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The Heretical Herald Volume 2 Issue 2 (#5) August 12, AS XXXIX being 2004 AD

Hark the Heretical Herald.

Teraldic display is an important aspect of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It adds to the pageantry, the atmosphere, the whole feeling of the activities we take part in. One part of heraldic display of course is the choice and creation of a unique heraldic design for individuals and groups that follow the rules of heraldry as practised in the SCA as outlined by the College of Arms of the Society of Creative Anachronism Inc. There is an equally if not more important part of heraldic display and that is the actual usage and display of these heraldic designs.

This issue of "The Heretical Herald" deals with using and displaying heraldic designs. Whether decorating an event hall, your encampment, or your personal tankard and trencher, your device, arms, or badge can be useful and add to the flavour of what we do. But there are questions that come up. Decisions to be made. Perhaps directions not to choose. Some of the ideas in here might be controversial and I invite discussion on the topics in our Yahoo! Group, "The Heretical Herald List", or other forums that allow for such.

Remember we are looking for your comments and ideas and if you would like to contribute these or even contribute an article to be included under your name or anonymously, please do.

- H. Herald editor

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In this Issue:

Cant Do That!

Entry from An Tir: Roll of Arms:

Werburg of Wenlock
Blazon: Argent, five pavilions two, two, and one within a bordure embattled sable.
- Goutte de Sang, Sergeant - Lions Gate
Registered: July, 2000
Contributed By: Frederic Badger

This one perhaps might require some explanation for some people. "Werburg" translates as "war town". The pavilions, or tents, within an embattled border or wall are representative of an encampment within a defensive wall. In times of war cities of tents might spring up with some sort of palisade or embattlements around them to protect the army within.

Remember I'm still looking for contributions of devices to use in this column!

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

Heraldic Device of Werburg of Wenlock

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Standard or Automatic?

As a Consulting Herald I have too frequently come across a situation where for one reason or another the device that someone had been using for years was found to simply not be registerable in the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It might be because of a breach of the rules of heraldry in general or specifically as practised in the SCA, or it might be for reasons of conflict with already registered devices or protected armoury. What it leads to is someone with banners, equipment, armour, and other things decorated with a device that is different from what they can get registered. It is either that or using a device that they can't register.

What can be done to avoid this problem?

Well the most obvious solution would be not to use a device until it passes and is registered. It can take a while to come up with some design in the first place and then longer yet to confirm it is heraldically acceptable and then to have it checked for conflicts before submitting it to Kingdom. From there a month or so before the Kingdom heralds look at it and decide whether it passes muster and doesn't conflict and should be sent on to Laurel. From there, perhaps 8 months, perhaps a bit more to get a response as to whether it passes. Of course this is assuming there is nothing wrong and no conflict. If a Herald catches any problem or conflict before you submit it, things can be resolved very quickly, weeks, days, hours... it can be very short turn-around. If a problem is caught at Kingdom the turn around time is in the nature of a few months and feedback can actually probably be gotten before then. If problems are not caught until Laurel, then it will take a number of months to get any feedback and it will take quite a while for the problems can be corrected and resubmitted. It is actually one of the reasons why there is the intermediate Kingdom level. Problems caught at that level can be solved with a much shorter response time than if they get caught at Laurel.

The point is that a person might want to have something painted on their shield, or on pennons hanging from their pavilion. Before they have a registered device they might want something heraldic to put on things like game boards, trenchers, belts, pouches, and other things they make or buy.

There are a few ways to handle this.

This is what a label looks like. Probably the fact that it is a legitimate charge in its own right is one of the reasons why the tradition of using it to indicate that a device painted on a shield wasn't yet registered is no longer in favour.

Heraldic Device for Seamus Ruadh

Blazon: Gules ermined Or, a label argent.
Registered: September, 1999
Contributed By: Frederic Badger

Device and description from An Tir: Roll of Arms

One question to be answered is just when might it be appropriate to start using a heraldic design. The safest way to play it would be to wait until you have confirmation that your submission has passed and your device is registered to you. Then you are entitled to display your device. This is whether you are armigerous or not. You don't need to have an Award of Arms to display your device. Once you have an Award of Arms you can then call your "heraldic device" your "coat of arms" or more simply, "arms".

There is another suggestion though. It is suggested that once your device has been checked out by your branch herald or other competent herald and sent to Kingdom, you might tentatively begin to use their design. The reasoning is that the device at this point should have been checked for proper following the rules of heraldry as we practice it and should have been conflict checked to some extent. There is a good chance it should pass or if it doesn't it should pass with only minor changes. Of course the advisement is to use it tentatively as there might be changes needed. Alternately one might instead wait until it passes at Kingdom level for much the same reasons as given for having a bit of confidence at doing so when a herald says it's okay to submit to Kingdom.

At one point in time it was considered appropriate to place a "label" across your design if you used it on your shield if you were using it and it wasn't registered. The label being the bar with three short lines on its lower edge. The bar either being throughout or couped. This tradition seems no longer to be in favour.


An alternate route to take would be to take advantage of using a populace badge that you are entitled to use. For instance the Kingdom of An Tir has two populace badges, one on a field and one fieldless that you can use that indicate your allegiance and membership to the Kingdom. Your Principality and local branch likely also have populace badges as well that you can use. They might not identify you personally, but they do identify you as a member of that group and form a sense of identity.

Populace Badges for An Tir

It is important to understand that it would be very inappropriate to use the Arms of the Kingdom, Principality, or Branch that you belong to. Only the leaders of the group may do that. Only the individual they are registered to should use the device and arms. They say, "This is me, I am here." Badges are appropriate to say "I belong to." or "This is mine."

Still it is appropriate to place the badge on personal items to indicate your allegiance. This of course is true for populace badges. Other sorts of badges are reserved for usage in specific circumstances or by specific groups of people. For instance various offices and orders may have their own badges and it would be inappropriate to use them without being entitled to. It might be possible to use the badge of a household you belong to depending on the policies of the household. In some households only the household heads may use them. Households are very independent in how they are organized and run.

Getting back to badges of office, even if you are a member of an office that has a badge, it might be inappropriate for you to use there badges in certain ways. For instance to place a banner with the Herald's Badge on your personal pavilion would be inappropriate unless you were using your pavilion for official Herald's Business. Likewise incorporating the Herald's Badge into your tunic would indicate that while you were wearing that tunic you would be "on duty" as a herald at all times. It might be okay to have a small herald's badge along with other badges on an item where you are including essentially everything you are involved with in the SCA. Sort of like a resumé on a tourney chest lid or game board.


If you'd still like to have a personal banner, but do not want to risk creating one with your device on it until it is registered there is something you might want to try. Even if there might be some changes that will happen to your heraldic design some of the basics will probably have been decided on and will be there in some combination. Things like the main colours and what the principal charges will be. With this information you would be able to create something called The Standard!

The Standard is a flag like banner that streams horizontally from the pole. Unlike many other similar forms of heraldic display it doesn't repeat a person's device exactly but rather is inspired by it in a particular fashion based on the main colours used in the device and the main charges and badges of the person. These are often used in conjunction with indications of allegiance. So knowing the main colours of your device and the main charge you could design a Standard which would remain valid even if your initial submission to the college of heralds must change somewhat before it is finally registered.

A Standard is a long narrow flag. They are fairly large, perhaps 8 feet long and 2 feet wide. The Standard might taper slightly to a single rounded end, to a point, or possibly to a split point, though this later variation I have heard wasn't actually used in period.

Traditionally in the area next to the pole, the hoist will have the badge or ensign of whomever the Standard's owner owes allegiance to. For instance you could place the Kingdom's badge or Ensign in the hoist position. The rest of the Standard would be done in your colours. You could choose the primary metal or colour of your device for the field, or if your device had a split field you could create a Standard where the background consisted of the two tinctures split horizontally. You would then place your main charge on the Standard next to the area that shows your allegiance. The rest of the Standard could be left plain, but could have a sprinkling of smaller copies of your charge or minor charges or other badges of some importance to you. You could also have your motto written there either filling the field or on diagonal stripes sewn across the field. The Standard will often have a fringe or border on it and it will often consist of alternating bands of the main colour and metal of your device.

An Tir Ensign

I refer to your device when I describe the creation of the Standard, but not in great detail. This is why you might create a Standard even if your device has not yet passed and there might be some changes made to it before it is registered. As long as the main details stay the same the Standard is still valid. It would be valid in any case as it is tradition really that determines the design of the Standard and there are many optional routes you might take with the design. As long as you know the colours and main charges involved you can design a Standard.

There are a few things to keep in mind with designing a Standard. One is that with the long thin design the long end will tend to whip in the wind. This means that it will end up getting tattered over time. For that reason it is best to design the fly part of the banner, the loose flying end away from the square that shows your allegiance with seams that run the length of the Standard rather than crossways to it. This is because those seams would after time have a tendency to tear at the seam taking a chunk of your Standard away with the wind. You might notice this happening on large Canadian Flags after a storm where the red panel on the fly end is torn away.

Typically even if you have more than two colours in the field of your device you would still not have more than two on the fly part of the Standard. You might only have a single colour and represent the other colours in other ways. Remember also the "rule of good contrast" and try to keep metals off of metals and colours off of colours.

Of course while having a Standard to fly does answer the question of something for an encampment at an event or on the tourney or war field, it doesn't answer the question about what to put on your shield on the field. A plain "plywood, proper" shield is sort of bland, metal is little better, and plain plastic just won't do. This is a good place for the populace badge. You can paint over it when your device is to a point in the submissions process where you feel confident enough to run it.

Non Heraldic Designs

Alternately you might paint a "non-heraldic" design on your shield. There are indications of patterns that the Norse painted on their shields before the days of heraldry. Other cultures have designs that would be suitable as well. Simply select something that wouldn't be confused with someone's heraldic device.

Alternately, and this might prove controversial, you could perhaps place a fieldless populace badge on a background colour of your choice. Put it on a colour definitely not of a heraldic tincture and you know it won't conflict with anyone's device. You could also as with the non-heraldic design place a non-heraldic "charge" on a background. For instance a symbol or item not allowable by our rules of heraldry, but still found in "period" and use that. Of course it is important to remember that you do not want to detract from the medieval atmosphere of a medieval event for other people.

The Standard and ideas for things to put on a Shield also do not directly solve the problem of things to place on other items. Though of course populace badges do. However there is no rule that says that you can only decorate with badges and coats of arms if you wish to do some heraldic style decoration. You could simply take whatever charge you will know you wish to use in your device and use that in your projects.


Perhaps that will wet your appetite for heraldry until your device passes and is registered with the College of Arms of the SCA. If you are really sure of what you want otherwise get thee to a herald and get the ball rolling toward submitting your device and having it registered. In days gone by it might have taken years to get something registered, or at least it seemed that way. But now it seems to be doable in the scope of a year.

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Setting a Standard

Standards are a form of heraldic display that are unlike shields or banners in that they are not done in the direct pattern of the Coat of Arms, Heraldic Device, or Heraldic Badge. Instead they take features from such heraldic designs and incorporate them into their design. They also include signs of allegiance, motto, crest, supporters, badges and perhaps awards and other things symbolic of them.

Note that in this discussion the Hoist is the end of the Standard nearest the pole; the Fly is the end of the Standard nearest the loose end.

The Shape of the Standard

Shapes of StandardsThere are a number of shapes I've seen used for the Standard. Perhaps not all of them were used in period before 1600. I'm fairly secure about the ones with the single and double rounded end at the fly. The completely rectangular one I've only recently seen. The triangular ones are very much like pennons and streamers but seem so very likely and traditional. The double and triple pointed ones whether period or not simply look visually interesting. They also give the pointed end without the diminishing surface area near the fly that the single point gives for displaying things on. I often have seen them with the bottom end parallel to the ground rather than both the top and bottom edges coming towards each other.

At the Hoist

Only in the 19th century and later has it been accepted practice in fact to include the person's arms at the hoist end of the Standard. Traditionally at hoist end of the Standard a person displays an indication of their loyalty or allegiance. It could be the cross of St. George for someone English, the cross of St. Andrew for someone Scotch. In the Kingdom of An Tir it could be the Ensign of An Tir. It would be possible to use the fielded populace badge instead though the Ensign was intended. It would also be equally well to use populace badges for Principality, Barony, Shire, College, Canton, or Port as long as you were allied to them. I have heard that it would not be appropriate to show a whole chain of fealty. It would also likely be appropriate for a squire to use their Knight's badge or protégé their Pelican's or apprentice their Laurel's and so forth. You might even consider your own badge, main charge, crest, or supporter on a suitable field for a Standard.

I'd suggest using the ensign of the Kingdom/Country/Branch/Personage/Group in question as first choice for next to the hoist followed by a fielded populace badge as a second choice if their were no ensign. If only a fieldless populace badge were existent, then I'd select a tincture that would contrast with it, whether metal or colour, from either your own armoury or that of theirs. The big thing is that you want to keep things Identifiable.

