LoAR Cover Letter

of the College of Arms
of the
Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.

September 1993

Box 1329,
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-8329
30 November 1993

Unto the College of Arms of the Thirteen Kingdoms, and to all who read these presents, Baron Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme sends greetings!

Enclosed please find the Acceptances and Returns from the Laurel meetings of 11 September 1993 and 17 October 1993. The following Letters of Intent were discussed in September: Ansteorra, 12 Apr 93; Ansteorra, 13 Apr 93; Ansteorra, 14 Apr 93; An Tir, 5 May 93; West, 10 May 93; Middle, 11 May 93; Calontir, 17 May 93; Atlantia, 17 May 93; East, 20 May 93; Atenveldt, 26 May 93; and Meridies, 27 May 93.

The following Letters of Intent were discussed in October: Trimaris, 1 June 93; West, 7 June 93; Outlands, 10 June 93; Calontir, 14 June 93; East, 15 June 93; Middle, 15 June 93; An Tir, 20 June 93; Atlantia, 20 June 93; Atenveldt, 24 June 93; and Meridies, 28 June 93. I here also deal with the Calontir Letter of Correction of 24 Oct 93.


The exact scheduling of the next few Laurel meetings will be decided by the new Laurel. However, I suspect the following Letters of Intent will remain scheduled for the November meeting, no matter when it falls: Caid, 14 May 93; Outlands, 31 May 93; Caid, 28 June 93; Ansteorra, 7 July 93; An Tir, 10 July 93; West, 12 July 93; Middle, 15 July 93; Atlantia, 16 July 93; Calontir, 18 July 93; and Atenveldt, 21 July 93.

The December Laurel meeting will consider the following Letters of Intent: Meridies, 28 July 93; Ansteorra, 29 July 93; Outlands, 10 Aug 93; West, 16 Aug 93; Atenveldt, 24 Aug 93; An Tir, 24 Aug 93; Middle, 25 Aug 93; East, 25 Aug 93; Ansteorra, 25 Aug 93; and Atlantia, 29 Aug 93. Responses and rebuttals to commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 30 Nov 93.

The January Laurel meeting will consider the following Letters of Intent: An Tir, 12 Sept 93; Calontir, 20 Sept 93; Trimaris, 20 Sept 93; Atlantia, 20 Sept 93; Outlands, 20 Sept 93; West, 20 Sept 93; East, 22 Sept 93; Middle, 26 Sept 93; and Ansteorra, 29 Sept 93. Commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 30 Nov 93; responses and rebuttals to that commentary, by 31 Dec 93.

The February Laurel meeting will consider the following Letters of Intent: Caid, 27 July 93; Caid, 25 Aug 93; Meridies, 27 Sept 93; Atenveldt, 30 Sept 93; Drachenwald, 30 Sept 93; An Tir, 16 Oct 93; Middle, 17 Oct 93; Caid, 19 Oct 93; East, 20 Oct 93; Outlands, 20 Oct 93; Atlantia, 23 Oct 93; Calontir, 24 Oct 93; and the West, 25 Oct 93. Commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 31 Dec 93; responses and rebuttals to that commentary, by 31 Jan 94.

A few words of thanks:

The delays in producing the enclosed LoARs are entirely my own fault and responsibility. I have already explained that my mundane workload permitted little time for other, more enjoyable activities. I therefore enlisted some help in writing up these letters; while all the decisions were mine, the wording in many cases is theirs. My gratitude to Baron Hrorek Halfdane of Faulconwood, Chevron Herald, who worked on the September LoAR, and to Baroness Éowyn Amberdrake, former Clarion Queen of Arms, who worked on the October LoAR. It may amuse you to try and guess who wrote exactly what.

Roster changes

Please remove Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme from the roster. His successor as Laurel is Da'ud ibn Auda (David Appleton), P.O. Box 742825, Dallas, TX 75374-2825; (214) 276-2129.

