- What is the SCA?
- What is the Knowne World?
- How do I find my local group?
- How do you pronounce “Gleann Abhann”? What does it mean?
- What’s an “SCA name”?
- What is a persona? Do I have to have one?
- What does “Period” mean?
- Who are the people wearing crowns and circlets? Should I treat them differently?
- What are awards? Who are Peers?
- What are associates? (Squires, Apprentices, Proteges, Provosts)
- What are households?
- What are the activities you do?
- How can I find out about upcoming events?
- How do I register for an event?
- Are kids welcome at events?
- Is there camping at events?
- Is there food at events?
- What do I wear to an event?
- Is there anything I shouldn’t wear at an event?
- What do I bring to an event?
- Are there equestrian activities at events?
- What’s a war?
- There are merchants?
- What kind of fighting happens? Can I fight?
- Is drinking allowed at events?
- Are there open flames at events?
- Is the SCA expensive?
What is the SCA?
The SCA stands for “The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.”. The short answer is that it’s a medieval recreation non-profit educational organization. The goals are to learn about and recreate pre-17th century medieval culture, and have fun while doing so!
What is the Knowne World?
The Knowne World refers to all of the regions on earth that have active SCA chapters (kingdoms). There are chapters that cover all of the United States, Canada, Japan, parts of Europe, Australia, and there is even now a group getting started in China. This page shows the Knowne World map and all of the kingdoms around the world. http://www.sca.org/about/kingdoms/
How do I find my local group?
The SCA is divided into geographic regions called kingdoms, and the kingdoms are further divided into local groups called baronies, shires, cantons, colleges, forts, and ports. If you live in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas (except the very northern part), or in the part of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, you live in the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann! If you live somewhere else, check out this site to find your kingdom: http://www.sca.org/about/kingdoms/
If you live in Gleann Abhann, check out this link to find your local group: https://gleannabhann.net/local-groups/ If you live between two groups, try visiting with both of them, to see where you feel more comfortable. Contact the chatelaine of the group (the local officer in charge of welcoming and helping newcomers) to ask questions or find out information on local activities.
How do you pronounce “Gleann Abhann”? What does it mean?
Gleann Abhann is pronounced “Glen AH-vahn”. It means “little river valley”.
What’s an “SCA name”?
You’re encouraged to choose a “period” name and use it at events. This means a name that would have been used by a real person at some point in the SCA period. You don’t have to have an SCA name at your first event, and there are people called heralds who are more than happy to help you find sources for a name. But that’s why you’ll hear a lot of people going by Norse or French or Italian names at events. You don’t have to choose a name, but sometimes if you don’t, one gets chosen for you!
What is a persona? Do I have to have one?
A persona is a character you can choose to develop. If nothing else, picking a time and place within the SCA period to focus on gives you a starting point to figure out your clothing, your name, your armor if you want to fight, and it can also lead to some really fun research and artistic and scientific experimentation! You don’t have to choose a persona, and if you do, you don’t have to dive deeply into it. It’s entirely up to you and what makes you happy. But if you want to go all in and start talking in an accent, you won’t be alone!
What does “Period” mean?
“Period” is a word you’ll hear OFTEN. It really just means: within the time period covered by the organization. Officially, pre-17th century (1600). The emphasis is on the medieval period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the death of Queen Elizabeth I, but there’s no official “start date”, and the end date is around 1600 (Elizabeth I died in 1603). When something is referred to as “period”, “period correct”, or “period accurate”, it means that it is documentable or plausible for having existed at some point within that vast span of time. “Post-period” refers to anything invented, created, or popular after that time.
Who are the people wearing crowns and circlets? Should I treat them differently?
There are two reasons people wear a coronet. One is structure–the way the SCA is organized, and one is recognition–there are awards in the SCA that come with “regalia” items that people who receive the award can display or wear to show that they’ve received it.
So let’s talk about organizational structure real briefly. Overall, the SCA has a board of directors, called the BOD, which oversees the business part of the organization. On a regional level, within each kingdom, you have kingdom level officers, and also a King and a Queen (Consort). The King and Queen are also kingdom level officers. The King is chosen by right of combat, in an event called Crown List, held twice a year. The winner of Crown List and their consort become King and Queen after a period of serving as Prince and Princess. There are crowns that our royalty wear. On the local group level, local groups all have officers. Baronies, which are larger local groups, also have a Baron and Baroness, and these are also officer positions.
The Baron and Baroness act as agents of the Crown, and also wear coronets.
