Society For Creative Anachronism
Harmless historical nuts
Who wear boilerplate on their butts
Who dress up in clothes from the twelfth century
To bash on each other with sticks and debris
And make up the world's largest private army...
Harmless historical nuts.
— Leslie Fish
, "True Story"
The Society for Creative Anachronism is an organization dedicated to reliving The Middle Ages
and The Renaissance
. On any given weekend, somewhere in the world (usually several somewheres), people will come from miles around, dressed in pre-17th century costume (or an attempt thereat), and fight in armor (with rattan swords), sing period or period-style songs, fight in armor, show off their skills with a pen/loom/anvil, fight in armor, eat a medieval feast, fight in armor, watch as the king and queen bestow awards on some deserving gentle, and fight in armor. Most participants choose a time and place to be from and a name that might have belonged to someone from that time and place (but not that of a real person or fictional character); this is called the participant's "persona".
Establishing a persona may involve crafting a costume (known as 'garb'), which can be as elaborate as a person's budget and time allow, but it's a serious
faux pas to nitpick another person's garb. When not in SCA garb, a person is said to be in 'modern' clothing; it's sometimes called 'mundane' garb, but that term has fallen into disfavor in recent years due to its somewhat negative and 'put-down'ish overtones.
The 'Middle Ages' as depicted by the SCA are slightly different than the real-world events, and as such are called the 'Current Middle Ages' in Society parlance. 'Current' means that while strict historical accuracy is nice, it's not always practical in a modern context; as such, allowances are made in situations where actual historical information is limited or may not be entirely compatible with modern society.
Strictly speaking, the Current Middle Ages comprise a period from approximately 600 CE to roughly 1600 CE; this allows a wide variety of personas, from many countries and walks of life. The only hard-and-fast rules are that persona names must be historically accurate (or 'period'), a persona cannot be an actual historical figure or a fictional character, and a persona's culture must have established some form of interaction with Middle Ages society.
The SCA is organized into Nineteen "Kingdoms" across most of North America, Western Europe and Japan. By the rules of the SCA, the Monarchs of each of the kingdoms are decided by Crown Tourneys held every six months. To enter a Crown Tourney, the combatant must have a consort who will serve alongside them for their term. The victors of the Tourney are crown Prince and Princess, and will serve as King and Queen six months after their victory, where the tourney for their successors will be decided.
The Current Kingdoms of the Knowne World(in no particular order):
- Kingdom of The West:(Northern California, Nevada and Alaska)
- Kingdom of Atenveldt:(Arizona and small parts of Utah and California)
- Kingdom of Calontir:(Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and a touch of Arkansas)
- Kingdom of Gleann Abhann(Mississippi, Louisiana, most of Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee)
- Kingdom of Caid(Southern California, Greater Las Vegas Area, and Hawaii)
- Kingdom of Artemisia(Montana, southern Idaho, most of Utah, and western Colorado and Wyoming)
- Kingdom of the Outlands(New Mexico, most of Colorado, parts of Nebraska, El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming)
- Kingdom of the East(eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine. Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland)
- Kingdom of Meridies(Alabama, almost all of Georgia, a bit of the panhandle of Florida, most of Tennessee, and parts of southern Kentucky (Allen, Barren, Calloway, Logan, Simpson, and Warren counties))
- Kingdom of Trimaris(Majority of Florida)
- Kingdom of Alantia (Maryland, District of Columbia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Augusta, Georgia)
- Kingdom of An Tir: (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, as well as British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories)
- Kingdom of the Middle(Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Scott County in Iowa, Kentucky (except the southwest counties)Essex County and Windsor in Ontario)
- Kingdom of Northshield:(Manitoba and Northern Ontario, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)
- Kingdom of Ealdormere:(Ontario)
- Kingdom of Lochac:(Australia and New Zealand)
- Kingdom of Drachenwald:(Europe and South Africa)
- Kingdom of Ęthelmearc:(West Virginia and the Western regions of New York and Pennsylvania)
- Kingdom of Ansteorra:(Texas and Oklahoma)
Fun fact: According to the FBI, the SCA is technically the second-largest paramilitary organization in the United States, where "paramilitary" is defined as an group with a defined command structure that conducts survival/combat drills and operates without government oversight.note
The SCA provides examples of:
- Acceptable Breaks from Reality: A perennial criticism of SCA chivalric combat is that attacks below the knee are generally considered foul, and this leads a lot of fighters to favor a less historically accurate style of high guard. However, aiming for that area leads to a lot of leg and knee injuries: most groups would rather have fewer "historical" fighters come back next weekend than lots of very period fighters laid up in the hospital.
- As an amusing double-meaning, participating in the SCA is itself an Acceptable Break from Reality: Sometimes you just need a break from the reality of the modern world!
- Action Girl: Unlike the historical reality, women compete in all combat arts and there are no gender divisions. Knighthood is gladly open to all genders in most kingdoms, and some women have won Crown Tourneys in their own right.
- Anachronism Stew: Vikings, Romans, Elizabethans, and Saracens manage to coexist.
- Animal Motifs: Various kingdoms use the animals on their Coat of Arms (from either the supporters or the blazon itself) as bywords for their people (ie Ealdormere uses wolves; Calontir, griffins; The Midrealm, dragons etc).
- Asskicking Equals Authority: As the Kings of each of the nineteen kingdoms are decided in Crown Tourneys this naturally follows.
- Authority in Name Only: While they are generally respected and involved in awarding honors and peerages, SCA Royalty isn't actually in charge so to speak. Most administrative and operational leadership is the duty of the Seneschal.
- Badass Bookworm: Almost all heavy fighters.
- Death Is Cheap: Most fights are to the simulated death, and those that aren't are to "first blood" or based on points. Some battles involve "dead" combatants resurrecting off the field and going right back into battle. Some Shires and Barony's have even been known to give out awards for "Best Death"
- Fake Nationality: Lampshaded. All members choose one or more "persona," a historical identity including a nationality and matching name. There is absolutely no requirement that this be related to the member's real-life nationality or ethnic background. This is done primarily to provide a focal point for that member in their area of interest, rather than as any sort of "acting" role or attempt at impersonation.
- Filk Song/The Bard: In true medieval style, bards make up a large part of the SCA's culture.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted, SCA combat rules require full armor, helmet and all, if competing in the lists.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Enforced, as to be even considered for the Chivalry, i.e Knighted, you must show both strength-at-arms and chivalric courtesy.
- The Lady's Favour
- Lady and Knight: Important if one wishes to compete in the Crown Tourneys.
- My Crown Right Or Wrong: Since Kings/Queens are selected by tourney rather than by vote, some people may not like the victor. So many adopt an attitude of respecting the office of the King rather than whoever is actually the King.
- Rule of Cool: An oft-quoted justification for the SCA's inaccuracy/unofficial motto is "The Middle Ages as they should have been"
- Screw the War, We're Partying
- Self-Proclaimed Knight: Averted, see above. In fact even wearing certain clothing that is reserved for knights or any of the other peerages will get you in hot water.
- Serious Business: Some of the more....dedicated members can be rather harsh about keeping things as historically accurate as possible. In some circles these people are known as Period Nazis, or Period Mavens.
- Shown Their Work: Arts and sciences competitions frequently require participants to document that their entry is done in an authentic manner, using authentic materials.
- War Is Glorious: ... and fun, too! Of necessity, it's treaty first, war afterwards—on the date(s) and at the place decided—and often the sides agree that whichever kingdom(s)/principality/barony wins an arts-&-sciences competition scores a point toward the outcome of the war.