Editor’s Note: This is a copy of an armory article by Lothar von Katzenellenbogen (mka Thomas Barnes) which was written in the 1990s and archived at the Academy of Saint Gabriel.
The article is over two decades old, and somewhat out of date — notably, a number of the rules and practices of the SCA College of Heralds have changed since it was written — and it’s definitely opinionated, but it also contains some useful information, and I feel there’s value in it if considered in context rather than taken as an authoritative reference.
Until now it was only available in a plain-text format that wasn’t very readable, but I’ve updated this copy with modern formatting and made a few minor typographical corrections. It is otherwise unchanged, and is preceded by the original author’s explanatory note.
See also the related A Critique and Ranking of Charges Found in the “Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry As Used in SCA”.
— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin, Whyt Whey Herald
Lothar’s notes about this collection
This archive represents everything I wrote for an audience during my time as a herald. Not all of it saw print and some it didn’t shouldn’t have. Use of these files is at your own risk. Much of this stuff is rough drafts or work in progress.
Admittedly, this is the web so I can’t do anything about it, but I would be grateful if people downloading the articles could do the following:
a) Credit me (Thomas Barnes)
b) Include copyright info. (c. 1994-2000
c) Keep the article intact, though it’s cool to excerpt bits for purposes of research, review, and debate. When you do quote text, credit me.
d) Use the articles in the manner in which they were intended: to help clients, to make SCA heraldry and onomastics less bureaucratic and more authentic, and to understand the beauty of medieval heraldry.
— Thomas Barnes
Authentic Heraldry Made Simple
by Lothar von Katzenellenbogen
Contrary to popular belief, heraldry is not a static and homogenous art form. The heraldry of today is not the same as the heraldry of the thirteenth century, and the heraldry of thirteenth century England was not the same as the heraldry of fifteenth century Portugal. People in the SCA have been slow to recognize this fact. It is not unusual for people who wouldn’t think of using synthetic fibers in their elaborate, hand-sewn costumes to blithely design arms that mix charges only found in 19th century heraldry texts with field treatments only found in 13th century France! This sad state of affairs is not helped by any of the books on heraldry that are commonly available. None of them tell you how armory changed over time, much less what charges were commonly used in heraldry.
The best books on heraldry are heraldic dictionaries, which quite understandably list every charge that was ever dreamed up, and only briefly mention how often, or when the charge was used. Mundane authors on heraldry have no reason to worry about trying to design heraldry in the style of 14th c. Ireland, so most of the commercially available books on heraldry don’t discuss the development of heraldry except in the broadest terms. The need to explain Period style heraldry has been ignored SCA College of Arms, which has chosen to devote its efforts almost exclusively to judging conflicts between arms. The rules used by the College do almost nothing to promote authentic style and can actually discourage it!
This leaves a person who wants to explain Period style heraldry or who just wants to design a Period-style device for himself with a dilemma, he can either slog through dozens of book and articles, most of which are unavailable outside of a major library or he can guess based on what limited resources he has. Neither option is attractive. With this pamphlet, I hope to offer a third path: a quick and simple system that will result in authentic heraldic design.
How to Use this Book
This book is divided into two sections: a brief discussion of the philosophy of medieval heraldry, and sets of rules that will allow you to generate heraldry that is correct for a given time and place in the medieval Period. If you are new to heraldry, you should read the style discussion first so that you understand the rationale for my rules.
The rules attempt to present a comprehensive set of style guidelines for every style of heraldry that I have found. Variations and pecularities within the same style of heraldry are discussed in the Variations section at the end of each subheading. My system gives a numerical “weight” to each charge, tincture, or motif found in a given style of heraldry, based on how commonly it was used and how it was used. As you choose armorial elements, you add up the “cost” of each motif. If the “weight” goes over 10, then the device is probably not medieval in style and should be redesigned. Each culture has its own set of rules with different weights to reflect the fact that a motif that is common in the heraldry of one culture might be completely unknown in the heraldry of another culture. It would defeat the purpose of these rules to mix heraldic styles.
I have also made little attempt to integrate my rules with the rules and precedents of the SCA College of Arms, especially in the areas of Differencing and Color-on-Color. I believe that the SCA College of Arms is misguided in its attempts to regulate heraldic design and that its rules for differencing heraldry are completely ahistorical. For the most part, medieval people assumed arms as they wished and differenced them only as local conflicts arose. The concept of a multi-national, multi-layer bureaucracy which requires that arms used in Australia be different from arms used in Finland is just absurd and goes against the spirit of the SCA. If you use my rules, you will end up with heraldry that is going to look like medieval heraldry, but I make no guarantees that it will be acceptable to the SCA College of Arms, should you decide to register the design you create.
That said, on with the show!
• • •
Hillary of Serendip outlined four basic rules of heraldic style in her article The Philosophical Roots of Heraldic Design [Tournaments Illuminated #66, Spring 1983 (also The Middle Kingdom Pursuivant’s Handbook, p. 73] but her article didn’t go far enough and it invoked medieval cosmology to explain artistic motifs that are much more easily explained by looking at the art and social system of the day.
Part I: The Philosophy of Medieval Design
Medieval heraldry was a fundamentally conservative art form. Heraldry was created by nobles for nobles, probably as an adjunct to the tournament, which also evolved in the 12th and 13th centuries. Heraldry reflected the symbolism, art, and worldview of the nobility, and by extension, the Catholic Church. In time heraldry became synonymous with nobility and tradition, and like all traditions, it resisted change. Heraldry retained forms and artistic designs from Gothic art and medieval cosmology long after Gothic Art had been replaced by the art the Renaissance and Baroque and long after the philosophy of the Middle Ages had been supplanted by the Humanism and the strife of the Reformation.
Heraldry also resisted change because medieval people did not attempt to overthrow the existing social order so much as rise within it. The concepts of democratic government and social equality were barely known before the 18th century. Men who assumed heraldry were attempting to blend into the Old Order and conciously assumed arms that evoked the oldest and most traditional motifs. If you assumed arms of a radically different form they would mark you as a newcomer and an outsider, so “new men” adopted traditional heraldic forms in slightly different patterns. It was only in the the heraldry of the craft guilds and the merchants that you broke away from the traditional symbols, but even Burgher Heraldry was influenced by noble and ecclesiastical values. As a result, medieval heraldry followed these rules:
1) Conservatism — Heraldry is conservative. Common elements are combined in common ways. Rare elements are combined in such a way as to make them as much as possible like the mainstream. Novelty in heraldry comes from combining existing elements in variations of common forms rather than creating new charges or arrangements.
2) Gothic Artistic Style — Heraldry follows the rules of Gothic Art. It is iconographic rather than representational. Beasts and human figures are long, skinny, and slightly stylized. Inanimate charges are stylized to make them more obvious as symbols. The design itself is static, balanced, symmetrical, and repetitive.Groups identical objects are preferred over collections of different objects.
