College of Ilium hosts its medieval spring festival

(PHOTO/ Pratiksha Joshi)
(PHOTO/ Pratiksha Joshi)
Students learn “Toss the Duchess” at the College of Ilium’s “Spring has Sprung” festival.
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Draven Jackson

Staff Writer

The College of Ilium hosted its “Spring has Sprung” festival, which showcased activities reminiscent of the Middle Ages and featured classes on jewelry making, dancing and illumination Saturday, April 22.

Each member present was decked out in a period-appropriate costume on the Shackelford Quad.

To begin, Madison Jordan, a freshman biology education major, gave a class on illumination, which is the type of script writing used to make the “Once Upon a Time” openings in fairy tale movies. Jordan explained that medieval writers used to cover up mistakes when writing on old parchment by adding in animals and flowers.

Everyone was able to pick out a letter and create illuminations by tracing the letters and designing around and inside of them with birds, flowers, curlicues and various other illustrations, in order to create their own unique medieval art.

“It looks cool with all the painting they are doing,” said Matthew Pisarski, a freshman hospitality sports tourism management major from Bowling Green, Ohio.

Afterwards, the members of the group and the students visiting were taught some medieval dances by Nicole Cronin, a biomedical sciences major from Dothan. Some examples of dances include the “Maltese Bransle” and “Toss the Duchess,” the latter of which was a group of men and women stepping around in a circle. The men “toss” the women from one side to the other, meaning they pick the ladies up on their right and set them back down on their left, and so the dance continues.

They held a trivia contest where Kaitlin Mereand, a junior biomedical sciences major from Fort Mitchell, asked the group basic world history questions and awarded all participants with candy.

The last class of the festival was about jewelry making and was led by Victoria Monroe, a junior psychology major from Prattville. She explained that the beads, such as jade, amethyst and lapis lazuli are what defined the jewelry in that era, and taught everyone how to make their own jewelry based on personal designs.

Monroe, next year’s president of the College of Ilium, said one of the main goals of the event was bringing attention to the group and its activities.

“I have always found the Middle Ages and Europe interesting,” Monroe said. “I’ve always been super interested in world history, and that is one of my favorite eras to learn about.”

According to Richard Nokes, associate professor of medieval literature and the advisor for the group, said the name “College of Ilium” came around after the group was brought back from a short hiatus and was looking for a new start. “Ilium” is the Latin word for Troy, so the College of Ilium literally means Troy University, but with a medieval twist.

Nokes said one of the amazing parts of the SCA and its suborganizations is the immense creativity of participants.

The SCA, or the Society for Creative Anachronism, is an international organization that works to recreate medieval life. The organization has smaller subsects, including colleges on university campuses, such as the College of Ilium.

“You’ll go to an event and you’ll just see some guy plaiting rope, literally making his own rope from his own horse hairs, so that they can have period-accurate rope that he can then barter for other things,” Nokes said. “Then people who are making their tents will know that they are making their tents from rope that is hand crafted. It’s unbelievably impressive.”

The event ended with a 15-minute one-act of Chaucer’s “The Merchant’s Tale,” in which a knight named January marries a young, beautiful girl named May, who ends up cheating on him with his squire Damien and gets away with it. The play’s language was modified to connect with a modern audience.

Julia Mince, a freshman elementary education major from Bay Minette, said she came to the event in order to support her best friend, who is a member of the group.

“I think the event is really cool with seeing everything that they do,” Mince said. “It’s all really different, and while I may not have come before, since it was right outside my door I was more than willing to come and see what it was about.”