Wednesday, June 26, 2013


One of the things I do for a living (if you can call something I've rarely been paid to do "for a living") is making crafts: jewelry, dolls, and pysanky at the moment.

I learned this at Pennsic around a dozen years ago, and I've made batches of them periodically ever since. I've only taught my class in it twice, but there are others in my area who know more than I do and actually have the heritage and/or persona to match, so I tend to defer to them at Academies.

Here are my class notes, now with pictures and a bibliography!


Pysanky are dyed eggs, made with a wax resist method of dyeing similar to batik. The word Pysanka (singular) is from the Ukrainian “pysaty” meaning, “to write”. Their most famous connection is with Ukraine.
Other cultures which use the same or similar methods of egg-dyeing:


There are many different ways to decorate eggs in these traditions. The most common is boiling the eggs with vegetable dyes such as onion skins to make them a single color. These can be eaten, because the dye is food-safe. In the Ukraine, these are called Krashanky.
Another method is etching or scratching colored eggs—either eggs dyed a single color, or eggs which are naturally not white (brown chicken eggs, blue duck eggs) to reveal the white surface beneath (Drapanki/Travlenky).
In Latvia, they tie leaves and flowers onto the surface of eggs before dyeing to act as a resist (Lieldienu Olas).

Pysanky, and all other decorated eggs except those boiled in vegetable dye are meant as decoration only, and not to be eaten. Traditionally, they are not blown out, but left to dry out slowly. The yolk of the egg will become hard and dry and rattle around inside.
Modernly, many pysanky-artists will blow out their eggs after removing the wax, which makes them less likely to explode in heat.
It has been suggested that grocery-store eggs have thinner shells due to the feed and conditions of the chickens producing them, and therefore are more likely to shatter or explode. Thicker farm eggshells are sturdier and more able to withstand the drying process. If you choose to dry your eggs, make sure you store them where they are out of the heat, and have airflow around them.

Pysanky are an ancient tradition, originally pre-Christian. Slavic cultures worshipped a sun god called Dažbog. In the spring, people would color eggs and use them for protection and blessing. The eggs represented both birds, which were sacred to Dažbog, and rebirth, which was very important to all cultures.
When Christianity came to the Slavic tribes around the end of the tenth century, the egg dyeing went from honoring Dažbog to honoring Christ.
Several legends surround Pysanky. One is that an evil serpent chained to a cliff will destroy the world if there aren’t enough pysanky made each year. The more pysanky, the tighter the chains.
Another is that Mary brought eggs in her apron when she went to plead for Jesus’ life from Pontius Pilate, and when she knelt down, her tears colored them, and they rolled off into the world.

Color Symbolism:

youth, light, happiness
Strength and power
Renewal, fertility, triumph of life over death
Passion, love, blood.
Remembrance, eternity, death, protection from evil.
purity, birth
faith, patience

Traditional Dye Sources:
Yellow: wild apple bark, onion, buckwheat husk, campion, dog’s fennel
Red: madder, black hollyhock, birch tree leaves, moss, sandalwood, cochineal, deerhorn
Dark Green/Violet: elderberries, sunflower seeds
reddish purple: red onion skins, beets
Black: Walnuts, alder bark, sulphate of iron, black maple twigs, periwinkles, sunflower husks

Sources of Vegetable Dyes for Krashanky:
Brown: onion peel
Black: oak or alder bark, walnut shells
Gold: apple bark, marigolds
Purple: mallow petals
Green: rye shoots, periwinkle leaves
Pink: beets

Uses for Pysanky:
Given to the priest, children, your sweetheart, and your family members. Light pysanka are for younger people, dark for older people, predominantly red ones for children
Put on graves of family members: black and white designs
Kept in the house to protect it from fire; put in the mangers of the animals to keep them safe and in milk, put under the beehives for a good harvest, saved to be brought out to the pasture with each grazing animal in the spring, placed in hen’s nests to encourage laying.
Traditionally, the eggs dyed have to be fertilized (the majority of commercially available eggs are not fertilized, because that would end up with a baby chick inside and most modern people are a bit freaked out by that).