The October Board meeting saw the end of term for Dave Thewlis (Duke Siegfried von Hoflichkeit), our Laurel Office Ombudsman. We bid him a fond farewell, and welcome his successor as Laurel Ombudsman: A.J. Riviezzo (Master Giovanni di Sienna), 2323 S. Troy #210-D, Aurora, CO 80014; (706) 793-0198.

Meridies has a new Lambent Herald: Rory ua Riada (David Duggar), 8501 Millicent Way #2135, Shreveport, LA 71115. Please add him to your mailing lists.

Caid has added two new commenters to the mailing list: Agnes of Ilford (Pat Shanahan), 10662 Stanwell Ct., San Diego, CA 92126; (619) 689-0391, and Colm Dubh (Scott Catledge), 4352 Clairemont Mesa Blvd #36, San Diego, CA 92117; (619) 270-9782.

Drachenwald has added some new members as well. Please add to the mailing list the Albion Pursuivant: Harabanar Hugilaikir (Jan Frelin), Granskogsvagen 48, 165 75 Hasselby, SWEDEN; +46-838-6684. Also add to the roster, though not to the mailing list, the Silver Sparre Pursuivant: Frithiof Skagge (Sven Noren), Tegnergatan 27A, S-752 26 Uppsala, SWEDEN; +46-18-501224.

Please remove Louis-Philippe Mitouard, former White Stag Herald, from the roster. We'd kept his name active to give him a chance to respond to his last Letters of Intent.

Regalia, reserved charges, und so weiter

At their October meeting, the Board of Directors confirmed that, as with titles and forms of address, Laurel King of Arms has authority over the regalia of the SCA-wide orders. The next step will be the codification and publishing of current regalia standards, which task falls on Master Da'ud's shoulders; I won't trouble you with that here. Instead, I'd like to address a point that was raised during the discussion of this issue: the distinctions between regalia, reserved charges, and badges.

Reserved charges are perhaps the easiest to define: they are simply charges that the College has decided, for one reason or another, to reserve to submitters of certain types, ranks or occupations. Such a formal prohibition does not seem to be found in medieval armory, though there are some de facto reserved charges -- for instance, the only examples of the pallium are to be found in ecclesiastical armory. Items of regalia are not necessarily reserved charges in the SCA: for instance, the crown is both a reserved charge and an item of regalia, but the sceptre is regalia but not a reserved charge -- while the caduceus has been, for many years, a reserved charge but not regalia.

Regalia are the physical tokens of rank or office, usually worn or carried on the person. Medieval societies regulated them, or attempted to regulate them, through the use of sumptuary laws; but they were seldom explicitly defined ("such-an-item may only be worn by such-a-rank"). One exception were the orders of knighthood: they often had such definitions, written into law -- the Order of the Garter, for instance, had its regalia carefully prescribed by law temp. Henry VIII. (Coronets of rank, on the other hand, weren't defined until Stewart times in England -- decidedly post-period. And many items of regalia, such as sceptres and orbs, were never regulated, because it wouldn't enter any commoner's mind to try to bear such impractical gewgaws.) Often, the regalia of an order also served as the badge of the order: again, the prime example is the Order of the Garter, whose eponymous regalia (a blue garter, garnished in gold, inscribed HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE and worn on the left leg below the knee) is also seen as a supporter of armorial bearings and an embroidered badge on cloaks.

Badges are heraldic designs denoting property or membership. In the sense that they show membership in an order or noble rank, regalia can be considered badges; but though the two categories overlap somewhat, they are not the same. Badges are armory, and are normally used in an obviously armorial display (though sometimes made into artifacts, such as the White Swan pin of the de Bohuns); regalia are artifacts, and are normally used as such (though sometimes incorporated into armorial display, such as order medallions). Yes, there's some confusion, but in general, a person who registers, e.g., a spur as a badge does not then have a claim on all spurs used as spurs -- only on armorial displays incorporating spurs.

