SCA 101: A Pennsic class from Duchess Kalissa Aleksandrovna and Master Liam St. Liam


  • The Society For Creative Anachronism has its roots in  a backyard graduation party in Berkeley, Calif., and held by science fiction author Diana Paxson.  The name SCA was coined by another science fiction author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, when the group needed to reserve a place in a public park for an event.
  • In 1968, Bradley moved to Staten Island, NY, and the SCA had two kingdoms — East and West. Both kingdoms would establish groups in Chicago, starting the Middle Kingdom
  • Over the years, kingdoms have continued to sub-divide, and now there are 19.
  • In 1974, groups began a weekend war near Pittsburgh, Pa., which has grown into the Pennsic War, which draws 10,000 to 11,000 yearly


  • Everyone in the SCA takes a persona, a role they play as a person from prior to 1600.
  • You can be as basic or as intricate as you want with your persona, though you cannot portray a real historic person.
  • Many people will first look at a place or a style of clothing and draw their persona, including name, from there. Some folks look at their own family history or their national background.
  • Developing your persona, like all the other things in the SCA, is supposed to be fun. Have a good time with it, be creative. Try different things if you would like


  • There are 19 kingdoms in the Known World
  • Almost all of those kingdoms are either entirely in the U.S. or in the U.S. and Canada
  • The two that are not are Lochac (Australia) and Drachenwald (Europe, South Africa and Israel)
  • The West is the oldest kingdom, starting in 1966, followed by the East and the Middle Kingdom. (All by 1969). The youngest is Gleann Abhann, which was created in 2005 and includes Mississippi, Louisiana, most of Arkansas and the Memphis, Tenn., area.



  • There are a lot of ways to approach receiving awards in the SCA. Many people simply choose to do what they enjoy and let things grow from there.
  • The first award most people receive in the SCA is the Award of Arms or AoA. It allows you to use the title “Lady” or “Lord” (or a variant).
  • There are baronial-level awards and kingdom-level awards. The baron and/or baroness give out baronial awards, and the king and queen bestow kingdom-level awards. (Not everyone lives in a barony).
  • Awards vary from kingdom to kingdom, but there are three Sociey-wide awards that individual kingdoms bestow. These are the peerages — the Order of the Chivalry (or knighthood)  for fighting, the Pelican for service and the Laurel for Arts & Science. Members of Chivalry can use “Sir” or “Master” and the others use Master/Mistress.



  • Each kingdom holds at least two Crown Tournaments annually, and the winning fighter and his/her consort become king and queen for a reign.
  • In most kingdoms, that reign is six months, though a few have shorter reigns.
  • Kings and queens have the ability to bestow awards ranging from simple “thank-yous” to peerages. They hold regular courts at events to do this.
  • Some kingdoms, such as the West and An Tir have a king and queen/prince and princess at the local level and also have sub-groups called principalities, which have Coronet Tournaments to crown a prince and princess.

Local Groups

  • As noted, there are 19 kingdoms, which are divided into regions and many smaller local groups.
  • The three most common groups are baronies, cantons and shires. A barony is the largest local sub-group, and its smaller branches are called cantons.
  • Shires are smaller local groups, usually not big enough to be baronies.
  • Names can vary by kingdom, but ridings are local groups in provinces. Colleges or boroughs are school-based local groups. Strongholds and ports are military-based groups.


  • In the SCA, heralds are the folks who understand period naming practices and period devices (the shields knights carried on the field or used in other ways to identify themselves.
  • Heralds will consult with you on your wishes, and they will help you with the paperwork you need to officially register your name and device in the SCA.
  • They will also work with you to help you have the name and arms you desire, within the rules of the SCA and have access to records to make sure your name and device do not conflict with anyone else’s already registered.
  • Heralds also serve as “the voice of the Crown,” speaking for the king and queen in royal court.


  • While the king and queen are the more visible leaders, the SCA is run by a group of volunteer officers.
  • Every local group, no matter how big or small, has a seneschal, basically the club president, who is the legal representative and runs local meetings.
  • There are minimum requirements for each level of group and some positions, such as seneschal, are mandated. Some of the other offices include the exchequer, who is the local treasurer, the knight marshal, who runs fighting, the chronicler, archery and fencing and the chatelaine, or newcomer officer.
  • Each kingdom has a set of kingdom-level officers and usually regional deputies, and the Society has a set of kingdom-level officers and a Board of Directors, which meets four times a year.

3 Responses to “SCA 101: A Pennsic class from Duchess Kalissa Aleksandrovna and Master Liam St. Liam”

  1. Abe Akirakeiko (Atlantia) Says:

    Marvelous overview! I regret that I will not make it to Pennsic to see your class in person.

    I do have one small correction : in the section on Geography, you mention that “Almost all of those kingdoms are either entirely in the U.S. or in the U.S. and Canada; the two that are not are Lochac (Australia) and Drachenwald (Europe, South Africa and Israel).”

    In fact, the Kingdom of the West encompasses large parts of East and Southeast Asia, in the form of the Palatine Barony of the Far West, which consists of Japan (including Okinawa), Korea, and Thailand, and has active local non-Americans and non-Canadians in all those nations.

    Mistress Katherine d’Aquitaine (OP, Vale de Draco, Far West) has also taught an SCA geography exercise in which she informed us that Ansteorra has historically claimed the Moon and Trimaris the International Space Station, for excellent reasons in both cases. 🙂

    • liamstliam Says:

      Abe: Fair points. I should make that less definitive.

      Trouble is, I am trying to do SCA geography (and seven other topics) on two pages and in an hour.


      • Abe Akirakeiko (Atlantia) Says:

        Master Liam: Totally understood! I just thought that people might find it interesting to hear that “we’re in Asia too”. (For full disclosure, I’m a former Far Westerner.)

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