How do I create a coat of arms?  Part two, design principles.

This is the fifth in a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir. 

Previously, we discussed where to get inspiration for your coat-of-arms.  Now that you  have some ideas, let’s talk about how to put it all together.

Some important design principles to keep in mind:

Duct-tape heraldry.  Aka who’s going to draw this for you? Be considerate of whoever is going to be sewing your heraldic design on your tabard.  There’s no shame in designing good solid heraldry that can be laid out on your shield using duct tape in a pinch.

Identifiability.  The original purpose of heraldry is to identify you across a battlefield.  So the colors are bright, the contrasts are clear, and the designs are relatively simple.  Charges (motifs) tend to be drawn in order to make the key identifying features of the object obvious.  For example, the eagle is shown with its wings displayed on either side.

Stylized and Simplified.  Heraldry is a bit like cartoon art.  Things are not necessarily drawn realistically, or painted their natural colors.  Heraldry has it’s own visual language with defined poses for animals and simplified depictions of objects.  That’s why it’s so useful to study period armorials for inspiration.

Complexity.  We are limited to a complexity count of 8 or less – adding up the number of colors with the number of charges.  So a red shield with a white owl has a complexity count of three: two colors (red & white) and one charge (owl).  A half-blue and half-green shield with a gold stars and a sword on either side of a gold stripe with purple and red hearts has a complexity count of nine – with five colors (blue, yellow, purple, red, green) and four charges (stars, stripe, hearts, sword).  As you can see, it’s a little much.

Contrast.  Identifiably requires good contrast, so we need to avoid putting dark things on a dark background (“color-on-color”, eg. blue on red) or light things on a light background  (“metal-on-metal”, eg. yellow/gold on white/silver) in most situations.

Slot machine.  Having 3 or more different things in the same area of the shield doesn’t match period practice and is also poor design.  You shouldn’t have a star, a diamond and a sword in the same group on your shield.  If you have to have them all, separate them into different sections of the shield.  (More on this in the next article.)

Marshalling.  Marshalling combines the arms of two or more families to display noble lineage.  Since we do not inherit nobility in the SCA, marshalled designs cannot be registered.  There are two types of marshalling:  impaling and quartering.  Impaling is when a shield is divided down the middle with one family coat of arms on the left, and another on the right – originally to show off that both of your grandfathers were important.  Quartering was an alternate way to show off your grandfathers, or you could show your 4 great-grandfathers’ arms in each of the sections.  Note that we can display heraldic designs that look like marshalling.  For example, a couple might marshal their arms as a “marital badge” to mark their children at an event to help people return them. That’s a great use of heraldry, just not registerable.

Contact me or one of the many other heralds of Calontir for further details.  (See “Heraldic Helpers”)

At your service,

Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald

Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy

12th Night Court Summary, January 5, A.S. 53

In evening court:
Arn Haraldson – AoA
Sasha (dicta Lilith of Lonely Tower) – AoA
Krystyn I Lund – Torse
Hugo van Harlo – Silver Hammer

Other court tidings:
7 newcomers received mugs in court; another was given after court, by Her Majesty’s grace.
Meister Gawin Kappler addressed the populace about the upcoming Historic Combat Studies Symposium at Lilies War.
Lady Alexandra Rikve Jessen will be the new Kingdom Equestrian Marshal.
Master Alan Smyith of Darkdale will be the new Chair of the Lilies Committee.
Siora Zaneta Baseggio and Doña Alexandra Vazquez de Granada addressed the populace about the upcoming Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium in July.

Presentation scene; detail of a miniature from BL Royal MS 15 E vi, f. 2v. 15th C. Public domain in the US

How do I create a coat of arms? Part one: inspiration.

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

Vert Hawk Herald: Results from September 2018 LOAR

The Bavarian Herald Jörg Rügen around 1510. Public Domain in the US

Greetings to All,

The Armorial has been updated to reflect the items in this LOAR.
In Service,

Gunnar Thorisson, Vert Hawk Herald

CALONTIR acceptances

Æthelred the Well-read:  Name and device. Per chevron argent and sable, two wildcats salient respectant gules and a triquetra argent.

