Welcome to the SCA
The links below are provided to help you get up to speed on what we do and how we do it.
Caid Newcomer’s Guild
The Kingdom of Caid’s Newcomer Site. The information you will find in these pages is written for the ladies and lords who have recently joined the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), as well as those who may be considering joining and would like to find more about the Current Middle Ages within the Kingdom of Caid. The information below and more is available on the Kingdom site.
Rules for Participation
Circlets & Coronets
SCA Camping for the Newcomer
So! You are going to War and camping in a tent for the first time! Here are some questions to ponder, and some hints to help you.
Other Links of Interest
General Questions FAQ Index
- Are you in a play?
- Is this the Renaissance Faire?
- Can you come talk to my class/school?
- How much does it cost to be a member?
- How often do you guys do this?
- Where do you do this stuff?
Quick Answer: No.
A common misconception, when people see us in a park, at a restaurant, or at a festival, is that we might all be part of a play. Although some of our members participate in performances, the majority of SCA members are not in a play but are enjoying historical recreation through the clothing (or “garb”), the props of daily living (whether that is making cloth on a loom or working on a blacksmith’s anvil), and the food of the middle ages (everyone loves to eat).
The nature of our events is often “open to the public” and we welcome those interested in watching and learning what we do. There are rarely any set “performance times” even at our tournaments, and people are encouraged to wear clothing from “period” (typically clothes from Europe between 1000 and 1650) and learn arts, crafts, sciences, dances, and martial arts of the period.
Among other things, we do:
Archery, Armoring, Astronomy, Basketry, Beadwork, Belly dancing, Brewing, Calligraphy, Camping, Chain mail, Chess, Cooking, Costuming, Dancing, Dollmaking, Drumming, Dyeing, Embroidery, Equestrian Arts [Jousting is only in a testing form right now, most Equestrian events have other games], Feasting, Felting, Fencing, Glassblowing, Hawking, Heraldry, Herbalism, Illumination, Knife making, Knitting, Lace making, Leatherworking, Linguistics, Merchanting, Newsletters, Painting, Research, Serving, Sewing, Shopping, Singing, Soap making, Spinning, Tent making, Theatre, Volunteering, Weaving, Woodworking.
Quick Answer: No.
“The Renaissance Faire” can be any number of other historical reenactment clubs, putting on a weekend (or several weekends) of performances, often with merchants/vendors, plays, processions, and displays. However, the SCA is unaffiliated with any of these Renn Faire reenactment societies.
Typically at a Renn Faire, the public pays an admission fee at the gate. There are set performance times at one or many stages. The participants in Faire are all in costume, the paying public is (usually) not in costume.
The SCA is a society that encourages individual participation. If a fee is charged at the gate to a tournament, it is usually restricted to SCA participants, and not the observing public who may wander by. A few events held by the SCA may charge a fee to the viewing public, or may be for members only, but these events are few and far between.
Unlike the Renn Faires, which typically focus on only Elizabethan England history (and any cultures likely to have come into contact with the Elizabethan court), the SCA has a broad focus including “pre-1600 Western Europe and contacting cultures.” You may find SCA members researching as early as the Roman Empire, the high Japanese court pre-1600, the Mongolian hordes, or the Sultan’s court. You’ll often see garb (the SCA word for “historical costume”) from every year between 1000 AD and 1600 AD.
Quick Answer: Yes, we’d love to!
The SCA is specifically a non-profit educational society, registered as a 501(c) corporation of California. Local chapters usually have teams of volunteers available to put on demos for schools and city festivals. Most chapters or groups prefer three months notice to schedule a demo. To find the local chapter in your area, try the main Society web page at http://www.sca.org and click on the link for SCA Groups . This link will take you to the “Kingdom” web pages for major regions throughout the world. Each Kingdom has links for finding local chapters in its borders.
Southern California, the Las Vegas area, and Hawaii are all a part of the Kingdom of Caid. You can find Caid’s web page at http://www.sca-caid.org/, and links to the various chapters throughout the Kingdom. Local chapters are often named Shires, Baronies, or Cantons. The San Fernando Valley is one chapter, called the Barony of Altavia.
