- Well, some of it made me giggle...
Signora Apollonia Margherita degli Albizzi
Kingdom of Atlantia
**La vita senz'onore e un viver morto.**
The SCAtanic Verses
Some Essential Facts about the Real Middle Ages
as Recreated in the Society for Creative Anachronism
Some Roarers, Rogerers, Gorgers and Pukers whom you don't know.
DISCLAIMER: This is not an official publication of the SCA Inc. If it
were, it would be so dreadfully dull that the ink would be trying to escape
from the paper. In addition, it would not be even mildly critical of the
SCA. In fact, it would likely consist only of event announcements, lists of
officers (it is so vital that everyone in the kingdom be reminded every damn
month just who the seneschal of the Shire of Elephant's Bottom is), and a
letter from the king as follows:
Now that the snows of Winter cover Our Land, and our Populace turns
to peaceful Pursuits we remind all Gentles that it is Important to send in
letters of Intent for
those who would Fight in our Honourable Crown Tournament...
(This practice is based on the practice of English kings, beginning with
Hardecanute, of publishing a similar notice in The Leppards, the kingdom
newsletter of England). Also, the SCA Inc. forbids its newsletters to use
the word "tits", or to depict them (even on mermaids), or to use other nasty
language. The authors believe that profane language is a prerequisite of
artistic integrity, and that's why the imprimatur of the SCA Inc. been
Since the Society for Creative Anachronism is an organization dedicated to
the re-creation of the Middle Ages, the Authors reasoned that it ought to be
possible to reconstruct what actually happened in the Middle Ages by
observing the SCA. Since the Authors are a bunch of old cranks that have
been in the SCA long enough to burn out, we figured that we'd done all the
observing anyone would want to do. Anyone who's been around longer is too
bored and jaded to observe, and anyone who's been around less than we have
is a bloody newbie who doesn't know a Tuchuk from shinola. As such we
decided to write this book.
Some would say that we set out to be accurate in our extrapolations about
the middle Ages. Others would say that we set out to piss people off
(especially the ayatollahs of SCA orthodoxy). We leave it to the reader to
form his own conclusions, but it is no accident that the Authors' names do
not appear on this document.
Alchemists - were just this far from discovering how to turn lead to gold.
They were the forerunners of modern chemists, and if they had not been so
unjustly persecuted they would have invented plastic and Velcro.
Armour was made out of whatever was handy. Substances like horn, which was
just like plastic, were especially common for beginners. Denim was often
worn with armour, and running shoes as well.
Arts were separate from sciences in the middle Ages, but nobody was certain
why. A great deal of time was spent deciding which was which. See
Autocrats were the people who organized tournaments. They didn't need to be
polite or to wear garb. An example was the Tsar, who was titled "Tsar and
Autocrat of All the Russias," and who was rarely polite. Russia was plagued
with troubles and civil strife as a result, until it was revealed that the
Tsar and the Czar were the same man.
Awards were given by kings and queens. Awards came with medallions,
initials and precedence. Awards were given at court, and courts weren't
official unless a seneschal was there. Every few years someone would
publish an Order of Precedence, which is like Debrett's Peerage only without
the interesting essays or the adverts.
Backrubs were a prime form of social interaction in the middle Ages. It was
considered very rude to refuse a backrub, no matter how repulsive the person
who offered. Foot-rubs were likewise very important, often unsolicited and
always appreciated by everyone. Historians hark back to the Great Backrub
Circle of 1183, when the entire court of Henry II sat in a big circle on the
floor and rubbed each other's backs.
Bagpipes were played only in Scotland, and they were primarily a military
instrument. All those Breughel paintings of Flemish peasants dancing to
bagpipe music are clever forgeries. For the edification of the reader, it
is pointed out that a bagpipe is made by killing a goat or sheep, cutting
off the head and hindquarters, pulling the insides out, and turning the skin
inside-out. Then you sew up the hindquarters and stick tubes in where the
front hooves and the neck used to be.