The polite behavior when you meet royalty is to bow or curtsy, and greet them as “Your Majesty” for the King or Queen, and “Your Highness” for the Prince and Princess. Dukes and Duchesses (those who have ruled as King and Queen more than once) should be addressed as, “Your Grace,” and Counts and Countesses (those who have ruled as King and Queen once), Barons, and Baronesses should all be called, “Your Excellency.” You can always refer to someone wearing a coronet as “your Excellency”, and be considered polite, if you can’t remember the correct form of address.
The important thing to know when you’re on site, though, is that the default position for absolutely everyone, even YOU, is that you are minor nobility at the least. You will also be referred to as m’lord or m’lady by people, and you should be treated with common courtesy and respect. There are no peasants in the SCA, except for those who choose that for themselves.
What are awards? Who are Peers?
One of the many things the King and Queen do is recognize people for being outstanding in different ways. Whether it’s in service, or combat, or the arts, there are awards that acknowledge the things people enjoy, and sometimes excel at, doing, that are given at the discretion of the Crown. There are Awards of Arms, and Grants of Arms, and both of those come with regalia in the form of plain metal circlets. Awards of Arms are ¼” tall and Grants of Arms are ½” tall. These awards are given for a variety of reasons that mostly fit into the categories of combat, art, or service. There are also court baronies that come with coronets that have six points, with beads on top of them.
Some of the most prestigious awards given in the SCA are peerages. Peers are people who exemplify the very best in their respective fields of interest, as well as having given their energies to the kingdom and populace in some way. They are divided into four groups. Knights excel at armored combat. Laurels excel at arts and sciences. Pelicans are those Peers who have given exemplary service. And the Order of Defense (MoDs) have excelled at rapier. Peers have the right to wear 1” circlets, and Laurels specifically may wear wreaths of laurel leaves on their heads. You are a bit more likely to see knights wearing white belts and gold chains, MoDs wear a white collar bearing the badge of the Order of Defense, and may wear a cape with the same badge on it (three rapiers with their points touching), and Pelicans and Laurels may wear medallions or cloaks or coats with their respective badges on them (a pelican pricking its own breast with its beak with three blood drops, over a nest of three baby pelicans, called a “pelican in its piety”, and a laurel wreath).
Knights are called, “Sir”, and other peers are addressed by default as “Master” or “Mistress”. Some peers may use other titles that are more appropriate for their personas. You can always, always, always refer to someone as m’lord or m’lady, and be considered polite, if you can’t remember the correct form of address.
What are associates? (Squires, Apprentices, Proteges, Provosts)
Peers can take associates. The peer-associate relationship is individual to each pair of people, but generally speaking, being someone’s associate means that you’re learning from that person, they’re acting as a mentor for you, guiding you on a path to being peer-like, yourself. Being someone’s associate does not guarantee that you will ever become a peer yourself, but it can be a great way to grow as a person, within the SCA, and form a strong bond with someone you like and trust. It’s recommended that you have a clear understanding of expectations before agreeing to an associateship.
Knights take squires. Squires often wear red belts and, in Gleann Abhann, unadorned silver chains, to signify that they are squired to somebody. Red belts are not reserved except by tradition.
Laurels take apprentices. Apprentices often wear green belts. Again, green belts are not reserved except by tradition.
Pelicans take proteges. Proteges wear yellow belts, which are also reserved by tradition. Masters of the Order of Defense take provosts. Provosts often wear a red collar.
What are households?
Households are unofficial groups of people who have a common goal or interest. There are peer-led households, usually comprised of the associates of a peer. Those households may have further common interests or goals, or they may just be a way for a peer to keep track of their people. There are service households, which do a lot of volunteer and organizational work. There are fighting households, which organize war units or training units. And there are mercenary households, which often fight, but not necessarily aligned with the kingdom in which the members reside, and they may have other goals or common interests as well. Households are not regulated, and are not isolated to individual kingdoms. Some households are small, with a handful of people. Others have chapters in multiple kingdoms and can have over a hundred people, across the Knowne World.
What are the activities you do?
The most consistent form of activities we have are regional events that are sponsored by local groups. These events often take place at parks or campgrounds, or sometimes at a school or church. They’re where we gather, socialize, have tournaments and other competitions, show others what we’ve been working on, and generally have fun. There are often classes held, and there’s usually a feast, comprised of a multi-course meal. Local groups also have regular business meetings, and may sponsor fighter practices, A&S (arts and sciences) activities, family and children’s activities, or social gatherings. Contact your local group to find out what might be happening near you.
How can I find out about upcoming events?
The calendar showing all the upcoming events can be found here: https://gleannabhann.net/events/list/ Clicking on the event should take you to a page with some details, including the flyer, a Paypal link for registration (if available), the location, and date.
