Religion and the SCA: An opinion.

***EDIT January 5th, 2015: I’ve been forced to disable comments because of threats received against me, and other posters on the blog. I’d like to thank everyone who engaged in the conversation in a civil fashion. You have all been respectful and gracious, even if you disagreed. You are the types of individuals I expect from the SCA and I look forward to sharing a drink with all of you at an event soon. However, this blog post was not about “hate” or “persecution.” It had nothing to do with Nazism, the KKK, or Christian supremacy (I’ve just been made aware that this is a “thing.” People suck.) Unfortunately, over the last day I’ve received some rather horrible comments that I filtered from being posted. Including attacks on other comments. This is not what I want. This is not what ANY of us want. I’ve received almost 10,000 hits and 75 comments over the last week on this post ALONE, so I suppose that the hate groups would eventually rear their ugly heads courtesy of Godwin’s Law. I wish that medievalism wouldn’t be such an attraction for folks that feel that they are superior to others because of race and religion. I guess it’s my fault for trying to imagine folks attempting a more medieval appearance. The post is staying up, and the comments have been tracked via IP address and will be dealt with accordingly. Once again, thank all of you who participated in a respectful fashion, but I refuse to tolerate hate speech on my blog.***

***EDIT January 1, 2015: I see that this post is getting A LOT of attention, primarily in the Middle Kingdom on Facebook. Thank you all for keeping your conversations polite and engaging, both on social media, and here on this page. However, please do NOT be rude, or post inflammatory remarks on my blog. It is rude and unnecessary when so many folks who have disagreed have been so nice in sharing their opinions. Remember, I am but a delicate flower of the East Kingdom, and I will gladly remind you why it’s not nice to egg my front lawn. In the meantime, please feel free to enjoy the other posts I have on the blog with my explorations into Byzantine clothing and personae. Or really, you all should be reading about Roman penises.***

I was unsure how I should approach this, because people can be quite sensitive about such subjects, but I feel like this is something that NEEDS to be addressed. My opinion is just that: my own. What I am about to write may offend some people, but I’m prepared to deal with the impending flame war. Here goes.

Religion is period.

It is, it’s very period. You had the Big Three in Europe through most of the Middle Ages (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam,) plus the wonderful eastern and African faiths of the same time. I understand that our society is secular, and it should be. This is the best way to stop any possible confrontations in their tracks, because we cannot trust everybody to be an open-minded adult about the diversity of the modern world, let alone the time periods we try to emulate. With that said, I need to really REALLY push a hard button, here goes. This is going to possibly be ranty and disorganized, so I apologize in advance.

Why is that paganism is rampant in the SCA? Wicca is not period. Modern forms of pentacle-wearing paganism are NOT PERIOD. Yes, paganism, in the broad use of the word, is. The Asatru, or Norse faith, is period until the 11th Century when Christianity started coming in. Ancient Rome: duh. I tend to view these differently than the New Age  earth faiths of today. Do these modern faiths have ancient roots? Sure, but, I don’t like the idea of a pagan handfasting overriding the re-creation of an Eastern Orthodox marriage at an event. If one can happen, why can’t the other? All or none. The United States, where I live, is pretty hard-assed about our First Amendment, sometimes interpreted differently than I really want it to be, but the bottom line is that we have the freedom to worship as we please, and we are insanely lucky to have this right that I enjoy fully. This freedom isn’t period. Witches would have been killed. Even to the Romans, strange deviants to their recognized religions (pagan, Judaism and eventually Christianity) were frowned upon. They did not like druidic faiths. I don’t know why, but they didn’t. Earth religions weirded them out.
Now I need to cover my ass, before the torches come for me and the “YOU’RE PERSECUTING PAGANS!” crap starts.

First of all, in real life, really real for real life, I’m a pagan, or gnostic really, or whatever is the new hip label today. I believe in the Old Gods, but I don’t follow any belief structure. Now, in persona, I’m an Orthodox Christian. I wear crosses, I often pray, “Kyrie Eleison!” if the time suits. My lord and I are getting married, and we wish to have it at an event. Details withstanding, the marriage will be in the form of a written treaty between The Byzantine Empire and the Duchy of Normandy, and the ceremony will be as period Orthodox as I can make it without pissing off people. Now, I KNOW that people will read this, and go, “Then just get married in an Orthodox church if that’s what you want and keep your Christian ceremony out of my SCA,” but you’re missing my point. In real life, I am pagan, in my SCA life, I am Christian. I want to create my Middle Ages the way that they were to the limits of my comfort. (I like toilets, okay?) And in my opinion, my wedding needs to be period. I love handfastings and non-denominational SCA weddings, I really do. They are usually very well done and lovely, but, that’s not me, that’s not who I am. I want to be dripping in crosses and silk and pearls, sign the treaty, and experience a medieval ceremony. The Byzantine Empire was Orthodox Christian. The Duchy of Normandy was Catholic. There were no handfastings, there was mass with priests and communion, and a whole lotta Jesus. There was no paganism to be found during this period that wasn’t being quashed.

Another argument: Two Pennsics ago, my camp and I witnessed a rather strange druidic ritual walk down our road. It seemed pretty neat, but I didn’t want to interrupt them to ask what it was about. They have that freedom, after all. Then a friend of mine spoke, “You know, I may be a Viking, and we may not have been Christian in the early period, but if this was the real Middle Ages, they’d be killed for doing this…even by Vikings.”  He had a point. Why are New Age pagans allowed to hold these rituals, yet they eliminated the  Catholic mass once held at war? That, in my opinion as a historian, and a pagan, and a medieval reenactor, seems gravely unfair.

There’s a whole lot of crap in the world today about religious persecution, but nothing, NOTHING holds a candle to actual, honest nasty persecutions of the periods we represent. Though contrary to popular belief, Christians were not thrown to the lions in the Coliseum, and if it did happen, it happened ONCE, because Nero was a sick man, but usually martyrdom occurred because a Christian deliberately did it by running in front of a wagon or drawing attention to themselves negatively in order to get the attention to be killed. They were not always hunted and killed as we are lead to believe, but when it DID happen, it was bad, as the persecutions of Nero, Domitian, and Diocletian are evident of. The same with Jews, who were usually very well tolerated until the revolts that resulted in the destruction of the Temple. Twice. (Note: Christians were views as Jews in their early years and did refer to themselves as such, being that Christ was a Jewish prophet.) The Romans just really didn’t like being messed with.

Medieval Christians were not innocent, either. They had more strife within their own faith than outside. They slaughtered Jews enroute to the First Crusade, the Albigensian Crusade was an absolute nightmare for what could be considered early Protestant reformers, and the Fourth Crusade, which pinned the Latin Catholics against the Greek Orthodox at Constantinople wasn’t exactly a party. Let’s not even mention any Monty Pythonesque witch hunting, either.

Islam…ohhh boy. Extremely period religion, but it opens a whole new can of worms because of ignorant modern viewpoints. The Mediterranean was EXTREMELY influenced by Islamic culture during the Middle Ages. This is inescapable and incontestable in my opinion, sorry. I happen to own sets of Ottoman Turkish clothing, and it is gorgeous and comfortable. I have been told several times, at SCA events, that my clothing is offensive. First at a fencing tourney, where a duelist I was fighting with was growing mad that he could not successfully leg me because of the low crotch on my salwar (hammer pants), and another time when, during the battle of La Rochelle at Pennsic, I ran into the castle screaming, “ALLAHU AKBAH!” Which, you know, was probably a bad idea anyway, but, I got yelled at that I was offending people.