Designs and Symbolism:

Forty Triangles (actually 48): 40 days of lent, 40 martyrs, 40 days in the desert, 40 tasks of married couples
Diamonds= knowledge
Tripods= birth, life and death; man, woman and child.
Dots= stars, tears of Mary
Churches, sometimes with a sieve inside to symbolize the church separating good and evil.
Tree of life
Pussy Willows= same as palms on palm Sunday
Garlands= in three circles to represent birth, marriage, and life.
Roosters= manliness, dawn, good fortune
Spiders/spiderwebs= perseverance, patience, art
Butterfly= journey of soul to heaven
Bee= hard work, all good insects
Snake= had (a harmless grey snake), a snake with mystical powers, protects all the people in a house (kind of like a gnome or a tomten…good families all have hads)
Sun=Protection. Closed circle with or without rays, spiral or flower, swastika with arms pointing left.
Pine Needles=health, eternal youth
Crosses=Christ, or the four directions
Wheat=good health, good harvest
The Sun and Stars=life, fortune, growth.
Deer, Horses, and/or Rams=strength, masculinity
Roses/Eight Sided Star=love
 Poppies= beauty.
Triangles=trinities: air, fire and water; father, son, and holy spirit; mother, father, child...
The Saw=also known as Wolves' teeth, protection
Birds=fertility, connection to the spirit world. Never shown flying.
Nets=fishers of men
Ribbons=eternity, water


Luciow, Johanna. Eggs Beautiful: How to Make Ukrainian Easter Eggs. 1975 Minnesota

Perchyshyn, Natalie and Luba, Ann Kmit, and Loretta Luciow. Ukrainian Design Book 1. 1999, Ukrainian Gift Shop, Inc.

Pollak, Jane. Decorating Eggs: Exquisite Designs With Wax and Dye. 1998, Sterling Publishing, NY.

Voropay, Oleksa. The Folk Customs of Our People. Translated by Luba Petrusha. 1958, Voropai., Luba Petrusha., Ann Morash.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mongolian Haberdashery, Take 1

As you'll have seen, my SCA persona's life is complicated. The poor dear started as an unassuming Welsh merchant's daughter, and ended up traveling the world with her father and then kidnapped by a Mongolian mercenary.
As such, she has had to adapt her fashion sense to match her husband's culture at times, which, for a European, is a reach.

Now, I think most of us SCAdians with significant others of a different culture or time period don't really care, and just go about their business wearing their usual clothes.
However, when we won crown tourney a few years ago, we decided that because of the lack of non-European royalty out there, we would do a Mongolian reign.

At the time we won, I had all of two dels to my name, one of which was inaccurate, neither of which were particularly spiffy, and no hats. Now, even modern Mongols like their hats. So clearly this had to change.

Furthermore, the crowns of our kingdom are on the large side compared to my head, and therefore needed padding. In addition to many spiffy dels, some of which we made and some of which dear friends of ours made for us, I made myself two different padded silk bands based on extant Mongolian beaded headdresses. Both had beadwork along the front, and with the addition of a pair of silver hangers made by a wonderful local metalsmith, I can hang any of my long dangly beadwork from them. I love the versatility, because I can wear different colored beads with different colored outfits, and I don't have to have forty-seven headdresses to match. Examples of these can be found in my post about Mongolian headdresses.

I decided to make a boqtaq, which is the proper hat for a Mongolian noblewoman in the 13th century, and the hat that all Mongolian khatuns (empresses) wore. I wanted this to work with my versatile padded headdresses, as well as the crowns, and to be relatively neutral in color so as to be wearable with pretty much anything I had.

Several people have since asked me about how I made my boqtaq, and I have decided to put together a class on it. However, one of my A&S50 goals is also to make a period version with actual birchbark, so I am splitting this into two posts, one about the hat I currently have, and one about boqtaqs in period and the boqtaq I intend to make.

Like Wearing a Boot on Your Head: The Mongolian Boqtaq

Part 1: The First Attempt

Like many cultures in the middle ages, the Mongols had a lot of spiffy headgear. My first introduction to this was seeing Viscountess  Aramantha the Vicious of Northshield wearing her hair in the traditional wing shapes  adorned with silver and beadwork at a long ago Pennsic.
Sadly, that one is probably a more modern hairstyle, and so out of period (I still think it’s fantastic, though). This led me to investigate the more provably period headgear of the Mongols.

The most commonly seen royal headgear is the Boqtaq hat.
In period, the Boqtaq was made from birch bark, which in the northern regions of Mongolia and in Russia is fairly common. It was shaped from bark and then covered with silk and beaded.

The first time I saw the Boqtaq, it was in an image of Chabi, the wife of Kublai Khan. There are several other pictures, both of Chabi and of other Mongolian noblewomen, and I will admit I have yet to see a boqtaq that isn’t bright red, so I have obviously deviated from tradition with my gold one.

