Many people first become acquainted with the SCA during a stroll through the park. The immediate reaction on discovering this spectacle is a double-take followed by the thought: why are those people beating each other up with big sticks, and what on earth are they wearing? The people behaving in such an unexpected manner are simply players in The Society for Creative Anachronism (the SCA) out for a weekly fighter practice.
For History's Sake
The SCA, affectionately called The Party by many players, is a large group of people who have an interest in all things medieval. In 1966 a few friends with a love of history held a tournament style theme party. This party was enjoyed so much that another, bigger, party was immediately in the planning phase. Watching the rapid growth of this type of experience, 3 years after the initial party it was decided to turn the group into a non-profit educational society. The name for this society came about from the concept of creatively learning and experiencing practices that are "out of time" (anachronism). Currently, The Society for Creative Anachronism is firmly established in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa, and Australia.
Playing the Anachronism
A popular catch-phrase among members is "all of the honor and chivalry, minus the plague." They collectively learn and share researched information on authentic practices and methods used during the time period of 400-1600 AD. All that is learned is then put to use in re-creating the past, with a few adaptations made to ensure safety and compliance with the law (port-a-potty, anyone?) The what they are wearing is medieval clothing and armor to protect them from the big sticks. The why of beating each other up with big sticks is because they need to swing something, and it is not quite within the scope of the law to gather in a public park swinging swords made of steel. One obvious adaptation is the use of rattan that has been creatively disguised, with duct tape and a handle, to resemble various types of medieval weaponry.
The SCA encompasses much more than fighting. Those with a passion for fiber arts will take research a step further than creating period garb; they will likely immerse themselves into the shearing, combing, carding, and weaving of raw material to create fabric made entirely by their own hands. Scribes undertake to learn and perfect such arts as calligraphy and illumination, while others place focus on crafting armor made from plate, leather, or chain mail. No medieval assemblage, of course, would be complete without music, food, and dancing, all three of which are found in abundance through the courtesy of re-creationists with a passion for authenticity in these necessities of life.
Can Anybody Play?
The Knowne World (the collective Kingdoms and subdivisions of this society) is comprised of people from all walks of life: teachers, laborers, students, corporate executives, lawyers, doctors, secretaries, and so forth. The common factor among members, regardless of their real-life roll, is the enjoyment they find in the camaraderie and fellowship that exists through a common, though varied and somewhat obscure, interest. There are no requirements to join this merry community though an interest in history, a willingness to follow rules of honor and chivalry, and (very important!) a desire to have fun certainly enhance the time spent playing in this way.
There are also no rules to determine how often a person should be involved or to what level of authenticity a person should strive. Sir Robert might only be able to step into his persona once a month while Lady Ysoria might dedicate all of her free time to this form of entertainment. The mere idea of a garment sewn by machine causes some people to wince; others will complement a gown of outstanding beauty, completely ignoring the use of a polyester blend (most assuredly a non-period fabric).
The Society for Creative Anachronism is an outlet for those with a penchant for the past who would prefer to experience occasionally living it over reading about it. There is a certain attraction (at least for this writer) in returning to a time that embodies the romantic notions of honor and chivalry yet leaves in the past decided unromantic irritants such as the Black Plague and nasty, not to mention inconvenient, injuries that arise from the brandishing of steel swords.