This is the third in a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir.
Picking a name is one of the first things a SCAdian has to do, but is also one of the more tricky things to do “properly”. There are no “heraldic police” in the SCA, so you can use any name you can get people to call you. But if you want to register the name eventually, it’s good to be aware of the basic rules before getting too attached to a name.
In order to be registered, a name has to be documentable – with a period spelling and period date. Everyone knows that Mary is a period name, but was it written as “Mary” in 11th century Ireland or did they use a unique Gaelic variation?
A registerable name must also have two parts – generally a first name and a byname. We know that some cultures in SCA period tended to use only single names, but for administrative purposes, paperwork is filed under your SCA name and it wouldn’t work very well to have multiple people named “Anne”.
Both parts of your name need to go together – compatible genders, and ideally from the same time period and culture, or at least cultures that had close contact with each other.
A name does NOT have to match your persona (especially with the way people change personas in the SCA). The name doesn’t have to match YOUR gender, either (although it has to be internally consistent with itself, as noted above).
There are some other important restrictions to keep in mind.
First, your SCA name cannot be identical to your real-world name. It can be similar, but there needs to be at least a couple differences, for example, Mikhail instead of Michael.
Second, a name cannot be offensive. Offensiveness includes scatological references, sexist or racist stereotypes, or religious disrespect. This is, admittedly, subjective.
Third, a name cannot be presumptuous – making a claim to rank or power. For some names, it depends on the culture. Jesus might be an acceptable name in Spain, but maybe not in England. Sometimes, a name by itself may be okay, but not when combined with a particular coat of arms. James York might be registerable, but not with armory that resembles the Yorkist branch of the English royal family.
Fourth, a name cannot be “obtrusively modern”. Such names have such an obvious modern reference that it pulls us out of the Middle Ages. An example is “Porsche Audi”. “Joke names” are registerable, but the joke needs to be medieval, not modern.
All of this maybe a little confusing, but there are plenty of people to help.
Heraldic Helpers – http://falconbanner.gladiusinfractus.com/2017/09/09/heraldic-helpers/
Virtual Consult Table – http://falconbanner.gladiusinfractus.com/2017/10/07/calontir-virtual-consult-table/
At your service,
Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald
Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy