This friendly video by Mistress Morgan Donner of An Tir with Baroness Alianora Greymoor provides a useful introduction to folks in the SCA who’re interested in registering some armory but don’t know were to start.
Someone recently asked if there was an listing of which charges had been used most or least often in the Society’s armory. It turns out that this isn’t an easy question to answer using the standard Morsulus armorial interface, but since I’ve imported that data into a SQL database I was able to put together a query that generates such a listing.
The data below is current as of the LoAR dated January 2018, which was posted in March. It includes over fifty thousand total registered armory items, including those which have since been released.
Some other important caveats result from the way this listing was constructed:
- It includes all of the armorial description categories, so in addition to charges, the listing also shows the frequency of field tinctures, divisions, treatments, and arrangements.
- This listing is based on the categories as coded in the armorial database, so it doesn’t distinguish between individual charge types that are grouped under a common heading; in other words, lions, panthers, domestic cats and their cousins are all grouped together under “cat.”
- Some individual charges are grouped under one category but are considered to also conflict with charges that appear under other categories; in other cases, a single category includes multiple types of charges which don’t conflict with each other.
On the twenty first day of April AS 52, Østgarđr’s provincial arts and sciences and bardic championships were contested at the Lions Awaken schola in the Canton of Lions End.
Following the completion of the day’s activities, and with suitable pageantry, therein was opened the court of Suuder Saran and Lada Monguligin, Viceroy and Vicereine of the Eastern Ulus of Østgarđr, heralded by Jenna Childslayer with assistance from Donnchadh mac Eóin.
Their excellencies first called for all newcomers to the province to step forward, being those for whom this was their first, second, or third event, and greeted them with tokens of wax, asking them to return again in the future, and all present did cheer for the future of the province.
Next Lord Severus and Lady Keira of House Three Skulls presented their excellencies with a gift, which was gratefully received.
Their excellencies then thanked all those whose service had made the day’s event possible, granting them each the award of the Sea Star.
The court’s herald made an announcement of the dates of upcoming activities so that all interested could attend.
Their excellencies then called forth their new champion of arts and sciences selected that day, Lord Ibrahim ibn Musa bin Sulayman al-Rashid, whose nalbinding had much impressed the judges. Outgoing champion Lady Beatrice della Rocca congratulated him, presenting him with a scroll by her own hand, and delivered the regalia of his new position. Their excellencies thanked Lady Beatrice with a gift for her service as their champion over the last year.
Next Lilie Dubh inghean ui Mordha and Mistress Sofya Gianetta di Trieste were called forward to speak of the Decameron event they were preparing for the coming year.
Their excellencies’ outgoing Bardic Champion Jenna Childslayer did then call forward the entrants in the day’s bardic contest, Lord Ervald the Optimistic and Nico, Count of the Holy Kingdom of Acre. She thanked them for their efforts with tokens of hand-bound books she had made bearing the province’s badge, and then announced that the populace had been unable to choose a winner, granting them a tie in votes, and presented them both with brass rings for their artistry. At last, Lord Ervald was declared the the new champion based on the judges’ review of his pantomime performance, receiving the regalia of his new office including a seahorse ocarina, and a scroll with words by Lady Jenna, inscribed and illuminated by Lady Beatrice. In closing their excellencies thanked thanked Lady Jenna and granted her a gift for her service as their outgoing champion.
Then Lady Anneke Walmarsdotter was invited into the court and their excellencies spoke of her artistry and their wish to recognize her accomplishments and her service. They did call forth their Order of the Silver Lantern and made her a companion of the same, with all of the rights, privileges, and regards therein due.
Lady Arnbiorg Helga Niálsdóttir and Lords Conor O’Ceallaigh, Friedrich Grimme, and Mongu Chinua did next enter the court and called forward Lady Ellen Hughes to present her with the badge of an archery marshal in recognition of her station.
Their excellencies did summon Baroné Francesco Gaetano Greco d’Edessa and induct him into the order of the Sea Dog, recognizing him for his years of service to the Canton of Lions End.
Finally their excellencies recognized the day’s event stewards, Lord Duggmore Dougles and Lady Abigaill Bakere, thanking them for organizing a successful and pleasant event.
There being no other business before their excellencies, their court was then closed with the approbation of the populace there assembled.
Such were the events of the day as they were told to me, their excellencies’ provincial herald, Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin.
Gibbs is new to the SCA, but had done some other medieval-themed activities under that name and wanted to find a registrable equivalent that fit with their late-period English persona and paid homage to a grandfather named Morris.
