This is the fourth in a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir.
Now that you have a useable name, you need some heraldry to go with it.
We’re lucky that we get to design our own coats of arms. In period, you would have been stuck with whatever your great-great-granddad decided to slap on his shield the night before the big battle that made him famous. So historical coats of arms did not have “deep personal meaning”, just layers of family honor. Period nobility had to resort to badges and impressa when a new generation wanted add a personal stamp to their heraldic identity.
Which brings up the question of devices vs arms vs badges. Your device is what you would put on your shield, your tabard and your banner in order to say “I am here. This is me.” Your “device” magically becomes your “arms” when you are given an “Award of Arms” by the Crown.
Your badge is used to mark your followers, children and your property in order to say, “This is mine.” (An impressa is an heraldic-ish design that a late period noble would use to express “deep personal meaning” for special events.)
It can be fun to have your heraldry match your persona (or your great-great-grandad’s persona). We now have lots of period armorials (collections of coats-of-arms) on-line: German, Italian, English, French, Spanish, etc. Here’s one place to start:
“An Annotated List of Period Armorials Available Online“
Even if you don’t plan to match your heraldry to your persona, it’s great to browse through period armorials for ideas. (If you find a design you like, it’s smart to write down where you found it. Some period heraldry “breaks the rules”, but we can get around that if you have the documentation.)
You may notice that a lot of period arms are “canting arms”. A “cant” is a pun so, for example, the Talbot family had an image of a dog (a talbot) on their coat of arms. This is great for SCA heraldry, too. Names in period often have different meanings than we would assume, so that’s fun to research.
Be careful about resume heraldry. You may be a brewer, a weaver, and a fighter, but trying to work in a barrel, a loom and a rapier on your shield will be messy. Try to trim your “resume” to one main thing or get more subtle. Symbolize your fighting with an embattled bordure, or use yellow on your shield to symbolize the mead that you brew.
You don’t have to follow the crowd. Lots of archers have arrows on their devices, but fewer have pheons (fancy arrowheads). Why have a plain old lion when you could have a panther breathing fire? The Pictorial Dictionary of SCA Heraldry is a great resource for the wide variety of charges that have been used in the SCA. And using period documentation, we can register “new” ones!
As always, the heralds of Calontir stand ready to help. (See “Heraldic Helpers“) Bring your ideas to a Heraldic Consult Table at an event or try out the Virtual Consult Table and we’ll help flesh them out!
At your service,
Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald
Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy