In the feudal days of Medieval drudgery, when families struggled for meager subsistence, the appearance of troubadours, tinkers and troupes afforded a miraculous respite from the mud and toil. These travelers were welcomed, whether at the Manor or Commons, for even then humanity craved such food for the soul. It was a time to gather, share news, and barter… a time to laugh and dream… the essence of community.
Today, in the face of technology’s siren and the digital waves cascading amidst the ether we inhabit, such “community” of old, so personal and alive, is of the highest relevance. This weekend, my family basked in its heartening light at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire http://www.njrenfaire.com.
Adorned in our costumes, and filled with great expectations, we were not disappointed. My daughters (seven and eleven) and wife were greeted as Ladies of the Court or Princesses for a day… they met all manner of players and participants… all races and creeds. Some rode in chariots of steel – wheel chair bound – others on steeds. Many arrived as we did, in role and ready to be swept away in the enchantment. We visited each vendor in a meandering way, and received warm tidings from folk who clearly were doing something for the love of it. Let that phrase echo in your consciousness… for the love of it... FOR THE LOVE OF IT.
The merchants neither pushed, nor set prices too dear - there were treasures freely bestowed and those worth a fair penny. The conversations were rich and resplendent in goodwill. Games for the little ones, a quest for the brave, artisans plying their trade, warriors on the prowl, musicians piping, and actors performing – we drank deeply of the “community” of it all.
The performers commandeered the crowd in the tradition of live entertainment - clever, funny, bawdy (but clean), silly, spontaneous and simply delightful. Indeed, at one venue, Merlin placed the fate of his players in the audience’s hands with a popular vote at action cusps. One poor actress was not once, but twice catapulted to her doom by our heroes.
In our wanderings, we marveled at the magical folk of the village of Crossford. Rarely do I relax among a crowd, and yet there was a pervasive spirit of mirth and acceptance that set my radar at ease. It was infectious in the best way. My youngest boldly stopped a bearded berserker with two swords that made Little John look like a sprout… she calmly asked this giant where the chess game would occur. Later, she was drafted with glee into that living chess merriment (as were other children). I believe she was a bishop for Morgana la Fey’s team… perhaps she will be one of King Arthur’s opposing pieces next week. It doesn’t matter, for as she’s learning, evil is mostly in the eye of the beholder. Let what you carry in your heart define your world. Of course, there was a moment’s hesitation stumbling upon that fellow in the horned helmet, black leather armor array with many sharp things (say that ten times fast)… it seemed I was paying my regards to Frazetta’s Death Dealer in the flesh… but even he gave fair greeting to my girls, and was in return met by shy smiles. In my eldest’s face, I saw a dawning appreciation of the effort that it must have taken to assemble that fearsome guise.
Having attended last year’s NJ RenFaire, we knew somewhat of our fate as we embarked from our quiet home. Yet, this year’s revelry offered so much more… vendors, characters, performances, musicians, actors, jousts, archery, woodwork, glassworks, leather arts, potions, lotions, oils, clothes, fencing, antiques, bones, jewelry, flowers, flames, swordsmanship… the list is too long to do it justice. As a father, I’m obligated to enrich my children and provide guidance in this confusing world – well there’s time enough later for textbooks, computers and employment resumes – for now, let them embrace imagination and community.
I offer a rousing “HUZZAH” to the entire RenFaire tribe, with special thanks to TJ, Phil, John, Pete, Aileen, Mitch, Dan, Jim and Katie.
Breathe slowly, observe humbly, dream deeply and evolve.
The Soulstealer War: The First Mother’s Fire
The Soulstealer War: The Splintering Realm (pending)
Causes W.L. Hoffman Supports
Preservation New Jersey - Trenton, NJ The Waldorf School of Princeton - Princeton, NJ Resource Center for Women and Their Families - Hillsborough, NJ