December 4, 1982 A.S. XVII
TO: The Members of the College of Arms
FROM: Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel, Laurel King of Arms
Enclosed is November's LoA&R with 170 acceptances (a new record!) and 84 rejections, totaling 224 actions. This produces a total for the last two meetings of 466 actions. Since I took office on July 1, 1979, this office has processed a total of 5103 acceptances and rejections. It's been busy. December's workload looks to be a more normal one, and January's may be rather light. This means you should have an easier time during the holidays with regard to comments. My December meeting will be on Sunday the 19th at which time I will process the following 6 LoIs: Atlantia (8/31) Meridies (9/9), Middle (9/10), An Tir (9/18), Ansteorra (9/20), and West (9/28). The following meeting will be on January 16, 1983, at which time I will process the following 6 LoIs: East (9/25(, East (9/26), Atenveldt (9/30), Caid (10/3), Caid (10/19), and West (10/24). The subsequent meeting will be on February 11, 1983 at which time I will process the following 7 LoIs: Meridies/Trimaris (10/8), Meridies/Trimaris (10/9), Meridies/Trimaris (10/18), An Tir (11/3), Meridies/Trimaris (11/7), Caid (11/11), and Middle (11/15). There may be more LoIs from the end of November that I have not yet received.
There are a number of changes to the mailing list. The new Oaken Herald is Vasilij iz Naitenmeshoi Dollina (James Kubajak, 5390 West 220th Street, Fairview Park, OH 44126). Dolphin Herald's new address is 5450 Stanton Avenue, #C, Buena Park, CA 90621. Pale Herald's correct address is 612 West Church, #23, Champaign, IL 61820. Ensign Pursuivant's address is 813-C West St. Augustine, Tallahassee, FL 32304. Triton, Pennon, and Schwarzdrachen are three months behind on commenting and need to send out an LoC. I am adding Blue Tyger back to the mailing list. He was never delinquent. An LoC was hand-delivered at the Meridies Symposium, but was misplaced in the usual confusion of a long trip. I extend to Lord Cinhil my profound apologies.
I now have up-to-date price quotes for past symposium proceedings. The cost for this year's Meridies Symposium Proceedings is $4 and for last year's Caerthan Symposium Proceedings is $7. Both prices include book-rate postage. Send orders for the Meridies proceedings to Mistress Oreta, the Pennon Herald, and orders for the Caerthan proceedings to the SCA Stock Clerk at the SCA Registry.
Duke Siegfried von Höflichkeit, the CoA Ombudsman on the Board of Directors, has asked me to inform you that the BoD is currently reviewing the financial situation of the SCA. This includes the question of paying a salary to the Steward and to any other officer(s), the raising of the subscription fee, and the requirement of membership to participate in the SCA. The BoD has gone to seven members, with Master Geoffrey d'Ayr being made a permanent member. They are soliciting nominations for the vacant seventh seat. The Board has gone to bimonthly meetings to reduce the annual cost of flying in distant Board members to the SCA headquarters for Board meetings. The Board is considering increased representation on the Board for outlying kingdoms, increased efficiency, and is reviewing costs. A number of revisions of Corpora are being considered to clean up ambiguities and/or omissions. One of these is the question of whether a Sovereign can remove an award or membership in an order from an individual and, if so, under what conditions and procedures. If you have any comments on these matters and/or the questions the Board has sent out to the newsletters, then write them a letter. They are anxious to receive feedback from the SCA membership.
I would like to remind everybody to be sure to follow the Administrative Guidelines I sent out last spring. If your office does not have a copy, let me know and I will send you one. Please note that all checks sent to me should be made payable to the College of Arms. The first recipient of the Duke Siegfried Papworth Fund, in September, was the Beacon Principal Herald. November's recipient of His Grace's bimonthly generosity will be Oertha. Their copy of Papworth should arrive in January. (The January recipient will be the Solar Herald.) I would like to remind everybody to send me your work phone numbers if you are willing to be called at work. I am trying to consult more frequently with College members and I often find it easier to call than to write them. I have a tie-line at work, and so if I know a member's work phone, I am able to call for free. (The tie-line is a flat fee, and so these calls cost my employer nothing.)
The ruling on heralds registering their names and titled heralds registering their devices is now in effect. I leave the enforcement up to the Principal and Principality Heralds. Feel free to delay full enforcement until the current heralds have had enough time to submit. Tell them that the rule is in force and leave it up to their honor to do so. After another three months, you could bug those who have not, and then in three more months you could enforce it. The intent here is not to fire heralds but to get them to set a good example for the populace by submitting their own names and devices.
I have just finished a massive reorganization of the old Laurel files. I now have all correspondence for each kingdom in separate binders in chronological order. If any Principal Herald wants copies of letters s/he is missing, s/he can either send me a list of what is missing or a list of what is in the files in kingdom. (As Master Baldwin already knows, the old files are interesting to read.)
