Heraldry

Heraldry is my main interest and hobby inside the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It's not the first thing about the SCA that interested me, but it's certainly the primary thing that keeps me around. I find the subject endlessly fascinating, if a bit esoteric; it's not something that is terribly useful outside of its specific context, and in truth I have more of an faint academic interest than an active interest in modern day non-SCA armorial heraldry. Inside the SCA, however, heraldry is a very active thing: spanning both names and armory, very personal identifiers of individuals and groups of individuals alike.

Newsletter Feature: Fantastic Armory!

posted Dec 30, 2013, 4:25 PM by Jennifer Smith   [ updated Jan 15, 2015, 3:36 PM ]

Every month, as when I served as Wreath Queen of Arms, I registered on average somewhere around 150 pieces of armory. Out of those many devices and badges, there are some true gems that shine out as wonderful examples of good period design -- things that would look right at home in a period armorial. I don't think these designs get enough press, and so that's why I decided to start writing a little featureette thingy that is intended to go into kingdom newsletters whenever there's a need for a space-filler, or for use in the "extra" edition. Or heck, for publication anywhere else that's desired.

Each little article has 4 or 5 pieces of armory I thought were amongst the very best registered in a given month. I have chosen to start with April 2012, which is when the new Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (SENA for short!) took effect, the first big rulechange in heraldry since the early 1990s. One of the benefits of SENA is that simple armory is even easier to register!

Kingdom Chroniclers take note: Below is a creative release form for these articles, suitable for publication practically anywhere. If you need anything more specific, just ask. The artwork included is considered fair use for heraldic purposes (which this certainly is), and so needs no separate release. If you have questions on any of this, please let me know! Likewise, I have arbitrarily formatted these as half of a page, but if a different layout would be better for you, just let me know what would work better, or if a different format of file would be better.

You can reach me directly at jds@randomgang.com.

Relatively Recent Class Handouts!

posted Apr 26, 2012, 10:58 AM by Jennifer Smith   [ updated Feb 28, 2013, 11:06 AM ]

Two class handouts I've done relatively recently, that may be useful to some people. It's entirely possible I've got something muddled, confusing, or even just entirely incorrect -- if you have any questions, please let me know!

Picking and Documenting Names - this class handout includes information from the Rules about how names are formed, where to look for a name, and then a section on how to write the documentation for the name.

Designing Armory - this class handout includes information from the Rules about the very basics of armory design: tinctures, rule of contrast, charges, arrangements, postures. There's also an associated Google Presentation document with visual examples, along with a few sample images from period armorials.

Conflict Checking Class Notes

posted Feb 12, 2011, 2:16 PM by Jennifer Smith

This is a class outline for a Conflict-Checking 201 class I did, back in Aug 2007. Some bits may be dated or even incorrect, and if so please do let me know so I can correct and update! Also attached at the bottom (hopefully) is a Powerpoint presentation that went along with this class, with examples of the rules and a step-by-step conflict-checking exercise.

Commenting on Armory – Conflict-Checking and Beyond 
HL Emma de Fetherstan, Bordure Herald, Aug 2007


This is only a rough outline of my class, but hopefully will be enough to jog your memory or otherwise point you in the right direction in the future. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of the art and science of conflict-checking armory, but aims to be a decent start.

I. Tools needed: RfS, Glossary, OandA.
  • Rules for Submission - http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/rfs.html. Also available through Stock Clerk
  • Glossary of Terms - http://heraldry.sca.org/coagloss.html. Also available through Stock Clerk
  • OandA - http://oanda.sca.org/. Armorial is listed by registrant names, Ordinary by categories; you actually want the latter, so use the “on-line SCA Ordinary” link. 
  • Offline OandA – “genord” program - http://www.panix.com/~tmcd/ 
II. Basic Blazoning Refresher.
  • Definitions to remember: 
a) parts of the shield
b) tinctures
c) field divisions
d) complex lines
e) arrangement
f) postures
  • Blazon roughly in order: 
a) field (including fieldless) – top to bottom, left to right
b) charges – number, type, and any other adjectives (location, arrangement, posture)
(1) primary charges
(2) secondary charges (except peripheral charges)
(3) tertiary charges (except those on peripheral charges)
(4) peripheral charges, and tertiary charges on them
(5) overall charges
  • Use the Glossary! 
III. Heraldic Style and Other Issues.
  • Go to the source: 
RfS VII. Compatible Armorial Content – allowable charges and elements
RfS VIII. Compatible Armorial Style – the basic “rules” of design
RfS IX. Offensive Armory
RfS XI. Presumptuous Armory
  • Can it be easily blazoned? Remember: difficulty in blazoning indicates non-period style. 
  • “Argent Snail's Armory Insta-Boing Check List” by Jaelle of Armida - http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/boing.html 
IV. The Point of It All.
  • Inappropriate Claims (RfS I.3) – no conflicts or presumption 
  • In period, a single change for cadency, two or more for unrelated armory 
  • Types of “differences”: 
a) substantial
b) significant (aka CD)
c) insignificant (not a CD)

