Getting Started in Silent Heraldry

Ed. Note:  This article is based on an interview with Mistress Nesscia inghean Chearnaigh, as well as notes provided by her.  Neither the Falcon Banner nor Mistress Nesscia endorse any of the listed links, which are provided for information only.  Nesscia encourages anyone exploring this path to try several of these sources and find the best fit.  

Mistress Nesscia came to the SCA because of Silent Heraldry. She had long time friends who had found the SCA and needed access, so she came along to interpret for them. “I had nasty, old, thrown together costumes” she laughs.  But she soon became enchanted in her own right; “As I looked around it was like ‘This is really cool. Look at what these people are doing. Let me play too.'”

Now Nessica teaches and encourages others in the art of Silent Heraldry. The Falcon Banner recently asked her for some advice on how someone can become a Silent Herald.

    • Start taking classes in American Sign Language (ASL).  Just like a voice herald, you must have a basic knowledge of the language in order to be understood.  Your local college, university or other community resource may have continuing ed courses available. If not, several online resources are listed below.
    • It is very difficult to acquire a language in isolation, especially if you are not attending classes in person.  Find a practice partner.  Engage your child, your spouse, your neighbor or anyone else willing to come along on this journey with your.
    • If you don’t have anyone in your daily life who can assist, there are online groups for practicing with others, via online video.  You can also video chat with someone else in the Kingdom who is involved in Silent Heraldry.  Remember you will need a web camera to participate in these groups.
    • Avoid books on ASL.  It is very difficult for the beginner to look at a two dimensional picture and translate accurately into a three dimensional medium.  Beginners can end up practicing and memorizing the wrong thing.  “It takes twice as long to unlearn something and learn it the right way,” Nesscia advises.  With the availability of video sources, she does not advise hard copy sources at all.
    • Hang out with other Silent Heralds.  Nesscia has a Youtube channel to show the signs for some words that are SCA specific, but much of the nuances of Silent Heraldry are “word of mouth.”  You can also get opportunities to actually do Silent Heraldry this way;  “I’m willing, if you are taking a sign language class, come on, Ill get you up there!” Nesscia says.


Silent Heraldry Video Resources

Articles About Silent Heraldry

Online ASL Learning Resources

Online Practice Resources