My favorite holiday has always been Halloween. It may just be because my birthday has commonly been combined with Halloween parties in my youth. The only reason I’m a member of a historical re-enactment society is that its members found me first. I’m not particularly a lover of history, but I am a lover of dressing up. I still tell people in my mundane (outside the SCA) life that I go camping in funny clothes. Funny thing is, a number of similar groups could have served this purpose; I mostly stay in the SCA for the friends I have made.
Most people stay due to a burning passion for some aspect of what the SCA offers. It could be hitting people with a stick (something I’m told most little boys love to do) and the SCA gives them an appropriate place to fight. It could be learning some cool thing that people did in the middle ages that people can teach you how to do, things like making beer, writing calligraphy, dying with pigments or sewing pretty patterns into clothes. Those are actually people I know and things they love to do, so much so that they research and learn how it was done over 500 years ago. Some people are just doers and the openness of the SCA gives ample opportunity for people to help in meaningful ways.
Peerage is the top end of the various paths the SCA offers. Peers are responsible for the continued growth and sustainability of the society as a whole, with a focus on their “area of experience” and Peers are recognized for leading these paths. The Peerage paths shape the way all members interact with and within the activities the society. In the very beginning, the frame a newcomer is given for activities within the society is shaped by the Peerages: you can fight (heavy or light), you can create (arts and sciences) or you can serve. As people grow in the society, their efforts gets noticed and they get funneled into a path. Most kingdom level awards have both AoA and GoA level awards within these paths. Some members take multiple student belts, but the majority do not.
The SCA is founded on those pillars of Peerage. Each of the pillars are so important to the overall support of the society as a whole, that in elevation ceremonies, it is customary to have Peers from other circles witness the virtues a candidate holds in their area. Pelicans speak to the service of Laurels and Knights speak to the chivalry of Pelicans, etc. In a basic ceremony, it is assumed that a Peer of each circle will speak for the candidate, thus at the simplest level a Peer in one circle will exemplify qualities that all the Peerage circles exemplify. This is what we elusively refer to as Peer like qualities (PLQs). Our governing documents loosely define this as one who follows society rules, and is respectful, courteous, authentic (in dress/appearance), giving, and skilled.
Skilled. The common thread of Peers is the mastery of their path. They have been recognized as being a Master (their literal title!) of what they do, along with being an overall good person. Skill only comes with thousands of hours of dedication (some say 10 thousand is the minimum). That level of dedication either takes a strong will or a high level of passion. In a volunteer organization, passion is the more likely option for sustained dedication. Passion is what gives regular members the desire to share their knowledge and skill with others. Passion is the PLQ that many peers look for, but it can’t be defined. Passion manifests differently in each person, a small burning flame that can’t be quenched in one person or a blaze of energy in another. This is what it is to be a Peer; to have that passion and cultivate it in others.