V. Conflict Checking Using RfS X.
  • RfS X.1 Addition of Primary Charges - don't need to check field-only against primary charges 
  • RfS X.2 Difference of Primary Charges - if "simple" armory, don't need to check against any other primaries if substantially different 
  • RfS X.3 Required Charges Transparent - rarely comes into play 
  • RfS X.4 Significant Armorial Differences - tricky but logical! Where CDs come into play 
X.4.a - field changes
X.4.b - addition/removal of charge group
X.4.c - addition/removal of overall charge
X.4.d - tincture changes of at least half of non-tertiary charges
X.4.e - type changes of non-tertiary charges
X.4.f - number changes of non-tertiary charges
X.4.g - arrangement changes of non-tertiary charges
X.4.h - posture changes of non-tertiary charges
X.4.i - addition/removal of tertiary charges
X.4.j - TWO changes to tertiary charges (but see X.4.j.ii for ordinaries)
  • RfS X.5 Visual Test - trumps all of the above, very tricky 
VI. Methodology.
  • What to compare against? Use the OandA. 
  • Don’t touch complex search form until you’re more practiced! 
  • Go to Ordinary; good place to start is primary charge category. 
a) Compare first item on the list with proposed armory.
b) Do they both have primary charges? Yes, skip to X.2. No, skip to X.4.a. One does/one doesn't, STOP, go to next item.
c) Are they both simple, and have substantially different charges? No, skip to X.4. Yes, STOP, go to next item.
d) Count CDs from X.4. More than 2 CDs, STOP, go to next item. Less than 2 CDs, possible conflict!
e) LAST: check for other non-X.2-simple conflicts! Assuming 1 CD for change of primary charge, check field or secondary categories

VII. Precedents.
  • Laurel rulings used to clarify rules. Can be overturned! 
  • Archive of Precedents - http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/precedents.html 
  • Search form for all LoARs - http://www.morsulus.org/ 
  • Commonly Used Precedents: 
a) mullets/suns conflicts – Kouac Myklos, 02/2002
b) bottommost of three charges 2-and-1 is half the charge group – 08/1990 CL
c) No CD for placement on the field versus a fieldless badge - Lecelina O'Brien of Mountshannon, 12/2001
d) Do not register inverted animals - Eiríkr Þorvaldson, 10/2000
e) bird differences – 11/2003 CL
f) sword-and-dagger rule – Desiderata Drake, 03/2007

VIII: Writing Commentary.
  • Check blazon, style, conflict. 
  • Suggest alternative without problems, if possible. 
  • Mention everything “bad” found - and cite specific rules to explain why! 
  • Mention close calls during conflict checking, or things you’re unsure of 
  • Raise questions! 
  • Remember the point is not to tear something down, but to help ensure that it is registerable, and to educate both yourself and your readers. 
Suggested Reading:
  • Laurel Educational Articles - http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/education.html 
  • “Basic Conflict Checking” by Teceangl Bach –http://www.antirheralds.org/education/basic_conflict_checking.html 
  • “The Philosophical Basis of Difference, or What are Little CDs Made of” by Dom Pedro de Alcazar - http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/what.html 
  • “Counting Complexity in Devices and Badges” by Dmitrii Volkovich - http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/complexity.html 
  • Brooke-Little, J.P., An Heraldic Alphabet, Robson Books Ltd., 1996. approx $6.50 used on Amazon.com

Armory filk gone bad

posted Feb 12, 2011, 2:12 PM by Jennifer Smith

I'm Just a Submission
(With apologies to Dave Frishberg)

{Woof! You sure gotta climb a lotta steps to get to this Laurel office here in the SCA! But I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is?}

I'm just a submission,
Yes, I'm only a submission,
And I'm sitting here while Laurel’s fishin’.
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the College of Arms,
It's a long, long wait
While I'm showing my charms,
But I know I'll be registered someday...
At least I hope and beg for permission,
But today I'm still a submission.

{Gee, submission, you certainly have a lot of patience and courage!}

{Well I got *this* far. When I started, I wasn't even a *submission* - I was just an idea. Some guy back home decided he wanted a snazzy device to paint on his shield, so he called his local herald and she said, "You're right, there ought to be a device." Then she sat down and drew me out and introduced me to Asterisk, and I became a submission. And I'll remain a submission until they decide to make me a registered device.}

I'm just a submission,
Yes I'm only a submission,
And I got this far without opposition.
Well now I'm stuck in committee
And I sit here and wait
While a few key heralds
Discuss and debate
Whether they should
Let me be a device...
Oh how I hope and pray for recognition,
But today I am still just a submission.

{Listen to those heralds arguing! Is all that discussion and debate about you?}
{Yes. I'm one of the lucky ones. Most ideas never even get this far. I hope they decide to report on me favorably, otherwise I may die.}
{"Die?"}
{Yeah: returned for conflict or a rules violation. Oooh! But it looks like I'm gonna pass Kingdom. Now I go to the College of Arms and they discuss me.}
{If they decide "no", what happens?}
{Then I resubmit a new device and the whole thing starts all over again.}
{Oh no!}
{Oh yes!}

I'm just a submission,
Yes I'm only a submission,
And if the College says I’m in good condition,
Well then I'm off to Wreath Queen o’ Arms
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other devices
For Laurel to sign.
And if he signs me then I'll be registered...
Oh, how I hope I survive the inquisition,
But today I am just a submission.

{You mean even if the whole College says you should be a law, the Laurel King of Arms can still say no?}
{Yes, that's called a "return". If Laurel returns me, I have to either appeal or resubmit back at the College of Heralds, and they decide on me again, and by that time it's...}
{By that time a long time has passed! It's not easy to become registered, is it?}

If you listen to your herald it is!
But how I hope I don’t have to use ammunition,
But today I am still just a submission!

{He signed you, device! Now you're registered!}
{Oh yes!}

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