Bards were common in the middle Ages. Everyone who wasn't a knight or a
maiden was a bard. Bards either played the harp or wished they did.
Indeed, it is doubtful whether there were any musical instruments in the
Middle Ages other than the harp, the guitar and the recorder (and in
Scotland the Bagpipe). Belly dancing was common all over Europe in the
middle Ages. See Obesity.
Bardic Circles were common gatherings usually after a feast, designated for
deciding who was going to sleep in which tents.
Beggars were cheerfully tolerated by all. They were often ennobled and
given money and food. When they were abused it was all in good fun. They
were often baptized with Christian names like Scum.
Bumper stickers were required by all and affixed to Carts, shields, boxes
and vehicles alike.
Camping was a common activity, were people left their homes for the purpose
of socializing and interrelating with no specific purpose.
Celts were fiercely independent persons from Scotland, Cumberland, Wales and
Ireland. They spoke Celtic and wore Celtic clothes. They, like the Vikings,
only existed in Early Period. As a matter of honour, they always pronounced
Celt with a hard C. They were rarely Christians. (The Celtic Church was a
pernicious myth invented by mediaeval barbers in order to perpetuate an
amusing sort of Mohawk called the Celtic Tonsure.) Celtic women were equal
to Celtic men because the Celts were so egalitarian, and they were allowed
to wear pants.
Cheers varied distinctly by kingdom. When a new kingdom or principality
formed, a new cheer had to be invented. The general cheer was "Vivat!", but
the cheer was varied by kingdom. In France they yelled "Vivat France!", in
England just "Vivat." Everyone, of course, thought of himself as the citizen
of a given country like France or Germany, and never as a citizen of Paris
or a countryman of Brandenburg. Cheers were always yelled in three chorused
Chirurgeons were a bunch of hysterical busybodies who put leeches on
people's veins, cupped their skin with hot glass and never washed their
hands before surgery. This, of course, resulted in widespread mistrust of
the Chirurgeons by people in general, as well as an astronomical rate of
mortality among their patients. They were all royally warranted, and they
didn't need to wear garb.
Chocolate is proof that some people just can't go one day without eating
Christianity was a conspiracy started by Pope Pius IX in the late 19th
century. Constantine never really converted, nor did Patrick convert
Ireland, nor Augustine England. In fact, nobody but Crusaders were ever
Christian. This was never really a problem, because there was no overt
religion in the middle Ages.
It was considered good manners just to allow others to live and let live.
Except Christians, who invented the Inquisition to persecute witches (and
Chroniclers published newsletters. Every shire, canton, barony and kingdom
in the middle Ages had to have a newsletter, and chroniclers were created by
royal warrant. Chroniclers never wrote chronicles.
Clothes came in two sorts: Field Garb and Court Garb. Field garb (which
was the sole sort of clothing in Early Period) was comfortable and often
made of denim. Court garb was uncomfortable and Late Period. Peasants and
beggars preferred earth tones and denim, and always tore holes in their
clothes before putting them on. Modern clothing was always worn under
armour, since mediaeval clothing is unsafe.
Confessionals (an aspect of the Middle Ages not found in the SCA, since they
are forbidden by the BOD policy on religion) were a place where all sins
were revealed and shortcomings made known. The only place in the SCA where
all sins are revealed and shortcomings made known is the Pennsic Swimming
Hole. Excessive unburdening is, however, highly discouraged in such places.
Cooks (a sort of fighter) were even more powerful than knights. They were
known to be able to wipe out massive numbers with just one remove of burnt
barley slop. Cooks only rarely used spices. When they did, they used a lot,
and nobody ate the food. As a result, everyone had to fill up on bread (see
Obesity, q.v.). Cooks were always called into feast halls to be thanked
after feasts. Sometimes cooks were called feast-o-crats or
Cords were used as a sign of rank or affiliation. Green and black cords
were worn by Rangers. Red and black cords were worn by Mongols. Fencers
hung their cords on their shoulders.
