LoAR Cover Letter

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

June 1993

Box 1329,
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-8329
24 July 1993

Unto the College of Arms of the Known World throughout, and to all who come to read these presents, greetings from Baron Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, Laurel King of Arms!

I here present the Acceptances and Returns from the Laurel meeting of 13 June 1993, and from the College of Arms meeting of 27 June 1993 at the Known World Heraldic Symposium. The following Letters of Intent were discussed: Ansteorra, 5 Nov 92; Ansteorra, 6 Nov 92; Outlands, 17 Jan 93; Caid, 30 Jan 93; Middle, 11 Feb 93; West, 14 Feb 93; An Tir, 15 Feb 93; Calontir, 16 Feb 93; Atlantia, 21 Feb 93; Meridies, 22 Feb 93; and East, 24 Feb 93.


The July Laurel meeting will be held on Sunday, 25 July 1993, where we'll consider the following Letters of Intent: Atenveldt, 28 Feb 93; Caid, 8 March 93; East, 10 March 93; Middle, 11 March 93; Atenveldt, 15 March 93; West, 15 March 93; Atlantia, 16 March 93; Calontir, 19 March 93; Trimaris, 22 March 93; An Tir, 24 March 93; and Meridies, 29 March 93.

The August Laurel meeting will be held on Sunday, 15 August 1993, where we'll consider the following Letters of Intent: Atenveldt, 31 March 93; Caid, 2 Apr 93; West, 5 Apr 93; Outlands, 7 Apr 93; Middle, 8 Apr 93; Atlantia, 11 Apr 93; An Tir, 14 Apr 93; East, 23 Apr 93; Atenveldt, 24 Apr 93; and Meridies, 25 Apr 93. Responses and rebuttals to commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 31 July 93.

The September Laurel meeting will be held on Saturday, 11 September 1993, where we'll consider the following Letters of Intent: 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; Caid, 14 May 93; Calontir, 17 May 93; Atlantia, 17 May 93; East, 20 May 93; Atenveldt, 26 May 93; and Meridies, 27 May 93. Commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 31 July 93; responses and rebuttals to that commentary, by 31 Aug 93.

The October Laurel meeting will be held on Sunday, 17 October 1993, where we'll consider the following Letters of Intent: 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. Commentary on these LOIs should be in the College's hands by 31 Aug 93; responses and rebuttals to that commentary, by 30 Sept 93.

Roster updates

The Star Principal Herald of Ansteorra, Dathi O'Cooney, has resigned due to time conflicts, and should be removed from the roster. For the interim, the Star Office will be administered by Lord Eclipse, Richard of the Silverdawn (Rick Gordon), 408 Michigan Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76114; (817) 732-4033.

The Dragon Principal Herald of the Midrealm has a new address: Thorvald Redbeard (Ron Sargent), 1673 Cove Court, Naperville, IL 60565; (708) 416-8721.

Likewise, Éowyn Amberdrake, Pursuivant at Large in Caid, has a new address: c/o Melinda Sherbring, 1216 Tenth St., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266; (310) 374-6358.

The Lymphad Herald of Trimaris, Siegfried Conrad Georg Heydrich, has finished his tenure and is stepping down. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors, and welcome his successor: Haakon Bjornson (Michael Pelfrey), 545 Floral Drive, Kissimmee, FL 34743; (407) 348-2615. Please add Haakon to the mailing list; and retain Siegfried for a few more months, to give him a chance to respond to commentary on his final Letters of Intent.

A couple of new telephone numbers: that of El-Munadi Herald of Caid is now (909) 684-1066. That of Elmet Herald of the East is now (412) 221-5888. Their mailing addresses remain unchanged.

Please remove the following commenters from the mailing list: the Lambent Herald of Meridies, the Golden Heart Herald of the Outlands, and the Halberd Pursuivant of Ansteorra. Also, please remove from the roster the North Regional Herald of An Tir.

Signatures for mailing

When I first became Laurel King of Arms, we'd been having some troubles with submissions packets being lost in the mail; at the time, I'd suggested using certified mail or something equally sure. Even though my signature was required to accept such mail, the inconvenience was minor -- at the time. Since then, though, I've changed mundane jobs twice; and while my current job has its advantages, I'm no longer quite so close to the Laurel Post Office Box as once I was. Signing for my mail has become more of a problem.

