What Is a Guild
First, it is important to understand the guilds are, like households, unofficial structures in the eyes of the Society. As with most things though, there are various levels of “unofficial”. Basically households and guilds are not recognized by SCA, Inc. as official entities. They have no power to create or enforce SCA or kingdom rules. They are officially separate and unofficial from the SCA. That said, households and guilds are pretty common in the SCA. They are a way for people of similar purposes to get together with others that share their interests. A simple, and not entirely accurate, way to think of households and guilds is that they are clubs. The difference between a guild and a household is one of focus. Guilds are supposedly focused on teaching something to anyone who wishes to learn. They hold meetings that are open to others for the purpose of learning. They may have their own internal hierarchy and may not. Households generally focus internally working with the members to achieve the goals of the household whatever they might be.
This document will focus on guilds as seen in the realm of arts and sciences. There may also be guilds relating to marshalled activities including rapier, equestrian, siege and more. These guilds would report through the Office of the Earl Marshal and would have completely different requirements.
It is not surprising that SCA folk, with their common interest in medieval arts and sciences, frequently organize into special interest groups. If the special interest group has the desire for a more structured organization, then they may form themselves into a guild. No special interest group is required to form into a guild to be official. If the group desires the structure of a guild, then they should pursue becoming a guild. A special interest group should not use the term “guild” in their title if they have not gone through the official organizational process. Some alternate terms that a special interest group could use in its title instead of “guild” are association, company, league, and metier (or its Old French root word of “mestier”). The special interest group could devise a clever name without any particular title, such as the Shire of Rokeclif’s chain mail special interest group, “The Missing Links.”
The medieval guild was a fraternal organization, with aspects of a social club, trade association, labor union, private school, and quality control inspector. It was a structured group of people with a common bond in their craft. Together the members taught apprentices, maintained high standards of work, fostered communication among practitioners, and moved within a sociable society of people with like interests.
At their best, SCA guilds can vigorously advance their craft and be friendly social groupings as well. An active and productive guild may alternate business meetings, workshops, classes, field trips, parties, and publications with a good deal of artisans’ work throughout.
Definition: A guild is a collection of people who share the same interest and who want to meet periodically to learn, discuss and promote that interest.
Purpose: Although a guild serves many purposes, the primary purpose is to advance the study and knowledge of a topic as well as spread the availability of information to those who are interested. Frequently the spread of information is through practice or teaching. Guilds, as a whole, help us learn about the structure of medieval society while learning more about the art or science of the guild.
The Corpora of the SCA states (in the Governing Documents of the SCA, Inc.):
I. GENERAL A. Precedence of Law: “If they [SCA Governing Bodies/Documents] find it useful to codify their customs, branches and organizations such as orders, guilds, et cetera, are permitted to create charters. Charters are primarily administrative tools that can help the group to define structure and procedures. Unless written into kingdom or principality law organizational charters do not have the force of law. Branch charters may not be written into law. [June 11, 2009 revision]”
I. GENERAL E. Unofficial Entities: [Concerning Guilds] “In many kingdoms, there are groups in which many people participate but which are not formally recognized by the Society. These can range from highly structured guilds to loosely associated camping groups. Entities that fall into this category can have many names, including but not limited to households, guilds, ships, and clans. Although these entities are not recognized by the Society in any formal way, some kingdoms have awards that can be given to these groups. Because they are not official Society groups, unofficial entities cannot sponsor Society events.”
Forming a Guild
The first decision you are likely to make when forming a guild is the area of interest. A guild can be very specific (“Norse Nålebinders in Wool”) or more general (“Performing Arts”). Be sure that this correctly reflects your group. This will affect everything from your mission to membership.
Next, you need to determine your scope. Do you want your guild to be at your local level or Kingdom
level. Inter-Kingdom guild structures are much more complicated and ill-advised due to differing Kingdom laws regarding these structures. Inter-Kingdom guilds operating within Atlantia should have an independent branch within the Kingdom and would be treated as a Kingdom guild.