As a correction to last month's letter, I am informed that the armigerous dog belongs to Master Ivan du'Grae, not Sir Ton the Traveler. The AoA was given before the new Corpora was printed. Under the old Corpora, the award was legal, and that AoA stands. What I said about the current Corpora is still true. Sovereigns today can only give Awards of-Arms to people, not animals or objects.
There has been some trouble in the past with people sending me letters and not copying their Principal Herald. I would like all Principality and regional heralds, when they send a letter to me, to send a copy to their Principal Herald. If you must send a confidential letter, indicate that it is so. I am trying to always check with a Principal Herald on any action request that involves his/her kingdom. If somebody sends me a letter asking for some response and a copy was not sent to the Principal Herald, then any response will be delayed while I check with that Principal Herald.
Now we come to a very important topic. Let me begin with some history. Back at the 1979 Conclave, the assembled College of Arms, in addition to eliminating the backlog, discussed and formulated the Rules for Heraldic Submissions as they had arisen over the life of the SCA. During my first year in office, we then proceeded to get the CoA properly organized and functioning and put those rules into effect. Some problems with them were noted and we spent the next year in a thorough discussion of those rules. The rewritten Rules for Heraldic Submissions were published in the Winter issue of T.I. earlier this year. In those rules we covered most of the situations that one comes across regularly. Not all possibilities could be covered, so the Rules were basically guidelines to follow, not laws laid down in concrete. The Rules were written in English, not legalese. The interpretations of the Rules would follow. Two rules were deliberately left vague because we did not at the time know enough to draft them more precisely.
These were the rules concerning period style for devices and badges, and compatibility with period naming practices for Society names. I am now editing the Names Pamphlet, which will give us guidelines for proper naming practices in most of the languages we deal in. In order to settle some of the other name questions, I have been raising various questions on names, such as household-name rules, the use of name diminutives, and the use of widely separated languages. I needed the answers to these so I could write the Rules section for the Names Pamphlet. However, as yet we have no good guidelines for what constitutes good or bad period style for devices and badges.
In the past the College has spent a lot of time and effort deciding what our goals in heraldry should be and what style of heraldry we wish to achieve and promote. We operated under the theory that, in order to achieve these goals, we had to draw a line between those things that were in accordance with those goals and those that were not, and reject the latter. While straightforward in theory, this has proved difficult in practice. Principal Heralds have the advantage that, if they are not sure on something, they can send it on to me. I do not have that privilege. "The buck stops here," to quote Harry Truman.
In some areas there is no problem drawing a line. The requirement that a name be less than 50 characters is easy to enforce. The requirement that all names and devices not be demonstrably out of period is mandated in the SCA Articles of Incorporation, which puts the scope of the SCA as pre-17th century Western culture. The Board of Directors has re-affirmed that 1600 is the cutoff. At the October 10, 1982 meeting, the Board, in its printed minutes, said the following: "A. New World Personas. This was a question to what degree New World personas are permissible. Such personas are outside the scope of the Society except as visitors to pre-17th century Western culture." For devices and badges, the Rule of Tincture is fairly easy to apply. We have extended it to include proper so as to read, as a rule of thumb, "Don't put dark on dark or light on light."
Unfortunately, other areas are not so clear. In particular are the two cases I mentioned before, period style in devices and in names. Sometimes the verdict is clear. Other times it is difficult to say if the submission is acceptable. It is not what we are used to seeing in period sources, but it may not be so different as to be completely unacceptable. Without clear guidelines, we must look to period sources. Unfortunately, then we run up against the fact that our references often disagree as to what period practices were. In our period, there were variations in style from country to country and century to century. There were arms made that violated the rules. At least in armory there were organized bodies of heralds attempting to regulate the field. In the case of names there wasn't even that. Each country had naming practices that came about from tradition or from various edicts. Some exceptions did occur, but these were not random changes. Those members who send in carefully researched names and devices that are in clear accordance with period practices usually sail through, if their submissions don't conflict. The real problems come with those who want to try something out of the ordinary, something different, unique, or original.
Given the growth curve of the SCA, we are and will be faced with the problem that a significant fraction of the membership consists of new members who have not had a chance to become sufficiently informed about SCA practices and period styles. Many of these new members come from fantasy, science fiction, or gaming circles. When they see the neat banners and Society names others use, they may decide to submit their own. often they incorporate elements from their previous interests, and so we get lots of elvish or made-up names, with unusual armorial designs. Frequently these are rejected. In many cases, the submittor then takes time to consult with the heralds and also gains experience with SCA practices and later resubmits a much better submission. In other cases, the submittor gets mad and either doesn't resubmit or resubmits another submission that is bad or worse.