Well, first off: Good. A sassy French musketeer WOULD have been offended by an Ottoman Janissary in period, so I’m glad we got that straight. Second of all, shut up. Would it have been okay for me to run in screaming, “Remember the Alamo!”  Or was it simply because I said something in Arabic, something akin to me saying, “Kyrie Eleison!” in Greek, and because it’s a phrase associated with “the enemy” it offends people? Get a grip. Muslims and Christians have been going at it for the last 900 years (except in Spain for a bit, I’ll get there.) I’m not going to be offended if you point your rubber band gun at me and go, “DIE INFIDEL!” Because that’s accurate. Bring it on!

Another time, I covered my face, as a woman should in public when portraying an Islamic culture, and I got called a terrorist. Unacceptable. REALLY unacceptable, SCAdians. If you’re going to play this game, you need to get over it. Because we can’t “fix” this by telling people it’s not okay to have personae from the Near East because it offends your modern views on Islam today.

Covering my face in Turkish attire.

In contrast, there was also a wonderful period in Spain known as the “Golden Age of Tolerance” when the Iberian peninsula was dominated by Islam. Although Jews and Christians were restricted under Muslim rule, they were not forced to convert, they were not persecuted or forced to live on the wrong side of town. They were integrated with society and were allowed to retain their own faiths and be productive members of society, especially since they were able to perform jobs that were forbidden by the Koran, including butchering of meat and banking. Yes, there were some issues and contempt, but what resulted was a unique culture. Historians have contrasting views on this period, but it seemed to be much more stable than relations in, say the modern Levant today.

Yes, religious intolerance is, well, period. In fact, it was pretty bad. That doesn’t mean we should echo this by being intolerant of period faiths in our game, in fact, we should embrace them, and NOT exclude or persecute the pagans (Bonus points if some want to be the targets of a witch hunt! Erm…kidding.) I’ve started painting Byzantine icons, and iconography is a religious form of artwork. And even though I have received great feedback on my work, I’m always afraid of offending someone by doing it. I shouldn’t even have this stigma, and we should do what we can to eliminate it, not just for me, but for others who wish to explore the period religions of our personae. I’d actually like the modern pagan folks like myself to explore and embrace the faith of their persona if it’s not similar to their modern faith. An Italian Renaissance woman would not have been practicing Wicca. Sorry. She would have been a devout Catholic, much as my persona is devout Orthodox. I take my persona to the level of ripping on the Catholic Church for being a bunch of whiny Latin speakers who kiss the butt of the Bishop of Rome. The Eastern and Western Churches excommunicated each other in what was probably the biggest historical pissing match of the 11th Century. They did not get along. Lady Lorelei and I ran with this at the last 12th Night in the Barony of Smoking Rocks when we were playing parts in our persona for the event’s plot, and it went over wonderfully!

The bottom line is this: Check your privilege, and nix your modern paganism in the Current Middle Ages. If you’re persona is Christian, be CHRISTIAN, if you’re persona is Muslim, BE MUSLIM. If you’re Roman, I want to see your household shrine of Lares and Penates. If you’re persona is from Bronze Age Hallstatt region because you absolutely have to be Celtic and druidic, then do it, but do it RIGHT (and teach classes please, because that could be awesome.) If your persona is an Italian who went to China and became a Buddhist and came back by boat that was overtaken by Gypsy Muslim Pirates and you ended up in Mexico where you found coffee and chocolate and became an Aztec god, well, then we need to talk about your persona ADHD. We had a former queen in the East who held vigil at a modern church before she was crowned the next day, simply because she was thinking with her persona! It will not hurt you to wear the cross, or embroider Tariz bands on your caftans with prayers of peace to Allah. I’m not asking you to convert, I’m asking you to play a role and live a life as it would have been lived.

86 thoughts on “Religion and the SCA: An opinion.

  1. Im athiest, but I have no problem being a christian when Im reenacting (not SCA, I’m in england). I know some people find it odd that I’m athiest, and yet I make replicas of medieval christian embroideries and silver. But you can’t be a medieval athiest, and you can’t take an interest in medeival art without including the religious.

    saying that, I did make a portable altar from enameled sterling silver, and becuase I couldn’t find a picture of the four apostles round the back o I made them up, they’re in the same artistic style as the other eight, but one is sticking two fingers up, one is doing live long and prosper, another is picking his nose…(well, at least that way it can never accidentally get sold as original)

    1. Nothing wrong with having a good time. 🙂 The last icon I painted of the Virgin Mary is actually a portrait of my friend dressed AS Mary for a party at Pennsic. Hence why she’s in blue and not red as is tradition with Orthodox icons. She wore a paper plate as a halo, and they made this giant handbasket that they walked down to “Hell” in, so yes, Mary went to Hell in a handbasket, hence the marks on the halo of the icon that looks like a paper plate, and the little handbaskets in the corners. Hehe.

  2. One of the problems with trying to make a persona from a non-Big Three religion is that in many cases the info is just GONE. I would love to play a period Pagan from the Bohemian region, but the info is incredibly sparse. So any attempt I make will have to be a modern interpretation, sorry. The Christians were just too darned thorough at wiping out the original religion.

    FWIW, I do think having a period religious marriage ceremony in a faith you don’t believe in is odd, but it is your marriage. Go nuts. I was married at a Ren Faire over 20 years ago by a Pagan minister knowing that it wasn’t period because my faith was and still is incredibly important to me. More so than any persona could ever be.

    1. I probably should have been more clear about the wedding. I’m going to take some elements of an Orthodox wedding and include them. It will not be done by an Orthodox priest and I mean no offense to the faith. I’m doing my best to stay “in persona” for this wedding. What it’s probably going to have to come down to, is having a Catholic Monk and an Orthodox Priest personae overseeing the signing of the marriage treaty. This will give the historical look without the sanctification of an actual Christian marriage.

  3. I would still feel very inauthentic, but again, it’s your wedding, not mine. Everything we do is a modern approximation because we are modern people, IMO. The question is how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go.

    Something else to consider, and I only realized recently this because I am researching the history of my own coven, is that in the 70’s in California there was somewhat of an overlap between the wacky people who wanted to practice ‘ancient religions’ and the wacky people who wanted to dress and play act as ancient peoples. So I think while Paganism may not necessarily be historically accurate, it is part of the history of the SCA and that may explain its strong hold to this day. It also explains why a lot of early Pagans wore garb to ceremonies, and some still do. =)

    1. I always views pagans wearing garb to ceremonies as a way of returning to what they feel are their roots. I also understand and enjoy the history of the SCA for what it is and how it allows the game to be enjoyed by everyone, but, everyone is different. I don’t understand why it’s okay for a pagan ritual to be held at Pennsic, yet I can’t walk around with my face covered as a Turkish woman without being referred to as an terrorist by an ignorant person.
      I’m not saying we should hold full on period masses in Latin (though I would probably attend one because I’m a nerd) but I feel that if we open to one group, we need to open to them all. No, the SCA cannot sanction religious or magical events, which is totally understandable, but, if a private household chooses to have a gathering to pray the hours, or Muslims wish to call their prayers, they should be able to do so without repercussion or sneers. I’d just personally wish to see more inclusion, I think that’s the best way for everybody to learn, and grow more education and tolerant of everybody’s faiths.

