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Charters, scrolls (and SCA definitions thereof), the obtaining of them, whom to ask, how it's done.
Q: What do heralds do?
A: There are two basic areas into which heralds' activities fall in the SCA: vocal heraldry and book heraldry. Vocal heraldry includes making announcements and serving as a sort of emcee at events, tournaments, feasts, and courts; book heraldry includes assisting people in researching and submitting names, devices, and badges for registration. In addition, heralds generally try to promote heraldry in SCA events by encouraging many forms of heraldic display and activity. Duties of a Local Herald describes in more detail the specific duties of a branch herald. Not all heralds are branch heralds, though — see the next couple of answers for more about this. — Wenyeva, with thanks to Modar Neznanich
Q: What do all those fancy heraldic officer names mean?
A: Here is a page that lists the heraldic titles of the Kingdom staff. Some of the titles seen there, such as Black Lion, Lions Blood, etc., are "job titles" — that is, they go with the job. While the current Black Lion holds that position, his title is Black Lion Principal Herald, but when he leaves the position, the new holder of that job will be titled Black Lion. Other titles, such as Electrum Herald or Ounce Herald, belong to specific individuals, and are generally given in recognition of heraldic service.
Branch heralds also have titles. Principalities and Baronies have specific titles for their heralds; for example, Avacal's herald is Sanguinaris Herald, Madrone's herald is Red Tree Pursuivant, and Stromgard's is Red Trident Pursuivant. Shires, Cantons and Colleges do not have such titles. Instead, their heralds are named after the branch itself: for example, Wyewood Pursuivant.
The terms "Herald" and "Pursuivant" also carry meaning. The rule is as follows:
In An Tir, there is no restriction on calling oneself a "herald", but "Herald", with the capital H, is a title. — Wenyeva
Q: I'm interested in heraldry. What do I have to do to be a herald?
A: You're already a herald. The only job requirement is willingness to learn.
Our Education Page can help you get started learning the tools and tricks of our trade. The Education Deputy, Argent Scroll Herald, may also be able to help. (See the staff page for current contact information.)
If you haven't done so already, you should consider subscribing to the antir-heralds mailing list. This is a good way to meet heralds from around the kingdom and get help answering specific questions. Visiting Heralds' Point and the consult table at events is another great way to meet other heralds.
Many heralds hold office at branch or kingdom level. If you're interested in an office, you can talk to the leaders of your branch about becoming a Herald, Deputy Herald, or Pursuivant for your branch. Black Lion Herald can tell you about job openings at the kingdom level. — Ursula Georges
Q: I need help. How do I contact a herald?
A: There are several ways to contact a herald. The first place you might try is your local branch; try speaking to your branch's herald. If you aren't sure who that might be, you might check to see if your branch has a web site (you can probably find the web site through the An Tir map page, and then your local herald's contact information will be there), or contact your branch's officers (listed in the Crier) for more information.
If you need help from someone outside your branch, one suggestion is to subscribe to the antir-heralds mailing list. It is open to anyone — not just to heralds — and it is a good way to reach heralds who can answer your questions. If there is a consult table or a Heralds' Point at the events you attend, you can also contact heralds directly there. The Kingdom Staff Heralds list may also help you find the help you need. If you want online help preparing a name or device submission, contact Loyall Pursuivant (the Online Consulting herald). — Wenyeva
Q: Where can I get some good ideas for names?
A: Many events have a consult table where you can read books of names and get help from heralds experienced in name construction.
The Medieval Names Archive includes links to a wide variety of articles on medieval naming customs, organized by place and time period. If you're looking for information on names from a particular region, the Medieval Names Archive is a great place to start. The Problem Names Project, which discusses common misconceptions about the use of particular names in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, is another useful online resource.
The past reports of the Academy of Saint Gabriel contain information about names, devices, and naming customs in many times and places. You can use the Academy's advanced search tool to find reports on a particular name.
You can also find quite a few useful links in the Names section of the antirheralds.org Education page. And if you need specific help, you may write to the antir-heralds mailing list, or to Æstel Herald, who may be able to help you find the information you need. — Ursula Georges
Q: If my name can't be registered, can I still use it?
