kw’alaams Band office.
Butts waited two years to hold the exploratory meeting in Rupert because he wanted to ensure he was staying here before starting something he couldn’t commit to. And beginning a new SCA group does require a big commitment, he said.
“When we get it fully operational, during a week there’ll be armoured combat practice, archery practice, arts and science,” Butts said, adding that SCA members will also be kept busy with monthly meetings, offering educational demonstrations at schools, planning all-ages, themed events for the community, such as feasts or tournament fighting, and even optional participation in the annual Pennsic War in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania.
“Tens of thousands of SCA camp out for two weeks and the war takes place in an enormous, open field,” said Butts, who has participated in the event. “They fire a cannon off way over on the hill and then, just like you see in the movie Braveheart, these two lines of combatants just…” collide, Butts demonstrated by clapping his hands together.
Fighting is done with pliable weapons, and there are rules for acceptable and unacceptable hits. Injuries and fatalities are re-enacted on an honour system.
Like many members, armoured combat is the aspect of SCA that initially drew Butts in. Listen to him talk though and it becomes clear that history and community are what has kept him involved for a couple decades.
“I like the fact that I can find somebody if I’m reading and I’m interested in something like, pick a subject, Viking nålebinding, a form of very early knitting,” Butts said. “I wanted to make a pair of socks and then I found someone in Kitchener who was able to teach that skill to me.”
Now, in addition to armoured combat, Butts forges his own armour, plays period games, sews period clothes, does inkle weaving, and makes period-correct shoes. His “lady wife” Katherine develops recipes from medieval cookbooks.
Butts is quick to add that if Katherine were an armoured combatant, she could fight for his honour because the SCA is an inclusive society.
“Completely acceptable,” he said. “Two women, or two men, just as long as you’re putting on armour and swinging a stick, you can participate.”
The time frame—500 to 1600—is the only limiting factor, he said.
“You’ll find that pretty much anybody will find an interest within that time frame. Whether it’s medieval Europe or the samurai in Japan, there’s something,” he said. “Vikings, Mongolians, whatever it is.
“I’ve never seen somebody come to an event and walk away not having fun, not even a new person.”