High society Enthusiasts of medieval era avoid the mundane

Sunday, May 26, 2002

CARLYLE, Ill. -- Chivalry and courtesy are their watchwords, except when they're beheading their enemies.

Admirers of medieval nobility's customs, dress and warfare have a word for everything in their ordinary, day-to-day 21st century lives: Mundane.

"My mundane name is Alice Buzzard," said Baroness Althia Biraz-pars of Godfrey, a member of the international Society for Creative Anachronism.

A group of about 50 society members recently held a weekend gathering at a Boy Scout camp near Carlyle Lake.

After lunch, the baroness mounted her quarterhorse mix, grabbed a mace and lopped off the heads of her enemies -- actually, fake human heads on wooden posts.

Titles like baron and baroness have to be earned in the society, but not everybody aspires to them. Charles Browne of White City has been in the society for 19 years and still likes being a lower-echelon lord. He's a leather worker, stained glass maker and a cook. But he doesn't joust or fight with swords, and he shoots arrows only at targets.

"I don't like getting hit," said Browne, whose society name is Christian van den Vos.

Brian Perdue of Bridgeport does like to fight with swords and calls the society's activities "the most fun you can have legally."

But he said the real fascination for him is the history, the courteous manners and the camaraderie.

"The friendship and the bonding is unlike anything you'd find anywhere else," Perdue said. "In order to survive in the Middle Ages, you had to be courteous. It was so easy to get killed."

Perdue's society name is Savaric de Pardieu. Perdue chose a French name, but a majority try to imitate English nobility.

For their costumes and names, society member pick periods from 600 to 1600 and the early Renaissance.

Lord Philippe likes to swing a rapier nowadays. But he started out as T.J. Harmon of St. Louis, a folk dance fan in search of new moves.

"I joined because of the dancing and got sucked into everything else," Harmon said. "I showed up for a dance practice, and I was lost forever."

Even in secluded campsites, their dress and activities sometimes get curious stares from strangers.

"We call it 'freaking the mundane,'" Browne said.

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