A: Yes. However, you should think carefully about why your name cannot be registered. The name registration process is designed to encourage unique names with a medieval flavor. When you use a distinctive, medieval name, it improves the game for everyone.
If your name is not registrable, it may be very similar to someone else's name, or it could be obtrusively modern. If you use a name which is almost identical to another SCA member's without permission, you are undoing that person's hard work to find a unique medieval name. Using a name which you know is not medieval goes against the principles of good historical recreation.
There are many distinctive and unusual medieval names available. If you contact a herald, we will be happy to help you find one which suits you. — Ursula Georges
Q: What are some typical reasons why a given name might not be registrable?
A: Here are a few of the most common reasons:
Some things to watch out for:
For the heralds — don't deny offhand all names that sound fantasy-ish, but you haven't researched — some of them are lots more plausible than I have thought! — Francesca Testarossa dei Martini
Q: Why do heralds worry about name spellings when words were spelled many different ways in the Middle Ages?
The straightforward explanation is simple: while names were spelled many different ways in the Middle Ages, that doesn't mean that they didn't follow a set of spelling rules. The rules were just a little different than they are today. So, if a spelling variant follows rules that were used in that culture before 1600, that spelling can be registered. If it doesn't, even if it's perfectly fine today, it can't be registered. That's because some languages — Gaelic and Turkish, for example — radically reformed their spelling in the twentieth century.
So, how do we know what spellings follow pre-1600 rules? The only way is to look at how people before 1600 spelled names. Let's take the name Ursula. Between 1530 and 1605, it can be found in a variety of spellings, including Ursula, Ursalay, Urseley, Usely, Ursilla, and Usselae. So, you can register a spelling of Ursula that drops the r, like Usely, but not one that drops the s, like Urula. Why? Because they did the first one, but not the second. Likewise, you can change the second vowel (which appears as u, e, and i), but can't register Irsilla. Why? Because they don't seem to have done it.
For names that use a different alphabet, like Old Norse, Arabic, or Russian, the rules are not terribly different. The name has to be a form documented to be period and follow a reasonable transcription system: that can be either a pre-1600 transcription into the Latin alphabet of a (pre-1600) name or a modern transcription of a pre-1600 spelling of a name. Why? Well, first, we don't register names that aren't in the Latin alphabet, because most people can't read them. Second, many names that were used before 1600 weren't transcribed into the Latin alphabet before 1600. Third, many pre-1600 transcriptions of names bear little resemblance to the actual name used.
Now, just because your name is registered in one spelling doesn't mean that you can't use other spellings. Some people pride themselves on researching a variety of different spellings for their name. Just don't forget to use the registered spelling on any paperwork you send in, because your information is filed under that spelling, and it's easier on the filer if the spellings match. — Juliana de Luna
Q: What's the difference between "arms" and a "device"?
A: Anyone may register personal armory as a "heraldic device," and may display it as well. When a person is awarded arms (via an Award of Arms, a Grant of Arms, etc.), his or her device will then become known as "arms". It is a common SCA myth that those who are not yet armigerous (in other words, they don't yet have an AoA or equivalent) can't display their heraldry — but this is false. Anyone may display a device, even if they don't yet have arms. — Wenyeva
Q: Where can I get some good ideas for armory?
A: At many events, book heralds will have a consulting table where you can look through books with designs for heraldic devices, as well as get help from heralds experienced in creating armory.
Online resources that can assist you in developing a piece of heraldic armory include:
If you need assistance in getting your heraldic design drawn up, you should check out the An Tir Heraldic Artist Contact List.
If you need assistance in documenting an design element or need to locate heraldic books to help you create a device, you may write to the Æstel Herald, who maintains the Kingdom's heraldic library. — Modar Neznanich, with an additional link suggested by Aryanhwy merch Catmael
Q: What is the difference between how arms were used in period and how we use them in the SCA?
A: In both period and in the SCA, arms have the following characteristics:
However, here are some areas where SCA and real-world practices differ:
* In Poland in period, the "Herby" system used one arms-like design for many people in a family. Those "herby" are used as a model for personal arms for Polish people in the SCA — and became used as personal arms for Polish people who moved into other period heraldic domains — but they aren't exactly arms per se, because they aren't personal. (Jump back)
** in Japan in period, the "Mon" system used insignia that were personal. But they weren't unique — one person might have more than one mon. (Jump back) — Zenobia Naphtali
Q: Does my device need to reflect my name? (Are there situations when it should?)
A: Your device definitely does not need to reflect your name. However, it was not uncommon for devices to reflect names in period.
Whether or not you choose to use a matching name and device depends on the decisions you make about your persona. If your persona is from a time and place which used a specific style of heraldry, you might choose to use a device with that distinctive style, as well as choosing an appropriate name. For example, a man with a sixteenth-century Spanish persona might use the name Juan de Palencia and a device which incorporated six roundels. If you don't have a clearly defined persona, or your primary persona is from a culture which did not use heraldry, you might choose an unrelated name and device. A woman who is interested in both Norse and Tudor styles of embroidery might use the name Arnkatla in bereyska and a device incorporating a red unicorn.
One common way for a device to reflect a name in period was to have the device contain an element referring to the name in a punning fashion. Such a punning device is known as "canting" arms in English, or armes parlantes in French. If you'd like to include a direct reference to your name in your device, you might consider a cant. For example, Edmund Greanwod might choose a device with a green tree. Nota bene: The canting devices always canted on the surname, not the person's given name.
Sometimes canting armory is not obvious to the casual viewer, as the pun is in a different language, or refers to an obscure local term. For an example of the first, the English family of "Harrison" has a hedgehog in its armory because in Middle French (the dialect of French in use at the time) the term for hedgehog is "herisson." A nice general article on the topic by Francois Velde can be found at http://www.heraldica.org/topics/canting.htm.
Another common way for a device to reflect a name in period was to design arms that reflect the genealogy/descent of their owner - or reflect the appearance of a particular genealogy/descent, whether there really was one or not! In period, offspring would generally design a device with a single change from the father's arms (known as a "cadency" change). This similarity in armory showed the relatedness. Over generations of cousins, second cousins, etc. various branches of the family would develop similar but not identical armory. So, if your surname was Sinclair, and you wanted your persona to appear to be a cousin of the famous Scottish Sinclair family (who bore the arms Argent, a cross sable), you could make two "cadency changes" from the Sinclair family arms in your device. Thomas Sinclair, in this Kingdom, did this in September 2001: he changed the line of partition of the cross from straight/plain to engrailed, and charged a white cross on the black cross: Argent, on a cross engrailed sable a cross argent. Changing the line of partition on an ordinary, and charging a charge with another charge, are both standard "cadency changes." The SCA College of Arms Rules for Submissions, Section X discusses cadency to a very general extent, but if you want to pursue this line of thought you should probably consult with some heraldic experts. Different period cultures had different preferred cadency changes. —Zenobia Naphtali and Ursula Georges
Q: How do arms and badges relate to each other and my name? (Are there situations when they should?)
Arms, badges, and names don't have to relate to each other. Whether they should depends on the way you think about your persona: if your persona is from Tudor England, you might want to pick a name, device, and badge which match your persona. If you have several different personas, you might want a device that's consistent with one persona and a name for a different persona, or you might even register a name and a device or badge for each. Some personas would not have used heraldry at all — see elsewhere on this page for suggestions on what to do if you are in that situation. —Ursula Georges
Q: What constitutes good heraldic design? Why is simpler better?
Good heraldic design necessitates the clear differences between two different devices/badges. I mean, really, do you wanna be on the field with arms that look like Duke Uber McUberton, and have every Fighty McFightsalot within 10 feet clubbing at your head? Okay, some people do. But that ain't right! Keep it simple, make your charges big and bold and different, able to be distinguished easily (and quickly) at 10 feet, so that we can live in a society where individual merits and achievements do matter, and these individuals (like you, pat on the back optional) can be recognized when big bar grills and vast tracts of tent obscure their faces. —Æthan of Eppelhyrste
I'll add a couple of thoughts to what Æthan said. Good heraldic design is simple (for the reasons Æthan mentioned and also because simple heraldry is generally more period), and it follows medieval aesthetic rules, which sometimes differ from ours. (Medieval symmetry, for example, is rather different from our modern concept of symmetry.) Period Style: An Introduction is a great discussion of period heraldic style, and The Heraldry Cliché Checklist includes guidelines that will help you get closer to period style. —Wenyeva
Q: What are some typical reasons why a given device might not be registrable?
