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[Originally created for “Water Under the Bridge”, newsletter of the Incipient Canton of the Broken Bridge (Brooklyn, NY S.C.A. chapter), never published.]
There are two problems which occur when you bring otherkin into the Society for Creative Anachronism [which may well apply to other medieval reenactment groups, but we’ll use the blanket term S.C.A. and SCAdian herein because then I don’t have to rewrite the entire article — Crisses]. They depend on your point of view. From the standard SCAdian point of view, there should not be elves, vampires or werewolves walking the streets of the Pennsic Marketplace. Everyone is “supposed” to be a persona from the Middle Ages, someone who really “could have been” and the S.C.A. space should not be used for someone else’s foreign agenda. From the view of the otherkin, they have finally found a safe space to “be themselves”, and they are treated rudely, ostracized, or downright condemned for their actions. Such strong reactions make this a very difficult subject to bring up with either group. It is a source of contention between the S.C.A. and otherkin society. This essay is an attempt to work it out.
What is an otherkin?
Like so many other terms introduced on the Internet, the term “otherkin” is new and still evolving. It is used to describe a person who believes their spirit (at the very least) is a different species than human. This can be very confusing, since technically people who claim to be otherkin have apparantly human parents and human DNA. There are many common types of otherkin which are addressed in the otherkin FAQ.
Many otherkin experience homesickness and feel like outcasts within normal human society. For some, finding other people like themselves is difficult, frustrating, and often painful. Some try to accept their lot and cope with their hardships, while others fight it with an out-loud-and-proud attitude. It is this in-your-face attitude, and the strife it sometimes causes, which inspires my discussion today.
Otherkin in the S.C.A.
Otherkin are in the S.C.A.. There are some in the goth “vampire” crowd who really believe they are (or were once) vampires. There are some folks who believe they are elves and other kinds of beings too numerous to list. Some wear the ears and tails and horns and wings when they can…some don’t.
Otherkin are scattered across the globe. The lucky ones have found people like themselves, and are forming their own small groups in attempts to cope with their feelings, their past lives, and the discomfort of their current life. The situations most likely to attract an appearance of otherkin are ones which help them feel more at ease or allows them some degree of authentic personal expression, such as Role-Playing Games (live, online, and table), Ren Faires, Sci-Fi & Comic conventions, and the re-creation groups (S.C.A., Civil War, fantasy groups etc.). Some otherkin use these mediums just to find kinship and then leave the larger group and maintain contact with their newfound friends, others like the atmospheres and stick around for a long time.
The S.C.A., and it’s largest events are most likely to attract these independant and roving bands of otherkin. There are two problems at these events: some otherkin are there in all their glamour, and the medievalists are trying to ignore such an openly anachronistic scene.
The problem of a disruptive otherkin has been brought up at a chatelaine’s meetings. The problem of the S.C.A. being unwelcoming to otherkin has been brought up on otherkin e-mail lists. Both are issues that should be dealt with good feelings on all sides and with some compromise if possible.
To the SCAdians
The S.C.A. is non-profit. We have an obligation to accept people who try to play by our rules and who are not endangering people’s safety. The only requirement we profess to people to attend our events (that I’m aware of at this time) is “an attempt at a medieval costume”. Of course, pointy ears and fluffy tails may not fit that image. But that is no excuse to be nasty! I would like to point out that contrary to popular opinion, not all otherkin choose to dress the part. In fact, a good number of them would rather submit to the Inquisition than wear plastic pointy ears and such.
There are other choices than trying to come up with rules to ban otherkin from events: A) remind yourself “I’m from the middle ages, and I don’t see tree spirits and elves, even if they exist, except maybe out of the corner of my eye.” And act accordingly. B) These are the Middle Ages as we would have liked them to be, and maybe the romantic qualities of having the elves and fairies around is just as nice as having flush toilets, pennicilin, and no plague! C) Be patient: While otherkin are very uncomfortable in contemporary society and they can sometimes let down their guard in safe spaces created by the S.C.A., otherkin are now gathering on their own. Perhaps they wont need to “take away” from the Current Middle Ages to carve out their otherkin-friendly safe-spaces in the future. . D) Take an offensive person aside, and explain to them what I am about to say to them below, in a very civil manner. Pretend you’re a benevolent chatelaine and you want these people to remain members in good standing.
To the otherkin
There was an otherkin gathering during which a group of (I assume) Wicca practitioners came to their private dancing and drumming circle. The Wiccans began to sing and dance and their energy was overwhelming. Many of the otherkin fled the area. Back at their private campsite, there was murmurs and complaints of “the humans” coming into their semi-private space and taking it over from them.
Reverse the roles, and you have the problem of out-loud-n-proud otherkin being in the middle of the Middle Ages! Next time an occurrence like this happens, it might be another otherkin convention being crashed by humanity, taking away from your peace of mind. There are more appropriate ways to be an otherkin at an S.C.A. event: A) If you really were an elf (or vampire, werewolf, or whatever) in the Middle Ages, you would probably disguise yourself as human in some way in order to survive and not cause panics and stirs. That rare flash of pointed ear under your hair, hat or hood is enough to cause whispers which will become the legends of the future….be tastefully understated, and see just how well you can “play human” to the SCAdians–try leaving off the pointy ears and pretending you’re enchanted by illusion, Seeming or glamour. B) Keep your out- and loud-nesses to your private camp, to times when you are “out of persona” or times when the marketplace vendors are less likely to overhear you and call the town guardsmen to arrest the heretics. C) Come up with a token or symbol so that otherkin can “know” each other in a crowd. D) During night parties or campfire bardic circles, sing a song or tell a tale (in a Medieval style) of the species to whom you belong without ever quite giving yourself away….
Living in Balance
It is my hope that otherkin can also be SCAdians, and that both groups can carve out their personal niches in the world without taking away from each other. Perhaps one day, SCAdians will be giving referrals to otherkin groups to aid them in getting sites for their gatherings, or direct newly awakening kin to otherkin groups for resources and aid, while perhaps otherkin will pretend to be humans from the Middle Ages so well that they will become SCAdians in good standing, with many awards and medallions to rest on their breasts besides their otherkin symbol.
Alyessa Oaktree is a persona loosely based on the personality and proclivities of a tree-spirit resident in The Crisses’ body. While the persona is a medieval human gypsy (Romane) of undetermined place and time, the person who creates and re-creates the persona is otherkin.