The College of Arms is also caught in the middle of the long-standing and on-going conflict between those members of the SCA who want to stress authenticity in all things in the SCA and those who want to stress fantasy and originality. I believe the authenticists to be a majority, but we cannot run roughshod over the significant minority that believes in the fantasy and originality aspects. I have been informed that there is considerable feeling in some kingdoms that the College has gone too far, too fast in imposing the tightened rules on the populace without adequate prior heraldic education of the membership. You can all be the judge of whether such discontent exists in your area. We clearly do not want to acquire a negative image in the minds of the general membership. We are a service office, here to help the membership achieve a better enjoyment of the SCA through the promotion of good heraldry. On the one hand, we don't want to make people unhappy by rejecting too many submissions and, on the other hand, we do not want to abandon our hard-won heraldic goals as expressed in the Rules for Heraldic Submissions printed in T.I.
I myself have been plagued by the problems in maintaining consistency when constantly faced with new charges, names, and arrangements never before seen or foreseen. These are constantly pushing the Rules to their limits, providing test case after test case. Many times I do not have the answer and must rely on the counsel of the College. Depending on who comments and on their personal views, the collective opinion of the College can and does change from submission to submission, as is often the case with a committee decision, which can lead me to be inconsistent overall. There is also the problem of remembering what, if anything, has been done previously for each case, when there is no collected set of guidelines or precedents list. I hope Master Baldwin's eagerly awaited Precedents of the CoA will remedy that problem, but we still need a set of guidelines for handling things not yet encountered.
I have made it a personal policy to call up the Principal Heralds when I have a question that concerns their jurisdiction, and I have talked this matter over with a number of them recently. I have come to the following conclusion: what is needed is a two-part solution. The first step is to draft a set of guidelines that can be handed out to heralds and non-heralds on what is good SCA heraldic style. Rather than trying to force everything to conform with period heraldic style, which isn't as well-defined as we would like, we should discuss and define good SCA heraldic style so we will have specified style in print for others to consult. This would, of course, be heavily based upon period style, but would allow us to add in some of the elements of armorial style in print for others to consult. This would, of course, be heavily based upon period style, but would allow us to add in some of the elements of armorial style that have become traditional in the SCA. For example, in period heraldry an ordinary was often placed between a set of identical charges. In the SCA it is common to see an ordinary placed between a set of different charges. The arrangements are the same.
In drafting the guidelines on SCA armorial style, we can better specify and explain to the rest of the SCA what the College is looking for in arms, devices, and badges. By making the guidelines available to all, say, by publishing them in the newsletters or in T.I., the College can help the membership come to understand the style of heraldry we are trying to promote, with the hoped-for result that new submissions will more and more come to follow those guidelines. Eventually, most of the arms and devices in the SCA will conform to those guide- lines and we will have achieved our goal of promoting good heraldry. (Such is the hope.)
These guidelines would consist of things like default and standard positions for charges, standard arrangements of charges, guidelines on contrast and complexity, guidelines on the use of proper, and an explanation on the rules of difference and avoiding conflicts. These guidelines could also be included in the SCA Herald's Handbook. This would be a very positive action that would be of great use to everybody, both heralds and non-heralds.
The second step is to realize that there is a grey zone between what is good and what is totally undesirable. This grey zone consists of those submissions which are not good style or are in poor taste, but are not actually offensive or do not actually violate the rules. Examples here are devices which are cluttered, but not too cluttered, or have poor balance but are not completely unbalanced. It would not do any real harm to pass these, so long as we could do so without jeopardizing our goals. In the past, when we operated on a yes/no basis, we were in the position where accepting something meant endorsing it. This has led us to become somewhat over-strict in processing submissions, with the resulting protests from the membership, in order to maintain our heraldic goals.
I propose that we draw up a list of "discouraged" practices. These are those armorial or naming practices that we are trying to discourage (for specified reasons) because they are not in accordance with the good style we are trying to promote in names, arms, devices, and badges. These are practices that do not actually violate the Rules for Submissions as printed in T.I. but which come close to doing so. These are the submissions that bother heralds or reasons they can't quite specify. Instead of having to either accept them and therefore give them our seal of approval or else reject them entirely, I propose that we add a third category of action. In addition to approval or rejection, we would also have the action of referring the submission back to the submittor.
A submission which fell into the "discourage" category would be sent back to the submittor with an explanation on why it was being discouraged and advice and suggestions as to how it could be improved so as to be fully consistent with our desired SCA heraldic style. This would happen at the local, regional, and kingdom level. By the time the Principal Herald sent the submission on to the College of Arms, it would have either been corrected or the submittor would have indicated that s/he wants exactly what s/he has submitted, with no changes. The person would have been given plenty Of information and opportunity to change his/ her mind and improve the submission. Many people, given such an opportunity, will indeed correct errors and improve the submissions. Having done their best to educate and inform the submittors, the Principal Heralds then would send on to the CoA those submissions which did not violate the rules.
