We use personas to help make our events feel more medieval. Some people dedicate a lot of time and research in to developing a very period identity while others simply choose a name. It's completely up to you.
Developing your Identity
Everyone in the SCA is considered to be at least of the Gentry class, which means that at least your family had land, money, or a title of some sort. Most people do not choose to be beggars, serfs, or peasants, but some do. Religious personas are found occasionally, but are somewhat frowned upon, because we don’t want people to think we are making fun of or disrespecting their religion in any way. Everyone develops a “Persona” in the SCA. Your Persona is who you are in this game, what culture you came from. You can choose to be from any time period, and any culture, as long as it was known about by Western Europeans before 1600CE.
To select a persona for yourself, choose a country and a time period. Research what life would have been like for a person living in that place and time. What things were going on there that this person might have been a part of? Decide if you are a warrior, or a craftsman, a member of a nobleman’s house, or any other character who “could have lived” in that time and place. You may not claim to be anyone who really lived, and you may not claim any rank or titles which you did not earn in the SCA.
Your persona story can be as short as “I’m an 8th century Norseman from Birka,” all the way up to very complicated stories about where you are from, where you have lived, what you have done, etc. Do the research, so if someone asks you, you can discuss your Persona a little in depth. It will help you find a name and design costumes and armor to fit your character. Some people can’t decide, and “time travel”, wearing the costumes of all the different places and periods, so one day they may be a 12th century Venetian, the next day they may be a 5th century Roman, or a 16th century Frenchman. That is OK too. Have fun with it; that’s why we are here!
Still, you will wish to select a name to represent who you are in the Current Middle Ages context. Once you select one, you may register it with the College of Heralds, and it will become uniquely yours, and no one else can use that name. Your honors and device (also uniquely yours) will be registered under this identity.
Picking and Registering SCA Names
Once you have an idea when and where you are from, you can start looking for an SCA Name. Some countries are harder to find names from than others. Talk to your local Heralds to get started, they can provide you with basic resources to start looking for documentation which must be submitted showing that it is historically possible. You want to find a name and a date within the Society’s time frame. The Heralds can tell you what sources are “reliable.”
If you are choosing a language other than one you speak well, be careful of translations. Literal translations out of a dictionary may not mean in colloquialisms or idiomatic expressions what you think they mean!
Names must match the country you are from, and they must match in period spellings. You must also have a given name, and a by-name. A by-name can be a clan name, a surname, an occupation, the place you are from, or a nickname of some sort. Your local Herald can help you out more with this. You can also use parts of your own real name that correspond to the same parts of your SCA name, if they are compatible with period practices.
Picking and Registering Heraldry
Heraldry is the art and study of Coats of Arms and related armorial devices. A piece of heraldry is called a “device” if the bearer of that heraldry is not an “Armiger.” To become an “Armiger” you must receive a Patent, Grant, or Award of Arms from the Crown of your Kingdom.
Then, you may call your device “Arms.” A device must be unique to each individual, and only your champion, your consort, or your herald should ever wear your Coat of Arms. There is another type of device called a “badge” which is usually a simpler version of your Arms or another different device which is used to denote ownership or belonging. You may put your Arms on many of your personal items, but your badge is usually used to show that you own it, especially on children or pets.A coat of Arms says, “I am…(your name here),” a badge says, “I belong to…(your name here)”.
Most people start with a color and a symbol or animal they like, maybe you have something like this you have associated yourself with in the past. For the most part, just about anything that was known about in period can be used as a “charge” on a device. There are complicated rules governing heraldry, so talk to your local Heralds to find out what is and is not possible. You cannot have something that is too close to someone else’s, so be open minded and willing to change something if you run into conflict with another device or name.
There are populace badges for many SCA geographical groups that you can wear or display on flags to show people which groups you belong to. There is a lot of heraldic information available on the SCA.org web site at http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/education.html. Heraldic display is a colorful and exciting thing you can do in the SCA to show your espirit de corps. Get your heraldry registered and then put it on everything! Fly banners, make heraldic clothing, dress your whole group, get a tent in your colors, it all adds to the pageantry and atmosphere of the Current Middle Ages!
Alright, once you have that figured out, check out a pretty long note about titles.