Why Do you all have such funny names?
Every person in the SCA picks a name to use in the Society. It could be something simple and familiar (John of Wardcliff) or something elaborate and exotic (Oisin Dubh mac Lochlainn). Most people pick a time period in the SCA "period" (pre-1600) and a country (any place that can documented and proven to have had trade with western civilization during the period), and choose a name from that. Some SCA members try to create a "persona" which could have lived in some time and place within the scope of the SCA, and fit their garb and activities to that persona; some people try to live at events as if they were their personae. Other folk simply pick a name and go ahead with life if the "Current Middle Ages." Even our towns have medieval names. Lansing, MI, is Northwoods, Toronto is Eoforwic, Boston is Carolingia, the San Francisco bay area is the Principality of the Mists, etc. The Evansville area group is called the Shire of Riviere Constelle. There is also a branch in the Owensboro/Henderson area called the Shire of Aurea Ripae and one up in the Washington/Vincennes area called the Shire of Stonecroft. You are welcome to attend activities hosted by any (or all!) of the groups in our area.
The SCA has its own College of Arms, which assists members in choosing a registering their SCA names and heraldic devices. The College of Arms assists members in their research, to ensure that their names and devices are appropriate to the medieval world we try to create, and ensures that each person's name and device will be unique.
Rank in the SCA, or How Come She is Wearing a Crown?
The SCA has an elaborate system of rank, awards, and honors, which are granted to individual members by the royalty in return for various kinds of service to the Society. SCA rank is earned, not inherited: Everyone is presumed to be minor nobility to start, but any noble titles or honors used in the SCA must be earned in the SCA. Many new members (and lots of long-time members!) find the SCA's system of rank to be rather peculiar, in that it differs rather radically from medieval practice. Like many of the SCA's institutions, our system of rank wasn't so much planned as evolved. It seems to serve our needs most of the time, but don't be surprised to hear people discussing how it could be improved.
There are two sorts of peers in the SCA; Royal Peers and Awarded Peers. Royal Peers are folk who have ruled a Kingdom or Principality at least once. Ex-Princes are Viscounts, Ex-Princesses Viscountesses, and from there it gets complex. Those who have been King or Queen once are Counts/Countesses. Those who have been King or Queen twice are Dukes/Duchesses. Those who have been King or Queen more than that are generally considered masochistic! (Small in-joke!) There are many who have reigned at least three times, and in the West there is a legendary Duke who has been King eight times!
Other sorts of Peers are folk who, by dint of talent, hard work, and long effort, have earned recognition for their contributions and skills. There are three awarded peerage orders, all of which have the same basic requirements: new companions must be honorable and courteous, familiar with the basic gentle arts of a medieval court, and should have proven their dedication to the Society and its ideals. These orders rank equally. The oldest of the peerage orders is the Chivalry. The chivalry, who include the Knights, are fighters who have achieved great skill at arms, and who are considered by the other members of the Chivalry to be models of prowess, chivalry, and honor. The knight is considered by many to be the central figure in our medieval mythos.
Second oldest is Order of the Laurel, which is awards to craftsmen and artists recognized for their research in medieval crafts, their willingness to teach their skills, and their skill at their arts. The laurel wreath was anciently used to crown victors at Greek games, great poets, etc., and has always been a mark of achievement and skill.
Finally, there is the Order of the Pelican, given to those whose work in service to the SCA has made a great difference. Companions of the Pelican are often skilled bureaucrats -- somebody *has* to do the hard paperwork of running a Kingdom of 3000 people in, and some people keep working at this sort of task for years. The Pelican was thought in medieval times to be the most self-sacrificing animal: It was thought a Pelican would pierce her breast to allow her heart's blood to drip into the mouths of her offspring when food was short. Peers are created by the desire of the King and Queen in accordance with the recommendations of the companions of the order.
Feasting, Dancing and Merrymaking
One of the most interesting parts of the SCA is "events", our word for the times when we put on our medieval clothing, go out and dance those dances we've been practicing, flirt, eat, talk, and generally have a good time. Events are held almost every weekend of the year somewhere; some weekends there may be as many as a couple dozen events scattered around the SCA. Most groups hold at least one event per year; some larger groups will hold two or more. At events there are often tournaments, art exhibits or competitions, classes on all manner of medieval skills, workshops, and, later in the evening, a medieval feast, Royal or Baronial Court, and dancing. There are many different kinds of events, and the common pattern varies from place to place and season to season. The events are the most fun to most folk, because you get to go and show off all the things you have been learning in the past few months.
What Kind of Person Joins the SCA?
SCA folk tend to be people like you and me -- just plain folks, but people who enjoy doing something more with their weekends. It seems that a high percentage of SCA members are involved in high tech fields -- Computers, Aerospace, high energy physics, etc. Perhaps the attraction the SCA holds for them can be attributed to the fact that people who spend all week with highly complex, modern technology find it relaxing to spend their leisure time working with a different kind of technology, in a less modern setting. There are lots of people in all fields in the SCA -- historians, writers, secretaries, law enforcement personnel, teachers, programmers, insurance agents -- the appeal of the SCA is widespread. A housemate of a SCA person recently said: "From what I can tell about these wild and crazy SCA people, they do more than just this fighting thing. They really like to make and wear the medieval clothes (garb), eat the medieval food, dance the medieval dances to the medieval music, maybe even make their own medieval music, and other medieval party type activities. They also seem to like to be medieval so they can relax and have a good time. They are quite willing to talk about SCA or invite you to the SCA stuff or whatever."
How You Can Get Involved
We welcome you to attend our local meetings and our events. You needn't join the SCA, Inc, to attend and participate (although if you decide to be with us regularly you may wish to join and you must be a paid member if you want to become an authorized fighter). The only requirement to come to an event is that you make some attempt at pre-1600 costume -- and the local group has "loaner" costumes for people who want to come to their first event. Each SCA participant remembers the day s/he started, and most people are happy to help out a newcomer. The Chatelaine is the local officer whose sole duty is to help new members find their way into the SCA.
The above information, was adapted from an article located at http://www.sca.org originally written by Mistress Siohban Medhbh O'Roarke. Modifications to include local/Middle Kingdom specific information made by Mistress Kirsten Thorsteinsdottir.