Now that I have fought with autocorrect and have forced it to quit changing “SCAdian” to “Scandinavian”…what exactly does that mysterious sounding word mean? Before we get into that, I think some backstory is required in case you forgot or don’t follow me on the whole two social media sites I am on to understand exactly what I’m going on about. In a post entitled “An Agenda” I discussed a few of the plans I have in store for new hobbies or interests I am picking up and a couple of other things to boot. Near the end of the post I reference how I want to pick up sword fighting / HEMA and start learning how to actually do some of it. I also mention how I was kicking around the idea of checking out my local group of the SCA.
Now, with that brief backstory out of the way; what is the definition of that peculiar word in the title? According to this handy document I found on the SCA’s website that gives a rundown of the most commonly used jargon, it means this:
as a noun: a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Also:
SCAer. Used as an adjective to mean “of the SCA.”
So that’s what it means. Getting back to the main point of this post and further solidifying the reasoning to include that brief backstory earlier, I decided near the start of last month to check out my local chapter of the SCA. I still say that Shire of Dark River is one of the best names I have heard of for a group to this day. Anyways, I was able to attend a few of their regular meetings for this month and I have really enjoyed them. As a person who is new to all of it, it did feel strange at first not knowing much about the local group or how they did things but I quickly found out that didn’t matter. The people there were very welcoming to me as that awkward new guy who practically knew nothing, and many of them came over to introduce themselves right at the start.
To briefly continue with that thought, that is probably what impressed me the most. The only other time where that has really happened, outside of a few of the gaming clans and communities I’ve been a part of, was when I first joined TAG. If you’re unfamiliar with that acronym, please refer to this post, where I make mention of it. I had that same feeling of being that awkward new person who had no idea what was going on when I first joined TAG but that feeling went away quickly as I found out exactly what we were doing and started to meet the friends I gained from it. I had that same feeling when attending my first meeting for the Shire, but it went away after that first meeting. Of course, I know that feeling is normal for some when they first join a club or group for the first time. The thing that helps with that however, is how welcome one feels when they show up for the first time. The more a new person feels welcome by the people who are already part of a group, the more the newer person will feel like they fit in.
With that said, how did I find out about all of this? Well it all started some time last year when I posted on my personal Facebook page saying “Hey, I want to take up sword fighting someone talk some sense into me.” and my amazingly encouraging friends (I say that in a serious tone by the way) basically told me to go for it and that they did not see any reason to try and convince me otherwise. One of them mentioned that I should look into the SCA and see if there was a local chapter. Sure enough, I did that and found out there is a group in the area I live in and that was about as far as I went with it. Then in October I decided to go to a local Ren Faire that was in my area because I’ve always wanted to go to one and since it was local, I’d be dumb if I didn’t go to it. The Shire had a small booth set up at the Faire where there were a few people demonstrating some of the arts that they enjoy and you would commonly find in a pre-17th century time period. They had informational pamphlets that they were giving out as well that had info as to what the both the Shire and SCA are and what they do. At that point in time I was interested in checking the group out more, but at a later time. What? The jousting event was about to start and I wanted to see that. So I kind of feel bad for seemingly not showing the interest that I have now, back then…kinda makes me feel like a jerk to some extent.
Fast forward a few months later and I find an event locally that is recommended to me via Facebook entitled “Courting on the River”. I check into the details on the event page and find out that it’s being organized and held by some place I discovered months ago called the Shire of Dark River. I think “Oh cool, this sounds fun.” and start keeping tabs on the event in hopes to find out if my schedule permits me to possibly attend said event. After being smart and searching around the SCA’s website I realized that SCA events are quite different from that Renaissance Faire where I discovered all of this. I thought it would be smart to inquire with the person whom was organizing the event and ask some newbie questions, which as it turns out, was a smart idea I had because it gave me a better idea of what to expect. After doing so, I decided to make the jump and attend a few of the Shire’s normal meetings before the event…which as it turns out, was a smart idea as well.