This confusion arose in the most recent discussion because, back in June 82, the Laurel Sovereign at the time (Master Wilhelm von Schlüssel) also tried to codify and record the regalia of the SCA orders. He did so by entering them in the A&O as badges, that being the readiest option available to him. Over time, the original intention of the registration was lost: the items were considered, not just regalia, but badges to be protected, and eventually charges to be reserved (the first instance of closed chains being reserved to the armory of Knights was in Master Baldwin's tenure). It may well be that the regalia of the SCA-wide orders, once defined, should continue to be protected as badges, and reserved as charges; certainly, if the regalia for an order can be inscribed on a medallion and worn as a badge, then the regalia should be protected as badges. But those questions are separate from the issue of the actual, physical regalia to be reserved to Ducal, Comital, etc., ranks, Orders of Peerage, and whatnot. That will be decided in the next few months, and probably thereafter published in the Known World Handbook or some equally public forum.

Vair: the continuing saga

It was announced in the cover letter of the July 93 LoAR that vair is vair, whether drawn in an earlier, undulating style or in a late-period, angular form; the difference is purely artistic, and shouldn't even merit mention in the blazon. This has raised a question from some commenters as to which varieties of vair we should blazon, and why.

Well, there are certainly some varieties of vair we've never blazoned: vair en pal, for instance, is a valid period rendition of plain vair that acquired its own name only in the 19th Century. That example provides us with the key: we should recognize only those varieties of vair that period heralds recognized. That excludes, e.g., vair en pal, vair ancient, and the German Gespaltenesfeh. Other varietal forms, however, were making their appearance toward the end of period; they should be acceptable, both as motifs and in blazon.

The first vair-variant seems to have been potent. Legh's Accidens of Armorie gives an illustration of a potent field, which he blazons meirre or varry cuppe, and attributes to the Spanish; Guillim's Display of Heraldrie follows Legh in this, but prefers the blazon potent counter-potent. Both the fur and the blazon are acceptable, then; and indeed, Guillim's illustration shows a field potent en point, which might give us some justification for the same arrangement applied to vair.

Vair en point makes an appearance in its own right, however, along with counter-vair. Both of these appear to be German variants; Leonhard's Grosse Buch der Wappenkunst blazons them as Wechselfeh "back-and-forth vair" and Sturzgegenfeh "falling-reversed vair", respectively. They first showed up in the early 17th Century, and managed to find actual use in French armory soon afterward: Baron's l'Art Heraldique cites the arms of Brotin, Contrevairé d'or et de gueules, and of Durant, Vair en pointe. We can consider them to have been used, and recognized by heralds, within our "grey area" of documentation -- if not explicitly from within period, then at the very least compatible with Society practice.

It is equally illuminating to observe the styles of vair that period heralds did not distinguish. Foster's Dictionary of Heraldry shows many artistic variations taken from period rolls: they range from the wavy "vair ancient" style to the tesselated "modern vair" -- with a broad spectrum in between. See the arms of Bruis, p.33, and of Marmion, p.137, for different artists' versions of the same armory: the stylizations of vair include one that resembles nipples, and another that could be reblazoned barry embattled. Sometimes, the same roll of arms will employ two different styles of vair: Siebmacher's Wappenbuch of 1605, for instance, gives examples of "modern vair" (in the arms of von Pappenheim, p.19) and "vair ancient" (in the arms of von Linsingen, p.182). A similar example, with several different styles of vair ("ancient", "modern", and "other") used in a single roll of arms c.1500, may be seen in Pastoreau's Traité d'Héraldique, p.293.

Some commenters have argued that the distinction between vair ancient and the more angular modern vair, though certainly worth no heraldic difference, should nonetheless be blazoned as a courtesy to the submitters -- just as we blazon shamrock vs. trefoil, or sword vs. scimitar. The latter terms, however, are all found in period; vair ancient is not, to the best of my knowledge (not even to the extent of being described in an heraldic tract as "vair as it was drawn in ancient times"). Given the absence of "vair ancient" from period blazons, given the equally varied styles of vair that weren't blazoned, and given the absurdity of a medievalist re-creation group having to specify "drawn in the medieval style" in a blazon (as silly as blazoning a lion drawn in the medieval style, not the modern naturalistic style), I find the tone of moral indignation in some of the recent commentary to be unjustified. Vair ancient should not be explicitly blazoned in the SCA if it was not so blazoned in period; it is exactly the sort of artistic detail that should be left to the artist.

