Attending Your First Event

Have fun!
This is your first event, let people know this and they can help you.
You are not being graded on performance, watch, learn and ask questions.
If you don't know how to do something or how to act, ask anyone you just might make a friend in the process.
Make the attempt, the rest will follow in time.

Are there any rules I need to know?
Yes. Quite a few, eventually. For the newcomer, aside from not touching things that don't belong to you, treat others with the respect with which you wish to be treated. SCA politeness is very much about respect and consideration. If you do not know someone's name, call them "my lord" or "my lady." If you see someone wearing a gold or silver coronet, "Your Excellency" is always a safe choice. There are some special protocol rules involving people's ranks and things like that, but 90% of SCA manners is respect and consideration. The remaining 10% will make itself clear as you get more involved, and more experienced people understand that you can't learn everything at your first event. For the most part, if somebody sees that it is your first event they will help you with the rules.

What should I call myself?
For your first event, or even your first year, your own name is fine. Many SCA members take years to pick a name. If there is a name you wish your parents had given you, use that! As you develop what the SCA calls "your persona", the identity you assume at events, you will think about names that would be appropriate to the time and place in which your fictional persona lived. If you are stuck, check with your local shire Herald. He/she can offer ideas and suggestions, and when you are ready, help you with the process of registering your name.
When looking for a name, avoid names of which there are already many in your Kingdom or local area. Too many Margarets or Thomases and you may end up with an indicator you didn't want, IE Margaret the Chocaholic or Peeping Thomas. Also, when looking at lists of period names, realize that they are usually arranged alphabetically, and people looking at the lists usually choose names from the first three letters of the alphabet. To help insure uniqueness, search at the middle or end of the alphabet. Keep in mind, however, that along with the first three letters, X and Z are also very popular. If you find a common name you cannot live without, consider making it your middle name, IE instead of Margaret, use Katherine Margaret, called "Margie"; instead of Thomas, use Henry Thomas, called "Thomas". You could also change cultures. You could then be Marguerite or Margrethe; Tomas or Tam.  Another thing you can do is embellish the name like Thomas Wolfhunter of Cantiberry.

What is a persona?
A persona is an alternate identity for yourself. You are you, a person living in the here and now. As the Society re-creates the era of the Middle Ages/Reneissance, you create a person who might have lived during those times. This gives you a better insight into those times, as it makes you feel more a part of it, and it separates you from the modern person who must identify with and live in this modern era.
There is one rule concerning names and persona. Don't name yourself fully after a famous, legendary person of past times. While being called, "Arthur of Stonewood" is perfectly acceptable, "Arthur, King of the Britons" is lofty, if not presumptuous. It is also not allowed to register a name that someone else holds. While this has had the effect of making naming yourself more difficult over the years, as we gain more and more members, this has also impelled us toward more complete names, and names more appropriate to our chosen persona.

What should I wear?
Wear something simple and affordable. The people that you see in the splendid clothing have been in the SCA for many years, and have had ample time to make the beautiful clothing you admire. However, always remember that everyone, from the woman in the hoop skirts to the man in the finely embroidered tunic, and up to the King and Queen themselves, were once beginners like you. Don't be ashamed of your lack of skill or knowledge. You have an opportunity to learn, and learning is what the SCA is all about.

MEN; Simple garb was worn by both prince and peasant. Women too! Wear sweat pants or carpenter pants in earth colors: gray, off-white, tan, brown, green, or black. Camouflage is not appropriate to the SCA. For a shirt, an over-sized button shirt with button removed (sleeves optional), an over sized long-sleeved t-shirt (no pocket), or a poet shirt or peasant blouse in the same colors or white is always appropriate. Belt the shirt over your pants with a wide black or brown belt. Do not wear a red, yellow, green, or white belt, as these are colors reserved for certain ranks or relationships in the SCA. On your feet, wear pull-on leather boots (not cowboy), or hemp or leather sandals. English riding boots, moccasins, motorcycle boots, or army boots are also acceptable, especially when starting out. Try not to wear tennis or running shoes if you have any of the above; many a beautiful outfit has been spoiled by the red Converse showing underneath!

WOMEN; Using the same color scheme as above, the peasant dress, popular in the 60's, available in thrift shops for 4-6 dollars is always appropriate. Also easy to obtain are an ankle length gauze or broomstick skirt and a white or pastel blouse. You can also wear pants or tights and the same white cotton blouse. If you feel comfortable without a belt, that's fine, but you can also belt it at the waist with a brown or black belt. See above for footwear.

