The Falcon Banner has posted a new item, 'A Ladye’s Guide to Safety at War

every new year, the War Season is also getting started in the SCA. The
Society Calendar boasts of seven Wars and two three-day weekend events to
enjoy between February and October. In other words, the party is just
getting started!

As we prepare our clothing, armor, and provisions for War, we should also
take time to prepare for our personal safety. Now, most of the time,
absolutely nothing happens, but a little preparedness and forethought never
hurt anyone.

Hopefully the following tips will be beneficial to the less experienced
War-traveler and serve as a reminder for the veterans.
Environmental Safety

In this instance, I’m talking less about protecting the environment (which
is important!) than I am about protecting yourself from the environment. If
you’re like me, you may not be a seasoned camper. Of course, SCA camping is
the half-sister of glamping once you get your period encampment down, so
there’s that comfort! That said, it is sometimes difficult to transition
from the comfort of air conditioning, flushing toilets, and running (hot)
water. On top of that, it is important that you prepare yourself for the
environment’s hazards as well as its discomforts.

*Insect protection*

Bugs live outside. Most of them are fine when left alone, but, for many of
them, you represent a tasty food supply. (To paraphrase Merry: “What do
they eat when they can’t get Huscarl?”) The bugs that don’t want a sampling
of your blood for their sustenance still pose a nuisance, especially when
you open your tent to find it filled with what my family calls “chiggers.”
(Tiny flying bugs.)

The first thing I recommend doing when you set up your camp is to sprinkle
the ground you intend for your tent with Borax. This will, mostly, keep
insects out of your tent. (I think I saw exactly one bug crawling up the
inside of my tent wall at Gulf Wars.) I normally pack extra boxes to
sprinkle more along the outside of my tent in the event it rains and
because friends will ask to use some for their camps.

To protect your person from insects as you go through the day, be sure to
pack Deet and/or citronella candles. I personally find that all bugs
(especially the bloodsucking ones) absolutely hate tea-tree and lavender
oils, so I put several drops of each in a spray bottle of water and
liberally spray my family with when we’re going to be walking in fields,
etc. The spray bottle also doubles as a room and linen freshener due to the
anti-bacterial properties of both oils so it’s well worth having on hand.
Also, be sure to have extra tea towels to cover your food with during
preparation and try to keep your campsite clean of things like food debris
that will attract pests. (Probably not just the insect kind.)

*Lavender/Tea Tree Oil formula: *mix 30 drops lavender oil two about
fifteen drops tea tree oil in a 12 oz spray bottle of water. You can adjust
the oil proportions to be stronger depending on need, but most people often
find the smell of tea tree repulsive, so I use more lavender to mask it.

* UV Protection*

Yes, rays from the sun help the body to absorb vitamin D, but when you
spend a week living outside, fighting or water-bearing in no shade, and
attending court in shade that doesn’t stand a chance against the angle of
the sun, you’ll discover that it’s very different from when you’re only
spending a couple of hours on a walk. Sunscreen is your friend. Purchase a
waterproof sunscreen and reapply it according to the directions, especially
if you go swimming or perspire too much. If you have older children, try to
explain sun-safety to them. (Younger children, you can just lather whenever
you feel they need it.)

I personally recommend packing a good straw hat or a parasol, and wearing
clothes that cover as much skin as is comfortable. (More on that in the
next section.)

Also, just because the sun isn’t out doesn’t mean you should skip on
sunscreen. On an overcast day, those clouds are acting like magnifying
glasses for those UV rays and you are the ant on the sidewalk. That same
rule applies to the sun’s reflection on a lake or pool and its
magnification in the water when you or your children are swimming.


This is probably the greatest discomfort at a summer War and, lately, it’s
seemed to get worse each year.

They may seem extravagant in cost, but canvas tents are worth every penny
in regard to comfort. If cared for properly, they’ll last years, and add to
your medieval experience profoundly. They function more as tiny hotel rooms
and you’ll have the space for a comfortable air mattress and furniture to
make your 7-14 day War experience more enjoyable. Plus: Heat defense!

Canvas breathes better than nylon, preventing build up of humidity inside
the tent. Canvas does not transfer heat as quickly as nylon, keeping the
tent from becoming unbearably hot as soon as the sun hits it. That also
works in reverse in cold weather, keeping warmth in the tent when you want
it there.

Next, bring a hand fan, perhaps make a swamp cooler, and bring extra
buckets you can fill with ice water to rest your feet in and bring your
core temperature down. (Extra points if the buckets don’t look glaringly

Linen fabric is your friend! It wicks moisture away from your body and when
the breeze comes through, the damp-ish fabric acts as a personal air
conditioner. Cotton does not do this. As ladies know, dresses are much
cooler and provide much more “ventilation” than trousers. At Lilies, my
husband wears a tunic that falls beneath his knees, his boxer briefs, and
nothing else. (Our medieval counterparts weren’t idiots.) Many people find
that Roman and Grecian garb is the most comfortable at foreign wars. As
someone who is very photosensitive, I find I’m actually more comfortable in
longer sleeves as long as I’m wearing linen. The fabric protects my skin
from the sun and I’m no cooler when I wear a mundane t-shirt.

