Personas are the identities participants take on in the SCA. They help make our events feel more medieval. Some people dedicate a lot of time and research into developing a very period identity while others simply choose a name. It is completely up to you. The only stipulation is that you may not claim to be an actual person who lived, and you may not claim any rank or titles which you did not earn in the SCA.
Choosing a Name
Each person chooses a name that is unique to them. Many people when first starting will not have a specific name so they will refer to themselves as real name of local group (i.e., John of Bordermarch) until they find a name that suits their persona or personal tastes.
Developing Your Persona
Your persona is who you are in the society, what culture you came from. You can choose to be from any period, and any culture, as long as it was before the 17th century. Unless they choose otherwise everyone in the SCA is considered to be at least of the Gentry class, which means that at least your family had land, money, or a title of some sort. When portraying a persona, please ensure it is respectful of the culture you are portraying.
To select a persona for yourself, choose a country and a time. Research what life would have been like for a person living in that place and time. What things were going on there that this person might have been a part of? Decide if you are a warrior, or a craftsman, a member of a nobleman’s house, or any other character who “could have lived” in that time and place.
Your persona story can be as short as “I’m an 8th century Norseman from Birka” up to very complicated stories about where you are from, where you have lived, what you have done, etc. Do the research, so if someone asks you, you can discuss your persona a little in-depth. It will help you find a name and design costumes and armor to fit your character.
Some people cannot decide, and “time travel”, wearing the costumes of all the different places and periods, so one day they may be a 12th century Venetian, the next day they may be a 5th century Roman, or a 16th century Frenchman. Some individuals even have multiple personas.
Registering Your Name
You are not required to register a name, but it is encouraged. Your group’s local herald can help you choose and research a historically accurate name appropriate to your persona. The registration process does take some time. Once registered, your name will be uniquely yours. No one in the SCA may use your name. Any awards you may earn or heraldry you may register will be linked to your registered name.
You may have heard of “Coats of Arms”. There is no family coat of arms. Arms are registered to a single person. In the SCA each person can register a device (arms) associated with their name. All names and devices are registered through the Herald’s office. When registering items, many checks will be made to determine that the submitted item is accurate and that it does not conflict with any other member’s heraldry or heraldry and persons outside of the society. The process does take some time to complete. Along with personal devices, individuals can register alternate names and badges, for both themselves and households. The same rules for registration apply. The SCA is filled with heraldry, from the kingdom names, arms, and badges to local groups. Even most of the awards given out are registered within the College of Heralds.
Using Your Heraldry
Once you have a registered name and device or badge, you may display your heraldic items at any event. Many people will use it to mark their pavilions, encampments, tables, camp gear, and much more. It is always recommended that you wait on creating items with your heraldry until the heraldry is finalized.
The above information is from page 7 of the article “A Newcomers Guide to the SCA“.