The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century. A quip often used within the SCA describes it as a group devoted to the Middle Ages "as they ought to have been", choosing to "selectively recreate the culture, choosing elements of the culture that interest and attract us". Founded in 1966, the society had about 32,000 members as of 2008.
The SCA's roots can be traced to a backyard graduation party of a UC Berkeley medieval studies graduate, the author Diana Paxson, in Berkeley, California, on May Day in 1966. The party began with a "Grand Tournament" in which the participants wore motorcycle helmets, fencing masks, and usually some semblance of a costume, and whacked away at each other with weapons including plywood swords, padded maces, and even a fencing foil. It ended with a parade down Telegraph Avenue with everyone singing "Greensleeves". It was styled as a "protest against the 20th century". The SCA still measures dates within the society from the date of that party, calling the system Anno Societatis (Latin for "in the Year of the Society"). For example, 2009 May 1 to 2010 April 30 is A.S. XLIV (44). The name "Society for Creative Anachronism" was coined by science fiction author Marion Zimmer Bradley, an early participant, when the nascent group needed an official name in order to reserve a park for a tournament.
In 1968, Bradley moved to Staten Island, New York and founded the Kingdom of the East, holding a tournament that summer to determine the first Eastern King of the SCA. That September, a tournament was held at the World Science Fiction Convention, which was in Berkeley that year. The SCA had produced a book for the convention called A Handbook for the Current Middle Ages, which was a how-to book for people wanting to start their own SCA chapters. Convention goers purchased the book and the idea spread. Soon, other local chapters began to form. In October 1968, the SCA was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in California. By the end of 1969, the SCA's three original kingdoms had been established: West, East, and Middle. All SCA kingdoms trace their roots to these original three. The number of SCA kingdoms has continued to grow by the expansion and division of existing kingdoms; for example, the Outlands, Artemisia, Ansteorra, Gleann Abhann, Meridies, and Trimaris all originally belonged to the fourth kingdom, Atenveldt, which began as a branch of the West.
The SCA is divided into administrative regions which it calls kingdoms. Smaller branches within those kingdoms include Principalities, Regions, Baronies, and Provinces, and local chapters are known as Cantons, Ridings, Shires, Colleges, Strongholds, and Ports. Kingdoms, Principalities, and Baronies have ceremonial rulers who preside over activities and issue awards to individuals and groups. Colleges, Strongholds, and Ports are local chapters (like a shire) that are associated with an institution, such as a school, military base, or even a military ship at sea.
All SCA branches are organized in descending order as follows:
- Kingdom: area ruled by a King and Queen (typically covering several U.S. states or Canadian provinces, and can be as large as countries or collections of countries). Minimum members required 400.
- Principality: area within a kingdom ruled by Prince and Princess (large area sometimes comprising entire states). Minimum members required 100.
- Region: equivalent of principality without ceremonial representative
- Barony: area administered by a Baron and/or Baroness, the ceremonial representative(s) of the Crown (small chapter typically occurring in an urban area). Minimum members required 25.
- Canton: local branch reporting through a barony (local chapter, which may be on the way to becoming a shire)
- Province: equivalent of barony without ceremonial representative
- Riding: local branch reporting through a province
- Shire: local branch reporting directly to a kingdom or principality (local chapter typically occurring in rural areas). Minimum members required 5.
- College: institutional branch based at a school, research facility, etc. (may be a part of a larger local group or report directly to a principality or kingdom)
- Stronghold: institutional branch based at a military installation (may be a part of a larger local group or report directly to a principality or kingdom)
- Port: institutional branch based at a military installation in situations where groups of members will be detached for long periods, as with ships at sea (may be a part of a larger local group or report directly to a principality or kingdom)
- Barony: area administered by a Baron and/or Baroness, the ceremonial representative(s) of the Crown (small chapter typically occurring in an urban area). Minimum members required 25.
