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The Heretical Herald Volume 1 Issue 2 February 22, AS XXXVIII being 2004 AD

Hark the Heretical Herald.

This is the second issue of the Herald, I hope that you enjoyed the first and find this one equally informative and even more enjoyable. With a little luck and work any teething problems that haven't been dealt with yet will be soon. Let us know if you see any room for improvement. We might not act on your recommendation, but be assured that we will listen.

If you are wondering why you are seeing the premier issue appearing at the same time as this issue it is because I wanted there to be a slightly larger body of work available when we first made our appearance. Also before the formal announcement of the whole project I had more ideas for articles and such which I did not wish to overburden the first issue with.

Thank you for taking the time for reading this and I hope you find it useful and entertaining.

- H. Herald editor

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In this Issue:

Liam of the Barque

Cant Do That!

In future this area will contain a heraldic device from either the An Tir Roll of Arms or other Roll that has an interesting "cant" or heraldic play on words. The only prize for this contest is to see your name here as providing the submission appear in this column.

Until there are submissions I'll be entering some that I find myself starting with this issue.

The image of the device and information is taken from the "An Tir: Role of Arms" which can be found at:

A special note is that the term "brock" is a synonym for "badger" which is sometimes used in heraldry for the cant. It is used in the arms for the family "Brock" for one case. There are other animals which have been used as charges which have used alternate names for the play on words. In this case the play on words is between of course "Barque" and "Brock".

This is from one of the 40 oldest devices by registration date in the An Tir: Roll of Arms.

Heraldic Device of Grane the Golden of Hippogriff Tower
Entry from An Tir: Roll of Arms:

Liam of the Barque
Blazon: Gules, a billhook argent between two brocks combattant, issuant from base a sun Or.
- Member of the Order of the Pelican
Registered: October, 1973
Contributed By: Frederic Badger

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Don't Talk To Me About Complications! or I've Got a Headache!

A cute song I have heard in the SCA dealing with Heraldry called "The Herald's Complaint", by Baldwin of Erebor is about the nightmares a herald has about a device he sees even in his dreams which haunts him in its ugly complexity. I won't repeat the lyrics to this excellent song here out of courtesy to the writer and copyright, however I recommend that the reader look it up. You can find the lyrics printed with permission on this page: "" Search down the fairly lengthy page for the phrase "The Herald's Complaint" and you'll find the articles on it with the lyrics. (Baldwin of Erebor is mundanely known as Derek Foster and the song has been published in the volume "Broadside of a Bard", Copyright 1979 by Derek Foster) I can also reprint the registry of Baldwin of Erebor that includes the badge of which the song is written in illustration:

·  Baldwin of Erebor

The badge you can see was passed in 1980 and likely wouldn't pass today for a number of reasons, one of which is, it is just too complex. I'll leave figuring out what it looks like to you. I'm not really sure what feathers that are half composed of eradicated trees look like.

Bad Example Arms that are too ComplexIn the SCA there is a guideline that heralds use to gauge how complex too complex is. In general as the number of tinctures used in a device increases the number of types of charges should decrease. The basic guideline used is that the total number of tinctures used when added to the total number of different types of charges should not exceed 8. Further three or more types of charges should not be used in the same group of charges. It is spelled out in the "Rules for Submission" Part VIII- Compatible Armorial Style 1. Armorial Simplicity a. Tincture and Charge Limit. I'm not sure how many colours "motley" counts as, but the badge in "The Herald's Complaint" I'm sure comes out as more than 8.

There is a tendency with some newcomers to the SCA to want to virtually include their life story in their device. Their persona is from a port city so they want something nautical like a ship, their father was a miller and the byname they have selected is miller so they want a millrind, they love their pet dog whom they bring to all events so they want a hound and since they are welsh they want a dragon. Since they also want to be a crusading knight they also want a cross or saltire on the device somewhere too. They also really like the colours red, green, and yellow. The big thing is they want it all! Now before even trying to design anything just doing a count we have 5 + 3 = 8 for the complexity count. That is at the border. Now this does fit in. It just barely fits in. It would take a lot of care to incorporate all these items tastefully without it becoming indistinct and messy to look at. Simpler is better and if they were coming to consult with me I would try to convince them to pare down that list to what is truly what is important and what they want. I'll remind them that they can also have in addition to a device up to three badges with which they can display these other symbols of their persona life.

It might be a good time to take them on a tour of period Rolls of Arms and Armorials and let them have a gander at what actually was done in period. Then have a look at some well known and recognizable SCA Arms and take turns pointing out the more striking ones and ones that strike each of your fancy and count out the complexity of them. Perhaps this might convince them to pare down their grand plans for their life story in heraldry. I'd suggest a wander down the online An Tir: Roll of Arms. There is nothing like some good examples to get the creative juices flowing in the right direction. There are also some very nice and very creative good examples of heraldry. Of course be wary of some that would not pass muster in today's more stringent times.

…and if they still want everything and a bag of chocolate chip cookies proper… well work with it as best as possible and remind them that 8 isn't a goal but a recommended maximum and that heralds really are sticky when it comes to the dreaded "slot machine" guideline!

The "slot machine" guideline refers to that second bit on complexity that you should not have three or more different types of charges in a charge group. In other words if you have three charges in a group, three the same are a winner; two the same and one different are a winner; but three different are a loser. So having a "bell" "book" and "candle" while sounding sort of neat and alluding to neat stuff just won't go as a group of charges on your shield. (Though if you are cagey you could have your shield set up with a pale down the centre and but the bell to one side, the book on the other and then set the candle on the pale.)

