Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I Play in the SCA

For the 11th year in a row, I stayed home instead of going to Pennsic. Which is a real bummer, but this year, I think it's actually for the best. Back at the beginning of the year, I experienced one of those (thankfully rare) feelings of disillusionment with the SCA. I had one of those moments when you're really sure about who you are and where you are headed, but when you start to look around, you realized you weren't at all in that place, and you weren't at all that person. It's been, honestly, hard to regain my footing, which has also translated to feeling less interested and less inspired.

It's good, though, really. I think it's nice to step out from under the tent (if you will) to take a look around at what else there is to do. The Society has offered me hobbies I never dreamed I'd be capable of doing, and I love that, but looking in a different direction has reminded me that I'm a creative individual in the mundane world as well. I've taken on freelance design work that has been much more fulfilling than I imagined it would be. I've discovered pocket-style scrap booking, and I'm obsessively hooked. I've been doing origami, which I've always loved. I'm spending more evenings hanging out with my family instead of sewing. These are all extremely rewarding things that I would be completely missing out on if I was still super-focused on the SCA and my path within it.

Backing off a bit has also provided a valuable opportunity to reassess. Having mostly ditched my project list, and having missed two events in a row that I would have normally attended this summer, I'm pretty much "out of it". Which means that every time I come across a medieval-themed Facebook post or Pinterest pin that really captures my attention and makes me smile, I'm that much closer to seeing and understanding WHY I PLAY in the SCA. If I wasn't still finding these things while on this sabbatical, then I could be pretty certain that the Society holds nothing for me. Thankfully, I haven't found that to be the case. Instead, I see that authentic kits, handmade details, and medieval camping are all really important and interesting to me. It's also helped me to see what makes me not want to play, which has been helpful to analyze.

For years, I have been proud to have award scrolls to display on my wall. In fact, the combined scrolls awarded to the members in my house take up an entire wall. That's pretty cool, and several of the scrolls are absolute works of art. Early on in my mom's SCA career, she joined a household that encouraged advancement through martial and service activities. The theme of advancement became her default, and thus became mine when I started to play regularly. And since it was ours when I met my husband, it eventually, in some ways, became his as well. This was not the "next cookie" type of advancement, however, where you actively seek to gain higher and higher rank by choosing the path of least resistance, regardless of whether you really care for anything or anyone you deal with along the way. No, this concept of advancement is the idea that one's place in the SCA is defined by your rank and the awards you've received. That there are genuine "class" divisions, and your only goal, really, is to advance through them. Inadvertently, by buying into this, I had fooled myself into believing that a majority percentage of my worth in the Society was measured by how many awards I could hang on my wall.

That's not what I'm worth, and it's not how I should be defined (either by others or myself). Neither my worth, my skill, nor my passion can be calculated that way. And, honestly, if I've learned anything in these recent months, it's that those things don't need to be calculated at all.

My kit isn't flawlessly authentic, my skills aren't perfect, my talents aren't vast. I may be days away from an award or years, who knows? But I love this hobby.

I love sharing what I've learned and what I know. I love trying new things, and knowing that, in this hobby, they aren't actually even remotely new. I love pouring over inspiring period imagery and seeing things that completely make sense to me. I love collecting relevant books.

I love listening to medieval music, and the smell of incense and beeswax. I love playing period games with my friends.

I love eating the period food my husband makes over an open fire.

I love the sound of drums at night and the smell of tiki torches burning citronella oil. I love how excited my kids get when they see their new garb.

I love the way our pavilion comes together, and how patient our children are with the process.

I love the sound of the battle field during a melee, and the satisfying "thunk" of an arrow hitting a target.

I love all my hats and headdress, and I wish I had more excuses to wear them.

I love seeing others challenge themselves to make or learn or try something they found a source for. I love handmade things.

I love the way I feel in my garb, and the way my family looks in theirs, and I love knowing that I made them with my own hands.

Those award scrolls are coming down. They don't come close to reflecting anything of what I love, and why I play. Then I'll take a deep breath and assess my project list, not against the goals I had originally set for them, but against my real interest and desire to make and do those things. And I'm willing to bet that my skills, my talents, my abilities will grow exponentially when I stop comparing them against the made-up ruler of the award structure.

I play this hobby because it accepts me for who I am as well as who I want to pretend to be, and it doesn't require me to explain my choices. I play because it challenges me. I play because it's fun, and quirky, and nerdy. I play because I love all those things, I love history, and I love the stories it's given me.

I play because I'm just as much 15th Century Edyth Miller as I am 21st Century Janis Hurst.


  1. Good for you! The SCA is a GREAT place to play, but people shouldn't expect to live there. That cuts them off from their own true lives. It's something actors have to learn and relearn. You are achieving BALANCE. There will always be those who obsess, and want to judge others by their own measure, but they must deal with that themselves. I love learning skills in, say, needlework, that may not have a venue for expression in the 21st century, so I need an excuse to "wear" it with others who understand and appreciate it. In this association I can learn more and admire others' work, too. However, I found some time ago, I LOVE my own LIFE, here and now. SCA or GBACG are elements in it. Welcome to the loveliness of a full life!

    1. Thank you Dianne! I'm very happy with the balance I'm finding now. It's a wonderful feeling to be completely distracted by mundane things at the same time as looking forward to the next event. :)

  2. I have never paid much attention to rank in the SCA. I have been given a few awards, but that has never been the reason I attend. I've been a heavy fighter in the past, but I was never really good at it. I have a few talents of worth to the society but nothing that would get me a Laurel. I even can't participate much due to my work schedule. So what do I get out of it? was a is a huge thrill just to be at the occasional event and see how the day unfolds. There is always someone to talk and, a new skill to try or something new to learn.