Name submissions: declare your handiwork

On several recent name submissions, the name on the form has not matched the name on the Letter of Intent. Commenters can only respond to the latter; but the former is the permanent record in Laurel's files. Obviously, a submitted name must occasionally be altered by a Kingdom College of Heralds. When that happens, though, I expect the form to be amended, so that it bears the same name as on the LOI. Moreover, I expect an explanation (on the form, if not in the LOI) of why the Kingdom College felt it necessary to alter the name. Otherwise, Laurel is left in the delicate position of trying to read the minds of the submissions herald and the submitter, which is fair neither to the submitter, the herald, nor Laurel.

Please, always make certain that the name on the LOI matches that on the submission form. If changes are made at the Kingdom level, please amend the form to match -- and expalin your reasoning. Thank you.

Married names and cultural compatibility: a guest editorial

Baroness Éowyn Amberdrake, who worked on the October LoAR, was disturbed by reading some of the commentary on names submitted by married ladies who wanted to use their husbands' surnames. The problem arises when (to take an example) the lady is Viking and the gentleman is Elizabethan. Baroness Éowyn asked to comment on this trend. I yield the floor:

Marriage Names

Two women's names returned on this letter [the October LoAR] disturbed me. In each case, a woman has tried to take her husband's surname, that is, append it to her own name to show her relationship to him. That is the normal twentieth century practice in America and most of the Western world. This was uncommon in many cultures during our time period.

The name one registers with the Society College of Arms is generally that of an adult, who has had a chance to aquire an occupation, accumulate a byname or two, move, and marry. Society naming practices deal quite well with occupations, bynames, and locatives. They do not deal very well with married names, particularly within the cultural diversity of personae within the SCA.

For example, assume Éowyn Amberdrake marries Jamal Kiwan (in fact, I did). Should I have wished to be known as Éowyn Amberdrake Kiwan, the CoA would have demurred -- a first millenium Anglo-Saxon could not wed a late medieval Lebanese. But we did, and this change of name shows we are a couple. Determining how an Anglo-Saxon could marry a Lebanese is a persona story; registering names that reflect real-world relationships meets the needs of our clients for a living, real name. I didn't happen to take my husband's name, but I understand the desire of other women to do so. Names submitted for registration do not exist in a cultural vacuum. Real people in our Society meet and marry, and names need to reflect that.

Thus, marriage names are a topic I believe the College of Arms needs to address, for the sake of their female clients (note that overwhelmingly the woman's name is the one returned). In particular, I suggest discussion within the College on:

  1. the application of rules about period cultural compatibility with respect to the needs of real people living in these Current Middle Ages;
  2. returning a woman's name when her husband's surname is marginally acceptable, but appending it to her own name of another language, falls afoul of "two weirdnesses" over one name that someone else chose;
  3. the common practice of recommending and/or altering the patronymic that a woman has assumed from her husband so it names her his sister; and
  4. researching and publishing period naming practices indicating marriage that submitters in the future (and the heralds who advise them) could bear in mind.

We now return to our cover letter, which is already in progress.....

Visual confusion is not to be borne!

One of September's returns sparked commentary on an application of Rule VIII.3. This application is found in precedents set (or confirmed) by Mistress Alisoun: "Two types of sword [a cup-hilted rapier and a broadsword] should not be united in a single visual whole here: it is very poor style and has been grounds for return in the past." [AmCoE, Dec 86] "The difference between the types of bladed weapon [two poignards in saltire surmounted by a rapier] was a distinction rather than a difference and a distinction that would not have been made normally in period heraldry." [AmCoE, April 88] For this reason, the policy is usually called the "sword-dagger ruling" (although I've seen it described as the "shark-dolphin ruling"; de gustibus...). However it's called, the idea is simple:

If two charges are artistically distinct, but heraldically identical, they should not be used in the same armory.