Gibbs appears to have originally been a pet name or diminutive version of “Gilbert” before becoming established as a distinct name of its own. Morris seems to be an Anglicized version of the French “Maurice.” Both names came to England with the Norman invasion.
We spent some time looking at alternate spellings: Gibbs and Gibbes are both historically attested as English or Lowland Scots names, as are Morris, Moryis, Moryss, and Morrys.
When my first search only turned up documentation of Gibbs as a surname, we thought we might use Morris as a first name, perhaps with the spelling “Moryis Gibbs,” but then reconsidered when multiple people said this made them think of Maurice Gibb, a singer with the Bee Gees.
After turning up some additional sources, Gibbs Moryss emerged as the favorite.
Gibbs is a sixteenth-century English male given name, sometimes spelled “Gibbes.”
“Gibbs Wills” was the name of a man married on October 9, 1619 in Kent, England (Family Search, batch number M01596-5).
“Gibbs Hicksome” was the name of a boy christened on January 18, 1628 in Kent, England (Family Search, batch number C03656-1).
Moryss is a sixteenth-century English surname, sometimes spelled “Morrys.”
“John Moryss” was the name of a boy christened on February 13, 1562 in Langton by Wragby, Lincoln, England (Family Search, batch number C02972-2).
“John Moryss” was also the name of a boy christened on March 26, 1629 in Hereford, England (Family Search, batch number C13862-1).
As powerful as the Morsulus O-and-A software is, it’s not particularly easy to install and get running on your own computer, and it’s a bit daunting to extend with new functionality.
I had an idea that it would be easier to work with the armorial data if it was loaded into a regular SQL database, and spent my weekend putting together a proof-of-concept implementation.
The results are available as Clerk-0.1.tar.gz, a pair of Perl scripts designed to work with a MySQL database.
make.pl, will fetch the armorial data from the SCA’s web site, create database tables to hold it, import the data, and do a bit of cross-indexing to make searching easier.
$ ./make.pl No changes made; you are up-to-date.
search.pl, accepts command-line arguments that parallel the various options supported by the Morsulus O-and-A interface, and outputs the matching registration records.
$ ./search.pl --armory "PFESS:pl:argent:~and vert" --armory BEAST-BEAR:1:primary --armory BEAST-BEAR:gules:primary --armory "BEAST-BEAR:passant to dexter:primary" --armory "BEAST-BEAR:spa" --close Found 2 results Here is one matching item with an exact match: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin This device was registered January of 2017 via the East. Per fess argent and vert, a bear passant gules. Here is one matching item with one difference: Halldor Rauthbjorn This badge was registered May of 2002 via the Middle. (Fieldless) A bear passant guardant gules maintaining on its back a castle argent.
Both include usage information you can view by running them with
The search results generally match up to those from the original Morsulus search, although I don’t yet have all of the character-code support in place for broad-vs-narrow name searches, and I haven’t yet implemented date/kingdom search criteria.
I’ve also added a couple of features that aren’t available in the baseline tool.
One that would be easy to add to the Morsulus code is a
--min-score parameter, including shortcuts for
--exact, which only returns items that match all of the provided search terms, and
--close, which includes items that have at most one difference; both of these just set the minimum score based on the maximum possible weight.
A new feature that would be more difficult to add to the Morsulus scripts is the ability to search for any of several headings at once, for example
--armory "ROSE|FOIL-6", or even to search for any heading at all, such as looking for any sable tertiary with
The code is available under a permissive open-source license so feel free to use or modify it as you would like.
I’m working on some possible improvements to the web interface used to search the SCA’s heraldic database, known colloquially as the “O and A,” short for “Ordinary and Armorial.”
(Traditionally, an armorial is a printed listing of armory registrations with their blazons and the names of their holders; mundane armorials typically include all, or all of the notable, registrations within a certain heraldic jurisdiction. An armorial is typically organized alphabetically by the holder’s name; in contrast an ordinary is a specialized index used for looking up armory based on its blazon or appearance, grouping registrations under their primary charges.)
For decades the SCA’s armorial database has been maintained and distributed as a delimited text file, but searching it by hand in this format is inconvenient.
Periodically the database has been converted to a PDF file that could be printed for reference by heraldic consultation tables at events without internet access, but the alphabetical armorial and indexed ordinary both grew to over a thousand pages long, which makes it impractical to print up-to-date versions on a regular basis.
There is an e-book version in ePub format that is generated from the database every month by Jason Fesler; it includes both an alphabetical armorial and an indexed ordinary.