The Letter of Intent argued that byname Well-read is a plausible the lingua Anglica form of the Old English term ge-l{oe’}red. Although this term strictly means “learned” or “erudite,” we give the submitter the benefit of the doubt that “well-read” is a reasonable synonym. If the submitter prefers Æthelred the Learned, he may make a request for reconsideration.

Bjólfr Gunnvaldsson:  Name and device. Gyronny arrondi sable and Or, a bear’s head cabossed gules.BNice 9th-10th century Icelandic name!

Kathryn dei Fiamma:  Device. Argent, a torteau and on a chief indented azure a roundel between an increscent and a decrescent argent.

Oisín Haconson:  Device. Azure, an owl displayed maintaining in its talons a battleaxe fesswise, a bordure argent.

There is a step from period practice for the use of a bird displayed other than an eagle.

Rima al-Wadi:  Name (see RETURNS for device).

Sigvarðr Skarfr:  Device. Checky gules and Or, a cormorant’s head erased sable beaked Or transfixed through the neck by an arrow fesswise sable.

Stephen Cousland:  Name.

The submitter requested authenticity for “England 13th or 14th century.” This name does not meet this request because Cousland is not found that early in English. It is, however, authentic for 16th century England; Jeanne Marie Noir Licorne found Cousland as an unmarked surname in a 1587 London burial record.

The submitter may be interested to known that Cousland is a Scottish place, rather than an English one. AsStephan de Cousland, the name is authentic for 13th century Scotland. If the submitter prefers this form, he may make a request for reconsideration.

Tempest Sea:  Name (see RETURNS for device).

Tempest is an attested English given name found in late 16th century York.

Nice late 16th century name!

Visvamitra Yavana:  Name and device. Azure, an owl argent and in chief a lotus blossom in profile argent.

The submitter requested authenticity for an unspecified time, language or culture. This request was not summarized on the Letter of Intent. Fortunately, Seraphina Ragged Staff identified the authenticity request during commentary, allowing sufficient time for research.

The name elements were documented from the Indian subcontinent. However, we cannot say one way or another whether this is an authentic name from any Indian language or culture. Our resources in those languages and cultures are very limited.

Artist’s note: Please draw the owl larger.

CALONTIR returns

Rima al-Wadi:  Device. Per chevron azure and argent, two dragonflies in chevron argent and a cinquefoil palewise purpure slipped and leaved vert.

This device is returned for violating SENA A3D2c, Unity of Posture and Orientation, which states “The charges within a charge group should be in either identical postures/orientations or an arrangement that includes posture/orientation” The charges here are not in a unified arrangement, as the arrangement of dragonflies must be blazoned independently of the cinquefoil.

Tempest Sea:  Device. Per pall inverted vert, sable, and argent.

This device conflicts with the badge of Hakon Hrafnsson, Per pall inverted Or, sable, and paly argent and vert. Only two of the three field partitions have changes, so it is not eligible for an SC under SENA A5F2. If considered under SENA A5G1, a maximum of one DC is available through change of half the tincture under SENA A5G1a, as half of the field has changed tincture. A second DC cannot be gained through changing the base portion of the field through A5G1d, as only one third of the field is subdivided and the rule requires that at least half of an already divided field be modified in this manner.

Where do I find a good name?

This is the fourth in a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir. 

A previous article covered the basic requirements for registerable names, but where do you find a good name?

It’s very helpful if you have already decided on a persona with a defined culture and time period.  In that case, you can look through on-line references for your culture at:

SCA College of Arms, Names Articles –

Medieval Names Archive –


If you don’t know what culture you want, there are a few options.

One, find a period version of your real name, a family name, or the name of someone else important to you.

Two, pick a name that was used in many different cultures.  A name like Elizabeth was popular all across medieval Europe (with variations) so you could use it for many different personas.

Third, explore the Database of Medieval Names or the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources (DMNES).  These sources collect names from multiple cultures in one place, so you can see what sort of names you like.  Often, you’ll find that a certain culture has multiple names that appeal to you – a useful clue about what persona you might want to adopt.

Fourth, wander around events without a name until your friends give you one.  Such names are usually fun and descriptive and come with good stories, although they can be devilishly hard to document after the fact (unless your friends happen to be heralds).