This brings us to me attending my first meeting, which happened to be their normal business meeting as well. So I got a taste of how they do things on the administrative side, which was interesting I admit but that probably has to do with the fact that I always enjoyed the “administrative” side of running things like clans and such. Truthfully though, the two are very, very different creatures and cannot really be compared. Once the business meeting was over, the meeting transformed into something different. Those who were there started working on their projects that they needed to work on for the Courting on the River event; and these ranged from pieces of clothing (or “garb” as I have seen it referenced) to various fiber arts projects. They also had a fighter practice for those who take part in the rapier combat events. If you are confused as to what rapier combat is, think of it like modern day fencing…only there are no fancy electronic suits that completes the circuit to a light that signifies a hit. Oh and, the techniques are more appropriate to those that were used back in the older time periods. Of course once they started their spars I couldn’t help but watch considering that was something I wanted to do even before I found out about the SCA. The rest of the meeting consisted of me introducing myself to a few other people.
Moving on to the second week, it was more of the same minus the business-y stuff. This time however, they were holding a small demonstration for a group of Boy Scouts that also meet in the same building as they do. This demo consisted of most everyone whom attended dressing up in their garb and setting up some of the stuff they usually use for their area of interest to show off. They also answered any questions that the Scouts had about what they were doing or anything about the era they were representing. There was a little bit of rapier practice held that night too, but some of the Shire members that participate in the armored combat were on hand to practice as well. This form of combat is more in line with what you expect from the medieval knights. These fighters use a lot more armor compared to rapier fighters…they also hit harder too. During this time, one of the people from the Shire that is a rapier fighter came up to me, introduced himself, and asked if I was interested in the combat activities. After talking with him and finding out what basics I needed to start with were (and if I could acquire some of it) I was then told that if I could make it the next meeting I could start learning some of the basics to rapier fighting.
Moving to the third week, I discovered that it is more difficult than it actually needs to be to find some of the basic safety equipment required for fighting in my area. This is the time where I conclude that I am not just showing up to these meetings to learn how to fight with a sword or anything like that, but I feel like I am actually starting to participate as a member of the group. Three weeks into the meetings and I still have people coming up and introducing themselves to me. Anyways, this is the last meeting before their big event so they have a small recap of what things need done and when. After this, everyone splits into their groups to start work on their projects that they really need to finish before the weekend. I wander over to where the rest of the rapier fighters are gathering and introduce myself to the ones I do not know at this time. At this point, the Rapier Marshall walks up and starts leading us in some simple stretch exercises…this is also the point in time where I quickly learn I am horribly out of shape. As there were two people wanting to get authorized (you have to be an authorized fighter in order to participate in tournaments) one of the other members went over some of the more in-depth safety stuff and things related to the rules. I hung around and listened and learned, because it was a good opportunity and safety is rather important. Even though you are using blunt blades and the tips of them have been blunted with a washer and rubber tip, you’re still poking at someone with a real blade. So yeah, safety is and should be important. By the end of the night, with the help of the Marshall(s) and the other fighters, I had learned the proper stance and how to lunge properly.
Now we arrive at the weekend. Last weekend as a matter of fact, and with it arrives the highly anticipated Courting on the River. If you have not deduced by now, this was my first official SCA event and I had a brief idea of what to expect but yet not really at the same time. There were a few merchants set up, there was both armored and rapier tournaments happening throughout the day as well. Plus there were a few classes that some people held as well throughout the morning and part of the afternoon. One class that was being held in the morning was one that covered what all the various titles and ranks within the SCA meant, and how to address the people that hold those ranks as they are considered royalty some times. This was a class that, being a new member, several people recommended that I take it and I did. It was cool to learn how to recognize people who hold various ranks just based on how the crown they are wearing looks or the color of the belt they are wearing. After the “classroom” portion of the…uh, well…class was over we went on a brief tour of the event to spot some of the aforementioned ranks and titles.