3) Medieval Symbolism — Heraldry mirrors the values of the medieval nobility and the Catholic Church. This means that warlike animals such as eagles and lions are far more common in heraldry than humble animals such as donkeys or frogs. Artifacts such as towers and spears are more commonly foundly found on arms than cottages and plows. Charges that reflect the history and symbolism of the Christian church such as the cross or an image of a Saint are more likely to be found than profane images such as a juggler or a beer mug.
What Makes SCA Heraldry “Wrong”?
Actually, there is nothing wrong with SCA heraldry, in that the heraldry that people use give them pleasure and attempt to revive the values of the Middle Ages. If your goal is to create a pretty picture that inspired by heraldic motifs, put it on a shield, and call it heraldry, that’s fine. One of the central values of the SCA is that people should be allowed to find their own level of authenticity.
If your goal is to design authentic heraldry then you should be aware of the ways in which SCA heraldry is inauthentic. Here are some common pitfalls:
1) Trying to do too much — The most inauthentic sort of SCA heraldry is what I call “merit badge” heraldry. For example, a client must have a sword because he (or his persona) fights, a quill because he hopes to take up calligraphy, a shamrock because his persona is Irish, and so on. As one cynical herald remarked, “He couldn’t barcode his Security Number on his arms, so he put his life story on them instead.”
By contrast medieval heraldry revealed nothing about the individual who bore the arms, except in the most unusual of circumstances. Most nobles bore arms because their ancestors bore those arms. Your arms represented you because you bore them, not because you designed them.
The closest that medieval heraldry came to merit badge heraldry was in canting arms, rebuses, burgher or guild heraldry (which could be self-concious advertisements) or the rare and remarkable device that alluded to some act performed by a member of the family.
Cants and rebuses were almost always formed on the surname, not the given name. After all, it would be pretty silly to assume arms based on your given name if your heirs unto perpetuity didn’t have the same given name! A cant was a simple pun on the name, such as the Luces (pike) in the arms of Lucy or the three arms in the arms of Tremain (tre = three, main = hand). A Rebus as a more complex pun that used two or more charges. For example, the Ox and Ford on the arms of the city of Oxford form a rebus on the name of the city.
(There are a very few exceptions to the rule that cants are always formed on the surname. A very few Anglo-Norman arms from the early period of heraldry formed cants on the given name of the man who bore them. This means that if you have a noble, male Anglo-Norman persona from the late 12th century or early 13th century then it would be correct for you to form a cant on your given name, otherwise, use your surname if you want to do it right.)
The arms of guilds and merchants occasionally use either the tools of their trade or the product that they produced on their arms. However, the arms always used charges associated with one trade, not two or three. Why should the wool merchants give a free advertisement to the culter’s guild by putting crossed swords on their arms when they could use a fleece or a woolpack instead? If you want to create arms for a merchant persona, it’s fine to put the tools of your trade on your arms, as long as you stick with just one trade and you don’t try to put your life story on your arms.
Heraldry that alluded to a specific incident was exceptionally rare, and usually the reference was subtly incorporated into the arms. For example, a Scotsman who performed an exceptional service to his king might have been given an augmentation of a double tressure flory-counterflory.
If the arms were assumed after a certain incident, then the arms would certainly allude to just that one incident. For example, if a warrior was ennobled after defending a bridge single-handedly, then his arms would portray a man standing on a bridge, or just a bridge.
Finally, most medieval heraldry is much simpler than SCA heraldry. Medieval heraldry usually has one or two charges and two or three tinctures. In the SCA it is more usual to have heraldry with 3 or more charges and four or more tinctures.
2) Using the Wrong Symbols — Another mistake that SCA folk make is to put the wrong symbols on their arms. SCA folk enjoy making things and often want display the tools of their hobbies on their arms. They want to allude to their SCA names in their arms, so they form cants. They associate certain virtues with certain animals and they want those animals on their arms. All these practices are Period, but SCA people don’t always use the right symbols.
Unless a tool was a cant on the owner’s surname, had religious or historical connotations, or made a direct reference to the owner’s profession then it would probably not have been used in arms. Tradesmen were of a lower status than the nobility and nobles were consumers of products rather than creators of them. Noble wouldn’t advertise their skill at a craft on their arms. Few rising merchants would remind people of their humble origins by putting the tools of their trades on their arms.
Cants and Rebuses must make sense in the language of the name. A German with the surname of Wolfgang wouldn’t see the cant inherent in the arms Sable, seme of wolves rampant argent. that an English speaker would. Keep this in mind when you form a cant. Also remember that Modern English is very different from Middle English, so cants that make sense in Modern English don’t necessarily make sense in Middle English.
Just as the language changed, the symbolism of charges changed to. Modern people think of unicorns as a symbol of chastity because only a virgin maid could attract them. Medieval people drew the opposite conclusion and thought that the unicorn was a symbol of lust because he couldn’t resist putting his head in a maiden’s lap! If you want to be authentic, then you should be aware of the medieval symbolism of the charges you place on your arms. A book of Christian religious symbols or a book on the iconography of medieval art is a useful addition to any serious herald’s bookshelf.
Medieval people also used symbolism a bit differently than modern people did. Medieval philosophy did not admit the concept of a vacuum. Everything had its place and all space was occupied by something. As an offshoot of this belief, medieval people didn’t use negative space to represent an object. For example, if they wanted to represent the shadow or ghost of a lion, they would have used a lion with the understanding that it was somehow supernatural, even if it didn’t appear so in a heraldic device. If they wanted to represent the concept of a keyhole, they would use a door or lock rather than negative space to represent the idea that there is a place in the middle of a lock where the lock isn’t.
Medieval people also believed in the concept of Ideals — perfect representations of earthly objects. This meant that they were much more likely to represent an object with the whole object not part of the object or a related part of the object. For example, a medieval person who wanted to represent music on his arms would use a harp rather than a harp bag, a harp tuning-key, a musical note, or a harp string. A sword would be represented as a simple, obvious sword, not a broken sword, or a katana, or a flamberge, or a claymore, or a tulwar, or some other odd-ball variant of a sword, but a plain, simple ordinary sword.
In the rare cases where medieval people combined two charges in one or modified a charge, they always made the interaction as simple and obvious as possible and combined the two concepts into one single idea. For example, a lion pierced by a sword would have the sword sticking all the way through the lion and the lion would be bleeding where the sword went in. Nobody who saw the sword and lion motif could escape the idea of “dying lion”. A bit later on, a Renaissance person might represent the same scene by having a hunter stabbing the lion as it leaps, but the action and meaning is still unmistakable. A medieval person would not have represented the concept of “dead lion” by having the beast lying on its back with its legs in the air or by having it staggering along coughing up blood.
3) Using heraldic practices out of cultural context — Heraldry has regional and historical styles that are as distinct as trends in fashion or art. It’s hard to realize this because most people in the SCA learn heraldry from a few easily-accessible books which mostly focus on the heraldry of England and which only mention the oddest practices found in other styles of heraldry. Heraldic text also barely mention how frequently a charge is found within a given style of heraldry, so a reader is left with the impression that Palls are just as common as Crosses. This misinformation carries over into SCA heraldic design, where you regularly see charges only found in British heraldic encyclopedias from the 17th century jumbled in with odd field divisions unique to German heraldry.