      1. Your wedding sounds awesome, and I hope it works out as you have planned. It has always been my understanding (and observation) that a religious ceremony can happen at an event, as long as people aren’t forced to watch it. In other words, at an event where there are different areas, so a person not wanting to observe can be elsewhere, if they choose. While an event in a single-room hall would not be able to support such a ceremony. The Society Rules seem to back that up. It does sound like you should be able to have your wedding, at an event with different areas (as opposed to a single-room hall).
        Policy on Religion
        Having no wish to recreate the religious conflicts of the period under study, the Society shall
        neither establish nor prohibit any system of belief among its members. No one shall perform any religious or magical ceremony at a Society event (or in association with the name of the Society) in such a way as to imply that the ceremony is authorized, sponsored, or promulgated by the Society or to force anyone at a Society event, by direct or indirect pressure, to observe or join the ceremony. However, this provision is in no way intended to discourage the study of historical belief systems and their effects on the development of Western culture.
        Except as provided herein, neither the Society nor any member acting in its name or that of
        any of its parts shall interfere with any person’s lawful ceremonies, nor shall any member
        discriminate against another upon grounds related to either’s system of belief.

  4. Ang… I owe you a large, delicious drink the next time I see you. You have put in eloquent words a point of view I have been struggling to express for years. My lord and I held a mock mostly authentic wedding ceremony at Pennsic some years ago which incorporated elements of Eastern Orthodox ritual. And though it was held at a semi public venue – the then existing “Cheshire Inn” -I never heard that we offended anyone or that our recreation of a Christian ritual was culturally insensitive within the guidelines of the SCA. On the contrary, several bystanders/spectators we did not know went out of their way to applaud the event, some even calling it “moving”. I hope sensibilities have not changed THAT radically in the years since. (And if you need any help with your wedding or just want to bounce ideas off someone, I would gladly assist).

  5. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of the things you list, personally. I see your point and wasn’t trying to change your mind, just offering a slightly different perspective.

  6. As someone with a Tudor persona, I like to think that I portray someone that is completely in agreement with Henry VIII’s idea about those troublesome Catholics but am in reality still loyal to the Pope in Rome.
    Mundanely I follow Asatru and I think that most Pagans at events spend way too much time trying to show that they are Pagan.

  7. Thank you for writing this. It articulates a number of things I’ve been struggling with for several years now. I also find it odd that religious “tolerance” in the SCA seems to boil down to “neo-pagans only” and I also miss the mass that was held at my first Pennsic, but not since. There was also “16th Century Protestant Prayer Service in the style of John Knox” held at that same Pennsic. It was Sunday morning, in the Stave Kirk, and listed in Pennsic University schedule. I’ve not seen anything like that again.

  8. Interesting opinion, but I have to politely disagree. I personally, have not been in the SCA very long (less than a year), and the more I hear about things like this, the more uncomfortable I feel. I agree with the concept that if one group should do it, all should be allowed to, but I don’t really like the idea of practicing religion or large scale religious ceremonies in the SCA at all (except privately). Yes, religion is period, but we “play the game for fun” and if someone decided to include religious ceremonies during court and it might make people (like my boyfriend, who has severe trauma related to church, and religious life in general) very uncomfortable. While religion is a great thing to study and appreciate, practicing it is problematic.

    There’s also another side of the coin. I’m also of the opinion that there as a thing as “too historically correct.” I know it comes across as odd, but when someone tries to adopt a persona from another culture fully, it sometimes crosses the line into cultural appropriation. As if someone else’s cultural identity and history is a costume we can take on and off at will. I can only speak for Islamic cultures (I grew up Muslim, but no longer am), I love it when people wear Islamic garb (particularly like you did when you wore full hijab) but I wince when people wear tiraz with Qur’anic script or if someone who was not a practicing Muslim said “Allahu Akbar” in a joking fashion. In Islamic culture, not only spoken words, but written words themselves are sacred. Would the person wearing the garment know not to go into the restroom while wearing it? Or that they couldn’t let it touch the ground? Would they know how to dispose of the garment after it was worn out? It would have made my 15 years younger self livid to know that people were treating holy things this way particularly since “knockoff tiraz” is also a viable period option. Granted, I’m older now and in a different period of my life, so I understand that the adoption of historical accuracy is out of love, but I’m very much aware of how it could make a practicing person very upset. For me, it sure beats someone trying to pass off something cultural appropriative as period because “it’s cool”, when it is actually not in period at all.

      1. Not a comment on the responders position but on “all opinions are valid”. No they aren’t and too many let stuff slide with this. You don’t accept Nazis or KKK in your modern life because you don’t accept those opinions as valid.

      2. Really? You just Godwin’s Law’d my blog? I accepted your comment, so I guess that doesn’t say much for the content of my character.

    1. But, what would a MEDIEVAL Muslim have thought? Let’s not confuse our modern sensibilities with what our persona would have thought.

  9. As a charismatic Christain in real life, playing an anglo saxon Catholic, I really enjoyed this post. I enjoyed your honest candor and respect for period faiths.

  10. In mundane life I am Catholic; my persona is pre-schism Eastern Christian, what came to be known as Orthodox, both my regular life self and my persona share a love for the writings of the Patristic Fathers, especially the Cappadocians. I find it fun and enriching to study and apply what I learn to my persona, to make the period come alive in my mind. A big chunk of my MA was early Church history and Patristics, and one of the things I love is when I see someone playing a historically correct persona in all aspects, the food, the clothing, the art, the faith, even the attitudes where they can be done without bringing the down side of history into the dream. I think the idea of recreating your wedding to fit your personas is marvelous!

  11. The Society for Creative Anachronism, or SCA, is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts, skills, and traditions of pre-17th-century Europe.

    As long as its done with the SCA statement above in mind …. go crazy!!!


  12. Beautifully written, and well argued thank you.

    As an added aside, Romans killed and hunted the druids, because the druidic class was one of the few classes in the Gallic cultures that could freely move between tribes, presenting the one major possibility of uniting the varied tribal groups. Gallic paganism and their gods were accepted in Roman Gaul, and Britain, so long as you stilled acknowledged the Imperial Cult.

  13. An interesting post, though now I am slightly intimidated in working towards a Flemish beguine persona as I was planning.

    1. There’s lots of religious personae. If somebody gives you a hard time, or says that they’re offended by your portrayal of a perfectly period lay religious order, ask them what good works they’ve done for the poor lately.

  14. I’m gonna say that if I want my persona to be a pirate druid crossdresser, I’m gonna do it. And when you “have words with me” over it, I’ll tell you to go jump. The SCA does not REQUIRE me to have a completely authentic persona in every way, much less require me to follow the religious tenets of the persona I choose. I don’t have any issue with you being uber Christian, Muslim, Druid or Pagan or Pastafarian in your persona at a SCA event. I would take issue with any SCA member who tried to call you a terrorist, or said you couldn’t wear your crosses or Wicca symbols. But just as you’re whining(yes whining) that we shouldn’t restrict religions in period, you’re also trying to say that you should be able to badmouth other religions which is NOT what the SCA is about. Just because your persona would have trashed the Catholics(or conversely, be called Infidels/etc) does not mean that we should have that part of history in the SCA.