Crete was where women were in charge, everyone worshipped snakes and went
Crusaders were a bunch of fine fellows who killed Saracens and wore coats
with crosses on them. They accounted for most of the Christian population
Courts were a mediaeval form of sedation and birth control. Not only were
courts long and dull (thus putting the courtiers to sleep while keeping them
out of bed), but they also called for complicated clothing. Courts were
usually held after dinner (except at coronations). The primary business of
courts was the distribution of awards. Courts were generally held with the
presiding nobles facing their subjects (with a seneschal standing just
behind and between). The subjects sat quietly and snoozed in neat rows.
Dancing was especially popular in Late Period. Fighters and Vikings never
danced. In Early Period, dances primarily consisted of jigs and reels
played on the violin. Dancing did not change between 1100 and 1815, so any
dance that was done before the Battle of Waterloo is period.
Demigods were worshipped in the hope of future protection, patronage or
advancement. Often they wore white belts or medallions with leaves and
Dyes were generally black, and generally used on hooded cloaks. Red was the
next most common, and generally used on lining fabric for cloaks. Other
dyes were created by wise women. One wonders what they were doing living in
the woods and being persecuted by peasants if they were so damn wise.
Early Period was when everyone lived in the Celtic countries or in
Scandinavia. Some people were Goths then. People in Early Period all
dressed the same, in t-tunics and pants. Women often went in brief,
sleeveless dresses, which they got from Greece.
Women could do anything they liked in Early Period. Economics: there were
none in the middle Ages. Everyone had a lot of money except for beggars and
thieves and peasants.
Fat Broads is an abusive and sexist term, which we will not deign to define
here. However, there must have been a bloody lot of them in the middle Ages.
Feasts were prepared by Cooks. They generally consisted of an appetizer,
meat with a green salad and a dessert. These courses were called "removes",
and were announced by Heralds and printed on menus. Feasts were often
served on plastic plates. Particularly well-organized feasts often boasted
place cards, with the names of all the guests placed at their seats. When
noblemen paid for their feasts they were given "feast tokens", which were
never consulted by the servers but were rather a sort of souvenir.
Sometimes they were worthwhile (like key chains), but more often they were
just wooden discs with something carved on them. Some nobles preferred not
to pay for feast, and they either ate off-board or went out to Ponderosa (or
Tunnel Ribs in Windsor).
Fish was never eaten in the middle Ages, especially not by ladies.
Florentines, like all Italians, existed only in the Renaissance. They were
especially known for fighting with two broadswords at once. This style was
especially favored by Kings.
France was almost completely unpopulated during Early Period (Especially
after most Frenchmen moved to England and became Normans in 1066). In Late
Period it had a small population of noblewomen who sang and wrote poetry as
well as a few noblemen.
Every male in France was a knight, except for troubadours. And they all had
long hair. This is not a real identifying characteristic because everybody
in the middle Ages had long hair. And glasses.
Geeks (including persons lacking in social skills) were everywhere in the
middle Ages. Bards were especially likely to be geeks.
Gods! was what people shouted as an expletive. This was because so many
Gypsies were revered by everyone in the Middle Ages (something like Bards),
and always dressed just like gypsies in the movies of the 1940's.
Especially the headscarves.
Hats were worn occasionally. They generally consisted of a piece of cloth
and a circlet. Broad-brimmed straw and felt hats were seen occasionally.
Other hats were also worn, but only with court garb , and only occasionally.
Gypsies wore headscarves, Scots wore Tam-o'-shanters, and Vikings generally
wore helmets. Samurai never wore hats.
Heralds were primarily occupied with paperwork. Their job was to ascertain
that no two people in Europe had similar names and coats of arms. They were
especially concerned with "Points of Difference", and wars were fought over
how many cherubim proper could dance on a point of difference.
Honey Butter was the primary staple food in Europe throughout the middle
Ages. Nobody ever sat down to feast without a good dish of honey-butter,
and "to break honey-butter" was synonymous with sitting down to eat a meal.