4) The Rule of Cumulative Weirdnesses — Period heraldry was conservative and traditional. When an unusual line of division, charge, or tincture was used, the oddity of the practice was sufficient by itself to distinguish that device from all other devices, so the odd device would be very conservative in all other respects. Medieval heraldry that uses unusual design elements usually consists of one odd element and one or two very common elements.
SCA folk seem to revel in heraldic oddities and combine them with no realization that by using more than one heraldic weirdness they are making their arms utterly unlike medieval heraldry. So THE RARER THE HERALDIC PRACTICE, THE SIMPLER THE DEVICE!
• • •
Part II: Rules For Designing Authentic Heraldry
Period heraldry used only a fraction of the available design elements available and used them in very predictable ways. Some practices were used more frequently than others. I have looked at a number of Period armorials and reliable secondary sources in order to create a ranking system that reflects this fact. Each charge or motif used in heraldry has been given a “weight” which reflects the rarity of that practice. Weights range from zero to eight, as follows:
0–1 Common — If you open any armorial, you can easily find this charge or practice. The practice is utterly typical for this style of heraldry.
2-3 Unusual — If you open an armorial and look for a while, you can find a couple of examples of this charge or practice, but it isn’t guaranteed to be in every armorial.
4-5 Rare — If you search two or three armorials, you might find one example of this charge or practice. Alternately, the device is very rare but is simple enough that it can be incorporated into Period style heraldry in an unobtrusive way.
6-8 Unique — I’ve only seen one or two examples of this charge or practice in dozens of Period works. The practice is remarkable in its rarity. It should only be used in the simplest of armory. A ranking of 6 for a charge means that it’s rare, but it’s unobtrusive enough that it can be used as a secondary charge around a central armorial. A ranking of 8 for a charge means that it is so rare and complex that it should only be used as a central primary charge in a device which uses only the most common tinctures.
Costs of arrangements of charges, lines of division and other motifs that are closely linked to other motifs are much lower than the cost of a charge of equivalent rarity.
How to Use These Rankings
As you design your device, keep a running total of the weight of each heraldic element you use. If the total weight goes over 10 then the device is highly implausible as medieval heraldry and should be redesigned. Devices can be roughly graded as follows:
Excellent (2 to 4 points) — The device uses the simplest and most common motifs possible. It looks like early Anglo-Norman heraldry of the most typical sort.
Very Good (5-7 points) — The device uses a slightly more unusual motif or has a slightly more complex design. It is either typical of the heraldry of the 14th and 15th centuries or else it looks like heraldry from the earlier period that uses a rarer charge or motif.
Good (8-9 points) — The device is a bit cluttered or uses several unusual motifs. It is typical of the heraldry of the later 15th century or else it simulates heraldry from an earlier period that used one or two obcure motifs.
Fair (10 points) — The device is right on the edge of plausibility. It might be Period style, but it incorporates one or more really odd practices in a cluttered design. It would be representative of the odder designs from the late 15th century or the early 16th century.
Unlikely (11-12 points) — The device might be an accurate simulation of the cluttered designs of the later 16th century, but it would take an expert to know. More than likely, the device isn’t Period in style and should be redesigned.
Highly Implausible (13+ points) — Anyone with a bit of knowledge about real medieval heraldry can sense that there’s something wrong here. The device uses non-Period motifs in an incongruous fashion, It should be completely overhauled.
Warning: These rankings will sometimes result in arms that are demonstrably medieval being ranked as “Unlikely” or “Highly Implausible”. This is the nature of rules. No abstract model can perfectly simulate human creativity. I have also deliberately made my system a bit conservative to emphasize the traditional nature of heraldry and to counterbalance the tendency of SCA members to choose the strangest combinations of tinctures and charges that they can find. Because of this, there are two important exceptions to my rules:
1) Simple Designs — Any single charge can be placed on any field of a single tincture that doesn’t break the rule of tincture no matter what the combined weight of the two motifs would be.
2) Period Exemplars — If you are working from a Period exemplar to produce a similar design, then your new design must be considered plausible as long as it doesn’t exceed the weight of the old design and it makes no more than two changes from the original design.
For example, suppose that you were to use the Period English device Azure, a fess compony gules and vert between three owls close guardant argent. which has a weight of 16 under my rules for Anglo-Norman heraldry. You could substitute Or for argent since the weight of the device isn’t increased and you could substitute peacocks for owls (again the weight doesn’t change), but you couldn’t make a third change, since that’s drifting too far from the original design.
Likewise, you couldn’t make any change that makes the device less plausible, so you couldn’t substitute gules ermined Or for gules, since that would add extra weight to the device.
Another Warning: Any new work is going to have omissions and flaws in it. If you consistantly get results that don’t square with Period practice, or you find a practice that isn’t listed, then my rules need to be amended or changed. My rankings are guidelines, not gospel. Feel free to change my rules to reflect the facts.
Styles of Heraldry
The various styles of regional heraldry can be roughly broken into 6 categories, Anglo-Norman, Germanic, Iberian, Italian, Polish, and Hungarian. All these styles of heraldry developed after about 1100 and were originally inspired by heraldry developed in Flanders and Northern France. They all remained distinct from each other until the present day, though there are some. Within each category of heraldry there are variations by region which I mention when they are important. I have taken Anglo-Norman heraldry as my base style since I am most familiar with that style, and it seems to be the “default” style for SCA heraldic design.
Choosing the Right Style of Heraldry for your Persona — Your persona would have used the style of heraldry from the culture that he was raised in (if he assumed arms) or the culture tha he lived in as an adult (if he adopted arms). Medieval people don’t seem to have mixed elements from two different styles of heraldry in their arms. Of course, if you don’t like the style of heraldry that your persona would have used, then you can always be “creatively anachronistic” and use the heraldry of a different culture.
If your persona lived before 1100 or is Non-European (inlcuding Russia) then he wouldn’t have used arms at all. In this case you have two options: you can choose to not use arms at all, since they aren’t plausible for your persona or you can choose a style of heraldry that you like and design arms in that style. The result might not be strictly authentic for your persona, but at least the result is going to follow medieval style for some regional style of heraldry.
If your persona lives in the “Current Middle Ages” use the Anglo-Norman rules, since SCA custom seems to favor that style of heraldry.
The term Anglo-Norman heraldry is actually a misnomer, since this style of heraldry was the basis for the heraldry of the Low Countries, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and France as well as Normandy and England. These rules simulate the heraldry of England from 1100 to 1500 and the heraldry of Scotland, France and the Low Countries until about 1600. English Tudor heraldry followed slightly different rules and has its own section.
Arrangement of Primary and Secondary Charges
Choose the cost that most closely reflects the arrangement of the charges on the field. The cost of the arrangement of the charges doesn’t don’t include the cost of tinctures or charges themselves. If the same group of charges could have two possible values, use the higher value.
Note: The number of charges has no direct relation to the cost of the charges! If you have 3 lions passant vert the total cost is 6 (one for the lion, one for passant, four for vert), not 5, or 14 or any other number!
Discounts for Simple Heraldry: Any single primary charge may be place on any simply tinctured field regardless of the actual weight. Any device that consists of single charge or charge group in a Common arrangment (weight of 0 or 1 for the arrangement) gets a discount of 2 points which is subtracted from the final weight of the design. This allows designs that use slightly complex parted fields or slightly rare charges to still stay under the 10 point limit.
Arrangements of Complex Charges: Very occasionally in Period heraldry two different charges might be combined in a single arrangement. These arrangements inevitably consist of one charge resting on another (like a chalice resting on a book) or two charges which are immediately idenfiable and which have good bilateral symmetry placed one on top of the other (like a shield overlaying a spear or a lily overlaying a book).
Ordinaries throughout were never overlaid with other charges (10). Arrangements of charges that were not immediately identifiable would also not have been used (10).
Other arrangements of two different charges following the patterns described carry a total weight of 8, irregardless of the weight of the two independent charges.
Non-Period Arrangements of Charges
- Charges in an Arch (10).
- Non-Symmetrical Arrangements of Charges (except as noted) (10).
- Any Arrangment of Charges not listed (10).
- Field Only (0).
- Single Ordinary Overall (1)
- Multiple Ordinaries Overall (10)
- Any Other Charge Overall (10)
- Single charge in chief or dexter chief with any other arrangement of charges (1)
Ordinaries and Secondary Charges, Identical Charge Group, Unparted Field
- Single Ordinary or Group of Ordinaries (0).
- Single Primary Charge (0).
- Non-ordinary Primary surrounded by a secondary charge group of three charges, two and one (1).
- Non-Ordinary Primary surrounded by secondary charge group of two charges in Fess or Pale (3).
- Non-Ordinary Primary surrounded by four or five charges (3).
- Two charges In Bend/Bend Sinister (3).
- Two charges in Chief (2).
- Two charges in Fess (1).
- Two charges in Pale (2).
- Three charges two and one (0).
- Three charges one and two (3).
- Three charges in Bend/Bend Sinister (3).
- Three charges in Chevron (7).
- Three charges in Chief (2).
- Three charges in Fess (1)
- Three charges in Pale (1)
- Four charges 2 and 2 (4).
- Four charges one, two and one (4).
- Six charges arranged three, two, and one (1).
- Six charges arranged in pale two, two, and two (3).
- Six charges arranged in pale three and three (3).
- More than six charges is treated as a seme.
- Orle of Charges (2).
- Orle of Charges surrounding Non-Ordinary Primary Charge (2).
- Orle of Charges surrounding any Ordinary throughout (10).
- Orle of Charges surrounding any Secondary Charge Group (10).
- Primary charge between two long charges fesswise in pale (10).
- Primary charge between two long charges palewise in fess (3).
- One long charge in fess, bend, or pale (0).
- Two long charges arranged fesswise in pale (1).
- Two long charges arranged palewise in fess (1).
- Two long charges bendwise /bend sinisterwise in bend/bend sinister (7).
- Two long charges in chevron (10).
- Two long charges arranged in cross (3).
- Two or three long charges in pile/conjoined in pile (3).
- Two long charges arranged in saltire (2).
- Three long charges arranged fesswise in pale (1).
- Three long charges arranged palewise in fess (1).
- Three long charges arranged palewise in chief (3).
Arrangements of Charges, Unparted Field
- Four, Five, or Nine charges conjoined in cross (4).
- Four, Five, or Nine charges conjoined in saltire (4).
- Charge group in Annulo (7).
Arrangements of Long Charges, Unparted Field
- Two identical long charges in saltire (as single primary charge or as element of secondary charge group) (3).
- Two identical beasts rampant or salient in saltire (4).
- Two long charges in cross (4).
- Three long charges arranged In Pall (conjoining optional) (5).
- Two or three long charges arranged In Pile (conjoining optional) (4).
Ordinaries Surrounded by Identical Secondary Charge Groups, Unparted Field
- Charge or charge group statant on or issuant from a Base, Ford Mount, or Trimount (0).
- Bend or Bend Sinister surrounded by six charges three and three (0).
- Bend or Bend Sinister surrounded by three charges two and one (1).
- Bend and one charge in chief or sinister chief (3). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Bend Sinister and one charge in chief or dexter chief (3). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Bend or Bend Sinister surrounded by two charges one and one (3).
- Fess surrounded by two charges, two and one (0).
- Fess surrounded by six charges three and three (1).
- Fess two charges in pale (1).
- Fess and one charge in chief or dexter chief (2). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Fess with two or three charges in chief (1).
- Chevron surrounded by two charges two and one (0).
- Chevron surrounded by six charges three and three (0).
- Chevron and one charge in chief or dexter chief (1). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Chevron with two or three charges in chief (1).
- Cross surrounded by four charges two and two (0).
- Cross and one charge in dexter chief (1). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Cross with two charges in chief and two in base (4).
- Pall (or Shakefork) surrounded by three charges one and two (1).
- Pall (or Shakefork) and one charge in chief or dexter chief (1). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Pale surrounded by two charges fesswise (0).
- Pale surrounded by four charges two and two (1).
- Pale surrounded by six charges three and three (1).
- Pale surrounded by eight charges four and four (2).
- Pale and one charge in dexter chief (2). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Pile between two charges (1)
- Pile between four charges (1)
- Pile between six charges (1)
- Saltire surrounded by two charges one, two and one (0).
- Saltire surrounded by two charges in pale (2).
- Saltire surrounded by two charges in fess and two charges in pale (1).
- Saltire surrounded by one charge in chief and three charges two and one (1).
- Saltire surrounded by two charges in fess (2).
- Saltire and one charge in chief (1). (Possibly a cadency mark.)
- Multiple Ordinaries surrounded by any number of charges on the field (1).
Charges in Base
- A single charge or group of three identical charges in base, either alone or with any other arrangement of charges (4).
Identical Charge Groups on Divided Fields (with or without an Ordinary)
- Flaunches, six charges on the flaunches palewise three and three (2).
- Flaunches four charges on the flaunches palewise two and two (4)
- Flaunches, two charges in fess (on the flaunches) (0).
- Party of Six, six charges three and three (1).
- Party of Six, three charges one and two (1).
- Party of Six, thee charges two and one. (0).
- Party of Nine, four charges one, two, and one (0).
- Party of Nine, nine charges, three, three and three (1).
- Per Bend or Per Bend Sinister six charges three and three (0).
- Per Bend or Per Bend Sinister three charges two and one (2).
- Per Bend with one charge in sinister chief (1).
- Per Bend Sinister with one charge in dexter chief (1).
- Per Bend or Per Bend Sinister two charges one and one (4).
- Per Fess surrounded by two charges, two and one (0).
- Per Fess surrounded by six charges three and three (0).
- Per Fess, two or three charges in chief (1).
- Per Fess, two charges in pale (1).
- Per Chevron two charges two and one (0).
- Per Chevron six charges three and three (0).
- Per Chevron, two or three charges in chief (1).
- Per Chevron, two charges in pale (1).
- Quarterly two charges two and two (0).
- Quarterly with one charge in dexter chief (1).
- Per Pall any number of charges (10).