Since we've experienced far fewer problems with the mail recently, we no longer need to use certified mail. Regular postage, or Second-Day postage, will suffice henceforth. Special postage (e.g., Express Mail) may still be required on rare occasions, but those types of mail usually give the sender the option of waiving the recipient's signature. Please exercise that option; PLEASE don't make me sign for mail any more. (If nothing else, if I have to sign for your packet, then your packet will have to wait until I've a free lunch-hour -- which could take several working days.) I thank you, in advance, for cooperating.

Symposia, past and to come

The 1993 Known World Heraldic Symposium was a great success, with interesting classes throughout the day and (so I'm told, anyway) fun-filled revels throughout the night. My hearfelt thanks to the Shire of Rokkehealden, and to the various sub-autocrats; and most especially to the chief autocrat, Lady Irene von Schmetterling, Lincoln Herald, who made it all possible.

The 1994 Symposium will be held in Trimaris, in the Barony of Darkwater (Orlando, FL), on the weekend of 25-27 June 1994. (Future Symposium planners should probably note that those commenters who voiced a preference cited cost as the principal factor in their decision.) Further details will be announced as the event draws closer; for now, mark the day on your calendars!

Rules changes I: Rule X.2

Lord Palimpsest, in his letter of 19 June 93, has formally recommended changing Rule X.2, the Difference of Primary Charge Rule, to extend (and clarify) the conditions under which it applies. I like his simplified wording, for the most part, but I believe it can be simplified even further if we note three facts:

  1. That a group of charges may contain any number of charges -- including one;

  2. That the phrase homogeneous charge group, indicating either a single charge or a group of identical charges (and requiring a new definition, either in the Rule or the Glossary), may be replaced with the self-explanatory group of identical charges if the above definition of "group" is observed;

  3. That a peripheral charge group is, in fact, a group of secondary charges; the phrase simply denotes a special class of secondaries, a class that can never be primaries, and that are automatically separate from any other secondary group in the same armory.

Rule X.2 is therefore amended to read as follows:

This new wording also adds some further clarifying examples, and is more in line with our current definitions. In particular, it's more in line with our current definition of perpheral charge. I know there's been discussion in the commentary about whether peripheral charges can be primaries, whether they're always secondaries, whether they're always separate from other groups of secondaries, and so forth; some of the arguments presented are good, but I'm not yet persuaded to change our current definition of peripheral charges. If I were to change the current definition, it would require a more thorough overhaul of the Rules -- for instance, we'd probably want to add a new category to X.4, "Addition of Peripheral Charges", analogous to the current X.4.c for overall charges -- and I'd prefer it be done after complete discussion, not as a side-issue to this update of the Difference of Primary Charge Rule.

I intend to begin implementation of the revised Rule X.2 at the October Laurel meeting. My thanks to all who participated in the discussion, and especially to Lord Palimpsest for coordinating it and synthesizing a final Rule from it.

Rules changes II: reserved charges

Lord Palimpsest's other formal recommendation was that the College lift the reservation of the motif Two straight trumpets crossed in saltire to the seals of the Principal Heralds -- that is, permit the use of the motif by non-heralds. In this he had the concurrence of nearly all the members of the College. Nearly all, but not quite: Lord Laurel, for one, dissents.

The use of the crossed trumpets has, for many years, been strongly identified with the College of Arms -- far more strongly than, say, the key has been identified with the Seneschalate, or a pale checky gules and argent with the Exchequer. This identification has been promoted by the College: the nature of our job makes us highly visible, and our badge (besides being an example of the heraldic display we encourage) tells onlookers that our pronouncements in court and field are official. As a result, the College with its badge is probably more visible than any other group of officers with theirs.

This identification has led to submissions (at least two in recent memory) that used the crossed trumpets to deliberately invoke a connection with the College of Arms. I can recall no comparable examples with the other officers' badges -- e.g., former seneschals don't submit armory with keys in an attempt to emphasize their political clout (or at least, they haven't yet). Since our usefulness to the Society hinges on our reputation, it's in our interest to protect that reputation, by restricting to the College of Arms the use of a motif uniquely identified in the public mind with the College.

It's been argued that the reservation of the crossed trumpets represents an intolerable "perk": a privilege we permit ourselves but deny others. Folks, if I had to choose a special privilege for the College, I think I'd have picked something a bit more special. The crossed trumpets are restricted, even within the College, to the seals of the Principal Heralds -- which means that there can be only about fifteen registered armories with crossed trumpets at any given time. The effect on possible conflicts is so close to nil that God Himself couldn't tell the difference. We don't see a flood of submissions from Kingdom Colleges demanding seals, so it doesn't affect our workload. The reservation's only effect is on those submitters who want to capitalize on the College's reputation -- and while cynics may argue that such submitters deserve what they get, on the whole I'd rather not see the problem arise in the first place.

