March 10, 1981 A.S. XV

TO: The Members of the College of Arms

FROM: Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel, Laurel King of Arms


Enclosed is the Letter of Acceptances and Rejections for March. Out of 102 submissions considered, 73 passed and 29 were rejected. I was pleased to see that most members of the mailing list are commenting. The only ones who have not commented in the last three months are five of the newer members. The following members have one month to comment on Letters of Intent: Arwyn Antarae, Donalbain Matague, Eadwine Bocce Sele, Peregrynne Windrider, and Salaamallah the Corpulent. If I have not received a Letter of Comment from them by my next meeting on April 18, I shall remove them from the mailing list. Please add to the mailing list Keridwen of Montrose, Fretty Pursuivant (Margaret Foster, 1400 Central S.E. #8, Albuquerque, NM 87106). Let me remind all of you that I still want a list of those names of royal houses and a list of special charges and badges which you think should be restricted or forbidden for SCA use.

Having heard no negative comments, I hereby rule that groups (territorial branches, offices, guilds, clans, brotherhoods, etc.) that are not personal households may not make use of names or words or languages from fantasy sources in the name of the group. Specifically, a group name may not make use of the languages of Middle Earth. If a name or word is used both in a fantasy source and in the real world, then this prohibition will not apply. Instead, the name or word will be judged on the basis of its usage in the real world. This prohibition applies to words that come from fantasy and are not or were not used in the real world. This prohibition also applies to new coined words made from words or languages from fantasy. An example of this is a newly coined word using elements of Sindarin, the elven language from Middle Earth. Please note that all of this refers to groups. This does not in any way restrict the use of words or names from fantasy for use by individuals or for the names of personal households.

In reply to questions about seals, seals used by heralds are a method of displaying the heralds' badge of the crossed trumpets in a simple or fancy manner in such a manner as to allow the affixing of this badge upon documents. The real purpose is to indicate the official approval of the heralds of the document by affixing the heralds' badge to the document. The elaborations added to the seal around the crossed trumpets is up to you to decide upon for individual seals. If you want to indicate that the seal was used by a specific heraldic office, then an annulet with the name of the office can be placed around the badge, or another charge can be added to represent the office, or a scroll can be added. As long as the crossed trumpets are the centerpiece of the seal, the seal is a heraldic one. It is not necessary to register a seal in order to use it. In the Middle Ages seals were common. The designs of the seals were not registered. Only the arms appearing in the seals were registered. Generally seals are too fancy or complex to be registered as a badge. If you want to do so, you can register a seal for a heraldic office. Pay the appropriate fee (it's not free, as it is not officially required) and submit the appropriate forms. The seal must have the crossed trumpets as the main charge and must be simple enough to qualify as a badge. Seals are normally registered tinctureless, as that is how they are used. If you register a badge for use as a seal, do not include the annulet with the name of the office, as that does not need to be registered to be used and just clutters up the blazon. There is a limit to the size of blazons the computerized ordinary can handle. In order to prevent a flood of seals, I hereby restrict the registration of seals for use as official heraldic seals to titled Heralds and Principal Heralds.

I have been asked about the right of barons to display the baronial arms with their own. Barons and baronesses are not allowed to bear the arms of their baronies in any form on their personal arms unless the king has granted them those specific arms as an augmentation, either permanently or for the duration of their office. A king could grant all barons and baronesses the right to so display the baronial arms as an augmentation for the duration of their tenure as baron and baroness, but it would have to be written into kingdom law. Barons do have the right to bear and display the baronial arms by themselves when acting in the capacity of baron. If a baron is leading his forces into battle, it is quite proper for him to wear a surcoat with the arms of the barony on it. He could also bear his arms on his shield, and therefore display both at the same time, but in separate locations. A baron can fly the banner of the arms of the barony instead of or next to his own banner, but cannot fly a single banner with both arms on it. All of this also applies to princes and kings as well.

It was a standard practice in period European heraldry to create new monsters by combining pieces of common animals. The College of Arms allows the use of those monsters created before 1601 and allows the creation of new monsters in this fashion by Society members. These monsters must be made from pieces of common animals known to Europe in our period. The use of highly unusual or unknown animals is not allowed. Thus one could not make an animal out of a platypus's head, a gnu's body, a coelacanth's tail, and the legs of a penguin. The College has from time to time allowed the registration of new monsters created out of whole cloth that are not blazonable as parts of common animals. These are exceptions treated on a case-by-case basis. The College often assigns a new name to these new monsters rather than listing them as a long combination of various parts of animals (e.g., the Bog Beast). At this time, the College refuses to register as out of period those monsters which were created between the years 1601 and 1966, even if they are completely in keeping with and compatible with period usage. The College does not allow them either under their actual name or as a list of parts of animals. Thus, if you create a new monster out of pieces of animals that has never been thought of before, it is acceptable, but if it turns out that somebody else thought of it in 1758, then it is not allowed.

