SCA Events 101
An SCA event is usually an all-day affair (or at least afternoon and evening) during which people gather to re-create the medieval era. The object is to strive for as much authenticity as possible, given modern safety and other considerations. Activities vary from event to event but most have at least a tournament during which fighting and/or fencing for honour and rank takes place and an elaborate evening meal called a feast. There may also be court (where royalty can recognize and honour their subjects and vice versa), games, arts competitions, demonstrations, dancing and bardic circles (during which the oral tradition of storytelling, music and poetry is continued). Events are often held in church halls because they tend to have good kitchen facilities which lend themselves to food preparation on a grand scale (often 50 or more).
Things To Bring:
Garb (medieval costume):
- Mandatory at all events, optional at local meetings;
- Stick to simple garb for first outfit (T-tunic will do, and if you're going to be outside in cool weather or even a summer evening, you might want to add a cloak for warmth).
- Layering (e.g. wearing a shorter tunic over a longer one) is very medieval;
- Add accessories like belt, pouch, jewellery for a more complete look;
- For shoes, use moccasins, other natural-type slippers or canvas 'Chinese flats';
- Don't spend a lot on material (Salvation Army, thrift-type stores are good places to look for cheap material and supplies);
- Loaner garb may be available (ask the Chatelaine).
Your own Feast Gear consisting of:
- Plate (wooden, pottery, glass, pewter);
- Wooden Bowl (handy for soups, scraps, etc);
- Goblet (pewter, brass, aluminum, glass, pottery);
- Spoon for Eating (metal, wooden);
- Knife (used for serving as well as eating);
- Plastic Bag (to hold your dirty dishes after the feast). Sometimes washing water is provided in a big communal pot in the feast hall, but don't count on it. By the time the feast is over, the cooks are using the kitchen for cleaning up all the pots, pans and serving dishes and there's usually no space to have feasters washing their personal dishes
- Tablecloth (washable cloth with no obvious modern patterns);
- Candles and Candlesticks (when possible, the electric lights are turned off during the meal to add to the medieval atmosphere, however some halls do not allow open flames - if so, this will be made clear at the event and/or in the event information);
- Salt & Pepper (these items were very rare & costly during the middle ages, however, modern palates, used to these spices, sometimes miss them. Use at your discretion, but try foods without them first & put them in 'Period' containers like glass vials, if you can).
- Most feasts are composed of at least two courses (also sometimes called 'removes'), each containing several dishes. Unless you have a 'bottomless pit' appetite, it's best to take only small portions of each dish as you'll soon find the dishes keep coming and look delicious and you're too full to try them;
- Forks are not generally considered 'Period' although the 2-tined variety was used in the latter part of the middle ages.
'Period' snack food (events are often day-long affairs with only an evening meal):
- Bread & Butter or Buns (not sandwiches - they're not 'Period');
- Fresh Veggies (carrot sticks, celery);
- Dried or Fresh Fruit (grapes, raisins, apples, pears).
- For 'Outside' Events (or summer events which may be partially outside), something to sit on, such as a lawn or camp chair, blanket or rug (that can be spread on the ground).
- Entertainment for yourself and others:
- 'Period' board games (Chess, Checkers, etc.);
- Musical instruments (Recorder, Dulcimer, Harp, etc.) and Sheet Music and/or Lyrics;
- Crafts (Sewing, Embroidery, Spinning, Weaving, etc.).
- Money (as well as the fees for the event itself, there may be merchants with medieval or SCA-kit-type products for sale).
Things To Do:
Practice 'Courtly Behaviour':
- Mix & Mingle (strangers are only friends you haven't met yet!);
- Flirt & Gossip (this is expected behaviour. Flirting in a courtly, medieval manner was considered highly courteous because it showed you were paying attention to the person. It doesn't mean you are shopping for a new sex partner. And 'Period' gossip only adds to the medieval flavour you came here to find. Try it!);
- Practice chivalry, curtsy/bow, forms of address (if unsure - M'Lord or M'Lady or Good Gentle);
- Do as you are bid. Courtesy at all times is medieval practice.
Speak in 'Period' vocabulary - this really helps create a medieval atmosphere:
- Try to avoid modern patterns of speech and references such as contractions (don't, can't, won't), modern expressions (huh, ya, o.k.), modern topics (computers, TV, cars);
- Try out older patterns of speech instead such as thee/thou, negativising ('I know not' instead of 'I don't know'), archaic expressions (anon, perchance, prithee);
- Get in the habit of really listening to other people's speech patterns and learn from them.
Note: Sadly, you may hear a great deal of modern speech at SCA events. Many people don't really make the effort to try and alter their speech patterns at events. However, this doesn't mean you can't try it. Who knows - you may encourage or inspire others to follow your lead!
Offer to help:
- There are always jobs that need doing. If you lend a hand, even for as little as an hour, you will not only endear yourself to the overworked event organizer but will feel more a part of the group - it's also an excellent way to meet people. And if you've already volunteered to help you're not likely to be commandeered just when something interesting is about to begin.
