Below you’ll find most of my Welcome Book that I initially made for my shire but has since spread elsewhere. Please keep in mind that much of this Northshield specific.
Ok, I’m about to bombard you with information.
Before I do, keep in mind that this is just a brief overview to get you started. For a more extensive look at all things SCA, and to delve deeper into what I’m about to tell you, I highly recommend that you purchase the Known World Handbook. If you’d like to look before buying, we have one we can loan you temporarily.
You can request a Marketplace Order Form from here.
So, you’re new (newish) to the SCA?
(If not, it’s still a good read.)
There are two rules: 1. Don’t die. 2. Have fun. (Ok, well those aren’t exactly “official” rules.)
Step Two: Go to events. It’s important to go to at least a few events to decide if this is right for you, and especially before you start investing a lot of time and money into this new hobby.
So, what exactly happens at events?
There are three rules for every event: Sign-in at Gate, pay any entrance fees, and an attempt pre-17th century garb. Also, don’t die and have fun.
There can be some or all of the following at events:
Fighting, rapier, archery, thrown weapons, bardic activities, Arts & Sciences competitions, goofing off, crafting, lots of socializing (or hiding from people is also acceptable), classes, court, and sometimes, there is a feast at the end of the day.
*Feast is available for an additional fee but it’s usually not very much. Have dietary restrictions? Don’t worry, let the feast steward know beforehand and they can usually accommodate you (there is normally an email address on the website or you can ask the seneschal to help you get in contact with them).
Planning Your Day(s)
Events sometimes have quite a lot going on. Making an itinerary to help you organize your time is not a bad idea. Don’t forget to schedule meals, snack times, and always hydrate!
Garb or “Where am I and why am I in an Elizabethan outfit?”
The first thing when planning to attend an event is to get yourself appropriately (or semi-appropriately) dressed. At events it is requested that you make an attempt at pre-17th century attire (we call it “garb”). Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, several groups have loaner garb (gold key) to fit a wide range of people, if they don’t, they can help you locate some, and if that fails, there are several simple outfits that can be made fairly inexpensively. Haven’t sewn? No worries, there is usually someone around who can help and there is YouTube if all else fails. Keep in mind that although 16th century Italian is amazing it’s not a good place to start (unless of course you have that talent, in which case I’m jealous). Start early, like early period. It’s basically rectangles sewn together. And if you prefer (and can afford it), you can buy your first set of garb online or from a costumer. The point being, don’t let the lack of “perfect” garb hold you back from joining in on the fun. A t-tunic, cotton pants (such as scrubs) and a pair of brown or black shoes (yes, even tennis shoes) is totally acceptable first garb.
What (is probably best) Not To Wear
You may at some point hear the words “sumptuary laws.” Sumptuary laws are laws that were put in place during the later medieval and renaissance period to govern what people could and could not wear, often this was based on social class. SCA Kingdoms do have sumptuary laws. Northshield sumptuary laws mainly involve symbols of rank and office. However, don’t worry too much, we’re a pretty laid back kingdom. Here are some things to be aware of though. We typically avoid wearing these as a courtesy to those that have earned them. Such things are:
Crowns and metal circlets – These are worn by royalty (crowns) or are awarded to people by the court (baronets, coronets, and circlets). *See “Shiny Hats” below or ask!
White belt (fabric or leather), spurs and gold chain around the neck – These are worn by knights. The Order of the Chivalry is a very prestigious position that took many years of training and an elevation that was agreed upon by their peers and awarded by The Crown. (White unadorned belts are reserved across the Known World for Knights and Master/Mistress of Arms).
White livery collar – Worn by members of the Order of Defense. The Order of the Defense, like the Order of the Chivalry, is a very prestigious position that took many years of training and an elevation that was agreed upon by their peers and awarded by the The Crown.
White scarf around upper arm – These are worn by distinguished members of the Rapier community known as The Order of the White Scarf.
Pelican, piercing her breast – This is the symbol worn by Pelicans. The Order of the Pelican is a very prestigious position that took many years of service and an elevation that was agreed upon by their peers and awarded by The Crown.
Laurel wreath – This is the symbol worn by Laurels. The Order of the Laurel is a very prestigious position that took many years of teaching and an elevation that was agreed upon by their peers and awarded by The Crown.
Red belts – are indicators that the person is a squire to a Knight.
Green belts – are worn by apprentices to a Laurel.
