Coming to your very first SCA event? Here are a few helpful hints and tips for you as well as definitions for some of the strange terms you’ll hear.
Dressing the part! All SCA events require an attempt at pre-1600’s European (or cultures that had contact with Europe at that time) costume, but don’t panic if you haven’t anything appropriate yet! We don’t expect you to whip up something fit for a monarch on short notice. Our Barony has an a collection of loaner costumes. Please contact the Chatelaine.
If you’d rather make your own costume, good for you! There are plenty of simple patterns you can use. Remember, all that is required is an attempt at medieval costume; we don’t expect you to be perfect, we know we aren’t! A good way to start is by picking up your favorite history, or even better art history book, and flipping through until you find a picture of a medieval person who’s outfit you like. So long as you are working from a medieval source, you can’t go too wrong and you’ll be participating in the Arts and Sciences!
Generally referred to as Garb, SCA Costumes are intended to be real clothing. If it is comfortable and you can work and play in it, you’ve probably got it right. Wearing layers is a good idea, especially for outdoor events, so that you can stay warm or cool without having to resort to modern clothing.
Note that certain colored belts are used in the society to mark a person as belonging to a particular group. To avoid confusion it is recommended that you do not wear a white or red belt. White belts denote a Knight and red belts are for Squires. Yellow and Green belts are also used in such a manner, green denotes an apprentice and yellow denotes a protege.
Circlets and crowns are also used in the society to mark a persons rank or social standing.
Just about every event has a Feast. You are welcome to pack your own food or leave the event site for dinner, but I highly recommend eating the Feast. Forget your modern ideas of what a feast is, a medieval feast usually includes enough food to feed you four times over! Some of the dishes will be strange to a modern pallet, medieval people had different ideas of what was a delicacy than we do, but most are delicious. Remember, the cooks pick recipes for things that they want to eat! Also most feasts have a good variety of food, plenty of vegetarian dishes. If you have any special dietary restrictions, food allergies for instance, check with the Feastocrat for the event you are going to attend before purchasing feast.
At most SCA feasts you are expected to bring your own Feast Gear; plates, bowls, flatware, napkins and candlesticks, if they are allowed. Sometimes there is loaner gear to be had, but it’s best to bring something to be safe.
Frequently the feast is available at a discounted rate for Cooks and Servers; feel like helping out? Serving feast is a great way to not only save a few dollars on your dinner but also to help the event and meet people.
Clothes! (Medieval Garb, if you have it. If not, make arrangements to borrow some at the event site.)
Plates and Bowls
Cup to Drink From
Spoon, Knife and Fork
Candlesticks (if allowed)
Safety Pins, Bobby Pins, Straight Pins, Tape (for emergencies)
Pad of Paper and Pen!
Money to buy things from Merchants, if there are any.
Directions to and from the event! Some event sites may have unique directions and the way you got in may not be the way to get out again.
Don’t worry! there won’t be a quiz later and you’re not expected to know all of this! This is just a (hopefuly) helpful reference to sort out all those confusing medieval and modern terms we use at an average event. Remember, this isn’t a test, it isn’t a performance, it’s supposed to be fun! If you have a question, ask someone and the odds are they’ll be thrilled to have the chance to answer your questions.
Arts and Sciences Competition
The Arts and Sciences comprise just about everything we do, making clothes, calligraphy, painting, embroidery, making armor and weapons, etc, and often at events there is a competition where artisans in the Society display the medieval projects they’ve been working on. If there is an Arts and Sciences (often shortened to just A and S) competition, there will be an A and S coordinator handling the judging, see them for details.
Autocrat (Event Steward)
The person or Gentle in charge of running and organizing a particular SCA event. Often a great source of answers, but usually entirely too busy running the event to provide them! If you want to talk to the Autocrat of an event you are attending, try first seeing if they have a deputy autocrat who may have more time to help you.
Being a Barony, we have a Baron and a Baroness. Their duties and actual political power are very limited. They can hold Court, speak for the Crown (current King and Queen) on occasion and give awards. Not to be confused with the Seneschal who runs the actual business of the Barony.
All of the individual groups of the SCA are organized in a sort of medieval structure. Our local group is a Barony. Most of the SCA Baronies are made up of multiple groups, for example the Barony Middle Marches is made up of several smaller groups called Marches, such as the March of Three Towers (Mansfield, Ohio). All Baronies have a Baron or Baroness.
Chatelaine or Castellan
The Baronial officer in charge of helping new people, definitely someone to get to know!
As essential as the Tournament (a lot of fun, but events are held without a tournament and/or without classes) are classes in the Arts and Sciences. We are, above all, an educational group and that certainly includes educating ourselves. Check to see if the event you’re attending has classes, find out when the ones you want to attend are, you’ll be glad you did.
When our Baron or visiting Royalty hold court, they sit upon their thrones, all the populace gathers in their best garb and listens to what the Nobility has to say, most often they give out awards. All of the titles you hear people being called by in the SCA, Baron, Duke, Countess, Lady… are awarded to them based on merit usually during a Court. Don’t worry, you can sit in the back and just watch, if you’re lucky, you can find someone to give you a running commentary on what is going on. Court is not held at all events.
Dancing is usually in the evening after the Feast and Court have been attended to. We do medieval dances of varying difficulties, some are so easy a two year old can master them and usually the steps are taught and called out before the dance is done. Try it! it’s fun and an excellent opportunity to flirt!
A huge, usually at least four or five courses, sit down meal. Often there is an additional charge if you want to eat feast. Usually the food served is from authentic medieval recipes.
Your bowl, plate, spoon, etc. Everything you need to eat a feast in style. Many people buy or make medieval plates, bowls and flatware, but you are welcome to bring whatever you have, so long as it’ll hold food!
Feastocrat (Feast Steward)
The gentle in charge of planning, cooking and serving the feast at particular SCA event. The ‘ocrat’ suffix is used a lot, much to the chagrin of english teachers everywhere, for example some events have a dishocrat who’s in charge of seeing that all the dishes are washed and returned to their proper places.
Medieval style clothing. In general it is more correct to refer to the costumes being worn by people at an event as Garb rather than a “Costume.” The term costume can be seen by some as insulting and should be avoided.
Gentle (pl. Gentles)
Medieval term commonly used in the SCA to denote a person who may or may not hold noble rank.
A very special title given to individuals who excel in the arts of combat as well as service, courtesy and the arts. Knights are highly respected in the SCA and are identified by the white belts and gold chains they wear.
Lord or Lady
All of the titles you will hear people referred to by at an SCA event are given or granted by awards from the King and Queen including the title of Lord or Lady. In general, however, you can refer to anyone as “my lord” or “my lady.”
An armed combat competition. SCA fighters fight in full armor with wooden (rattan) weapons. The fighting is real, men and women participate on an equal level and all have to pass an authorization test to prove they can do so safely before competing in a tournament.
Troll (or Gatekeeper)
The gentle in charge of taking your money at the door. Usually a good person to ask about when and where things are.
Scrolls and Scribes
Scrolls are individual works of calligraphy and illumination (pictures) done by Scribes, usually for Court or Arts and Sciences Competitions.
The leader of our group, sort of the ‘president’. In medieval terms, the Baron owned the castle, the Seneschal held the keys. In other words, he does all the work! Our Baronial Seneschal is always willing to answer questions and can point you in the right direction on just about any topic concerning the Barony.