Since the few extant boqtaqs are basically flat remains, and in pretty rough shape, and I am not a real scholar, I based mine entirely off of the pictures I saw, and basically guessed.

Having no birchbark easily accessible to me without a lot of hassle, I investigated the possibilities through haberdashery supply stores.
What I found that made the most sense to me, both structurally and financially, was a fabric woven of straw, called Sinamay. I believe it may have some sizing in it already, but the instructions I saw for using it involved getting it wet, shaping it, drying it, and then spraying it with fixative.
I didn’t end up doing any of that. It is possible that those techniques would work better for some people with more haberdashery experience .

I believe that Chabi’s boqtaq is made in the following components:
The actual hat: tall, wider on top with flaps hanging off the sides, beaded.
The chin wrap: black, possibly made of two pieces? I think the two ribbons hanging down at the sides might be part of this. It clearly is going over her head and around her chin, though, and there is a lot of beadwork on it and hanging off it. I don’t know if the hat is permanently or temporarily attached to this.
The coronet: the red piece of fabric that appears to sit on top of the chin wrap, maybe weighting it down.
Beadwork: appears to anchor the hat to the coronet portion, probably eliminating the problem of the hat angling backwards instead of being straight up. Looking at some of the pictures of other khatuns, I think the piece at the front is a metal piece with pearls inlaid, because where the pearls hang down on either side of her face and on top of her hat, there is no background shown, but on the front triangular piece, there is clearly a gold background. I would guess this has some sort of attachment on the back of it (a loop or a hook or something) to sew or hook it onto the hat portion.

from the Art Institute of Chicago
19th century Mongolian women (through some modern day women) wear elaborate caps made of strips of silk or leather with lots of beads embroidered on, and lots more beads hanging down from them. They appear to be the base for all of the hanging stuff.

This was what I used for my coronet padding hats, and all of my beads attach to them.
I didn’t want the boqtaq to be heavy, but I did want it detachable from my padding hats, so I could use it with any of them. 

I changed the shape a bit at the base to make that more possible (I think I would do this a bit differently in the future).
I made it out of four sides (it looks to me like it has a square profile from above), thinner in the middle than the top or bottom.
The first time I made it I sewed three of the sides together, folded them so that the seams were inside, and then whip stitched the last piece on. The downside to this was that when I wore it, all the raw edges poked my head. I fixed this by putting a piece of fabric on the underside of the hat, but on the next one I bound the edges with grosgrain ribbon instead.
The fabric covering was the same shape, only wider to allow for seams. I used dupioni silk because I had it around, but in period, it probably would have been similar to habotai (so no slubs). Again, I sewed three sides together, turned and pressed, made sure it fit the form, and then added the last piece from the right side.

For both the form and the fabric, I placed the bottom edge against the selvedge so that I didn’t have to hem it. I did overcast stitch the fabric to the form along the bottom and top edges, though.
I then stuffed the hat with quilt batting for extra support.
The last bits were the ties and the top flap.
I cut a square of fabric twice the width of the top of the hat, folded it in two and sewed it together. After turning and finishing the seam, I attached it to the top of the hat so that it overlapped evenly on the sides (those bits will hang down like the flaps on Chabi’s hat). I did not sew the flaps down, which might have been a mistake, seeing the fun it has during high winds. I probably will tack them down in the future.
It appears as though feathers on the top were an option, or possibly a later addition or an indication of rank, but I really liked them, so I put peacock feathers on mine.

Then I sewed the pearls on the front. For future reference, I recommend beading the front panel of fabric BEFORE assembling the hat, because it’s a pain to sew them on after.
Chabi appears to have some beads dangling from the top of her hat. I did put a jump ring up there so that I could add one of my bead danglies, but I’ve only done it once since the hat is so light it kind of overbalanced it. Bark might be stiff enough to work better.
Finally I made a 1” ribbon of the silk, and sewed the middle of it about midway through the bottom of the hat. I use this to add anchor points for pinning the hat on, and because Chabi’s hat has some ribbony things dangling at the sides.

The way I attach it is this:
I put on the padded hat, sit the boqtaq on top, put a pin through the front of the boqtaq, through the top of the padded hat (or my hair, whichever), put another pin through the back and through the hat/hair, and then pin the ribbons on each side. The ribbons are tied together in the back.
I frequently wear this over a veil, because that does seem to be the thing to do, and it looks good and adds more anchor points. The padded hat goes over the veil to lend stability.
The hat is light enough that I can wear it all day with no problems except its tendency to hit things if I lean back.