    The SCA is supposed to recreate the BEST of history. Not the lack of toilets, not the intolerance and hatred and slavery. It is also not supposed to be about forcing any member to be MORE authentic than they feel comfortable with. If it’s a tunic and a Wicca tree pendant, then frigging let them enjoy the SCA without screwing around and trying to hide behind the “But but but!! It wouldn’t be PERIOD!”.

    If SCA members want to have Catholic Mass at Gulf Wars, I think they should. If a bunch of Druids want to process, they should. And no one should be worried over it. When someone says “Terrorist” because you have a face veil, every SCA member there should stand up and point out loudly that it is unacceptable to be that way. Likewise, if you say that someone can’t pretend to be a pagan priestess, every SCA member there should stand up and tell you it’s unacceptable for you to try to dictate their persona as well. They’re not trying to be a fairy or an elf.

    Try using the “Don’t be a dick” rule without putting on blinders first. Enforce the rule when it’s happening around you. Don’t whine that someone said something hurtful. Bring it up, make it stop and change what’s happening.

    1. Sadly, you failed the “Don’t be a Dick” rule badly yourself. Luckily for you, the owner of this blog does not have your urge to enforce it where s/he can. “Change what’s happening” should start with politeness. Please 🙂

    2. I believe the saying is” be the change you want to see”? If you want people to be polite, perhaps you should trying being that way first.
      She did not say she wanted a removal of people portraying pagans, she stated she wanted an increase in tolerance to people accurately portraying Orthadox, Muslim or other period faiths.
      She was also kind enough to provide us with some historical information (which being interested in history I did enjoy) along the way.

  15. I know that the SCA is the organization that allows a bit of leeway compared to other groups. While I feel that it is ok to stretch the “Creative” part a bit, I still like to think that we endeavor to use the to fill in the blanks we have not been able to document yet. This is NOT a L.A.R.P. group.
    So I am fine if you want to be all up in my face about being a “pirate druid crossdresser”. Just make sure you bring plenty of documentation and can quote from primary sources.

  16. As too why there are many pagans in the SCA. My thought is that we tend to attract smarter then average people and those that do not fit in with society. Many members of both groups tend to be socially stunted or inept. Anyone that can look at the members of the SCA or Paganism without blinders on will see that many of us are marginally social people in many ways.
    Is that bad? Not t all. It is just a fact. Someone did a survey many years ago about the SCA and discovered that the average education level of members was way higher then average in the USA. I suspect similar results would be found among pagans as a whole.
    Both groups tend to attract the same type of people so I am not surprised we have a lot of cross over.

  17. Two years ago, Atlantia had a monk for a king. I was put in charge of the A&S competition at a local event, so I made the theme religion. I made sure to point out how ingrained religion was in everything including the foods people ate. I got one entry that was a food for Sukkot and one that was Lenten foods, along with some Roman curses.

    Religious themes are something I think we should be seeing more of in A&S.

    Oh, and I can think of one religious service I know occurred at Pennsic last year: Meeting for Worship of the Religious Society of Friends, hosted by Mistress Alisaundre. It’s not period (Quakerism was kicked off during the English Civil War), though I took Mistress Alisaundre’s class on pacifism in period, and I thought she said there were precursor groups meeting in northern England in silence late in Elizabeth’s reign.

    1. There’s a reason I make and push paternosters as garb accessories. After all, conspicuous consumerism and faith have been hand-in-hand since pretty much Christians could live openly. The point is, they’re just beads to non-Christians, and something else to Christians. Kudos to you, and vivat Atlantia.

      1. Oh, yes, there were paternosters entered too. Might’ve also been something Norse…

        I received a paternoster in a gift basket (a&s prize) recently. I’m not sure what the right way to accessorize with it would be for a Florentine though. Around the neck is not it, based on paintings. Also, this one has skull beads carved from bone (for the less frequent beads…wow, I’ve officially been out of Catholicism long enough that I don’t remember whether those are the Hail Mary or the Our Father), which might lend itself to a somewhat different persona.

      2. Yeah, if you were Venetian, well, then, yes, beads around the neck. I’ve been recommending most to wear them in pouches just for safety (more for the beads, really), but I’m not sure what a Florentine would do.

        Gauds (sometimes called the Pater beads, according to Dame Christian Holacombe) and Aves (the Our Father beads), at least at this point.

  18. “The bottom line is this: Check your privilege, and nix your modern paganism in the Current Middle Ages. If you’re persona is Christian, be CHRISTIAN, if you’re persona is Muslim, BE MUSLIM. ”

    As someone who plays a potentially Islamic persona, I completely disagree with this post. I understand the desire to be “authentic” by “having your character [yes, CHARACTER….say it with me now: “CHARACTER”] follow religion”, but as these are real religions that people truly devote their hearts and minds to, I cannot “play” them insincerely.

    There is someone in my life who wears hijab and niqab face and head veils, and I have often thought about how that relates to my hobby of playing a potentially Muslim person. She wears these things by choice, as a devotion to her beliefs and lifestyle. She is not a costume resource, or an oddity, or an anthropological project. I do not talk to her about her sartorial choices in the same way I don’t talk to people about their sartorial choice of undergarments: her religion is alive to her and a complete part of her life, and not to be dissected by me unless she invites me in on her own accord.

    I enjoy religious art of all kinds. The global desire to express intangible emotions and transcendent places is fascinating to me. I enjoy recreating it, interpreting it, and analyzing religious art. You can wear all the damn crosses you want, but you don’t have to ape belief to be an observer or an appreciator. Don’t shame me into faking a belief.

    1. You’re missing the point. A Muslim persona should not be wearing a pentacle openly. That is the argument I’m making. You don’t have to “fake” it, but you should respect the “PERSONA” (This is not a LARP, you are not playing a character or earning XP.) you are portraying enough to not openly display non-period religious regalia or participating in witchcraft. That is the problem. You don’t have to wear the cross, but put the goddess pendant away for a weekend.

      1. On one hand you’re telling me that it’s OK to wear religious items, and then it’s turned around into “costume-appropriate religious items.” So fine, you shudder when ‘goddess pendants’ are out on somebody that shouldn’t be wearing one. Would you complain also about a woman who wears hijab but wants to dress as Venetian merchant’s wife? Or a turbaned Sikh man who wants to have a Norse persona? Does it bother you so, so much that it ruins your day? All of these things are sartorial choices based on personal belief outside of the Society. Or are you only comfortable enough to complain about Pagans? How wide is this circle of discontent for you?

    2. The site isn’t allowing me to do threading to reply to your latest comment, so I’m up here.

      My lady, I would like to point out that right now, you are the only combative individual on this site. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’re the most angered out of everyone on the entirety of the interbutts. I understand that opinions are like assholes, but you shouldn’t try to make yours stick out more than my own in my own night club. You could have respectfully disagreed as others in this thread have before.

      You can play SCA, however the your little Muslim-not-Muslim heart desires, but you’re not going to change the way I play, or my opinion. This post is almost a year old. I probably wrote it in a fit of rage while I was planning my nuptials, and I regret nothing.Unfortunately for my day-to-day activities, it is clearly harshing the mellow of dozens of SCAdians nationwide, as hundreds tell me they agree.

