The World I Am Owned To
Celeste Taylor forges familial bonds in the Society for Creative Anachronism
Celeste Taylor’s keen, wolfish eyes peer over the people of her realm as she strides into a Tuesday night meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Her brown ponytail bounces lightly on her fair neck. A gray fox tail hangs elegantly down to her knee and she wears a light-brown hat with polar fleece wolf ears.
Her boots trudge across the floor before she takes her throne overseeing her world. "Order!" Celeste roars, her booming voice silencing her subjects. "The meeting of the Shire of Dernehealde commences now."
Celeste ascended to the position of Seneschal, or president, of the Shire of Dernehealde in March, and her authoritative rule has won her the admiration of each of the 20 members present. Currently a 21-year-old senior at Ohio University, Celeste was invited to the Shire as a freshman by her fencing instructor, Bryian Winner. Bryian, whose Shire persona is called Eidiard an Gobhainn, eventually adopted her into his Shire family, providing Celeste an outlet for her wolf-like mentality.
You go, you kill people, you eat with them later. It's all in the spirit of things. —Celeste Taylor
"I’ve never really liked strangers and I’ve always been extremely, stupidly loyal to the people who I am owned to," Celeste says. "There are no limits to how far I would go for them, because they are my family. They are my pack. They are my nakama."
Nakama is a Japanese word meaning "friends who are family." Celeste likens her family to a pack of wolves. "When you’re pack with a wolf, it’s a very close connection, and it’s the same as when you’re family with humans," Celeste says. "They trust you when you go away, because wolf packs don’t break up."
Her Shire family gives Celeste a supportive backbone upon which she expresses herself. In the fantasy world of the Shire, Celeste creates her own reality, free from the constraints of 21st Century societal norms.
Our people controlled the known world for thousands of years with the sword, and uh, this is us trying to relive that.
We're, we're a bunch of outcasts. A lot of people in the Society really haven't found a place in normal society. A lot of us are the people in school that are considered either outcasts or geeks.
Everybody say, "Hi, Badger."
So this is like a mini holiday for us so that we can get away from work and the pressures of the real world and be around people that we know and trust, and where everybody can kind of breathe a little bit and relax and, you know, in some cases kind of let their hair down, because we can't do the same thing in the mundane world. You know, or at least with the same level of comfort.
Um, I was killed today four to five times. It was, honest to goodness, one of the best experiences of my life. There was, like, fifty people in front of you, and once I got on the field and actually started fighting people it was just, amazing. I've never been in anything of that size or of that scale.
We've all got scrapes, bumps, bruises. There are broken bones. Sprains, strains on muscles, pulled muscles.
We love to flirt. We love to, uh, live the courtly love part of what we do. The society is where like-minded people can come and re-live the romantic aspects of the Middle Ages.
I do feel very strongly about my SCA family. I would fight and die and kill for them; I have — in the game (laughs). I've never really liked strangers, and I've always been extremely, stupidly loyal to the people who I am owned to. There are no limits to how far I would go for them, because they are my family. They are my pack. They are my nakama.
"Maybe I’ve always been this way because I had trouble making friends in elementary school," Celeste says. "Or maybe I had trouble making friends in elementary school because I’m this way."
Away from the confusion of elementary school, Celeste immerses in the whimsical ways of the Shire. She spends her weekends practice fighting with her nakama. Celeste wears aluminum body armor of her own making and fights with non-piercing swords. When she has time, Celeste travels with the Shire for an inter-kingdom raid.
"We go play. I have a lot of fun," Celeste says, recalling her time at Pennsic, the World’s biggest raid. The event is held annually in Slippery Rock, Pa., which is an hour north of Pittsburgh. "You go, you kill people, you eat with them later. It’s all in the spirit of things."
Free from social scrutiny at events like Pennsic, a variety of personas, from squires to knights, play The Game within the Society for Creative Anachronism, an internationally recognized non-profit organization.
Celeste and other members of the Society share a common love for the medieval age. They dress appropriately for the era – the ladies donning body-length smocks of varying color, and the men clothed in tunics. Mundane, or ordinary, clothes are permitted, although one risks the outcry of those in character. Campfire embers burn late into the night at the events, while epic tales of chivalry are told amid a haze of hookah smoke and homemade mead.
I've never really liked strangers and I've always been extremely, stupidly loyal to the people who I am owned to. — Celeste Taylor
In the Society, Celeste joins like-minded souls to play out a romanticized version of the Middle Ages. People that the world brushes aside as outlandish oddballs find a community tailored to their distinct interests. They re-enact full-scale battles, rain or shine, and they take their combat bruises as a consequence, not as a punishment. They make deep-seated bonds that time, distance and the Mundane world cannot sever.
Celeste walks the muddy fields of the Middle Marshes barefoot, dressed in a red tunic as she listens to Eidiard eloquently weave sagas of battles past. Laughing comfortably in her garb, Celeste is no stranger to character acting. She acted in plays throughout grade school and she took part in the Athens-based Ohio Valley Summer Theater when she was a child.
"Every time you put on a role, you put on a different person. They’re each their own self," Celeste says. "I just think it’s fun to wear different skins, because you can look at the world through other eyes." Her persona is not as solidified as others’ are, but she wants to be Early Period, which means that her character existed before 800 A.D. Celeste admires Early Period garb, because it lacks the frivolity and ruffles of Renaissance personas, but she reserves passing judgment.
"I’ve seen people in gorgeous, Late Period, full-court garb. It’s amazing. It’s fantastic, but I wouldn’t want to walk in it," Celeste says. "I have no pretensions to be glitzy."
Celeste strides across the green pastures of Athens, glitz-free on her way to a Sunday afternoon practice. Her armor glints in the light of early May sunshine as she prepares for battle. Her nakama stands behind her. Cheering. Supporting. The familial bond is palpable.
"They are my family. I would fight and die and kill for them. I have – in The Game," Celeste says, laughing. "I’ve always had a strong feeling of pack, and these people are my family."