- Per Pall Inverted any number of charges (10)
- Per Pale two charges in fess (0).
- Per Pale four charges two and two (1).
- Per Pale six charges three and three (1).
- Per Pale eight charges four and four (2).
- Per Saltire two charges one, two and one (0).
- Per Saltire two charges in pale (1).
- Per Saltire two charges in fess and two charges in pale (1).
- Per Saltire one charge in chief and three charges two and one (2).
- Per Saltire two charges in fess (2).
- Charge on Chape (central portion) (2), peripheral portion (10).
- Charge on Chausse (central portion) (2), peripheral portion (10).
- Charge on Vetu (central portion) (2), peripheral portion (10).
Charge Groups of Non-Identical Charges — Secondary charge groups made up of two different charge types in equal (or nearly equal for odd numbers) numbers in a standard arrangement might add points to the cost. Cost for tinctures and charges are not included. Weights are skewed compared to similar arrangements of identical charges to reflect the cost of the extra charges and tinctures, especially when a rare field partition is involved.
- Two X’s and a Y two and one (1).
- One X and two Y’s one and two (4).
- Non-ordinary Primary surrounded by a secondary charge group of two X’s and a Y, two and one (3).
- An X (either Primary or Secondary) between two Y’s in Fess or Pale (3).
- Alternating X’s and Y’s in Orle without any other charge on the field (5).
- Alternating X’s and Y’s in Orle surrounding any other Charge Group except a cadency mark (10).
- Two different long charges in Saltire (primary or secondary) (10).
- Two different long charges in Cross (primary or secondary) (10).
- Arrangement of four non-long charge X’s between two long charge Y’s in saltire as sole primary or 2 and 1 (4).
- Two long X’s and One long Y arranged In Pall (10).
- Two long X’s and One long Y arranged In Pile (10).
- Two X’s and Two Y’s arranged or conjoined in Cross (10).
- Two X’s and Two Y’s arranged or conjoined in Saltire (4).
- Charges in …
- An X between Two Y’s In Fess or Pale (3).
- An X between Two Y’s In Bend or In Chevron (10).
- Any arrangement of X’s and Y’s in Cross, Pall or Saltire (10).
- Alternating X’s and Y’s in Annulo (10).
- Charge Group of more than two charges (10).
- Ordinaries Surrounded by Secondary Charge Groups
- Any number of non-identical charges issuant from a Base, Mount, or Trimount (4).
- Bend/Bend Sinister between three X’s and three Y’s (1).
- Bend/Bend Sinister between two X’s and one Y (2).
- Bend/Bend Sinister between an X and a Y (10).
- Chevron between two X’s and a Y (1).
- Chevron between three X’s and three Y’s in any arrangement (2).
- Chevron between an X and a Y (2).
- Cross between any group of two non-identical charges in any symmetrical arrangement (10).
- Cross between any group of four non-identical charges in any symmetrical arrangement (3).
- Fess between two X’s and a Y (1).
- Fess between three X’s and three Y’s in any arrangement (1).
- Fess between an X and a Y (1).
- Pale between an X and a Y (2).
- Pale between two or more Xs and two or more Ys in any arrangement (10)
- Pile between any number of Xs and Ys (10)
- Saltire between two X’s In Pale and two Y’s in Fess (1).
- Saltire between one X in chief and three Y’s (1).
Secondary Charge Groups on Divided Fields (with or without an Ordinary)
- One, or three X’s palewise between two Flaunches each charged with a Y (0).
- One, or three X’s palewise between two Flaunches each charged with two Ys (1).
- One, or three X’s palewise between two Flaunches each charged with three Ys (1).
- Six X’s in pale two, one, one and two between two between two Flaunches each charged with a Y (0).
- Six X’s in pale two, one, one and two between two Flaunches each charged with two Ys (1).
- Six X’s in pale two, one, one and two between two Flaunches each charged with two Ys (1).
- Party of Six, three X’s two and one and three Y’s one and two (1).
- Party of Six, three X’s and three Y’s three and three (10).
- Party of Nine, four X’s one, two, and one, and four Y’s two, one, and two (1).
- Party of Nine, any other arrangement of charges (10).
- Per Bend/Bend Sinister three X’s and three Y’s (0).
- Per Bend/Bend Sinister two X’s and one Y (1).
- Per Bend/Bend Sinister an X and a Y (5).
- Per Chevron two X’s and a Y (1).
- Per Chevron three X’s and three Y’s in any arrangement (3).
- Per Chevron an X and a Y (3).
- Per Fess two X’s and a Y (1).
- Per Fess three X’s and three Y’s in any arrangement (3).
- Per Fess an X and a Y (3).
- Per Pale an X and a Y (non-impaled arms) (2).
- Per Pale two or more Xs and two or more Ys in any arrangement (10)
- Per Saltire two X’s In Pale and two Y’s in Fess (1)
- Per Saltire one X in chief and three Y’s (1)
- Quarterly any group of two non-identical charges in any symmetrical arrangement (10)
- Quarterly two X’s in bend/bend sinister and two Y’s in bend/bend sinister (non-marshalled arms) (2).
Non-Standard Numbers — Charges arranged in chevron, bend/bend sinister, fess, or pale can use four or five charges instead of three but add 1 extra point of weight.
Charges arranged in cross or saltire can use five or nine charges interchangeably without adding any extra weight.
Charges on either side of an ordinary or divided field can add or subtract one charge from one of the halves of the field for an extra cost of 1 point per extra charge added or subtracted.
If the new arrangement of charges is identical to another arrangment on the list, use the cost of the standard arrangement instead.
Artistic Arrangment of Charges — Unless specified, charges on a field may be arranged to best fill the space at no extra cost.
Non-Standard Orientation of Charges — Non-Ordinary Charges are Palewise or Fesswise by default. A charge that is not in its default orientation, except as noted, is Unheard Of in Period heraldry and carries a weight of 10. The exception to this is long, skinny charges such as swords which may be placed in bend or bend sinister at no penalty.
Placing An Ordinary Across a Divided Field of the Same Type — This was far less common in Period heraldry than it is in SCA heraldry. Placing an ordinary over a divided field of the same type adds 1 point of weight to the design.
Arrangements of Charges on Charges — Like arrangements of charges, arrangements of tertiary charges only compare the relative frequency of practices within a subset of heraldic practice, so the costs are low. Any practice with a ranking of 0 or 1 should be considered Common, any Charge with a ranking of 2 should be considered Unusual, any any charge with a ranking of 3 or more should be considered Rare. Costs do not include the cost of charges or tinctures.
- Single charge in Dexter Chief on a Bend (0).
- Single charge in Sinister Chief on a Bend Sinister (0).
- Single charge in Chief on a Chief, Pale or Pile (0).
- Single charge in on any Ordinary (0).
- Single charge on the shoulder or breast of any animate charge used as a primary charge (1).
- Single charge drawn in the proper size for a cadency mark on any other primary charge (3).
Arrangements with Charges on Non-Ordinary Charges — These are popular in SCA heraldry, but vanishingly rare in Period practice. They have been priced accordingly.
