By Tom Butala, Rob Fidler and Dan Ruano
“Weird, but mostly harmless,” reads the subtext of the FBI’s file on the Thieves of Hearts, according to group member Gwynneth verch Ieuan.
Considered to be the largest standing militia in Illinois, the Thieves are an armed organization that congregates regularly, but the probability of a militia attack from this group, at least by modern account, is highly unlikely.
The Society for Creative Anachronisms, the overarching organization responsible for the Thieves’ activities states their mission as “Creative anachronism takes the best qualities of the middle ages and recreates them in the modern world.”
These two foot soldiers look out of their element in a gymnasium.
“The combat is only one part of what we do, we re-enact all aspects of medieval life,” said 20-year member Daniel Suh, known to the SCA as Okami. “Members research and develop a persona … upon joining they design costumes and submit their crest.”
The society involves all aspects of pre-17th century life, with fine attention to historical accuracy. Suh’s persona Okami is derived from the Eastern world, though the SCA primarily focuses on Medieval Europe.
Finding an adequate practice space is difficult for these warriors out of time. Working adjacent to a high school girls flag squad practice, dealing with common Medieval problems such as fire alarms, the Thieves of Hearts barony of the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Middle Kingdom congregated last Tuesday in the gymnasium of suburban Northlake’s Glenbrook North High School, as they do every Tuesday, to hone their swordsmanship and exchange tales of battle.
The Thieves of Hearts are one of 17 groups in Illinois which with the organizations from other Midwestern states together form the Middle Kingdom. With 19 kingdoms in total, the SCA comprises no less than 30,000 card-carrying members. According to the MidRealm, the Society for Creative Anachronism was founded in Berkeley, California, on May 1, 1966, by a group of individuals who shared medieval interests.
According to the website MidRealm: “Many of the early members of the SCA were also members of science fiction fandom, and it was through Fandom that the early SCA spread. Within a year, it was incorporated and slowly began to extend itself beyond its old boundaries.”
“You can find a tournament of some variety or another almost any weekend out of the year somewhere in the world,” said Fendra, a book editor. “I’m a big history nerd,” said Fendra, a book editor and member of the SCA member for five years.
A history minor who came to Chicago five years ago, she learned that one is granted membership to the organization for the “princely sum” of $35 a year, for which they are given the monthly newsletter of their kingdom.
Not all participants are card-carriers however, anyone with an interest is welcome to congregate with the SCA and the group attracts members with various levels of commitment.
On the practice field, it is acceptable to be seen in primarily street clothes.
“I’m what they call a stick-jock,” Okami said.
Members like Okami focus primarily on the aspect of battle, with less concentration on the historical recreation.
“A lot of research is done in regards to the methods of historical combat,” he said. Hand to hand combat is generally categorized as heavy or light weapons combat and is classified by the armor a combatant must wear in battle. Rapier fighters wield long, dulled blades and wear heavy clothing and helmets.
For heavy weapons combat, armor is made to withhold great force. A typical heavy weapons helmet can weigh up to 20 pounds. “You either make your own stuff [armor], or you know somebody who does,” said Alexander de Seaton of Altavia of The Thieves of Hearts.
Archers, swordsman and even equestrians can all be found in the SCA, though should one wish to do battle, they must ensure they are properly protected. Gwen relates a horror story of a member who neglected to wear all the essential components of his armor.