Frequently Asked Questions
Rules for Participation
- 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?
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.