An Easy Way to Create a Persona in the SCA - or at least, how I did . . .
Creating a persona in the SCA is one of the most important things that a new member should do. The first steps are to decide on a locale and a look for your new self. Here's my fool-proof (if unorthodox) method to do just that:
Unless you have a strong feeling for a particular era/people (i.e. Crusades, Vikings), or if you can't decide between centuries or regions, you might be mostly concerned with the way you'll look or dress at events. To determine a possible preference, go and rent a bunch of Medieval-ish movies. Try The Name of the Rose, The Three Musketeers, Excalibur, Much Ado About Nothing, etc. Look at the costumes (garb) they're wearing. Does any of it appeal to you? If you think you want to look similar to Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood," or you love the dresses worn by Glenn Close in "Hamlet," then keep this in mind and make a trip to your local library.
When you arrive at the library, look up books on costuming that include Medieval and Renaissance garb. You should also look for books on Medieval and Renaissance art, and while you're at it, check out books about names. The best of these are Withycombe's"The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names," and "The Origin of English Surnames," by Reaney. When you leave the library, you should have more books than you can carry.
Now that you're home, remember that really cool costume you saw in the movie? Find something similar in as many of the costuming books as you can. Hopefully they will include the dates and regions that your choice of style was worn. Here's where it gets a little messy. You'll notice when you start doing research for authenticity in the SCA, that many of your sources are somewhat unclear, or very often just plain mistaken. If you find that your outfit dates from, say, the 1100's and the 1400's, depending on your source, then you need to look further.
This is where the art books come in. Find paintings, sculpture, etc. depicting the clothing you like. What country are they from? What year were they produced? Your garb should date from before that time. Be careful, however, because some artists would portray an event from "their" past in the modern costume of their day. Basically, if you can match the dates in several costuming books with the dates of artwork, you've got a pretty sure match. If you're still unsure, talk to someone in your local SCA group, they'll be more than willing to help.
Now that you know what century (and what region) you want to dress like, you need a name. Get your name books and start going over possible choices, trying to match names with the country your garb is found in. The SCA states that you cannot use the name of historical figure, another SCA member, or any title of nobility in your name. They also require that you have two parts or more to your name, so that it can be distinguishable from all others. If you like Italian Renaissance clothes, then you should be looking for an Italian name that you can document to have possibly existed in that era and region.
Go through your name books and put together a list of possible names. If you can't find anything you like this way, an alternative is to look through literature that dates from your era to locate possible names. Eventually you will come up with a combination that you're happy with, or if you're like me, you'll have to decide between a bunch (doing it this way is a lot easier than pulling a name out of thin air and trying to reverse-document it, believe me).
Take your name to your local herald. See what he or she thinks. Sometimes the names you want to use don't go together, or are in the wrong form (using a masculine version when you're female). Your herald should be able to spot this before you submit it. Once your name is submitted, be prepared to wait. It took a year for my name to be approved.
Now that the hard part is done, you can work on the creative part. What do you want to get out of the SCA? Are you interested in fighting, poetry, art, archery, cooking, dancing, something else? Try a little bit of everything, and use this to begin a background for your persona (I happened to be most interested in poetry, storytelling, and archery - which coincidentally all happened to be interests related to the Welsh - so it reinforced my persona). You should be able to come up with both a personal and historical background for your character. Memorize it. It's always good to be able to explain yourself at events.
Well, that's it. I'm sure this is not the official method for creating a persona, but it worked for me, and it keeps the authenticity police from branding me as "non-period."
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Copyright 1997, 1998 & 1999 C. Danielewicz - Reproduce with Signed Permission Only.