Funny Names for the Win: Common Heraldic Misconceptions

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”
BlueCardMany 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.

Other Misconceptions
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 ThomasHelena 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.

Lioness

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.

Planning Creates Proper Placement

Dyrfinna-Sigurdsdottir-device

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.PDFprint

 

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!)

 

RavensHammer

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.Redraw-Dyrfinna-Sigurdsdottir-device

 

The final image is precisely aligned, with easily distinguished ravens, oak tree, and a chief of Mjollners.

 

Heraldic Heartwarmers and Hangups

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:

  1. Does the client like it?
  2. 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?)
  3. 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!

MarvelvsDC

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.

PunchHydra

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!

Only Hit Your Enemies: What is Heraldic Conflict?

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.)

LionessComp1

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.

LionessComp2

Why Heraldic Beasts Look Left

LionessOne 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.

Righty

 

 

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!

 

 

Fart

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.

Lefty

 

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.

The Artistic Process

I have a degree in Architecture, and about a year before I graduated, I realized I was not suited to the field. I’m a draftsman and a technical artist, not an Artist. A large part of why I love drawing Heraldry is that it lets me use my skills as a designer, and I can trace any art that I cannot draw on my own.

Drawing Heraldry has helped me become more of a graphic designer and an artist. After five years as an Art Herald, I’m starting to understand how an Artist thinks and Designs.

In college, one of the concepts that confused me was the “Artistic Process.” Teachers kept asking to see my Process, and I’d be confused and explain that I was trying to design spaces that would best fit the needs of whoever was living or working there. As I was designing this prop, a wooden pallet to reflect my status as the new Pallet Herald, I finally wrapped my head around what the Artistic Process is.

Process is how the design changes and adapts as Art is created.

Palletoverlap

My first step was finding clip art of an artist’s pallet, and printing it on a full sheet of paper. I cut out the shape and played with it before deciding it was too small to display my badge and the paint blobs. So I adjusted the size and shape of the pallet, making sure the grip indent and hole for my thumb remained the same.

This image below shows how I was played with the pallet size. The thin blue line is the size of a list tree shield. I used my flexible curve to increase the size of the pallet by tracing the original print out, and then putting the curve on the outer edge. I did this three times.

I used D-rings to see how much space I would need for each paint blob. D-rings are leatherworking hardware, and I had a bag of them on hand. They were about the right size for my paint blobs, so I used them as a layout tool.
PaintLocations (2)

WherePaint1

Once I had the spacing set, I used a leatherworking O-ring to draw circles for the paint blobs. I also folded the paper design in half, so I could be sure the hammer that’s my Personal Badge would be properly centered on the pallet.

This is an example of how the greatest difference between looking professional and slipshod is planning. Small things like folding a paper in half to find the center, or laying out designs on graph paper literally make the difference between a thing looking professional instead of slipshod. This is the reason I have a tag called graph paper solves everything.

WherePaint2

After I traced the paint blob placement in pencil, I had the challenge of not making them look like perfect circles. Making things look irregular is trickier that it appears. After some fiddling, I decided to just make little circles with my brush until I had blobs of color. After the paint was dry, I took a white eraser and carefully removed my pencil lines.

Each of the colors on my pallet are used in Heraldry: Gules [red], Argent [white], Or [gold], Vert [green], Azure [blue], Purpure [purple], and Sable [black]. Pink, orange, and brown are almost never used in Heraldry. Grey and silver are both considered Argent [white].

WhatAboutWords

After I painted my blobs and my hammer badge, I took a step back and really looked at the pallet. When I had only put the blobs of paint on my pallet, the rest of the wood was bare, and the unused space was not problematic. But after I added my hammer, the edge of the pallet looked bare and out of place.

This is where the Artistic Process comes in. I saw the empty space standing out, so I used my flexible curve to draw some guidelines for adding text. I lettered the pallet in the font I’ve created, which references the Norse Futhark Runes while still being readable Roman characters.

PaintMyself

Frack! Paint is supposed to go on the pallet, not on my hands! This is why painters wear smocks.

As I was putting the letters on my pallet, I realized “Pallet Herald – of the East Kingdom” was passive voice. I changed my pencil lettering to “Pallet Herald – Kingdom of the East.”

After the painting was done, I put a coat of polyurethane over the entire pallet to seal it. Because I am the klutz who has dropped and entire horn of coffee over everything.

Final

Promoting my Preferred Pronouns

Ten years ago, I had never heard the word “transgender.”  Since then, transgendered people have become a focus of the media, often not in a good light. Once I became aware of this, I stepped forward as an ally, making sure to always address people by the pronouns they prefer and help in any other ways I can.

In the midst of this, I learned there was another category of people who were not transgender, but rejected cultural assumptions based on gender assignments. These people are Genderqueer, and if you’re interested in learning more about this, here is the Wikipedia article.

I am a genderqueer person. I prefer it if people address me with the singular ‘they’, as well as the pronouns ‘their’ and ‘them’. I have begun wearing a button explaining my pronouns. The singular ‘they’ can replace ‘she’ or ‘he’ in speech, such as “Is that their hood? Why would they make look like that?”

HoodWithin the confines of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, there is a heated debate about gender expression. The SCA is dedicated to creating living history before 1600 C.E. and most historical cultures only acknowledged two genders. But just as the SCA uses modern medical and cooking practices, we are also addressing how to incorporate non-binary genders into our Society.

My persona is a Viking Shield Maiden, a woman who wears mens’ clothes and fights alongside them. I chose to have a Viking persona for a number of reasons, and being  a female doing “male” activities was a large part of my persona choice. In order to display my pronouns, I created a square Skjoldehamn hood. My Badge and my Silver Wheel awards are embroidered on the front panel, and my pronouns are embroidered around the outer edge.

CatUp

In addition to having THEY – THEM – THEIRS embroidered around the edge, I also sewed a piece of velcro with a rare earth magnet to the underside of the shoulder. This allows my Heraldic Cat Plushie to stay on my shoulder when I walk around events.

 

CatDown

I was worried that sewing a strong magnet to my hood would cause trouble in the washing machine, so I only sewed a square of velcro to the hood. The matching piece of velcro has the magnet sewn in. I also opened a seam on the plushie and added a magnet to it.

CardPocket

Finally, I added a pocket to the front of the hood. I have a habit of chatting with people at events and forgetting my shoulder bag. With my SCA business cards in this pocket, this is much easier. I “hid” the pocket’s attaching seam behind the black embroidery of my Badge.

Making this hood was easy. Being recognized as a genderqueer person will be much harder, but it is a good first step.

In conclusion, I would like to discuss my choice of colors for this hood. I used bright silver thread for the Silver Wheel and my name and pronouns, black thread for my badge and name pronunciation, and dark gray thread for the seam treatment. The silver thread has high contrast against the blue fabric, and draws attention. The black thread has a lower contrast, and draws some attention. The dark gray thread has very little contrast to the blue, and almost disappears into the fabric.

High contrast colors draw the viewer’s attention. In order of importance, my hood is designed to showcase my Wheel and Pronouns, show my Badge, and have some detailing.

FinalHood