Basic loaner garb is also available from the Gold key, a part of the chatelaine's office.

What do I need to bring?
Bring yourself, and the desire to learn and have fun! If there's a feast (a meal often associated with the event), it would help if you brought your own bowl, plate, mug, goblet or stein, and eating utensils (spoon, knife, fork), and an appetite to try something new! Often the Gold Key can provide you with some utensils, and even the person next to you might have extra items to share. One simple rule--if someone was thoughtful enough to loan "feast gear" (the generic name for table settings), please wash everything in warm, soapy water and let dry before you return the items. Most event kitchens will have a sink set aside for the washing-up. Other things to bring are a ready ear to listen to the stories that will be passed around, a willing voice to join in the singing, and an adventurous spirit that will allow you to make the most of the opportunities for fun you will find.

What is there to do?
As much or as little as you wish! If you are a newcomer, there will be many things that you have never seen before. Go to the person who has what interests you, and ask them about it! You will find that most SCA members love to talk about their items, weapons, clothing, whatever. If you see a game being played, ask them about it. One special rule must be mentioned here-- NEVER pick up another person's property without asking their permission first! It's presumptive, and in the case of a weapon, you might find that you've injured yourself. At an event, depending on the theme, there may be classes that you can attend, demos to watch, people making chain mail, carding wool, doing calligraphy, shaping plates of metal, cutting leather, embroidering--any number of things. And almost any person you talk to would be happy to tell you about what they are doing, and show you how to do it. One of the most enjoyable pastimes even for SCA old timers is simply sitting out of the way and watching people pass by. The SCA is like everything else in life--you get out of it what you put into it.

What do all those medals/crowns mean?
These things denote rank or accomplishment within the Society, and are a major part of the color and atmosphere of the SCA They can also be the most complex. Awards are granted within the Society for accomplishment or expertise in the areas we as a Society consider central to our organization, namely, the fighting arts, the gentle arts and sciences, and service. There are three levels of society awards in each of these three fields, all with different names, requirements, and badges (a design unique to that award which is worn by those that hold it, usually on a round medallion hung around the neck). This is further complicated by the fact that the names of lesser awards vary from kingdom to kingdom, even though essentially they are all the same thing. The highest awards are Society-wide Peerages, and they are Knights, for the fighting arts; Laurels, for the gentle arts and sciences, and Pelicans, for service. These ranks are indicated by medallions in the case of Laurels and Pelicans, decorated with a laurel wreath or a pelican, and by a simple gold chain and a white belt in the case of Knights.

There are also ranks, which are indicated usually by head wear, although again, this varies from kingdom to kingdom. A crown is worn only by a King or Queen. They have won the right to be King or Queen in combat, either their own or their consort's. They are gold or gold-colored, and pointy. This is the distinguishing characteristic of a crown: if you accidentally sit on it, it will hurt. All other metal head wear (known as "hats" or "brass hats", also a term for those entitled to them) are coronets. Coronets are worn by Reigning Princes and Princesses, Royal Princes and Princesses, landed Barons, and Court Barons, as well as by past Royalty, called "Royal Peers."

While it all looks very nice, recognition should not be the sole reason for participation in the SCA. Too many people engage in activities for recognition instead of enjoyment, and end up hating the thing they once enjoyed. Awards are not the sum total of your value as an SCA member; your value to the SCA is not measured by the medallions around your neck, but by the respect you will gain, the knowledge you will attain, and the enjoyment your presence in the SCA will bring to others.

What about children and pets?
Good Question! Both, (in most cases) are welcome! Children are our future, and pets add to the color of a Medieval camp. However, and this cannot be said too strongly, BOTH MUST BE SUPERVISED.

Your children are YOUR responsibility or the responsibility of the sitter you have arranged to care for them while you are otherwise occupied. Do not let your children, (especially very young children) run loose at an event, assuming that someone will take care of them.. At an indoor event, there are displays of medieval objects, tools, or supplies near work areas; weapons, books, jewelry and related items being sold by merchants, even knives and pointed utensils laying about near the kitchen or dining area. Aside from the fact that children can hurt themselves on any of these, many merchants carry large, unwieldy, and fragile merchandise costing a great deal, and operate on a strict "You break, you buy" policy. A gigantic blown glass goblet costing $75 will do you no good when you had to buy it because it is now in three pieces.