A device might not be registrable for administrative reasons, because its art or design doesn't follow period style, because the design makes an unsubstantiated claim to rank or status, or because the device is too close to a design which is already registered. Top 10 Reasons Your Device May Not Be Registerable is a light-hearted look at some of the typical problems a submission may have, the Insta-Boing Checklist is a another list, and here is another:
Typical administrative reasons:
Typical style problems:
Typical presumption problems:
— Ursula Georges, Æthan of Eppelhyrste, and Wenyeva
Q: What is the difference between a badge and a device?
Your device is a representation of you. You should put it on things that indicate "I am here." This might include your banner, shield, seal, chair and plate. These are all items that may represent you in a given context. Your badge, on the other hand, means "this belongs to me." It should go on belongings such as your chests, pillows, housewares, candles, rugs, retainers, children and animals. See "What is an SCA Heraldic Badge?" or Assorted Lessons in SCA Heraldry: Devices vs. Badges for more about badges and how they were used in period. — Fionnghuala Friseil and Wenyeva, and thanks to Ursula Georges for the URL suggestion!
Q: How do I register a name/device/badge?
A: Once you have chosen your desired name/device/badge, if at all possible, have a herald look it over to find any obvious problems. (If you are unable to reach a local herald, try the antir-heralds mailing list.) If you've done this and you are ready to go ahead with registration, you'll need to fill out some forms. You can download the necessary forms from this website, or pick up copies from your branch herald. Specific instructions for each type of form may be found at How to Fill Out An Tir Heraldic Submissions Forms. Submit the forms and the payment to Lions Blood Herald (with a copy to your branch herald), then wait for the results. When your name is registered (or if it is returned), you will be notified by postal mail to the address from which you submitted the registration request. — Wenyeva
Q: How much does it cost to register a name/device/badge?
A: A name, a device, and a badge are each considered a separate registration, or "action." Submissions received by Lions Blood Herald are US $12.00 per action. Canadian residents are permitted to pay these fees by cheques in Canadian Dollars. The fee for each action in Canadian Dollars is Can $16.00. All submissions require fees, with the exception of resubmissions made within one year of the date on the return letter, which require no fees.
So, for example, if "Matilda le Newbie" would like to register her name and device, and she is a US resident, she would pay $24.00 — $12.00 per action. If her name or device is returned for some reason (such as conflicting with an existing name or device), she may change the name/device and resubmit for free, as long as the resubmission is done within one year of the date on the return letter.
(In comparison, as of January 2004, the United Kingdom College of arms charges £3,400 for a "personal grant of arms", which is about $6,300 US.)
See also: How to Fill Out An Tir Heraldic Submissions Forms. — Wenyeva
Q: "But Slartibartfast the Stinky (who registered his device in AS I) has [some reserved or prohibited charge] on his shield — why can't I have it too?"
A: Over the years the Sovereigns of Arms have made rulings that reserve some charges for use only by certain people (e.g. a white belt may only be used in the armory of Knights of the Society), or prohibit some charges outright for various reasons (e.g. swastikas evoke Naziism and so are offensive, Imperial Dragons represent the Emperor of China and so are presumptuous, and the "wavy crested" line of division is from the 20th Century so it is not period). A list of reserved and prohibited charges is posted on the Laurel Sovereign of Arms web site.
Many of these rulings came about as the College of Arms gained more experience and did more research, and learned more about what is or is not period heraldic practice. The goal has been to move closer and closer to recreation of period heraldic practices. For this reason, there are many cases in which armory was registered with charges that were considered acceptable at the time, but after research and consideration by the College, are no longer considered acceptable in SCA armory. When this happens, the existing armory is "grandfathered" — the current bearer of the device may continue to use the prohibited charges, but new registrants may not.
In the case of reserved charges such as the white belt, coronets, or a pelican in its piety, the situation is slightly different; these charges are restricted to armory belonging to a person who holds a specific rank. Anyone achieving the appropriate rank may register arms with the reserved charge at that time. — Wenyeva
Q: What levels of the College of Heralds does my heraldry pass through before it gets approved? What are the levels and how long per each does it usually take?