Unfortunately, baby names books and websites usually do not have historical spellings, much less dates.  History textbooks and Wikipedia have dates, but often have modernized or anglicized the spelling of names.  For example, Charles I of Spain was actually called Carlos in Spanish.  A good book will explain in the Table of Contents how they dealt with “foreign” names.  If you’re not sure of the source, look for the name in one of the websites listed above to document it better.

Once you find a name you like, make sure to record where you found it, with the date.  You’ll want that for the paperwork when you want to register it.

Whatever your inspiration, the heralds of Calontir are ready to help. Find us on-line or bring your ideas to a consult table and show us what you’ve got!

Heraldic Helpers –

Virtual Consult Table –


At your service,

Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald

Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy

What’s in a Name?

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 –

Virtual Consult Table –


At your service,

Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald

Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy

Calontir Virtual Consult Table

This is the second of a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir.

Calontir has a fairly robust cadre of local heralds and a strong contingent of heralds-at-large who are ready to help with researching and registering names and devices.

But we recognize that sometimes you just can’t get to the consult table at an event with all the other great things going on.  And it can be a challenge to pigeon-hole your local herald at a meeting long enough to hammer out some good ideas.

So, we are offering a brand new service – the Calontir Virtual Consult Table.

The Virtual Consult Table is a place where Calontiri with questions about heraldry can request a herald to work with them on-line to research a name, design a device, and get through the submission paperwork.

If you would like to use the Calontir Virtual Consult Table, go to the Virtual Consult Request Form.

You should receive an email from your assigned consulting herald within two weeks.

After your consultation, please let us know how we did and if you have suggestions for improvement with the Virtual Consult Feedback Form.

Heralds who are interested in helping with Virtual Consults do not have to be “senior” heralds or even “experienced” heralds. You just have to have to be service-oriented, familiar with the key resources (especially SENA and the Calontir Heralds Handbook) and able to ask other heralds for help when you find yourself with a question you can’t answer. And, of course, you need to have reliable email service.  Virtual Consult Volunteer Form.

When you finish a Virtual Consult, please report back so the Herald-in-Charge knows you’re ready for a new client:  Virtual Consult Heralds Report Form.

The Calontir Virtual Consult Table is in beta testing at the moment, but if all goes well, it will find a permanent home on the Calontir Heralds website.  For now, you can find it here:

Please try it out!

Heraldic Helpers

This is the first of a series of educational articles about heraldry in Calontir.

There are two main types of heralds in the SCA:  voice heralds and book heralds.

The voice heralds came first, historically.  In the SCA, they make announcements at tournaments and events (hence the name, herald) and run court and other ceremonies.  Sign heralds are included in the tradition of the voice heralds, since they convey messages also.

Book heralds help people pick names and design coats of arms.  Originally, heralds got into the business of names and armory just to keep track of the people they were announcing.  That evolved into a role in designing coats of arms for new noble families.  And in the SCA, heralds got involved in researching and registering names since you need a name in order to file armory registrations.

Most local groups in Calontir have a herald among the local officers.  Local heraldic officers have varying levels of expertise, from rank novice to grizzled expert, but they will be able to find someone to help you, if your problem is beyond their resources.

Since not everyone has a local herald easily available, Calontir has a system of regional heralds to cover any gaps.  You can contact your regional herald at any time for assistance on heraldic issues.

  • Northeast: Axed Root, Coeur d’Ennui, Deodar, Flinthyll, Heraldshill and Shadowdale.
  • Northwest: Carlsby, Crescent Moon, Lonely Tower, Lost Moor and Mag Mor
  • Central: Amlethsmore, Aston Tor, Bellewode, Cúm an Iolair, Forgotten Sea and Loch Bheathrach.
  • Southeast: Calanais Nuadh, Oakheart, Standing Stones, Three Rivers and Wyvern Cliffe.
  • Southwest: Bois d’Arc, Crystal Mynes, Grimfells, Spinning Winds, Theobald, Vatavia and Westumbria.

Calontir also has a strong contingent of active heralds-at-large who are ready to help.  You can find them and other heralds at the heraldic consult table at many of our events – including Lilies War.

