For Newcomers

Greetings, and welcome to the Barony of Southron Gaard, a group of people interested in recreating the better parts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The Barony is a branch of the international Society for Creative Anachronism, and while being centred in Christchurch covers the entire South Island of New Zealand.

As a newcomer, you may have many questions - "What is the SCA?" "Why are those people wearing funny clothes?" and "Who is that guy in the crown?". This page provides a quick overview of what is involved in being a part of this entertaining and educational group. We hope that you'll find the SCA as much fun as we do.

You could also take a look at our Newcomer Pamphlet: PDF, for a quick intro, or come along to a Stuff Night.

While it is not necessary to be a subscribing member of the SCA to take part in our activities, membership is inexpensive and easy to get - please see this page for more information.

Quick start

The SCA has three basic requirements for participation at events:

  • everyone must make a reasonable attempt at pre-1600 clothing
    While the more authentic, the better, we recognise that some people are limited by budget, time or interest see below for ideas and help with what to wear, or where to get stuff;
  • everyone should act as a lady or gentleman
    We’re trying, in part, to recreate the ideals of chivalry and courtesy exemplified in “the better parts of the Middle Ages”. That should, naturally, be reflected in the way we treat with others, whether on the war field, in Royal Court, or lounging back in the Mangy Mongol;
  • and of course we must obey the rules of the SCA, any rules set by site owners and the law itself.

SCA Conventions

These are the two core principles, but there are some conventions that it may help you to know if you’re coming to a SCA event for the first time:

Everyone in the SCA is assumed to be a member of the nobility; some people have specific ranks (e.g. the King, a knight).
If you don’t know a person’s rank or name, you’re always safe to call them mi’lord or mi’lady no matter who they are (or, even better, ask to be introduced). Please don’t use any self-awarded titles or titles awarded by other groups. More about SCA ranks etc
There are a few proscribed items/symbols which you should not wear/use.
A circlet with pointy bits can denote various ranks (e.g. King, Baron) so it’s best to just wear a plain circlet on your head. A plain white belt is a sign that the wearer is a member of the Order of Chivalry (i.e. an SCA knight), and is reserved solely for those of that rank. A laurel wreath typically denotes a member of the Order of the Laurel (people recognised for their high level of artistry in a particular subject) and a pelican denotes a member of the Order of the Pelican (people recognised for their high level of service to the society).
SCA participants are likely to have persona names which should be used rather than mundane names.
Having a persona, whether simply just a name or a full-blown character, helps people to feel they are a part of the Current Middle Ages. If you know someone has a SCAdian name, please use it; if you’re not sure, just ask. More about persona names.
Please avoid using or disguise mundane items wherever possible.
Decant drinks from plastic bottles into jugs, cover plastic seating with cloth, consider suitable materials for your garb, go barefoot rather than wear pink Nikes, put your cellphone on vibrate.
At meals and feasts, you’ll be expected to provide your own feast gear.
Typically this consists of a plate, bowl, drinking vessel and a spoon or knife (the Supa-Shed usually has very cheap suitable wood, metal or pottery offerings available). Pack a tea-towel as you’ll be doing your own dishes. There may be feast gear available for hire or purchase at the event. More about where to get stuff.

Here is:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the SCA?

The SCA is a non-profit educational and recreational organisation devoted to the study of pre-seventeenth century European culture. The SCA stands for the Society for Creative Anachronism, and was started in 1966, in Berkeley, California, as an informal party. Since then it has grown to have branches all around the world with more than 50,000 people involved in a huge range of activities.

What is there to do?

An easier question to answer is what isn't there to do?. There are many skills and crafts people pursue in the SCA. These skills and crafts include:
Archery, Armouring, Basketry, Bardic (music, song and storytelling) Recital, Brewing, Calligraphy, Candle Making, Chivalry, Cooking, Costuming, Dancing, Drawing, Dyeing, Embroidery, Equestrian Pursuits (horse riding), Falconry, Gaming, Heavy Combat, Heraldry, Herb Lore, Illumination, Jewellery Making, Leatherwork, Music, Rapier Fighting (fencing), Scribing, Siege Engines, Sewing, Spinning, Tanning, War and tactics, Weapon Smithing, Weaving, Woodworking.

The Arts and Sciences Officer can help you with your interests by providing information, or referring you to a person knowledgeable in that skill or craft.

How do I get started?

Simply show up to any of our meetings, classes, demonstrations or events! Check out the Events Calendar to see when the next one is.