If you would like to schedule a demo for your class or school, you should contact the “Chatelaine” or the “Seneschal” of a local branch. The Chatelaine is specifically in charge of working with newcomers to the SCA. The Seneschal is like the chapter “president” and is responsible for all legal paperwork, such as insurance and site-related requirements. Some branches may have an “Avant Courier” in charge of publicity for newspapers, radio, and community boards, and some branches may have a specific “Demo Coordinator” who works with the Chatelaine and the Seneschal.
Quick Answer: Not much, depending on what you choose.
Most SCA members start out participating with their local Shire or Barony. Local participation costs nothing at all. You may wish to subscribe to your local newsletter, which may cost around $10/year. In Altavia, the local newsletter is called the FretKnot and subscriptions are free. To subscribe to the FretKnot, contact the Chronicler
As your participation grows, and includes attending events in neighboring chapters, you may want to start receiving your Kingdom newsletter. A subscription to your local Kingdom newsletter is included when you pay $45/year for a Society membership. Membership is handled exclusively (except for Australian membership) through the SCA, Inc. office in Milpitas, California. You can reach that office at:
P.O. Box 360789, Milpitas, California 95036-0789, Tel (408) 263-9305, Fax (408) 263-0641
Quick Answer: Somewhere between every weekend and once a year or so.
Local events vary in frequency. The Barony of Altavia hosts between 4 or more events per year. You can find specific information about our events on the Events page.
We hold several workshops and practices each month. You can find specific information about these meetings on the Meetings page.
The Kingdom events that many SCA members attend are usually held on Saturdays. We are very fortunate in Southern California to have lovely weather nearly all year round, and typically you can find between 1-3 events every weekend. There are single-day tournaments, two-day events, and camping events for an entire weekend, over a 3-day holiday, or even longer. There are typically 1-2 events per year that are between 4-6 days long. Not everyone is available to attend the full 4-6 days, and it’s not unusual for someone to make just an afternoon of it.
Participation varies from individual to individual. This is a hobby, and does fit around members’ work schedules and family obligations. Regardless of how frequently you are able to attend events or workshops, you are always welcome. Extended absences are always understood.
Quick Answer: Around the entire world, and probably in your hometown.
Around the world, there are about nineteen Kingdoms of SCA members and local branches. A link on the SCA Inc. main web page will connect you to the Geography of the SCA, where you can find your local Kingdom and then local branch.
But where do we hold events locally? Business meetings have been traditionally held in members’ living rooms or in large restaurants. Workshops have been in recreation rooms in apartment complexes, in parks, in living rooms, or in someone’s garage or backyard. Local tournaments are usually in a community park, such as Woolley Park Archery Center, Verdugo Park, and Veterans Park. Collegiums, full days devoted to classroom activities, are often held at local public schools or community colleges. High court events, such as the Coronation of a King and Queen, are often held in churches, community centers, or other public buildings.
Rules for Participation FAQ Index
- Are there any rules about wearing [purple, crowns, black velvet, circlets]?
- How do I get a name or a coat of arms? (Can I use my family coat of arms?)
- What about meetings, workshops, practices, tourneys, and events?
- What should I wear?
- What should I bring?
- How can I write a letter recommending someone for an award?
Are there any rules about wearing
[purple, crowns, black, velvet, circlets]?
Quick Answer: Sometimes.
There are very few rules about what you cannot wear in the SCA. First of all, everyone is considered to be “at least minor nobility” — even the newest member. No one “starts out as a peasant” unless they choose to research the lower classes of society in history. However, depending on your local Kingdom and local branch of the SCA (see the SCA Groups link on www.sca.org to find your kingdom and group) there might be some rules called “Sumptuary Laws.”
There are a few restrictions that are Society-wide:
Colors and types of fabric are not restricted. You can wear purple, black, velvet, silk, cotton, wool, linen, saffron (yellow) — any color or fabric that you like (and can afford). The type and color of your clothing is completely up to you. The only requirement is that you “make an attempt at clothing from the Middle Ages.” Jeans and tennis shoes are not appropriate for events that require garb.
Some circlets on your head are either restricted or limited. The rule of thumb is that if you see a part of the circlet or coronet that goes up to a point or up from the headband section, the slang for that is a “pointy hat” and these are restricted to persons who have been awarded a rank or station appropriate to that coronet. Typically if you see someone with coronet on their head, it is polite to nod and/or curtsey/bow to them. Certainly, treating them politely and with respect is a good idea.
In some Kingdoms, wearing a metal circlet (called a fillet) itself is limited to those who have been awarded at least the first level of rank within the Society: an Award of Arms, or the title “Lord” or “Lady” (with a capital “L”). This is not the case in the Kingdom of Caid, where the Barony of Altavia is located. Anyone can use a fillet to hold on a veil or keep their hair out of their eyes.
Read more fully about circlets and coronets and see some drawings and examples of different coronets.
How do I get a name or a coat of arms? (Can I use my family coat of arms?)
Quick Answer: See the Heralds (And, No.)
What should you be called in the SCA? Ah, the fun of picking a name from the Middle Ages. First of all, you’ll be able to get lots of assistance from the Heralds in the SCA, the people who have volunteered to help members with research about names and naming practices of the Middle Ages, as well designs for a “coat of arms.” (Heralds do more than just research, but for this discussion, that’s the most important thing to know at first.)
You are not required to pick a name from the Middle Ages, but you are strongly encouraged to look into it. Until you have an “SCA Name,” we will be glad to call you by your modern name. But learning about the names of the Middle Ages, and using these names with one another, adds to the atmosphere and the fun of our re-creation.
Designing a picture to go on a shield or banner also adds to the atmosphere. It is amazing to go to a tournament and see banner after banner flying in the breeze. You may not use your modern “family’s coat of arms” simply because (1) it legally belongs only to the “head of the clan” or only to one member of the family, not to everyone with that family surname, and (2) it doesn’t likely belong to you. Of course, someone might join the SCA who truly does legally have the right to fly a specific banner device, but 99.99999% of us do not have the legal right to an existing modern heraldic device.
So, how do you design one? You can find lots of good heraldic information from the Activities/Heraldry link on www.sca.org. If you have specific questions about shield designs, please write an email to your local herald (in Altavia, see the Officers webpage).
What about meetings, workshops, practices, tourneys, and events?
Quick Answer: You are welcome to attend all our meetings, workshops, practices, tourneys, and events!
Almost all Meetings and workshops are conducted in modern clothing. No special costuming or garb is required. Also, nearly all of them are free of charge. Some workshops may have a materials charge which pays for the cost of handouts, the supplies, or sometimes the gas expenses for a visiting instructor.
Practices for combat-related activities have different levels of armor requirements, age requirements, and skill or experience requirements. In most cases, a quick phone call or email to the fighting practice’s host will help you determine if there is any loaner equipment available, or if you can learn by watching and listening. Certainly most practices will be glad to have you show up and ask questions and learn just by talking to participants. For additional information about fighter practices, see the FAQ about Fighting.
Tournaments and other SCA events are held all over the place. Your local group probably hosts a few each year, and there are probably several neighboring local branches that host events within a short driving distance. In Altavia, you can find our local tournaments and events on the Events webpage. Other events nearby can be found on Kingdom of Caid site (www.sca-caid.org).
What should I wear?
Quick Answer: Sometimes modern clothing, sometimes “An Attempt at Clothing from the Middle Ages.”
Meetings and workshops are almost all conducted in modern clothing. No special costuming or garb is required.
For events and tournaments, the usual requirement is that you “make an attempt at clothing from the Middle Ages.” In most cases you can borrow an outfit from the Newcomer’s office in your local area. In Altavia, this contact person is called “Chatelaine” — and there are many outfits available for one-day loan for events. Sometimes there is a nominal fee (like $1-2) that helps pay for cleaning and repairs for loaner clothing. Contact your local Chatelaine or Hospitaler, the officer in charge of helping newcomers, to find out if there is loaner clothing available.
Local sewing workshops are also great for getting ideas about what kind of clothing to wear at SCA events. In Altavia we have two “Craft Nights” a month, that almost always include folks who can help with selecting, designing, and sewing SCA garb (clothing).
You’ll need to find your own footwear—there are rarely any shoes available for loan. Start with paintings and drawings of people in the Middle Ages, to see what kind of shoes they wore with which outfits. Frequently simple boots are appropriate. Sometimes little buckled shoes look remarkably like some shoes from the Middle Ages. If you are in doubt, please feel free to ask. Tennis shoes will only work for one or two events, when you are first starting out and looking for something to wear. Please try to find something that looks less modern for your next event in clothing from the Middle Ages.
What should I bring?
Quick Answer: Some snacks and drinks, something to sit on, and maybe a camera.
