Barleycorn Court Report

On the eighth day of September, in year fifty three of our society, their Excellencies Østgarðr, Suuder Il Kha’an and Lada Il-Khatun, returning home from their recent victories in the summer’s war, did progress to their canton of Northpass for the Feast of John Barleycorn, and therein did hold court.

Their Excellencies began by inviting all newcomers, who had attended no more than three events, to present themselves, and they expressed their pleasure to see the great number of gentles who stepped forward. Each of the newcomers was given a seahorse candle as a token of the province’s welcome and was invited to return again soon, and the populace cheered for their continuing participation.

Next their Excellencies requested to speak with a representative of the Barony of An Dubhaigeainn, and Lady Fiona the Volatile did make herself known, being Seneschal of that Barony’s Canton of Hawkes Reache. Their Excellencies described a request that had reached them from their noble neighbors to the east, who wished to hunt the wild rock doves which are found in the parklands of Østgarðr, in order that they might nurture their populace at the upcoming Feast of Saint Andrews. Being filled with love for their cousins, their Excellencies did grant this boon, delivering unto said Lady Fiona a decree allowing Prefect Titus and his representative Vetra trys Kaukoles to capture said poultry within their borders.

(Scroll by Onora inghean Ui Ruairc.)

Their Excellencies next wished to hear the results of the day’s fencing tourney, and called for their champion Brendan Firebow, who had organized that trial. Lord Brendan spoke of the many fencers who had taken the field that day, recognizing Aesa Sturludottir as the winner of the day’s duels. There had also been a tournament to select Lord Brendan’s successor, and Alexander MacLachlan was named as the victor and new Provincial Fencing Champion. Their Excellencies bade Lord Alec join their entourage, and gave Brendan a necklace of green stones as thanks for his service over the previous year.

For a report on the archery contest, their Excellencies called for Conor Ó Ceallaigh, but that gentle demurred, stating that that the day’s challenge had been run by Arnbiorg Niálsdóttir, called Helga, and that lady did stand forth. She asked two archers to present themselves for acknowledgment, beginning with Lady Elizabeth Hawkwood, whose excellence had impressed all on the range that day, and their Excellencies presented her with a tassel to use in cleaning her arrows. Then Helga did announce Catelin Straquhin as the winner of the Provincial Archery Championship. Their Excellencies thanked Lord Conor for his service as their previous champion, and he delivered the regalia of that position to Lady Catelin, and their Excellencies invited her to join their company.

(Scroll by Lada Monguligin.)

Next their Excellencies called for the results of the day’s youth armored combat, and heard from Eikaterine tin Elliniki, the East Kingdom’s Deputy Earl Marshal for Youth Combat. She told of the number of children who had fought that day, including several newcomers who donned armor for the first time. Following a closely-fought series of bouts, Alaxandair Morda, called the Mountain, had won the Province’s Championship for a second year, and her Excellency Lada asked him to hold her great hammer in court and stand ready should it be needed.

Then Sir Edward Zifran of Gendy was invited into court. He presented the Viceregals with a gift of sweets from the far-off lands of Ealdormere, which all assembled agreed would make a nice light snack. He did then call up two combatants who had braved the challenge he set before the fighters that day, Lord Robert and Lord Ronan FitzRobert. He praised the knowledge, chivalry, and fighting skills of both, presenting them with Ealdormerean treats, and naming Lord Ronan the day’s victor.

Richard the Poor of Ely then presented the results of the brewing challenge that had been held that day. He summoned two gentles before the court, naming as winners Fiona the Volatile for the quality of her historical documentation, and Oliver de Bainbrig for the variety and excellence of his brews.

Their Excellencies next recognized the event stewards who had labored diligently to make the day possible, being Wilhelm Larsson, as well as Archubeas Grimoire, speaking highly of their efforts. Their Excellencies proceeded to read a roll of many names, enumerating those gentles who had assisted with various facets of the weekend’s activities, and recognizing them each with the Award of the Sea Star, at which the populace did give cheer.

The Il-Khanate did then speak about of their desire to recognize the work of younger members of the province who had contributed much to the vibrancy of the Province, and did announce a new award, the Order of the Sea-Urchin of Østgarðr.

To initiate the ranks of the new order, their Excellencies did first call forth young Benjamin of Northpass, praising his tutelage of the populace in period gaming, as well as his participation in dance and many other aspects of local events. He was presented with an embroidered hood as the regalia of the order, and an illuminated manuscript to mark the occasion.

(Scroll by Lada Monguligin)

Next their Excellencies called for Lord Alaxandair Morda, and inducted him into the same order, acknowledging his prowess in battle, his labors lugging heavy burdens at events, and his service in their court, presenting him likewise with a hood and warrant.

(Words and illumination by Lada Monguligin; calligraphy by Suuder Saran.)

Then the Viceregals asked Mongu Chinua to step forward, and spoke of his great skill with a bow, and his leadership and years of teaching within the Province’s archery community. They felt this excellence deserved to be recognized, and so they called forth their Order of the Silver Sea-Lion and made him a member, and he was greeted by his counterparts in the order, receiving a tippet from the last member so inducted, and cheered by the populace.

Lastly, their Excellencies recognized Lord Conor, who had begged their indulgence for a presentation to the province. Said gentle did proceed to unveil a stained glass panel decorated with the sea-horse insignia of the province, made by his hand and enclosed in a wood frame by Mongu Chinua. Lord Conor explained that he knew the province was moving towards commissioning viceregal coronets and offered the stained glass panel to be auctioned off at a future date with the proceeds being used to fund that commission. Their Excellencies thanked him for his gift, and all assembled did admire his handiwork.

Their being no other business before them, their Excellencies did thereupon close their court and retire in anticipation of the evening feast.

These were the events of the day as recorded by their Excellencies’ Herald, Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin.

Artistic Variation in Heraldic Art

A notable characteristic of armorial depiction is that any illustration of a given design is considered to be heraldically equivalent. For example, any illustration of “Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or” is said to represent the English Sovereign, no matter in what style the lions are drawn, as long as they accurately reflect that blazon.

Konstantia Kaloethina has assembled a nice demonstration of this principle in her “Heraldic Mythbusting” blog post containing nine different illustrations of “a seraph proper” by six different artists.

Two seraphs proper; the first by myself using an illustration by Vinycomb, the second by Konstantia Kaloethina. (Shared with permission.)

In addition to these illustrations, the post provides some period examples of “artistic license,” explains some boundaries on when it’s taken too far, and discusses the Society’s heraldic registration policies — it’s definitely worth a read.

A Proposed Design for Viceregal Coronets

The regalia committee of the Crown Province of Østgarðr has solicited design proposals for a pair of field coronets for the Viceregents.

I’ve never designed anything of this sort before, but it seemed intriguing and I wanted to try my hand at it. The results are attached in PDF format.

I expect that the province has received other submissions with more artistic merit, and don’t expect this design to be selected, but this was a good learning exercise, and I figured it’d be good for the other entries to have a little competition.

Name and Device for Bahja al-Azraq

Bahja had a name picked out and a lovely first draft of his device designed, but it needed a bit of adjustment to be registrable by the College of Arms.

Or, on a saltire between four rings purpure gemmed gules a pomegranate slipped and leaved Or seeded gules.

Although the original arrangement Bahja had sketched was problematic, we were able to retain all of the charges and the overall color scheme, while shifting them into a new layout which was free of conflicts.

Bahja is a Arabic masculine ism (given name) and al-Azraq is an Arabic masculine laqab (descriptive byname).

Both are found in “Arabic Names from al-Andalus” (Juliana de Luna, 2008).

