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

Wolgemut’s Van Stolen

The band Wolgemut, who many of us have enjoyed over the years, has had their van stolen. This includes all of their instruments and costumes.

The van was parked in Dallas, TX when it was stolen. It is a white 2003 Dodge Caravan with LA license plate. If you have info please contact the Dallas Auto Theft Unit, (214) 671 3553 and ask for the awesome Ms. Mueller.

Included are pictures of some of the gear that was lost. A GoFundMe page has been started to help the band recover and continue.





Article Request – Winter Coronation 2019

Ed. Note:  In line with our new focus on reader engagement, I will occasionally be asking for article input.

Copyist-illuminator. Mid-15th Century. Public domain in the US

I am asking for reader reporting on the upcoming Winter Coronation.

Items that I need are:

Please contact me directly, via email, Facebook Messenger or MeWe chat, if you can provide any or all of that.

Thank you,


Post expires at 1:42pm on Sunday January 20th, 2019

HE Duncan Bruce of Logan on Twelfth Night 2019

From His Excellency Duncan Bruce of Logan, gleaned from MeWe.

Another successful and fun Twelfth Night in the Barony of Lonely Tower .

And to make this one extra special, His Excellency Thomas de Chateau Noir, the originator of the Social Club tournament was there. The Social Club went on for 4 hours of fighting. Between the top 5 finalists there were over 500 wins counted!

(For those of you who don’t know how the Thomas de Chateau Noir Social Club tournament works, it is a bear pit tournament where the winner stays on the field. The expectation is that the combatants will introduce themselves before each bout, and the loser informs the list table of the name of the winner. By the end of the day, all the fighters will have probably crossed swords with each of the others at least once, and hopefully will remember their names. Hence the “social” part.)

There were fighters from all over the kingdom, and everyone seemed to have a great time.

There was also an armored combat novice tournament that was well attended, in addition to several cut & thrust tournaments and a couple of A&S competitions.

Several worthy people were recognized by Their Majesties in court, many of which had to be fetched from the kitchen. Their Excellencies Lonely Tower celebrated their first year by announcing new archery and cut and thrust champions. And in Their final act in Their final court at Their final full event, Their Majesties brought Hugo van Harlo in Their Order of the Silver Hammer for all his research into and wonderful recreations of period map making techniques. Very well deserved.

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

Twelfth Night, Christmastide and Epiphanytide

Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

As it grew dark on Christmas Eve and people filed into church for the Vespers service, the late afternoon/evening service now held around 4 pm, the Christmas season officially began for medieval folk, at least for those in the Christian West.

Unlike us, who begin our Christmas season before the holiday, at Thanksgiving or even earlier, our medieval counterparts began the season with the religious events surrounding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Decorations were put up right before Christmas, often on Christmas Eve. I imagine our medieval alter-egos would have frowned on the concept of decorating to celebrate the birth of Jesus before Advent even began.

We live in a secular country that notes holidays like Ramadan and Yom Kippur on its calendars. It’s hard to truly comprehend how much religion and the Christian liturgical calendar were part of everyday medieval life. For the common folk the liturgical calendar was more important than the Julian calendar. Letters were dated by the holy day or week, for example “written on St. Catherine’s Day” or “on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday.” Few used the complicated Roman calendar to date personal correspondence (“vij kalendas Februarias”). Everyone knew when Holy Rood Day or Michaelmas was.

The first day of Christmastide, December 25, was followed by the second day, the Feast of St. Stephen, then the third day, the feast of St. John the Evangelist, and so on. On the evening before the twelfth day of Christmas, January 5, the celebration of Epiphanytide began. The Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrated the visit of the three wise men, or three kings, to the baby Jesus, also celebrated the baptism of Christ during SCA period and to a lesser extent, the miracle at the wedding at Cana. It ended eight days later, on January 13.

Christmas, Epiphany, Lady Day, All Saints’ Day, the feasts of the Ascension of Christ and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary are some of the most important Church holy days, known as Solemnity Days. These days outrank regular saints’ days and memorials. The celebration of Solemnity Days always began the day before, at Vespers.

All these Christian holy days, which is, of course, where our word holiday comes from, were part of the liturgical calendar for the year. Some, like Christmas, were fixed dates. Others, like the first Sunday of Advent, were moveable dates that were computed from when another Church holiday fell on the calendar. Easter, that most complicated Church holiday, determined when many of the other church events took place. I suspect that most people didn’t worry about computing each year’s calendar and simply let their churchmen tell them when to feast and when to fast.