Meetings and workshops rarely require that you bring anything. However, consider the time of day that the meeting is held. If you are going to a business meeting after work, you might want to bring your dinner with you, or eat before the meeting. Consider calling the meeting host first, to see if people bring snacks or food with them for the meeting. Certainly many people bring drinks with them.
You can definitely bring a camera to events conducted in garb. This is a great way to get ideas for clothing, shoes, and encampments. Feel free to take pictures of the large group events, and please ask people if you can take pictures of their costuming and pavilions. They may be very happy to tell you about how they researched and created their outfits, or from which merchant they purchased something.
For events, you’ll definitely want to plan ahead for morning snacks, lunch, any afternoon snacks, and sometimes your dinner. Some events advertise a feast available for a fee after the event has concluded. Most feasts require reservations in advance, so check the event advertisement. Other times, people make plans with their friends to go out to a restaurant afterwards. Please feel free to ask the people you’ve met in your local branch what they typically do for dinner.
During the day, at most tournaments, people set out a little buffet or lunch or snacks for themselves, their families, and/or their households of friends. Often you can plan in advance to join a little “potluck” lunch with friends — one person brings some cheeses and breads, one person brings some salad, one person brings some entrees, etc. Again, it’s a good idea to ask your local group about their customs and habits, so that you can also participate.
If you know you’re traveling to an event where you haven’t made food arrangements in advance, consider packing like this:
- Water, water, water, and more water (dehydration is bad). Something to drink from that doesn’t look overly modern, such as a wooden or pewter mug or goblet. Some glass goblets are beautiful and a wonderful option.
- Breads, cheeses, sliced meat. A wooden, metal, or ceramic plate or platter for the food to be served on and/or eaten off of.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Something to cover your modern cooler, if you have perishable items and have packed them in ice. Consider a table cloth or just a piece of plain cloth that will cover all sides of your cooler. The illusion of having no modern items looks really nice.
- Something to sit on or at. A card table with a full-length table cloth is nice to set food and drinks out on, plus has the storage area underneath for hiding modern items. A wooden stool, a camp-chair, or directors chair with a cloth over it looks nice for sitting on. If you don’t bring a chair, an area rug or ground cloth is a nice way to sit on the ground.
- And optional: Something for shade. If you don’t have anything for shade, please contact the Chatelaine. There are usually people who have plenty of room in their pavilions who would enjoy offering you a place to hang out for an event. Sometimes in Altavia, the Baronial pavilion is set up specifically for everyone who doesn’t have their own shade with them.
How can I write a letter recommending someone for an award?
Quick Answer: Check out this great article.
Here’s a little excerpt from an article by Barwnes Rhieinwen:
Awards are an important part of the SCA. We are a volunteer organization, and the way we are “paid” is by the positive feeling we get by contributing to the SCA, whether at the local level, in the kitchen, as a Kingdom Officer, etc. Awards are a public thank you or acknowledgement of accomplishments. (They don’t take the place of a personal, individual word or note—so don’t forget to say “Great event!” to an event steward or send a “Loved your feast” e-mail to a cook!). Awards are also an encouragement to a person to continue in the same vein or direction.
Awards are given at the pleasure of the Crown, but the Crown can’t be everywhere or see the contributions of every member of the populace. The only way They know if a gentle is worthy is if They receive recommendations for that person—recommendations from people such as you.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is that fighting with all the swords and shields and heavy armor?
- Are they really hitting each other?
- Does it hurt?
- How much does it cost to get all that armor?
- Can I learn to do that?
- Can women fight?
Quick Answer: Heavy weapons.
There are three main “arena” of SCA participation: the Fighting arts, the Arts and Sciences, and the Service arts. In the Fighting, or Martial, arts there are two forms: Heavy Weapons and Rapier fencing, and several forms of archery and equestrian activities.
Heavy weapons is a full-contact, non-choreographed, martial art that uses solid rattan weapons (swords), shields, assorted other weapons, and heavy armor. Rattan is a type of bamboo, and rattan weapons are usually 2″-thick ‘sticks’ of rattan, usually wrapped in strapping tape and duct tape.