Traceable Art at Pennsic XLVII

The Book of Traceable Heraldic Art was in service for its second Pennsic this summer, and hundreds of armory submissions were drawn using images from the new collection.
With more than two thousand illustrations, it’s twice the size of last year’s edition. The fifteen binders required to store the print version take up a fair amount of space in the Heralds’ Point art tent, but now that I’ve incorporated the rest of the art from the old Pennsic Traceable Art books, we were able to retire those other binders and reclaim a bit of space.
My thanks to everyone who’s contributed art or provided feedback and other assistance over the last year.
Key goals for the coming year include fixing problematic images and prominently labeling all no-longer-registrable charges, rounding out gaps in the collection (how do we not have an illustration of an egg yet?), and adding more illustrations in a variety of styles from period sources and society artists. Drop me a line if you want to get involved!

Name and Device for Anne of Østgarðr

Anne is an active fencer in the Province, who wanted to register armory that was personally meaningful, and had already identified a silver tree as the primary charge.

Per fess sable and vert, a tree and in chief a comet bendwise argent.

The illustration of the tree comes from the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry, affectionately known as the PicDic, while the comet comes from the Viking Answer Lady’s SVG Images For Heralds collection.

Anne is a female given name in multiple parts of medieval Europe. It is found in the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources at as attested to 1485 in Early Modern English, citing Wills and Inventories Illustrative of the History, Manners, Language, Statistics, &c. of the Northern Counties of England, from the Eleventh Century Downwards, volume I of Publications of the Surtees Society. London: J. B. Nicholas and Son, 1835.

Østgarðr is the name of the Crown Province of the East Kingdom, and the byname “of Østgarðr” follows the Branch Name Allowance of SENA PN.1.B.2.f.

Name and Device for Catelin Straquhin

Catelin wanted a name and device that reflected her family’s Scottish heritage, and had already picked a basic direction, so it didn’t take much additional effort to help her select something that was both unique and registrable.

Azure, a stag courant to dexter base between two roses argent.

Catelin had been interested in a “bucking” stag, but as that isn’t a recognized heraldic posture, we went looking for alternatives which would produce a similar visual effect.

While “courant to dexter base” is an unusual arrangement, it has been registered twice, most recently in January 2016.

The white rose was a badge of the House of York.

The illustrations for both charges are taken from Fox-Davies’ 1909 book A Complete Guide to Heraldry.

Catelin is a female given name found in the British Isles.

Straquhin is a late-period byname from the Scottish Lowlands.

SENA Appendix C indicates that after 1100, English and Scottish name elements may be combined.

Court Report, Blood and Axes

On the seventh day of July, Anno Societatis LIII, their Excellencies of Østgarðr did progress to the canton of Northpass to attend the martial exhibition called Blood and Axes, and at the conclusion of the day’s activities they held court in the the shade of the wooden pavilion to address the crowd therein assembled.

As their first order of business, their excellencies asked any newcomers, being those for whom this was their first, second, or third event, to step forward, and presented them each with a pair of seahorse candles in the colors of the province, and all assembled did cheer the newcomers and their future participation in the society.

Then their excellencies asked for everyone to stand who had helped with the running of the event, during site setup or any of the day’s activities, and his excellency Suuder did make the rounds of the hall, presenting them each with the award of the Sea Star.

Next they did call for the event steward, Lord Wilhelm, to come forward, and thanked him for organizing a successful event, and invited him to address the crowd, which he did most graciously, and the populace did cheer for his efforts.

Finally their excellencies requested that the gentles who had supervised each of the day’s martial activities stand forth and report on the days’ results.

Lord Ervald the Optimistic told of the rattan tourney, describing at length how the three fighters had been evenly matched, with the score tied after the initial round of fighting, and then tied again after a tie-breaker round, and then nearly tied again until at the end Lord Gawain won the day, and their excellencies presented said victor with a forged cloak pin.

