SCA Charters: Wordsmithing in Medieval Styles (Part one)

Among my favorite traditions within the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) are Charters given to acknowledge the recipient’s endeavors in the research and recreation of pre-seventeenth century feudal societies. 

Quite often, these Charters describe the recipient’s qualities and the particular reason they are being gifted a Charter.  Charters are read aloud in Court (which is, in part, an awards ceremony) so that the recipient’s friends and family can hear the kind words said.

An Anachronistic Tradition

Charters in the SCA have little to do with extant medieval charters. 

Medieval charters were given by feudal or ecclesiastical authorities to grant rights or properties or both to recipients. 

Medieval charters were lengthy documents describing the legal extent and limits of the right or property being granted.  For instance, the Ismere Diploma (circa 736) of King Æthelbald of Mercia specified the lands “…in provincia cui ab antiquis nomen inditum est Husmeræ . juxta fluvium vocabulo Stur , cum omnibus necessariis ad eam pertinentibus cum campis silvisque cum piscariis pratisque in possessionem æcclesiasticam benigne largiendo trado.”

Translation: “…in the province, which the ancient name is Husmeræ, alongside a river whose name Sturbridge, with all the necessary fields and woods with her belongings when in possession aecclesiasticus meadow fisheries kindly giving up.”

Ismere Diploma of King Aethelbald

With a single exception (more on this later), the Charters I have written in the SCA are not representative of the style of medieval charters.  Rather, they are accolades of accomplishments and qualities of fellow members. 

To lend an air of medieval flavor to these Charters, however, I have attempted to model the words on extant poems or poetic forms consistent with the recipient’s persona. 

Why poetry?  Well, I like poetry; and as long as I am creating something that feels like it is medieval, but never actually existed in the middle ages, I have free rein to do with it as I wish.

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