Has the Medieval Mayhem caught your attention? Do you want to get involved with more medieval stuff?
Come along to the barony’s weekly get-together at Cambridge Hall, opposite Memorial Park, Cambridge Road, Cambridge, from 12 till 4 every Sunday. If you would like to contact someone in the SCA in Tasmania you can leave a message on 0416 589 945 or email Wulfgar Jarnsiða (Dan Russel) and he will contact you when he is able.
What is the SCA?
The SCA is a world-wide historical recreation society with groups around the world. The Society is organised into a number of Kingdoms covering the USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Each Kingdom can be further divided into Principalities, Baronies, Provinces, Shires, Cantons, and Colleges. All of Australia and New Zealand is called the Kingdom of Lochac. The whole of Tasmania is the Barony of Ynys Fawr.
The Kingdoms are governed by Kings and Queens chosen “by right of arms” – that is by armed combat at regularly scheduled tournaments; the same is true for the principalities,
except that the titles are changed to Prince and Princess. Each Barony is led by a Baron and a Baroness. These positions are filled in different ways in different Kingdoms. This is a semi-permanent position.
The smaller groups are run by appointed Officers. The responsibilities of running a group do not rest solely with the Crown; there is a well-organised civil service to take care of the day-to-day tasks involved in ruling such a large organisation. Seneschals oversee the daily affairs; Marshals supervise the fighting and safety regulations; the Arts and Sciences Minister encourages the practice and research of medieval arts and sciences;
Chroniclers publish newsletters; the registry processes membership applications and maintains the mailing list; and scores of other people keep the whole SCA organisation running.
What do you do?
Members of the SCA strive to recapture the ambience of the Middle Ages, partially by researching such topics as dress, weaponry, armour, jewellery, food, and many other fields. This research is then put into action by constructing medieval-style artefacts,
learning to fight, practicing medieval arts and crafts, playing medieval games, cooking (and eating) medieval food, and et cetera. Areas of interest are as varied as medieval culture. They include heraldry, manuscript illumination, archery, weaponry, armour-making, lacework, embroidery, dance and music, poetry, cooking, brewing, costuming, entertaining, board and card games, fighting, and much else besides.
While many members of the SCA are involved (to a greater or lesser degree) in research, this aspect of the Society is by no means universal. Some of us simply enjoy “playing dress-ups”, or dancing, or fighting, or simple fellowship and have no interest in research at all. People commonly get involved in the SCA for the fun aspects and then discover a desire to get more “period” in their involvement.
In addition to the historical aspects of research and re-creation, the SCA also strives to embody those lost ideals which are found in the medieval romances: chivalry, courtesy, honour, graciousness. We try to re-create the Middle Ages as we would have liked them to have been and not necessarily as they were (we do not eschew
refrigerators, modern medical supplies in the Chirurgeon’s kit, running hot and cold water, sanitation and so on, but we do try to leave the sexism of the times back in the Middle Ages where it belongs.). We call this living in the Current Middle Ages.
All regular SCAdians have a persona (more or less developed as the participant wishes). This is the creation of a personal character from an historic place and time. This persona cannot be an actual figure from history (so please don’t call yourself Anne Bolyen or Ethelred the Unready, they are already taken!), nor can it be one directly adopted from myth, legend, or literature (please bear in mind that just because a name appears in a Fantasy novel or a Medieval “Mills and Boon” it is not necessarily period! This is the bane of many a Herald’s life). It must be unique to the person bringing it to the event. It is certainly not necessary for newcomers to adopt a persona or medieval name at their first event, but it is fine if you wish to do so. If you have always wanted to be a 6th century Celt or a 16th century Cavalier, make up an identity from that period, research the culture of the time and place, and come as that identity to your next event.
What is “period” in the SCA?
In the SCA, “period” is taken to mean anywhere between 600ad and about 1600ad.
What will I find at my first event?
You will most likely find people who try to live by the ideals of respect, courtesy and personal honour. These are the ideals of the Society, and we address each other as “my lord” or “my lady”. There is an assumption that we all start at the level of lesser nobility and develop a ‘persona’ for ourselves. Thus we have Society names that are different from our real ones, to help create the Medieval atmosphere and leave the modern world behind, if only for a few hours.