      My day is not ruined. My life is not shattered because you disagree with me, in fact, you seem to be more bothered that I have an opinion that disagrees with your own, which is why you took the time to reply to a 10 month old post. Maybe you’re the one that needs to take the step back and re-assess what you’re saying. You’re not changing my opinion. And I won’t call you out in public about wearing a a pagan symbol, or even 19th century Turkoman bling and 18th Century Ghawazee coats with your fake medieval Muslim-not-Muslim persona, as I think that’s what you’re afraid of. That is NOT my style.

      The only thing that is even itching me the slightest about your argument is that you continue to use the term, “character” when you should not be. The SCA allows us to explore personae, people who may have actually lived in our chosen place in wibbly wobbly timey wimey. The purpose of our persona is to give us an avenue of research and attempt to “become” that person in the form of garb, behavior, encampment, armor, etc. Do you have to take it to this level? Nah, but, it’s something you should think about. Because if you’re looking for a game with pseudo-historical characters that gain levels and XP points, Dagohir has an event the week before Pennsic called Ragnarok. They’d probably love to have you.

      Everybody has their own idea of the Dream. This post is one of my ideas, it’s what I’d like to see to create a more immersive experience. I guess I’m just trying too hard for some people.

      1. Please don’t put down LARPers. I am proud to be a LARPer as well as a SCAdian. And I do know the difference between fantasy costuming and reality costuming. LARP and SCA when at their best are about creating lasting genuine relationships between real people building a Dream or a Story together. But that is another discussion entirely.

        I only found this post because someone posted it very recently on another site.

        I am a casual SCAdian. I choose to be. I enjoy costuming and traditional crafts and the SCA is one of the only places I can dabble in these things and meet likeminded people. I agree with you on how people bring in their opinions about modern faith and have some pretty hurtful comments; I have been at the end of those comments myself. But I have also been at the end of “You can’t do this because your persona’s religion would forbid it” or “That’s great but you would be culturally against this” sort of comments as well. I myself am not religious, and therefore I choose not to have religious aspects as part of my persona. I appreciate belief but I don’t feel it’s necessary to pretend to believe, or pretend to follow religious practice.

      2. To add, these comments aren’t about some extreme things that I am doing. It’s about the food I eat at events. It’s about the A&S choices I make. It’s very irksome.

      3. People making off-comments about food choices need to cop a walk. Especially if you have a dietary need, or just, you know, don’t like some period recipes. As for A&S, all I can suggest is that you show off your documentation and research proudly.

    3. What’s a potential Muslim? Either you are a Muslim and have recited the Muslim confession of faith, or are you aren’t. Either way, that’s a pretty life-changing decision, be it modern or medieval. You cannot be Schroedinger’s Muslim.

  19. Hi, Ang. Yeah, it’s me. As to all the comments: too long, didn’t read. So sue me. %^) But I was struck by one particular thought when reading the original post, and it’s not a new one for me. And I think this may be the place to post it, because it’s gonna tick people off. I think that paganism gets the free ride precisely because it isn’t taken seriously, even by some of its own adherents. What I mean by that is…most of us were born into Christian or Jewish families, and we’re well aware (especially since 9/11 — you can consider this a “silver lining” of sorts if you will) with the importance of Islam in the period AND modern world. And we’re aware of Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. But paganism…that’s a different animal. It’s not like the rest. The mundane world still snickers at it. Look at the media, look at entertainment. It’s the naughty witches of Creepy Hollow with their love spells and magic potions. Do you ever see a character in a TV show who’s supposed to be a REAL pagan? “Paganism? That’s not a REAL rellgion!” “There’s no such thing as a REAL witch!” “People don’t REALLY still worship Odin!” Well, yeah, they do, but even among the old-god-worshippers themselves, there’s often a Dadaist, snide, performance-art attitude. “I’m from a white-bread family from Peoria, and look how OUTLIER I am now!” (I’ve heard these referred to as “Ooh-Ooh Pagans”.) So both without and even within paganism, paganism gets to play because paganism is play-acting. Oh, but Christianity? Judaism? Islam? Those, those are REAL, and the people with REAL faith, those SINCERE religionists are gonna get pissed off. So what it comes down to is really not a “free ride” for paganism, but a lack of respect for it.

      1. I’m confused. Does that mean you agree, or disagree? I’m really looking forward to your response.

    1. Oh I like the post, it just blew my mind a bit. That’s a he’ll of an idea. I’m just laying in bed right now with a stiff neck, so I’ll give you better thoughts tomorrow.

    2. Okay, so, reply time!

      I never actually put this into thought. The whole, “paganism hurr durr.” idea that is. That’s….kind of sad. Really. Because in one hand, I have your post, and in another up a bit, there’s a gentle who said that the SCA attracts pagans and medievalists because they’re of higher intelligence and tend to be less graceful social creatures. I feel they’re both right, in a way. The idea of basically insulting paganism as a way to not insult the major world religions is just, well yeah, sad. I’m sure there’s a philosophical term for what it is, and I can’t think of it right now.

      I tend to think of it as the opposite. At least from my view of SCA Anna (like the post you made a few days ago, which I may snatch for my blog because it was good.) that if you put your brain in the Middle Ages or prior period that you wish to portray, you need to get your chess pieces in place. For my persona, paganism is right out, hell, Roman Catholicism is right out. I don’t think you were at Smoking Rocks 12th Night last year, when I was the haughty Roman visiting Norman England for Christmas. I bitched about the cold and the Bishop of Rome. Lady Lorelei and I got into a knock down drag down religious argument for the sake of the murder mystery that was apparently so good that people BELIEVED us! THAT is what we need to see more of. Granted, this is the Smoking Rocks/Bridge crew, we all know everyone and can probably get away with a higher level of such play than say, if I do it at Birka? I’d love to have more events like 12th Night, and I know it started as an LHA event, but I think that the focus of the SCA could benefit a lot from more of this type of immersion.

      Now, back to Real Life Angela looking at your thought from the outside while trying to brain it with SCA Anna. Aside from having a moment of wondering if I’m schizophrenic, I think I get it. But I don’t think that this slight to paganism is actually intentional. It’s almost completely some sort of paradox. By trying to not upset practitioners of major world religions, you accidentally subvert another by not actually giving it the time and research it deserves just so you can be something someone else is not. Ouch. Hipster paganism.

      I’ll come back to this later after more coffee.

      1. Mmm, don’t overthink it. As I tried to point out, I think there’s a dynamic at work where we just put any religion invented in the last century (or this one) in a box of “not real religion”. I don’t think it’s deliberate at all. Although, by now, there are most certainly multi-generational neo-pagan families, and I know more than a few myself, most pagans got there by conscious, deliberate choice. And although that’s the way ALL religion really ought to be, we still disdain that notion, subconsciously. We have this subliminal notion in a crevice of our minds that categorizes Asatru and Gardnerianism in the same box with the Subgenii and Pastafarians. And there’s yet another dynamic in play. That’s the one that says that paganism, the worship of the “old gods” is a quintessentially medieval (or at least quintessentially medieval-ISH ) thing. And so –even more than Catholicism, it BELONGS in a medieval milieu. In fact, it belongs MORE because in our minds — unlike Catholicism — it belongs ONLY in a medieval milieu. Because – follow me now — Catholicism is still practiced, but the worship of the old gods isn’t, right? Right? We may even know better — we surely DO know better — but we’re still burdened by mundane, mainstream cultural baggage. So when Catholic mass is performed, well, that’s real stuff, and real Catholics (and real Jews, for different reasons) are gonna get pissed. But when pagan ceremonies happen, well, heck, what could be more medieval than THAT? I don’t think it’s a conscious thing at all; it’s just the way our mundane lizard-brains parse the world.