Fortunes were made in acquiring monopolies on the importation of honey
butter to England in the sixteenth century, and some theorize that Essex's
uprising was motivated by his losing this lucrative monopoly. The English
Muscovy Company, the only trading company to be established in England
before 1600, was said to have specialized in exporting English honey butter
to Russia in return for furs and firs. It amazes modern historians both
that mediaeval cooks had so little imagination in the way of butter and that
everyone didn't get sick of it.
Households all had names, usually beginning with the word "House". Most of
them had badges as well. Households were a device, which allowed people to
have relatives from widely divergent times and places.
Initials were what people put after their names, so that everyone would know
what awards they had.
Inquisition (Spanish): Unexpected.
Ireland was one of the most populous nations in the middle Ages, especially
in Early Period. The population was fiercely independent, and often wore
tartan trousers in earth tones. The population there primarily consisted of
bards. Irishmen were especially pagan, even after the conversion by St.
Patrick, because they were so fierce and so clever.
Italy did not exist until the Renaissance. Italians loved to dance and
hated to fight. They often wore short tunics. The Renaissance was invented
in Italy. It began when Petrarch wrote in his diary, "Everyone in Florence
has begun wearing short tunics and tights. It must be the Renaissance."
Jews in the middle Ages often became Pagan as soon as they went to
University. They all had Hebrew names, primarily from the Bible-never Greek
names like Alexander or Hyrcanos or Kalonymos. All Jewish men were known by
patronymics and all Jewish women had matronymics. Jews always dressed like
Arabs, but other than that they were never much interested in religion.
Their dietary laws were not important at Feasts, and they were often seen at
Kingdom Twelfth Night munching on the roast suckling pig. If confronted by
a rabbi, their response was to point to the decorations on the pig and say,
"Rabbi, see how fancy the goyim serve a baked apple!"
Japan was a feudal state in the Pacific, which carried on thriving trade,
communications and exchanges of population with Europe (especially England
and Scotland) during the middle Ages.
Kings were absolute monarchs in the middle Ages, except that they were under
the complete control of their Seneschals (like the King of Sweden).
Everyone (except Vikings) bowed to them all the time and called them "your
Knights (an exalted sub classification of fighters) were very powerful and
could wear whatever they wanted. They dated (and sometimes married) women
young enough to be their daughters.
Late Period (including the Renaissance) was when everyone lived in England,
with some living in France and Italy. This was when Court Garb was
invented. Also see Renaissance.
Literacy was common, almost prevalent except among Vikings and beggars.
Nobody but priests and scholars, however, could read Latin. Everyone else
could read only English. In the middle Ages, honour was always spelled with
Makeup was just like modern makeup. Even in Japan. Perhaps women wore a
bit more blue eye shadow than is currently fashionable.
McDonald's did not exist in the middle Ages. If they had had it, however,
they would have eaten there. A lot. There was not an ancient tradition
that the name "McDonalds" should never be said, and that it was just called
"The Scottish Restaurant".
Mongols were fiercely independent and always wore black. Mongol women could
do whatever they wanted. Mongol headgear consisted of a piece of black
cloth held on the head by a black band.
Morality did not exist other than it was immoral to not be accepting and
supportive of everyone's sexual choices, at least in loud public statements.
Many people in conference were required to quietly discuss everyone's choice
of sexuality and partners and to come to a consensus as to the acceptability
of these social liaisons.
Mottos were affixed to banners and badges alike. It was allowed to say
anything, no matter how impolite or improper if it were done in Latin.
Muslims were rare in the middle Ages. All Muslim women belly-danced. Muslim
men were short and spoke in a loud, nasal voice. There is a widespread
theory that Muslims were generally closet Jews with surnames like Friedman.
