The SCA is a practical history society, recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe. While dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, you can experience tournaments, royal courts, feasts, and dancing. You also have the opportunity to learn and practice ancient arts and skills — calligraphy, cooking, armoring, metalworking, carpentry, and needlework (to name just a few) — within an all-ages social group. The SCA is a great place to make friends and learn transferable skills. The Society began as a graduation celebration for Diana Paxson (Countess Diana the Listmaker) in Berkeley, California on May 1, 1966. That gathering, based on a 19th-century recreation of medieval life called the "Last Tournament," was the start of new era in research and recreation of the Middle Ages! From that tournament in California almost 50 years ago, the Society has grown to more than a thousand events happening on five continents every year Participants in the SCA develop a "persona" which represents an individual from the Middle Ages who might have existed (but not based on a real figure from that time such as Genghis Khan or Henry VIII). For most SCA participants this means selecting a particular time and culture from the Middle Ages, building a name from documented historical records from that culture, and wearing clothing that someone from that culture would have worn. From newborn to nearly grown-up, there are plenty of activities in the Society for the young and young-at-heart! The Society has many activities geared not only towards children and youth, but also towards the family as a whole. Many events and gatherings offer children’s activities for a variety of ages where children can learn more about the Middle Ages through lessons, hands-on arts and crafts, and games. Just as the grown-ups get involved in combat activities, in many kingdoms youth combat starts as early as age six. Youth also participate in archery and equestrian activities. Our participants study nearly every facet of life from our period, the world of the Middle Ages before 1601. The Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization based in Milpitas, CA, with affiliate organizations in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Many Society activities are free to try or have very small fees for materials or admission and we offer several options for memberships for individuals and families that add benefits to your Society experience.
The Arts of Armored, Rapier and Archery combat in the SCA
One of the most well-known and widely-enjoyed activities in the SCA is armored combat. Our warriors participate in tournaments for individuals and teams, tactical melees involving dozens of combatants, and even large-scale wars with thousands of participants! Unlike reenactments of battles from history, our combat activities are unchoreographed and the outcome is entirely based on the skill and training of the combatants involved. Rapier combat in the Society attempts to recreate styles of swordfighting from the later part of the Middle Ages, often based on manual and theories of combat that have survived to this day. Rapier combat uses a foundation of style and finesse that has since evolved into the modern sport of fencing. Unlike the modern sport, our combat uses a wide variety of weapons and body protection and our combat takes place with freedom of movement in any direction. Rapier combat can be found in both tournaments of individual and team combatants and in larger melees and wars! In the Society, we offer options to participate in both target archery and combat archery! One of the most important skills throughout the timeframe that we recreate, archery was used for hunting, practice, and especially war. Archery played an important role in many a battle and many cultures depended upon their innovative and skilled archers for defense as well as a means of conquest. In addition to the target competition found in archery, we also recreate additional target weapons styles. At many Society events, you can find opportunities to try throwing common medieval weapons such as axes, knives, and spears, all in a safe, monitored environment. Horses played a major part in the Middle Ages, and that role is not forgotten in the SCA! In SCA Equestrian Activities we practice the games of skill that squires and other mounted warriors would have learned in the medieval period. One of these is hitting the quintain, a rotating piece of training equipment that helps the equestrian practice hitting a solid target. The more forceful the strike, the more rotations the quintain makes. But beware – on the other end is a counterweight that will come around and strike you if you are not quick enough!
The Arts, Sciences and Crafts in the SCA
Whether you build, forge, weld, or anything else, there's a craft in the Society for you! Crafting is one of the most common activities in the Society! Our artisans study and create works from nearly every type of craft from the Middle Ages. Collectively, we call the study of the various production, research, and performing crafts, "arts and sciences." At many Society events, you will be able to watch artisans recreating these crafts and often take classes and workshops where you can learn to do them yourself. Some of our events are entirely dedicated to demonstrating and learning medieval crafts! ‘What should I wear?’ is one of the very first questions from people experiencing the SCA for the first time. The short answer is a comfortable tunic (long enough to be a dress for ladies) and pants (a belt is optional). As a person new to the SCA, we understand that you can’t simply run down to your local store to purchase these items, but have no fear! You have options. One office in the local group is the Chatelaine (also called Hospitaller or Gold Key), who acts to welcome newcomers and to help you get started. One of their tasks is to maintain “loaner garb,” a trove of medieval-style clothing in various sizes which are available for loan until you can create your own wardrobe. Once you are properly outfitted, take advantage of your first few events to check out different styles of costuming. The SCA covers over a millenium of history and offers a wide variety of clothing promising to suit every taste and whim. Feasting and fun go hand-in-hand here in the Society! Ever wonder how the Norman Conquerers fed their armies? What the Vikings cooked when on their raids? Who invented the meat pie ... and why? Food history presents a fascinating buffet of popular lore and contradictory facts. Most foods were not invented; they evolved. Here in the SCA we make food history fun and, of course, tasty!