Adopting a Persona
Within the structure of the SCA each member chooses a time and place to re-enact. This is an alter-ego or persona they impersonate to a greater or lesser extent during time spent in the society. This character will be someone who could theoretically have existed during the time period of the member’s choice as long as it is pre-1600 CE. You can choose the type of character, the country and culture the character would have belonged to, and to a certain extent, their class within the normally feudal hierarchy. You also choose a period name appropriate for the assumed place of interest. All this greatly helps create the feel of a medieval setting at our events.
It is recommended to get an idea of the scope and flavour of the SCA and different time periods before choosing a time and place of interest. Think about things like, do you like the clothes from a specific time and place? Do you like the armour, weapons, and culture? Is there a favourite historical film and/or book that has sparked your interest in a particular time and place that you would like to know more about? While many members do change names several times during their SCA career, you might find it easier if you take your time deciding what you wish to be called. Remember that you cannot take on the name and character of someone who actually existed (as in someone well known), so there are no Robin Hoods or Leonardo da Vincis running around.
You can then take this basic time and name and build on it as much as you want. Some people write elaborate background stories for their persona and undertake a lot of research, while others pay little heed to it more than using a name and a rough idea of when they want to be from. There are websites out there that list male and female names gleaned from court rolls of differing centuries and remember that surnames very often come from one of four sources – place of birth/origin, nickname, patronymic (son of Peter=Peterson) or occupation (Carter/Miller/Smith etc.).
Do please try to keep it as realistic/historical as possible. Overly “creative” background stories such as a persona who is an ex-Ninja, now a courtesan in the Royal Court of France, while working as an undercover assassin for the Ottoman Empire, will elicit much mirth but not a lot of respect.
The society also assumes that the entry-level class for a new member is that of lower-level gentry. So people will call you M’Lord or M’Lady as a default title and for reasons of courtesy. However you will not have a proper title until it is earned (Please click here for the article on Awards within the SCA).
In any case having a persona adds to the ambience and gives you a framework on which to base your garb, armour and accoutrements if you wish to. They don’t all have to match but it does look well if they do. Many people will have a couple of personas with which they take part in, for example; a person with an early Celtic persona may also have an interest in Elizabethan life and thus may also have an Elizabethan persona that they use at times when they wish to dress and act as an Elizabethan.
You do not, however, replicate the prejudices that would have gone along with someone from your persona’s time and place. Chivalry and Courtesy take precedence over any such period quarrels.
The Shire Herald should be able to give your more information on developing a persona and will also be able to help with choosing a name that is appropriate for your place and time.