Names were never duplicated. No two people in Europe had the same name, or
even the same coat of arms. If a parent wanted to baptize his child John of
Kent, and the local herald found an Earl of Kent who was called John, why
they just sent the parents home from church, closed up the font and made an
appointment for next week. People generally had several first names, like
"John Patrick Stephen Douglas of Skye", and when they joined households they
added their household's names on. When people got married, the woman would
take the part of her husband's name she liked the best, and add it on to all
of her names. As a result, people in the middle Ages often had names like
"Alicia Morgana du Val MacTaggard of House Flamingnose, the Wild Woods and
the Smoky Rocks", don't ya know.
Normans are English noblemen from France who hate Saxons. It must be noted
that Normans have upper-class English accents, rather than French accents.
The word "Norman" comes from a French word meaning "fierce and independent",
and all the Normans were descended from one Hrolf "Rollo" the Gangster, who
became Duke of
Normandy after being (or beating, the translation is not clear) the King of
Obesity was common in the Middle Ages, especially among persons of rank and
kingdom officers. This was because they were all filling up on bread at
feasts. That and chocolate chip cookies. Obese people, like Muslims, often
Officers were important people in the Middle Ages who wore baldrics of
office, medallions of office and smug expressions. The seneschal of a
mediaeval kingdom was roughly analogous to the prime minister of modern
Sweden: more powerful than the King and occasionally apt to be assassinated
on the way home at night.
Oyez was what people shouted when they wanted to be heard over a din. This
was especially done by Heralds, but an off-hand cry of "oyez" often tossed
into an announcement if nobody was paying any attention.
Paganism was the dominant organized religion in the middle Ages. Pagans
worshipped a goddess instead of God and were very egalitarian and close to
nature. Christianity stole most of its creed and worship from the Pagans
who had it all first. Everybody was really a pagan, except for Torquemada.
But everyone else. Even Henry II.
Peasants were few in the middle ages, but they were fierce and independent,
and always corrected people who mistook them for noblemen. Like beggars,
they had names like Fungus and Scum, and like beggars they were often
Populace was what the collective nobles of a mediaeval kingdom were called.
They loved being called "The Populace", and they bowed all the time.
Rangers were a sort of soldier first raised in British North America in
1759. They were especially known for fighting Florentine. They wore black
felt hats and green-and-black Cords.
Religion: Except for a few priests, the people were too clever or too Pagan
to be truly religious.
Renaissance (a division of Late Period) was when everyone began wearing
tights (men) and fancy dresses with hoops and corsets (women). There was no
Field Garb during the Renaissance. People just wore early-period garb when
it was hot or when they did something gross. Women often dressed in men's
clothing in hot weather.
Romans were all pagan and all spoke with British accents. Everyone hated
the Romans. Their primary contribution to culture was the Roman Salute,
which consisted of thumping the breastplate with a fist, then giving the
black-power salute. They either wore a short tunica, a long toga or armour.
They had leaves on their heads.
Sages were people who knew everything about the mediaeval world because they
had sat at High Table, and had read a book by Margaret Murray. They were
always right, and tended to be Kingdom Officers.
Saints were really gods in disguise. Everyone who was pretending to
venerate saints was really worshipping pagan gods. Saint Bridget, for
instance, was really a goddess called Brigantia. Saint Patrick was really
the Irish god of exterminators. Saint Paul was really the patron deity of
Thracian postmen. Note that Paul in Greek is Paulos, and that rhymes with
Apollos (and we all know what that proves).
Samurai were fierce and independent people from Japan who never put their
swords down. Like Vikings, Samurai never dance. Samurai wished that James
Clavell had been born in the middle Ages. The fiercest and most independent
Samurai are called Ronin, and they were deuced proud of it.
Saxons were fierce and independent Englishmen who spoke English and hated
Normans. They were essentially indistinguishable from Irishmen, except that
they existed up until the Renaissance, whereas Irishmen stopped at the end
of Early Period.