Lord Alec MacLachlan then described the rapier tourney, which was well fought, and called forward the winner, who was Lord Buenaventura, and did present him with a fine short sword in recognition of his accomplishment.

Next Lord Ruan Shi Tian came forward to report on the archery tourney, featuring a variety of novelty targets, and congratulated Lord Omelan for having scored the highest of all of the competitors.

Lord Leon the Navigator spoke of the thrown weapons tourney, which was well attended with many throwers, and recognized as its winner the same Lord Omelan, who received a gift from their excellencies.

Boaire Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin told of the youth armored combat, which had seen a handful of first-time fighters take the field. Given the many newcomers who were training for the first time, a tourney was not held, but Mathghamhain praised all of the new fighters and asked them to return to the field in future events, and did recognize one new fighter, Gabriel, as being particularly enthusiastic, and his excellency Suuder did present said Gabriel with an arm band and words of encouragement to mark the day.

There being no other business before their excellencies, court was therefore closed with good wishes to all assembled.

These are the events of the day as recalled by their herald, Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin.

Lord Gawain Receives a Gift From Her Excellency Lada

What Does Morsulus Herald Do?

Notes from a session with Herveus d’Ormonde at the Known World Heralds and Scribal Symposium, June 9, 2018.

Who serves as Morsulus Herald?

Herveus d’Ormonde has held this position since Apr 2000.

His predecessors in the role were:

  • Master Renfield Wanderscribe (1980–1985) created first society armorial and ordinary.
  • Alban St. Albans (Jul 1985–) and Ianthus (sp?) set up a searchable database.
  • Iulstan Sigewealding (early 90s– Mar 2000) wrote most of the current codebase.

What is the job of the Morsulus Herald?

The primary task of the Morsulus Herald is maintaining the database of heraldic registrations, including indexing new entries, making corrections, and maintaining the software that powers the web interface.

Also responsible for publishing the LoARs to the web site, which  only takes a few minutes each month. When the LoAR is published, Morsulus downloads these in HTML format and uploads them to the web site.

Where does the master database and code live?

All of the data processing happens on Herveus’s local workstation, a Mac laptop. This machine is archived on a external backup device in the same location.

The code is written in Perl and run from the command line. There are multiple scripts which perform different parts of the process. Morsulus has a text file that shows examples of the various script invocations required and works through each of the steps as required every month, figuring out which commands need to be run and making minor changes to the file names or options as needed.

The code is tracked in Git, and exposed to the public at, although the GitHub version lags somewhat behind the current working version used by Herveus.

The master database is maintained in a SQLite database file. The headings used internally correspond to the ones in the file described below.

How is the database updated for new LoARs?

Every month, the Laurel team sends Morsulus a batch of XML files corresponding to the new LoAR. Actually, this happens three times, the first two times corresponding to the two proof passes, and then with the final version. The XML files are generated by OSCAR, but then undergo manual revision during the editing process. If problems with the XML files interfere with processing the data, Morsulus reports this to the Laurel team which makes corrections in the next pass.

A Perl script converts the XML file to a delimited-text “action” file which includes all of the changes for each name or armory as a single line.

Another Perl script applies those actions to the master database, after doing some logical consistency checks — eg, confirming that you don’t add armory without a name, that you don’t add two pieces of armory with identical blazons, that you can’t do a name change unless the old name is already registered, etc.

Lines in the action file which can’t be successfully applied to the database are flagged as errors, and Morsulus comments them out and hand-writes a revised version of the line called a “temporary edit” which can be applied, and notifies Laurel about the issue so it can be fixed in the next revision of the XML.

Then Morsulus runs a program in which he can perform the indexing of armorial headings and features for each blazon. This is a Perl TK app which runs in the X11 environment. It has a point-and-click interface that allows you to add multiple armorial descriptions for each blazon, picking from lists of headings and features. The descriptions are then copied to the local batch and the master database, indexed by blazon. Because the descriptions are indexed by blazon, this process can be done when the first proof pass is received, and does not need to be repeated for the next two passes except for any items whose blazons are changed during editing.