Duck and Bunny Standard

The Field to Fly

The rest of the field is also up to you. Traditionally it is made of one or two tinctures drawn from the main tinctures of your arms. Typically in time a person will decide on two tinctures from their device for use in their torse and mantling either actually, as a fighter or symbolically for a heraldic achievement. The colours could be one or two tinctures from the field. If there are two colours the field will be split horizontally. The reason for this is probably more than just tradition. Due to the whipping action of the wind on the long thin Standard the fly end of the standard will tatter and fray and bits will fly off. If pieces of fabric were sewn together with vertical seams the standard might come apart at the seams with panels ripping off. This is something I have noted happening on occasion with large Canadian flags. With large ones after a storm often the red panel on the fly end will have ripped away.

The field very often can be divided into panels by diagonal bands on which the motto is written. For strength reasons I believe the bands are sewn onto the field rather than being extra panels of the field.

Better Duck Standard

The Charges

The choice of what goes onto the Standard is something that I think can be a bit of fun. There are very many choices a person can validly make. Obviously a person should use their badge if they have one, perhaps the charges from their device as well and crests and supporters find their way onto a Standard. As already mentioned a motto is quite common as something to place on a Standard. It can be placed on diagonal bands that subdivide the field of the Standard into compartments or might run the length of the Standard becoming the major focal point of the Standard.

I think that a person might find room on their Standard for things that they might not have been able to register on their device for one reason or other, perhaps a charge that is not allowed. Although I would not recommend doing so if this is because the charge is disallowed because it is deemed offensive by a significant segment of the population. There is nothing stopping you from painting a portrait of your ship or your favourite Saint or Cathedral. I'm not 100% sure that the ship or cathedral were ever done in period, but I think I've seen such at some time.

More typically a person would repeat their badge a number of times down the Standard at a large enough size to be readily recognizable with their motto on bands between.

A person can have more than one Standard I am sure though you might not want to run more than one when you marched into battle unless you had a large body of men to rally behind you.

Fringe Benefits

Very commonly Standards had fringes or borders. The border or fringe would be either a solid colour or alternating bands of the colours of the field or field and charges. The borders also could be "compony", that is a double row of alternating checks of two colours.

Better Duck with Fringe Standard

Some Rules

Well it seems there are many flexibilities with designing Standards. I have motioned many things that a person might incorporate into the design of their Standard. There are a few things to keep in mind though. There are certain symbols used in the SCA that you shouldn't use unless you are entitled to them. You should ask a Herald about your design for guidance before settling on any design or in the process of making your design. I'm not going into a discussion on all of them here. There is also something called sumptuary rules. They are different in different Kingdoms and likely some Principalities or even smaller Branches have their own. Sumptuary rules are rules that people socially agree to follow and agree are in bad taste to break. Though they might be set down at some level in the SCA as by Royalty rather than simply be traditional.

With regards to putting things on a Standard, some Kingdoms have had very strict rules on who can do what. In fact in some Kingdoms not everybody could have a Standard! They ruled that you need to have a certain rank to be able to have a pennon, or a banner, or a gonfalon, or Standard, etc. We don't do that here in An Tir, and I believe that the Kingdoms that did that have been changing away from that as well simply because of how much encouragement of heraldic display adds to our SCA environment.

However we do have rules dealing with parts of the heraldic achievement people are allowed. For example: Until you have an Award of Arms you are not allowed to have a helm on your achievement. Basically before you are armigerous you are allowed to have your heraldic device on a shield and your motto. You may also have a compartment for the shield to sit on and a scroll for the motto to be written on. With the Award of Arms you also have the right to a torse and mantling. If you achieve the rank of a Grant of Arms you are allowed to add a Crest on the helm on your achievement. Further if you attain a Patent of Arms you are allowed to have supporters for your device.

Of course until you attain the appropriate rank where you are entitled to have them, it would not be appropriate to add them recognisably as such to your standard. Of course if you have as a badge, a four-winged pheasant, it would be all right to use it on your Standard even if you would in future use the same four winged pheasant as your crest and at the moment aren't entitled to a crest.

Duck and Bunny with Motto Standard

The Fly at the End

In conclusion, the Standard is something that you can have a lot of fun designing. It looks impressive and adds a lot to the atmosphere of an encampment or event. You can design a Standard even before your device has passed as long as you have a sound idea of what you will be having on your device because the specifics of your device are not necessary to the design of the Standard.

The Standard is not something that you design and then register with the College of Arms of the SCA. It is something that you personally do. Of course it would not be a good idea to tread on someone's toes by designing a Standard that is offensive to significant segment of the population, nor would it be appropriate to presume someone's registered device by having your Standard appear to say their arms are yours or that you belong to something that you do not.

So have fun and set a standard by designing a Standard for yourself!

