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At a recent Talonvale Wednesday night meeting, the subject of Households
in the SCA was discussed in brief. I thought that perhaps a bit more on
that subject should be said, hence this article.
The following is taken from a larger "SCA Introduction" I
wrote for a local computer bulletin board before Talonvale was founded,
when Hawk, Fernando and I were trying to create local interest in the SCA.
Look for other excerpts in the future.
What is a household?
An SCA "household" is a difficult thing to define. No two
are alike. Households have no "official" status in the SCA, but
are a recognized part of SCA life.
Households are groups of people in the SCA who do things together, or
pursue a common interest, or follow a particular leader, or simply enjoy
each other's company. Most successful households will meet several of the
above criteria. Each household will have a name, such as House Darkyard
(a prominent household in the Detroit area) or, if they're Scots, Clan
Whatever. The larger and more established may have their own emblems and
badges, customs and traditions.
At its simplest, a household may be just a few people who like to hang
together at events, perhaps camp together at the War. Such households seldom
have any real structure beyond the "who's-in-charge-this-week?"
Many households are begun by an individual who becomes the "head"
of the household, which will often be referred to as "(Name)'s household."
If this person has strong leadership skills, the household may thrive;
if not, it won't be around long.
Peers (Knights and their equals) will usually head households of their
own. These consist of their current "significant other" and,
in the case of Knights, the Knight's Squires and/or men-at-arms and anyone
else he or she may invite to join. (Rather than squires, Masters/Mistresses
of the Laurel take Apprentices, while Masters/Mistresses of the Pelican
Since many families are now involved in the SCA, a household may even
be an actual family unit. Even if none of a household's members are actually
related, a good household should feel like a family.
Many households have no more than five or six members. Most will have
less than twenty. Some have more than a hundred, and a very few have over
A household may register its name and heraldry with the SCA College
of Arms, just as an individual might.
Joining a Household...or maybe not...
Now, don't all of you rush right out and find a household to join! There
are a few more things you might want to consider first.
In most cases, you join a household only after being invited to. If
you find a household you want to become a part of, start hanging with those
people, maybe let a few of them know your interested, and be patient. Don't
push. Some households have procedures for considering new members, most
don't. In Households centered around an individual (a Knight or other peer,
for example) the decision may be entirely up to that individual. Some households
will require that potential new members be sponsored by a current member.
As in most matters, it's difficult to find two households that do this
But wait a minute...are you really sure you want to do this? Read
Joining a household can be a big decision, so don't make it lightly.
At its best, a household can help you get what you want out of the SCA;
it can provide an extended family to support you, a knowledgeable hand
to guide you, and good friends to have fun with. At its worst, it can deny
you all of the above.
I firmly believe that it would be a mistake to join a household before
you've figured out what you really want from the SCA. And that takes time.
It would also be a mistake to join a household before you know what they're
all about. I would advise anyone new to the Society to avoid joining any
household for at least a year. (That advice is based on my own personal
experiences and observations; your mileage may vary.)
When you join a household, it becomes part of your identity in the SCA.
The reputation of the household reflects on you, and your conduct will
reflect on the household. In other words, you're trusting the household
and its membership with a part of your honor, and in turn a part of its/their
honor is entrusted to you. So be careful.
And remember, you don't HAVE to join any household at all! In fact,
most people don't.
Also consider that sooner or later the household you join may cease
to exist. Like any social organization, households are subject to pressures
internal and external. Power struggles, personality conflicts, member apathy,
leaders moving on, a couple breaking up, any of these can be the death
of a household.
Another thing; as you grow in the SCA, you just might outgrow your household.
I have been in two households since I joined the SCA. The first one
disintegrated while I watched. I left the second for personal reasons.
Joining the first may or may not have been a mistake; joining the second
had been the right thing to do at the time. I'm in no hurry to join another;
in fact, I doubt that I will. Perhaps one day I'll start my own; probably
How to Form a Household...or not...
Forming a household can be as simple as a group of people saying, "Hey,
gang, let's be a household!" Once again, I recommend that you give
the matter a bit more thought.
Before you leap, have the answers to these questions in your minds:
- What kind of household do you want?
- What do you expect to accomplish by forming a household?
- What will the household require of its members?
- What sort of leadership or social structure will the household have?
- Do all of you agree on the answers to these questions?
Once you've resolved all of that, decide on a name, a theme (if you
want one, such as a clan of Scots), a device and/or badge, bylaws if you
want them, officers if you want them, and all the boring stuff like that.
Congratulations. You're a Household.
One Last Comment
Please don't get the idea from reading any of this that I'm down on
households. I like households. I liked being in households. I liked the
people I was in households with.
Belonging to the right household brings a new dimension to your involvement
in the SCA. It gives you an extended family within the larger extended
family of the SCA as a whole, something on a more personal level.
I have, however, seen people's SCA experience spoiled by a poor choice
of household, or by jumping too soon at a chance to join a household before
they really knew what they wanted from the SCA. All I am saying is, look
well before you leap.
The Great Dark Horde
The Dark Horde is a household that deserves a special mention, if for
no other reason than that it's the largest household in the SCA.
The Horde was founded in Ann Arbor by science fiction author Robert
Asprin, whose SCA name is Yang the Nauseating (no kidding!). That was over
twenty-five years ago. Since then, the Horde has spread across the country
like...well, like a horde!
At first, they were all Mongols, but somehow a bunch of Vikings got
into it. They would do authentic Barbarian schtick which would often offend
the Euro-centrist medieval "purists" of the Society as a whole.
This gave them a bad rep that stayed with them for a time, but which they
may never have deserved and have largely put behind them.
The Horde is big. Really big. I'm not even sure how big. They have the
biggest single camp at Pennsic War. Their membership is spread across the
country, mostly in the northern Midwest and the Great Lakes states. They
have their own social structure and newsletter.
These days, the Horde commands a great deal of respect. Because they
field a larger fighting unit at the War than some Kingdoms, and because
they owe no fealty to any particular Crown, the Midrealm and the East Kingdom
each spend a great deal of time and effort trying to gain the Horde as
allies. And while there are some people in the Horde I don't personally
care for, the same can be said of the SCA as a whole and I wouldn't judge
either the Horde or the Society by its worst examples. I should also say
that some of the best people I have known in the Society are or were associated
with the Dark Horde.
In service to the Society and the Incipient Shire of Talonvale,