Future improvements:

  • make the whole set up, to be permanently attached, beads included, therefore allowing for the hat to be shaped properly on the bottom
  • Use red habotai silk instead of gold dupioni.
  • Bead first, then assemble.
  • Either bind the seams with grosgrain ribbon, or make the hat properly out of bark.
  • I’d like to fix the problem where it sits at a 45 degree angle instead of straight up. This might be due to the shape of the base.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Intro to the Society for Creative Anachronism

The A&S50 Challenge is through the Society for Creative Anachronism, which, if you've gotten here randomly, is an international, not for profit, educational organization for medieval history enthusiasts who enjoy experimental archaeology (learning what people did and why they did it in history by experiencing it first hand). It is its own society, and, having been around for nearly 50 years, has its own culture and customs. I've been in the SCA for about 15-17 years (depending on how you count).

My first "real job" in the SCA was Chatelaine (recruitment officer). Our local Chatelaine at the time asked me to be her deputy, and I said okay, not realizing at first that this meant I was her de facto successor.

One of the first classes I took at my first event, UWEKAT (University of the Western East Kingdom At Thescorre, now known as The College of Three Ravens), was a newcomer class about persona-building. Therefore it seemed only natural that the first class I ever taught in the SCA was also a newcomer class.
It can be really hard to engage newcomers at an event, because frequently they're nervous and don't ask questions (I didn't, either). However, I've been working over the years on developing literature and a class outline that tries to give all the pertinent info without overwhelming the people, and this is where it has led so far (this is an outline of my class, not the handout)

Intro to the SCA

I start by asking questions:
  • How many of you are at your first event?
  • If you're not new to the SCA, are you new to the area or returning from a hiatus? Where and when have you played before? (This so that I can tailor the class a bit to the attendees)
  • What are you interested in?
What is the SCA?

What it isn't:
  • Medieval Fight Club
  • Reenactment
  • A Renaissance Faire
  • Shakespearean Drama (most of the time :))

How do you answer the dreaded question: Why are you dressed like that?
  • Medieval Recreation: re-creation, as in, we are creating our own version of a medieval society.
  • Frequently used descriptions and tag lines: As It Should Have Been, Living the Dream
  • Experimental Archeology
  • I'm going to Pennsylvania (great for people who clearly are just staring, and not interested)
1066 Reenactment
 I've thought at lot about the difference between Reenactors, SCA, and Renaissance Faire Players, and my conclusion is that this interest in participating in the Medieval Era is a spectrum. At one end, the Historically Accurate end, you have Reenactors. They are super-accurate, they re-enact specific events in specific places. Technically, medieval reenactors can't exist in America because America didn't exist to the people of Europe until the late 15th century, usually considered as out of period.

While I love the idea of reenacting because it comes closest to really being able to experience the world of that time and place, it can be very exclusive, and that tends to turn me off. I was turned off of reenacting when I was a kid doing American Revolution, because of the nitpicky and cliquish nature of it. One reason I love the SCA is that it is unacceptable to exclude someone because they don't fit your standard of "period". We have our garb-snobs and our period-snobs, but largely, if people don't think your garb or kit is up to their standard, they will try to help you improve it rather than snub you.

by Clinton and Charles Robertson
At the other end of the spectrum, the Entertainment end, you have the Renaissance Faires. They exist to entertain the masses, not to educate about or to experience the period. Therefore, within a Ren Faire you might have dragons and evil witches, and you might have questionable "jousting" performances, and probably have turkey legs. Plenty of Ren Faire Players love the historical period, know a lot about it, and are excellent at what they do, but the point is not accuracy, but entertainment. As a result, a lot of people who love the history are turned off by attending Faires because the mistakes/misinformation are glaringly obvious. It all depends on how well you deal with separating historical accuracy from having a good time in your head (like watching a historical drama or book adaptation with major accuracy issues).

by Jonathunder
The SCA, to me, falls smack in the middle. There are a lot of historically educated people who try very hard to portray an accurate persona of a specific time and place. There are a lot of people who enjoy entertaining and teaching. There are also people who go have fun and don't care at all about accuracy. The SCA is a society based on the Medieval Era in Europe, loosely based around CE500-1500, and comprising cultures in Europe and those who would logically have had contact with the European courts of the time. In reality, we have Romans and Cavaliers, Japanese, North African, Indian, and Native American. We're, by and large, a pretty tolerant group.

