Sticks and stones don’t break their bones

Perhaps you’ve seen them practicing by the sundial, jousting while clad in homemade chain metal and helmets, and wondered who these people were. They wear armor, make their own swords, and fight in hand-to-hand combat. They sew corsets, gather to feast and dance merrily.

No, they’re not medieval time travelers or extras from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail;” they’re the College’s own Order of the Golden Lion (OGL), an organization devoted to all things medieval.

Lots of people have visited Medieval Times, eaten with their hands and cheered on their knight as he fights to the death. The members of OGL have taken this interest a step further, participating in medieval re-enactments and studying the Middle Ages’ way of life.

It’s certainly not your average club, but for Ryan Biczo, club treasurer, that was part of the draw. “I really like Medieval Times and I really like fighting, so it was a perfect fit,” he said.

Although club members are also involved in the dancing, clothing and trade aspects of medieval life, it is the fighting matches that draw the most attention. OGL is a member of Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia, or Markland for short, a national non-profit historical organization.

According to the Markland Web site, they “re-enact medieval life by constructing and using reproductions of the periods accoutrements, and we generally have a lot of fun educating the public (and each other) with what we have learned in the process.”

The group is also part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a global organization dedicated to pre-17th century Europe recreation and re-enactments.

Markland creates all of the many regulations and rules on combat for OGL. “Safety is a big concern,” OGL president Patricia Miller said. OGL members are not just running around stabbing each other with swords and spears – they must carefully follow the guidelines and safety precautions of Markland and SCA.

Markland rules allow for combat with less armor and padding; a fighter must have armor and headgear or the equivalent, which is three sweatshirts. Their weapons, however, must be padded extensively. SCA is the opposite, advocating more personal armor but allowing weapons to be unpadded.

Although this may sound painful, Miller insists the most anyone suffers is a few bruises here or there, no more than your average sport. Markland does have a million-dollar insurance policy for injuries and weapons are carefully checked and maintained.

“We have to cut the metal, grind the edges,” Biczo said. “Safety is a big issue and we’re very careful.”

Nevertheless, Biczo has plenty of war stories. “It’s a problem if guys forget to wear their cups – which I’ve done on a few occasions,” he said.

The commitment of OGL participants to authentically re-enact the medieval era extends to its weapons. The swords and armor they use is not store-bought, but painstakingly hand-made.

For a full suit of armor, Biczo estimates it takes only about two weeks, with an average of four to six hours of work per night. However, a helmet he made only took about three hours. Members also create bows and arrows. “One of our members made a corset,” Miller said.

This club certainly differs from the relatively tamer pursuits of Chess Club or the Student Finance Board. However, just like those organizations, the members of OGL are there to make friends and enjoy themselves.

“It’s a very social organization,” Christine Clear, last year’s president, said. “You really get to know someone after you smack them.”