- Non-Ordinary Secondary Charge group charged with tertiary charge group (2).
- Non-Ordinary Secondary Charge group charged with any tertiary charge group composed of two or more different charges. (10).
- Single charge placed over a Roundel used as a Primary Charge or Secondary Charge Group (5).
- Any number of charges on any other non-ordinary charge used as a primary charge (except as cadency mark) (10).
Charges on Ordinaries and Peripheral Charges
- Three charges on a Bend/Bend Sinister, Chief, Chevron, Fess, Pale, or Pile which follow the orientation of the Ordinary. (0).
- Five or Nine charges on a Cross or Saltire (0).
- Five or Seven charges on a Pall (0).
- Charges on a Bordure (0).
- Cross, Saltire, or Bordure with alternating X’s and Y’s (10).
- Cross, Saltire or Pall with a central X surrounded by Y’s (4 or 8 for a Cross or Saltire, 3 or 6 for a Pall) (1).
- Bend/Bend Sinister, Chief, Chevron, Fess, or Pale with an X between two Y’s (3).
- Any number of identical tertiary charges evenly distributed on Multiple Ordinaries (2).
- Base, Ford, Mount or Trimount with single charge (2).
- Base, Ford, Mount or Trimount with multiple charges (4).
- Any number of charges in a standard arrangement for an undivided field on a canton or charged escutcheon (Cost for the arrangement as if the canton or escutcheon were a field.)
- Any Tertiary Charge group made up of three different charge types (10).
Non-Standard Numbers — Tertiary charges groups that don’t use the standard number of charges add 1 to the cost of the device. Standard numbers are: One or three on a Chevron, Fess, Bend, Bend Sinister or Pale and Five or Seven on a Cross, Saltire, or Pall.
Non-Standard Orientation of Charges — Charges are normally Palewise, though long, skinny charges are equally likely to be Fesswise by default. Any charge that is placed on a pale, chevron, fess, or cross should keep its default orientation. Any charge placed on a bend, bend sinister, saltire or pall should follow the line of the ordinary. (Thus, “Gules, on a saltire Or, five cups sable.”, would have the cups on the legs of the saltire in bend or in bend sinister and the cup in the middle would be palewise.) A charge that doesn’t follow these defaults must add 1 to the cost of the device.
Charges on Charges on Charges — Very rarely tertiary charges were themselves charged. “Quartenary” charges must follow the rules for tertiary charges and must be purchased normally. In addition there is a 1 point weight for using Quartenary charges.
Non-Identical Seme Charges — Two different alternating charges can be used in a seme for a cost of 4 points over the cost of the seme. The cost for seme must be paid once, but the cost for any seme charges must be paid twice. Also, any cost of unusual semes must be paid as well for one or both charges.
Piles — Piles in any other than the default position were never charged with charges. Any charged pile not in default orientation carries a wieght of 10.
Tudor “Slot Machine Heraldry” For Tertiary Charges — This practice is very rarely found in late Period English heraldry. If you wish to emulate this extremely odd practice, ignore the ban on tertiary charge groups made up of more than two charges and use the following costs:
- Chief charged with three different charges (1).
- Bend, Bend Sinister, Chevron, or Fess charged with three different charges (1).
- Cross charged with group of three alternating charges (1).
- Likewise, the cost for mixed tertiary groups is reduced:
- Ordinary with a central X surrounded by Y’s (0).
- Cross, Saltire, or Bordure with alternating X’s and Y’s (1).
- Chief with an X between two Y’s (0).
- Charged Tertiary Charges (0).
Choose three charges, an ordinary, bordure or chief, and two or more tinctures. The device should be no worse than Rare before you add the tertiary charge group and it should not include any geometric field treatment or any fur except for ermine. All of the “weirdness” of the device should come from charges and lines of division. The Ordinary or Chief must be in a Common tincture but may include a common complex line of division such as engrailed.
Cadency and Differencing
In Anglo-Norman heraldry, there was no uniform standard of differencing or cadencing arms. In early heraldry common methods of differencing arms were to put a bend, canton, or label overall. A label was always a mark of pretense and always indicated the heir to a given coat of arms. In other cases arms were differenced by the addition of a bordure or chief which might be subsequently given a complex line of division and/or charged to further distinguish various cadet lines in the second generation. In still other instances arms were differenced by counterchanging them, or by changing a charge or charge group, by adding a single small charge as a cadency mark, by changing the tincture of the field or a charge, or by changing the line of partition of an ordinary.
The standard English cadencing system where the first son bears a label, the second son bears a crescent, and so forth appears to not be Period. Neither does the Scots system with its elaborate system of bordures.
The important thing, as attested to by legal cases and writers of the day, is that arms were only expected to be unique in the area where they were used. In Enlish this meant that one difference (probably what the SCA CoA would call a “Clear or Complete Difference”) was sufficient to difference the arms of blood relations or families linked by feudal obligations. Complete strangers variously differenced their arms by one or two differences depending on time and place. However, there are a number of cases where undifferenced arms were borne by complete strangers in the same heraldic jurisdiction and the definition of what constituted a “difference” was much more lenient than in SCA practice, especially when field-only heraldry or arms with common charges were concerned. Arms were also differenced against arms in active use. The arms of extinct families were occasionally inadvertently assumed or infringed upon by subsequent generations.
In practice, people tried to avoid using designs of unrelated families in their area, but didn’t worry about trying to be different from extinct arms or arms of minor families on the other side of the kingdom, much less arms from other kingdoms. In some cases families which were unrelated by blood, but linked by feudal ties would all use differenced arms of their liege lord! Since there was no central heraldic registry for much of the heraldic period, people worked it out on their own possibly with the help of free-lance heralds, which would be an eminently sensible model for the SCA to follow.
If you are attempting to recreate a device that is differenced by the addition of a charge, then you should ignore the 10 point limit, since the extra charge is going to add complexity. The complexity limit for a device that intentionally differenced is 14, as long as the 4 extra points of weight come from the addition of a single overall ordinary, chief, bordure, canton, label, or cadency mark.
Tinctures and Field Treatments
A field treatment that uses two tinctures must also include the weight of each tincture unless it is a standard form. Where the cost of a motif is not complete a “+” follows the number. In some cases there is a “discount” if certain tinctures are used in a field treatment (e.g. Vair or Ermine). Semes must include the wieght of the charge used in addition to the tinctures.
Tinctures — Or (1), Argent (1), Azure (1), Gules (1), Sable (1), Vert (3), Proper (any number of tinctures) (4), Purpure (5), Murrey/Sanguine (6), Tenne (10), Brown (not used for a Proper charge) (10).
Furs — Vair (2), Ermine (2), Vairy (1+), Erminois (4), Pean (4), Counter-Ermine (4), Ermined (other than the standard ermine variants) (3+).
Geometric Field Treatments — Barry (0+), Checky (0+), Lozengy (1+), Compony (1+), Bendy (1+), Bendy Sinister (1+), Paly (1+), Fret/Fretty (1+), Chevronelly (2+), Counter-Compony (2+), Lozengy Bendy (3+), Lozengy Bendy Sinister (3+), Barry Bendy (3+), Barry Bendy Sinister (3+), Grillage (4+), Chevronelly Inverted (7+), Lozengy/Barry Bendy Triangular (10).
