Assorted Lessons in SCA Heraldry

Edited By Jaelle of Armida. (mka Judy Gerjuoy)

Devices vs. badges

This lesson discuss badges and devices and what the distinction between them means.

The glossary defines a badge as:
A piece of armory used by an individual or group to identify possessions, retainers, members, or other items. A badge is distinguished from a device, which is used solely by its owner.

A device is defined as:
A heraldic design that uniquely represents the person or group that owns it. A person who has not been awarded arms may register personal armory as a device. This device will become arms when the person is awarded arms.

Your device represents you. It does not signify association or ownership, but rather your presence. If you have a banner with your device on it, that banner should not be displayed unless you are actually present. For example, at Pennsic, your banner should be taken down when you leave camp and raised when you return.

Group arms are treated similarly. For Kingdoms, Principalities, and Baronies, the arms of the group (the one with the laurel wreath) should only be displayed if the Crown, Coronet, or Baron (ess) is present. No other person is permitted to display the arms of the group. Note, however, that a herald functioning as a representative of the ruling noble may properly wear the arms of that group while speaking as the voice of the ruling noble. When done with the duty, the herald should remove the tabard.

For groups without a ruling noble (Shires, Cantons, Colleges, etc.), the seneschal must be present if the arms are to be displayed. The seneschal of a barony may not display the baronial arms on their own.

Where does this leave you if the ruling noble is not present? That is one of the purposes of badges.

Most groups have one or more badges for general use by the populace. If you see someone sporting a white seahorse with blue fins, you know that this person is claiming allegiance with Atlantia. If you see a white, double-headed phoenix, you think "Sacred Stone". And so on. Badges indicate association. SCA groups are strongly encouraged to have a populace badge registered.

Groups, in this context, also include unofficial groups, such as households, guilds, and other associations. For example, the household Clan Cambion has a badge, Sable, a baton sinister argent, a bordure compony sable and argent. If you see the black flag with the white squares around the edge and a white stripe, that's them.

Badges are used to indicate membership in an order, such as the Order of the Pearl (On an escallop inverted azure a plate.). The Queen's Guard bears Two tridents crossed in saltire argent surmounted by an escallop erminois.

Badges can be used to denote a specific office, such as the exchequer (Azure, a pale checky gules and argent between six bezants in pale three and three.), which is a Society level badge for exchequers at all levels. Another example: Two tridents in saltire surmounted by a unicornate natural seahorse erect argent. which is the badge of the Atlantian War Leader. Some badges are meant to be borne by only one person at any given time. However, they do not signify the person, but the office.

Some people prefer to have an alternate persona formally registered. This alternate persona would naturally not bear the same arms as the primary persona; otherwise they would be claiming to be the same person. This armory is used as if it was a device, but since the Administrative Handbook specifically allow only one device per name, this second piece of armory must be registered as a badge.

Now to shift the focus a bit.

Badges come in two basic styles: fielded and fieldless. Fielded badges look remarkably like devices, except that they are normally submitted on a roundel instead of an escutcheon.

Fieldless badges better resemble the period badge when used to indicate affiliation. For example, the Earls of Stafford used the Stafford Knot (your basic pretzel) as a badge. You might find the badge on the coaches, the saddles, the plates and silver, the coachmen, etc. This badge had nothing whatever to do with the arms of the Staffords, which are Or, a chevron gules.

Note that many of the badges cited above are fieldless.

In period mundane practice, fieldless badges are almost always a single charge, possibly charged with a cadency mark, such as a crescent or a mullet. Most of the rest were charges conjoined, such as a crescent with an estoile resting in the "cup", or the bear and ragged staff of Neville.

In the SCA, the fieldless badges must form a connected design. One way to think about it is that you should be able to cast the design in a mold without it falling apart.

For example, two swords in saltire is acceptable. Two swords palewise in fess are not. Two swords in chevron conjoined at the tips is not. Two swords in chevron crossed at the tips is ok.

Given that fieldless badges are a "good thing", the rules have a clause meant to encourage them. That is the rule that grants an automatic CD for fieldlessness even against other fieldless armory.

To summarize:

The device represents the specific individual, while the badge represents a group, office, or other affiliation or association.

Devices should only be displayed when the owner is present.

Badges may be displayed at any time.

"Devices" for alternate personas are registered as badges.

Badges may be fieldless. Devices must have a field.

Fieldless badges must stick together; they are granted a "free" CD for conflict purposes.

Try your hand at some exercises.

1. The seneschal of the Barony of Sacred Foorde arrives at an event and sets up her pavilion. She hangs a banner with the arms of Sacred Foorde from a pole. Is this OK?

2. A household wishes to register a badge. Their proposed badge is: Three tankards of ale argent. Is this registerable (ignoring any possible conflict)?

3. The shire of Ponte Basso does not have a badge registered. Instead, the populace display the arms without the laurel wreath. Is this ok?

4. Newly knighted Sir Rudolph is gathering his household together. He provides tabards for his squires that bear his arms. Is it ok for his squires to wear these tabards?

5. Lady Anne wishes to register as her arms Two needles crossed in saltire argent, overall a spool of thread gules. What will happen to this submission?

6. At the baronial encampment of Bright Mountain, their Excellencies have the baronial arms on a flagpole. When should the arms be flying and when should they be taken down?

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Armory content written by Herveus d"Ormonde (mka Michael Houghton)
Name content written by Jaelle of Armida (mka Judy Gerjuoy)
Web layout, design, and additional editing by Frederic Badger (mka Brander Roullett)