Yellow belts – are worn by a protégé to a Pelican
What to bring to your first event?
Some things can be loaned to you from the Gold Key. These things typically include garb and some feast gear (please ask before the event so that someone can get something together for you). What you want to bring depends on your needs and the venue. It’s always a good idea, and often cheaper, to make yourself a checklist.
It is a good idea to bring the following to every event:
☐ Medications (prescription and over the counter, such as Advil and Benadryl)
☐ A cup for water (pottery or wood) & feast gear (bowls, plates, utensils).
☐ Snacks (nuts, power bars) and something to share if you choose to.
☐ Comfortable shoes (even if they are modern, all black or brown is a close fit)
☐ A basket to keep all your things in.
☐ Chair (camp chairs are fine but it’s nice to bring something to cover it with)
☐ Money for all the cool stuff that vendors are selling.
For summer events you may want to add:
☐ An insulated water container to keep cool water in, and/or a small cooler
☐ Change of clothes
☐ Sunscreen 100 SPF full spectrum (you can still get burned in the shade)
☐ Straw hat (with built in SPF if possible) and/or a parasol
☐ A hand held fan (folding fans, while not around during the medieval ages, are convenient)
☐ Electrolytes, especially if you will be active (gatorade, pedialyte, sekanjabin…)
☐ Bug spray
☐ A blanket to sit on
☐ A watch (for being pre 17th century there sure are a lot of places we need to be on time)
For winter events:
☐ Wool cap or scarf
☐ Wool (or warm) coat or cloak ( a wool blanket pinned at the neck is very appropriate)
☐ Extra clothes and socks (layers!), thermal underwear is totally acceptable
AN IMPORTANT NOTE
It is wise, regardless of the event, but especially in the summer, to bring a list of any allergies, medications, and health problems you may have. Also, include an emergency contact number (personal and someone at the event) and the group you are with. If something does happens, EMS may be able to use this information.
Shiny Hat Alert! What do I do?
Courtly etiquette, and thus royalty, is part of the essence of the SCA. By employing this etiquette we are showing respect to them, the throne, and the kingdom.
Royalty wear different types of crowns or coronets (see the cheat sheet below)
- When you see someone with a crown or coronet with more than one point, a dip of your head, curtsy, or bow is good etiquette.
- If you’re seated and the sovereigns and/or heirs walk by, it’s polite to stand and acknowledge them with a curtsy/bow.
Most everyone with more than one point on their crown you can address as “Your Excellency” (even the sovereigns).
- However, the sovereigns are usually called “Your Majesty;”
- The heirs are called “Your Highness.”
- It is also a good etiquette to curtsy/bow to the throne if you walk within 15 feet in front of it (don’t walk behind the thrones if you can help it). You are showing respect to the Crown and the Kingdom of Northshield.
I know, I know, at this point you’re thinking, “I’m going to screw up and it’s the guillotine for me!” In all serious, don’t worry about it. Most everyone understands it takes awhile to learn all the nuances of the SCA; not just the jargon but the courtly etiquette as well. (FYI, I still screw it up)
More importantly, the more you learn and the more comfortable you become, the more fun you’ll have. I promise. But when in doubt, ask. It is 100% acceptable to ask a person what their title is and how you should address them. When I first met the King I said, “You must be important, you’re wearing a shiny hat.” He shrugged and smiled.
If anyone is rude to you, find the Seneschal and let them know! This is not appropriate behavior on their, or anyone’s, part.
They Shiny Hat Field Guide (Simplified)
Sources: The Known World Handbook and northshield.org
Shiny hat pictures courtesy of Jason Malarkey.
Whilst at Court…
At events we have this thing called “court.” Don’t worry, there are no lawyers. At most events there will be one, maybe two, courts (some smaller events have none). Courts are called by the sovereigns and typically last from one to two hours. During court, Their Majesties (or in some cases Their Highness) will address business within the kingdom, and make announcements for the populace to be aware of. Awards are usually given at this time and elevations may be performed. For example a person may get the title of “Lord” or “Lady” by getting an Award of Arms or someone may get a Cygnus, also an award. There is a cheat sheet of court awards included in this handout. An example of an elevation is when a squire becomes a Knight or an apprentice becomes a Laurel. If you hear someone say, “I beg a boon,” to Their Majesties, then it is very likely someone is getting elevated.