However, in practice, most searches of the database are done using the web interface at oanda.sca.org, which provides searches by name and blazon, as well as a clickable ordinary and a powerful “complex search” interface that allows for filtering registrations with multiple simultaneous criteria, which greatly speeds the process of searching for potential conflicts with new heraldic submissions.
The software that powers that web interface is available on GitHub as part of the Morsulus-Tools package, maintained by Master Herveus d’Ormonde of the East, who has served as Morsulus Herald since 1999. It’s written in Perl and includes numerous CGI scripts the power the various search features.
There are several mirror sites which run copies of the same Morsulus oanda software, although you’ll want to double-check that their copies of the database are up-to-date.
The HeraldStick project by Tanczos Istvan provides instructions for setting up a copy of the Morsulus oanda software, along with mirrors of some useful reference works, as a web server that runs inside a virtual machine that can be packaged on a USB memory stick and attached to a Windows computer. The setup process is not fully automated, so a fair amount of technical ability is required to get it running.
The HeraldsPoint hot spot project by Master William of Meridies is an effort to package the HeraldStick software as a pre-configured package running on a WiFi access point that can be made accessible to multiple heralds working at an event’s consultation table. These devices seem promising but are not yet available for purchase.
A few third-party applications have been created that allow browsing and searching the database.
• Aspilogia is a Windows 8/10 application built by Oddr Þiálfason of An Tir. This includes a complex search tool, along with a fuzzy search for names and blazons.
• There is a Windows desktop application built using dBASE by Hirsch von Henford of the West Kingdom.
• Stentorian.us has a Lotus Notes interface to the database, affiliated with the Meridies College of Heralds.
One of the seemingly-black arts of Society heraldic practice is checking new device and badge designs for conflicts against registered armory.
I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and still need to ask for help or get other heralds to double-check my work, so I thought it might be useful to post a few links to some of the resources I use to try and remind myself of how the process works.
The rules for armory conflict are laid out in SENA section A5.
A succinct summary of those rules is provided in the SENA Submissions Checklist (which also includes a number of other useful guidelines for all types of submissions).
Reading those rules can be a bit daunting for a newcomer.
A useful guide that includes numerous visible examples is Master Modar’s Basic Conflict Checking supplement to the Calontiri Herald’s Handbook.
Using the Complex Search Form
Modern conflict checking is nearly always done using the armorial’s complex search form.
People seeking to register a name or armory with the SCA’s College of Arms are often baffled by the length of time the process takes and the inscrutable jargon used to describe the various stages.
There have been numerous attempts to provide an overview of this process, to which I have now added my own contribution below.
Some of the terminology here reflects current usage in the East Kingdom; in other places the ILoI may be called an LoP, the LoD may be called an LoR or ILoAR, and the LoI may be called an ELoI or KLoI.
Likewise the timelines maybe slightly different in other kingdoms, as each kingdom’s commentary process is run on its own calendar. (And few kingdoms have the same backlog of submissions after Pennsic to cause slower processing in the fall months.)
This diagram is also available as a printable PDF.
Any set of colors can be used as heraldic tinctures if they can be interpreted easily and unambiguously.
The only one of these that’s special is the set of colors used for OSCAR’s color correction; when submitting images, it make things easier if colors are close enough to these that they’re not transformed incorrectly.
When armory images are uploaded to OSCAR, color-corrected thumbnails are generated which convert each area of color to one of the nine standard tinctures shown in dashed circles below. Solid outlines delimit the range of colors that are converted to each of those targets.
While the color-correction process usually goes smoothly, there are a few things to watch out for:
- Warm golds (containing more red than green) can end up being rendered as orange or brown.
- Warm browns can develop streaks or splotches of red.
- Blues and purples can become ambiguous if either of them comes too close to the violet boundary.
- Although not apparent on this chart, fine-line details like black outlines around an argent charge in a fieldless badge can disappear entirely.
Many thanks to Elena Wyth for the experimentation which allowed these OSCAR ranges to be estimated.
While the language of blazon used to describe armory is filled with hundreds of specialized terms which need to be memorized individually, at its core there’s a set of basic terms that describe a matrix of related ordinaries (simple geometric charges defined by their relationship to the field), divisions (lines splitting the field or a charge into two tinctures), arrangements (placements of charges in a group), and orientations (alignments of charges in a particular direction).
Lord Yehuda ben Moshe created a useful visual guide that makes it easier to see how these terms interrelate, which I have adapted to fit on a single sheet of paper for use in the Visual Reference appendix to The Book of Traceable Heraldic Art.
As with Yehuda’s original, this document is free to share, post, and modify as you’d like.