This class is a compilation of many of my posts on Heraldry.
Bias happens. We see it every day in our news, our social media, and among our friends. I feel we should all strive to be more aware of our biases, especially when gathering and presenting data.
The following documents are my comments on a biased survey, and my proposed rewrite. I have worked as a textbook editor for more than a decade, and I believe that every call for correction should incorporate a solution.
This survey was originally published at https://surveys.eastkingdom.org/index.php/313648?lang=en, and was taken down after an overwhelming number of complaints.
I’ve been a Herald since Pennsic 42, and in all that time I have heard many incorrect things about both Name and Art Heraldry. This post covers some common misconceptions about Registering a Name. I also have a post that explains how to choose your SCA name.
SCA Membership Cards, called “Blue Cards”
Many misconceptions revolve around membership cards.
My name is on my Blue Card, so the Heralds have Registered it! The Heralds have absolutely nothing to do with membership cards. Whatever name you choose to put into the Membership Registration Form will be printed. One herald had “King Richard the Lionheart” on his Blue Card just to prove this. (Heraldic rules will not allow you to register names of important people in history.)
I can’t Register my Name and Heraldry until I have an Award of Arms! There is no award prerequisite to register Heraldry in any kingdom. If the person does not yet have an Award of Arms, their heraldry should be referred to as their “Device.” I have found that most people who pay attention to this distinction are Heralds, so this post uses “heraldry” as an inclusive term.
My name is on my Award of Arms scroll, so the Heralds have Registered it! Many people do not have Registered Names or Heraldry when they receive an Award of Arms. Scribes will write the name you use on your Award and leave a space blank for your Heraldry.
I’ve been using this Household Name and Badge for decades, so it’s Registered! A large fighting household in the Midrealm discovered at Pennsic 46 that their name and badge was not registered. (This was corrected.)
I need a Blue Card to Register my Name with the Heralds! Heralds do not care if you are a Paid Member of the SCA. All we ask for is your legal name and date of birth. We will help you complete the paperwork so you can submit it with the registration fee.
I have to be 18 to Register my Name with the Heralds! Really, we just need your name and date of birth, because things are registered to you, not your persona. Parents can submit name and armory paperwork on the day their child is born. Children can also register their Name and Art Heraldry. Registered Names and Heraldry can always be changed.
Once my name is Registered, it’s permanent! All Registered Items can be changed or Released. Releasing a name or other registered thing is free; changing it requires a submission fee.
I have to do all of the research on my name myself! There are Name Heralds who have become Laurels for Period Name Research. You absolutely do not have to look it all up on your own. I always ask what time period or culture you would like to take your name from, and then I email a group list to ask for experts for that period.
I want to register a funny or crude name, but the Heralds won’t let me! As long as appropriate documentation is provided and the name is not Offensive, Presumptuous, or Obtrusively Modern, the Heralds will register it. Here some registered examples: Brick James Beech, Crow Barr, Effing Thomas, Helena Handbasket, Hillarius Clock Werk, Margarita Martini, Monkey Makgee, Oliver Oxen Free, and Violet Hughes. A few names that did not pass for being too modern include Portia Audi and Ragnar Drogo.
You’ll never get that past the Heralds! No kidding, there I was: checking in at the War of the Roses. After I handed my Blue Card (shown above) to the Gate, the person checking me in would not believe that anyone with the legal name of Anakin could register the last name Veðardóttir. I pulled out my phone and showed him the registration on the Ordinary & Armorial. (All the names above link to their entries on the O&A.) Heralds love puns, and even if only a few people get the joke, we’re happy.
I want a German name and French Heraldry, and the Heralds won’t let me do that! Heralds will look at the name you are registering only to make sure it will not be presumptuous when combined with your Heraldry. The last name Tudor and the Tudor Rose are allowed charges. If you attempt to register them both, you would appear to be presumptuous. I am a Viking, and my Heraldry is not something a Viking would use. My Heraldry shows that I am a Ravenclaw and a Tamora Pierce fan.
The question I have learned to ask is, “Have you paid the College of Heralds for your name and heraldry registration?” If the answer is no, then you have not registered anything.
How do I know when my Name and Heraldry are passed? The registration process takes roughly nine to twelve months after submission. Your Baronial Herald should be able to look up. If they are unfamiliar with the heraldic database, you can send me a note at my blog handle at gmail.
Sometimes design ideas are simple: you have an idea, you draw it, and you’re good to go. Other times you have an idea, you draw it, and…you need to adjust it because it’s good but not quite right.
I am transitioning from making things for myself and my close friends into actually trying to make money selling things in the Society for Creative Anachronisms. I’ve worked for vendors in the past, so I have an idea of what to do: show up, bring a table, and display wares with price tags. Finally, it’s good to have a shop name and logo. Since I’m a Viking named Vedardottir, I thought a shop name with V’s would be fun. After playing with a lot of words, I decided to play with Veritasium, a bastardized Latin word for ‘Truth Serum’. I especially like the -ium ending, which is neutral case, instead of being male or female. (Yes, I studied Latin. I am over educated.)
Vedardottir’s Viking VeraStorium would have three Vs, like an inverted Valknut. Some neo-nazi groups use the Valknut as a symbol of hate, which meant I needed to modify it with more than shades of grey: this design can only be black and white.
Starting with outlines, I focused on the overlapping V shapes. The outline wasn’t quite correct, so I removed it in the next version. I tried to simply fill the three Vs, but without something to tie the design together as a whole, the last orientation looked boring.
Looking at the images above, I felt I needed to tie the knotwork overlap together. This element would need to have less visual weight then the Vs, so I decided it would need to be nothing but a white outline. Vikings are known for swords and axes, and a sword weaving between the Vs seemed the simplest solution. After several drawings of a Viking sword that didn’t seem to fit with the straight lines of the logo, I resorted to graph paper.
Building the sword into the design let it fade into a background image, instead of introducing jarring curves into a design of straight lines. Even when the design was filled, the white space around the handle seemed out of place. I added fill behind the handle, and the design solidified.
I dislike to use guess-and-check as a design process, but sometimes the only way to find the right solution is to try others. Each step of the process brought me closer to this outcome. I’ll take that as a Vivant-worthy Viking Victory!
Part of the
challenge fun of creating Heraldic Art is choosing where all the parts of the design should be placed. Each visual element needs to be identifiable. This submission features an oak tree, two ravens, and a chief with three Mjollners. (Mjollner is the name of the Norse god Thor’s hammer. It has been affectionately dubbed “meow-meow” by a minor character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) In this original submission, it is hard to distinguish the ravens, which are about the same size as the tree’s leaves. As Pallet Herald, my job is literally redrawing submissions like this one.
My first step is to print the original art to copy it. I was sent this image of a raven to incorporate into the final design, so I used Paint to place the raven on the shield shape. The image appears to have two shields because I needed to scale the original slightly down so I would be able to trace the oak tree at roughly the correct size. (Smaller tree + larger ravens = everything is easier to see!)
Once I had the print-out, I placed it under a shield template of the correct size on my light box. I have a template of my Mjollner badge, but it has some small irregularities. I measured 1/4″ margins around the edge of the shield, and made sure there was 1/4″ between each Mjollner. I also elongated the roots of the tree so it would fill the space better. Finally, I made a point of drawing extra lines around each leaf. This creates outlines of white space between the solid black shapes, allowing the final image to be more than a black shadow.
The final image is precisely aligned, with easily distinguished ravens, oak tree, and a chief of Mjollners.
Many of the fine folks who work to register Heraldic Names and Devices are history nerds. The Society for Creative Anachronisms is full of history nerds, but Heralds tend to take our devotion to exponentially higher levels.
I love being an Art Herald, but I often find myself face-palming when I hear horror stories from people who dislike or even despise their Heraldry. When I ask why, the responses tend to be some form of, “My Herald made me do it this way.”
This does not bother me. “Bother” is too simple of a word to describe my anger and frustration with any heraldic consultant who forces their clients into a “proper” decision. Sometimes we heralds have to adjust the client’s design to fit within our rules, or to clear conflict. Adjustments are fine, but no client should ever hate their heraldry!!