The other reservation under discussion for removal was that of the caduceus, rod of Aesculepius, and bowl of Hygeia to accredited medical professionals. There was less support for this action; but unlike the use of the crossed trumpets, I know of no cases where someone without medical credentials tried to capitalize on the use of these symbols. The classic rationale for reserving the symbols -- that in a medical emergency, panicky people might head for a banner with a caduceus, and waste valuable time unless the bearer were a medical professional -- has never actually taken place. Under those circumstances, I think we can trust people, even in an emergency, to find medical help without dictating it in our armory. (The fact that the caduceus, at least, wasn't used in period as a medical symbol is not relevant to either the reservation or its removal -- but if we decide to remove the reservation, the period usage becomes another argument we can present.)

Please present any further arguments you may have on medical symbols to Lord Palimpsest within the next few weeks; but unless cogent arguments are heard, I'm inclined at this time to relax our restrictions on the caduceus, rod of Aesculepius, and bowl of Hygeia.

Blazoning with artistry

One of this month's submissions (Shire of Vair Couvert) raised some questions about exactly which artistic details are (or should be) explicitly blazoned. There's no question that any detail worth heraldic difference, that isn't a default, should certainly be blazoned. But which details don't get blazoned, and how do we decide?

There's no simple answer here. In general, I try to balance several competing principles. For instance, I won't blazon too many artistic details, for fear that someone might consider them "important" enough to be worth heraldic difference. ("Well, the arming, languing and pizzling wouldn't have been mentioned if they weren't important.....") Nor will I blazon so many details as to make the blazon more difficult to interpret; such clutter is not usually found in period blazonry.

In fact, period blazonry provides the best model for our own. I may blazon items worth no heraldic difference, depending on whether they're large enough to be immediately noticeable, or whether they were included in period blazons. An example of the first criterion might be head posture: though we'd grant no difference between, e.g., lion rampant vs. lion rampant guardant, it's a large visual change, and deserves mention in the blazon. (And who knows? If someone uncovers evidence to support it, we might someday grant difference for head posture -- and on that day, we'd be glad we blazoned it.) An example of the second criterion might be tail posture: though we'd grant no difference between, e.g., lion rampant vs. lion rampant coward, it was blazoned in period and should probably be blazoned in the Society as well.

Occasionally, the very diversity of the Society dictates that some details shouldn't be blazoned. For instance, we don't normally blazon the local drawing style: a fleur-de-lys is blazoned a fleur-de-lys, whether drawn in the Italian style (sometimes blazoned a fleur-de-lys florencée by modern heralds) or the French style. In this way, we permit the broadest mix of cultures; we don't micro-manage the scribes, but allow them the fullest creativity and expression; and we make it possible for someone to change persona without requiring a reblazon. Other examples of this policy include the eagle displayed (the current English style) vs. the eagle displayed, wingtips inverted (the German style); and the case that prompted the discussion, vair (modern) vs. vair ancient, where the change in style is temporal rather than geographic.

Finally, when all other factors are equal, the submitter's preference (if any) may be taken into account. I will go to great lengths to preserve a cant, for instance; or, if a client insists on shamrocks, not trefoils, I see no reason not to accommodate her (both terms are period, and it makes the blazon no longer). But I won't register a patently incorrect blazon, even if it's what the submitter wants. Nor will I blazon myriad artistic details that ought to be solely between the client and the scribe. If our blazons don't distinguish between Or and Gold, they oughtn't distinguish the period of a rendition of vair. Let's do our best to Keep It Simple, shall we?

A burning question in blazonry

For some time now, we've been instituting a change (actually dating from Master Da'ud's tenure as Laurel) on enflamed charges: how they're considered, and how they're blazoned. In the early days of the Society, a [charge] enflamed was depicted as a [charge] completely enveloped by flame -- essentially a full flame, with the [charge] entirely on the flame. In those cases, the [charge] was considered the primary charge, with the flames either an artistic detail or a complex sort of fimbriation. More recently, such designs have been blazoned On a flame a [charge], making the flame the primary and the [charge] a tertiary. This has two effects: it brings our heraldic practice closer to that of period, and it alters the way difference is counted against such designs.

