Choosing a Persona
First of all, what is a persona? A persona is the medieval name, character, and role you want to play in the S.C.A.
Second, why do you need one? Well, when you first join, it keeps you from being a tourist, standing to one side, watching strangers in strange costumes. With a persona, you are one of us. It encourages you to study a particular culture, so you know how to dress, how to act, and what your background is.
There may also be more personal reasons for choosing you own name and character. If you don't, someone else may, and it may be something more accurate then you'd prefer. How would you like to be known as "the Gross", or "the Crocked"? You can pick any name and role you like with only two exceptions: it must be pre-1600, of course, and can't duplicate any previously used historical or Society name. We are not trying to act out the lines from Macbeth, nor are we pretending to be Merlin the Magician. To experience Medieval society, we create appropriate characters and personalities for ourselves, and then react spontaneously within the atmosphere.
Now that I've convinced you to choose a persona, how do you find one? First, you should decide the culture and era you'd like to be a part of. If you've always been interested in a certain culture, say Italian Renaissance or Gaelic, but never had much time to study it, you might use this time as a good opportunity. If you've already studied one nation's history or language, you may wish to put yourself in that culture. If your family actually emigrated from a particular province, you might want to emphasize your real heritage. Or perhaps you've always felt that you'd have made a good Teutonic warrior, a loyal follower of King Arthur, or a fanatic Crusader.
Once you have chosen the country, the era isn't hard. Most people enter the century when their local king rules half of Europe, rather than after they were defeated and their people were being pillaged and plundered. We can also assume that you're part of the local gentry, unless you are particularly proud of your merchant background. Then you might be the illegitimate child of the local baron and some peasant girl. That's quite historical and gives you the strength of character of one, and the social privileges of the other. If you have medieval talents, you may choose a profession, such as minstrel, court jester, alchemist, etc. You are limited in the titles you claim, as Baron, Duke, Prince and knighthood must be earned in the Society or granted by the King.
Once you have decided on a persona, you need to choose a name for yourself. It should be appropriate to your Society character, and help people to identify the culture you come from. It will also enable the herald to formally introduce you when you are presented at court.
You should pick a name fitting to your culture, although there are exceptions. Crusaders, Vikings, and Mongols brought home names from a variety of cultures. Your first name is most personal and is largely up to you and your imagination. People often choose first names that describe their personalities, that have symbolic meaning, or simply sound nice. Some people join knowing exactly what they want to be called, perhaps an ancestral name, or one they always wish they had been given. Others try out several before taking a permanent name. If you need help, library references departments have books on the history of names, you can look through "name-your-baby" books, or you can ask the herald for suggestions and further references.
While trying to decide on a permanent name, you might consider a surname that describes you best:
- Geographically -- from a farm, town, province. Examples: av Deverell, of Iveragh, of Westminster, of the Romanies.
- By a characteristic or achievement -- Examples: the Quiet, the Improbable, the Brave, the Well-Learned, Leonis (like a lion).
- By social group -- You can use your household name or group name as a surname. Examples: of the Misty Isles, Van Dag, or Drachenhalle.
- By your profession -- Examples: the Hermit, the Merchant, the Printer, the Sarabite.
- By parents or grandparents -- This is common and varies greatly in all cultures; check references. Examples: MacDonald, ap Morgan, FitzNorman, Jesdottir.
Now that you have half a dozen names to choose from and you can always make up more, or translate them into other languages. Decide which ones fit the kind of personality you want to portray and which ones sound the best together, then try them out on your friends and see if they can pronounce them.
There are many variations and combinations both in the Society and historically. If you are not sure a certain name is appropriate, please consult your herald.
-- Revised from Kristjan Olavssen Ankestjerne