There is a ton of crossover in these three areas, because we all love the time period. I tend to describe the SCA as being about participation rather than entertainment, and about inclusion rather than exclusion.

Where do you start?

Well, technically the first thing I tell any newbie is to start by attending a meeting or a practice, and then go to an event.
Meetings and practices usually occur throughout the week, do not require fancy clothing, and are open to the public and free.
Events happen on weekends, or occasionally through multiple weeks (wars), are usually pay-to-play, and require some attempt at medievalesque clothing.

However, this is a class taught at an event, so by definition, they've done at least one of those things already.

Who do you want to be?

Your Persona is the backstory, name, and culture you choose.

We are not actors, and so most people do not speak as their persona in everyday conversation at an event. Some do, and I understand that in the early Society, most did. That (speaking "forsoothly) seems to have faded away. Most of us even talk about modern things at events, unless we're in court. It might be nice to try to avoid this trend, but it is very difficult as our lives become more technology-dependent, and since so many of us self-identify as geeks or nerds.
 In Court, a lot more of us speak as our persona, even though we may not use period-style language.

Different levels of persona
  • just a name, could even be yours, if yours is medieval (ex. Jane or Katherine, Thomas or Michael)
  • persona name, place, and time, and dress like your persona for some percentage of the time
  • full on backstory and constantly dressing like your persona
  • multiple personas to explain your different garb or different activities (female fighters)
Choose a starting point for your persona. I had a particular attachment to Robin Hood and Wales when I started playing, so I created a Welsh persona who lived in the late 12th century (the most widely accepted time period for a Robin Hood type historical character). I then decided that I wanted to be able to wear Middle Eastern sometimes, or Italian, so I made my father a merchant to explain how I might have come into contact with other cultures and fabrics. Some start with a name, or a style of clothing, or their modern ancestry, or a culture they like.

The rule in the SCA (unofficial) is that if it is possible, it is permissible. For instance, you do meet the odd Japanese Norseman. Okay, so that's highly unlikely. But possible? Technically.

Be sure you are happy with your name and persona, because changing them later on can be difficult or even impossible. You can certainly change your name and persona officially, but getting your friends to remember your name change and use it is another story. If you do make a change, try to do it early. Two of my friends have changed their names within a year of joining the SCA, and it's mostly worked, mainly because they've been very visible post-name-change. They both still have the occasional person say "who's that?" when you say their current name.

Once you have a persona, you can choose to create a Device, a design which represents you. This would go on your stuff, on your shield if you are a fighter, and on a banner, if you process anywhere (Tournaments, Court). You can register this device and your name, with the College of Heralds. You will need to consult a herald first, who knows the rules the SCA uses as a starting point, and who can check to see if anyone else has submitted the same information, and who can submit your information to the College for you. Once your device and name are passed, no one else is allowed to officially use them (or pass them, anyway) without asking you for a letter of consent.

Not everyone chooses to pass either a name or a device, and more people pass names than devices.

History of the SCA

May 1st, 1966, a bunch of history students at Berkeley held a party in a backyard. The theme was medieval, and there was a tournament during which "knights" defended in single combat the title of "Queen of Love and Beauty" for their consort. A more detailed history can be found here.

Word of the party spread, and they decided to do it again, only this time so many people were interested that they had to reserve a park. To reserve the space, they needed an official name for the group, and Marion Zimmer Bradley came up with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Nearly 50 years later, this has expanded into a not-for-profit 501c3 organization that spans the globe and contains over 30,000 paid members, and probably double that in participants.

Important Dates (some just to locals)
  • July1968: the SCA spread to the East Coast with the East Kingdom's formation, and the SCA became a not for profit organization.
  • September 1969: the Midrealm was created
  • 1974: Thescorre (my home barony) became a Shire
  • 1979: the first UWEKAT was held
  • 1989 AEthelmearc became a principality
  • The arms of the Kingdom of AEthelmearc
  • 1997 AEthelmearc became a Kingdom

The SCA is organized by population into 19 kingdoms. Below Kingdom level, there are Principalities, Baronies, and then Shires/Dominions/Colleges/Cantons (all the same level).


Each group has a leadership role, and then several other officer roles. The number of required officers depends on the level (Shires are only required to have a leadership role and a treasurer, but Baronies usually have around six required officers, depending on the kingdom).

King and Queen: Ceremonial heads of a Kingdom, determined two to three times a year through a Crown Tournament. Each Kingdom has its own customs about the timing and regularity of Crown Tournaments. In AEthelmearc, it is twice a year, usually in May and October, and our royalty have between Crown Tournament and Coronation (usually April and September) to be Heirs and learn the job.

Heirs/Crown Prince and Princess: Heirs to the throne of a Kingdom, during the period between Crown Tourney and Coronation. Some kingdoms don't have heirs at all, and some have heirs for a much shorter period of time.

Prince and Princess: Ceremonial heads of a Principality, under the King and Queen and Their Heirs. Also determined through a Coronet Tourney. AEthelmearc has no principalities at present, but was one between 1989 and 1997.

Baron and Baroness: Ceremonial heads of a Barony. Determined by an election, the timing of which is determined in their bylaws. Thescorre's term is 3 years, with the option to run again, and Investitures usually happen at Pax Interruptus in July.

Seneschal: Legal head of a group, present at all levels. The Seneschal handles all the "real work", where in a larger group the ceremonial head runs courts, gives awards, and has the final say (much like the royalty of England and the Prime Minister). The Seneschal is an elected position, and is a lot of work. Kingdom Seneschals, and all Kingdom officers in AEthelmearc, serve 2 year terms, renewable up to 5 years.

Earl Marshal: The officer in charge of martial activities in the Kingdom. Under this position are the Baronial and Shire-level Knight Marshals, and all Marshals-at-large (people who are authorized to be marshals, but are not in charge of activities in a specific group). Marshals test new weapons, inspect armor and weapons for safety and policies, help to determine new martial policies, and keep an eye on martial activities at an event or practice to make sure that all participants are safe. Every area of martial activity in the SCA has its own marshal at every level at which the activity is offered, and within a Kingdom, all report to the Earl Marshal.

Minister of Arts and Sciences: The officer in charge of all art and science related activities in the Kingdom. This position oversees all local arts and sciences officers, and also helps promote the arts and sciences in the Kingdom, runs competitions and displays, frequently oversees College events, and promotes any art and science projects that the royalty request.

Chatelaine: The recruitment and retention officer. The Chatelaine fields all newcomer emails, notes any newcomers at events and seeks them out, is the go-to person for newcomers wishing to attend an event who might need loaner garb and dishes, and runs any demonstrations, whether educational or recruitment, in the community. Sometimes the Chatelaine keeps the Gold Key (loaner gear), and sometimes there is a separate Gold Key officer who works with the Chatelaine.

Herald: The voice of the ceremonial leadership and the identification officer. Heralds keep the court and precedence (who has what awards) records for the group, make announcements, help people do research into names, personae, and devices, and then help people submit them for registry, and run court for the local ceremonial leadership.

Chamberlain: The storage officer. Keeps track of the regalia and equipment owned by the group, and lends it out as needed. Frequently also organizes repairs and notes regalia needs.

Exchequer: The finance officer. Just like any other group, SCAdian groups need treasurers.

Chirurgeon: A medieval term for doctor, this officer has First Aid and/or EMT training, and there must be one present and "in charge" at any event.

Chronicler: The publication officer. The Chronicler office usually handles web and print publications, but in some groups this covers the Historian as well, and in some groups this also covers the Webminister. Sometimes these three roles are separate offices.


The SCA has been around for a long time, and therefore has its own culture, customs, and language, to a point. There may be a lot of words you don’t understand when spoken in an SCA context.

SCA: Society for Creative Anachronism.

SCAdian: (SKAY-dee-in), someone who plays in the SCA.

Gentle: since everyone in the SCA starts out life as a middle-class citizen, we are all known as Gentles. Proper address if you don’t know someone’s rank is “milord” or “milady”.

Ano Societatus: Year of the Society. The SCA counts its birth from May 1st 1966. It is currently A.S. 48.

Period: Pre 17th century Europe (loosely). If someone says something “isn’t period”, they probably mean it’s modern (plastic, zippers, Velcro, nacho cheese).

Persona: the person you portray in the Society. Usually encompasses a name, general time period/place, sometimes a back story.

Device: a design representing something, usually a person, place, or office. Tells you who people are from a distance, their affiliations, and their belongings.

Mundane: Modern, non-SCA, real-life.

Garb: medieval-style clothing, required for events. You can borrow this from Gold Key at first, then either make it yourself, buy it, or find someone to trade with to make it for you.

Feast Gear: medieval-style dishes/cups/flatware for the meals at events. Again, this is available to borrow from Gold Key at first, but also easily acquired.

Autocrat: the person running an event. The suffix “ocrat” is frequently added to whatever is needed. For instance, Feastocrat is the head cook.

