Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What is an SCA Scribe?

I jumped into this blog from a very SCA/East Kingdom-centric point of view and level of knowledge, and I realize I haven't done much to explain a few of the basics for those not already ensconced in those worlds. Let me take a step back and help explain scribal art in the East Kingdom, and define a few terms.

If there's ever anything I write about that you want clarification on, please leave me a comment.


The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA)

"The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our "Known World" consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more." - from the sca.org website.

The East Kingdom (EK)

"The East Kingdom is a part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. (SCA), a not-for-profit educational organization which studies the Middle Ages by recreating the pastimes and crafts of the period. The East Kingdom covers Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and New York, the New England states and eastern Canada." - from the eastkingdom.org website.

Awards & Recognition

In the SCA, we have a tradition of recognizing those who participate and volunteer their time by granting them awards. Each kingdom has their own traditions as to how this is done. Typically the recipient of the award is called forward during royal court in front of the King and Queen. The King and Queen then spend some time talking to & about the person and the awesome things they have done. Then they announce to the crowd what award is being given & why.

In the East Kingdom, most awards are accompanied by a unique scroll crafted for that recipient. The herald of the court will read the scroll to the recipient and crowd. The scroll is then shown to the crowd and the artists are given credit for their work. Finally it is presented as a gift to the recipient for them to keep, take home, and display.

Other kingdoms may do things differently...

Scribes & the EK Signet

The decision to give someone an award is almost always made by the King and Queen. Once the decision has been made to given an award, the office of the Signet is notified. The Signet then figures out where and when the award can be given out, and looks for a scribe who is available to make the scroll by that deadline.

If the scribe accepts the assignment, they are responsible to oversee the completion of the scroll by the deadline given. Words need to be written, calligraphed, and the page is also usually illuminated with gold & or paint. Some scribes are comfortable doing all of these things, others are not. There's a great community of artists who love to help if you are only doing one part of the work.

I am primarily a calligrapher, and prefer to work with other artists who write the words and illuminate the page. I can do all three, but my passion and enjoyment are with calligraphy. Luckily, we have a very active scribal community that allows for this.

The office of the Signet keeps track of all the active scribes and assignments. They have a new scribes deputy who can help you get started and find classes or teachers in your area. They also have a backlog deputy who tracks awards that were given without a scroll and need one made. Backlogs are a great place to start as a new scribe because there is less time pressure to complete them by a specific date.

Keep in mind that the SCA functions on volunteerism, and scribes are one of the types of volunteers that help make this wonderful hobby work. Scribes donate their time and materials to help make sure that award recipients receive a gift to go with their recognition.


Award - A recognition given by SCA royalty during court. The first & most common award that is given is called an Award of Arms, or AoA. It is given for participation in the SCA and gives the title of Lord or Lady to the recipient. For more information, see the EK Scribes Handbook or East Kingdom Orders & Awards. 

Court - A ceremonial gathering where the royalty sits in state. In the SCA, this is primarily done for the purpose of recognizing people with awards. 

Scroll - In the modern world, the term "scroll" conjures images of document that is stored by rolling it up. In the SCA world, we typically use the term scroll to describe a piece of artwork that is more akin to an individual page from a medieval manuscript. More generically in the SCA, a scroll is piece of artwork made to commemorate an award being given out in court. Scrolls usually consist of medieval or Renaissance style calligraphy, paint and sometimes gold leaf on paper that can be matted and framed by the recipient. However, the term has also been used to describe other types of artwork used to commemorate an award, from stained glass, to painted banners, woven or embroidered cloth, carved stone, wood or horn, decorated metal, etc.

Scribe - An artist who helps make award scrolls to be given out in royal court.

Wordsmith - The artist responsible for authoring the words. 

Calligrapher - The artist responsible for penning the words onto the scroll.

Calligraphy - The words inked onto the scroll.

Illuminator - The artist responsible for the gold and/or paint work on a scroll.

Illumination - The gold and/or paint on the scroll.

Gilding - Applying gold leaf.

Period - A shorthand meaning "the period of the SCA"; roughly 600 to 1600 A.D. Artists in the SCA talk about doing things in a period way, or making something look period, period methods and materials, etc.

1 comment: