What’s in a (Heraldic) Name?

The SCA is a very complex game based on history. We create personas that might have lived in the Middle Ages, giving them names and backgrounds. Choosing a name for your persona is complex, and deeply personal.

When looking for a name, knowing the rough time period and culture you would like is key. The things you should consider are often related to what brought you into the SCA. Do you love to shoot arrows? Fight? Fence? Dance? Cook? And archer might have an English persona. A fencer would probably lean towards a late period Italian or French persona. A fighter might prefer a Viking or Roman persona. When in doubt, earlier period is simpler in terms of clothing, armor, and accoutrements.

Once you have a culture and time period, ask a Herald for name resources. There are many SCA websites like the Viking Answer Lady with lists of names and their meanings.

When you look for a name, please don’t start at the front of the alphabet. There are more names beginning with “A” than any other letter in the Society for this reason. Your name should be your own. Flip around. Pick a few letters. Look at “I” and “K” and “T” names. Check out the end of the alphabet.

When you have a few names you might consider, show them to your friends. Ask how they would say those name. Think about ways that name could be mispronounced. If you have a name with unusual characters, coming up with a mnemonic for pronunciation is helpful. My name, Þórý, is often mispronounced “Poury,” so my mnemonic is that my name is said like “Hooray!” with more Thor.

If you don’t want a period name, the Legal Name Allowance may be helpful. The Heralds will register one component of your legal name, be it you first, last, or middle name. The reason only one component of your name can be registered is because you are not your persona.

Once you have a first name, you will need to choose a last name and/or a place of origin. Both parts of your name need to be documentable within 300 years of each other, from the same culture or from cultures that interacted with each other. You could have an English/French name, but a French/Japanese one is not registerable.

Locations are interesting because you can be from a place in history or from your local SCA group. If you want to be from a historical place, you must provide period documentation of that place’s name, because spellings can change over time. If you want to register a locative of an SCA group, that group must have registered its name.

Finally, if you don’t want to go through the process of choosing a name and surname, you can always register “[First Name] of [your local group].” This is sometimes called a “holding name” and can be important if you submit your name and device together, but for some reason your name doesn’t pass the registration process.

Once you have assembled your name and its documentation, you will need to submit the paperwork to your kingdom’s submissions herald. Unless you are at a large event like Pennsic, this will involve mailing the paperwork and a processing fee. Fees vary by Kingdom.

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