Events

'Events' includes tournaments, feasts, revels and camping and is where we dress up and immerse ourselves in medieval culture. There is often a gate fee to cover costs. While some events might have a special theme don't feel that you have to conform to that theme.

Meetings & practices

We also have meetings and practices where we don't get into medieval costume and these are usually free to attend. Barony Stuff Nights happen regularly: come along and have fun in the Current Middle Ages with casual workshops on rapier, dance, sewing, crafts, leatherwork, embroidery, singing.
All welcome, no charge, no costume required.
Email the Chatelaine for time and place.

Non-members are very welcome to attend any of our events, though we encourage you to become a member if you start coming to things regularly. As well as helping support the organisation you'll pay less for events and be able to hold office! The only requirements for anyone attending an SCA 'Event' are that you:

  • wear a "attempt" at pre-17th century clothing (not necessary at meetings, practices and the like);
  • obey the rules of the game, site rules, and any other such conditions such as site fees, which may be imposed;
  • act as a lady or gentleman.

Who do I talk to if I need help?

Your local friendly Chatelaine is here to help. From how do I make my first outfit? to what do I need to bring to an event?, the Chatelaine is a valuable resource in helping you get started. The Chatelaine also has the Baronial hire costume which is available for use by people new to the society. When at events, the Chatelaine (or their deputy) will be wearing a "favour" with a gold key on a green background, for easy identification.
Email the Chatelaine.

Why are those people wearing funny clothes, and how do I get some?

People in the SCA recreate different time periods across Europe and the Middle East, and wear clothes (frequently referred to as 'garb' meaning stuff) according to that time and place. While some of it looks quite funny to the modern eye, it would be difficult to recreate these time periods without making the effort to dress as they did. Wearing appropriate clothing and hiding modern items such as wristwatches etc, are essential to creating the medieval atmosphere we are trying to recreate.

For your first event a white "pirate" or "peasant" shirt and plain dark trousers/full-length skirt will do in a pinch, or you can hire garb very inexpensively from the Chatelaine, try to contact them well before the event. Preferably wear flat or low-heeled, dark coloured shoes or boots. Try to hide or disguise any modern technology, sports gear and the like; turn devices to vibrate or silent.

A good starter for newcomers is the simple Tunic. The Introduction to Garb by Cynthia Virtue gives a description of a good beginning outfit including how to easily make a tunic yourself. Stores where you can buy fabric are listed below. If sewing is not possible for you, or you need a little assistance to get started, talk to the Chatelaine. The Southron Gaard email list can provide a forum for advice and assistance.

What's with all the funny names?

Almost everyone in the Society creates a persona - the person that they are being in our recreated medieval 'known world'. A persona can be as simple or as detailed as you wish. Some people only go so far as selecting a name, while others create and write entire histories of the person, their family, and how events of their time period affected them. A persona is the person that you could have been in the Middle Ages (note: not someone who actually lived then - you can be Richard of Canterbury, but you can't call yourself Richard Lionheart!).

Your local Herald will be happy to assist in the creation of a name/persona. Start by thinking about your interests. Are you intrigued by Queen Elizabeth's court? Perhaps your interests lie in the Persian Empire? Maybe you are a big, bold Scotsman from the Highlands? Whatever your interest, a persona can incorporate them.

When you first begin attending events, one of the first questions you will be asked is What is your name? Many people give their real given name until they decide upon a name and persona. This practice is perfectly acceptable. In fact, some people decide to stay with their given name or a variant (a woman named Beth may use Elizabeth as her SCA name, for example). Some people have long complex names, and others decide to keep it to a given name, or a given name and their place of origin, for example, Elizabeth of Southron Gaard.

All participants in the SCA are assumed to be of noble birth but you may not give yourself a title of any sort; in the SCA, titles are awarded by royalty for achievements in various fields within the SCA. You can adopt a coat of arms, but it's best to first chat with some knowledgeable person, such as the Baronial Herald, about how the SCA handles armory. When wishing to talk to someone whose name or title you don't know, it's always acceptable to address them as "m'lord" or "m'lady". (This is not the same as the titles "Lord" or "Lady" and, because of that, you never put their name on the end. Thus - use "Lord James" for someone who has that title, but don't use "m'lord Carrock" for someone who does not -- just use "m'lord" or "Carrock").

Do you really hit people with swords?