      2. wait.. people believed us? as in thought we in reality not in persona were fighting?? pardon me while I go giggle myself silly in delight…. and best of all NO one took offense.

    1. Maybe a Mongol or Turkmen? A lot of them were still working out whether they cared about religion at all, and if so, whether Islam was politically expedient (depending on the exact timeframe of your persona, of course).

    2. “Potentially Islamic Persona” means that yes, there is a niche for Islam there but I choose not to portray it at all.

      1. I don’t think you understand Islam well enough to have half a clue what conversion meant historically, or modernly, so it’s a good thing you don’t portray one. If you think you could possibly be one but not openly enough that it’s obvious to everyone around you that you are, then you aren’t firing on all cylinders. Especially in Period.

  20. Ang, this is an amazing blog. My husband and I are Mormon, not a period religion. However, we are 10th century Irish Vikings in the SCA. When we were married we did a complete Norse ceremony at an event with an “elder” who performed the ceremony, our “families” stood with us, we exchanged swords, rings, etc. We also had a betrothal ceremony the month before at a separate event signed by our local Baron and Baroness, our “family” representatives, and us. It hangs on our wall with the swords.
    I think your idea of recreating your persona’s wedding is awesome! Not only is it something different, you get to be the research nerd that you are and learn something new. I hope you post. Great blog!

  21. Cultural and racial appropriation are largely ignored in the SCA using “research” as a shield. Many people around the world today are persecuted for being adherents of a religion or members of ethnic groups. When we chose to portray those people, we owe them an accurate and respectful portrayal. A person’s real life religious belief and ethnicity always trumps historical recreation. I would never even suggest that anyone of any faith not wear their symbol or participate in a private ceremony of their choosing because I don’t think their weekend persona would have.

    1. Whelp, let’s take the “appropriation” thing head on.

      I hate to tell you this, but we’re all appropriating if by “appropriating” you mean “wearing the clothing of a culture that isn’t ours”

      I’m a practicing Orthodox Christian, but I’m not actually a medieval Roman of mixed Greek and Armenian ethnic heritage, living in a border province.

      You aren’t whatever your persona is, either. Even if you were no-kidding a direct-line descendant of your persona’s culture (and as an American, no one can sell me “ethnic purity” drivel, we’re all mongrels if our families have been here for more than a generation or two) you aren’t actually part of that culture. Even if you are a Catholic of predominately English heritage, you aren’t actually a 14th century Englishman. You’re a 21st century American, and even Catholicism has changed enough that modern practices would be incomprehensible to a medieval person. Liturgy in the vernacular? Communion offered to the laity every mass? And all the services are too short!

      Since we’re ALL “appropriating” by the terms of your definition, then the point is to do so in a way that meets your personal standards of respectful portrayal and accuracy to the limits of modern knowledge and your resources (time, money, etc). Whether your real world beliefs line up with your persona’s beliefs or not, religion was a major element of society and culture at that time, moreso than most modern Americans or Europeans really grasp. As a result, it behooves us as amateur historians to devote at least some time and effort to understanding the beliefs in period and how they affected the lives of the people we are attempting to portray.

  22. I am no longer a member of the SCA, but devoted about 15 years to it and made many good friends, quite a few of whom still play. The main thing that drove my husband and I away was the crazy politics, but for me, this issue factored in as well.

    I am Catholic. And boy, does it get old, putting up with the openly mocking attitudes of many (yes, not all) pagans. The bitterness and derision towards any “standard” religion is unbelievable.

    I do Not shove My religion on Anyone!!! I do Not try and convert Anyone. I do not even talk about my faith to most people. I’ve had that done to me and cannot stand it! And yet, many of our close friends, even those who know that I am a Christian, while in My Home, have had to be reminded that they shouldn’t cross some lines. And I’m not talking little ones folks.

    Example: “I never have understood a fish fry. Why would you fry and sereve your mascot?” That’s where it started and it went downhill. Even after a reminder that I am Catholic, they kept it up. My husband finally told them that they were being offensive and to knock it off.

    This post touches on an issue that goes much deeper. I get that many Christians are not tolerant of Pagans and after a while that leaves scars. But unfortunately, while professing great tolerance for everyone and and everything, I, personally, have met very few Pagans who are willing to admit that they are not very tolerant of Christians. And until they resolve this it will drive good people away from the SCA.

    1. Example: “I never have understood a fish fry. Why would you fry and sereve your mascot?” That’s where it started and it went downhill. Even after a reminder that I am Catholic, they kept it up. My husband finally told them that they were being offensive and to knock it off.

      Um. On behalf of non-Christians, I am sorry. That is, without a doubt, one of the worst things I have ever heard said.

      I confess to having a period of my life where I was pretty anti-religion as a whole. I had a rough patch, and I needed to take a step back, as many do. However, I couldn’t imagine having the balls to outright say something so offensive. Or even THINKING of that. Who is filled with that much malice toward anyone?

      If you ever find it in your heart to return to the SCA, please let me know. I’d like to have an afternoon to chat with you and see if I can be of service to fix this.

    2. I’m sorry. I’ve been pagan and Christian and I KNOW I was a bitch when I was younger, especially to those I thought were “too stupid” to get it. I realize it doesn’t quite matter at this point, but my younger, stupider, self would like to offer an apology to you. What has been said to you is wrong and shouldn’t have been. I’m sorry.

    3. Bronwyn, I know well what you are speaking of, I’ve been in the SCA now for 35+ years and have had a fairly obvious religious persona the whole time, as an 8th century Benedictine Frank. I wear a black Benedictine habit ALL THE TIME! I have had my fair share of ‘attack the Christian’ played on me, and thanks to being both a fourth grade teacher and the son of a diplomat, I’m usually able to diffuse the situation or at least turn the table enough to walk away. The “Fish Fry’ comment was ridiculous! but I often ‘consider the source’…yeah…I tend to dismiss snipey sorts as being less worth my time…

      Regretfully, this sort of sport has become more and more popular among the young set…and ‘young’ I mean either those younger than say 40 or those that are simply emotionally immature…

  23. You mentioned the druidic procession up the road, if it was the Women in White those are the Celts of Preachain, an iron age Celtic group along with the bog troopers who are also bands of Celts such as Anglesey and Concussar. We are a pagan culture so it is appropriate for us to wear the trappings of the celts either the old celts or norse are prevalent. On a personal note the men and women are a mix of christian and pagan in real life. For us the celtic culture is what makes us unique. We live and breathe the bardic traditions and bring that to our personnas at Pennsic. Yes we are an earlier period than mainstream SCA but we have been playing the game for over 20 years and have built our own customs and unique flavor to Pennsic and Gulfwars. We also do re-enactments outside of the SCA,

    If you want to be play a christian and attempt to persecute or push a pagan persona then have at it. Thats what the field is for. We have certainly had some amazing clashes with crusader types as part of a field battle or match and had a blast doing it.