Everyone (including you) will be in medieval garb of some sort – from the simplest peasant tunic to the most elaborate court finery. Although historic accuracy is encouraged, most of us respect effort over accuracy – especially in newcomers – so if you make an effort it doesn’t matter if the result is not quite “right” (my own garb is a case in point. I do not sew, so much of my garb is stuff that I have bought from other people. This means, for example, that the head-dress which I wear with my velvet is not the right style. I do not mind, and nor does anyone else). There will be lots of wonderful food (whether the event is fully catered or pot luck); there may be dancing, game playing (especially if I am present!), singing, lighting, storytelling, competitions to enter (it will say on the flier or on the ad on this site); there will be new friends to meet and plenty of fun for anyone who comes to the event with the right attitude.
Follow this link to the West Kingdom article ” An Inquisitive Monkey at West Kingdom Court” for great advice on how to break the ice at your first SCA event.
What should I bring to an event?
An attempt at medieval garb and courtesy is almost all that is required to attend. If you cannot organise your own garb, there is some available to borrow. As well, if you want to have a go at making something right now, the Arts and Sciences Minister should be able to direct you to some easy patterns – and feel free to impress and go all out if sewing is really your “thing”. Possibly the most important item of clothing you can make for yourself in the early days is a cloak. Under a cloak may be hidden a multitude of sins and they are also very hard to borrow! It can be something as simple as a grey wool blanket thrown around your shoulders or as ornate as a full-length, fully lined, fur trimmed, hand woven cloak.
You will also need:
•A bowl (much more important than a plate as they can hold soup and stew as easily as carved meat or a baked apple) or two. Try to find something which is not glaringly modern, carved wooden bowls are often available from op-shops and are utterly suitable;
•A goblet or other drinking vessel (again nothing glaringly modern – an earthen-ware mug is better than a glass from McDonalds!;
•A spoon can be an important piece of cutlery – as my mother has been known to say “fingers were made before forks”, but you try eating a hot stew with your fingers and see where it gets you! Forks are either late period or Byzantine, but they are acceptable, especially if they have only two or three tines (prongs) and are used in the right hand (for a right-handed person) to stab already cut food and move it to the mouth. Daggers are, of course, the one of the oldest eating utensils and were used to both cut up food and to transfer it (carefully!) to the mouth. Modern table knives are best left at home. If you are planning to eat with your fingers, a cloth napkin (a late and some say affected invention!) is exceedingly useful – I wrap our goblets in them for travel to and from events as well;
•Candles and candle sticks – because we do not use modern lighting at events where it can be avoided, everyone should bring at least one candle and candle stick to an evening event (and referably more) – otherwise it can be hard to even see the person sitting next to you!;
•Something to drink – beverages are often not supplied by the Autocrat (the organiser of the event) and dancing can be very thirsty work. Try to keep that plastic Coke bottle out of sight or hidden in a cloth or bag! If the site is “dry” (alcohol free), this will be mentioned on the flyer or ad on this site;
If the event is fully catered this is all you will need. If the flyer says that the event is a potluck, each person is expected to bring a dish to serve 6 entrée-sized portions. If you want to bring something a bit more interesting than a barbequed chicken from the supermarket, there are lots or period recipes available.
Do I have to speak “forsoothly”?
No, but you will be respected for making the effort if you give it a try. Many of us don’t and quite a few of us (me, for one!) are guilty of breaking an unwritten Society law about not discussing non-period subjects (like computers) at events!
How should I address people?
The basic rule which will get you through nearly everything is to call everyone “Milord” or “Milady” as appropriate. Not everyone you will meet will have the title Lord or Lady (which comes with an Award of Arms, the first in a large range of awards one can earn within the Society.). Some will not have won the title yet and some will have higher titles, but it is not possible to offend someone by using Milord or Milady. If you want to go one step further, anyone wearing a “pointy hat” (a crown or a coronet) is “Your Excellency” -
if in doubt, and you want to be utterly correct, just ask the good gentle you are addressing!