You can also find us online:

At your service,

Sofya la Rus, Habicht Herald
Calontir Heraldic Education Deputy

Heraldic Submission Notifications To Be Sent From Saker Office

Greetings from the Office of Saker Herald.

Gruß Gott!!  Unto the Good Gentles of Calontir, does Herr Gotfrid von Schwaben, soon to be Saker External Submissions Herald, send well wishes to one and all.  I beg your indulgence for an important, but somewhat lengthy, announcement concerning e-mails recently sent from the Saker office.

You may or may not be aware, but the Saker Submissions Office is currently in the process of a transition and expansion from Lady Alexandra Vasquez de Granada (called Shandra) as Saker Herald, to myself as Saker Herald governing the External Submissions process to the Society level and Mistress Dorcas Whitecap as Eyas Herald governing the Internal Submissions process within Kingdom. The expansion was done to meet the growing needs of Calontir’s submission process and designed to coincide with the end of Lady Shandra’s successful tenure.

Some of you may have already noticed and received notifications recently via OSCAR, the on-line system used by Laurel Sovereign at Arms for the heraldic submission process, regarding the status of your name, device, badge, or various other items you have submitted for action.  In some cases, that information has been known for several months; in others, that information has only recently been made available by Laurel, or decided upon at Kingdom.  In any event, during this transition, it has been discovered that due to unusual circumstances a backlog in the direct notifications process within OSCAR has occurred.  We are currently working through the backlog and this process is expected to be completed within the next few weeks at most.

If you receive an OSCAR notification in e-mail and you were not previously aware of your submission’s status, or if you already have been notified of your submission’s status via alternate methods, please help us close the loop in the notification process and acknowledge receipt by picking up the message.  It is my understanding the OSCAR message provides instructions on how to pick up this message.  If you have not received a notification yet, or do not receive one, it is either because you were not affected by this backlog, or your submission is still in the commentary process.  FYI, OSCAR notifications should only occur when a submission has been decided upon at the Kingdom level, and Society level.

I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.

Ich dien,
inbound Saker External Submissions Herald

The Bavarian Herald Jörg Rügen around 1510. Public Domain in the US

The Bavarian Herald Jörg Rügen around 1510. Public Domain in the US

August 2016 LOAR Results are in!!

Greetings to All,

The Armorial will be updated this evening to reflect the items in this LOAR.

There were NO returns!

In Service,

Gunnar Thorisson
Vert Hawk Herald

CALONTIR acceptances

* Alexandra Jessen. Name and device. Gules, two pallets between two horses salient respectant argent.
Submitted as Alexandra Ríkvé Jessen, Alexandra and Jessen were both documented for 16th century Germany, but Ríkvé is a Scandinavian name dated to the early to mid-11th century. Because this name combines two languages from different regional naming groups and the temporal gap is greater than 300 years, we are unable to register this name as submitted. Therefore, we have dropped Ríkvé with the submitter’s permission in order to register this name.

Please advise the submitter to draw the front legs of the horses closer together.

* Amalie Helena Hasselbring. Name and device. Per bend Or and gules, a double-headed eagle sable and a Latin cross flory Or.
Hasselbring was not documented in the Letter of Intent. In commentary, Metron Ariston found this element in the FamilySearch Historical Records from Germany, dated to 1650. In addition, she found the given names Amalie and Helena in the same source, dated to the 16th century.

* Beatrix of Thanet. Name and device. Per fess enarched azure and vert, three garbs and a plough Or.

* Rose Wolfden. Name and device. Per chevron Or and sable, in chief a pegasus segreant and a wyvern erect respectant gules.
Precedent states:
Questions were raised about the appropriateness of the spelling Wolfden, as the source cited, “Faire Names for English Folk,” normalizes names. An examination of the source material indicates that the original form is Wolfde, which may represent Wolfden or some other spelling. Luckily, commenters were able to find the submitted spelling dated to the time of Edward III (1327-1377) in The Place-Names of Warwickshire. Therefore, it may be registered as submitted. [Alys Wolfden, July 2010, A-An Tir]

Therefore, we are able to register this element in the present submission.


The Bavarian Herald Jörg Rügen around 1510. Public Domain in the US

The Bavarian Herald Jörg Rügen around 1510. Public Domain in the US