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Norse Code

Borre-style gripping beast; Lisbjerg gripping-beast; Norse Jelling-beast; Norse Serpent; Norse Sun Cross; Sable and Gules, Iron and Blood; and probably some other things I've missed are all things people would like to use in their devices. Some of these things simply aren't allowed any more. They've been determined to be incompatible with SCA heraldry though you will see some of these things in devices registered in the past you wouldn't be able to get them passed today. Many of them come under the term "zoomorphic beast" which has not been allowed since October 1998. Some people feel it unfairly restricts the expression of their persona's culture in their heraldic design. This is true because lines must be drawn somewhere. But it need not necessarily restrict the expression of their persona's culture in their heraldic display!

One creative bit of heraldry which you might be able to find somewhere in An Tir is a person who wanted to have a Celtic unicorn as one of their charges. Unfortunately such beasts were not registerable at that time if they ever were. After trying unsuccessfully an elegant solution was found. They simply registered their charge as a Unicorn and used artistic license when depicting the unicorn to do so in a Celtic style. It was simple. The client is happy with a Celtic unicorn on their banner, the College of Arms is happy without having to bend the rules to allow for a charge that doesn't fit. The Heretical Herald is happy that people are happy. Though indeed this is not his solution he is happy to use it and recommend it as necessary.

There are other places where such solutions can be applied. For instance any animal where there is a Celtic variation on a Heraldic or Natural plant or animal. Likely there are other cultures such as the Norse, which this could be applied to as well. In a pinch, I suspect you could figure a way to do a "Lisbjerg gripping-beast" even. Now to my relatively untrained eye the Lisbjerg gripping-beast appears to be a smiling man lying on his side with right hand gripping left wrist and right foot grasping his neck. (The image I have seen shows his head to sinister so I have reversed right and left for one with the head to dexter as is more conventional with charges) It might be a bit of a stretch, but could you blazon a "smiling man lying on his right side grasping his left wrist with his right leg bent so his foot reaches his neck". Simpler would be a Norse Serpent or Jelling-beast which could be described as the closest serpent or other animal and then once more just rendered appropriately with artistic license once registered.

I'd even recommend such artistic styling even without any desire for an oddness to a charge just to make the heraldic display more suited to the person carrying it. Many cultures did not use standard European heraldry, so even though this heraldry does add so much to the SCA pageantry why not take that "C" for "creative" and add some cultural flare to it. I've seen some interesting examples particularly with some Japanese persona bearing devices much like Japanese "Mon" and Norse Warrior types carrying shields with devices with definite Norse flare to their design. I have even seen some definite Imperial Roman style on some early Roman Britain devices.

But do remember, not to overstep. Please don't go registering a "mole hill" and render it artistically into a "mountain" and thus conflict with someone else's device. So don't register a "boar" but have it painted as a "bear" just because a "bear" would have conflicted with someone.

Powerful tools can be dangerous so use them with care!

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Hearsay Heresy

Myths and misconceptions among the general populous are widespread enough about heraldry in the SCA. You hear that some things are well known facts. Some stem from bygone ages of SCA heraldry from times when rocks were still soft. There was a time when the furs were considered neither metal nor colour and so gules on counter-ermine was quite all right. (Or so I have heard and I've seen registered devices that indicate this the case.) However this is not about the myths and legends of SCA heraldry. It is about something perhaps more important.

Oft times a discussion will grow up about a topic and there will be different points of view coming up. One person will make a statement and someone will respond to it either backing it or contradicting it. This is all fine and good. But sometimes people have different styles of saying things. Sometimes when one person says: "I think 'A' is 'B'." they mean that they have found research that backs that statement up which would in most circles be considered proof. Other people would say "I think 'A' is 'B'." when they have heard something somewhere about it but are not 100% sure of the facts while others would phrase it like that if they just guess it would be the case. Different people would interpret the same statement based on their interpretation of the statement. So someone asks a question and someone answers, then someone agrees with that answer and another and another, and the person who asked the question starts to think they have a definitive answer. But then someone answers with something that contradicts that first answer and nobody backs them up. The person who asked the question might wonder what is up, but since more people went with the first answer they figure that is the better answer.

But what if that first person was just guessing and the second one also guessed and the third liked the second and just wanted to back them up. The last one who contradicted them actually had heard something about the case, but couldn't remember where they had come across the answer.

I think it can be very important to say where your facts came from and just which things are facts and which are guesses and what things you remember hearing, but can't recall where from when answering someone's request. It is important not to post an answer simply to agree with someone if you really don't know. It can give a false sense of surety to an answer which might not have much basis in fact to support it. Perhaps this is where some of those myths get started?

Someone guesses something. It is repeated as something someone heard or read somewhere. It gets quoted as coming from a reliable source. It becomes commonly quoted and then something well known enough that nobody has to quote its source.

If nobody can answer, perhaps then a guess might be the best bet, but state outright that it is a guess. If you can't remember the source state that directly and perhaps whatever you can remember as to the possible source. Perhaps it might remind someone of where the actual information came from and spur someone to be able to find the actual source. But best if you know it, include where you know the fact from and tell where someone else can find the same information as best as possible. Make it possible for someone else to retrace the steps needed to find that gem of knowledge.

Remember that someone listening to you might believe you to be an expert on a subject that you know little about and they will quote verbatim what they hear you say.

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The Heretical Herald is an independent Publication not associated with the SCA Inc.
or any College of Arms or College of Heraldry either in the SCA or elsewhere.
It will be published on an irregular basis as material warrants.
-H. Herald editor

-© 2004 by H Herald.
Creators of original content included in
The Heretical Herald retain copyright.