Anyone can register or just show up at any event on the calendar (“at the door” fees are often
cash only). You do not have to be a member of the SCA. Once you find an event you want to go to, feel free to contact the reservationist or the hosting group with any questions you have. The reservationist’s contact info will be on the flyer.
How do I register for an event?
There are a couple of different answers to this. You can ALWAYS mail in a check or money order, along with your name and what you’re registering for written on a note (number of people, day trip or cabin, top bunks or bottom, feast or no feast). You mail the check to the Reservationist, whose name and address will be on the event flyer. If there’s a Paypal link on the event page on the website, you can fill out the form and pay through Paypal. Once you fill out the form and submit it, it will take up to a day or two to get the invoice from Paypal. You can also register when you show up at the event site, but there’s no guarantee that there will be bed or feast space available, so registering early is advisable.
Are kids welcome at events?
Absolutely! The SCA is a family friendly organization, and children are welcome and encouraged to come. There are often children’s activities, ranging from classes, structured play, and even youth combat! Children are encouraged to participate in a lot of the same activities adults participate in. Children under 12 must be within sight of a parent or guardian at all times at events, unless they’re participating in structured children’s activities. Children’s activities are overseen by at least two adults, at least one of whom has a current background check.
Is there camping at events?
Yes! Some of them. It will be noted in the event information if the event is weekend-long, and if there’s cabin space available, or if tenting is allowed. Almost all of the sites we use have indoor bunk beds and bath houses with toilet and shower facilities. Some of these are connected to the cabins, and others are not. Just because there’s camping available, it doesn’t mean you have to camp. You can opt to day-trip, or stay at a hotel. If you are going to stay in a cabin, be sure to bring twin sized bedding and a pillow. You’ll also see that some people hang sheets around their bunks for privacy. If you have a C-pap or other item that requires electricity overnight, please let the reservationist know before you come to site so that they have time to make arrangements. If you absolutely need a bottom bunk, please register early to make sure your need can be accommodated.
Is there food at events?
Yes! Check the event Facebook page leading up to the event to see what food is planned, but there is often something for dinner Friday, and all three meals on Saturday. Lunch on Saturday is often a fundraiser for a particular group or cause. Dinner on Saturday is called “feast”. It costs a small fee charged at the time you register. It’s a multi-course meal, and the menu will often be shared on the Facebook event page in the week or two leading up to the event. If you plan to eat feast, be sure to bring a plate, bowl, drinking vessel, and utensils. Let the hosting group know if you have any food allergies if you intend to eat feast, well in advance of the event. Not
every allergy can be accommodated, but most feast stewards will make an attempt. Little or nothing can be done about allergens the day of the event. Not every kingdom is the same, and if you live outside of Gleann Abhann, check in locally to see what food is like at your typical event.
What do I wear to an event?
The goal is to make an attempt at pre-17th century clothing, which we call “garb”. You don’t have to dress fancy for your first event! You can even contact your local group (the “chatelaine” is the officer you want to contact–they’re in charge of welcoming and helping new members) to see if they have loaner garb you can borrow for your first event. But you can also wear anything that would fit in with medieval society. The general rule of thumb is to pick a region in medieval Europe or that was known to medieval Europe. This means we occasionally get Japanese or Mongol visitors! And there are a lot of Vikings! In the summer, you’ll see a surprising number of Greek and Roman people, because the clothing tends to be lighter and cooler.
A good rule of thumb is what’s called the “10 foot rule”. As long as you look approximately right from about 10’ away, don’t stress the details (unless you want to!). This means that pajama pants or scrub pants are okay for a first attempt (or second, or third)!
Here’s a link to an external site with some basic garb (clothing) tutorials to get started, if you’re interested in making your own clothes: https://www.virtue.to/articles/in_depth_garb.html
There are many, MANY more resources out there for making garb, including websites, social media groups, and books. Garb can also be purchased from online vendors or merchants who are occasionally at events. Reach out to your local chatelaine for more help on finding garb.
Is there anything I shouldn’t wear at an event?
There are some accessories that are reserved for people who have achieved a certain rank or station. There are also some items that have a long standing tradition carried with them, even though they’re not expressly restricted. White belts and collars, spurs, and unadorned chains, metal circlets or crowns, wreaths of laurel leaves, nesting pelicans, yellow belts, red belts, and green belts all carry significance with them, and shouldn’t be worn by a new person.
However, there are no sumptuary rules against color (wear purple all you want!) and you can wear any fabrics or cuts of clothing that make you happy, as long as they fit the pre-17th century idea.
What do I bring to an event?