    Someone yelling terrorist at you is wrong and should be reprimanded as incorrect and rude. Period Someone mocking your religion is also wrong. That also goes in reverse, looking at someone wearing a modern pentacle and saying “Thats wierd” is just as wrong. If it in pursuit of your personna to be anti-whatever than you should always be prepared for the blow-back from it. You cant have it both ways. If someone has an issue with me wearing a thors hammer or spinning wheel or triple moon than so be it. It is something I am prepared to deal with.

    While I appreciate your attempt to bring a realistic view to your character and your game.I however do not appreciate the idea that we shouldn’t be there. Yes the SCA is largely based in 10-14th century however there are many groups that range across the ages, be it early iron period to late piratical, We all make Pennsic into the colorful and vibrant community that is often called our second home. I’d like to keep it that way.

    1. Thank you for being polite and telling me about your group. Can you link me to something so I can read more? It sounds neat.

    2. In addendum, I feel I should clarify: I have no issue with your ritual. None. Like I mentioned in my post, I thought it was rather neat. My questioning comes in if my 11th Century Crusader household, which is equally as diverse in the meatspace, were to document and perform a procession venerating the Virgin Mary for the Assumption, which falls around the time of Pennsic. Would we be as welcome as your Celtic procession? Or would we be told to cop a walk and keep our Christianity in our own camp?

      Also, I haven’t seen the Shinto fertility parade lately. I wonder if they were told to stop because of the ginormous phallus, though, and not so much the ritual.

  24. I shared this post because I agree with many parts of it. Then I read the comments. I agree that the prevalence of paganism is weird while at an SCA event. Does that mean I want it to go away? Hells to the no! What I would love to see is a few more people who while decked out in any garb to pick a religion and be consistent. By that, I mean that they should either research the religion of the period and go with that OR be true to your real life religion. What I don’t like to see is a weird melding of “It looks cool,” “It might have been this way,” “I like the religion/iconography of a COMPLETELY different period but don’t practice it,” and “Well, a lot of the other people in my group have this, so I’ll just put it on without understanding WHY they are wearing it.

    I would also like to emphasize what I got from this article before I read the comments. While not everyone needs to (or even should) practice a “period” religion at any event, I feel that the desire to do so should be tolerated. I feel sickened by the fact that making religious iconography in a period way could be considered “offensive.” It’s history! Not all of history was sunshine and roses! Humans in the past did nasty things to each other! Humans not so long ago tainted what the humans did way long ago! Please, people, let’s see the beauty there was in history, remake it, and avoid all of the ugliness of then AND now. (I’m sorry if I pissed anyone off. Such was not my intention. However, if such is the case, PLEASE discuss it with me before you hate me. I’m not always as clear with my words as I think I am. I’m getting off my soapbox now.)

  25. I’m a practicing Christian (Lutheran) in real life and a late 14th century Italian artist in the SCA, in which capacity I engage in period religious culture and make an attempt to “see” it through the mindset of someone with the world view of an educated Catholic of the period. This has enriched my current faith. I would dearly love to be with a group of people singing and performing Medieval and Renaissance liturgical music at events – it strikes me as odd that you can get away with a Palestrina Magnificat or Nunc Dimittis in a public school, where religion is taboo, because nobody understands the Latin, but the SCA seems to balk at it.

  26. Mundanely, I’m a Universalist, My personae of over 30 years is a Sufi/Dervish. There have been times when I was made to feel uncomfortable for being the only “Mohammedan” amongst the “Franks” (I was actually a Wiccan back when I joined the SCA in the early 1980’s.) My attitude has ALWAYS BEEN, All these assorted religions or versions thereof existed in Period. There were MANY large cosmopolitan cities where they all mixed at various times. Treat an event like you are a trader visiting a foreign port. Don’t seek to offend, but don’t allow others to dictate. Personally, I’d LOVE to see more use of period religious practice at events. I’ve never been offended by ANYONES ceremonies. In fact I find them fascinating. Pennsic was always fun for that in that over the years. I’ve been to Circles, Masses, Seders, Funerals (sadly), Hand fastings, Weddings, Baptisms, Christenings, Calls to Prayer, Readings from the Sutras, Shamanistic sweat lodges, Yoga, Tai Chi, you name it. I always thought it made my experience richer. The real issue, is making people understand that “I’m offended!!!” Isn’t a basis for you banning something VOLUNTARY that other folks enjoy!! NO ONE is FORCED to practice ANY religion in the SCA. But by the same token, folks that wish to express the religious side of their personae (Provided they don’t overtly and rudely proselytize) should be able to unhindered.

  27. I am a staunch Anglican catholic, which is convenient because my persona is also a staunch Anglican catholic. I am also an ordained minister in the ULC (yes – that’s the internet church for lack of a better term), and have performed several weddings and baptisms over the years using ecumenical sources to adapt to the beliefs of the people I am serving in that capacity. In our household, we have agnostics, Norse pagans, Celtic pagans, Christians, and until a few years ago, Jews. We have all managed to get along, and none of us have ever taken offense at anyone else’s beliefs or rituals, as long as they do not involve trying to convert each other.

    Now, my experiences SCA-wide differ a little bit, and probably come closer to the experiences of the OP. I remember one Pennsic when I was accosted by a “vampire” on the back road up from the bog who tried to bite me. I pushed him aside and made a rude comment. He responded by saying that the vampire was his persona and he was just acting out his persona story. My response was that I was a 13th century Christian squire, and if I did the same, I would be cutting off his head and burying him with garlic. He swore at me, flipped me off, and disappeared. On occasions when I’ve worn a cross, I’ve actually had people ask me to move it inside my tunic so as not to “offend those of different faiths” while nothing was said to the wearers of pentagrams, Italian horns, or Thor’s hammers. A friend of mine with a monk persona was once told that he couldn’t be a religious figure because religion was banned in the SCA (the person telling him this was not new to the SCA, but was also not well versed in Corpora and Bylaws.) It has always seemed to me that “the big three” (as the OP puts it) are often tamped down while other faiths are allowed to flourish. I’ve been invited to many handfastings over the years, but I have never seen a disclaimer on them for non-pagans – I HAVE seen a disclaimer for non-Christians on a protestant wedding ceremony invitation (basically, a statement saying that anyone who would feel uncomfortable attending the ceremony to attend the reception afterwards.) When someone feels the need to add that for a Christian ceremony but not for a pagan ceremony, well….

    IMO, the stricture against promoting religion is not an SCA-wide stricture. It is a stricture against the officers (including royals and officers of state) and employees of the SCA advocating any particular religion during official activities. The wording in Corpora and Bylaws makes it clear that it can not be a part of an official SCA ceremony or function (No one shall perform any religious or magical ceremony at a Society event (or in association with the name of the Society) in such a way as to imply that the ceremony is authorized, sponsored, or promulgated by the Society or to force anyone at a Society event, by direct or indirect pressure, to observe or join the ceremony.) I take this to mean the public portions of peerage elevations, coronations, opening/closing court, Curia meetings, etc. I definitely do NOT see this as a stricture against religious practices at events in general (Except as provided herein, neither the Society nor any member acting in its name or that of any of its parts shall interfere with any person’s lawful ceremonies, nor shall any member discriminate against another upon grounds related to either’s system of belief.) So, IMO, if a gentle being elevated to the peerage wishes to incorporate religious elements into their vigil, that’s okay. No one is forced to attend a vigil. If they wish to have a private religious ceremony apart from the public elevation in court (such as being anointed by a priest, or sacrificing a live chicken), they are allowed to do so in private and away from the official ceremony. Even if a group of people wish to parade down the streets of Pennsic chanting prayers or singing hymns, if they are reasonable in their volume and respectful of their proximity to other camps or activities, I believe they could do so without forcing anyone to observe or join in… and that is even if a reasonable person would classify such a journey as a “ceremony” rather than a spontaneous expression of joy in one’s faith.