Other Field Treatments — Seme (2+), Plummety (7+), Papillony (7+), Diapered (7+), Masoned (7+), Honeycombed (10), Mailly (10).
Artistic Details — Tinctures used for internal detailing or to tincture the eyes, mouth, tongue, and talons of a creature don’t add to the weight of the device. In Period heraldry tinctures used for internal detailing were common tinctures such as gules, sable, azure, argent, and Or.
Bendy vs. Bendy Sinister — In medieval heraldry, there doesn’t seem to have been much distinction drawn between Bendy and Bendy Sinister, Per Bend and Per Bend Sinister, or a Bend and a Bend Sinister. Likewise, field treatments such as lozengy bendy and lozengy bendy sinister were also interchangable. Sinister and dexter field treatments have been given equal weights to reflect this fact.
Some devices seem to have these field treatments as a deliberate design element, but it is just as common to for devices that would normally have bendy or barry bendy field treatments to appear in period manuscripts or printed works with the orientation of the field treatment reversed either because the arms are shown as arms of courtesy or due to a transcription error by the scribe or printer. (In fact, in the Konzil zu Konstanz the arms of Bavaria are variously emblazoned as everything from lozengy fesswise to barry bendy sinister to fusilly. The the orientation of the long ends of the lozenges cover 180 degrees of arc!).
Lozengy Bendy vs. Barry Bendy — In Period, these field treatments seem to have been interchangable and have been weighted accordingly.
Semes — Semes which use common charge types geta “discount” when certain charges are used in semes, other charges have a penalty when used in seme. Common seme types are crusily (0), seme-de-lys (1), billety (1), trefoile (1), goutty (1), and seme of roundels (1).
Semes of lions rampant (2), or semé of eagles displayed (2) are Rare and are penaltized accordingly. Early French heraldry has a few Unique examples of estencelly (4) and angemme (4) . Other charges used in seme must add 1 to the cost of the charge to reflect the rarity of non-standard semes.
Semes Of Two Different Charges — This practice was very rare. Any seme composed of two alternating charges X’s and Y’s must add 4 points to the wieght of the design.
If you wish to design a Period-style device using a seme charge, you should start with a charge that is at worst Unsusual (weight of no greater than 3) for Anglo-Norman heraldry. Then you should use only the most common design elements for the rest of the device. Preferably, the device should consist of just the seme and two common tinctures.
Counterchanging — Charges can be counterchanged across a field partition without penalty as long as they share the tinctures of the field. Counterchanging a charge or charge group in different tinctures than the underlying field adds 1 point.
Excessive Counterchanging — Charges (other than Ordinaries) may not be counterchanged with a field treatment. Ordinaries may be counterchanged across fields that are barry, bendy, chevronelly, or paly at a cost of 2 extra points. Any other combination of counterchanging carries the usual weight of 10.
Counterchanging Across a Divided Field — Non-Ordinary Charges tinctured with field treatments other than ermine and its variants weren’t counterchanged across a divided field. There is a wieght of 10 for this practice. (For example, the device “Per fess barry argent and sable and gules, three lions counterchanged.” is poor style because the lion in base would be tinctured in a complex field treatment).
Ordinaries that are counterchanged along more than one line of partition add 3 to the weight of the device (rather than 2). (Thus “Barry Or and gules, a pale per pale all counterchanged” would carry a weight of 10 points.)
Mixing Field Treatments — Charges on complex fields tended to be plain. A charge tinctured with a field treatment may not be placed on a field with another field treatment. However, the various field treatments may be placed on ermine (and it variants), but not vice versa. If this rule is ignored, add a weight of 10.
Color Next to Color — Field Divisions that place color next to color or metal next to metal are rare. Add 1 point to the total weight of any device that uses this practice.
Different Tinctures in the Same Charge Group — Charges in the same charge group tended to have the same tincture unless they were counterchanged (and then they shared the same type of counterchanging). Different tinctured charges in the same charge group add 2 points of weight to the design. Two different field treatments in the same charge group is Unheard Of. Add 10 points of weight to any design using such a practice.
Compony and Counter Compony — These field treatments can be used on any charge with no extra penalty.
Fret and Fretty — These field treatments are interchangable in Period heraldry.
Color On Color — Devices that place colored charges on colored fields or metal charges on metal fields are very rare. Add to the weight of any device using such a practice as follows:
- Sable on Azure (5), Sable on Gules (4)
- Azure on Gules (5)
- Gules on Azure (6), Gules on Sable (6),
- Vert on Azure (6), Vert on Gules (6)
- Or on Argent (6)
- Any other tincture combination (10).
Multiple Tinctures on any field use the cost of the least costly color combination.
Costs include the cost of the tinctures involved. The costs of the charges involved are not included.
Ordinaries that violate the rule of tincture may be charged with a standard group of identical charges at no penalty. All tertiary and seme charges must follow the rule of tincture or else they will invoke a second Color-on-Color penalty.
Ordinaries with field treatments with two poor contrast tinctures that overlie fields of a different tincture with poor contrast don’t aren’t assessed a second color-on-color penalty for poor contrast with the field. Other charges don’t get this break. (Any device designed with my rules will be over the limit even when this rule applies. I include it to lower the “weight” of the few historical arms where a low contrast divided ordinary overlies a poor contrast field.)
Bends Overall — In Anglo-Norman heraldry a bend that is gules or azure placed overall on a device with a field of a non-identical tincture at a reduced cost. See Ordinaries for more information.
Bordures and Chiefs — In Anglo-Norman heraldry a bordure or chief may be used as a mark of difference and may break the rule of tincture at reduced cost. See Peripheral Charges for more information.
Mounts, Trimounts and Bases — These charges never used a complex line of division There is a weight of 10 if this rule is broken. These charges may appear Vert on any plain field of a non identical tincture at no extra cost beyond the cost of the tincture as long as there is a single primary charge standing on the mount, or one or three charges issuant from the base. The free color violation does not extend to the charges.
Lines of Partition
Per Fess (0), Per Chevron (0), Quarterly (1), Per Pale (2), Per Saltire (2), Gyronny (of 6, 8 or 12 pieces) (2), Party of Six Pieces (2), Party of Nine Pieces (2), Per Bend (3), Per Bend Sinister (3), Gurge (6), Per Pall (7), Per Pall Reversed (7),Chause (8), Chape (8), Chape Ploye (8),Vetu (8), Vetu Ploye (8), Per Chevron Inverted (8), Gyronny Gyronnant (10), Schneckenwise (10).
Multiple Field Partitions — Per Pale and Per Fess (when one of the two lines has a complex line of division) (4), Per Pale and Per Chevron (any line of division) (6), Per Pale and Per Saltire (6), Per Fess and Per Saltire (6), Any Other Field Partition combination (10).
Multiple Field Partitions — Multiple field partitions may be given a complex line of division along one of the two lines at a cost of 2 extra points, plus the cost of the line of partition. They may be counterchanged along their lines of division for no extra cost.