When exactly did Christmas end? Christmastide ended on Twelfth Night. Shakespeare mentions people taking down the Christmas decorations on Twelfth Night. If you include Epiphanytide, you extend the holiday season another week. But in some places they remove Christmas decorations on Candlemas Eve (Feb. 1), and some calendars describe Feb. 1 as the end of the Christmas season. Christians believe February 2 is when Jesus was presented in the Temple and when Mary was purified, so continuing the season of the birth of Jesus until February 2 has some logic to it. However, it seems to be more of a post-SCA period practice.

So what happened after Epiphanytide? The weeks between major Church events were known as Ordinary Time. These weeks were numbered, from one to 34, and usually began the Monday after a significant church time period. For example, Ordinary Time begins on January 14, the day after the end of Epiphanytide, with the first Sunday of Ordinary Time on January 20 this year.

Below is part of a reconstructed medieval liturgical calendar. Since my persona is 12th century English, it represents the holidays and saints’ days my persona would have known.[i] It covers the time from the birth of Jesus to his presentation in the Temple.

Reconstructed Medieval Liturgical Year

 Constructed Using 2018-2019 as the Example

Dates marked with (M) are moveable feasts or days of worship. Dates in bold are Solemnity feasts[ii], Church events deemed more important than regular feast days. Optional or obligatory memorial observances are in italic.

Christmastide (beginning of a week off for the peasantry)
Christmas/Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ Dec. 25, 2018
Feast of St. Stephen Dec. 26
Feast of St. John the Evangelist Dec. 27
Childermas (Feast of the Holy Innocents) Dec. 28
St. Thomas Becket (from 12th century) Dec. 29
Feast of the Circumcision (eight Roman days after Christmas) Jan. 1, 2019
Twelfth Night (eve of the 12th day of Christmas/end of Christmas) Jan. 5
Feast of the Epiphany (Visit of the Magi/Baptism of Christ) Jan. 6
End of Epiphanytide Jan. 13
Ordinary Time (ordinal – the counted weeks)[iv] Jan. 14
(Begins on January 14 this year)
First Sunday of Ordinary Time Jan. 20
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Jan. 27
Candlemas/Feast of the Presentation of Christ/Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Feb. 2

[i] Modern liturgical calendars have additional holy days or have removed or added saints’ days. For example, the celebration of the baptism of Jesus is now held on the Sunday after Epiphany in the Roman Catholic Church.

[ii] Solemnities replace Sunday services when they fall on a Sunday. Celebration of Solemnity feasts begins the night before at Vespers.

[iii] Modern church calendars consider Epiphanytide a subset, or part of, Christmastide.

[iv] Ordinary Time runs from the Monday after the Sunday that follows Epiphany (January 13 this year) to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (March 5 this year), then resumes on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday (June 10 this year) and concludes before First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent (Dec. 1 in 2018).


Clothiers’ “Walk Through History” Online Signup Available.

The Walk Through History at Clothiers’ is a very popular event. Newcomers can get an overview of clothing styles from throughout Period, and oldtimers can get new ideas.

This year the event stewards for Clothiers’ Seminar have made participating in the Walk Through History even easier. You can sign up in advance at

Post expires at 12:07pm on Saturday February 2nd, 2019

Correction to the Link to the Falcon Banner Group on MeWe

First, this is not a plug for joining us on MeWe. The Falcon Banner will still post notifications on our email subscriber list, the Calonlist, Twitter and (until 2021) on our Facebook page.

That said, when I posted the link on New Years Day, I gave the wrong link for the Falcon Banner group on MeWe. When I was setting this up over the holidays, I ended up creating two groups. And, in my haste, I of course posted the link to the wrong one.

The link to the active Falcon Banner link on MeWe is (note the “1” at the end)

Also, the link to the Falcon Banner page on MeWe is

I will give everybody time to shift, then I will delete the other group this weekend.

My apologies for the confusion. Excuse the dust, don’t walk under the ladders and watch your head in that low spot. We are very much under construction.

Theme for Clothiers’ Display, and Call for Instructors.

The theme for this year’s display at Clothiers Seminar will be heraldic garb! Please contact me if you have some heraldic garb you would like to have displayed, and a bit about where and when it would have been worn!

Also we are still recruiting instructors! Please visit

Mistress Giraude Benet
Jill Sibley
No calls after 9pm, please

Post expires at 11:11am on Saturday February 2nd, 2019