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Stefan's Florilegium


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Persona-CMA-art - 2/18/05


"Persona in the Current Middle Ages; Guidelines to persona play" by Mistress Willow de Wisp, Lion of Ansteorra


NOTE: See also the files: Easy-Persona-art, persona-art, Persona-f-Beg-art, persona-msg, names-msg, Names-2-Latin-art, SCA-Personas-art, On-Personae-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Persona in the Current Middle Ages; Guidelines to persona play

by Mistress Willow de Wisp, Lion of Ansteorra


The first thing to know about playing persona in the SCA is that there are many levels to persona playing. The levels run from the base line persona, the minimum you should do, to being very elaborate. Some people stay at base line to moderate their whole SCA careers, while other jump to advance at their first event.  Everyone needs to find his or her own level. In the SCA each person is learning, doing and advancing at their own rate.  The second thing to know is persona play is hard to maintain so it is all right to change levels over a period of time. There are some base line attributes that we should try to maintain at all times.  The third thing to remember is to keep on-stage and off-stage in mind at all times. The fourth thing to remember is it takes time to learn things so it is all right to make mistakes and take a little while to get into the flow. The important thing is to try. The learning is part of the SCA experience. Let us talk about the various levels of persona play.


Base line persona


In the base line persona you need to maintain the persona of the kingdom and follow the rules of etiquette. We have created the construct of a Western Medieval Kingdom to teach us about the middle ages in Europe, but for it to work we must all agree to pretend that the kingdom exist. We need to act as its structure is valid by honoring the King and Queen, treating the awards with respect, encouraging the values of the kingdom and treating the trappings of the kingdom as they were real.


How do we do this?


The first thing is to follow the courtesies. Courtesy is probable the most important of the values of the kingdom. We display this value by treating each other with courtesy and kindness, and using each otherŐs titles. The titles and protocol are easy to learn. The titles go along with awards so by using them we are supporting the award system. It is just as important to acknowledge the simple titles like Lord or Lady, as it is to acknowledge the high titles like King and Queen. No matter the level, the individual has gone to some work to achieve that title and deserves to be given the recognition for their work. Good manners go a long way. The simple interaction of people using courtesies and having pleasant conversations in a courteous mode truly adds to the atmosphere and the magic of the SCA.


The second thing we do is to get rid of the blatant reminders of the modern world.


We wear medieval or renaissance clothes. There is a SCA accepted generic style that is the minimum you should wear. If you are really studying historical costume you will discover that SCA generic is a hodgepodge of historical styles and so it is a little off. When you are new it is OK to wear what you have, but after you have been in for six to eight months it is expected that you have a least one minimum outfit. Of course, if you want to do something more historical that is wonderful and is greatly encouraged. Doing more is always good.


We try to cover-up or disguise our obviously modern things. We use covers over our ice chests and paper bags and other such things. These covers can be just pieces of cloth. We do not carry soda bottles or cans around. We use a tankard or goblet. We have a set of period looking feast ware. We try not to eat off paper plates or plastic. If we take a bag of chips out, we put the bag back up under its cover. If we must leave a plastic bottle out we cover it up with a little bag. We cover our lawn or camp chairs, or decorate our chairs so they donŐt look so modern.  The directorŐs chair is acceptable all by itself.


We keep all modern electronic devices out of view. We do not use them where people can be disturbed by their modernism. We are trying to create an atmosphere that allows people to forget about the modern world. Anything that reminds them of the everyday world should be put away. Anything that is necessary for your health is accepted. Glasses are a necessary evil. Sometimes people have to use special shoes for their health, this is OK, but if it is possible for them to be in a dark color that would be best. Watches are a big question. It would be better if they were kept out of sight, because they do bring some people back to modern era. Some people disguise their watches as jewelry.


We try to keep modernism out of our speech. We try to keep our conversations about computers, baseball or cars as quiet as possible. Some people will try to hide modern words by making up funny replacements. In my mind this brings attention to the words. Automobile is a perfectly valid Latin term. Calling a car a dragon sounds very cutesy but calling it a wagon doesnŐt bother me at all. Sometimes the easiest thing is to not mention the thing at all. ŇI got a message.Ó DoesnŐt imply anything about the information or how you got the message. If someone comes to us doing a higher level of persona play, then we try to be courteous to him or her and try not to destroy his or her magic. Someday we may be at a higher level and we would not want them to throw cold water on us.  