About the Fictitious Example Standards

The fictitious standards used in this article are based on the heraldry of a person who lives and feels allegiance to the Kingdom of An Tir. Their device has as its primary charge a gold duck and their badge has a gold rabbit. Their field is divided diagonally per bend into green and blue halves. Please note that this is fictitious and has not been checked to see if it conflicts with any known device or badge. In fact it is as if the person were still in the position of registering their device and badge. They still might have to make changes, but they will be keeping the tinctures vert, azure, and Or. There motto is "Better Duck!" which can be taken in more than one way. Sometimes the pointed and split ends whether pointed or rounded have been reserved for higher ranks so the single unsplit rounded end was chosen for the examples.

With this Standard the designer decided to stick with just one of the colours of the field. They chose to use the use the Ensign of An Tir in this and the following sample Standards. In this Standard the main charge and badge are simply repeated down the fly.
With this example Standard they stuck with just a single instance of the gold duck but added their motto running down the fly. They also added a border of gold around the whole Standard. They might have also done a fringe instead or alternated green and gold or gold and blue. The could also have used a compony pattern.
For this example the two colours of the field were used. Note that although on their chose device the field division is a diagonal on their shield, for the Standard they have divided the fly horizontally. This is for reasons of wear and tear with the end whipping in the wind and possibly fraying. This design again uses the main charge of the golden duck and the motto. While often mottos can be in Latin, it is perfectly fine to have a motto in English or whatever language the person understood. Often Latin was a language the educated knew.
This example Standard includes the two coloured fly and both the ducks and a bunny. The motto is included on diagonal stripes which was commonly done. The diagonal stripes would probably have been sewn onto the background so as not to weaken the Standard.

It was pointed out to me the proper order for the words on the bends with the motto in this English style of doing the motto. The first words would be on the bend closest the hoist. Previously I had reversed the order of the words so it read "Duck! Better" But it is now corrected.

This example standard uses the An Tir Populace Badge rather than the Ensign for varieties sake as well as using the split ground or field in the fly.

(...and if anyone finds the combination of duck and bunny to be familiar sounding and wonder if there is any connection with a certain person who would regal courts with tales of the Bunny and the Duck. There is. Sir Gerhard Kendal who passed away last December would often encourage new fighters to come up with heraldic devices so they would not be fighting with "plywood proper". He is someone who touched many lives.)

Standard with incorrect ensign.

Standard showing corrected ensign.

Note of correction:

Inadvertently when I first posted this issue of "The Heretical Herald" I used "Checky Or and argent, a bordure sable." for the An Tir Ensign instead of the proper "Checky Or and argent, a dexter tierce sable." which it is supposed to be. Thanks go to Signora Beatrice Domenici della Campana, once Dextor Gauntlet Herald for An Tir, for pointing out my error.

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Standard Links

Here is a list of a number of pages and sites which have interesting information on Heraldic Display with a special eye on information pertaining to the Standard. There is also information on other similar items like Banners, Pinsils, Pennons, Gonfalons, Guidons, Banners, Ensigns and the like.

Links on Standards and Heraldic Display

An Tir College of Heralds: Heraldic Display

Medieval Flags and Banners
Standards and Pinsils and Pennons, Oh My!: A Cursory Glance at Medieval Flags and Banners
By Donna Hrynkiw

A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry by James Parker: Flag (First published in 1894)

Guidelines for Construction of Banners, Flags, and Standards
Kingdom of Meridies Guidelines for Construction of Banners, Flags and Standards
By Master Johannes the Black of the Athanor

College of Arms
8. The granting of arms
c) standards and badges

An Tir College of Heralds: Heraldic Display
By Dame Zenobia Naphtali

Heraldic Display
by Miklós Sándorfia

Heraldic Display in the SCA
The Honourable Falko von der Weser (Kingdom of Atenveldt)
(a very nice page)

Armorial Display:
Banners, Standards, and Heaters, Oh My!
The Honourable Lord Eldred Ælfwald, Gordian Knot Herald

An Tir: Achievements
Compiled and composed by The Honourable Torric inn Bjorn, May XXVIII/1993
Edited and Revised by Elizabeth Braidwood, and Frederic Badger, May XXXIV/1999

Modar's Heraldry Page (Articles): Heraldic Display
Links from Modar Neznanich's Site

SCA examples of Standards and their Design

Heraldic Display in Ar n-Eilean-ne
by Miklós Sándorfia

For Interest

Flags at Heraldic Funerals

Flying Heraldry

Custom Flag Design Rules Flag - Regal Flags
(a lot of the stuff doesn't apply, but a lot of the design and construction stuff does apply to designing a Standard.)

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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.