12 July 1986, A.S. XXI

Unto the members of the College of Arms, from Baldwin of Erebor, Laurel King of Arms.

My lords and ladies,

With the exception of this brief paragraph, I will spare you the lamentations. Mundane employment and the exigencies of raising an 18­month­old boy are absorbing an increasing amount of my time, to the point where I'm having to take time off work to finish these letters.

Enclosed herewith is the letter of acceptances and returns for the Laurel meeting of May 18th. Submissions were processed at this meeting for the Middle (12/30), Atlantia (2/1), West (2/12), Caid (2/14), An Tir (2/23), Ansteorra (2/24), East (2/26), and Meridies (2/28). There were a total of 226 approvals, 38 returns, and 1 pending item, for an 85% approval rate.

The June meeting was held on the 8th. Letters of intent were processed at this meeting for Caid (3/10), West (3/19), Trimaris (2/14) (received 3/25], Ansteorra (3/29), and East (3/30). The forms for the Middle and Atenveldt letters had not arrived, so these were carried over to the next meeting.

The July meeting took place on the 7th. Submissions were processed for the Middle (1/20), Middle (3/15) [appeal), Atenveldt (3/17), Atenveldt (3/18), Atlantia (3/25) [received 4/19], West (4/6), An Tir (4/26), East (4/28), and East (4/30).


The August meeting is scheduled to take place on the 3rd. The letters due to be processed at this meeting are Atenveldt (4/1), Atenveldt (5/1), Caid (5/13), Trimaris (5/14), Ansteorra (4/28), Ansteorra (5/15), Caid (5/15), Trimaris (5/15), West (5/23), and Ansteorra (5/29). Comments for this meeting should arrive no later than July 26th.

Male griffin vs. keythong

Virgule has noted that 'In the Coat of Arms n.s. II:51f, Garter presents the evidence that the name "male griffin" is a commentator's mistake for what is an independent monster, the keythong. "It is urged that the keythong as a particular beast ... be accepted as such; and the so­called male griffin should be driven from the scene and from the ken of the Kings of Arms."'

I couldn't find much in my references to help flesh this out. Brooke­Little's edition of Boutell's and his Heraldic Alphabet both speak of the "male griffin," as does Franklyn's Shield and Crest. The description in each case is a bit vague, as if the author is speaking of something more often read about than seen. Fox­Davies' Complete Guide favors us with a long paragraph and an illustration. He believes the male griffin to be a British development of the Continental heraldic panther.

"Keythong" proved to be a much more difficult term to find. It appears in neither Webster's Second nor the OED; and I had very nearly despaired of it until I found a single reference in the Complete Guide. Further investigation led to Planche's Pursuivant of Arms, and the badge of the Earl of Ormonde, as recorded in a College of Arms Manuscript dating from the reign of Edward IV: "A pair of keythongs." Planche's footnote reads, "The word is certainly so written, and I have never seen it elsewhere. The figure resembles the Male Griffin, which has no wings, but rays or spikes of gold proceeding from several parts of his body, and sometimes with two long straight horns.­­Vade Parker's Glossary, under Griffin."*

The term keythong would seem to be both period and synonymous with the charge we know as a "male griffin." Unfortunately, it is also devilishly tricky to find. I am willing to consider allowing it as an alternative to "male griffin", in the interests of accuracy, but I am reluctant to do so. SCA heraldry is rife with terms drawn from out­of­the­way sources, to the sorrow of artists, neophyte heralds, and those who lack either the resources or the perseverance to plow through eight books in search of a single term.

Well, those are my immediate thoughts on the matter. We can debate the pros and cons on some future occasion.


According to information provided me by Lady Kiriel of Windhover Cliff, who is a falconer, the characteristics of a kestrel stooping are as follows:

Wings raised, swept back; tail closed, between and in same direction as wings; body vertical (head down); feet back until just before strike, then stretched toward prey; talons spread or half­spread; head pointing down, or at prey when close to strike (which is always from above).

Note that the kestrel is head­down, diving on its prey. I can't say for sure that this is true of other hunting birds, but it seems reasonable to assume so. The word stoop means "to bend forward and downward," and this is, in essence, what the kestrel is doing.

* My edition of Parker's speaks of these variations, associating the latter with the name Alce, which term, in concert with Shield and Crest, it disparages. The expression "male griffin" does not enter into the discussion.

Unfortunately, the same is not true of most of the birds blazoned as stooping in the SCA. An examination of the emblazons in the files turned up the following different representations. (These are general classifications).

1) In profile, head down, as if diving on prey. (3)

2) Affronty, wings spread, as if attacking viewer. (6)

3) In profile, wings addorsed, talons extended, head up, as if landing. (16)

4) Affronty, wings spread, as if hovering. (1)

Of the more than two dozen examples I was able to find, only three (group #1) could definitely be said to be stooping. If we make allowances for artistic variation, most of the submissions in group #2 could be said to be stooping affronty. None of the emblazons in group #3 (the most common) could truly be said to be stooping, nor could the single coat in group #4.

In addition to the above coats, I found six coats in which the birds had been blazoned as striking. All but one of these fall more or less into group #3. The remaining emblazon is in an indeterminate position (essentially trian aspect).

Effective with the submissions in this letter, I am reserving the term stooping for birds that are actually in a stoop. My staff and I are assessing the registered coats to determine how best to reblazon them. I have used striking to describe the coats in the current letter, but am leery of making this the standard, since I don't know if it is being used correctly. Striking, like stooping, appears to be unique to SCA armory. Our birds striking are, in fact, indistinguishable heraldically from birds rising, wings elevated and addorsed, and there's a strong argument for abandoning our expression in favor of the mundane one.

Lady Kiriel also provided a description of a kestrel hovering & (this being an ability unique to that species of bird):

Wings beating (raised or flat); tail spread, in opposite direction from wings when wings raised; body horizontal or up to 30 degrees above horizontal; feet tucked up close to body; talons folded; head slightly above the horizontal, looking down.

I have reblazoned her kestrel using this term ­ partly because that's what it's doing, partly because the description is consonant with Parker's brief definition of hovering, and partly because I felt I owed her one for providing as much information as she did. I am inclined, however, to treat this as an exceptional case, and insist that future submissions be in a more recognizably heraldic position. I have enough difficulty sorting out the existing positions (which, as Fox­Davies points out, are none too well defined in the mundane world) without compounding them.


There are, at this time, two specific varieties of Urnes­beast defined for use in SCA heraldry: the "Norse one­legged serpent" of Brynhildr Kormaksdottir, and the "Jelling­beast" of Asbjorn Gustavsson of Roed. (Please note that the captions for these two charges on the illustration page of the Armorial are reversed.) People wishing to use this particular motif should adhere as closely as possible to one of the defined forms. We are currently trying to sort out the "other" twisty beasties ...

Heraldic symposia

I am hereby soliciting bids for the 1987 Known World Heraldry Symposium. The criteria are as follows:

The site should be convenient to a major airport (one providing reasonable fares from other ma or airports around the country). Arrangements will need to be made for meals (on­site or at restaurants within reasonable walking distance) and crash space (figure on 50 to 100 attendees). The site itself will need to provide a room large enough to accommodate the entire group, plus several smaller rooms for classes, seminars, and discussions. You should consider audio­visual equipment, and amenities such as blackboards, tables, and chairs.

The schedule should provide for opening and closing sessions, a College of Arms meeting, and an evening revel. Visitors from out of area may well want to do some sightseeing, so you should consider this as well. In choosing a date, be sure to steer clear of major kingdom events and Pennsic War.

"The bid should include the names and addresses of the members of the bid committee, an organizational description of who will handle which functions, a description of the experience of each member with regard to organizing conventions and SCA events, the proposed dates of the symposium, the proposed site (or sites) of the symposium, a description of the site and the region the site is in, and a description of the availability of public transportation, local drivers, airports, restaurants, etc. The reason for all of this is so we can be sure that the winning bid committee is actually prepared to put on a good symposium."

It would also be a good idea to estimate costs: symposium fee, proceedings, room and board, and possible cost of local transportation. And it wouldn't hurt to lay out an estimated timetable for preparations, to make sure you've allowed enough lead time for advance publicity, publication of proceedings, and whatnot. Not all of these are necessary; but the more thorough your preparations appear to be, the better chance you have of winning the bid.

The actual choice of symposium site will be the prerogative of my successor, so I can't offer any firm deadlines. I would suggest that you circulate your bid so that it will have been received by all members of the College of Arms no later than September 30.

Rulings of note

Please take note of the commentary on the submissions of Valeda of Isenfir (p. 5), Alistair Malcolm MacAlpine (p. 7), Jack Alan Hartson (pp. 11­12), Randal of Kings Hammer (p. 14), Rena Thorbjornsdottir (pp. 18­20), Tokugawa Turasai (p. 20), and William of Bellwood (pp. 21­22).

Please believe me to be,

Your servant,

Baldwin of Erebor

Laurel King of Arms