In the course of processing a month’s batch, Morsulus may need to add items to the category file. It’s fairly common to add new category cross-references (eg, “bay leaf – see leaf”) and less common to add a new category with a heading (eg “manacle|MANACLE”). When this happens, related changes must be made to several files in parallel.

  • The file is exposed to the public and corresponds to values visible in the oanda.db.
  • There is a separate file which is used for indexing and which contains some additional headings and in some places uses different heading names. The file also includes a list of which feature sets are applied to a given heading.
  • There is a file which lists all of the categories in the order they should be listed to the public. (They used to be sorted alphabetically by heading, which is why some of the heading names are strange.) It also specifies which categories to break down into smaller sections by tincture, number, or group; this is used to generate the web ordinary interface as well as the print ordinary.

Then Morsulus runs a consistency-check script that scans the SQLite database and summarizes various kinds of totals, and compare the output to a copy saved from the previous month, to see what’s changed and confirm that the number of changes match the expectation based on the number of items in the LoAR.

A Perl script exports a copy of the database from SQLite to a flat file format called “classic format.” This includes converting some internal headings from to the public equivalents used in; for example, “BIRD-PELICAN” gets exported as “BIRD:pelican.” These changes cause the exported file to line up with the combined categories used for the ordinary display and for the complex search form.

A set of “DB Diffs” are created that compare the new oanda.db file with the one that was generated last month. This simplifies the process of loading new data into another search tool built by another developer, as they only have to import the changes rather than the entire file. (I am not sure which of the other search tools use this, but I think it’s Hirsch von Henford’s Golden Stag app.)

The updated and oanda.db are then uploaded to the oanda server and the search daemon is restarted so that it will re-index the file; this only takes a couple of seconds.

How is the database accessed by others?

Most people use the oanda web site. Among other things, log files show that some local kingdom OP sites crawl the oanda web site to automatically collect armorial blazons for people in their region.

You can get a copy of the software needed to run the oanda web site by downloading and running the config.web script, which unpacks a copy of the Morsulus-search package.

Some folks, especially in the West Kingdom, are heavily invested in using a “print” version of the ordinary for lookups and conflict checks. Rather than actually being printed on paper, this is a set of documents accessible from which are built from the oanda.db in formats such as epub and PDF using some third-party software. That process uses a file named which is similar to but has print-specific notes such as “do not print” added to some categories.

(There was an old print version which was built by Morsulus using some custom C code which used the database to generate PostScript, but the last time this was used was for Pennsic 2011 and it has now been retired.)

(Although not discussed in detail during this meeting, there are also a couple of other search tools which can import the oanda.db file, including two Windows apps and a Lotus Notes interface.)

How are errors corrected?

People write in to Morsulus when they notice a problem with an armorial listing.

Morsulus checks the reports against the original LoARs and against an archive of scans of the original registration files to figure out at what stage of the process the error appeared.

In some cases the error originates in the LoAR; for those, people need to go through an LoAR errata process, get Laurel signoff, and then the correction is processed as part of the corresponding LoAR update.

In other cases the problem is due to a transcription error, in which the LoAR entry was garbled when it was transferred to the database or the indexing of categories and features was done incorrectly. In those cases Morsulus can simply correct the problem to accurately reflect the LoAR and push that change out in the next update cycle.

Those changes are made via a command-line tool that can search and edit the SQLite master database. This has various internal-use-only functions like looking up records by regid (a synthetic primary key) and directly editing raw database fields.

What are some random factoids about the database?

The database contains approximately 110K registrations. It takes up 120 MB in SQLite with the various indexes, but the flat-file version is only 16 MB.

There are a few cases of where there are two name registrations for the same name.

Jointly owned items have a primary name that they’re attached to, plus a second entry that just references that they’re a co-owner.