On the first point, enflamed charges weren't normally depicted in period armory as enveloped of flames. Discounting the fiery charges whose flames have a defined placement (e.g., the beacon), a period enflamed charge would be drawn with tiny spurts of flame issuant from several points. Mounts enflamed were not uncommon: in addition to the examples of MacKenzie armory cited by Lady Black Stag (in her commentary on Michael McKenzie, on this LoAR), there's the mountain couped azure enflamed proper in the arms of MacLeod (Guillim, 1632, p.127) and the trimount couped vert enflamed gules in the arms of Lerchenfeld (Siebmacher, 1605, plate 95) and Nouwer (Armorial de Gelres, c.1370, fo.40). There's also the arms of Brandt (Argent, a ragged staff bendwise sable enflamed gules), where the enflaming is depicted in various sources (Siebmacher, Gelres, the European Armorial) as on the top end of the staff, issuant from each "ragged" portion, or issuant to chief -- but never as On a flame gules a ragged staff sable. The salamander is usually shown with spurts of flame, but occasionally as lying on a bed of flame (Dennys' Heraldic Imagination, p.193); but I could find no period emblazon showing the salamander as a tertiary on a flame. The enflamed towers of the arms of Dublin are drawn with spurts of fire from the battlements and windows, not as flames with tertiary towers. I could go on, but I think the point is made: in period, the normal depiction of a [charge] enflamed showed the charge on the field, with tiny spurts of flame issuant (and also on the field).

Two consequences follow from this depiction. First, the [charge] and the flames must both have good contrast with the field. Enflaming isn't a way to get around the Rule of Tincture; we don't permit flaming fimbriation in Society armory. Second, by the period definition of enflaming an enflamed [charge] is definitely the main charge; but by the old SCA definition, an enflamed [charge] is now considered a tertiary charge. We'd count Sufficient Difference, per X.2, between a lion Or enflamed gules and a tower Or enflamed gules, but no difference at all, per X.4.j.ii, between on a flame gules a lion Or and on a flame gules a tower Or.

In all ways, then, it's in the submitter's best interest to render an enflamed charge in the period style, rather than as a tertiary on a flame. It's more authentic, and it reduces the chance of conflict.

Discouraged vs. forbidden practices, or, The Art of Salesmanship

I've recently received inquiries from a number of Society members -- none of them heralds, and from various Kingdoms -- asking questions like "when did the College of Arms start banning households?" or "how come So-and-So could register a badge when I can't?" They indicate to me that, in some places, "suggestions" about good style have become dictates.

This I find disturbing. While I know about (and usually encourage) diversity among the practices of the Known World, there are some things that should, for continuity's sake, remain constant. For the College of Arms, one such constant is in the Rules for Submission, including the Administrative Guidelines. These are equally applicable in all thirteen Kingdoms -- if only because every submitter has the right to appeal to Laurel, over the heads of their Kingdom College.

The uniform application of our Rules is self-evident in cases of disallowed practices. If a Kingdom College, for instance, were to decide on its own that sable on gules had sufficient contrast, and forward submissions based on that decision, they'd quickly find themselves corrected. Certainly, none of the forwarded submissions would be registered, as the Rules now stand. Problems where a Kingdom permits disallowed practices are self-correcting at the Laurel level.

In cases of allowed practices, however, the need for uniformity of the Rules is less evident. A Kingdom might decide on its own to forbid a poor (but legal) heraldic practice -- say, forbid the use of compass stars or garden roses -- and the effect at the Laurel level would be the same as if that Kingdom had begun a massive education program and convinced its populace not to follow that practice. Thus, no corrections would be possible at the Laurel level -- until we start getting inquiries from submitters, as I have.

Everyone has a right to an opinion as to what the College should permit, or shouldn't permit. If your opinion's strong enough, you might try to persuade, convince, or gently discourage your submitters when they suggest something in poor-but-legal style. When a practice is permitted by the Administrative Guidelines, however, it's not the place of any individual Kingdom College to disallow it. If badges, household names, and alternate personae are permitted, they should be permitted to everyone, in every Kingdom. Those who disagree with any given practice are welcome to open debate within the SCA College of Arms -- and in the meantime, exercise their salesmanship with their clients.

Sometimes, we like to look at the pictures

A question has arisen during a recent request for reblazon: when should an armorial submission require a miniature emblazon in the LOI? Obviously, for any new armory, or change of armory, the miniature emblazon is mandatory. But what about transfers? blazon corrections? requests for reblazon?

Taking the last first, a request for reblazon -- that is, a request that the registered (and presumably correct) blazon be changed to suit the submitter's preference -- should include a miniature emblazon. The newly submitted blazon, like the original, must be checked for accuracy. The College can't do that without a miniature emblazon.