Board: Food.
Dayboard is the lunch, usually (but not always) included in the Site Fee at Troll. Not all events have lunches.
Not all events have feasts, and when they do they are usually a separate cost.
On-Board means you are eating the provided feast at the provided tables for it.
Off-board means paying a reduced price to eat your own food at the tables provided for the feast.
Out-board means leaving site to eat, and coming back afterwards.

Troll: Gate or table where you pay for the event. A SCAdianism. Also Tollner.

Hold!: If you hear this yelled, freeze and pay attention. It usually means there is some kind of hazard, and you should assess the situation before continuing. If this is called during a battle, do not move until told you may.

Oyez!: (OH-yay) This means “listen” in medieval French. Usually it means there’s an announcement. The polite thing to do if you hear it is to stop your conversation, or lower your voice at least, and listen to the announcement.

Heavy Weapons: Rattan weapons requiring armor are usually known as “heavy” weapons, and their wielders are Heavy Fighters. Rapier is sometimes known as “light” but not commonly.

Tourney/Tournament: SCA fighting or fencing competition. Usually this is one-on-one fighting, but there are many ways to set it up.

Lists/List Field: the area in which tournaments are held. Usually marked off with ropes. Don’t venture onto a list field unless you are in armor, a marshal, or there is absolutely no fighting happening at present, otherwise you may be the target of a Hold.

Melee: Any organized fighting with more than two fighters.

Authorization: refers to fighting or fencing. In order to participate in SCA contact martial arts at events, you need to prove to the marshals in charge that you are able to attack, defend, know the rules, “die defensively”, and generally be safe.

Household: a voluntary association of friends or people who share a common interest. Households are not recognized as official under the SCA’s rules, but they are definitely part of the SCA culture. No one is required to join a household. 

Schtick: Usually silly staged occurrence, most often seen during court or other gatherings. One example would be the local pirate household coming into court to announce their defeat of the pirate household from across the lake and presenting booty. Another would be calling an order candidate into court by accusing them of something, and presenting them with a lawsuit as a way of surprising them with their induction into said order.

What happens at an event?
  •  Set Up: Normally the evening before the event, but sometimes early in the morning of the event. If you are local, and you hear that an event is happening, it is encouraged that you go early and help set up. You meet new people, you develop camaraderie, and people remember and appreciate you afterwards.
  •  Whatever the point of the event is: could be a "war practice", in which case, fighting/fencing/other martial activities. Could be a "college", in which case, classes. Could be a cooking symposium, in which case, cooking and cooking classes. This should be clear from the event announcement. This class is taught at colleges and academies, and potentially at wars.
  • Court: The ceremonial head of the group will hold a court near the end of the day to recognize members of the group for their contributions to the society, to thank those who put the event together, and if there was a competition, to recognize the winner(s). Schtick may occur.
  • Feast: most events have this, some do not. Check the event announcement. A Feast is most often the evening meal, and is usually a strong attempt at medieval food. Feasts are usually a separate cost, and therefore, optional. Any present ceremonial heads will sit at the Head Table, and are usually served separately. Etiquette at most feasts is to send one member of your table to bring the food from the kitchen, pass the dishes around the table, and then send someone else to bring the empty dishes back and retrieve the next course. Feasts are nearly always at least 3 courses. Plan accordingly.
  • Dancing: some groups always have dancing after the feast, others never do, and some plan it but everyone goes home before it happens. 
  • Clean up: it is encouraged to help clean up the event if you didn't help set it up (or even if you did). The event staff are exhausted by the end of the day, and usually the SCA's reputation is to leave an event site as clean or cleaner than we found it.
 What is going on in Court?

As mentioned, Court is mostly about schtick and awards. Sometimes there are important announcements as well. If you're not local to Thescorre and/or AEthelmearc, most of these awards will not apply to you. Every group has its own awards (Baronies, Principalities, and Kingdoms).

Polling Order: a group of people who have been given the same award, who then get together (online or in person) to discuss those members of their local groups who might be candidates for the same order. They may give advice and or recommendations to the royalty, and usually take a polling a few times a year on the different candidates identified. The royalty have the final say, but in a large kingdom, they may rely on the order's advice if they don't know the candidates personally. When a candidate is inducted into a polling order, usually any members of the order present will be called into court to greet them.

Order of the Raven’s Feather: Service to the Barony of Thescorre (polling order).
Order of the Broche: Arts and Sciences participation in Thescorre (polling order).

Order of the Talon: Fighting participation in Thescorre (polling order).

Raven’s Egg: Service to the Baron and Baroness of Thescorre specifically. Token is a ball of some sort on a ribbon. Each Baron/Baroness makes up his/her own, so they are different.

BoB: Service to the Barony of Thescorre by a Non-Thescorrean

Society Wide:

Award of Arms: participation in the SCA, confers title of Lord or Lady. A Lord or Lady may wear a metal circlet.

Order of the White Scarf: Fencing prowess (In most, but not all kingdoms.) Polling order. Technically not a peerage, but regarded as one by most fencers. Confers title of Don or Dona, and the regalia is a White Scarf tied around the upper left arm or shoulder. A Don or Dona may take students (cadets), who wear a blue scarf similarly.

Baronnage: This is a confusing one, because obviously, the Baron and Baroness of a Barony have a Baronnage. However, once they step down, they may be granted a Baronnage in perpetuity by the royalty, and the royalty may grant a Baronnage to anyone they feel is deserving, usually through exceptional service to the Crown. This is NOT a polling order. It confers the title of Baron or Baroness (Your Excellency), and the regalia is a coronet with six points ending in pearls.

Viscounty: Usually given to a Prince or Princess of a Principality when he or she steps down from his or her first reign. Confers the title of Viscount or Viscountess (Your Excellency), and the regalia is a coronet (undefined, but it shouldn't look like a county, duchy, or barony coronet. In some Kingdoms, 12 pearls represents a Viscount vs. 6 as a Baron).

Peerages: all peerages are polling orders, and each order is kingdom wide, not society wide.

Order of the Pelican: Extreme service, usually to one’s group and/or kingdom. Confers the title of Master or Mistress, and the regalia is a token of a pelican in its piety, a cloak with a pelican in its piety, and a cap of maintenance (frequently a fuzzy hat). A Master or Mistress of the Pelican may take students (protégées), who wear yellow belts.
Order of the Laurel: Extreme devotion to the Arts and Sciences. Confers the
title of Master or Mistress, and the regalia is a crown of laurel leaves and a cloak with a wreath of laurels on it. A Master or Mistress of the Laurel may take students (apprentices), who wear green belts.

Order of the Chivalry: Extreme martial prowess (includes only heavy weapons fighters who participate in both melee and tournament combat). Confers the title of Knight or Dame (female knights may choose), or Master at Arms (Sir, Master or Mistress), and the regalia is a white belt (baldric for a Master at Arms), spurs, and a gold chain. Knights may take students (squires), who wear red belts (and sometimes silver chains).

County: Usually given to a King or Queen once he or she steps down from his or her first reign. However, it is a polling order, and thus is not ALWAYS given. Confers the title of Count or Countess (Your Excellency), and the regalia is a coronet of crenellations (like a castle).
Duchy: Usually given to a King or Queen after his/her second reign. Again, a polling order, and thus not ALWAYS given. Confers the title of Duke or Duchess (Your Grace), and the regalia is a coronet of strawberry leaves (sometimes combined with the crenellations of the county coronet).

What if I get called into court?
by Rob Westfall

  •  Chances are, if this is your first event, you are being called into court to recognize your presence (all people at their first event), or for some service you have done (helping someone in the kitchen, perhaps). 
  • Leave any weapons behind at your seat. Advance up the aisle. If you are female, chances are one of the guards will be waiting to escort you: let them. Your significant other, should you have one, may also escort you.
  • If there are multiple heads of state up there (a Kingdom event in a Barony, for instance), make sure you remember who called you forward. It might have been the Baron and Baroness, or the King and Queen. 
  • When you reach the front, bow to each set in order of precedence: King and Queen first, Prince and Princess second, Baron and Baroness third. Approach whomever called you, and kneel on the provided pillow, or in front of them. If you have mobility issues that make it difficult to kneel or to rise afterwards, quietly and politely ask to be allowed to stand. They will understand, and would rather have you stand uninjured, than have you kneel and either hurt yourself or be stuck there forever. ;)
  • Listen, be polite, don't freak out too much. They are important in our context, but they are also just ordinary people like you. 
  • When people either clap or vivat, stand, bow again (same order), turn and return to your seat. 
  • If you are excited about playing your persona, go ahead. Most times, royalty enjoy the entertainment value. Usually this involves making your obeisance specific to a particular culture, but it can take many forms, as long as it is respectful.

At the end of the class, I give names of local contacts to anyone who has expressed an interest in a particular area. I also field any questions both through the class and afterwards.