- Practices usually take place between events, but sometimes dances are also taught at events;
- Most events have dancing at some point (either during the afternoon or after the feast in the evening). Most dances are fun and easy to learn, so don't be afraid to give it a try!
- OYEA means STOP TALKING AND PAY ATTENTION. This phrase (often 2 or 3 OYEAs at a time) is usually shouted by the herald to announce an upcoming activity such as the tournament, feast, dancing, court, etc. It may also be used by non-heralds to get attention in a non-emergency situation.
Tournament (also called a Tourney):
This is the armed combat part of the event and may include fighting and/or fencing. It is definitely one of the most colourful aspects of any event. It's also fun to watch, but there are a few rules to remember:
- Stay out of the way! The tournament area (called the 'List') is always clearly marked off with tape, post and rope, pylons or other means - do not go beyond these markers. The combatants are wearing gear which often limits their peripheral vision. If you get in their way, they may not see you. You don't want to get hurt yourself or hurt anyone else;
- Don't shout at the combatants or the marshals who are refereeing the bout. Shouting is a distraction and may contribute to injury. It's not appreciated by anyone, so don't do it;
- No flash photography. Also a distraction. See reference under 'Things Not To Do';
- HOLD means STOP. If you hear someone shout 'HOLD!' at any time, STOP whatever you are doing IMMEDIATELY. This is a imminent danger signal and includes everyone within earshot (including YOU)!
Things Not To Do:
No Flash Photography:
Yes, photos are wonderful to show your friends and family but cameras are not 'Period' and tend to intrude on the medieval flavour which we are all trying very hard to re-create. If you must take pictures, take them during outdoor, daylight events or use a 35mm camera with high-speed film (ASA 400 - 1000) for indoor or night shots.
Note: For reasons of privacy, personal desire and even, in some cases, national security, some people do not wish to be photographed. It may not seem very medieval to ask such a modern question, but please make sure the people you're photographing don't mind having their pictures taken.
Further Note: Sadly, the battle of the camera seems to have been lost in the digital age. Cameras used to be frowned on much more than they are today.
Restricted Titles, Clothing/Accessories, Symbols, etc:
There are a few items that are restricted in the SCA and it's good for a newcomer to be aware of them so as to avoid feeling embarrassed when someone inevitably points out the mistake. Here are some things to avoid:
Titles: The titles and forms of address you hear people using in the SCA (e.g. King, Queen, Knight, Baron, Lord, Lady, etc.) are earned titles. You should not call yourself by any title unless and until you have been granted permission to use it.
Clothing and Accessories: Certain items of clothing and accessories are restricted for use by certain members of the SCA and you should not wear them (or risk some funny looks or, from the less diplomatic, a blunt telling off). These include:
- Plain White Belts, Gold Chain Necklaces (restricted to Knights);
- Plain Red Belts (by tradition, restricted to Squires - apprentices of a Knight);
- Plain Green Belts (by tradition, restricted to apprentices of a Master/Mistress of the Laurel);
- Plain Yellow Belts (by tradition, restricted to protégés of a Master/Mistress of the Pelican);
- White Baldrics or Sashes (by tradition, restricted to Masters of Arms);
- Crowns or Coronets (restricted to current and former royalty, barons and baronesses)
Note: Small circlets or headbands (no more than 1 inch in width) are acceptable headgear, but they should not have points sticking up or be extravagantly adorned.
Symbols: Certain symbols, even though they may be quite medieval, are not used in the SCA because they are considered offensive or presumptuous and their use may elicit the same unfavourable reactions as wearing restricted clothing. These symbols include, among others:
- Swastika (Nazi association) - not acceptable behaviour in the SCA - if this is your interest, go do it somewhere else. It's not welcome here;
- Tudor Rose, Crowned Shamrock, Crowned Rose - these are well-known royal and national symbols and it would be considered presumptuous for anyone in the SCA to use them.
Obvious Religious Ceremonies or Behaviour: Although you will see many people wearing crosses, Thor's Hammers and other religious symbols (the Middle Ages was a highly religious era), overt religious acts, ceremonies and behaviour are strongly discouraged in the SCA. Our modern era is a very secular age and many people find such acts uncomfortable and even offensive. This is one instance where modern thinking has overruled medieval;
Heraldic Display That Doesn't Belong To You: This includes flags, banners, badges, etc. containing symbols of countries, companies, etc. which are well-known and recognizable and definitely not yours (e.g. the Canadian Maple Leaf). This restriction also includes any original arms you have created for yourself. By SCA custom, 'arms' are called 'devices' until you've earned the title of Lord or Lady, which gives you the right to bear heraldic arms. And since the SCA has its own College of Heralds to register such devices, it is also our custom that devices should not be displayed publicly until they have been registered and approved by that body.
Special Exception: You are free to display personal arms for which you are the legal owner in real life although, since the idea of the SCA is to re-create the past, it's questionable why you would want to carry your real, modern-day baggage with you into the SCA.