The reason for this is the raison d'être of heraldry: instant identification. When the eye first sees a design such as, say, Sable, two lions and a Bengal tiger Or, it will be fooled for a moment into seeing three lions, or three tigers. There'll be a moment of confusion until the eye sorts out the almost-but-not-quite-identical charges ... and that confusion is exactly what we try to avoid.

The charges, be it noted, need not be in a single group for confusion to arise. Sable, a sword between three daggers argent will suffer the same lack of ready identifiability, despite the sword being primary and the daggers being secondary. Nor need the charges necessarily be "artistic variants" of one another, although that is the most common application of the rule: any too charges that are visually indistinct may run afoul of this policy (for instance, Sable, in pale a horseshoe and a torc Or). In general, if there's a CD of difference between the charges, the "sword-dagger" ruling won't apply; less than that, and one takes one's chances.

Some modest thoughts on a modest proposal, or, I no longer have to remain neutral

I've been reading the comments on Lord Palimpsest's Modest Proposal with a good deal of interest. I was an active member of the College of Arms back in 1986, when Baldwin's Bombshell first struck, so I definitely have opinions on the issue. As Laurel King of Arms, however, I had refrained from joining in the debate ... partly to make it clear that the issue has not been settled yet (so the discussion is worthwhile), and partly to avoid influencing (for good or ill) any wavering or undecided commenters. My resignation, tough though it's been for me, has at least one small silver lining: I'm now free to speak my mind.

I think we should stop protecting all but the most important mundane armory.

The advantages to this have been described in other commentary; I needn't belabor the issue. There are a couple of points, however, which I don't believe have been stressed in the commentary, and which I'd like to offer now. They address two concerns of those who oppose the Modest Proposal.

One of those concerns was that, without the spur of mundane conflict checking, we would pay less attention to medieval heraldic style. SCA heraldry, though not the same as medieval heraldry, should nonetheless take its cues from medieval heraldry; unfortunately, the only exposure most SCA heralds get to medieval heraldry comes during conflict checking. That may be true, but it's only because the current system mandates it. The Rules will still require medieval style in our submissions, whether we check conflict or not; and that requirement will still send heralds to the mundane references.

I could make a good case that we'd have more time for contact with medieval heraldry, if the conflict checking were removed. Nor would the current conflict-checking references suddenly become worthless -- far from it. When I'm researching some facet of medieval heraldry (say, the prevalence of a particular complex line of division), my most useful references include Papworth, the Dictionary of British Arms, and Anglo-Norman Armory II. These are all ordinaries: conflict-checking tools, to be sure, but also indispensible references on usage. I'll be grateful when someone compiles an ordinary to Foster, or Siebmacher; I'd love to have an Ordinaire de Gelre to match my Armoriál. I expect the SCA's compilation of ordinaries to continue as it has until now. I see no reason they should suddenly become obsolete, merely because we've stopped checking for conflict; they'll simply serve a different purpose, one more in keeping with our educational mandate.

The other main concern was over the "theft" of real armory by members of the SCA. The issue is very much tied up in legal vs. illegal acts, and honorable vs. dishonorable acts (two very different cases); the first distinction is defined by law, the second will be different for each individual. (I agree that the theft of another person's arms is wrong; I don't believe that the use of another's arms in the United States legally constitutes theft. Is it dishonorable? It depends.) The legality or honorability of the Modest Proposal are not what I want to address here; I just want to note some hitherto unstressed points.

The first is that all the arguments against our use of mundane heraldry apply as well to our use of mundane titles. In any country where the use of another's arms is illegal, the use of a title (Sir? Lord? King?) is equally illegal. Yet nobody suggests that we should stop using titles within the SCA!