The College of Arms, and ultimately myself, is then in the position of determining if the submission violates the rules, is acceptable, or falls into the "discourage" category. Only those that violate the rules would be rejected, and thus all rejections would have clear reasons for their rejections. Those that fell into the "discourage" category would be accepted with an accompanying statement explaining why they were discouraged and how they could be improved.
The submittor would feel good at seeing the submission approved and would thus be in a better frame of mind to listen to the college's advice. As most SCA members really do want to do things right, many will ultimately decide to take our advice and improve the submission. There will always be those who won't, but the College will have made sure that all of the submissions which are truly objectionable and would therefore detract from other members' enjoyment of the SCA are rejected, and so the submissions that are not improved will do no real harm. The Armorial will become just a list of registered names, arms, devices, and badges. it will not be a list of what the College wants to see.
What we want to see will be specified in the guidelines. Accepting a submission with an accompanying statement that it includes an undesirable practice would not constitute an endorsement of that practice. What I am asking all of you to do is to write down your opinions on what is good armorial style, what things should be discouraged, and what must be rejected that is not already forbidden by the Rules for Submission. These Rules, as printed in TI plus our subsequent changes, will remain in force. Begin with them as a start. What we are concerned with is the interpretation and implementation of those rules in specific cases. In particular we are concerned with the two vague rules on period armorial style and consistency with period naming practices.
Here is your golden opportunity to list all of those things which have bothered you because they have been done to death or are bad style or are otherwise irritating. This is also your chance to list those things which you do like and wish to see more of. This is not a rewrite of our rules. When I have received all your responses I will collate them together with my own views to come up with a set of guidelines that will be a supplement to the Rules for Submissions. Next month I will send out a compiled list of all changes and additions we have made to the Rules since they were sent to TI. Please try to get your comments in to me by the first week of March, three months from now, so I can have the first draft of the guidelines out before the Symposium in April.
The result of this project will be a clarification to everyone on just what will and will not pass and why. We will maintain our goals while at the same time eliminate the complaint that we are imposing them too rapidly without sufficient lead time for education of the membership. We will regain a measure of flexibility in processing submissions and increase the opportunity for consultation with the submittor, thereby promoting better submissions. The consultation will be done at the local and kingdom level instead of at the national level, thereby reducing delays, improving efficiency, and increasing the cooperation between the heralds and the membership in a branch. This should help raise the public image of the heralds from, in some places, members of a secret society that mysteriously consumes submissions and fees and later (often much later) mysteriously rejects or accepts them, to a service organization of heralds whose intention is to help the membership and promote better heraldry for the better enjoyment of the SCA by all.
Now I do not actually expect this drafting of guidelines and change of procedure to solve all of our problems, but I do think it is a step in the right direction and will be perceived as such by the membership. The Principal Heralds will have a greater degree of flexibility in their kingdom, because they will be the ones to decide which submissions should be rejected, referred back to the submittor, or sent on to the College of Arms. As each kingdom may have a different balance between authenticists and fans of fantasy and originality, each Principal Herald will be able to adjust the category boundaries to suit their kingdom. I will be able to process the increasing workload easier because I will not have to agonize so hard over those debatable cases which will then be in an discourage category. I will be able to register more submissions, which will make the populace happier, while at the same time maintain our standards and better explain my actions, which will make the College happier. By publishing the guidelines, the Names Book, the Herald's Handbook, the Ordinary and Armorial, Symposium Proceedings, and articles in TI and the newsletters, and by keeping these in print and available, the College can educate and inform boht the membership and the heralds. The more we educate the membership and heralds in good heraldic practices and the more available we make the heraldic references, the more we can expect to see a higher level of quality in the submissions we process, which will make for an even better percentage of submissions accepted.
I ask everybody to send me your opinions on this issue. It is very important to do this right and the more feedback I get the better I will be able to draft the guidelines. I will pay particular attention to comments from people dealing with subjects in their known field of expertise. Everybody has different academic strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the College lies in the fact that there is usually somebody in the College who is knowledgeable on any particular subject. I understand that your comments may rune to some length. Given the costs of postage I understand if you cannot afford to send copies to others than just send copies to me and to your Principal Herald. If you can send copies to others I am sure they would be happy to receive them, just as your would like to receice them. I encourage debate among the College members on this subject. I remind you all of the request I made previously that debates among College members be made in a polite and civil fashion. This will be a serious debate among people with different definite opinions. Please keep calm and do not engage in persojal attacks. I have allowed plenty of time for comments, responses, and responses to responses. I look forward to your comments.
Pray believe me, my Lords and my Ladies, that I remain,
Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel
Laurel King of Arms