A young gentle who wishes to remain anonymous was asked to write about “community” for her college entry essay. Her story reminds us of why we all love this hobby.

An arrow whizzes past my right ear, and I am thankful to have dodged it. I automatically nock a projectile of my own and select my target, a spear-wielder fifteen feet in front of me. The heat from my helmet draws sweat from my face; my body is weighed down by my armor. Fighters shout all around me, falling in battle, calling targets, and dealing blows. The ruckus of swords on helmets threatens to fill my head. My concentration remains. I focus in on my target and release the string. My arrow flies. The shot yields yet another kill.

I have been participating in combat archery in the Society for Creative Anachronism since I was sixteen, and I have never felt so truly perfect as when I am on the field fighting with my friends. I have done fiber arts in the SCA before, and still do, but it is nothing compared to the allure of combat. There is something magical about being in battle with one’s closest family and friends. We arrive together, armor together, and fight together. No one is in it for himself- it is truly a team effort. The spears and archers need shield carriers to protect them, and the shield carriers need the spears and archers for ranged support. Fighters block strikes for each other and archers time shots with one another to allow reload time. The greatest feeling of community, however, is the discussion after the battles. A combatant is never talking about himself. Conversations always center around what others on the team had done well that round, incredible feats that another has done, and how well the group fought together. Win or lose, neither side is bitter. Sports where enjoyment is valued above ranking are very difficult to come by, but when they are, they are truly magical.

When I am in armor on the field, the fight is all I am concerned about. I can forget about all the stresses at school and home. I can really put myself into the shoes of my persona. I am an archer, a weaver, a servant, and truly in a medieval battle. The excitement and rush of charging into a battle, hearing the clash of swords and shields, and fighting until the death is the greatest experience I could ever ask for. It is frightening to feel the blow of a sword and terrifying to be pushed along in the swarm of the battle charge; it seems real and is such a wonderful feeling to realize at the end that it was all pretend – and even more wonderful once you realize how much fun you were having.

As eccentric of a hobby as it is, I would really be in no other place than on the field in battle with my father, brother, and friends. It is the one place where I truly feel community, and the one place where I can feel genuine excitement without being in any true danger. It is a place where, regardless of the outcome, nothing has changed between me and my opponents. It is a place where I can truly be myself. I often find others asking me if I’m one of those weird people in armor in the park; and every time, without missing a beat, I respond with a proud “Yes, I am”.

Combat archers

Combat archers at Pennsic. Photo by Lord Ursus.