Persona ~ or Who are you?
What is a Persona?
An SCA persona is the basis for your interaction in the Society. It is who you are and who you were. It can be as simple as a name. Many people enjoy simply having an appropriate name and garb. They interact in the SCA and consider their personas to be simply who they are in the context of the Current Middle Ages. For example, you may simply be Joseph the Brewer hailing from the Shire of Hartshorn-dale, member of the House of Dragon's Lake and a member of the East Kingdom Brewers' Guild.
At the same time, your persona is your projection of yourself into another time and culture: who you were. So at the same time that you are Joseph the Brewer of Hartshorn-dale, your persona story might go something like: "I am Joseph the Brewer, a 14th century Englishman who just completed his apprenticeship with a famous brewer in London. I was about to set up my own brewery in my home village when the call came from our king for all good men to join him on a campaign to France. I have left my family to seek my fortune as a soldier."
So you see, we are all split personalities in the SCA. We are who we are in the Current Middle Ages, and we are who we were in history. If it sounds confusing, don't worry, it's not really. This worksheet will help you get started on a persona: both who you are and who you were. Of course, as you make friends and get involved in the SCA, the who you are will tend to take care of itself. The who you were is a matter of your interest and motivation. Some people in the Society gain great delight from researching a historical persona. Others don't and that's just fine. It's all up to you.
Do's and Don'ts:
- TAKE YOUR TIME AND HAVE FUN. Developing a persona is a process that can take some people a few days, other years. So don't sweat it if you haven't got a clear idea of who you want to be. You can simply start off with a basic name (maybe just your own real name) and some comfortable garb. No one is going to look down on you if you don't have a detailed persona at first (or even last). And the level of detail you decide to give your persona is entirely up to you.
- Consider your family tree, interests, hobbies, favorite books, etc.It may be here that you find the perfect inspiration for developing your persona. For example, a person interested in woodworking might think about the history of that art; discover gothic woodcuts; the history of woodworking guilds, etc. and (Ta Da!) become "Robin Woodwright" a 13th century craftsman lending his talents to the construction of a new cathedral in England. Likewise, someone interested in firearms might become a late period musketeer. A King Richard the Lion Heart fan might become a crusader. Or a person interested in Asian martial arts might develop a Japanese or Chinese persona.
- Explore different SCA interest groups such as craft guilds. Get to know a variety of people with different personas - if you find what they do or how they do it interesting, ask them about it. These are all good sources for inspiration.
- Keep your persona story believable. We all want to be"larger-than-life" in some ways and we want to have fun persona stories to tell our friends. But, let's face it, most medieval folk did not go around rescuing damsels in distress from wicked sorcerers or jumping through open windows with roses clenched in their teeth. Believe it or not, in the long run realism is much more interesting than a cliché romance/adventure storyline.
- Check with your local Herald for help with heraldry (of course) as well as tips on research. And ask others how they've gotten started; everybody has a different approach. Researching your persona can be fun - This is not a term paper after all.
- Rush your persona - don't get stuck with a name and/or persona that you later regret. Conversely, don't take too long and risk getting stuck with a name that someone else gives you. Or worse yet, a nickname!
- Take the name of a historical figure or fictional character.
- Give yourself a title, either SCA or non-SCA, unless you have been awarded the right to that title by the Crown. Such titles can only earned through years of experience, activity and service in the Society. You may also eventually earn a rank or title by the leader(s) of your household. For example, you might be made a "retainer" of your house. But only the Crown can make you a "Sir", "Lord" or "Lady".
- Take the exact same name as someone else in the society. Surnames and personal names might be the same but not the entire name. It is common for members of a household to share a common surname.
- Copycat the persona story of another person.That is, if you can help it. For instance, there are lots of German mercenaries, Celts, Norman crusaders etc. in the SCA. Which is fine. But the idea is not to just slap such a label on yourself and call it a persona. Such a category is a good place to start, but over time, invest some creative energy in the details of your story to make yourself a realistic, and unique individual.
- Be in a rush to join any one particular household or group. You may be tempted to do so if you already have friends in a given group. And it can be a convenient way to "jump start' your SCA activity - perhaps even to determine your persona. But take the time to make sure your interests really mesh with the group's For example, what would happen if you joined a Celtic House only to decide later that in your heart, you are a Spanish conquistador? Coming out of the closet might be awkward and cause confusion. It is usually recommended than one wait at least a year before joining a household (and a good household will certainly be willing to wait if they really want you to join them). Keep your friends, but be your own SCAdian from the start. Explore. Explore. Explore. Then find your niche.
Here is a set of questions that may be helpful as you think about just who you want your persona to be. By no means should you feel you must answer each and every question - or try to answer them all at once. Let them serve as a guide to fleshing out your persona. Again, remember to have fun and take your time.
What year were you born? What year is it now?
What is your country/land/region of origin? Where in that country are you from?
What part of the country is your family from?
Are you in a different country now? If so, why?
Who are your parents? Do you have brothers, sisters, cousins, etc.?
What is your name? What does it mean? Who gave it to you? Why?
What is your rank/status within your family? Has it ever changed?
Do you or your family owe fealty/loyalty to anyone or anything?
How would you identify yourself, your family or your people?
In your culture, what is your social status - noble, artisan, clergy, peasant, etc.?
What is your profession/occupation?
What duties/obligations do you have? To whom or what?
What accomplishments are expected from someone in your position?
What sort of income do you have?
What would you consider a "good standard of living"? What is yours?
What sort of government do you live under? Who is your King, Queen or other important political figures?
What important political, religious, social events have taken (or are taking) place in your lifetime?
What special talents do you have?
What was your education like, if any - clerical, apprenticeship?
Can you read and write?
What languages can you speak?
Was there a pivotal moment in your life? When/how did this happen? How do you think this has affected you?
What are your motivations; what do you want out of life?
Are there other important characters in your life story? Perhaps an enemy, mentor, lost loved one, important relative/friend, spouse etc.?
What religion are you? Do you have any strong spiritual beliefs? What holy days or rituals do you observe?
Do you have any superstitions or believe in any "myths"? Why?
What do you do in your leisure time? Do you actually have any?
What type of clothing do you wear and why that style, fabric, etc.? Any special preferences?
Do you have a favorite or significant possession - land, your father's sword, a pilgrim's medallion or relic? How did you come by it? Do you have a pet? What kind of animals are you familiar with?
What foods do you typically eat? Why and how often?
Do you drink? Under what circumstances? Is this socially acceptable in your culture?
What sort of things would you consider "good", "evil", "strange", "natural", "exotic", "civilized", "uncivilized"?
Do you have a life philosophy, motto, or favorite saying?
All in all it is important to remember that this all takes time and exploration. It is not necessary to go into this depth to play in the SCA, nor it is necessary to even have a persona. It is up to the individual to decide how far they want to go..and how indepth and authentic they wish to be. And most of all have fun with it !
Article used with permission from author, Matsuyama Mokurai of the Shire of Eisental. My thanks anddeepest gratitude for his gracious support.
Disclaimer: This is the Newcomers Page for the Shire of Hartshorn-dale of the East Kingdom
of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. The maintainer of this page is
Lee Ann Posavad.
It is not a corporate publication of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. and does not delineate SCA policies.
In cases of conflict with printed versions of material presented on this page or its
links, the dispute will be decided in favor of the printed version.
This page last modified March 21, 2003.