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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Starting a Guild in the SCA

By THLaird Colyne Stewart
July 2014 (AS 49)

Recently a friend asked my advice on starting a guild, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject. This article is based on my experiences founding two guilds in the Kingdom of Ealdormere (the Games Guild of Ealdormere and the Ealdormerean Cartographers Guild).

Gauging Interest

One of the first things you should do is see if there is interest in the guild you are proposing. (It’s also a good idea to make sure a similar guild does not already exist in your area.) I suggest posting to A&S and kingdom-related email lists and Facebook groups in your area. Ask people if they’d be interested in joining such a guild.

If people respond positively, you can go ahead and start planning your guild. However, even if no one is initially interested, you can still found a guild with yourself as the sole member. Who knows, as you promote the guild you may dredge up interest where there was none before. When I started the Games Guild there were only three members, but now there are almost 100 members and sister-guilds have sprung up in other kingdoms (most recently in the Principality of Avacal in An Tir).

Communication, Pages and Email Lists

Upon deciding that founding your guild is a good and proper idea, you can then again post to the appropriate A&S and kingdom related email lists and Facebook groups to announce its formation.

Before doing so, you may want to set up a webpage, email list and Facebook group first. That way you can include those links in your announcement, and prospective members can easily find the guild and sign up. (You’ll notice I mention Facebook a lot; and that s because a lot of SCAdians seem to use it, but you can set up groups or pages for your guild on any social medium platforms you desire.)

I believe an email list (I use Yahoo Groups) is essential, since not everyone is comfortable using social media (especially Facebook). You should have a few options for potential guild members to receive information regarding the guild. Whenever I have anything official to say about my guilds, or pose a question to the guilds, I post to the guild website, and the email list and the Facebook group.

Royal Patronage

Since the Royal Consort is traditionally the patron of the Arts and Sciences, it is a politeness to contact them and ask for their support in your endeavour. I did this for both the Games Guild and the Cartographers Guild. If you are planning to have a charter, royal patronage is necessary as the Royals should sign said charter.

Charters

Your guild does not need to have a charter, but you’d be missing out on an opportunity to have some fun doing research on and writing a period document. If you do want a charter, it can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The charter for the Games Guild is extremely simple:

We, Their Most Royal Majesties of Ealdormere, do hereby grant a charter to the Games Guild of Ealdormere to facilitate the spreading of their love of medieval games throughout the land. Signed this, the 3rd day of November, AS XXXVII, in Our Canton of der Welfengau. Aaron Rex. Rustique Regina.

In contrast, the charter for the Cartographers Guild is 529 words long, and is based on PATENT 37th Edward III, dated 15th July 1363, for the Vintners' Company of London. (I have included the full wording at the end of this article as an appendix.)

If you have a charter, you should get it signed by your current King and Queen. The charter for the Games Guild was not read during a court, per my request (as I was still new and shy and didn’t want to be the centre of attention). For the Cartographers Guild I left it up to the King and Queen whether they wanted the charter read out in a court or not (they did).

Taxes

Some guilds in the SCA pay taxes, while other do not. The Games Guild does not pay taxes, as its charter was so short. While the Cartographers Guild’s charter was longer and therefore could have referred to taxes, the period document I used as my source did not mention taxes, so I did not include information on taxes in the guild’s completed charter.

However, just because your charter does not mention taxes, does not mean your guild cannot pay them if you so choose. This can be done in Court, and is a good way to contribute gifts to your kingdom and raise awareness of your guild. The Royal Horticultural and Herbalism Guild of Ealdormere regularly pays taxes to the crown.

Guild Structure

Your guild can have as much or as little structure as you want. In period guilds were very structured with different levels of mastery and several appointments and positions. If your guild is going to include some kind of structure you (and the other founding members) can set it up any way that you like, but it should be set out in exact detail in your charter to ensure there are no arguments about how things are supposed to work later on.

For the Games Guild, we did not include any structure at all. The only position was the Head of the Guild (we avoided calling it the Guild Master since Master is a restricted title within the SCA). We did not include any provisions on how the leadership of the guild could change. Leadership has changed in the Games Guild twice, and thankfully everyone in the guild was accepting of how it was handled. In both cases, the current Head of the Guild selected their successor. (I was the original Head of the Guild, and when I had to step back for a while, I asked THL Raffe Scholemastre to take over. When I was able to participate more regularly once again, Raffe handed leadership back to me.)

Recognizing that we could have had a problem if other people in the Games Guild had not supported these changes in leadership, when I set up the Cartographers Guild I included clear instructions in our charter on how the guild’s Head would be selected and how it would change:

[The] mistery of Cartographers shall chuse every year a person most sufficient, most expert and most knowing in the same mistery and present them to us or our heirs, or to the baron and baroness of any barony where such mistery of Cartographers is used, and that the said person be sworn in the presence of us, our heirs, or our barons and baronesses, to survey that all manner of maps whatsoever drawn within the realm be accurate and true, and likewise that the same person do correct and amend all defaults found in the exercise of the said mistery, and that they will act as the kingdom’s cartographer, and the head of the Ealdormerean Guild of Cartographers, for no more than one year, unless they be chosen again to be sworn in before us, our heirs, or our barons and baronesses to continue in their task. This choosing shall be done by the members of the said mistery of cartography at the turning of the society year to match the founding of the Guild, and the choosing shall be done by a simple majority vote.