Our rationale for using titles in countries with title structures (the use of Lord in England being typical) is that SCA titles aren't "real" titles; they're only for use within the Society, as part of our re-creation. The SCA doesn't claim to actually grant nobiliary titles; the titles we use are solely part of our game, and not to be used in the real world. Those who do use their SCA titles in the real world do so at their own peril. I agree with that rationale -- and point out that it applies equally well to armory. We don't actually grant the right to arms; we haven't that authority. The devices and badges we register are simply part of our game, like our noble titles. And as long as we keep them part of our game, then mundane heraldic authorities such as the English College of Arms won't raise objections. Those who disagree must explain why the use of titles remains acceptable.

The second point is that, in armorial regimes, it's illegal to use any armory unmatriculated with the local College of Arms. It's irrelevant whether the armory conflicts or not; unauthorized armory is not to be used. (It's only natural that mundane Colleges of Arms should take this position; they depend on armorial registration for their livelihood.) If a mundane College of Arms permits us to use armory as part of our re-creation, then, that's all that matters -- conflict is irrelevant, and so is conflict-checking. And in fact, when Norroy & Ulster King of Arms was visiting Southern California in 1990, members of the Caidan College questioned him on this point; he allowed that our armorial activities were harmless, even in England, as long as they were used solely as part of the SCA's game -- not in any "real" capacity, such as mundane stationery.

So: for those living in the U.S., or other countries without heraldic regimes (at a guess, 90% of the SCA), there's no problem with using any armory, even if it happens to conflict with some mundane coat. For those living in countries with heraldic regimes, SCA members should still be able to use SCA heraldry in purely SCA contexts; using SCA heraldry in a mundane context would be unacceptable (whether it conflicted or not), and is done at the user's own risk. In either case, mundane conflict checking is mostly irrelevant.

Both of these points hinge on the fact that SCA armory isn't real. This is a game, folks. No one in the SCA has the authority to grant real-world armory. Just like SCA titles and ranks, SCA heraldry shouldn't be used anywhere but within the SCA. (The few times we've had mundane problems with SCA heraldry -- the Chirurgeonate badges -- have always come about because someone ignored that dictum.) The point should be made more clearly understood to the Society membership, especially those living in Drachenwald and Lochac. And, just as our heraldry is meant to be used only within the SCA, our conflicts should be mostly concerned with the SCA. The majority of mundane conflicts should not be our concern -- only those that affect our medieval re-creation, our game, should be considered.

(Let me add a note about Japanese mon, while I'm at it. We've had an increasing number of good, simple submissions returned for conflict against mundane mon. I still maintain that, as long as we permit Japanese personae and Japanese-style armory at all, we should check against mundane mon. On the other hand, if the Modest Proposal is accepted, the number of mundane mon important enough to protect would be reduced to a mere handful. The Imperial Chrysanthemum; Tokegawa; Fujiwara; maybe one or two others. That reduction, in itself, should be an incentive.)

The decision will not be mine, and I don't envy Master Da'ud when he makes it. But I hope I've offered some extra tidbits to nibble on, while the College debates the matter.

Known World Heraldic Symposium update

Enclosed you'll find a flyer for the 1994 Known World Heraldic Symposium. It will be held 25-27 June 1994, in the Barony of Darkwater, Trimaris (Orlando, FL). Teachers and Proceedings articles are particularly sought. Please contact the autocrat, Baron Serwyl ap Morgan (904-269-5415) for more details.

...they just fade away

So ends my last LoAR and its cover letter. I had hoped to do so much more in the months remaining to my tenure; now I find myself without time for even mimimal SCA activity. However, this state of affairs won't last forever; and maybe, if all goes well, I'll be able to rejoin the College of Arms as a commenter. There's an old saying, though, about enumerating one's barnyard fowl before they've completed gestation. We'll have to see.

I look upon the College fondly, and leave it with regrets; and I would you might know me ever to be,

Your servant in armory,

Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme,
baro, magister laurae et pelicani,
no longer Laurel King of Arms.

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