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Ye Olde Societae

In the so-called mundane world (what some would call reality), they're everyday folks -- teachers, artists, computer experts, librarians. As members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, they take on another name, another persona -- a character who would be at home in the Middle Ages.

The Society for Creative Anachronism, with several active groups in South Florida, is a decades-old international organization geared to studying and re-creating pre-17th-century Europe. Broward County's group, the Shire of Sangre del Sol (part of the Kingdom of Trimaris), boasts about 55 members who re-create bits and pieces of the Middle Ages (spanning the 600s to the 1600s) through workshops such as weaving and beer brewing, arts and sciences competitions, weekend camping trips, and weaponry tournaments.

Participating in the society is a hands-on education in history, enthusiasts say.

"We learn about the Middle Ages by actually doing and participating," says Lord Michel de Laraque, a 14th-century Frenchman, also known as Michael Harvey, a Fort Lauderdale graphics artist. "We're history nuts. Harmless history nuts."

Which activities one chooses and how strictly one adheres to authenticity depends upon the member. Some are into sewing period clothing or cooking or brewing beer. Others participate in singing, dancing, and other forms of entertainment, such as juggling. Harvey is among those who are interested in the styles and techniques of using a sword and shield -- something that he maintains is akin to studying martial arts.

For SCA camping trips, some wear carefully researched, hand-sewn clothing and sit on seats they've concocted of two planks. Others keep their laptop computers and other features of modern-day life discreetly concealed in their tents. Harvey, as Deputy Successor Seneschal (vice president of the Broward group), conceals his digital organizer in a satchel on his belt. If someone brings along a portable phone, others sometimes refer to it as a carrier pigeon.

"Within the site, we ask that you make the attempt at playing the role," Harvey says. However, the word creative is in the title of the society, and that word allows for some liberties. During feasts, Maeve Firehair has been known to include Pez dispensers as part of her table setting, Harvey confides. She might sip on a Coke, but she'll pour it first into a goblet. Firehair is sometimes called Jill Faubert, a third-grade teacher from Deerfield Beach.

The Broward group, she says, is a friendly bunch of partiers. What draws some folks is the emphasis on being part of a society within mainstream society. Faubert says those traits carry over into the everyday world. "You'll find yourself opening doors for people," she says. "Chivalry and courtesy -- it's very much alive."

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Patti Roth

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