Groups are active all over the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, with scattered groups elsewhere, including the Panama Canal Zone. At one time there was even a group on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, known as the "Shire of Curragh Mor" (anglicized rish for "Big Boat"), and the shire's arms played on the Nimitz's ship's badge. There is also an active chapter in South Korea, the Stronghold of Warrior's Gate, with a mix of active duty military personnel from the several services and military-connected civilians. There are also local and regional sub-groups, usually called "households", which are not part of the Society's formal organization, the largest of which is the Mongol Empire-themed Great Dark Horde.
Corporate organization Edit
The SCA is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in California, with its current headquarters in the city of Milpitas. It is headed by a board of directors, each of which is nominated by the membership of the SCA, selected by sitting directors, and elected to serve for 3.5 years. Each director serves as an ombudsman for various kingdoms and society officers. The BoD, as it is called, is responsible for handling the corporate affairs of the SCA and is also in charge of certain disciplinary actions, such as revoking the membership status of participants who have broken Corpora regulations or modern law while participating in SCA activities. Because the SCA now has groups all over the world, it has also been incorporated in other countries, e.g. SCAA in Australia and SCANZ in New Zealand. These affiliated bodies work with the US board of directors with regards to 'in game' issues, but make all decisions affected by local law independently of the US parent body. Although they agree to work in unity with the US SCA board of directors, they are autonomous and are not bound by any ruling of the US body.
The nineteen SCA Kingdoms are (in order of founding):
- The West Kingdom was created when the Society originated in 1966. It currently includes Northern California, most of Nevada, and Alaska, as well as Japan, Korea, and the Pacific Rim (excluding Australia and New Zealand).
- The Kingdom of the East was created in 1968. In the United States it covers eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. In Canada, it covers Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.
- The Middle Kingdom was created in 1969. Its current borders include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, lower Michigan, and parts of Kentucky, Iowa and Ontario.
- The Kingdom of Atenveldt was created in 1971. It originally encompassed all the lands between the West, East, and Middle Kingdoms, and now consists of the state of Arizona, along with small parts of Utah and California.
- The Kingdom of Meridies was created in 1978 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt. Its borders currently encompass the entirety of Alabama; almost all of Georgia; all of Middle and East Tennessee, plus a substantial portion of West Tennessee; a bit of the panhandle of Florida; and small portions of both Kentucky and Virginia.
- The Kingdom of Caid was created in 1978 from the Kingdom of the West. It currently encompasses Southern California, the Las Vegas metropolitan area, and Hawaii.
- The Kingdom of Ansteorra was created in 1979 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt. Ansteorra covers Oklahoma and most of Texas as well as the International Space Station.
- The Kingdom of Atlantia was created in 1981 from the Kingdom of the East. Its borders cover Maryland, most of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, as well as Augusta, Georgia.
- The Kingdom of An Tir was created in 1982 from the Kingdom of the West. It encompasses the US states of Oregon, Washington, and the northern tips of Idaho, and in Canada it covers British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.
- The Kingdom of Calontir was created in 1984 from the Kingdom of the Middle. It covers Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and the 727xx Zip Code area around Fayetteville, Arkansas.
- The Kingdom of Trimaris was created in 1985. It was split from the Kingdom of Meridies and is composed of the majority of Florida, as well as Panama, and falsely but humorously, Antarctica (although see Lochac, below). Also, as a triskele (the Trimaris symbol) was sent into space on a shuttle, Trimaris claims space.
- The Kingdom of the Outlands was created in 1986 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt. It encompasses New Mexico, most of Colorado, parts of Wyoming, the panhandle of Nebraska, as well as El Paso County and Hudspeth County of Texas.
- The Kingdom of Drachenwald was created in 1993 from the Kingdom of the East. It is by far the largest kingdom in terms of land area, but not in population. It covers all of Europe (including islands), Africa, and the Middle East. In a humorous twist, it achieved its independence on the Fourth of July.
- The Kingdom of Artemisia was created in 1997 from the Kingdom of Atenveldt. It currently covers Montana, southern Idaho, most of Utah, northwestern Colorado, and southwestern Wyoming.
- The Kingdom of Æthelmearc was created in 1997 from the Kingdom of the East. It covers northeastern/central/western Pennsylvania, central/western New York, and West Virginia.