At or shortly after the new Sovereigns are crowned, there is an opportunity for the populace (that’s you) to come up and swear fealty to Their Majesties. Don’t worry, there will be someone there to tell you what to say. This is totally optional but it is a magical experience.
Basically, there are plenty of things that can happen at court, even some rather silly things. I recommend you go, at least once. It’s a neat experience and you are supporting members of the community who are being recognized by the throne.
Note: At some courts the Sovereigns or Heirs will call forth those for whom this is their first event. It may seem intimidating but it’s a great way to be welcomed to the community, meet the Sovereigns or Heirs, and maybe get some advice/counsel. You do not have to go up, but you really should. And DON’T PANIC (I totally panic going into court, so go ahead and panic)!
Approaching The Throne During Court
If you bring a knife or sword to court, always remove it before approaching the throne. In Northshield having an AoA allows you to bring a weapon to sit court (NOT to approach the throne with though).
- Walk down the center aisle to the throne when possible;
- 15 feet before the throne (usually where the chairs end) show reverence to the Crown (i.e. curtsy/bow – as per your preference)
- Now you can approach the throne (i.e. the sovereigns)
- There will be a pad or fur in front of the throne, you can kneel on that or just stand in front of it. It’s a personal decision, but if you have bad knees or are wearing a corset the decision may not be optional. If you don’t know which to do, it’s entirely appropriate to ask.
The Extended Version
- If you have a consort/friend they may escort you up to the 15 feet away point.
- Stop 15 feet before the throne and show reverence in order from highest rank to lowest.
- First show reverence to the Crown (look at them while showing reverence);
- Show reverence to any visiting sovereigns;
- Next show reverence to the heirs, they will be sitting to the (your) left of the throne;
- Lastly, show reverence to any barons/baronesses present, they will be the farthest seated group away from the throne;
- Approach the throne, show reverence again and stand in front of the pad/fur or kneel on it, whichever way suits you best.
When you are dismissed from the Crown, the herald will call out “VIVANT,” proceed backwards (ONLY IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO) until you are 15 feet away. Reverse the order by showing reverence to the barons/baroness first, Heirs, visiting royalty, and the Crown.
One final note, ESPECIALLY if that was overwhelming or “freak out” inducing. Northshield, unlike many other kingdoms, is very laid back when it comes to courtly etiquette. In fact we don’t have “laws” or “rules” just recommendations. If you want to attempt something between the two versions, it is quite acceptable and common to bow/curtsey to the Crown, and then simple bow/curtsy left and again right. Reverse when withdrawing. Simple. Once again, don’t panic and don’t worry about getting it perfect (I didn’t). Also, Sometimes you may see people who do not follow this method or they do so in a completely different way. Some will observe the customs of the time period and the location their persona is from. It can vary a lot, but this is a good place to start.
See here for a list of the awards that may be given out at court.
Lending a Hand
Want to volunteer at an event? First off, it is very important to spend time just doing eventing stuff and getting to know people, especially in the beginning. However, volunteering is one of the best ways to meet new people and give back to the SCA community. Here are some ways of you can help out at events:
Many events require help setting up. This can be things like putting out tables and chairs, hanging decorations, helping to bring in food and supplies, clearing out areas. It can vary depending on the site. All you need to do is contact the event steward (the event steward’s contact information can be found on the Northshield Event Page or ask the Seneschal) and ask them what they need help with, and match that with what you are able to do safely!
This is basically the opposite of set-up. There may be more cleaning (sweeping, vacuuming) involved in this aspect as the SCA is known for leaving a location cleaner then they when we arrived. Once again check in with the event steward ahead of time (they’ll be pretty busy during the event.)
Helping out in the kitchen
Typically, the lunch and feast prep/clean up crews are established before the event takes place. Sometimes, though, there will be a call for help during the day, or you may want to volunteer ahead of time. Your point of contact will be the feast steward. Helping in the kitchen can take a myriad of forms from basic food prep (cutting, slicing, arranging on trays) to washing dishes, and so on. You may also be asked to help with putting food on platters to aid the servers. Essentially, follow the direction of the lead cook (usually the feast steward), and be ready to lend a hand just about anywhere as you’re able (to the same note: aprons or your less-than-best garb with sleeves you can push out of the way are good idea). Finally, be flexible. The kitchen crew can be under a lot of stress, especially as the set time for serving the meal might change at the last minute, and they’re still responsible for ensuring the hot food is hot, and the cold food is cold!