Be sure to drink plenty of water, make your kids drink lots of water, and
take breaks as needed. If it gets too rough, go sit in the air conditioning
of your car for a little bit or go into town for dinner. If you find you
truly struggle with the heat, you can also stay at a local hotel. (There’s
no law that you have to camp on site!) This year at Lilies, I will be about
seven months pregnant. Fortunately, my Lady Mother lives in the Kansas City
metro area, so my husband and I will be commuting to war from her house so
that I can have a reprieve from the heat. Ultimately, we all must and
should make the best decisions for our own health and our children’s.


Rain likely won’t harm you, but it can destroy your stuff. Keep everything
except your bedding in water tight containers and a fresh change of clothes
in your car so you have something dry to change into in the event of a

Always set your tent up with the door facing down hill if you’re on an
incline. As soon as your tent is set up, dig a small trench around your
tent to divert any water flow. (If you do it when you set up, then you
won’t have to remember it when it starts raining.)

If you have a canvas tent and it rains during the last couple days of war,
set it up in your back yard at home to let the sun dry out the moisture.
When you pack a canvas tent that’s damp, you’re creating a moldy
environment that will destroy your canvas and turn your comfortable camp
home into an allergy and disease trap.

*Know Your Plants*

Wooded areas can have poison oak and ivy. Be sure to refresh yourself so
you can recognize and avoid both.
People Protection

In all honesty, this is the section that is the most difficult to write
about because people tend to be very strong and vocal in their stances on
social issues in the SCA, namely the idea that incidences of crime or
personal harm are few and far between and they happen in someone else’s
group, not theirs. My goal in this article is to be as neutral and yet as
pragmatic as possible.

I’m sure many people can say with me that one thing they love about the SCA
is that it can create a culture in which chivalry and honor are more than
words we dissect in a college class on Tennyson. There’s a small town
culture at war where we end up making stone soups and helping each other
set up our camps. That type of community is as real as you and me and I’m
very grateful for it. However, equally real is the reality that humans are
flawed and at war (especially the larger ones like Gulf Wars and Pennsic)
there is going to be a larger crowd of people you have never met, when you
meet them, you will both be wearing clothes you would not normally wear,
and you will give each other false names. (Some gentlemen will even give a
false SCA name in certain sensitive situations. Especially if your father
is a hard-hitting knight.) This situation in itself is not inherently, but
can potentially be, problematic. Moreover, at War, especially Pennsic,
you’re more likely to encounter non-SCAdians who are there to let their
weird out and may have a very different moral compass or idea about what
actually is an SCA event.

That said, SCA Wars are events where you will find yourself making new
friendships and deepening current ones. To keep the bad incidences few and
far between, and something that doesn’t happen to you, I’ve posited the
following recommendations.

*Follow the Site Rules*

Fully follow them. The event stewards are aware of possible environmental
hazards and make the rules accordingly. Their instructions should be your
first go-to at any event.


I highly recommend leaving your non-SCA related valuables at home. It’s
less likely that your belongings could be stolen at an event than it is
that you could simply lose them in the zoo of activity that is an SCA war,
not to mention all of Mother nature’s greenery surrounding your camp.
Chains break, rings slip off, pockets and pouches get holes in them, and,
in our haste to pack and beat the storm out of camp, we can knock things
over and lose them.

(Truly, I have, personally, left my basket unattended more times than I can
count and my items were all left undisturbed. Usually when a possession
walks off, it’s because someone mistook your item for theirs due to
similarity and it’s often promptly returned.)

In regards to jewelry, some women invest in a “medieval” wedding ring, not
only to avoid being blatantly modern, but so that they don’t risk losing
their nicer, more expensive jewelry at an event. Not many modern jewelry
items look medieval, so leaving them at home kills two birds with one stone.

Thanks to modern technology, it is no longer necessary to bring copious
amounts of cash for spending money to war since most vendors are equipped
to accept debit and credit card payments. Even if they can’t, you can
always ask them to put the item on hold while you go into town and use the
ATM. I recommend bringing only enough cash to pay gate, pre-pay the Broken
Harp at Lilies, and have maybe $50 for petty cash. Keep your wallet with
you at all times like you normally do and you
should be fine.

I keep most of my belongings, aside from furniture, in my tent at all times
to prevent them blowing away, etc. This includes coolers because I
currently don’t have a period box covering and cover it with a blanket.
Again, I truly feel that the most common culprit of property loss at a War
are the elements, but having your belongings in your fabric house will make
it more difficult for someone to simply walk off with them, especially in a
crowded camp.

