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Hearsay Heresy

Hearsay Heresy

The Heretical Herald Volume 1 Issue 2 February 22, AS XXXVIII being 2004 AD

(ed. Note that this was written a while ago and some rules of SCA Heraldry may have changed. Consult your local herald.)

Myths and misconceptions among the general populous are widespread enough about heraldry in the SCA. You hear that some things are well known facts. Some stem from bygone ages of SCA heraldry from times when rocks were still soft. There was a time when the furs were considered neither metal nor colour and so gules on counter-ermine was quite all right. (Or so I have heard and I’ve seen registered devices that indicate this the case.) However this is not about the myths and legends of SCA heraldry. It is about something perhaps more important.

Oft times a discussion will grow up about a topic and there will be different points of view coming up. One person will make a statement and someone will respond to it either backing it or contradicting it. This is all fine and good. But sometimes people have different styles of saying things. Sometimes when one person says: “I think ‘A’ is ‘B’.” they mean that they have found research that backs that statement up which would in most circles be considered proof. Other people would say “I think ‘A’ is ‘B’.” when they have heard something somewhere about it but are not 100% sure of the facts while others would phrase it like that if they just guess it would be the case. Different people would interpret the same statement based on their interpretation of the statement. So someone asks a question and someone answers, then someone agrees with that answer and another and another, and the person who asked the question starts to think they have a definitive answer. But then someone answers with something that contradicts that first answer and nobody backs them up. The person who asked the question might wonder what is up, but since more people went with the first answer they figure that is the better answer.

But what if that first person was just guessing and the second one also guessed and the third liked the second and just wanted to back them up. The last one who contradicted them actually had heard something about the case, but couldn’t remember where they had come across the answer.

I think it can be very important to say where your facts came from and just which things are facts and which are guesses and what things you remember hearing, but can’t recall where from when answering someone’s request. It is important not to post an answer simply to agree with someone if you really don’t know. It can give a false sense of surety to an answer which might not have much basis in fact to support it. Perhaps this is where some of those myths get started?

Someone guesses something. It is repeated as something someone heard or read somewhere. It gets quoted as coming from a reliable source. It becomes commonly quoted and then something well known enough that nobody has to quote its source.

If nobody can answer, perhaps then a guess might be the best bet, but state outright that it is a guess. If you can’t remember the source state that directly and perhaps whatever you can remember as to the possible source. Perhaps it might remind someone of where the actual information came from and spur someone to be able to find the actual source. But best if you know it, include where you know the fact from and tell where someone else can find the same information as best as possible. Make it possible for someone else to retrace the steps needed to find that gem of knowledge.

Remember that someone listening to you might believe you to be an expert on a subject that you know little about and they will quote verbatim what they hear you say.

The Heretical Herald is an independent Publication not associated with the SCA Inc.
or any College of Arms or College of Heraldry either in the SCA or elsewhere.
It will be published on an irregular basis as material warrants.
H. Herald editor

-© 2004 by H Herald.
Creators of original content included in
The Heretical Herald retain copyright.

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