After you have decided what your scope is, then you need to determine if you want your guild to be chartered or not. Being chartered makes the guild a little more “official” in that you have a mandate from the crowned representative of your area. Local or Kingdom guilds may be chartered. If your guild serves the Kingdom or a Shire, your charter would be signed and approved by the Crown. If your guild serves a Barony or a Canton, your charter would be signed by the Baronage of that area. Chartered guilds must be open and available to anyone in their scope who are interested. There is no such thing as an exclusive or closed chartered guild. Additionally, a guild may not prevent or attempt to prevent people from practicing their craft outside the guild structure. A guild may not allow its structure to be used to further political factions or discriminatory practices. A guild which indulges in such activities may be suspended or dissolved by the authority which granted its charter.
Chartered or Not
|More authority||Less oversight|
|Greater visibility within the group||Can be more exclusive in membership|
|More structured||More free-flowing|
If your guild is not chartered, it is extremely unofficial and most of this document will not apply to it. An unchartered guild can literally be two people who decide they want to work together on projects. Do what you’d like to do and don’t worry about regulations and requirements in those cases.
If you decide to have a chartered guild, the first thing you need to do is discuss the matter with the Crown or Their representative (depending on your scope). If They do not wish to charter the guild, then your guild will not be chartered. If they are interested in encouraging your endeavor, then you need to get the charter together.
The charter must be a physical document. In the realm of medieval re-creation, an electronic document is not appropriate. You may take photographs of the document after signing for display on a website or other electronic medium, but your original document should be physical. It is considered a best practice to have the document in calligraphy and sometimes even with illumination if you have access to the skills to do so.
Your charter should include:
- Guild Name
- The SCA has reserved certain words used for certain entities (e.g., the word “College” is applied to an SCA group that is established as a College/University, and is usually titled “College of…”. A guild can still be called a “college” if it is associated with the kingdom/local group name where it is established. The selected wording should make it clear that this is a guild rather than an established SCA group. A guild name should not be easily confused with the name of an SCA region (e.g., the “College of Fools” should perhaps be named the “Altantian College of Fools”).
- The name of the guild should reflect the activities of the guild.
- If you wish to register the guild name, please do so before you physically create the charter. Registration of a name is handled through the College of Arms.
- The Location of the Guild
- This can be as specific as you would like but should be representative of your membership.
- This is normally determined by the scope of your guild.
- Purpose / Mission Statement
- The guiding mission of the guild should be reflective of what the guild and its membership wishes to accomplish.
- This can be a general promotion of an art or as specific as fulfilling a reoccurring task (like a Queen’s shawl).
- A Provision for By-Laws
- The rules and regulations that you develop for your group do not need to be included in the charter itself, but there should be a statement that you may have separate by-laws as needed for the administration of your guild.
- By-laws can include what the leadership is for the guild, how leadership is chosen and changed, rules and regulations, internal structure including ranks, how advancement is handled, et cetera.
- By-laws also allow for a guild to set up monetary accounts and ways to handle money. As unofficial groups, money for a guild should never go through a SCA branch or touch SCA bank accounts in any way.
- Ways to Amend/Change the Charter
- You can determine how you change or amend the charter but one thing should remain consistent: if you change your charter, you should get it signed by the Crown or Their representatives.
- A List of Founding Members
- This is optional but considered a “best practice”. Charters are, in their best circumstances, a physical piece of history documenting the formation of your guild.
- Signature Block for Granting Authorities
Once the charter is developed (and before it is put into calligraphy), it is suggested that it be reviewed by the following parties:
- The guild membership
- The guild membership should approve the charter by at least a majority vote.
- The MoAS (local or Kingdom depending on the scope)
- Ultimately, the MoAS is going to be reporting on the activities of any A&S-related gathering within their scope for the 501(c)3 status of the Society. They need to know what is going on.
- Common questions or requests from a Minister of Arts and Sciences may include: how will activities be reported, who is the contact person, how will people reach the guild, etcetera.
- The Crown or Their Representatives
- It is also a good idea to include the branch Seneschal in this stage. If there are any legal or policy issues, the Seneschal will be able to help with those.
After your charter is formalized and produced, it should be signed by the Crown or Their representative
IN COURT. This is a requirement for any official pronouncements with Their voice.
It is somewhat traditional for a guild to call their chief administrative officer a “guild master” or “guild mistress”. This is complicated in the SCA, though, because of our usage of the title “master” or “mistress” as someone who has received a Patent of Arms. To avoid this confusion, it is suggested that the term be changed to “Guild Leader” or “Guild Principal”.