*Coolers Et Al*

If you’re concerned about opening up your cooler and finding that your
supply has been depleted, simply keep your cooler into your tent. Now, I
have never encountered a problem with this happening, but, if you’re camped
in close quarters and it’s dark, coolers all start to look alike,
especially if one is a little tipsy and there’s late night revelry going
on. It’s not uncommon to for a gentle to say to their friend, “Just grab a
beer from my cooler, it’s the blue one around the corne,” and it’s possible
that the friend may get something from the wrong person’s cooler by
mistake. Also, teenagers sometimes do stupid things like purloin beer when
no one is looking. If you install a lock on any of your gear and have it in
plain site, less upright people might assume you have something more
valuable in there than Woodchuck, so I don’t personally recommend it unless
truly necessary.

*Personal Safety*

This issue probably pertains to women more than any other group, simply due
to a dark, internal force that has afflicted humanity since its beginning.
This is especially true for single women (including single mothers) and
lesbian women because the male figure of a boyfriend or husband acts as a
built-in protector and deterrent for predators.

Yes, there is an honor system in the SCA, but, statistically speaking, not
everyone at an SCA event is likely to ascribe to that. For better or worse,
it is very easy, in an environment of knights touting honor, to become too
comfortable and let our guard down too much in a group that is equally
mixed with strangers as well as friends. High morals are preached in
churches and yet scandal still occurs because it’s impossible for a group
to be immune to the plights of humanity when it is populated by humans;
therefore, we must simply continue to do unto others and utilize our best

First of all, always have a buddy system and avoid traveling away from the
crowd alone at night. Single persons, especially women, present an easier
target for predators. If you’re camping alone, you should be able to find a
social group to tag along with and it wouldn’t hurt to have pepper spray on
your person like you do (or should do) at home.

Secondly, get your own drinks and keep them in your hand at all times. Yes,
the handsome fighter or flirty lady is being very kind to offer and I’m
sure they won’t do anything, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Many a
woman (and the occasional man) has lost track of her (or his) drink at a
party and found herself in unfortunate circumstances.

On that same vein, have a care of whom you accept drinks from. If the
person offering has been going around with a bottle filling everyone’s cups
with samples of their wares, enjoy! However, if someone hands you a cup and
says, “Hey, you should try this,” and you haven’t seen them drink from it
themselves, reply, “Thanks, but I think I might be getting a cold and I
wouldn’t want you to catch it,” or “Thank you, but my head won’t forgive me
in the morning if I switch drinks.” Again, the person offering probably has
no malicious intent, we share drinks a lot in the SCA, but it’s better to
exercise a little caution than not. If anything, it may help you avoid
catching the [Insert Event Name] Plague.

Thirdly, male escorts are galant and should be applauded, but try to stick
to your girlfriends unless you know the gentleman very well. However,
please accept an escort you know you can trust at night. As mentioned
earlier, a male presence can deter predators, but always try to travel in
groups. It will not set feminism back one inch and we’re all trying to make
our way in a world that is sometimes perilous and we should be there to
help each other.

The writer is aware that, statistically, the majority of sexual assault
victims are attacked by people they know and in familiar environments;
however, that fact does not change the pertinence of the given advice, even
if the premise of the hypotheticals presented here assumes that assailants
will be strangers.

None of us want to be or want to see our friends in a position, to put it
delicately, of being in the wrong section of a statistic. While there are
instances that simply cannot be helped despite our best efforts, our best
efforts are still worthwhile.

*Child Safety*

The Ministry of Youth is here to make the SCA fun, accessible, and
appealing to your children so they won’t fight you every time you go to an
event. It is not a baby-sitting service and you should not leave your
children there unattended for extended periods as a courtesy to the

We often see children wandering independently through site at war and the
rule of thumb is to be sensible: give your children the liberty they’ve
proven they can responsibly handle, no more, and be sure to dog tag your
kids in case they get separated from you for some reason. There are lots of
parents and kind-hearted people at events who will stop and help a
distressed child separated from their family should that happen; however,
having been a helping adult in that situation, it’s difficult when children
are too young to explain to whom they belong, so identification helps.

Be sure to read the site rules regarding minors carefully as each event can
differ greatly depending on the group, the site, and even the event steward.

When it comes to toddlers, I find that a good, long belt makes a nice leash
to keep them out of places you don’t want, them like list fields and
pottery shops.
Be Your Brother and Sister’s Keeper

The small-town community works when the people within it look out for one
another. If you see a child that seems lost, take a moment to stop and ask,
rather than assume everything is alright. If your girlfriend is clearly
enjoying Bacchus’ gift surrounded by people not in your group, check in to
make sure she’s in control of her faculties and maybe watch her out of the
corner of her eye to see how the situation develops. Offer something to
drink to visitors in your camp: it’s part of chivalry and courtesy and
vital in the heat. Close your neighbors tent doors and tighten their ropes
if it starts raining while they’re wandering site… Simply put, follow the
Golden Rule. That’s what makes our community safe and strong.

SCA Wars are wonderful events: rarely are such compendiums of classes
available or so many activities at other venues. They’re the places where
the Middle Ages can truly come to life and where friendships, even
marriages, are forged. Some of the best friends you may ever have, you’ll
meet at War and the warmth of human kindness will touch and inspire you.
This missive is not intended to undermine the “magic”, but to protect it
and preserve it from being spoiled for even one person by a negative

Have a great War!
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