There SCA has several publications that provide a wealth of information for the newcomer. These are described below along with sources and online links:
1) Forward into the Past - An Introductory Guide to the S.C.A.
The first stop for any newcomer is the pamphlet titled "Forward into the Past" - An Introductory Guide to the S.C.A. The pamphlet covers the principal aspects of SCA activities and is available from the society at a nominal cost. An online version is also available on the Distant Shore web site (click here).
2) The Known World Handbook - A comprehensive outline of SCA activities.
"Being a compendium of information, traditions and crafts practiced in these Current Middle Ages in the Society of Creative Anachronism."
The one book that no newcomer should be without! The volume has been put together specifically for the newcomer and serves as a comprehensive review of the primary activities that are part of the SCA. The following is an abbreviated Table of Contents:
2. Living in the Current Middle Ages
3. The Arts of Peace
4. The Arts of War
5. Special Features
"Fighting for the Crown" - a series of articles outling the traditions in each Kingdom
3) Compleat Anachronist - In depth discussions on specific aspects of medieval life.
"The Compleat Anachronist is a series of pamphlets dedicated to the examining of specific topics of medieval life in depth, or the ramifications of a single theme in many areas. Each pamphlet is researched in depth and presented for the edification of members of The Society for Creative Anachronism and like-minded people throughout the Known World."
The Compeat Anachronist is published quarterly and covers a broad range of topics including armouring, leatherworking, costuming and everything in between. A complete list of titles along with descriptions for each topic are available on the Society website (click here for list of titles). Back issues of The Compleat Anachronist are available from the Stockclerk at the On-line SCA Marketplace (click here to order on-line).
Some popular titles include:
4) Tournaments Illuminated - a quarterly magazine published for subscribing members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
The magazine is devoted to research in all aspects of medieval society in pre-17th century Western cultures. The articles are written by members of the Society with a focus on extensive research in areas of personal interest. Each article includes a bibliography for further studies, as well as sources for materials appropriate to the topic of discussion. A comprehensive index of 'Featured Articles' are available on the Society website (click here for index of articles). Back issues of Tournaments Illuminated are available from the Stockclerk at the On-line SCA Marketplace (click here to order on-line). A small number of the articles published in Tournaments Illuminated are also available on-line.
5) Governing documents of the SCA
The governing documents of the SCA are included in the Organizational Handbook which consists of the Corpora (an outline of the framework and structure of the society), the By-Laws, Corporate Policies, and the Articles of Incorporation. Although not a prerequisite by any means, it would be useful in particular for newcomers to read Corpora so as to get a better understanding of how the society works as a whole and where everything fits into the scheme of things. The governing documents are available on the society website, and are available for download (click here).
In addition to the Organizational Handbook, each Kingdom has a set of 'Laws and Policies' that govern each aspect of SCA activities in their area. The laws and policies for the East Kingdom (which we are a part of) includes guidelines and policies for each of the principal offices, or as we refer to as 'officers", and include the Great Officers (Seneschal, Herald, Earl Marshal, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chronicler, Minister of Arts and Sciences, Chirurgeon, Minister of Lists, Tyger Clerk of the Signet, and Chatelaine), and the Lessor Officers (Captain General of Archers, Marshal of Fence, Chamberlain, Marshal of Equestrian Activities, and Web Minister). As you become more involved in society activities, you are strongly encouraged to become familiar with those policies and guidelines applicable to your area(s) of interest. These documents are available on the East Kingdom website (click here), or they can be accessed from the Distant Shore website which includes links to both the East Kingdom and the World SCA websites (click here).
Several articles will be forthcoming in the near future that should be particularly helpful for the newcomer.
Part 1 - The Basics
Whether you are new to the Society, or have been a member for some time, the concept of developing a persona remains somewhat of an enigma. It is one of the first things that you learn about when you join the Society but trying to put it to practice is like chasing the allusive fox you catch a glimpse of it every now and again, but it quickly ducks out of sight.
Simply put, choosing a persona is really nothing more than play-acting. Think back to when you were a kid ever pretend you were a pirate? A famous movie actress? I am sure you did, and no doubt you tried to dress the part even talked like the person! And of course, we all grew up with the images of Robin Hood and Maid Marion, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. You get the picture choosing a persona is taking on the character of a person who might have lived sometime during the Middle Ages. Bear in mind that we do not choose an actual person from history only someone that might have lived during a particular time period. And for the purposes of the Society, we usually choose to be a person of nobility. After all, we do expect to be Lord or Lady so-and-so.
With this in mind, the first step in choosing a persona is deciding on a particular time period and culture that appeals to you the most. Perhaps you have always been fascinated with the history of the clan societies of the Scottish Highlands; maybe you have often wondered about the adventurous, if not infamous, lives of the Vikings; or you might picture yourself as a person of nobility in France or Italy during the Renaissance period. Although the majority of the personae in the Society are focused on Western Europe, cultures throughout the Middle East and the Far East, including China and Japan for example, are also represented.
Scadians will often choose a persona that reflects their own cultural heritage. For example, many folks in the SCA have an Irish background that can be traced to Celtic origins in different parts of the British Isles. Along with studying the history of Celtic society, they can trace the roots of their cultural background and develop a much stronger sense of who they are and where they came from.
Once you have a good idea of who you might like to be in the Society, the next step is to begin to research the historical background of the country and time period that you have chosen. This may seem like a monumental task at first, but it will not be too long before you will have all kinds of material to work with. Most of the books and information on mediŠval history that you will find either at the library or from online resources will have some sort of bibliography on background information used by the authors. These references will often key into specific areas that will be of particular interest to you. Initially, you will want to concentrate primarily on those aspects of your persona that are most visible. This includes appropriate costuming (garb), your name, and details about the MediŠval society in which your Ĺpersonaĺ would have lived. Consider such things as the kind of eating utensils you would have used, general mannerisms and characteristics of the people, weapons you would have carried, tools you would have used, and items such as flags and banners that help you (and others) identify with the MediŠval society you have chosen.
So far we have had a general look at the process of choosing a persona in the SCA. Part II in a future issue of Quid Nunc will consider more detailed aspects of developing your persona and playing the part at events.
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