Among other things, we do:
Archery, Armoring, Astronomy, Basketry, Beadwork, Belly dancing, Brewing, Calligraphy, Camping, Chain mail, Chess, Cooking, Costuming, Dancing, Dollmaking, Drumming, Dyeing, Embroidery, Equestrian Arts, Feasting, Felting, Fencing, Glassblowing, Hawking, Heraldry, Herbalism, Illumination, Knife making, Knitting, Lace making, Leatherworking, Linguistics, Merchanting, Newsletters, Painting, Research, Serving, Sewing, Shopping, Singing, Soap making, Spinning, Tent making, Theatre, Volunteering, Weaving, Woodworking.
Quick Answer: Yes.
In the above description of heavy weapons, I mentioned it is a “full-contact” art. They really are hitting each other, and with considerable force. There is a standard for “calibrating” blows so they are forceful enough to have caused damage with an edged sword against chain mail but are not so forceful as to cause actual injury.
Heavies fighting is also a “non-choreographed” art. The fighters have not planned out in advance who will hit when and where, unlike stage or movie combat. Fighters do practice typical strikes and blocks, learning the building blocks for fighting with swords (and shields) however each fight is new and pits skill and stamina and wit against one another.
Quick Answer: Sometimes.
Heavy armor is designed to protect the fighter against most blows, however, since force is being used, bruises are not uncommon. If fighters are being bruised regularly, they may need to increase their armor in that area, repair any damage to the armor, or attend practice to learn new techniques to lessen the chance of being hit in that area.
It is rare that anyone is hurt beyond bumps and bruises. Serious injuries are most commonly caused by armor failures, however occasional sprains, muscle pulls, hurt fingers, etc. do happen. The common rule of thumb is that SCA heavy weapons is safer than football but the fitness level of the fighter has something to do with their injury rate. If you are just an occasional fighter, without an ongoing fitness program, you are more likely to get hurt.
Quick Answer: As much or as little as you’d like to spend.
Most new heavy weapons fighters start off spending as little as $100-$150, maybe $200-$500, or the extreme can range from $700 to more than $1000.
How to Spend Nothing: To start off, most local groups have some loaner armor availabl-old armor, armor that no longer fits someone, armor from someone who no longer fights; there are many ways to find armor to give fighting a try without spending a cent.
After You’ve Tried it Out a Little Bit: When you’re ready to start investing time, energy, training, and money into fighting, there are many options available to you. You might buy and/or barter with local fighters to acquire used, but still usable, armor pieces. You might want to build your own armor. Or you might decide to patronize one of our armor makers. The best advice is to find fighters to let you try different types of armor before you invest money in armor that disappoints you.
Anyone Can Participate: Please remember this is a hobby, and that starving college students can play alongside the highest paid computer consultant. You can do this on a budget, or you can save up and spend lots of money on custom made armor. It’s your personal choice.
Quick Answer: Yes.
The key, again, is find a local group of fighters. Attend some fighter practices, watch a few tournaments, go to a war and watch the unit fighting. Look a different styles of armor, weapons, and fighting techniques. Talk to everyone, listen to everything. Then get in and try a little. Find folks willing and able to arm you up. Take a few hits against a pell (a practice pole or form against which you can hit a sword and learn different types of blows). With time, patience, and determination, anyone can learn whether heavy weapons is the type of sport they want to participate in. It’s not for everyone, but everyone is welcome to give it a try.
NOTE: There are age requirements! <b”>You must be 18 or older to participate in SCA Heavy Weapons. You must be 14 or older to participate in SCA Rapier Fencing.
Altavia hosts weekly Heavy Weapons and Rapier fighter practices. See our Meetings page for more information. Altavia also has Youth Combat practices, that provide an age approprate combat game activity for our younger members.
Quick Answer: YES! ABSOLUTELY!
You may hear some SCA members say “This is the Middle Ages as it should have been.” Or “we recreate the middle ages without the plague, burnings, or discrimination.” These are helpful clichés for getting a beginning feel for the SCA, but they are not the whole picture.
You may have heard someone suggest that “women didn’t fight in period.” It turns out that is not always true, and there are dozens of examples of women fighting throughout history—and not just by cutting their hair and pretending to be boys. In SCA Heavy weapons (and all other forms of SCA fighting, for that matter), women are encouraged to take up the sword just as any of the men. You are not required to “pretend to be a boy,” although there are occasionally some female fighters who do adopt a “male persona” in armor. Most do not. There are women knights in the SCA, women commanders, women squires, women who have won Crown or Coronet tournaments and become Queen or Princess by their own right of arms.