Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yet Another Modest Proposal to Improve SCA Heraldry

Modify the Administrative Handbook of the SCA College of Arms as follows:

II. E. By Society convention, all branch arms must include one or more laurel wreaths as an important element in the design; only branch arms may have laurel wreaths as an element. 


By Society convention, all branch arms may include one or more laurel wreaths as an important element in the design; only branch arms may have laurel wreaths as an element. 

Because the mandatory requirement is completely ahistorical and makes it much harder for a heraldic artist to design simple arms typical of the Middle Ages for a branch, and because laurel wreathes, I am reliably informed and well believe, are actually quite difficult to embroider or appliqué.

Change it now.


Steve Muhlberger said...

The SCA College of Arms is the Immovable Object.

Will McLean said...

Not totally immovable. I can remember when they used to check for conflict with real world arms. And I'm not sure the resistance to change doesn't come as much from the general population of the Society.

Rebecca Johnson said...


The requirement for the laurel wreath was revisited in 2008. It went out for commentary in May, with the result published in November (

Secondly, the requirement for unique armory is found in the SCA's Governing Documents. (See for the relevant text.) I note that fewer things conflict under the new standards, which have been in place since April 2012. An examination of period cadency steps was done to decide what should/should not count as a substantial difference (such that you only need that one change).

The standards also encourage better armory by disallowing motifs/arrangements not found in period. We've had folks register a single lion recently. :)

Granted, most SCA armory is still much more complicated than what we see in period (barring those wacky Eastern Europeans, Germans, and Tudor English). However, I note that I've done a lot of heraldic consultations in which I've provided examples of righteous period armory. Some submitters want that. Some want their entire life story. We do the best we can.

Will McLean said...

"These standards shall be designed to support the historical re-creations of the Society and to provide sufficient difference from names and armory registered within the Society to avoid undue confusion, to avoid the appearance of unearned honors or false claims, and to provide sufficient difference from historical or fictional personages to prevent offense due to obvious usurpation of identity or armory. "

In my opinion, azure a chevron or and gules a chevron or are different enough to avoid confusion, and such similar designs were often seen in families with no cadency relationship. Our heraldry would be better if we did not treat such arms as conflicting. I will agree that the recent changes are a step in the right direction, and a sign that the heraldic leopard can change its spots.

Rebecca Johnson said...

Changing the tincture of the field was used as a cadency step in period per Gayre's Heraldic Cadency (which describes mostly English practice). The new standards reflect the more common types of cadency steps (biased to English practice) and ignore the rare ones. The issue was specifically raised, but tt was ultimately decided to continue to treat a change in field tincture as a cadency step.