A Girl, a Sword and a Symbol of Empowerment

How my love for comic book heroes led to my passion for the blade



Angela LoCascio proudly presents a sword from her collection.


Trigger Warning: Themes of Sexual Abuse and Violence

When I was a little girl, my dad and I would sit around the kitchen table where he taught me how to read. I was especially excited on Sundays when he picked up the Sunday Daily News, The New York Times and the Long Island Press. After church, we would come home, and he would open the paper to the comics that would become my favorite heroes. My best-loved stories included Superman, whom I loved for his powers and bravery, Batman, mysterious in black (and even at seven years old, I loved black), and Prince Valiant — well, he was just a cute prince who handled his sword so heroically against the bad guys.  

Then there was Wonder Woman. I wanted to be just like her. 

Her patriotic costume was a symbol of power and force to me, and when she was Diana Prince, out of her Wonder Woman armor, she was just like me. I wanted the costume, the jewelry and, most of all, to wield her sword. I even remember asking my dad if I could have a sword like hers for my seventh birthday. When I didn’t get it, I was so disappointed. My dad consoled me by saying that, according to Wonder Woman, I had to be older, taller and more responsible to own and wield a sword. 

I guess you can say that at seven years old in 1963, I was already a feminist even before I knew what it meant. Both of my parents believed that women should get married, have children and become a housewife and mom. I couldn’t see myself fitting this mold. I got my first job at 13 delivering newspapers before school for the Long Island Press, which was considered a boy’s job at the time. I got up at five in the morning, put on my jeans and a sweater, hopped on my Blue Schwinn bike with a basket on the front, and picked up 30 papers to deliver to my neighbors. 

As I got older, things changed in my life. I had become the victim of domestic and sexual abuse, and abuse and violence became everyday occurrences. Wonder Woman’s sword, the Sword of Athena, was my Amazonian symbol of freedom. It was considered the “God Killer.” I didn’t want to kill God literally, but I wanted the Sword of Athena to be my sword of vengeance, to kill my abusers and take away all my pain. Yet I did not know how to use a sword or who would teach me. 

In high school, I was introduced to a new subject, medieval history, and the stories of King Arthur and his amazing Round Table. His sword Excalibur became the symbol of my Holy Grail. I wanted to own Excalibur, strap on armor and take that beautiful blade and spar with the knights. 

I still dreamed of wielding Wonder Woman’s sword. Hers was the ultimate empowerment of women.

I still dreamed of wielding Wonder Woman’s sword. Hers was the ultimate empowerment of women. Again I wondered, who would teach me? 

Life has a strange way of working. As a young woman, I never learned how to use a sword. I started college but had to leave shortly to help my family. Working, getting married and raising a family became my endeavors, particularly taking care of a son and husband with special needs. While I spent hours in one doctor’s office or countless days in hospitals with my husband, I began to read about my comic book heroes again and wrote my first book, The Quest for Excalibur, about a woman named Arianna Lawrence who unearths Excalibur in our time and goes back in time to return it to him. 

My interest in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table inspired me to learn how to use a sword. I joined the Woodside Fencing Club in 1999, led by the instructor Wiltold Rak. The day he put a foil in my hands, and I began to spar with the blade, the pain of abuse I felt in my soul for years seemed to disappear. I recall the day I bought my first foils, a fencing jacket and helmet. I brought them home and kissed them, just like knights do in books. They kiss their swords as a form of respect to their blade, their companion against the world of evil around them. 

All my comic book heroes were in the room, and I was finally Wonder Woman. 

 I began to collect swords and joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and learned through my fellow Ostgardrs (the East City-East Castle, or the Clan of the Sea Horse or Horse Realm) how to wield a rapier and use a shield. I knew deep inside me that using a sword wasn’t just for entertainment. It was a sport, an art, and it gave me a mental discipline to respect the power I had in my hand. 

At Fort Tryon during the Renaissance Fair, I won the beginners tournament in 2005. I fought against other novice sword fighters and won. I was given a Gold Rapier for a trophy, which is mounted on red velvet and hangs on my wall. 

As I prepare to begin my senior year, I know that coming back to school was another form of empowerment for me, as my education is so vital to me. My sword gave me the discipline and drive to excel, and my pen and education are my Holy Grail and my empowerment.