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What is the SCA?
The Slightly More Romantic Version
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In the midst of a tourney field strung with brightly colored banners and pennons, two warriors clad in shining steel armor battle fiercely. Their swords and shields clash with resounding noise which is carried far on the breeze. Their movements are almost dancelike as they circle one another, seeking a weakness. And then, a flurry of weapons and one crumples to the ground, mortally stricken. All around the list field, lords and ladies in festive garb cheer the victor and his brave opponent, who miraculously rises from the dead and struts off the field, saluting his lady and his Sovereign. Minstrels play a lively dance tune on recorders and mandolins as heralds announce the victor to the crowds. In the background, merchants hawk their wares: food for the hungry, fabrics, jewels, hand-crafted swords and daggers.....

Fantasy? No. This scene, and many like it, may be witnessed and participated in at SCA events around the world each weekend.

The Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., is a non-profit educational organization for the purpose of studying the Western European Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

Like many strange things, the Society was founded in Berkeley, California. in the mid-1960's. Today the Society has spread all over the United States and into Canada, Europe and Australia — and it is still growing. There are over 30,000 people on the official mailing list, and three or four times that many attend Society events or take a regular part in Society activities.

This mass of people is divided into 16 kingdoms. Kingdoms? Yes — why not? The idea behind the Society, the idea that sets it apart, is to teach people about the Middle Ages by selectively re-creating the Middle Ages . ( Selectively means leaving out plague, Inquisitions, fleas, rotten meat and other good things.) In the Society, you do not simply read a book about Medieval costume; you read the book, then pick a costume and make and wear that costume at Society events. You do the same with feasting, fighting, dancing, music, crafts and so on. We think this is a more educational way of learning about the Middle Ages. We know it is more fun.

So the Society is divided into 16 kingdoms. Each of these is naturally headed by a Sovereign, who reigns for a set and limited period of time. (Remember, we selectively re-create the Middle Ages.) In the Middle Kingdom, the Sovereign is chosen in a Crown Tournament held each May and October and then reigns for about six months.

In the Tournaments of the SCA, we re-create medieval styles of fighting on foot using rattan replicas of different types of medieval weapons — sword, mace, axe, etc. Both the weapons and the fighting styles are based on much research and are as authentic as we can safely make them. Since even a rattan sword can hurt, we also wear helmets, gloves and various other items of armor — again, made as authentically as possible. In a Crown Tournament, the winner of the day's fighting becomes the next Sovereign. In addition to rattan combat the Middle Kingdom also practices Period Rapier Combat, Archery and Thrown Weapons (spear, axe and knife).

What of the more peaceful activities? Well, there are Feasts and Revels . At a Society feast, the company dines on a mighty array of dishes prepared according to the most authentic — and palatable recipes we can find. And, at Revels, the performing artists of the Society — singers, dancers, musicians, storytellers — do their best to entertain the company — a best which is often very good indeed.

In between events, what is there to do? Calligraphy, illumination, silversmithing, jewelry making, armoring, tailoring, brewing, costuming, needlework, weaving, basket making — the list goes on and on practically without end or limit. If it was done somewhere at some time before 1600, you can probable do it in the Society. There are many Guilds organized for many of the arts and sciences, but if there isn't one for what you want to do, don't let that stop you — start your own! If you have a skill to teach, you will find intelligent and attentive pupils in the SCA. If you have a performing art to practice, you will find intelligent and appreciative audiences. And if you want to learn, well, even the IRS says this is an educational organization.

And there are still more ways of being creatively anachronistic. Creating your own persona , for example. A Society persona is an alternative version of yourself — what you would have been, or wanted to be, or tried and hoped to be, in any culture, clime or country at any time between 600 and 1600. Create this alternative self, and then dress and behave as much like it as you possibly can. Learn about heraldry and become a Herald; use that long-hidden, long-cherished skill at paperwork and become a Seneschal. Learn exotic dancing and you may become the center of attention at a Revel.

You ask — why before 1600? By 1600, romance and chivalry were dying — literally, sometimes, for gunpowder was a mighty force but also dying in the spirit from many other things.

And it is romance and chivalry that lies at the base of the Society; romance and the dreams of romantics. It is an organization for people who want to do things they cannot do between nine and five, who want to learn things they cannot learn in school, who want to at least try to be more gracious, more courteous, more honorable — better — than they can be anywhere in this modern world of ours.

These are the romantics, the dreamers of the day. We welcome them and their dreams to the Society for Creative Anachronism.

   Page last updated 12/15/99