We have a name and a place to be from. The place we are from does not have to be historical. For example: if you live in Dallas you are from the Steppes so your name could be Mary of the Steppes. We often feel a little strange starting off in the SCA and there is a temptation to crack jokes or call ourselves something silly. Please do not do this because it causes other to be jarred back into the everyday world.   Bob of the Steppes sounds funny, but Robert of the Steppes sounds noble. In our kingdom we believe that everyone is at least petite nobility and we are all heroes so it is all right to appear noble. This is our chance to be bigger than life and someone special.


In general, when we are at base line persona we are keeping the dream of our kingdom alive and creating an atmosphere that allows the magic to grow.


Moderate persona


This is the level that most people are at when they receive their first award and they become a Lord or a Lady. At this level one should be fairly familiar with the titles and courtesies. At this time people start making choices. Some people base their personas on being a Lord or a Lady of Ansteorra. Other people base their personas on being from someplace in history. If you are based on the kingdom you need to follow the standard courtesies of the kingdom, but if you are based on a historical time and place you might want to start adding things from that time and place. For example hand kissing; in the kingdom you simple take the hand and kiss it preferably not getting it wet, but historically different places at different times had different customs. Recently a gentleman whose persona is from someplace in Italy informed me that you kissed the air above the hand to show respect for the lady. Whether you are based on the kingdom or history the little extras you add really spices up the game. You should be able to introduce people and carry on a small genteel conversation for a short while. You should be able to approach the Crown or a noble and do the appropriate bows and titles. At this time we become role models and teachers for newer members. Court and the tournament are the major activities of the SCA so we need to become familiar with terms and concepts surrounding these activities. We need to explain what are honor, courtesy and chivalry to new people. We should either have or be working on our arms and name. A general knowledge of heraldry is handy.  If your persona is that of a backwater Norseman, not knowing this information can be part of your persona. We should become familiar with the concept of Largess. Giving Largess or gifts is an expected activity of a Lord and a Lady in most cultures. Giving Largess to people who display the appropriate values of the SCA reinforces the kingdom. Historical a Lord or a Lady could do the following: serve a lordŐs table, do some arts, play games, perform a little, shoot a bow, carry on a courtly conversation, understand courtly romance and do some dances. Participation in some of these and other medieval activities would greatly enhance your persona.


We should be actively covering up blatantly modern things. Most of our costumes should be to SCA minimum and it would be nice if an attempt were made for historical. We should try to have proper shoes, pouch and mantle. Now not only do we have period looking feast gear, we have tablecloth and lighting. Sitting with people who have proper tablecloth and lighting can solve this problem. Our campsite should show an attempt to disguise the modern. In general we will be trying to make the area around us look somewhat period. We should actively try to add to the Magic of the SCA.


Intermediate, advance, high and ultra persona


The main purpose of role-playing in the SCA is to help people learn. As we move into the intermediate stage to higher stages we start adding more and more historical information into personas. We now may be visiting Ansteorra, but be from France. We work on our tents, our chairs, our eating utensils, our clothing and our behavior. The more we do the further we go up the scale. We create a pool of enchantment around ourselves so people can look in and observe the culture we are recreating. We are often limited by the events and activities we are at. People have different priorities. Some people believe it is more important to have a perfect tent, others clothes and still others think behavior is the most important thing. All of these viewpoints are correct. Persona is a very individualistic thing. Most often high persona will happen at events or activities that are very period and they will give people the feeling that we are really in a medieval world. They involve many people working together. They are very exciting. Usually high persona activities will go on for a limited amount of time and we will then drop to a lower level. Ultra persona usually involves some Ňliving historyÓ activities. They are usually special campsites and are marked off. The big war at Pennsic has such of an encampment. Here people are living the lifestyle of the middle ages and have rules such as no glasses or other non-period items. Ultra persona is not very common.


Persona truly adds to the SCA and can greatly add to your enjoyment. The levels I have laid out are not written in stone. As we grow in the SCA we change our levels. Find the best level to suit you and have a good time.  


Copyright 2004 by Lanpheir Taylor, 1831 Edna, Arlington, TX. 76010. <willowdewisp at juno.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org