Possibly the most eye-catching SCA activity is that of armed combat, when people gear up in armour and have at each other in the spirit of chivalrous knightly combat. In the interests of safety, edged weapons are not used for this. SCA weapons consist of taped rattan which has a similar mass and performance as a sword, spear or mace without the cutting edge.

There are a number of important safety requirements which must be met before you can take to the field, such as minimum armour standards to protect important parts of the body (head, elbows, knees and the more vulnerable nether organs) and an awareness of what blows may be thrown and what constitutes a good blow. The best way to learn is to come along to a fighters' practice or tournament (see the Events Calendar for information on the next one).

Southron Gaard also has mixed combat events, where the "heavy" fighters are supplemented by "light" fighters. The latter have similar armour requirements but use arrows which have special, rubber blunts for tips so they do not puncture their targets! Some also use siege equipment such as trebuchets, ballistas and even (air-powered) cannon.

You can find out more about SCA fighting on the Fighters' page.

Who is that guy in the crown? (The SCA hierarchy and how to address them)

During your first events, you'll be sure to notice people wearing various accessories, but the one which really stands out are the crowns or coronets. The Nobility entitled to wear crowns or coronets include Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Duchesses, Counts, Countesses, Viscounts, Viscountesses, Barons, Baronesses, Court Barons and Court Baronesses. If in doubt of their rank, address them as "Your Excellency".

  • King and Queen: They are the monarchs and rulers of our Kingdom, and are chosen by combat; they change every six months as a result of the biannual Crown Tourneys. They have the ability to change laws and to dispense awards. They can be addressed as "Sire", "Your Majesty", "My Lord King/My Lady Queen", "Your Grace" and "My Liege." It is courteous to bow when speaking to them, passing by them, or passing their thrones, whether occupied or empty.
  • Prince and Princess: There are two types of Princes and Princesses, Crown and Territorial. The Crown Prince and Princess are heirs to the Kingdom (i.e. will shortly be the reigning King and Queen), chosen by combat in the Crown Tourney. They are addressed as "Your Royal Highness". A territorial Prince and Princess rule over a Principality, a territory which is a subdivision of a kingdom. They are also chosen by combat. Their form of address varies from kingdom to kingdom.
  • Duke and Duchess: These are individuals who have served as King/Queen at least twice. They are addressed as "Your Grace".
  • Count and Countess: These are individuals who have served as King/Queen once. They are addressed as "Your Excellency". Some alternate titles are Earl (Jarl, Iarll) and Graf.
  • Viscount and Vicountess: These individuals have served at least once as Territorial Prince/Princess. They are addressed as "Your Excellency".
  • Baron and Baroness: There are two types of these individuals, those that are in fief, and court Barons/Baronesses. Those that are in fief are the ones that oversee a large local group (such as the Barony of Southron Gaard); they are the local representatives of the King and Queen and serve in that capacity for a period. Court Barons/Baronesses have been awarded this title by the Crown, often for exceptional service. Both types are addressed as "Your Excellency".

In addition, there is also the Peerage, which is made up of members of the Chivalry, the Laurels and the Pelicans.

  • The Chivalry (Knights): This consists of the Order of Knighthood and the Order of Mastery of Arms. The members of these orders are chosen by the Crown for their grace, courtesy and skill of arms. As a member of The Order of the Knighthood, the individual has chosen to swear fealty to the Crown, and is given the privilege of wearing a white belt, spurs and a chain as symbols of their fealty. These individuals are addressed as "Sir [name]".
    Members of the Order of Mastery of Arms exhibit the same qualities as those members of the Order of Knighthood, but have chosen not to swear fealty. They are entitled to wear a white baldric, and are addressed as "Master" or "Mistress".
  • The Laurels: The members of this Order are selected for their great skill in the Arts and Sciences, and for their willingness to teach others. They are called the "Laurels" as their symbol is a green laurel wreath on a gold background. These individuals are addressed as "Master [name]" or "Mistress [name]" or "Dame [name].
  • The Pelicans: The members of this Order are selected because they have given of themselves in service. They are called the "Pelicans" as their symbol is the pelican in her piety, spilling her blood to feed her young. These individuals are addressed as "Master [name]" or "Mistress [name]" or "Dame [name].

Don't worry too much about all these titles - if you address people politely as "m'lord" or "m'lady", no-one can fault you.

OK, so I'm ready to start. What should I bring to an event?

That depends on the type of event. There are two main types: day events and camping events.