At an outdoor event, things are even worse--tent pegs, guy ropes, fire pits, lanterns, pets (we'll cover that soon), weapons and armor. A dream for busy little tykes, a nightmare for an inattentive parent. In addition, outdoor events are frequently not held in tidy campgrounds, but in spare fields or scout camps left wild for most of the year. There are biting spiders, stinging insects, and even snakes on many outdoor event sites.

Although the SCA regards itself as a family, do not assume that everyone on site will watch your child when you cannot. Everyone is busy with their own activities, and unless you have made prior arrangements, usually will not be able to watch your child on the spur of the moment. The sole responsibility of your child lies with you!

At many S.C.A. events, various activities are planned and offered for children, sometimes under the auspices of a "Ministry of Children" or a "Kindercrat". This does NOT mean that that person is a baby sitter. A parent is almost always supposed to attend children's activities. Remember that children's activities are NOT a day care. They start and end at a specific time. Do not bring your child early to get more of a break. Chances are that a kindercrat and staff setting up for a two or three hour activity will not have time to watch your child while they prepare to entertain a dozen other active tots. Pick up your child promptly at the time the activity comes to a end. No one should have to come looking for you.
Beyond the edge of the SCA encampment or urban site, it's a jungle out there. An unsupervised child is an accident waiting to happen. We understand that children can move faster than you think, especially when your back is turned, but a consistently wandering child will be interpreted as a parent with a consistently wandering mind, and you will be regarded accordingly. Children under 14 must remain within visual range of their parent at all times.

Pets can be a joy to bring to an event, and one of the happiest sights to an SCA person is a well-dressed, well-behaved, well-supervised pet romping with well-dressed, well-behaved, well-supervised children; or a happy dog lolling tongue-out in the shade beside a bowl of water while its owner with leash firmly attached chats, weaves, or haggles with a merchant.
Some sites, whether because of health laws, rental agreements, or the owner's preference, do not allow pets. Please respect the wishes of the site administrator. The SCA can lose the use of a good site forever because you didn't want to leave Fido at home. Guide dogs, assistant dogs, and seizure dogs are of course allowed at public sites with their owner, but please be sure to bring your helper dog's certification and proof of shots.

When a site does allow pets, your pet must be under control at all times. "On a six-foot leash" means that the leash must be attached to you or a stationary object, not trailing behind the dog. This may seem a cute dodge of the leash law, but there are several serious consequences. In some rural areas, dependent upon local laws, a loose dog can be shot on sight, no questions asked. If your dog bites or savages someone, besides paying a hefty fine and risking lawsuit, the dog can be confined for up to fourteen days for rabies observation, usually at a high cost to you. Even if your insurance covers the fine or lawsuit, the hospitalization will probably not be covered, and some vet clinics charge as much as $25 per night for rabies observation. If you cannot produce proof of shots, at the end of your dog's confinement the clinic may also reserve the right to vaccinate it at additional cost to you, usually around $100. Even if your dog does not leave site or bite someone, a trailing lead can catch on tent stakes, brush, or other objects on the ground, and your dog could conceivably strangle to death before someone found him.

Simply stated, supervised children (and pets) are a welcome addition to almost every SCA activity. However, if you don't have the time or inclination to supervise your pets or children, make arrangements to either have someone else do it, or leave them at home. Our Pied Pipers are NOT babysitters.

One final thing... that is important to teach your child or pet: the command "Hold." In the SCA, the word "hold" is used to indicate that someone is in imminent danger. Upon hearing the word "HOLD", freeze where you are, and examine the area around you. Whoever called the "hold" will soon make it clear what the problem is, and why he/she called the hold. This simple command has saved many people from injury.

Do I need to wear garb to meetings/practices?
No. In most cases, garb is optional. However, it IS eye-catching, and draws attention to you, and to the SCA. Chances are that your first notice of the SCA was by noticing the fighters in armour, and/or the people in Medieval clothing. Garb is, however, required at events, at Court, and at any demonstrations in which you may participate.

How can I join?
You can obtain a membership form by either asking for one from the Chatelaine or Seneschal or you can download one at the member services page on the SCA's website. Membership isn't necessary to attend events and other activities, but is required to hold office, get most awards or to fight in tournaments.