by Modar Neznanich

One of the great aspects to the SCA is pageantry. Each of us can participate in this area by creating a heraldic device for ourselves, then utilizing that device for heraldic display. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing dozens of banners, shields, surcoats, dresses, boxes, tablecloths, tents, archery equipment, etc. all decked out in heraldic splendor. It adds to the medieval ambiance of events, and make us fit more into our personas.

Following are general guidelines to use when developing a heraldic device.

General Armory Guidelines

This is NOT to say that frequently used charges can't be used. Merely that, you may have to "be adaptable" and be willing to work with the heraldic design to get to use the charge you want. Many simple designs with these charges have already been registered.


Historical Aspects of Armory

While following the general guidelines will help you create a heraldic device that is acceptable and registerable, many people are concerned with being historically correct in their design of a heraldic device. To address this concern, a small bit of background is needed. To begin with, the origins of heraldic arms began in the late 12th century. Although the use of heraldry spread quickly, especially through western Europe, there were many places where arms were not used at all. If a person has a persona from a time period before the late 12th century, or from a place that didn't use heraldry, then they have a decision to make. They can be faithful to their persona and not use arms, or they can follow Society custom and use arms (even though historically they wouldn't have them). Only they can make the choice; there is no right or wrong choice.

Historically speaking, heraldic design grew in fits and starts. Because arms were inherited from one generation to the next, only a small number of new devices were designed in each generation. And new armigers wanted to associate themselves with the older noble families, to legitimize their claims to nobility, so they copied the same (old) design styles into their own devices. This restricted the growth of new designs during most of the Middle Ages. There were a few cases of rapid change in armorial style. Perhaps the most classic example of this was in England after the War of the Roses. The Tudor kings adopted arms which were distinctly different from those used by their predecessors, so everyone would know that a new dynasty had taken charge. But these cases of sudden growth were few.

The following hints, combined with the previous guidelines and hints, should allow a person to develop a historically accurate device.

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Avoid charges placed overall.
  3. Avoid very detailed or naturalistic depictions of charges.
  4. Charges should also be drawn to fit the space available. (Some may be drawn smaller or larger to fit the space.)
  5. Do not place ordinaries over corresponding field divisions.
  6. Draw complex lines of division big and bold.
  7. Use a single charge repeated three or six times.
  8. Use default postures for animals.
  9. Use easily identifiable charges.
  10. Use identical charges in symmetrical arrangements.
  11. Use multipart divisions such as checky, barry, and bendy for fields or charges.
  12. Use purpure and vert sparingly and not in the same device.
  13. Use strewn charges (semy).

Da'ud ibn Auda, "Period Style: An Introduction," Proceedings of the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, Kingdom of Trimaris, A.S. XXIX.
Aodhan Ite an Fhithich, "Heraldic Design: Theoretical and Practical Aspects for the Branch Herald," Dobharchu Publishing.
Hilary of Serendip, "The Philosophical Roots of Heraldic Design," The Known World Handbook.
Frederick of Holland and Eilis O'Boirne, "Heraldry in the SCA," The Known World Handbook.
Alan Fairfax, "Finding a Name and Arms for the SCA", The Academy of St. Gabriel website.
Larkin O'Kane, "Creating a Name/Persona" (Ansteorra version), Larkin O'Kane's website.
Raonull Modar, Saker Herald, "Creating a Name/Persona" (original version), consulting table handout.
Gwenllian ferch Maredudd, Asterisk Herald, "Period Heraldic Style", Ansteorra Heralds List.
Cariadoc (David Friedman), "The Little Things", Cariadoc's Miscellany.

(c)1998 Modar Neznanich
The only other thing I ask, is that if an article is printed in a publication, please let me know how I can obtain or purchase a copy of the publication(s) for myself.
Thank you.

I can be contacted as follows:
H.L. Modar Neznanich, CLM, CSH, OT
First Saker Herald of Calontir

Permission granted to web on July 13, 1998.


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