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A Beginners Guide to the SCA

Updated on October 14, 2014
CuAllaidh profile image

Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

SCA Medieval Rennactment Banners Flying in The Wind
SCA Medieval Rennactment Banners Flying in The Wind

Welcome to the Current Middle Ages

So you've decided to join the Society for Creative Anachronism, aka SCA, wassail and welcome to the joys of the middle ages. One of the most common problems new members face upon joining the SCA is that there is a ton of information out there that members know about but don't pass on, or do but the information is out of date and of no use anymore. With this lens I hope to maintain an up to date list of resources for new SCA members.

History of The SCA

AKA What is this SCA you are always blathering about anyway?

The SCA is an international educational historical reenactment society focused on European court pre 17th century. The SCA has been running since 1966 when a bunch of history geek friends in Berkley California hosted a big outdoor party with a medieval theme. Since then the SCA has taken on a whole new life.

Read More about the History of the SCA

Where to Begin

So you are interested in joining the SCA but have no idea how to find us? SCA geography is a little sketchy to those not used to it, let me help with the links below you should be able to find your local group and get started in your SCA journey.

Knowne World Handbook

The Knowne World Handbook is an excellent resource for newbies to the SCA. It is full of advice for how to get the most out of the SCA. If you only purchase one resource book on the SCA then this is the book to purchase.

Garb - High Fashion in The Current Middle Ages

Attending any event you are required to make an attempt at pre 17th century garb. It need not be perfect, simple T tunic and jogging pants for men, or a viking apron dress for women is more than good enough. As you go along you will find you want to get more elaborate garb, but for starting out just get a simple outfit going.

Buying Garb

If you aren't handy with a needle and thread there is always purchasing Garb. Not the cheapest alternative, nor will you get the best garb available, but you garb can be found for those who look.

Gold Key

Why buy or go the hassle of making your own garb if you aren't even sure you'll like the SCA, good point. The third option when considering what to wear is Gold Key. Gold Key is loaner outfits most groups keep for newbies. Find your local group contact list and look for the Chatelaine or Castillion, this is the new member contact and they should know how to get a hold of Gold Key garb for you.

Choosing a Name

Everyone in the SCA has at least two names, their legal given name, and their society name. My name for instance is Lord Cú Allaidh Dona within the society (not officially registered though). My advice to newcomers to the SCA for how to pick a name, is don't.

Your SCA name will stick with you, and if you start out your SCA career thinking you want to be Norse but suddenly switch to Italian Renaissance your name will no longer fit your persona. Get a feel for the SCA first, find out what it is you like and what cultures you admire, then begin the process of picking your name. Now with that warning issued, some few may go into the SCA knowing exactly what they want, if this is you then perhaps its time to start researching your name. That being said there is no restriction to how many times you change your society name, you can in fact register multiple names, but what people call you doesn't change as easily most people will stick with the name they know you by and its hard to get people to call you by a new name.

Sources for Choosing Your SCA Name:

Accolaids and Awards

Each kingdom, and each Barony has their own award structure up to the Peer level, but they do follow a basic pattern. The first award, regardless of kingdom, is the Award of Arms (AoA). This award grants you the right to style yourself a lord or lady, this award may be skipped, but there are a number of award level awards you can get which automatically grant you an award of Arms. There are three main focuses within the SCA, each area has their own set of awards. The three focuses are, Arts and Sciences, Service, and Martial. You can get an award level award for any of the three focuses, and if you don't have an AoA you automatically have it.

After the Award Level awards is the Grant Level Awards. The base award at this level is Grant of Arms, it is rare to get simply a grant of arms, most get a grant level award in an area of focus instead. The Grant Level Awards grants you the rights to style yourself the Honourable Lord/Lady. In Ealdormere the Grant Level Awards are Orders, which means to be granted a grant level award you must be accepted into the order.

After the Grant Level, comes the Peerage. the Peerage is the highest accolade one can get within the SCA. The Peerage is society wide and stays with you even if you move kingdoms. The three Peerage level awards are:

Order of Chivalry (Knight): For martial prowess. This grants you the right to call yourself Sir or Knight of the realm. This also grants you the right to wear a white belt, which is a reserved colour in the SCA and only knights may wear it.

Pelican: For service to the kingdom and society. This grants you to the right to call yourself Mistress or Dame, or Master. This also grants you the right to use a Pelican as your arms and wear a medallion identifying you as a Pelican.

Laurel: For arts and sciences. A Laurel has the right to style themselves mistress or master. They have the right to wear the laurel crown, or a medallion as well as have a laurel wreath in their arms.

Order of Precedence

The Order of Precedence is basically the hierarchy of a kingdom. It is also the order in which you should acknowledge the nobles in court. At the top is the current reigning monarch, then comes visiting reigning monarchs, followed by the heirs then visiting heirs. After the immediate royals comes the baron and baronesses, starting with the landed baron and baroness of the barony you are currently in followed by all other landed baron and baronesses, then by court baron and baronesses. After this comes the peerage, and so on down the list. Generally in court acknowledgement need go no further than landed baron and baronesses.

Funny SCA Links - Just for Fun

Here are some amusing links/jokes about the SCA

© 2012 Jeff Johnston

Guestbook Comments

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    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 

      7 years ago from US/TN

      The SCA sounds fascinating! I imagine it's a lot of fun.

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 

      7 years ago from Nebraska

      The Skalborg (sp) Vikings were at the local Renaissance festival in Nebraska for many years. Until it was taken over by pirates. It was my son's favorite area. They fought with real swords and shields not "padded" equipment. I loved it.

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @Brite-Ideas: I don't recognize the name, but that's not surprising. I know people's scadian names not their real names LOL.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      @CuAllaidh: lol - Ok I will - my family name is Tremblay (that's my brother's last name)

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @Brite-Ideas: I don't know if I know him or not. If he's in the Ottawa region I just might, I know several people from Skraeling Althing (the Ottawa SCA group). Couldn't possibly tell you if I knew him based on his mundane (actual) name, I know persona names generally. You could ask him if he knows Cu, or Cu of the Dancing Cup (long story involving a sword fight and a missing piece of protective gear) as I am sometimes known.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      My brother is heavy into the SCA...would be bizarre if you knew him! lol! (he lives in Ottawa - first name Larry)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens, nice info here! Squidlike

    • CuAllaidh profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Johnston 

      8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      @WriterJanis2: It is quite enjoyable. Going to a weekend camping trip next weekend the entire weekend is practical classes on period activities.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      8 years ago

      This look fun.


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