During this tour, something kind of cool happened. We sort of got to meet to current king of the Middle Kingdom (or Midrealm). As I said it was pretty cool, we were introduced to him as the newcomers and he welcomed us to the SCA (and welcomed those of us attending our first event too) and briefly discussed a few general things about the SCA and the Midrealm. I certainly wasn’t expecting to meet the king within the first couple of hours of attending my first event or even at any time during it. After the tour was over we were left to roam around the rest of the event, which consisted of taking any other classes that we wanted to, watching some of the various combat events that were going on, or just simply socializing. In the afternoon the family members I had dragged with went and took a class on metal stamping (they are the artsy ones, me not so much), but at that time was when the armored combat tournament was starting so that’s where I ended up. It was fun to watch, even the king was participating in pickup fights during pauses in the tournament. After the tournament was over, there were a few fighters that were still hanging around and sparring and as I am standing there watching these fights, up walks someone whom I had briefly met earlier in the day. I stand there and talk to him for a while, and eventually ask him about the green colored baldric (or sash, that term works too if you’re unfamiliar with what a baldric is) and what the symbol on it represented. I had a hunch based on prior research I had done that it was for a herald…let us also ignore the fact that he was making various announcements throughout the day which is something heralds also do. Thankfully my assumption was correct and I did not make myself look like a fool, though I don’t think that would have mattered even if I did.
Late in the afternoon, most of the main area of the event (which was simply the gymnasium of a church) is cleared out and set up for the feast that will be happening later on. Before feast however, there is the ceremonial aspect of this event…and also a section of the event title. The king must hold court. This was the part I had been wanting to see the most, from what I had been told previously, court is where a lot of the pageantry that we associate with the middle ages happens. This court was special for the Shire for a few reasons, the biggest being that one of their members was being elevated to the Order of the Pelican. Which, from my understanding is a peerage order that acknowledges the dedication of members to not just their local group, but the entire kingdom as well. From what I had gathered about the person receiving this honor, he has dedicated a lot of his time to it and I can definitely believe it. He was one of the people who went over some of the safety rules to the rapier fighters in one of the previous meetings I mentioned earlier. There were also other members of the Shire that were honored during court, and none of these people expected these honors or awards so they were genuinely surprised. Near the start of court, those who were new members and attending their first event were presented to the king as well. That was something that made it special to me, because I didn’t know they would do that. This goes back to the whole “feeling welcome” thing that I mention near the beginning of this post.
One part that made it memorable for me, and it’s partly due to the fact of the kind of person I am (or so I’ve been told) is that I usually am happy to see friends of mine succeed and do well at things they take interest in or participate in. When Courting happened I had known some of these people for only about three weeks, but disregarding that, these people made me and the rest of my family feel welcome to the group quickly. It was neat getting to come to the event as a newbie and see some of the people who welcomed us get recognized for everything else they have done.
Now that my first month as part of the SCA has past, what do I think about everything so far? I admit, it has proven to be way more fun than I was originally expecting. It has given me the opportunity to meet new people and learn a few new things as well, such as picking up on rapier fighting; which was something I wasn’t too sure if I’d ever get the chance to do. It has also sparked my interest in some other things that I knew had existed prior, but never really gave much thought to. Heraldry is the prime example. A herald does a lot of stuff from what I have gathered, ranging from researching names to make sure they are appropriate for the time period, to designing the heraldic devices / coat of arms that people use. There is also voice heraldry, which is something I think would be neat to do but I don’t believe I have the voice for it.
That covers my first month (even though February is weird and only has 28 days in it) of participating in my local group of the SCA. I’m sure in the future I will bring up more stuff about it as I think it might be cool and worth sharing. Heck, I have wanted to get into drawing so maybe you’ll see some “meh” quality sketches of random things that could make an SCA legal heraldic device…who knows. I had plans to check out this stuff later on in the year, but honestly I am glad I did so now and didn’t wait.