Sciences were distinguished from arts by mediaeval scholars as follows: If
you can kill someone with it, it is a science. This was always followed by
a hearty laugh. This is an unsuitable definition, since it is easy to
strangle someone with embroidery floss, or to beat someone to death with a
mandolin. On the other hand, building a mandolin is a science. Are
Scotland, especially the Highlands, was heavily populated throughout the
middle Ages, especially with people with thick Clydeside accents and belted
plaids (which they called kilts) and kilts (which they also called kilts).
Everyone there (and nowhere else) loved bagpipe music. Scots danced
Highland Dances a lot. Scots were fiercely independent, loyal to the King of
Scots, and always had surnames beginning with 'Mac' as well as several first
Shoes were long and pointed, and so nobody actually wore them. They wore
black cloth slippers, which they imported from China. Or running shoes.
When they fought they sometimes wore engineer boots or combat boots, but
more generally wore sneakers.
Songs were sung by Bards. Songs did not change between 1200 and 1914, so
any pre-WWI song is period.
Taverns were bars in the middle Ages. They were staffed by Wenches and
everyone went to them, sometimes in disguise. Thieves especially frequented
taverns. People in taverns often sang "Barrett's Privateers". Thieves
admitted being thieves and belonged to guilds and observed the feast of St.
Dismas, patron of thieves. Nobody minded because there were no cops in the
Tournaments were run according to elimination trees. They lasted a few
hours and were followed by Feasts. They were occasionally followed by
Dessert Revels instead, which forced everyone to eat out. Tournaments were
always on Saturdays, which was why Orthodox Jews were never knights.
Twelfth Night was called such because it was held on the twelve successive
Saturdays after the first of December. It was always very dull, because
there was no fighting.
Underwear was just like modern underwear, except for two exceptions. Women
who really needed to wear a brassiere never did, and Scotsmen never wore
underwear at all (this was called being "regimental", from the Latin regima,
which means "no shorts"). Even in the dead of winter.
Unicorns were worshipped by everyone throughout the middle Ages. The best
analogy is the single, good-looking woman (or man) with intelligence and no
history of mental disorder: a mythical creature often sought but rarely
found. Not in the SCA anyway.
Velcro did not exist in the middle Ages, but (like Spandex) if it had
existed it would have been used widely.
Vikings were Norsemen and all Norsemen were Vikings. The term comes from
the Swedish word "vik", which means "fierce and independent". All of them
wore fur and never danced. They had a special fondness for earth tones, and
hated bright colors and ornaments. Vikings only existed in Early Period,
after which Scandinavia was completely depopulated. Vikings never bow to
kings. They occasionally give the Roman Salute (see Roman). Vikings were
Virginity, a quality that was restored to most ladies every 6 months or so.
Waivers were required by all persons gathered to participate in any
activity. No one is sure of the value of any of these things but it is
certain that many people required more than a one of these.
Wales was heavily populated in Early Period by fiercely independent bards
called "Cymru", which means "fierce and independent". In Wales nobody was
anybody's master (It is not clear whether they were anarchists like the
Vikings or utopian socialists like the Irish). An exception was the
English, and everyone hated them. Welsh people tended to have several
Wench: an implement used to accomplish a task without using one's hands.
One need not own a wench; one might borrow one from a neighbor and never
Whips, lashes, floggers and cat-o-nine tails were carried by a large
percentage of the populace, but their use in legal structures is never
noted. See Morality.
Witches were Pagans and vice versa. They were unjustly persecuted by the
few available Christians who were just jealous.
An important caveat to keep in mind while dealing with any of the above
definitions is that any modern person is ten times better than any mediaeval
person. This means that any modern illuminator can paint better than the
Limbourg brothers, any modern bagpiper can pipe like a MacCrimmon, that any
modern poet can write better than any poxy mediaeval writer of chansons de
Nicholas S. Malone
Information Systems Supervisor
Virginia Department of Transportation
Transportation and Mobility Planning Division
1401 East Broad Street, Room 113
Richmond, VA 23219
The Merry Rose Tavern at Cheapside
List Info: http://merryrose.atlantia.sca.org/