Norse Code

Norse Code

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.)

Borre-style gripping beast; Lisbjerg gripping-beast; Norse Jelling-beast; Norse Serpent; Norse Sun Cross; Sable and Gules, Iron and Blood; and probably some other things I’ve missed are all things people would like to use in their devices. Some of these things simply aren’t allowed any more. They’ve been determined to be incompatible with SCA heraldry though you will see some of these things in devices registered in the past you wouldn’t be able to get them passed today. Many of them come under the term “zoomorphic beast” which has not been allowed since October 1998. Some people feel it unfairly restricts the expression of their persona’s culture in their heraldic design. This is true because lines must be drawn somewhere. But it need not necessarily restrict the expression of their persona’s culture in their heraldic display!

One creative bit of heraldry which you might be able to find somewhere in An Tir is a person who wanted to have a Celtic unicorn as one of their charges. Unfortunately such beasts were not registerable at that time if they ever were. After trying unsuccessfully an elegant solution was found. They simply registered their charge as a Unicorn and used artistic license when depicting the unicorn to do so in a Celtic style. It was simple. The client is happy with a Celtic unicorn on their banner, the College of Arms is happy without having to bend the rules to allow for a charge that doesn’t fit. The Heretical Herald is happy that people are happy. Though indeed this is not his solution he is happy to use it and recommend it as necessary.

There are other places where such solutions can be applied. For instance any animal where there is a Celtic variation on a Heraldic or Natural plant or animal. Likely there are other cultures such as the Norse, which this could be applied to as well. In a pinch, I suspect you could figure a way to do a “Lisbjerg gripping-beast” even. Now to my relatively untrained eye the Lisbjerg gripping-beast appears to be a smiling man lying on his side with right hand gripping left wrist and right foot grasping his neck. (The image I have seen shows his head to sinister so I have reversed right and left for one with the head to dexter as is more conventional with charges) It might be a bit of a stretch, but could you blazon a “smiling man lying on his right side grasping his left wrist with his right leg bent so his foot reaches his neck”. Simpler would be a Norse Serpent or Jelling-beast which could be described as the closest serpent or other animal and then once more just rendered appropriately with artistic license once registered.

I’d even recommend such artistic styling even without any desire for an oddness to a charge just to make the heraldic display more suited to the person carrying it. Many cultures did not use standard European heraldry, so even though this heraldry does add so much to the SCA pageantry why not take that “C” for “creative” and add some cultural flare to it. I’ve seen some interesting examples particularly with some Japanese persona bearing devices much like Japanese “Mon” and Norse Warrior types carrying shields with devices with definite Norse flare to their design. I have even seen some definite Imperial Roman style on some early Roman Britain devices.

But do remember, not to overstep. Please don’t go registering a “mole hill” and render it artistically into a “mountain” and thus conflict with someone else’s device. So don’t register a “boar” but have it painted as a “bear” just because a “bear” would have conflicted with someone.

Powerful tools can be dangerous so use them with care!

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