Provisions should be in place within the by-laws of a group to remove a Guild Leader, if necessary. No MoAS, at any level, may remove a Guild Leader. They may, however, recommend such to the Crown or Their representatives. The Crown or Their representatives (depending on the scope of the guild) may request the removal of a Guild Leader. If such a request is ignored, the guild’s charter may be suspended or dissolved at the whim of the signing authority.
Guilds may choose to follow a medieval guild structure of ranks and advancement. The medieval structure included three different levels that were called “Apprentice”, “Journeyman”, and “Master”. Obviously, the SCA uses the terms “Apprentice” and “Master” in different ways and the guild may find it advantageous to change the names of these levels to avoid presumption or confusion.
Guilds are not required to maintain such structure. If they do, they should have by-laws that clearly designate the ranks and how advancement is handled.
Many guilds find that they prefer to forego the traditional structures and focus more on comradery and fellowship in their area of expertise. Both methods are equally valid and simply must be clear to the membership and the populace.
Registering a Guild Name / Heraldry
Any guild, chartered or not, may register a guild name and heraldry through the College of Arms. A warranted herald can assist you through this process. If your guild is not chartered, the name and heraldry would be registered to an individual. If the guild is chartered, it is suggested that the name and heraldry be registered through the branch chartering the guild. Branches may register as much heraldry as they need and payment for registration is waived.
Guilds in Atlantia are not required to report on their activities as a qualification of their status. That being said, it is highly encouraged that guilds stay in contact with the MoAS of their branch. Sending the MoAS a notice of your group’s activities will help your group, its members, its branch, and the Society. Such notice should include the following: when the activity took place (date), how many people participated (you may approximate, if needed), and what activity you did. This gives the MoAS all of the information needed for their quarterly report.
Money and Assets
A guild may have money and assets as needed for their activities. This must be kept separately from any SCA accounts. Money from or for a guild may not flow through any SCA bank account. SCA branches may not purchase items or materials solely for use by a select group within their membership. A branch may own items and allow a guild to be their custodians, but those items must be made available to the membership of the branch as a whole when reasonably requested.
For example, if a branch owns a set of pots and pans, their local cook’s guild may be the custodians of those items. BUT anyone in the branch who requests the use of those items for SCA activities may do so and should not be denied simply because they are not a member of the guild.
If a guild is going to handle money, it is suggested that they include complete and exact provisions on how that money is handled in their by-laws. A bank account may be maintained and the guild should contact their bank of choice on the requirements for a club account. Ask the banker what kind of paperwork is required to open a club account. Complete the paperwork and get copies both for yourself and for the club files. Make certain that all necessary club officers are authorized to access the club account. Inform the members of the club where their funds are being held and distribute the monthly bank statement to them, or else print up your own copy of a monthly financial statement. It may also be possible to allow club members to see the account online.
Any guild should have clear ways to be contacted. Lines of communication should be open and free-
flowing. The MoAS office in Atlantia maintains a Guild Liaison who is responsible for staying in touch
with all chartered guilds (Kingdom, Baronial or otherwise) within Atlantia. They maintain a roster of
active guilds with their corresponding information.
Typical contact information requested would include:
- Guild Leader’s Name (SCA & Modern)
- Email Address
- Website and/or Facebook Group
- Other officers (as appropriate)
- Any other contact information that you would like to share (mailing address, phone, et cetera)
- Events, meetings, meeting dates/locations, et cetera
- Other activities
If research determines that there are no currently active members of a specific Kingdom-chartered guild, the KMoAS may suggest to the Crown or Their representatives that the guild be placed on hiatus. The guild charter should be returned to the KMoAS who will store and maintain the charter during the hiatus. If a chartered guild has been on hiatus for a minimum of two years, with no interest from members of the populace in reviving the guild, the guild will be closed. The charter will remain in the KMoAS archives and could be re-established at a later time. A closed guild’s charter will not be published.
Reviving a Closed Guild
If there is interest in reviving a closed guild, the interested parties should contact the office of the KMoAS. The KMoAS should review the charter with those interested to determine if they would like to use that document or re-establish the guild through a new charter. Either method will require the approval of the Crown or Their representatives.