In addition to your clothing and accessories: bedding if you’re staying the night, and feast gear if you’re planning to enjoy feast. Please bring a drinking vessel, snacks and drinks, a chair, sunscreen, and bug spray. You may also wish to bring an umbrella, and a small notebook with a pen or pencil. Bring what you think you may need for the weather. This may include an umbrella, a cloak (a wool blanket makes a handy rectangular cloak in a pinch), or a straw hat to
keep the sun out of your eyes. Absolutely bring any medication or emergency equipment you may need throughout the day or the weekend. The SCA does not provide medical supplies or service of any sort.
Are there equestrian activities at events?
Sometimes! It depends on the site and the hosting group, but there are equestrians in the society and in the kingdom, and they love bringing their horses out. When horses are on site, everyone has to sign a special waiver when they check in.
What’s a war?
Wars are fun! Wars tend to be larger events that focus on melee combat. Inter-kingdom wars are the largest events in the Knowne World! Pennsic War, which takes place in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania every August is the largest war, taking place over two weeks, and attracting over 10,000 people! The second largest war, taking place in Lumberton, Mississippi, is Gulf Wars. It lasts a week and attracts over 4,000 people! These large wars are camping events that feature fighting, hundreds of A&S classes, rows of merchants, parties, and as much fun as you can imagine! (And also ALL the weather possible.) In-kingdom wars are more like the average event, but may be a three day weekend, and often still have a more intense focus on structured activities.
There are merchants?
Sometimes! At inter-kingdom wars, definitely! At regular events, it depends on the state the event is happening in, and the hosting group. But every now and then you’ll find a merchant selling something interesting or pretty or useful.
What kind of fighting happens? Can I fight?
Armored combat (often called “heavy”) involves fighters wearing armor that meets certain specifications, and using rattan swords and other weapons made of rattan and foam. It hurts to get hit! The armor is serving a real purpose to protect fighters from serious injury. To fight in a tournament, you have to be authorized. To try it out at fighter practice, or even at an event, contact your local knight’s marshal (the officer in charge of combat) and tell them that you’re interested! See if they have loaner gear so you can try it out.
Rapier fighting is somewhat similar, though the armor requirements are different, and a bit more focused on puncture resistance. Because they’re using real metal rapiers! (With rubber blunts on the tips.) As with armored combat, to fight in a tournament you have to be authorized. But your local rapier marshal can help answer your questions and get you set up with loaner gear to give it a stab! (I’m not apologizing for that.)
There’s also youth combat! Less structured at events, but kids are totally allowed to fight! They wear more modern sports gear masks and use foam boffer weapons. If you have kids who want to fight, see if your group has a youth marshal, or else contact the kingdom youth marshal. Kids can do rapier or armored combat.
Is drinking allowed at events?
Sometimes, yes! An event site may be labeled as “dry”, “wet”, or “discreetly wet” or “damp”. A wet site means that responsible drinking is allowed. A dry site means that no drinking is allowed. This is often the case for churches, church camps, and some Scout camps. A discreetly wet or damp site means that drinking is allowed but there can be no original containers visible, and alcoholic containers should not be left on site, even in the trash cans. All evidence of drinking should be removed with you when you leave.
Are there open flames at events?
Sometimes, yes! Depending on the weather, site rules, and local laws (if there is a burn ban in effect, we obviously won’t light a fire pit), you can see fire pits, torches, and braziers at events. Some people also bring portable grills if they don’t want to partake in feast. It varies a lot, but of course, all fire safety precautions should be taken. And if you’re wearing synthetic fibers, be extra careful about coming close to open flames. Synthetic fibers will melt and can cause serious burns. That’s part of why SCA clothes are often natural fibers like linen and wool (the other reason is because those fibers are what period clothing would have been made out of).
Is the SCA expensive?
Any hobby can be expensive. You could, if you wanted to and were able, easily spend several thousand dollars on clothes, accessories, armor, gear, a pavilion and camp equipment and accessories. But you don’t have to! You don’t have to be a paid member to participate (you do have to be a paid member to hold office and members get a $5 discount on events). Events cost an average of $25-40 per person, including a bed space and feast. The average donation for a fundraiser lunch is around $5. Feast gear can come out of your own kitchen. Clothing can even often be borrowed for your first event. You will have to spend some money to do things well and comfortably, eventually, but there are a lot of guides and resources available for participating in the SCA on a budget.
For even more information, please visit http://welcome.sca.org/ The official SCA Newcomer’s Portal.
Compiled by Lady Elizabeth Blackburn, March 26, 2018, with the assistance of Master Adam Goodwine, Master Gilbert des Moulins, Baroness Gentile d’Orleans, Lady Maggie Wryght, Lord Nicholas Sutton, and many others. Society and Kingdom arms courtesy of the Honorable Lady Groza Novgorodskaia. Thank you, all.