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!

But I Really Wanted Sanguine!

The Heretical Herald Volume 1 Issue 1 February 11, AS XXXVIII being 2004 AD

The other day as I was strolling I noticed an old Ford pickup on a flatbed truck going down the road. What caught my eye was that it was a maroon or dark wine red colour that reminded me of my Maternal Grandfather’s truck which was that colour. For that matter at least one and maybe more of his other vehicles were that same hue. Mom said that his favourite colour was red and started to wonder if perhaps this dark rich red was his actual favourite shade of red. It has actually become one of mine as well and has found its way into my mundane wardrobe.

Another favourite colour of mine is dark green. It also happens to be my Father’s favourite colour. I’m not sure if that is a coincidence or not. But while strolling I wondered. The colours of my device are in part dependent on my favourite colours. Now at the time I had not realized my actual interest in maroon, and blue is another favourite of mine so my device ended up with a field that incorporates both vert and azure.

But I thought what if I had really also wanted to incorporate maroon. Gules just is not the same. Sanguine is closer, but though known in later heraldry and even English Heraldry, it is considered a stain along with tenne. The SCA College of Arms does not allow sanguine as a tincture on a device unless of course you can find an allowable charge that’s proper tincture is sanguine and can back that up with documentation acceptable at Laurel level.

What else can a person do? I considered options. There actually are some that perhaps some people would not consider to be legitimate, but in truth are. But perhaps that is what might brand me the Heretical Herald. I’ll talk about other methods in other articles, but for this one I’ll stick with this one perhaps sneaky one.

irst off, as per regulation you must have a registered name in the SCA College of Arms Registry before you can register any armoury. You may submit your name at the same time as your heraldic device submission. Now in order to have a heraldic design with a sanguine background you will have to register a badge. I believe that first you must register a device before you can register a badge, but I firmly believe that you should have a totally proper heraldic device in any case that you can use for your Arms if you are made an Armiger. Now about that sanguine background, note that I did not say “sanguine field”, it is a subtle and important distinction and perhaps at this point at least some of the more creative heralds will begin to see what I am getting at.

Your next step is to design a fieldless badge using your charge of choice. I would suggest that you restrain yourself and restrict yourself to argent and Or for reason of sufficient contrast. You also will be under all the constraints that a heraldic badge comes with. This includes the fact that all parts of the badge must be attached to all the others. On the other hand fieldless badges are often less likely to conflict with other heraldic devices because all fieldless devices get 1CD from any other fieldless device or device with a field automatically.

nce you have designed your fieldless badge and run it past the heralds to ensure it is well designed and doesn’t conflict with anyone else’s heraldic design submit it to be registered. Then just wait for it to pass. Once it has passed, you’re there.

What about the sanguine background, you might ask? It is simple. A fieldless badge can be displayed on any medium of any colour. So you may place your badge on any colour. So feel free to paint your shield sanguine and plunk your badge right down in the middle of it. Et voila!

Now I suggest that you practice good heraldry and make sure you have good contrast between whatever background you do have and your badge. If needed put a buffer of contrasting colour between the badge and the background. Either that or make sure your badge is designed in an appropriate tincture for the background colour you wish in the first place. Also make sure that your badge is Big, Bold, and Butch in relation to the object you place it on. In Heraldry identification is important and you want your design to STAND out.

ou might have noted that I used sanguine as an example. But nobody has said you could have used tenne, orange, brass, brown, black watch plaid, herring bone tweed, paisley, or whatever you wish. I would ask that when you do so you keep with the spirit of the SCA and keep the background as something that suits the SCA and ensure that any pattern or colour you use is something that might be found in period at least for your persona. I also ask that you check to make sure that you are not placing yourself in conflict with anyone else by choosing an inappropriate background. This might take a bit more work on your part. But isn’t it worth it? I do hope that you respect these wishes if not simply because it is in the spirit of the SCA but as a favour to me for sharing this idea.

Powerful tools can be dangerous so use them with care!