- The Kingdom of Ealdormere was created in 1998 from the Kingdom of the Middle. It comprises most of the Canadian province of Ontario.
- The Kingdom of Lochac was created in 2002 from the Kingdom of the West (Australia) and the Kingdom of Caid (New Zealand). It encompasses the entirety of Australia and New Zealand, and was granted prior title by the Board of the Society to the Australian administered parts of Antarctica, in contradiction of the later claim put forward by the Kingdom of Trimaris.
- The Kingdom of Northshield was created in 2004 from the Kingdom of the Middle. It covers North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. It also extends into Canada, encompassing Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.
- The Kingdom of Gleann Abhann was created in 2005 from the Kingdom of Meridies. It covers Mississippi, Louisiana, most of Arkansas, and the western edge of Tennessee including the Memphis area.
The Society as a whole, each kingdom, and each local group within a kingdom, all have a standard group of officers with titles loosely based on medieval equivalents.
- Seneschal: The seneschal acts as the administrative head of the group. Every local group is required to have a seneschal who reports to the kingdom's seneschal.
- Reeve: The treasurer, also known as the Chancellor of the Exchequer (from the British office), handles the financial matters of the group. Every local group is required to have one. The Society Chancellor of the Exchequer, who administrates the kingdom and local reeves, reports to the Society Treasurer who handles the corporate finances.
- Knight Marshal: The combat supervisor, the knight marshal administrates Armored Combat (rattan and armor) activities for the group. A local group is required to have one in order to host combat activities.
- Minister of Arts and Sciences: Sometimes split into two offices, one for arts and one for sciences, this office coordinates arts and sciences activities for the group, arranging classes and demonstrations, and leading participants to others who work in fields of their interest.
- Herald: This officer is in charge of heraldic activities, such as the creation and registration of names and arms. Each kingdom has a College of Heralds which prepares submissions to go to the Society College of Arms, headed by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms.
- Hospitaller or Chatelaine: In charge of welcoming and facilitating new participants into the SCA including recruiting, onboarding, and transitioning members from other branches.
- Chirurgeon: In charge of safety and modern first aid. This officer usually has some form of medical training outside the Society with the minimum being Basic First Aid and CPR. Persons serving as Chirurgeons work under the "Good Samaritan" principal providing only first aid and either calling for Emergency Medical Services, or advising sick or injured persons to seek medical care on their own if they have injuries or illnesses that are beyond the scope of First Aid to treat. At some large events, licensed Physicians who are also members of the SCA provide medical care on site. At events such as Pennsic and Estrella Wars, EMS personnel stand by on site for the duration of the event. For more information and to view the Chirurgeon's Handbook please go to http://www.sca.org/ or http://www.chirurgeon.org.
- Rapier Marshal: Supervises rapier (fencing) activities for the group.
- Constable: In charge of maintaining and tracking liability waivers for events and combat activities.
- Chronicler: Produces and edits the group's newsletter. The Society Chronicler monitors each of the kingdom and local group's chroniclers, while the SCA's two organization-wide publications, Tournaments Illuminated and The Compleat Anachronist, each have their own editor-in-chief.
- Minister of Children: Arranging and officiating children's activities. Sometimes known as Minister of Youth.
- Historian: Recording the history of the group, from the local to the Society level.
- Webminister: Derived from webmaster, this officer is in charge of maintaining the Internet presence of the group.
Culture of the group Edit
Members of the SCA study and take part in a variety of activities, including combat and chivalry, archery, heraldry, equestrian activities, costuming, cooking, metalwork, woodworking, music, dance, calligraphy, fiber arts, and others as practiced during the member's time period.
To aid historical recreation, participants in the SCA create historically plausible characters known individually as a persona. To new members, a persona can simply be a costume and a name used for weekend events, while other members may study and create an elaborate personal history. The goal of a well crafted persona is a historically accurate person who might have lived in a particular historical time and place. The SCA has onomastic students who try to assist members in creating a persona name which could have existed in a particular time and place within the SCA's studied period. However, claiming to be a specific historical individual, especially a very familiar one (e.g. Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Henry Plantagenet, Queen Elizabeth I), is not permitted. Likewise, one is not allowed to claim the persona of a fellow SCA member, alive or dead. Nor is one allowed to take on the persona of a sufficiently familiar fictional character (e.g. Robin of Locksley/Robin Hood).