Communication with the kitchen crew and lead server is key. You may or may not be paired with a partner, and will likely be assigned a table to serve. Meet in the kitchen (or indicated location) to receive your directions on how the flow of the feast is expected to go. At the most basic level, you’ll bring each dish out, and once the Head Table (sovereigns and heirs) has been served, you’ll serve the other tables. On your way back from each course (sometimes called a ‘remove’), you’ll likely collect the empty trays/platters from the previous one. As needed, you may also be expected to offer refills on the water/juice/beverage being served. You are the visible face of the kitchen, so don’t forget to smile and interact with your ‘customers’!
Water bearing can take a couple of different forms. Typically, it refers to ensuring that everyone stays hydrated, especially in the summer events and at fighting-centric events. You may be helping to refill and haul water coolers across site, or carrying more practical sized water jugs to the fighters on the field (or some combination thereof). Be sure to check with the Event Steward, Marshall in Charge or water-bearing point-person to learn what kind of aid they’re looking for!
Royal Room Guard
Is a simple yet important job. You task is to make sure that the royal room is only frequented by royals and their attendants. Thus, it is about making sure that those wandering around don’t accidentally (or purposely) stumble into the royal room especially if it is vacant. It is also a point of prestige to be guarding the royals’ sanctuary.
Gate is where everyone checks in and pays if they haven’t already. Gate is a great way to get to know faces and names. Volunteering here consists of asking incoming people if they are a member and if they have pre-registered for the event. If they are a member you can check their card and have them sign-in. Make sure their card is signed (that’s their event waiver for insurance purposes) and not expired. If they are not a member then signing the form works as their waiver. They’ll sign on the line of the gate record, pay if needed and they can go about their way. Don’t worry about your first time on gate as you will be paired up with someone with experience in this area. (Note: You must be a paid member to handle money at gate)
Retaining involves being an assistant to either one of Their Royal Majesties or one of Their Royal Highnesses. It is a sign of respect to their station to have someone to assist them and thus it is an honor to be the one doing it. Shifts last from one to two hours and can consist of everything from holding a Royal’s water cup (and to check periodically to see if they need more) to assisting them with their garb. The important part is to stand/walk slightly behind them (or where directed) and be there for them if they need something. Often you will have a “retainer bag” which has everything they’ll need. Open it when requested and keep it on your person throughout your shift. Each Royal may have different requirements of a retainer but don’t worry, they’ll let you know what those are. Another thing to note is that while retaining, avoid interrupting their conversations. You are there to assist not to chat (unless directly invited to). These are some guidelines to follow, remember, your Royal will let you know what they require of you. Follow these preferences, and be flexible in adjusting to your Royal’s personality. And enjoy yourself, you’ll have the best seat in the house.
Note: One important part to remember is that if your Royal visits the restroom it is important that you wait outside and hold their crown respectfully. Crowns, even though there is no official policy, do not generally go into restrooms/porta potties for obvious reasons. No one wants to dig a crown out of a porta potty.
Also, it is wise (although in no way mandatory) that when signing up to be a retainer you don’t take back-to-back shifts with different royals. You never know if the person relieving you may be late, and you don’t want to be late to relieve the retainer for your next post (also, you may need time to find them at larger events). When you are relieved of your post by the next retainer you can simply go about your day. There is no need to check in with the royal when you leave.
Finally, always remember: what you hear while retaining or while in the Royal Room is private and not to be shared.
There are many other ways of helping out, some of which are event specific. If you would like to help out but don’t know what to do, you can always check in with the event steward, or at gate, to see if help is needed. Remember, the event steward may be very busy so it’s important to be patient with them. Also, look around you, there may be people moving things or setting up, it doesn’t hurt (unless you have a bad back/hips/knees…) to offer assistance. Also, check the parking lot, people tend to bring a lot of things to events (Seriously, A LOT of stuff, don’t worry, you’ll get there too). I’m sure they would appreciate your help if you’re so inclined.
Still Have Questions?
Excellent, life would be quite boring if you knew everything, right?
Oh, and you’re officially a scadian now!
Compiled & Written by Lady Hrafnrún Úlfríðardóttir (unless otherwise stated)
This document may duplicated with permission of the author.
Updated: 4/24/19 (A.S. LIII)