    In the end, I agree with the OP. If Christians are expected within the strictures of Corpora and Bylaws to limit their expressions of faith, then ALL religious entities (including atheists) must be expected to adhere to the same limitations. If public expressions are allowed for any one faith, they must be allowed for all faiths, within the boundaries allowed by mundane law (e.g. no human sacrifice.)

    1. And some of this drives me nuts because there is NO way to look at some ceremonies and strip the religion out of them. A Byzantine crowning with no mention of the royal duty to the church? Uh, no. It frustrates me to no end.

  28. Eh. Portray as you wish. Try to do your research to make it historical. Keep your mundane or modern portrayal private, just as with your cell phone, slogan T-shirt, and tennis shoes.

    Er…you DO keep those things out of sight when re-enacting, right?

    1. No sir. I spend hours maintaining a blog on my research and development as a way to thwart eyes when I actually show up at every event in a bikini, Air Jordan’s, and an iPad.

  29. Many years ago, when I was more active in the SCA, I had similar concerns. In order to help redress the balance and add a bit more medieval flavour I took to playing a pardoner at Pennsic. It was quite the tightrope act seeking not to offend the neo-pagans on one side by coming across as too sincere and the Catholics on the other side by not being sincere enough. I based him on Chaucer’s pardoner, but a bit more sincere. A lot of people really appreciated it and I still have a number of gifts I was given (along with a few leftover relics and an assortment of indulgences signed by both popes).

  30. My lady, first, let me apologize for those pagans who feel the need to attack anyone , especially christians. We have a kind of deep seated belief that all christians are the enemy. This is a sort of foundation myth for us and is not subject to reason in the early stages of our development. We do grow out of it, kind of like getting over the obnoxious adolescent years, but it takes a while. Asking pagans to remove our religious symbols while in garb does seem perfectly reasonable at first glance. But consider: would you ask a Christian who always wore a cross to remove it while portraying a Roman persona? Or an orthodox Jew to remove head coverings inappropriate to persona? Or the Sikh to remove his turban? I could go on but the point has been made. I do agree that often there is a hodgepodge effect. But we do not jury garb before we allow participating. A wonderful Tudor gown with a Celtic style tree or even pentagram is no more jarring than modern glasses. As for religious ceremonies at pennsic, I personally know people who host seder and friends worship, with no one having any problem with it. The mass was a quasi – official event as so was discontinued. Private ceremonies can and do take place with complete freedom

    1. In this thread is a comment from a Mormon woman who portrays a Viking persona, and had a period Norse wedding with her husband. It can be done.

  31. Several years ago I was at an event whereat some mundanely dressed elder people came by and saw myself (a Dominican persona) and a nun chatting. One of the people said: I was wondering where all the religious were. If this were truly middle ages europe there’d be lots of them around.

    I’m happy that in my various times in An Tir I’ve heard only period appropriate ‘attacks’ against my persona–my favorite was a Viking warning that he was going to take me on a long walk (a euphamism for a very unpleasant way of killing a person); I felt no actual threat as it was clearly in character, and they had just sacked our monastery!

    The middle ages was also the High Religious Ages, not likely a single noble would’ve disbelieved in god in some form, at least not publicly. In Europe Christianity was King, even if the representatives were sometimes deplorable. The Byzantine Emperor was very much the head of the Byzantine Church. The non-Christian mediteranian world was firmly Islamic. I’m very happy to say that An Tir has a nice smattering of representation of all.

    Some things from period should not be part of our SCA lives — anyone tries to spread Black Death and we really have problems! Other aspects should be played out. We are anachronistic, cell phone pictures of coronations are simply not period but o well. Our lack of servants is also not period. We should do what we can to be as authentic as possible when we can.

    My persona’s time spent in the Byzantine Empire (and being a Byzantine Catholic in real life) helped me to narrow down my time period and my order. I am able to incorporate some Byzantine practice into my persona’s life and by being Dominican I can easily explain why I am not in the monastery. I also get to research one of the only remaining western rites of the Catholic church and recently went to the Liturgy of the Nativity according to the Dominican Rite. It was very interesting and helped me understand some interesting aspects of medieval religious and church life.

    I hope others will embrace religious personas or bring more of their persona’s world into the SCA. It only enriches us as we learn and add this depth of knowledge to our lives.

    A couple of side points: Only the second desctruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was due to revolt. The first was due to invasion.
    Marriage–in which culture are the (presumed) happy couple (in period that is not a forgone conclusion) living. Usually the practice would’ve been to perform everything according to the husband’s religion/practices but if he was moving to his future wife’s lands then the ceremony might likely have been performed there and according to the dominant form therein present.
    One thing is certain, however, especially due to theological differences between the two ceremonies: Either it would’ve been Roman or Byzantine, both would not have been present.


  32. This is a fascinating conversation, thank you to whomever linked this post to my Facebook feed. 🙂 Several points here. Paganism is not Wicca. There is no “pagan with a capital P” faith, and not all pagans are Wiccans. Asatru and CR (Celtic Reconstructionist) are other aspects of paganism that focus on studying and recreating what we can learn about ancient faiths, vastly different from Wicca. I am CR and my Pennsic persona is Celtic, so it is completely appropriate for me to wear the trappings of that faith, both as my persona and as me. And I take issue with the original comment about pagans being killed on sight. It depended a great deal on where you were, what time period you lived in, and who you met on the road. The transition from the old faiths to Christianity took a long time all over the world, and pagan faiths were not only tolerated but embraced for centuries. The Norse added Jesus to their pantheon alongside Thor and Odin as just another god. It was common for Norse merchants to do this so they could trade with the Christians well into the 1100s. The Islamic Empire, which controlled most of Europe for 400 years, was at times quite tolerant of other faiths, especially Judaism. There was a great deal of cross-pollination of religions throughout Europe, people converting to Islam or Christianity when it was politically or socially expedient. The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan (13th century) was remarkable for his religious tolerance, accepting Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and pagans alike. And we can discuss for days the absorption and acceptance of old faith rituals and beliefs into Christianity in the British Isles.

    Your Islamic persona would have been killed on sight in many European countries at certain times. In fact, a Crusader persona, or a persona living in Europe after, say, 1400, calling you a terrorist would be completely appropriate for their persona. Or refusing you service. Or destroying your camp. Or kidnapping you and selling you into slavery. The whole “play your faith when you play your persona” thing can go both ways, and sadly, there are people who would take it to that degree. And really, what does it hurt you personally to see someone wearing a goddess pendant with their Elizabethan garb? Does it really harsh on your calm so badly that your day is ruined? Just because others don’t hold themselves to as high a persona standard as you doesn’t affect your game in any way, unless you let it.

    The whole idea that one can’t be Christian, or Muslim, in the SCA is hogwash. Anyone can perform whatever religious rituals they want, as long as others are not required to participate. I personally would love to see more people respectfully role play that aspect of their personas, it would make for a richer SCA experience for everyone.

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