The symbol of the laurel wreath was traditionally given to scholars, artists, athletes and soldiers in Ancient Greece as symbols of excellence. This symbolism is still with us today with the word Baccalaureate or laurel-berry, as a title for people who, for example, have completed a bachelor degree at university.
Laurels in the SCA
In the SCA, entry into the Order of the Laurel is awarded to those who excel in Arts and Sciences, and pass on knowlege to others. These people may also judge Arts and Sciences competitions, make recommendations to the Crown on who should be admitted to their Order, and are expected to be examples of courtesy and chivalrous conduct. A Laurel may take apprentices and train them to a high standard, often in a field similar to their own area of expertise.
Becoming a Laurel (or any type of peer) takes about ten years of dedicated work, on average.
Masters and Mistresses of the Laurel may append their names with the letters "OL" (e.g. Caryn von Katzenberg, OL).