By Alys Katharine of Ashthofne Glen
© Alys Katharine
Tournaments Illuminated, Issue #95, Summer A.S. XXV, Page 22
No matter whether a long time SCA member brought you to your first meeting or you came by yourself, there's always a period of adjustment to this very different world. How can you get yourself oriented to all the new things and begin to have some fun?
Go up to someone and say, "Hi, I am So and So and I'm new. Can you tell me what's going on?" Introduce yourself to someone each time you come to a meeting. If you hide at the edges of the room, most people will respect what they think is your desire to be left alone. Unless a group of people is having an obviously private conversation, stand near them and, when appropriate, introduce yourself. SCA members are often involved in catching up on what happened since they last saw each other and may not notice a new face until you walk up to them.
You have probably heard at least one person say, "If you have any questions, just ask." The person means well but may not remember that a newcomer often doesn't know enough to ask. Try replying, "Tell me about ... the crafts done here, the fighting, the garb he/she/you are wearing", or "How I can learn about making ... ", and so on. These questions avoid a yes/no answer, and you might hear something that will prompt a second question from you.
Come to at least four meetings
Attending several meetings will allow you to gain a broader perspective of the varied things that people do and work on, and provide you with an opportunity to learn more about the scope of your local SCA group. You will also be seen as a new person who is truly interested in becoming an active member. Often experienced members talk for a long time with new people, only never to see them again. To avoid this possible frustration, experienced members will sometimes wait until they have seen new people at several meetings before engaging in a dialog. Finally, attending several meetings will provide you with the opportunity to hear about any guild or special interest meetings. If you wish, feel free to ask for more information regarding these groups, even if you are only slightly interested.
Go to events outside your local group
Here's where you get to play with others who share similar interests. At first you won't know anyone there except members of your local group who may be attending. Leave them for a while. Make new friends from other groups. Introduce yourself and ask questions. Participate in the planned activities. Keep your eyes and ears open. And, some day, someone will come up and say, "Hi, I'm So and So and I'm new. Can you tell me what's: going on?"
Go to newcomer orientation sessions
Not all groups provide a formalized introduction to the SCA. If your group does offer some form of introduction, you will more quickly learn some of the basic rules of conduct, how to participate more fully, and how not to stick out like a sore thumb, something many newcomers dread!
Get one piece of basic medieval clothing
Ask someone how to make a simple tunic. If you can't sew, ask for ideas about putting together a reasonable approximation of medieval clothing out of modern clothes. Ask if there is a "Gold Key" or loaner clothing available until you can get your own.
Expect to be responsible for your own things
While not everyone has made all of their clothing, jewelry, armor, weapons and so forth, most people have at least made an attempt at making some things. Sometimes newcomers expect experienced members to provide everything. You will find that people are quite willing to teach you to do something "from scratch," but they are not willing to do extensive hand holding or do your work for you. Except for children, each person is expected to be an adult and to take adult responsibilities. It can be scary to learn that you are expected to provide for yourself, but almost everyone who is wearing fancy clothing or armor started where you are now.
Join the SCA
Membership in the SCA is completely voluntary, but does in include several benefits. As a paid member will you will receive your kingdom's newsletter, which provides you with information regarding kingdom news and events. Membership also provides you with voting privileges that will allow you to participate more fully in the affairs of your local group, possibly even serving as an officer. Additionally, an SCA Membership provides you with a financial incentive, as paid members are not required to pay a non-member surcharge at SCA event. If finances allow, consider purchasing the SCA newcomers' guide, "Forward Into the Past," and the Known World Handbook from the SCA Stock Clerk, which can give you key insights into the SCA, as well as many articles regarding the diverse activities of the Society. Finally, you should also subscribe to your local group's newsletter in order to keep up with all of the activities and goings on within your area.
Participate to the extent you feel comfortable
The SCA is a participatory organization. Where are your interests and abilities? Keep your eyes and ears open to what people are doing. Give yourself a year to develop your interests. You needn't rush into things the first few months. If you can choose a name fine. If you are interested in a particular time period of the Middle Ages, fine. There is so much to do and so many avenues to explore that it is permissible to take your time and proceed at your own pace. Experienced members are generally more than willing to point out resources and steer you to library references. You get out of the SCA what you put into it!