The whole purpose of Heraldry is a visual display, declaring who you are to the world. Heraldry is the oldest form of Identify Friend or Foe. If a client does not love their Heraldry, then I feel I have failed as a Herald.
My rules for Heraldry are simple:
- Does the client like it?
- Does it fit within our rules? (Does it have color-on-metal and metal-on color for high contrast? Does it conflict with any other registered devices?)
- Is it registerable? (Some charges, such as testicles and swastikas, are forbidden.)
As long as the client’s design is covered by all three of these rules, I consider my work as a Herald well done. Not everyone agrees with me.
I have met Heralds who encourage clients to create period designs and will deliberately withhold information. All in the name of ensuring the heraldry with their name as consultant is Properly Period and Will Not Make Them Look Bad.
I am not one of those Heralds.
I am the Herald of Helheim Yeah, Let’s Register That!
When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014, (A.S. XLVIII) there was a comparison meme floating around the interwebs. It shows a stark contrast between DC Comics being “edgy” and Marvel Comics being written for character depth and humor. Box office sales have shown well-written, witty movies are more well-liked than dark,
boring brooding ones.
So when a friend asked for a green squid on a gold background, I went the extra mile. He has more Cthulhu memorabilia than I have Captain America paraphernalia.
Not only did I give him a color-on-metal completely registerable piece of Heraldry, I slapped wings on the squid, and then made them look like demonic horns. I also suggested he align the design Facing to Sinister, because Cthulhu is the most sinister thing out there. The first design was my original submission, but I learned that both wings needed to be fully displayed and the tentacles could not overlap.
On the note of Marvel geekery, I have a lot of Captain America collectibles, most notably my shield backpack. This is me a few Pennsics ago, punching a Hydra street sign. Not shown are my Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. jackets, my Captain America shield cell phone case, wallet, keychain, cufflinks…well, you get the idea!
Do you want a tree and a raccoon wielding a gun on your Heraldry? Because I’m the Herald who will help you register it!
As a Viking reenactor, one of my challenges is recreating garments worn centuries ago, with no instructions on how they are put together. I read through several sets of instructions for how to make a reproduction of the hood found in Skjold Harbor. After several tries, I now understand how the squares and rectangles work together. I used this pattern to construct my Pronoun Hood.
Explaining how to assemble this hood requires both color-coded diagrams and photographs of the assembly process. The photo on the right shows my completed hood.
The skjold hood pattern is deceptively simple: two rectangles (1-2 and 3-4) form the hood and sides, and the front and back panels are squares half the size of the rectangles (5 and 6).
I have colored each section’s edges to explain which edges should be sewn together. Black edges indicate the outer seams of the garment, and the dashed black lines show where the fabric folds.
The squares for my hood are one foot by one foot. I have made many more hoods since I made these diagrams, and I have found that a Medium sized head needs 13×13″ squares and a Large sized head needs 15×15″. A child’s hood is 11×11″.
The hood is tricky to assemble because the edges align in an odd fashion.
First, join the two purple edges of (2) and (3) together to form a very long rectangle. Another way to make this hood from a piece of fabric one foot wide and six feet long, removing the need for the purple seam. The purple edge can be a fold or a seam, and sits over the top of the head.
Next, join the two red edges of (2) and (3) together. This seam sits over the back of the head. The black edges of (2) and (3) are the open front of the hood.
Starting at the end of the red seam, pin and sew square (6) to the back to the hood. You will need to align the orange edges of (1) and (6) as well as the brown edges of (4) and (6). Don’t start at one of the corners with a black edge, because the fabric can slip and misalign the entire hood.
The next step is the hardest. Carefully align the front of the hood to sew the front seams. I like to pin the open front of the hood (the black lines of (2) and (3) closed so they align. This ensures the front square (5) will align with the back square (6).
Finally, sew the blue edge of (5) to the blue edge of (1). Now you only need to roll the seam around the open front of the hood and its outer edge.
It looks strange, doesn’t it? When flat, the hood will look like this. I have drawn a person in the hood so you can see how it sits. The dashed lines indicate folds.
