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The College of Heralds is a multi-faceted office of the SCA. If you have been to any event at all you have most likely dealt with the loud-mouthed voices going off that want you to listen to their announcements. If you have ever been to Court, you will have seen a herald (or two or more) running the Court itself, and again at least one of them has a loud voice ... there's another aspect of the job that the College does that isn't as flashy as all that, but it is one that is very important to most people in the SCA.
We are the ones you go to to have your Name registered, your Device (or Coat of Arms) registered, and so on.
If anyone thinks that their name is registered just because it is on their membership card - let me explain:
The College of Heralds (and the SCA's College of Arms) has an agreement with the SCA's Registrar: We don't handle SCA memberships, and they don't handle registration of names.
What this means is, your card could claim that you were Henry Tudor, but that doesn't mean that the College of Heralds cares - the Registrar puts on your card whatever you want (I had a friend in Oertha, in his first year, who had "John Plantagenet" on his membership card ...).
On the other hand, the College of Heralds has a set of rules for registration of names and armory that we must follow in order to register those things.
So far, so good?
Armory is an heraldic design that uniquely represents the person or group that owns it. A person who has not been awarded arms may register personal armory as a device. This device will become arms when the person is awarded arms.
A badge is a piece of armory used by an individual or group to identify possessions, retainers, members, or other items. A badge is distinguished from a device, which is used solely by its owner.
Names are used to uniquely identify each person in the SCA.
There is a lot more terminology, we're not here to discuss all of that, but of course it will come up in the discussion ... if you have questions, ask.
Names and armory must be: compatible (period form and style), cannot be offensive to a "significant segment of the Society or the general population", have an inappropriate claim (claiming to be someone you are not, claiming to be immortal, claiming to be a famous person from history ...).
Names: must have a given name and a byname (there's a ton of description in the rules for what defines a byname); they must be documented to period names or period forms of names - OR you may use part of your legal name (also governed by the rules for modernity, and offensiveness).
Armory (devices and badges): must use period charges and other elements, compatible monsters (from period armory examples), must follow the rule of tincture. In addition, they should strive for simplicity and period balance; must be easily identifiable from a distance; and be reproducible from the blazon (description in heraldic-speak). This last point is one that if everything else is done correctly should not be a problem. I only mention it because sometimes someone wants to use a charge that could not be reproduced by someone who had never seen the arms - this defeats the purpose.
How Do You Go About Registering A Name, Device or Badge?
This is the easy part ... well, maybe not easy, but you do not have to know all the rules, or know where to look them up ... that's the Herald's job.
What you need to do is ... spend a bit of time on your name and device. Some folk rush in when they want to design a name or device for use in the SCA, and end up changing them ... sometimes several times ...
Determining Your Name
Your name is going to be very important, because this is what you will be known as in all your dealings with folk in the SCA. Think about it - if you are not comfortable using a given name other than the one your parents gave you, you should probably stick with that. However, there are a lot of Johns, Erics, Michaels, Steven/Stephen (and other spelling variants), Katherines, and more in the SCA. If you're looking for a unique name, perhaps you will want to move away from those ... or not.
You may want to go with a specific time or place for your name. The College of Heralds has a very good collection of resource materials to help find a name, as well as some folk who are very good at helping you out. You may just want something that sounds like something else, and quite often this can be done as well.
Determining Your Arms
This part can be tricky. Often people come to the heralds with an idea, sometimes with a full-blown device that they want to register, sometimes with just the idea that they like a set of colors and some charge, and of course the heralds see people with all kinds of interesting ideas.
Working With the Heralds
Your best bet is to see the Consultation Table which appears at most major events in the West Kingdom (both Kingdom and Principality -- in The Mists and Cynagua). The heralds there are eager to help you find a good device. You can also sometimes work with your local branch herald - some are more interested in this aspect of the office than others, so you may find some local heralds may suggest you go to the Consultation Table ...
One suggestion that often helps - if you have some ideas for what you think you want for your device or coat of arms, draw it up and color it. Make some variations of the same thing, different colors, move some of the charges around ... post these somewhere that you will see them a lot - say, in the bathroom, or the kitchen. As you decide that you don't like an idea, take it down. Eventually you may find yourself really liking one in particular, and sometimes it's not the one you expected.
Then go to the Consultation table. It is possible that your idea may fly right on through the College of Heralds. There may be a problem ... the folk at the consultation table will work with you to find something based on your ideas that will work.
What Happens Once You Submit Your Name/Device/Badge?
Once you send your forms and check to the College of Heralds, a long process starts.
Step 0: Your submission may go through a local branch herald. By (College of Heralds) Policy, the local herald has a month to pass this on to Kingdom.
Step 1: Your submission goes to the Kingdom Herald and is examined at a Kingdom Herald's meeting -- these are held monthly.