There are a few good articles on this site that cover this process: "The Life of a Submission", "How the Submissions Process Works", and "Tracking Submissions Online". Basically, the process is as follows: Your submission is first considered within the kingdom. This process takes roughly two months. During this time, the heralds are researching the names and devices submitted. A meeting is held at which Lions Blood Herald, in discussion with other heralds, determines whether the submission should be sent onward to Laurel or not. If not, you'll be sent a letter explaining why the submission could not be sent forward. If the submission does move onward, it will spend about four months at the Laurel (society-wide) level. During this time the heralds of the SCA College of Arms are also researching and discussing all the names and devices that have been submitted. At the end of this time Laurel rules whether the submission will pass or be returned, but the report of the results still needs to be written up, proofread, corrected, etc. This generally takes another 1-3 months. At that time the new Letter of Acceptances and Returns is published, and you will be able to see the results of your submission! Generally it takes about 9 months for a submission to work its way through the system, though sometimes it may take longer. — Wenyeva
Q: Do I have to register a name and arms? Why bother?
No, you don't have to register a name and arms. But you may want to. By registering your name and arms, you have some assurance that the persona you are building for yourself has some period identity. In addition, once your name and arms are registered, no one else in the Society has the right to use them. The benefits of registering include:
— Elizabeth Dougall, Ursula Georges, Richenda du Jardin
Q: Why are the forms so complicated? What are all the copies for?
The name forms ask many questions about your name and persona so that we can understand the research you've done and the parts of your name which are most important to you. For example, we can't tell whether you and your persona are the same sex unless we ask. If you're not sure whether the boxes you've checked reflect your real priorities, please ask an experienced herald; you can also write a note in the "documentation" space on the form.
We need three copies of each item because the kingdom needs to keep a copy for its files and Laurel needs the remaining copies for its files. These are the only copies required. In addition, your branch herald wants a copy of branch submissions for the branch's files. This helps the herald know who has submissions in process so the status of submissions can be tracked. Also, the herald will know what name and arms someone is using, to help the scribes when they are working on charters. — Ursula Georges, Richenda du Jardin
Q: What if my registration is returned?
If your submission is returned, you have 1 year from the date of notification to resubmit a new name or design for free. During this time, read the reasons for return and fix the problems by consulting with your branch herald, redrawing the device, colouring it in with Crayola markers, redoing the research on the name, etc., and then you can resubmit within that year — yes, a whole new set of paperwork is required — without having to pay for the resubmission. Once an item is registered, it is never un-registered (or released) unless you request it.
If your name is returned by Laurel, your armory may still get registered — if you allowed a holding name. A holding name is simply a temporary placeholder so we can protect your armory.
If your submission is returned, you may want to contact your local herald for assistance or advice. Don't be upset if you had already gotten this advice and it was returned — we are only human. In addition, something may have been in the registration pipeline from another kingdom that we didn't know about.
Just a little overview of the process:
This is a minimum of 6 months of submissions going through Laurel prior to your submission reaching them. Laurel processes 250-450 items (names, devices, badges, etc.) each month. So each month you delay sending in your submission is another 250-450 items you could conflict with. — Elizabeth Dougall, Richenda du Jardin
Q: What is "permission to conflict"? What is a blanket letter of permission to conflict?
Permission to conflict is simply this: someone gives you permission to have your name and/or armory submission more similar to theirs than the rules normally allow. It is up to the person who is giving the permission to decide what amount of similarity they are comfortable with.
You can get permission to conflict for any type of submission. If you have received the permission to conflict after your submission has been returned, you will need to resubmit your submission with three copies of the letter.
You can also submit a "blanket permission to conflict," which gives new submitters automatic permission to conflict with your name or device, without contacting you first. It's possible to submit blanket permission just for a name or just for a device or badge. — Ursula Georges, Richenda du Jardin
Q: What is a heraldic will?
Q: What happens if I display arms that aren't registered?
