What is the SCA?
“The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., is a non-profit educational organization concerned with the study of the Middle Ages. The S.C.A. recreates the arts and skills of Medieval Europe within the framework of the events of the times.”
This description, however true, tells very little about the real life of the Society. Any written explanation would be rather pale compared to the actual experience of a chivalric tournament or a multiple course mediaeval feast. But since I must start somewhere, let me begin with a little Society history.
The first SCA event took place in Berkley, California in May of 1966 when a group of students staged a tourney in a back yard. They enjoyed themselves so much that by mid-summer they had put together a second one. More importantly, they began publishing Tournaments Illuminated so people outside the Bay area could get in on the fun. By 1969, there were groups in New York, Chicago, and Phoenix, which became the foundations of the Kingdoms of the East, the Middle, and Atenveldt, respectively. Now the Society has hundreds of groups of various sizes in fifteen Kingdoms throughout the United States and Canada, and several groups in Europe and Australia as well.
Kingdoms? Yes! The Society tries to recreate the arts of the medieval past, and brings them to life by providing a framework that binds them together. Thus, we have monarchs who are selected by tournament combat and rule for half a year; nobility, who are the members who excel in some way, whether on the field of battle, in the arts, or in service to the Society; officers, such as heralds, marshals, and seneschals who provide a civil service; and principalities, baronies, and shires, which are subdivisions of the larger kingdoms.
But what do we actually do? Our most widely known events are our tournaments, where chivalric combat (usually on foot) is re-created with real armor and wooden weapons. Our battles, both individual and group combats (melees), are quite spectacular; and, in the past thirty years we have developed what has become a very sophisticated martial art. Tournaments in the High Middle Ages were social events, and so are ours. There are usually many peaceful activities to be found at them, including games, music, competitions, and informal conversations with a surprisingly diverse group of people.
After most tournaments, and often independently as well, there are feasts and revels. The feasts can be simple or elaborate, and feature authentic and delicious dishes of all sorts. Revels include both elaborate entertainment to be watched – music, magic and drama – and entertainment to participate in, particularly period dancing, which varies from stately to spirited.
There are other types of events that add variety. We also have quests, fairs, and an occasional war; but this is really just the surface of our activities. The big events are the sum of the efforts of many individuals. Society people tend to be very creative, because achievement is rewarded with intelligent appreciation, and because our arts are living ones. Our costumers, calligraphers, illuminators, embroiderers, armourers, and all the rest expend great ingenuity and work on their creations because they all have a use within the Society. Many people find the SCA context just what they need to start them in an activity they’ve always wanted to pursue, be it weaving, metalwork or brewing. Though we strive for authenticity, we try to keep, above all, a sense of fun.
How can you participate? The best way is to come to an event and see what we have to offer. The only requirement for attending a Society function is to wear period (pre-1600) costume, or an attempt at such. The Society is not a show for spectators, it is a community, and we want you to join in. If you feel inspired, you may even want to devise an original medieval name and identity for yourself. This is common practice in the Society and adds atmosphere to the proceedings. You are not restricted to a Western European identity (or persona)- there are also a number of Moslems, Africans, and even Japanese to be found visiting our medieval kingdoms. Between events, local groups have meetings where much of the practical work of the Society is done, such as teaching skills and organizing events. Please feel free to visit these meetings in, or out of costume.
To get the most out of the SCA, and to find out what people are doing outside your local area, a membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc, is recommended. Included in one fee is membership and subscriptions to Tournaments Illuminated, our quarterly journal of medieval culture, past and present, and to your Kingdom’s newsletter, which will tell you about upcoming tourneys, revels, and other events.
The Society includes many activities and almost unlimited potential. The next step is up to you!
We are located in the Middle Kingdom, Region of Constellation, Barony of the Sternfeld. Our group covers Hamilton, Marion, Hancock, Morgan, and Shelby counties, and Johnson county north of State Road 44, Indiana. We meet regularly for fighter practice (click for info and directions) with non-fighters coming to socialize. Please join us!
For more information, visit the SCA official website. They have many useful facts for the newcomer, including a glossary of terms. Or contact our local Seneschal (the officer who conducts our weekly meetings and helps run our chapter) via this link!
Thank you to the Barony of the Cleftlands for their gracious permission of reproduction!