Blazon corrections are an issue of accuracy, rather than preference, and are thus a bit thornier. If the registered emblazon has some obvious error -- a tincture omitted, say, or a word misspelled -- then the correction need not include a miniature emblazon. On the other hand, it needn't be in a Letter of Intent, either; the proper forum for such a correction is a letter to Laurel, with a copy to Morsulus. More extensive changes, involving disagreements about the correct way to blazon a design ("That's not couped! The proper term is humetty."), should involve the entire College -- and so should be in a Letter of Intent, and should include a miniature emblazon.

Finally, when armory is transferred between submitters, we don't mandate miniature emblazons. The armory is already registered, after all; this is a purely administrative action. On the other hand, such a transfer is an excellent opportunity to improve an old SCA blazon; for that reason, I like to see the miniature emblazon for the armory being transferred, even though it's not mandatory.

The cue here is the extent to which the College of Arms is involved. Minor grammatical corrections involve the College little; major changes to the blazon, be they corrections or requests for reblazon, involve the College considerably. The latter, therefore, should include the emblazon for the College's perusal.

Rose branches

The difference granted for the slipping and leaving of flowers is one of our perennial problems [as it were]. The practice seems to have been uncommon in medieval armory; of the rare examples that had been discovered, none seemed to demonstrate a cadency change -- that is, the change one would expect to see between the arms of a cadet branch of a family and those of the main branch. For that reason, we've granted no difference between, say, a rose and a rose slipped and leaved.

Nonetheless, there have been suggestions that we should grant a CD for slipping and leaving, when the slip is so large as to constitute the majority of the charge -- in effect, when the charge is better blazoned a branch with a flower rather than a flower with a stem. I've found period evidence supporting this suggestion, in the arms of the Counts of Rapperswil, c.1232: D'or a treis rosers sur checkune roser une rose de goules checkune roser verte (Or, three rose branches vert, on each rose branch a rose gules). The comital line went extinct in 1283, but rosiers (rose branches) are still found in the modern arms of Rapperswilstadt, in the Swiss canton of St. Gall: Argent, in fess two rose branches vert, each with a rose gules. These are drawn just as they're blazoned: large stems (few or no leaves) with small roses. They are clearly artistic variations on branches, nor roses. (Anglo-Norman Armory II, p.442; Early Blazon, p.270; 10000 Wappen von Staaten und Städten, p.288.)

In cases that follow this example, I will register the plant as a branch with a flower. Moreover, I intend to grant a Substantial Difference (i.e., sufficient to invoke Rule X.2) between a branch (flowered or not) and a flower. Slipped flowers drawn with the flower dominant will still be considered negligibly different from a plain flower. Flowers whose slips are part of the definition (e.g., trefoil, thistle) will not get extra difference for the slip. I welcome suggestions on how we should count difference between flowered branches (e.g., between a branch vert with a rose gules and a branch vert with an iris gules); it should be at most a single CD, but I'm not convinced we could even grant that.

I think this new definition will bring us closer to period usage, and ease up a bit on conflict. It will also, I concede, make it temporarily harder to interpret old SCA blazons ("It says rose slipped. Does this conflict with a rose, or with a branch?"), but we can reblazon devices with branches as they come up in commentary.

A Call to [Sovereigns of] Arms

As I announced at the Known World Heraldic Symposium, I will not be seeking a second two-year term as Laurel King of Arms; my retirement begins at the 1994 Symposium, when I will hand the office to my successor. Like Master Da'ud, I want to leave office while I'm still able to function within the College; another year would see me burnt out to a crackly crunch, I'm sure.

I here call for résumés for the office of Laurel Sovereign of Arms. Interested candidates should list their SCA histories, including work with the College of Arms; a proposal for how the office will be administered (for instance, do you have enough local SCA folk to provide a competent staff?); and a discussion of where SCA heraldry is going, and where you propose to take it.

The ideal candidate will have, at a minimum, the following qualifications:

The successful candidate, if confirmed by the Board of Directors, will receive:
Please send copies of your bids to me and to the Corporate Secretary, Renée di Calabria; her address is in the front of Tournaments Illuminated. Bids and résumés should be received 1 Dec 1993; the Board will make its decision at its Jan 94 meeting, to allow a smooth transition period for my successor.

et cetera

Lord Morsulus has asked me to include the updated price list for Free Trumpet Press. I am, as ever, happy to oblige.

Until next month, know me to be,

Yours in armory,

Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme,
Laurel King of Arms.

Return to the LoAR Index Page

webbed by Lyssa, 06/09/97
Last Updated $Date: 2002/10/26 23:04:35 $ GMT

Copyright © 1997 Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.