FREQUENTLY GIVEN ANSWERS (That Are Wrong)
by Master Gawain of Miskbridge
(with assistance from Lady Alanna of Volchevo Lesa, Master Dmitrii Volkovich, and Master Da'ud
Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article in SCA publications.
Read the FGA on:
- HERALDRY - Misconceptions related to heraldic devices and badges
- NAMES - Misconceptions relating to naming and name documentation
- PROCEDURES - Misconceptions surrounding administrative issues behind the submissions process
- Only queens can use roses on their arms.
What is reserved to queens (and Companions of the Rose) are rose
wreaths. Chaplets of roses are reserved to princesses. By
extension, orles and bordures of roses are also reserved. Single and
multiple roses of any tincture* are not reserved, and are registered all
the time, so long as they don't look too much like a wreath.
* A rose tinctured gules and argent is an English royal badge, the
"Tudor rose", and is not registerable in the Society.
- Charges that have been previously registered in the Society are
always OK to use.
The College of Arms' level of understanding of period heraldic
practices has increased greatly over the years. A number of charges that
have been registered in the past are now seen to be at odds with the
heraldry of our period of study and are no longer accepted for
- You have to have an Award of Arms before you can register your
heraldry. (Alternate version: You have to have an AoA before you can
display your heraldry.)
Anyone may register heraldry. Until they receive an Award of Arms from
the Crown, it is called a "heraldic device" instead of a "coat of arms".
The two are registered and displayed identically; only the terminology
changes when you become armigerous. N.B.: This is not a practice firmly
based on historical precedent.
- Sable is a fur.
Yes, sable is a dark-brown luxury fur. No, in heraldry, sable means
black, which is classified as a color, not a fur.
- Furs are considered neutral with respect to the Rule of Tincture,
so they may be placed upon, or be charged with, either metals or
This is mostly true in heraldry outside the SCA, but we consider each
fur individually: in the ermine family we categorize furs by their field
tincture, since that has the greater area: ermine = argent, so is
considered a metal, while counter-ermine = sable, so is considered a
color. On the other hand, furs of the vair family have more or less
equal areas of both tinctures, so are indeed considered neutral. A
charge of either of the constituent tinctures is still not allowed go
over or under a vair fur, though.
- A bar sinister on a coat of arms shows that the bearer is a
This is wrong in at least two ways. First, there is no such thing as a
"bar sinister" in heraldry. A bar is a narrow horizontal stripe, so
there is no way for it to be sinister. Second, one of a number of marks
of illegitimacy, well-known because it was used by some acknowledged
bastards of the French crown, was the "bendlet sinister couped overall",
also called a "baton sinister". This is definitely not the only mark of
illegitimacy used in period heraldry.
- They stopped checking against mundane armory, so now you can use
anything you want.
"It is true that the SCA College of Arms no longer checks for conflict
against any but famous non-SCA arms. But to deliberately search out a
real coat of arms and to adopt it is, in short, theft. Your arms should
represent you, not someone else. Independent invention or creation of a
coat of arms which may be similar to non-SCA arms, however, is
permissible." - Da'ud ibn Auda
- Citing the use of a name in a book about the Middle Ages or
Renaissance is sufficient documentation.
Sorry, many fiction authors use names that were never used in the
setting of the story, or even (gasp!) make them up! Even
fiction writers of our period often used names not found outside their
works. Unfortunately, many writers of non-fiction about our period
translate or modernize name spellings, so you can't even rely on a
history text for the correct spelling of a name.
- If you can find a name in a "what to name the baby" book, you have
documented it sufficiently.
Baby books are fine for helping you choose a name for your baby. Alas,
they almost never give information about when a particular name was used
historically, nor do they normally give you anything but the modern
form. Frequently the "meaning" listed is also inaccurate, not to mention
that the "meaning" of a given name is irrelevant to its acceptability by
- Spelling was quite variable before the modern era, so you can
spell a name any way you like.
In our period, the spoken version of a word was primary, while the
written form was simply a way of recording it. Any spelling that would
reproduce the sound was "correct", but the way sounds were represented
varied widely from language to language and even from one period of time
to another within the same language. It takes at least a little
familiarity with a particular language to understand what the rules are.
What you can depend on is that they are distinctly different from those
for 20th C. American English.
- If you find a masculine name that you like, you can make its
feminine cognate by adding "-a" to the end.
This is not even true for modern English. "Williama" is not the
feminine cognate of "William". In many of the Latin-derived languages,
it is sometimes true, but, for example, in the Celtic languages such as
Irish or Scots Gaelic, or Welsh, it is almost never the case.
COLLEGE OF ARMS PROCEDURES
- If you submit stuff at the Pennsic consultation table, you'll hear
about it a lot sooner, because they rule on it right there.
Unfortunately, no; items submitted at Pennsic go through the same
procedure as items submitted through your local pursuivant. Because they
were submitted along with a lot of others, they may take a month or so
longer than otherwise. They will probably stand a better chance
of passing though, because they have probably been looked over by more
experienced heralds than your local officer.
- I don't need to register my name again with the College of Arms
because I have it on my membership card so it's already registered with
the office of the Registry.
What's on your card is whatever you put on your membership application.
It has nothing to do with registering your name. If you put "King
Richard Lionheart" on the form, that's what they'll type on that card.