Ye Olde College of Brymstone
After arriving at Gene Autry Park in Mesa, you’re presented with a group of very ordinary individuals; there’s chatter about their day-to-days buzzing in the air.
West of the usual gathering spot for the participants, there's a playground where children skylark at their own dispense. South of their spot, basketball players shoot hoop after hoop. All around, people go about fishing or walking with their dates.
But in about 10 minutes, this entire scene is distorted. Men and women suit up in silver armor and wear garments of rich hunter green and fearsome red. Rennie women, who are not fighters (presumably based on medieval standards), stride elegantly, almost dream-like, in their velvety gowns and caps.
For a split moment, the children in the playground and the basketball players stop to look at the contrast: a Renaissance scene with contemporary backdrop.
The College of Brymstone, as ASU is known to the international empire of Society for Creative Anachronism, seems to be about a contrast of life as well, teaching bystanders a lesson on judging, while teaching its members about the characteristics of another lifetime by placing them, literally, into the shoes of a more hospitable Henry VIII or an ancestor of Queen Isabella.
SCA is an international non-profit organization with 30,000 members from around the globe. Members organize events like these, where participants celebrate a bygone age. The College of Brymstone is under the Barony of Twin Moons, the East Valley baron — which is sort of the medieval equivalent of a society chapter. There are multiple baronies across the Valley, allowing individuals from Glendale to Chandler be involved. Likewise, Northern Arizona University is the College of St. Vladimir and University of Arizona is College of St. Felix.
The College of Brymstone, under the Kingdom of Atenveldt (the state of Arizona), is made up of ASU alumni: students, doctors, police officers and other individuals. A handy map of the Kingdom of Atenveldt is part of the package.
It might be easy to deride this group as fantastical fanatics, but that’s not really the case. Although everyone in the group may have some sort of fascination with the Middle Ages, the program provides a hands-on educational experience to students of all ages: often that extends to workers who flip burgers for a living, as Selena Trasamara de Luna (more commonly known as Michelle Chirip, an executive assistant at a health solutions facility and ASU alumnus) puts it.
Selena Trasamara de Luna, as Chirip’s barony name goes, is just one example of the many historical names each member chooses when they join the College of Brymstone’s group.
Before moving to greater things, chatelaines, or newcomers, must choose a persona from a specific time period. But the persona they choose may not be from literature nor historically relevant.
The chatelaines must research their persona and learn how their character would have acted and how they might think. In the process, the newcomer may immerse himself into a time period and learn all about it.
“I wouldn’t be the same person without this,” says Lindsey Elliott, a criminal justice and criminology freshman. Elliott has been a part of the SCA since she was 5 years old. Her first lesson was on etiquette.
“Brymstone changes as people come in and out,” Chirip says. “A lot of it is learning that who you are is more important than what you do for a living – to establish honor.”
Brymstone serves to help individuals grow. It gives people a safe place to become better communicators by placing individuals with a group of people of all ages and of all backgrounds.
“I just learned how to interact with all different types of people, maybe more people than what I would have met at ASU,” journalism freshman Katie-Lee Faulkner says.
Faulkner, as of now, is sewing her own garbs to wear at the War of Estrella.
Other than prepping for the upcoming wars — for now, it’s the War of Estrella in March, which is a war for honor between different baronies in the Kingdom of Atenveldt — students participate in classes that range from court dancing to archery. Barony of Twin Moons also provides classes on contemporary Renaissance (what SCA is) and the pre-seventeenth century world.
Despite their fascination with the Renaissance, Chirip says the group embodies the Renaissance period as anyone would have liked it to be: full of sanitary resources and technological advances.
At the practice battle, men and women gear up and fight each other with wooden sticks. The air becomes intense, but on cue, Chirip says, “You don’t really want to hurt your opponent … that’s where honor comes in.”
“To Arms! To Arms!” as a Barony of Twin Moons member calls attention on the Facebook page: If you’re interested in joining this barony, please visit their site here. The College of Brymstone participates in the student club nights that ASU Student Organization has available.
Contact the reporter at Noemi.A.Gonzalez@asu.edu