I'm in the SCA, now who Am I?

One of the challenges of being in the SCA, is becoming another person. Within the Society, you will have your own period name, you may choose to develop a persona along with your name, and you may choose to design your own device (mundanely referred to as a "coat of arms").

Do not rush to develop a persona or choose a name. Go to a few events and see what you like. You may think you want to go with a Norman-French name and persona only to later find that you are more attracted to the garb and mannerisms of 15th Century England, 9th Century Scandinavia, or 14th Century Germany. Now what do you do? Register a new name? Develop a new persona? A little patience can help you avoid changes later.

Below are some links that will help you choose a name, design a device, and develop a backstory (or persona) for yourself.

What's in a Name?

The following information is from the SCA publication, Forward Into the Past.

Society members create a persona, the person who they would like to have been had they lived in the Middle Ages. Some SCA members have chosen only a name. Others have fully developed personas and can talk to you in detail about their medieval "lives". When you meet someone, they will ask your name. If you have not chosen a medieval name you can use your modern one until you decide. If you have no idea what you would like to be called, then ask the shire's Pursuivant for assistance. You can also look in the library for books regarding names and naming customs. Avoid using "name-the-baby" books; many of these names were coined after the Renaissance and the authors often do not tell you which names are modern ones.

You need to pick at least one name that parents would have given a child during the period the SCA studies, and at least one other name or descriptive phrase to set you apart from everyone else with that given name. Some things to remember when choosing a name;

  • You may not take the name of any historical or legendary person.
  • You may not use the full name of a person in fictional literature.
  • You may not use or imply a title such as Sir, Duke, Count, Earl, Lord, Lady, Master, or Mistress. These titles must be earned.
  • You may not use the full name of someone else in the Society.

Try to keep your name in only one language; two at the most. The shire's Pursuivant can give you further information on choosing a name and persona.

Name and Persona Development Links

What do all those pretty banners mean?

The following information is from the SCA publication, Forward Into the Past.

The brightly colored designs you may see on a shield, banner, clothing, or personal items are part of heraldry in the SCA. In the broadest sense, heraldry encompasses everything that heralds do, from making announcements to helping people devise their own cognizance's. These cognizance's, sometimes miscalled coats-of-arms, are personal insignia that distinguish one person from another. The ones that you see are most likely registered in someone's name, so it is not permissible to copy any of those and use it on your shield, banner, or personal items.

A "device" is the term used for any heraldic emblem registered to an individual. When a person becomes an "armiger", the heraldic device is called "arms". An armiger is a person who has been awarded arms by the Crown.

Heraldry uses a limited set of clear, bold "tinctures". The colors are: azure (blue), gules (red), sable (black), purpure (purple) and vert (green). The metals are: Or (gold or yellow), and argent (silver or white). There are also furs which combine the two types of tinctures in a complex repetitive design.

Since it is easier to see things which contrast with their backgrounds, the rules of heraldry state that colors must be placed on metals and metals must be placed on colors. This guarantees that charges do not blend into the field.

"Charges" are stylized versions of everyday objects, beasts, and birds. Charges can be used in multiples or in combination with other charges. They can be placed directly on the field or layered upon another charge. The combination of field, charges, and tinctures results in the final, unique device.

Your device must be different from all other registered devices, including such familiar heraldry from the modern world as the Nutra-Sweet® symbol and the Shell Oil Company shell. If you would like a heraldic device of your own, talk with the Canton's pursuivant about designing one and registering it with the Society's College of Heralds.

Heraldry and Device Design Links