Step 2: Either your submission is considered to be good, or to have problems. If it has problems, it is returned with advice on how to make it work. Important note: Once you have paid for a submission in the West Kingdom (not all Kingdoms follow this policy), you have paid for the actual registration - if you find that your submission has been returned, you do not have to pay again to re-submit it to the heralds ... In the review process, both names and armory are examined for conflicts (remember those rules?), and for style and so on.
If there is a problem with the name in the submission, then the entire submission will have to be returned, as a device cannot be registered without a name. If there is a problem with the device only, then it will be returned, but the name will be submitted in the Letter of Intent (this is detailed in step 3). In either case, a letter will be sent directly to the submitter (not the herald) informing him that the name or device has a problem. The heralds will try to explain what the problem is and what modifications would make the name or device passable, if possible. If not, they will suggest alternates which are similar, and do some research (which is not guaranteed) to make sure that they have a reasonable chance at passing further review. At this point, it is up to the submitter to work with the herald(s) to redesign the submission and resubmit it. Note that the submitter does not have to take the advice given in the letter, but any changes to the submission should take into account the problems discovered.
VERY IMPORTANT: The forms have places that state "Accept no changes" - don't check these unless you really mean it. Instead, consider if there are modifications you will allow, and list them - but be specific when you do (stating "change the color" doesn't help - the College of Heralds cannot act on that - it would be our luck that we would change the color to the one that you hated ...).
Step 3: Once the device is passed at the Kingdom level, we reach the time-consuming portion of the submission process. The Letter of Intent (LoI) is sent out not only to Laurel, but to the College of Arms (which includes the Principal Heralds of all the other Kingdoms) for further review. Laurel sets a time for comments on a Letter of Intent (normally 4 to 6 months after mailing). Letters of Comment (LoC) on submissions are sent to Laurel by the commenting members of the College. (The West Kingdom College of Heralds receives Letters of Intent from all the other Kingdoms, too, and comments on them in the same fashion, that's what the Brachet meeting is all about.) The submission is then brought up for final review at the monthly meeting of the Laurel Staff. If there are no problems found by the heralds, the submission is passed and the name and device are registered with the College of Arms. If there are objections and they are upheld by Laurel, the submission is returned.
Step 4: Laurel then writes a Letter of Acceptance and Return (LoAR) which contains the actions taken on all submissions considered in a given month. This is sent to the Vesper Principal Herald and all other Kingdom Heralds. If the device is accepted, an official letter of acceptance is sent by Vesper to the submitter (or a member of Vesper's staff), and the submission is then fully registered. (If it is a name and device, a copy of the blazon sheet [the picture] is sent to the College of Scribes for their files.) If the name or device was returned, then Vesper or a staff herald (usually Latimer) will write a letter to the submitter explaining why, etc., just as for return at the Kingdom level.
This process is a lengthy one. It takes at least five months after the submission is sent to Laurel until Vesper is notified of acceptances or returns. If there are any delays, it may take a month or so more. Please be patient, but not too patient. If you haven't heard from the College after eight months, ask.
What Happens If My Submission Is Returned?
If your submission is returned, normally a letter of consultation goes out with it - this is a West Kingdom COH policy - not all Kingdoms do this. Normally the heralds at the meeting go over any returns, either from Kingdom or from the Laurel office, and try to help research ways to help with your submission.
Remember - once you pay for a registration, the money doesn't expire - you paid for a registration, and you can resubmit until you get something actually registered ...
You have a couple options once you get the letter of return.
The first option is to work with the heralds and try to fix the problem. You can take the advice in the letter of consultation, or you can decide to start over - it is completely up to you.
The second option is that if you feel you were wronged by the Kingdom College of Heralds, or the SCA's College of Arms, you can appeal the decision. However, this should not be done lightly - you must provide evidence and documentation that was not previously provided to the College if you wish to pursue this course of action. It means work on your part, because the College of Heralds is already rather overworked, and may not be able to help much.
What if your armory conflicts with someone else?
As it turns out, there is an option that you can pursue there. If your submission is not a direct conflict (i.e., there is a major difference between your arms and those of someone else), you might be able to get a letter of permission to conflict from that person.
If you are interested in pursuing that course of action, you should work with the heralds, as with our extensive network (it seems like every herald knows every other herald in the Known World sometimes), it is often possible to find the person you are in conflict with. We can also help you draft the letter, and get copies out to where they need to go, and other details.
The current cost of submissions in the Kingdom of the West is: $10 per item. (Note: $1 of the submission for a device or coat of arms goes to the College of Scribes to help pay for materials to make those nifty award scrolls.)
Number of Forms: You must submit 3 name forms, and/or 4 device forms and/or 3 badge forms. The reason for the fourth one with the device is that one of those forms goes to the College of Scribes to help them with the design of an award scroll ...
There are copies of the forms available - if interested you can get copies after this session ...
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