A major dimension to the SCA is its internal system of Heraldry. Any member of the society may apply to register Arms for their persona, which are checked by the heralds for uniqueness and period authenticity, before being blazoned and recorded in the society's Armorial. The system has evolved since the formation of the society; and now has three Sovereigns of Arms, with Pursuivants for each Kingdom.
The SCA has ceremonial rulers chosen by winning tournaments (Kings/Queens, Princes/Princesses) in SCA Heavy Combat. Barons and Baronesses are appointed by Royalty, although some baronies hold elections or competitions to choose their preferred Baron and/or Baroness. One of the primary functions of state for reigning monarchs is to recognize participant achievement through awards. Most awards denote excellence in a specific pursuit such as local service, arts and sciences, and combat. Some awards change the precedence and title of the recipient, giving him or her the privilege of being known as "Lord"/"Lady", "Baron", "Duchess", "Master", and so forth. High level awards are often given with the consultation of the other people who have received the award, such as peerages and consulting orders.
Rule by right of arms Edit
Each SCA kingdom is "ruled" by a king and queen chosen by winning a Crown Tournament in armored combat. Corpora require this to be held as a "properly constituted armored combat" tournament. The winner of the Crown Tournament and his/her Consort are styled "Crown Prince and Princess" and serve an advisory period (three to six months, depending upon the scheduling of the Crown Tournament) under the current King and Queen prior to acceding to the throne and ruling in their turn.
Peerage orders Edit
The highest ranking titles in the SCA belong to the royalty, followed by the former royalty. Former kings and queens become counts and countesses (dukes and duchesses if they have reigned more than once), and former princes and princesses of Principalities become viscounts and viscountesses. This system is not historically based, but was developed out of practical necessity early in the Society's history.
Directly beneath this "landed" nobility (current and former royalty) rank the highest awards, the Peerages. The SCA has three orders of peerage: the Order of Chivalry, awarded for skill at arms; the Order of the Laurel, awarded for skill in the arts and sciences; and the Order of the Pelican, awarded for outstanding service to the Society.
In May, 1999, The Onion ran a front-page article headlined "Society For Creative Anachronism Seizes Control Of Russia" featuring photos of actual SCA participants from the Madison, Wisconsin Barony of Jaravellir.
Members of the SCA are given pivotal roles in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series; where their skills in pre-industrial technology and warfare become invaluable in helping humanity adapt when all modern technology (including firearms) ceases working.
In his conclusion to the Space Odyssey series, 3001: The Final Odyssey; Arthur C. Clarke portrays the SCA as still being active in the year 3001.
The novel Murder at the War (Knightfall in paperback edition) is a detective story concerning a murder that takes place at the SCA's largest annual event, Pennsic War. The story takes place entirely at Pennsic.
In the David Weber science fiction novel Honor Among Enemies, main character Honor Harrington mentions that her uncle is a member of the SCA and that he taught her to shoot from the hip (the time the SCA covers having been moved up to the 19th century in the future era in which the novel is set, to include cowboy and Civil War reenactors).
In Christopher Stasheff's "Warlock" Series the inhabitants of the planet Gramarye are revealed to be descended from SCA participants.
In Ariel, a 1983 post-apocalyptic fantasy by Steven R. Boyett, technology suddenly stops working and sorcery and swordfight take over. Several characters who are former SCA members attribute their survival to their SCA experience, though there are indications Boyett is lampooning the organization.
The fantasy novel The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle was written after the author attended a few early SCA events circa 1968; but he has repeatedly stated that he then studiously avoided any contact with the actual SCA itself for almost two decades, so that his description of a fictitious "Society of Arcane Pleasures" would not be "contaminated" by contact with the actual real-life organization.
- Official Website
- The By-Laws and Corporate Policies of the SCA, Inc
- The Origins of the SCA
- Gather Ye Olde Suburban Knights - slideshow by NPR