Showers are one of the lovely modern inventions the Society for Creative Anachronisms incorporates into medieval camping events. Roman bathhouses supplied soap and towels, but SCA showers do not.
So the members of the Society have come up with ways to make our bathing kits look period. I found a nice wooden bucket at a yard sale, and I keep my bath supplies in it for events. Baskets from thrift stores also work well. If you are concerned about displaying modern containers, a washcloth tucked over the mundane items can maintain the medieval image.
Some Society members prefer to grab their bathing supplies and throw a towel over their shoulder, but many would prefer not to put on and take off several layers of clothing. A compromise has given rise to the bathing chiton, an interpretation of early Greek garments made from bath sheets. This is my bathing chiton, and I have pulled the front open to show that there are actual arm holes concealed behind the towel drape.
In my post about Forms of Greek Dress, I discuss how the dorian chiton is made from two pieces of fabric buttoned or sewn together. A Bathing Chiton is sewn at the shoulders and sides, with an extra bit of fabric over the chest. In the diagram below, the left image shows where you sew the seams, and the right image shows the location of the seams when you wear the garment.
I have not yet seen a man wearing a Bathing Peplos, but the concept is the same.
In my post choosing your heraldry, I mention Conflict Checking. Because Heraldry is the oldest form of Identifying Friend or Foe on a battlefield, each fighter’s Heraldry needs to be different from every one else’s. (If you haven’t chosen your heraldry yet, don’t worry. Many local groups and households will provide tabbards. Every fighter in the East Kingdom is
permitted encouraged to display the Northern Army Star at inter-Kingdom wars like Pennsic. Your local Knight Marshall can help you with the appropriate insignia for your group.)
When you sit down with a Consulting Herald to design your heraldry, you must make sure that there is at least one Substantial Change or two Distinct Changes between your design and what is already registered.
What does Two Distinct Changes mean?
The images below are my registered heraldry on the left, and the Order of the Silver Tyger on the right. The Order of the Silver Tyger is the East Kingdom’s newly created Grant of Arms Award for Heavy List. The one Difference between my Lioness and the Silver Tyger are the wings on my cat. (The Tyger’s red tongue is a minor artistic detail and does not differentiate between the two felines.)
When The Order of the Silver Tyger was created, the entire East Kingdom had to request my permission to conflict with my registered Heraldry. If I had not given written permission allowing the Silver Tyger to be registered, the Kingdom Award would not have passed. Herald’s Point does not care about your age, gender, or rank within the Society. If an item is Registered, only that person can decide if they will allow another device to conflict with theirs.
To show the difference between one Distinct Change and two, here is my Lioness beside an Orle-less Tyger. Removing wings and the orle border creates two Distinct Changes between my Registered Heraldry and the Silver Tyger award.
One of the first questions new Heralds and Artists ask me is, why does every animal look off to the left? Why is this direction the default position?
The answer comes from Heraldry’s Original Purpose: to distinguish a noble and their followers from everyone else on the battlefield. Heraldry is literally the oldest form of Identifying Friend or Foe, and Heraldic Displays were created for shields on the battlefield.
This Viking Shieldmaiden displays my registered heraldry, Azure, a winged ounce within an orle argent. The shield is on her left arm, with the axe in her right hand. The fierce
Ounce Lioness looks like it is ready to jump off of the shield and attack!
I joined the Society as a fencer because I wanted to learn to fence just like Tamora Pierce‘s Lady Knight Alanna the Lioness. As a fencer, I fought with my right hand.
About six months into the Society, I discovered I preferred Heavy List combat to Fencing. As I studied Heavy, I realized I am a much stronger fighter with my left hand than my right. So I re-strapped my shield to be worn on my right arm.
As you can see, a left-looking Lioness is not fierce when wielded in the opposite hand. The Lioness looks like she is going to fart in your general direction.
Here is my repainted left-handed shield, with my Lioness facing to Sinister and fiercely threatening my opponents. Yes, the Sinister Lioness looks right. The default position, called Dexter, features a feline looking left.
The Heralds don’t care if your beasts face Dexter or Sinister. If a device is in conflict, making the beast face Sinister gives one Distinct Change of difference.