There are no "device police." You won't be thrown out of the SCA. But having said that, it's not a great idea for a couple of reasons. One reason is that unregistered devices might be (unintentionally, perhaps) not particularly medieval style, which makes the game we play a little less authentic. But the main reason is probably that you run a risk of conflicting with someone else who is displaying a similar device. If Sir Sven The Completely Unbeatable has a device like your unregistered one, and you are at the same event, you might find a lot of people thinking you are him. Waiting until your device is registered to display it will help you to avoid embarrassment. — Wenyeva
Q: What if my persona is Saxon (or Persian, Mongolian, Norse, Japanese, etc.) and would not have used heraldry?
A: Several excellent suggestions for dealing with this situation may be found via this link. — Thanks to Ursula for the pointer!
Q: What if I change personas in the future?
A: If you get a device (or an award), it stays with your various SCA incarnations, not with a specific persona. Note that the Order of Precedence has started to track previous names (as of Oct 2003). If you feel that your new persona should have a different name or device from your old persona, you can register the new name or device in place of or in addition to the old one, though there is a limit to the total number of items you may register, so you may have to give up the old name or device if you have reached this limit. — Rafaella and Wenyeva
Q: Why does registration take so long?
Just a little overview of a typical process:
— Richenda du Jardin
Q: Why can't I use my family's coat-of-arms?
Q: Why can't I have marshalled arms?
Q: What shapes can I display my device in?
In period, coats-of-arms were displayed in various shapes including lozenges, heart-shapes, roundels, heater-shield, square, rectangle, etc. The escutcheon (shield) shape is a convenient armorial shape for most designs and perhaps the most commonly recognized. Hence that is the standard shape placed on submissions forms. The roundel is also common and used to quickly identify badge forms from device forms. However, the shape on your submission form does not limit what shape you may use to display your device. — Modar Neznanich
Q: How can I display my heraldry (on what, and with what materials)?
Q: Can I display my device before it has been registered?
Q: Can I register/display a Crest?
Q: What is the difference between a Crest and a Coat of Arms or Device?
Q: Can Households/Clans/Guilds/etc. register names?
A: Household names may be registered, however, they must follow period naming practices. The SCA Heraldry Rules for Submissions (III.2.b.iv.) state, "Household names must follow the patterns of period names of organized groups of people. Possible models include Scottish clans (Clan Stewart), ruling dynasties (House of Anjou), professional guilds (Baker's Guild of Augsburg, Worshipful Company of Coopers), military units (The White Company), and inns (House of the White Hart)." — Modar Neznanich
Q: Can Households/Clans/Guilds/etc. register devices, arms, badges?
Q: Can Households/Clans/Guilds/etc. receive Awards? if so, what awards can they receive?
Q: What if I can't stand my device/badge anymore?
A: You can give up the device/badge, thus making it available for someone else if they want it. We call it "releasing" the item. Most times this is done via a change — Lord X gets tired of his early SCA arms and changes to something much more simple. When Lord X registers his new device, there's a check box on the forms that tells Laurel staff what to do with the old device/badge, so Lord X may choose to release the device completely, or retain the old device as a badge. — Rafaella and Wenyeva
Q: What happens to my name/device/badge if I leave the SCA?
A: If you wish to quit and renounce all your SCA stuff, and you'd like to make your heraldry available for others to use since you won't be using it, you'll need to send a letter to the College of Arms releasing your name/device, and a letter to the Board Of Directors releasing all your awards/titles. It would be great if folks who stop playing due to Real Life or loss of interest released their heraldry but you don't see it happen too often. If you don't do this, the name/device/badge remain yours permanently, even if you don't continue to participate in the SCA.— Rafaella and Wenyeva
Q: What if I change personas in the future? Do I get new scrolls?
A: The Crown is only obligated to give out one charter/scroll, so, yes, if you change your name and want a scroll for your old award that displays your new name, you can commission and pay for it. — Rafaella
Thanks to those who contributed to this page: Rafaella d'Allemtejo, Aryanhwy merch Catmael, Elizabeth Dougall, Æthan of Eppelhyrste, Fionnghuala Friseil, Ursula Georges, Richenda du Jardin, Juliana de Luna, Zenobia Naphtali, Modar Neznanich, and Francesca Testarossa dei Martini. Overall editing by Wenyeva atte grene.