Are children welcome?
Yes, absolutely. The SCA is a game for children of all ages, both those young in body and those who are only young in spirit. However, those who are still under 12 often get to attend events at half-price: Contact the steward of the event in question to enquire.
I have food allergies/I am a vegetarian will I find anything to eat at an event?
Contact the steward and tell them of your particular requirements – they will try very hard to accommodate you. If you don’t inform them, then you can expect to have problems.
I am disabled, will I still fit in?
Absolutely, but you may need to ring the steward to make sure that you can get onto a given site if you are in a wheelchair or have some other mobility problem. If it looks as though this could be an issue, tell the steward and he or she may be able to come up with a solution. As well, if the steward knows about your disability he or she can have it mentioned at the beginning of the event, if you wish, so that people know to leave the guide-dog alone, to face you directly when talking to you, or whatever it is that you need to help you enjoy the experience as fully as possible. Do not worry that your wheel chair (or any other aid) isn’t period, we are not such purists that this matters. Who knows, you may come up with a way of “periodising” your accessory that no-one else has invented (or even be able to enter it into a competition as once happened with a tabard made for a guide-dog!). So, please, don’t feel afraid to come along and give us a try, you may well find that the Society fits you perfectly!
I am a woman; can I be a fighter?
Yes! We have a quite a few respected women fighters in all fields of combat. If you don’t feel comfortable with wearing full armour and thumping people with (rattan) swords, then you could think about fencing or archery.
Is there a handbook which can tell me all I need to know?
There certainly is. It is called The Known World Handbook. While it may not be able to tell you absolutely everything about the Middle Ages, it has articles on many subjects of interest to a new SCAdian. you can order it through the SCA Stockclerk website, in the USA. The major section headings include:
•The Known World Around You;
•Living in the Current Middle Ages;
•The Arts of Peace;
•The Arts of War;
It is a good investment if you are going to get more involved than just turning up to a couple of events a year – I wish I had known about it when I started, there are so many questions which (after having been in for a couple of years!) I still didn’t have answered until I finally ordered my copy. I am sorry if I sound like a convert on this one, but I really think that this book is an invaluable resource and that everyone should have a copy. You need to know how to make a cloak, how to play Tablero, how to speak “forsoothly”…? Then you NEED this publication! Okay, okay, enough of the testimonials!
Do I have to join the Society?
Membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism is required in order to participate in society events, but it’s not complicated: a $2 event membership is available at the sign-in table for those experiencing the Society for the first time.
Memberships can be acquired online at https://www.sca.org.au/registry/ forms can also be found at https://www.sca.org.au/registry/index.php/membership/membership
Membership benefits: Reduced paper work for attending SCA functions, discounted entry to official events and gatherings, the right to vote in Society matters and is mandatory to be an club officer or to run events.
Membership helps the SCA as it is the only source of income to pay for both the public liability insurance and the costs of running the incorporated body that regulates all the mundane matters of the Society.
Do I have to spend a fortune to get involved in the SCA?
You don’t have to spend a fortune – but it is very easy to do so! It rather depends on how much of a purist you are and how much garb (clothing) you want to have. Some people want to use only the best and most “period” fabrics for their garb, others are less fussed and make clothes out of old curtains from op shops, or whatever looks pretty much right. How much you spend is really up to you; please remember, though, that the Society is supposed to be fun so don’t spend more than you feel able to do (that said, I know at least one person who didn’t eat properly for a month so that she could afford some lovely blue silk – the sideless surcoat looks divine!).
How do I get involved?
Well, you can just come along to an event (see the calendar page). You will be quite welcome!
One last word: HOLD!
This is perhaps the most important word in the Society. It could save you from serious harm – or from harming someone else. To quote from the Handbook:
‘A cry meaning “Stop whatever you’re doing and freeze in place until you see where the hazard is!” The basic use is in combat, but it’s been extended to cover all forms of activity. (It’s often the first word learned by children born into the SCA.) If you hear someone shout “Hold!”, stop dead – your foot may be about to land on a wasp nest.’