Day events are easiest for easing into the SCA, and are usually relatively easier on the purse. Day events can include such things as tourneys, arts and science competitions, feasts, dancing, and much more. For these events, you should wear your costume and bring along feast gear (such wood, ceramic or pewter plates, bowls, goblets or cups, and utensils) if there is to be a feast. It is a good idea to bring along drinks and snacks such as bread, cheese, grapes, or nuts to nibble on throughout the day. Entertainments such as musical instruments, period games such as chess, and needlework can also be brought along. Also, a period-looking chair (such as a director's chair) is useful. Alternatively, spreading a blanket on the ground is sufficient seating, with perhaps a cushion for comfort.

Feasts

Feasts provide a good introduction to the SCA. Not everyone wants to fight or to embroider or to carve, but almost everyone enjoys dining in style. Mediaeval food is every bit as palatable as modern food (stories about using spices to disguise bad meat are just stories!). Most SCA feasts take a number of hours and involve a large number of dishes, so there is likely to be many that you'll find tasty, and some that will become firm favourites.

While we do make every effort to ensure that lists of food ingredients are available for checking for life-threatening allergies, the nature of medieval cooking can make it difficult to cater for the many varying choices people now make based on cultural, religious or personal preferences.

If you feel that your food choices are likely to be unduly restricted, then please contact the Steward of the event to see if off-board attendance is permitted (i.e. you will be permitted to attend, but will need to self-cater -- do note that this is not likely to include access to the kitchens in the case of feasts or large-scale events, as these places can be very very busy and are crowded with hard-working people who have access to Large Knives).

One important point about SCA feasts is that you are expected to bring your own crockery and cutlery. Don't worry if it's not authentically mediaeval in design - a simple wooden bowl and a plain round spoon are enough, though feel free to add candlesticks, tankards, small daggers or wooden-handled knives and other accessories. You are also normally expected to bring your own drinks and sometimes bread.

Tournaments

Tournaments are usually daytime events where SCA fighters/archers/fencers get to display their prowess, and are mostly held in the less-wintery months. Non-fighters can enjoy watching, helping marshal or herald, or socialising with others. Tourneys tend to be held in publicly accessible areas, so there will often be non-SCAdians present. They're a good choice for a first event. Most tourneys are for "heavy" fighters (both male and female) in metal and leather armour with weapons made of rattan; some events include archery.

Collegia / symposia

There are also collegia and symposia, which are teaching events. The former is often a weekend covering a broad range of topics with classes held by people well-versed in those topics. The latter is usually a day or half-day focusing on a particular topic, often in a less formal structure.

Camping

Camping events can require thoughtful planning, as they usually run over a number of days. Some events, such as the Barony's annual Canterbury Faire, may offer a meal plan in addition to a feast, while others require you to prepare your own meals. Some events offer cabin accommodation, whereas others expect attendees to bring tents, or may have tents to hire.

While modern tents are certainly not frowned upon (as period tents can be expensive), efforts to make your tent and campsite look more period are certainly appreciated. Obvious modern items can be covered or disguised. By asking others with camping experience, you can get the idea how these things can be achieved.
Camping events take a lot of careful planning and packing. Here is our Canterbury Faire checklist of basic items to bring to get you started.

Where can I find all this stuff?

Period-looking items can be found in the most unusual places! Really good places to go are the Super Shed (recycling depot), op shops such as Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, or second-hand shops. Garage sales are another place to find those inexpensive treasures.

Weekend markets are another good venue, and you are bound to run into another SCAdian looking for a good find at places such as the Riccarton Market. Watch retailers such as The Warehouse or Kmart for bargains as well. Novelty events are also good places to look, such as the Gypsy Fair. SCA events themselves are also a wonderful place to obtain period items, as some events, such as Canterbury Faire, have markets.

A good range of suitable fabric for garb and accessories can be found at these Christchuch stores (Word document), among others. Focus on natural fibres such as linen, cotton and wool fabrics rather than modern synthetics - not only will they look better, they are often more comfortable and better at handling the range of conditions encountered at events. If in doubt ask an experienced person if they'll go with you. Most fabric shops will give you a small sample if you want someone else's opinion.

For martial gear (armour, weapons, archery equipment), see the resources on the For Fighters page.

If you're interested in making tents, camping gear, furniture and so on, this site and this one both have many invaluable plans.

If you'd like to learn more, take a look at the Kingdom of Lochac Newcomers section, come along to one of our Stuff Nights or contact the Chatelaine.