Game On – Medieval Style – at Mountain Pas and Highland Games

The ladies of Bryngolau: Althina of the North Storms, Belaset Tintura and Isauda Marchwyle. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

By Bonnie J. Gordon

The Shire of Bryngolau (Shining Hill in Welsh) hosted a pas d’arms tournament and games event Oct. 19 at the Posse Lodge in Los Alamos.

The local group is currently an “Incipient Shire” while they demonstrate their ability to function as a full Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) branch.

The Shire of Bryngolau encompasses Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties and has more than 20 members.

SCA is a non-profit educational organization devoted to the study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Members of SCA live the part at their events. They dress in period styles and participate in the cultural and martial arts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

At this event, Bryngolau played host to SCA members from around the southwest. Bryngolau is part of The Kingdom of the Outlands, which encompasses a number of western states.

Striking a blow to the shield. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

 A major highlight of the day was the Heavy Weapons Tournament. This aspect of SCA is perhaps the best known outside the Society.

Weapons allowed in the tournament include great sword, Florentine, sword and shield, spear, poleaxe, longsword, axe, dagger, mace or any combination of these. 

This is the place to see fighters in armor go at it on the field of combat.

Combatants participate to show their skills, for honor, for the appreciation of the crowd, and for the sheer joy of a good battle.

Chivalry is as important as skill at arms and two top prizes were awarded by the Ladies of the Gallery who function as a panel of judges of chivary.

The combantants judge the blows they receive for the tournament. One prize is for skill at arms. In that category the day was won by Lord Stavros of Helicon from the Barony of al-Barron (Albuquerque.)

Lord Rowland Grey of Lincolnshire from the Shire of Drygestan (Santa Fe) was named the most chivalrous.

Chivalry and honor are a big part of life in the SCA. “The courtesy and respect for others we practice carries over to our daily lives,” said Lord Llywus Ap Alan, Seneschal or chapter president of the Shire of Bryngolau. “The society is a family affair for a lot of people and I think growing up with those ideals is very valuable.”

Llywus would go on to win the Thrown Weapons Tournament for his skill with an axe.

Colorful heraldry was much on display at the games. “In the middle ages, you would look for the banners, and even though you couldn’t read or write, you would know who was who on the battlefield or at a tournament,” explained Lady Elinor du Pont.

Elinor is a herald. Heralds not only make announcements and carry messages, they help members of the SCA design their personal coats of arms according to SCA standards.

For those who prefer to fight with the rapier, a Robbers’ Tournament offered a chance to show their skills.

The idea is to simulate what it’s like for a thief to have the jump on a traveler. The thief starts with his sword drawn, while the traveler‘s blade is still in its scabbard.

The beset traveler must not only survive, but also make the brigand pay for his audacity!

Extra points are given for a victory by the traveler since he starts at a disadvantage. The combatants then switch roles.

Also part of the day’s fun and entertainment were the games, including apple bobbing for children, the “sheep toss,” which consisted of throwing a 20 pound bag as far as possible, Quoits, “Battledore and shuttlecock,” Bocce and lawn bowling, as well as  the Rolling Pin Toss, a competition for ladies only where the hapless victim is a cloth knight.

Ringing a strategically placed bell on the knight’s person garners extra points.

A big part of the fun of belonging to SCA takes place outside events like the Games. Chapter members gather often to share their skills and have informal good times.

“No one ever wrote down some things, like how to make garters, because it was just assumed that you knew how,” Belaset Tintura of Bryngolau explained. “There’s a mystery to how things were done that we try to unravel. A lot of these skills are being rediscovered. Whatever you’re interested in, in the modern world, there’s a counterpart in the Middle Ages—with more work and cooler costumes.”

“The artistry that goes into the crafts and the level of people’s skill amazes me,” Isauda Marchwyle, also of Bryngolau, added. “You have to find someone to learn from and then be dedicated.”

The Shire has medieval dance classes and some of the dances take months to master.

Belaset is a dyer and when following instructions on how long to leave a piece of cloth in indigo dye, found the proper time was “long enough to say three paternosters.”

“How you do things without modern technology fascinates me,” she said.

The SCA affords equal honors to those with different skills. The Order of Knighthood is for heavy fighting prowess, the Order of the Pelican recognizes service, and the Order of the Laurel recognizes skill at arts and sciences of all kinds.

The SCA creates the Middles Ages that should have been—lots of grace and chivalry, no Black Death or fleas.

They’re preserving traditions and skills of the past while making the world a bit more civilized and beautiful.

Events like this one allow members to share their appreciation for the past and have a great time in the present. Huzzah!

Visit Bryngalau online at

Apple bobbing. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

Tug-a-war. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

Combatants in the Robbers’ Tournament duel with rapiers. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

Heavy Arms Tournament clash. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon

Crowd discusses the tourney. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon



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