I nominated a member of the guild to be the first Head, but she declined due to time constraints. She in turn nominated me. No one else was nominated and I ended up as the Head of a second guild.

Projects

Now, your guild may only be concerned with being a place for people with a common interest to meet and exchange ideas and resources, and there is nothing wrong with that! Alternatively though, your guild can engage in various projects.

For instance, during the course of the current reign in Ealdormere, the Games Guild is hosting Royal Games Tourneys at as many events as possible on behalf of His Majesty Siegfried (who is a member of said guild). Meanwhile the Cartographers Guild is busy drawing new maps for the kingdom website.

When considering projects for your guild, it is a very good idea to run them by the guild as a whole to see if enough people have the time and energy to complete them. You need to be careful not to take on more than you (and your guild-mates) can handle. Also remember, that the longer the deadline the better. It gives people more time to complete their part of the project.

Meetings

A great way to get face time with other members of your guild is to have a meeting at one of the kingdom’s larger events, or at A&S themed events. Events you might want to consider having a guild meeting at could include Practicum, Fruits of our Labours, Spring A&S, Fall A&S, Forward into the Past, War of the Trillium and Murder Melee. Of course there are lots of other excellent events you could also meet at, but these tend to be events that draw a lot of people from across the kingdom and therefore have a good chance of having your guild-mates in attendance. I know that the BookBinders Guild of Ealdormere had a lovely meet at FOOL this year (complete with tea and biscuits) and the Cartographers Guild had a very productive meeting at Trillium.

Other options for meetings is to do them online via a service like Skype, or by hosting a themed event. Your guild could coordinate with a local group to host an event dedicated to your art or science. For instance, there was an event in the Barony of Skraeling Althing a year or two ago called Scribal Althing that was dedicated to the scribal arts and drew attendees from across the kingdom as well as from beyond its borders.

Conclusion

I hope this simple article helps anyone interested in starting a guild within the SCA, and I look forward to seeing more guilds grow and prosper in my kingdom and across the knowne world.

Appendix

Siegfried, by the Grace of Lady Ealdormere, King of Ealdormere, and Ragni, Queen by inspiration, to all to whom these presents shall come greeting.

Know ye that amongst other things ordained in the last Parliament it was for certain causes and purposes in the same Parliament ordained that in Ealdormere it would be good and just for there to exist a righteous company of mapmakers within the kingdom, known as the Ealdormerean Guild of Cartographers, and now it is shown unto us and to our council that the demand for maps of various kinds is extreme and for that the people of the kingdom will be enriched by such a company of the mistery of cartography, we, understanding the aforesaid things, have, by the assent of the Commons and others our council towards maintaining and preserving the said ordinances, ordained the Cartographers who will be enfranchised to draft maps of the baronies, cantons, shires, cities, boroughs and towns of the kingdom, being as accurate to their boundaries and borders as it is possible to be.

We likewise will that no strangers and foreigners shall bring into Ealdormere their own maps of our realm, unless they be a friend of our kingdom and of the Guild Cartographers and that the said artisans of the said mistery of Cartographers shall chuse every year a person most sufficient, most expert and most knowing in the same mistery and present them to us or our heirs, or to the baron and baroness of any barony where such mistery of Cartographers is used, and that the said person be sworn in the presence of us, our heirs, or our barons and baronesses, to survey that all manner of maps whatsoever drawn within the realm be accurate and true, and likewise that the same person do correct and amend all defaults found in the exercise of the said mistery, and that they will act as the kingdom’s cartographer, and the head of the Ealdormerean Guild of Cartographers, for no more than one year, unless they be chosen again to be sworn in before us, our heirs, or our barons and baronesses to continue in their task. This choosing shall be done by the members of the said mistery of cartography at the turning of the society year to match the founding of the Guild, and the choosing shall be done by a simple majority vote.

We will and give licence to the said Artisan Cartographers of Ealdormere that they may buy vellum and parchment, and inks and quills, and travel our lands without let or hindrance in the pursuit of their duty, art and mistry so long as they not impede any subjects of this our kingdom in their own duties.

And we will that the ordinances and subsidies of maps and mapping supplies of all kinds, in all cities, boroughs and towns enfranchised within this realm be firmly kept and preserved in all points to the said Cartographers and their successors always in the form.

In witness whereof we have caused these our Letters to be made Patents. Given at der Welfengau, the twenty-fourth day of May in the forty-ninth year of our society.

Wording by THLaird Colyne Stewart, founder of the Ealdormerean Cartographers Guild, based on PATENT 37th Edward III, dated 15th July 1363, for the Vintners' Company of London.