The College has also ruled that out-of-period names for charges that themselves are in period may be used if those names are the ones the charges are commonly known by. An example is the fur, pean. The word "pean" is out of period, but the fur was used in period. As there is no other name for it except the cumbersome form of Sable, ermined Or, the out-of-period name of pean was excepted for use. All of this leads us to the question that has been raised several times.

Shall we allow the use of monsters made from combinations of common animals which were invented after 1601 which are compatible with those created before 1601? If so, shall we allow the use of the names which were assigned to them when they were created? To answer yes is to increase the number of good heraldic monsters that may be used as charges at the cost of a weakening of the 1601 cutoff rule. To answer no is to avoid weakening the 1600 rule, to forbid these monsters, but to leave the contradiction that newly-created monsters, which are by definition out of period, may be used, but 300-year-old monsters may not be used. To maintain the ban but to eliminate the inherent contradiction would mean forbidding the creation of new monsters, a popular and very in-period practice. I put these questions to the College to decide on. What do you think about this matter?

Brigantia has brought to my attention the matter of the use of counter-something instead of something-contourné, where something refers to a heraldic position. In the days of Mistress Karinats tenure as Laurel, the usage for an animal facing to sinister was changed from contourné to the counter-something form, such as counter-passant instead of passant contourné. This was done because Mistress Karina was told that contourné applied only to rampant to sinister, not to the other positions. She therefore decided to use counter instead, thinking the two terms to be essentially the same. In order to not be using two different terms, it was decided that rampant contourné should also become counter-rampant. Thus an animal turned to the sinister became counter-X, where X is the position. A charge that is not an animal, such as a ship, that is turned to the sinister was termed reversed.

Brigantia has pointed out that this is all wrong historically. I have checked all of my references and they all agree with Brigantia that an animal turned to face sinister is contourné. (The plural of contourné is contournés, so two lions passant to sinister are blazoned as two lions passant contournés.)

Furthermore, Brigantia states, and my references agree, that the term counter has an entirely different meaning. It applies to situations when you have two or more animals going in opposite directions. An example would be "in pale two lions passant, the lion in base passant to sinister." The correct term for this is "in pale two lions counter-passant." (Before, we would have blazoned this as "in pale a lion passant and a lion counter-passant.") If you had four lions in pale, the first and third passant and the second and fourth passant contourné, then you would have "in pale four lions counter-passant." If you have two lions in pale with the lion in chief passant contourné and the lion in base passant, then you have "in pale two lions counter-passant contourné" (i.e., reversed).

Inasmuch as all of the heraldic sources agree that this is correct usage, I hereby adopt it. From now on, an animal turned to face sinister is contourny. Note that, consistent with my previous decision, I shall use the English form of contourny instead of the French contourné. This avoids the problem of contourné versus contournés for one or two charges, as contourny applies no matter how many charges are involved. I also rule that counter-X shall now be used in its correct usage, when there are two or more animals moving in opposite directions. Please note that animal's head that is couped and turned to face to sinister is now "couped contourny." Charges that are not animals or animal heads (and for purposes of this rule, humans are animals) still use reversed if turned to the sinister. Master Renfield will change the blazons in the Ordinary and Armorial to conform to this new correct usage. I am well aware that this change will cause confusion, but I am convinced that switching to the correct period usage will be better in the long run than continuing an incorrect usage that is contradicted by all of the standard heraldic references.

Master Renfield Wanderscribe, Clarion King of Arms, is now working on a program to produce a list of SCA names cross-referenced by all of the words appearing in the name other than prepositions, patronymics, and the like. This would have such things as a listing for the name Mary, under which are listed the full SCA names which contain the word Mary in them somewhere. I will complete in the near future a compiled listing of all orders and heraldic titles in use in the SCA, listed both by kingdom and alphabetically. I am still working on the lists of translated titles. I welcome translations into languages which I have not covered yet. I have now sent out the heraldic questionnaires to every herald on the rosters which you sent me. When the results are finally in, I will send each Principal Herald a summary of the results from his or her kingdom.

If anybody knows of a heraldic practice that we use that is contradicted by the heraldic references, let me know. We have deliberately adopted some of them in full knowledge of the contradiction because it was to our advantage to do so, but some of them have crept in unnoticed and should be re-examined. When we register a person's submission we register the Society name and the emblazon. These will not be changed no matter how we change our rules in later years. However, the blazon of the submission is subject to change at any time that we change our rules. This is a result of the fact that we have not yet learned all there is to know about period heraldry and transferred that knowledge into our rules. As we learn more, we are forced from time to time to change our rules.

I remain, My Lords and Ladies,

Your servant,


Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel

Laurel King of Arms