Registering an Order Name in the SCA - Ursula Georges
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Registering an Order Name in the SCA

Ursula Georges

There are many medieval models for recognizing people's accomplishments, such as giving them gifts, or employing a poet to sing their praises. In the Society for Creative Anachronism, nobility often recognize participants' accomplishments by granting them membership in an order or by giving them a named award. The Society's Corpora dictates, "The names and insignia of these awards and orders must be ratified by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms." In other words, official orders and awards must be registered with the heraldic College of Arms. The SCA orders have a specific counterpart in SCA period: they are based on medieval knightly orders such as the English Order of the Garter and the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece. More information about the historical practices of medieval orders, including their names, regalia, and statutes, is available in D'Arcy Jonathan Dacre Boulton's book The Knights of the Crown.

This article gives advice and references on constructing an order name for use in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The focus here is on registrability. More information on the names of orders in the Middle Ages may be found in Juliana de Luna's article Medieval Secular Order Names and in the Non-Human Names section of the Medieval Names Archive.

Let us begin with The Most General Principle: SCA order names are based on the names of period knightly orders. Most period orders had a patron saint and a badge, and were associated with a particular place. If you base the name of your SCA order on something that a period order would have done, it's hard to go wrong.

The names in Medieval Secular Order Names are organized by their "standard" or modern forms. The different "types" or categories in this article offer useful models for SCA order names. The most common types are orders named after the heraldic charge they used as a badge (such as the French Ordre du Croissant, which translates as Order of the Crescent), orders named after a saint (such as the English Noble Order of Saint George), and orders named after an item of regalia which its members wore (such as the better-known phrase for the English Order of Saint George, that is, Order of the Garter.) One may identify more complicated models for order names by looking at the medieval forms in Medieval Secular Order Names. For example, the Order of the Garter was also given the French name l'ordre du Bleu-Gertier, which translates as the order of the Blue Garter. This example offers evidence for an order named using a color word and a regalia item.

Whenever one is constructing a name for SCA purposes, the heraldic Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory are an important reference. The rules in SENA governing the construction of order names are found in the sections on Non-Personal Names. In particular, SENA requires any non-personal name to include both a designator, such as Order of the, with a substantive element, such as Garter. A list of common and registrable synonyms for "order" or "award" in different languages may be found in Appendix E of SENA. Some words used for orders in the Middle Ages are not registrable as order name designators in the SCA, because they have other connotations in the Society: Collegium would not be registrable in an SCA order name, for instance.

SENA also discusses conflict for non-personal names. Order names may conflict with other non-personal names, including household, heraldic, or branch names, even when the designator is changed. For example, a hypothetical Order of the White Bull would conflict with a registered White Bull Herald. Order names may also create "affiliation conflict" if they use all of a registered personal name without permission. For example, because Dionysia of Nordskogen is a registered personal name, the Barony of Nordskogen could not create an Order of Dionysia of Nordskogen without a letter from Dionysia.

Once you have an idea for an order name, you need to document the individual words in that name. The type of documentation that you need will depend on the language that you use and the pattern that you have chosen. If the order name is based on a personal name, such as the name of a saint, you should show that your desired name spelling existed in our period: this process is similar to documenting a personal name for submission. (You do not need to demonstrate that a saint was venerated in the Middle Ages, only that the name is appropriate.) If your order uses an SCA place name, you can document the name by citing its date of registration. If the order uses an invented place name, you should show that the form and spelling follow medieval patterns.

If the order is based on a heraldic charge or item of regalia, you have a choice: you may use a medieval word for the object, or you may use the standard modern English name. The latter strategy is known as "Lingua Anglica". To document an order name as a medieval form, you must show that all of the words of the order name existed in our period in your desired spelling. For English words, either the Middle English Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary may be useful. The etymologies in the Oxford English Dictionary may also document medieval French or Latin forms of words. The Middle English Dictionary is free. Using the OED online requires a subscription; many libraries are subscribers. The Lingua Anglica strategy also requires documentation: the modern English term you choose must correspond to a medieval word that could have been used in an order name. A historical dictionary such as the Middle English Dictionary or the Oxford English Dictionary may be useful here. For heraldic charges, a reference to recent registrations of that charge in the Ordinary and Armorial typically suffices for Lingua Anglica documentation: if we will register a charge, we will also treat the usual modern name for that charge as Lingua Anglica. You can search for particular charge names using the Blazon Pattern search in the Ordinary and Armorial.