Fess vs. Chief — In Early-Period heraldry Per Fess was occasionally indistinguishable from a chief.
Chape and Chausse — In Early Period heraldry Chape was identical to Per Chevron. In later Period heraldry it is rarely found. Use the Pile instead. Chaussee is rare in all Periods.
Party of Six and Party of Nine — In English heraldry the line “party of six” (what SCA heralds would call “per fess a pale counterchanged) is rarely encountered. This line is also found in the heraldry of France and Scottish heraldry but to a much lesser extent than in English heraldry (in those cultures it would have a wieght of 6).
Party of Nine (what SCA heralds would call “<Field>…a cross quarter pierced”) is a seldom encountered field partition found in English heraldry. In the heraldry of other nations it would have a weight of 6.
Per Bend and Per Bend Sinister — Oddly enough, the lines of division Per Bend and Per Bend Sinister rarely occur in heraldry, hence their high cost. In Period, it was typical for these lines of division to be used interchangably so I have given them equal costs.
Extreme Oddities — Extremely rare lines of partition are vetu, vetu ploye’, per pall, per chevron reversed (including chausse), and per pall reversed, Schneckenwise, Gyronny-Gyronnant These lines have, at best only one or two Period examples and mostly seem to be confined to late Period German heraldry. These lines of division are seldom, or never found in Anglo-Norman heraldry.
Field Partitions for Charges — Charges that were not counterchanged were unlikely to be divided by field partitions. If a charge is divided by a field partition not shared by the field the costs of the field treatment are increased as follows:
Ordinary (1), Primary Charge (2), Secondary, Tertiary, or Peripheral Charge (3).
If a counterchanged charge doesn’t share the same tinctures as an identical counterchanged field (e.g. “Per chevron azure and argent, a lion rampant counterchanged azure and Or.”) add 1 point of weight to the device per tincture not shared with the field.
Lines of Division
Anglo-Norman heraldry is notable for its extensive use of complex lines of division. These lines are much less common in other styles of heraldry.
Engrailed (0), Indented/Fusilly/Dancetty (0), Wavy (0), Embattled (0), Pily (3), Raguly (3), Undy/Nebuly (4), Fleuretty/Flory (4), Bottony (4), Invected (4), Enchancre (5), Nowy (5), Escartelle (5) Potenty (5), Fracted (6), Bevilled (6), Offset (6), Trefoilee (6), Rayonne (6), Grady Embattled (6). Leaves issuing from a per bend or per fess line of division (10).
Frequency of Lines of Division — In Anglo-Norman heraldry, Engrailed, Wavy, Indented (including pily) and Embattled account for perhaps 90% of all complex lines of division. Nebuly and Raguly account for approximately 9% of the rest. After that you occasionally see the line of division Fleuretty. The rest are Unique.
Unique lines of division should only be used for field-only heraldry, and only with devices that carefully follow the other stylistic rules for the heraldry of the proper time and place for that line of division. A device using one of these lines should have a complexity count of three at the outside, and should only use common tinctures and charges.
Point En Point — A Chief, Bordure, or Fess may be divided Point en Point. This adds 3 points to the wieght of the device but doesn’t add extra cost for using a field treatment on an Ordinary or Peripheral Charge.
Chief Escartelle — A chief may consist of one or three escartelles issuing from the chief of the device for a cost of 4 points. The device may have no other chief or peripheral charges if this is done.
In all styles of heraldry the Cross, the Bend, and the Fess are found in roughly that order of frequency. The Chevron ranks with the Cross in popularity in Anglo-Norman heraldry but is far less popular elsewhere. It would be Unusual in Continental heraldry.
Cross (1), Bend (1), Bend Sinister (1), Chevron (1), Fess (1), Canton/Quarter (2), Pile (2), Saltire (2), Pale (2), Bars Gemel (3), Fess between two Chevrons (3), Pile issuant from Dexter or Sinister Chief (3), Fess Couped (4), Bend/Bend Sinister Couped (4), Saltire Couped (4), Pile issuant from Dexter or Sinister Base (4), Pile issuant from Dexter or Sinister (4), Chevron Couped (6), Chevron Braced/Interlaced (6), Chevron Fracted (6), Pale or Fess Offset (7), Pale or Fess Bevilled (7), Pale and Chief (7), Chevron Inverted (7), Cross Portate (8), Shakefork/Pall Couped (8), Pall (8), Pall Inverted (8), Other Ordinaries Gemelled (10), Pile Inverted (10), Any Other Ordinary Couped (10), Any Ordinary Enhanced (10), Any Ordinary Abased (10).
Fess Tortilly — The Fess Tortilly is a charge unique to Scots heraldry. It has a weight of 5 in that style and a weight of 10 in other styles.
Piles — Piles not issuant from chief may be tipped with a fleur-de-lys (2 points extra), a rose (3 points extra), a trefoil (3 points extra), or a cross paty (3 points extra). These charges were very rarely found in Period heraldry, usually in groups of two or three.
Piles and Piles Inverted may be used together in a Period manner with three piles issuant from chief and two piles issuant from base. As a whole, this motif would have a weight of 7. Other use of Piles Inverted issuant from base carries a weight of 10.
Three Piles may be conjoined in base for no extra cost.
Piles may be cotised or given a complex line of division. Historical lines of division are embattled, bottony, and wavy.
Bend vs. Bend Sinister — The bend sinister is found interchangably with the bend. A bend or bend sinister overall was typically used as a mark of cadency or difference in Anglo-Norman heraldry. See Color on Color for further discussion.
Multiple Ordinaries — One, two, or three Bends, Bends Sinister, Chevrons, Chevrons Inverted, or Pales may be placed on the field without changing the cost. Anything more is treated as a Field Treatment and the cost is increased.
Combining Different Types of Ordinaries — In Period occasionally two common ordinaries were combined on the same device. The combined cost of these ordinaries (adjusted to reflect their frequency) is given the cost list.
Couped Ordinaries — Fesses, Bends, Bends Sinisters, and Palls very rarely Couped. Couping an ordinary that is not normally couped is Unheard Of.
Ordinaries of Chain — Ordinaries of Chain are Rarely found in Period heraldry. Any ordinary made of chain adds 4 points to the cost of the device beyond the cost of the ordinary. An ordinary made of chain may not be combined with other ordinaries and may not be charged or placed Overall. Orles of chain are not Period and have a weight of 10.
Ordinaries of Lozenges — In Period, the line of division Indented was drawn so that it appeared as a lozenges conjoined to form an ordinary. Because of this lozenges may be conjoined in the form of any ordinary for the cost of the ordinary and the Indented line of division, rather than the cost of the lozenges and the odd arrangement of conjoining charges into an ordinary.
Bends Overall — In Period Anglo-Norman heraldry, a simple bend overall in gules or azure was used as a mark of difference. A “bend of difference” may be added to any device at total cost of 1 point (including cost of the bend and the tincture). It may break the rule of tincture (as long as it is placed on a field of a non-identical tincture) without additional cost. The bend may be charged with a group of tertiary charges at the normal cost. (The bend must truly be overall for this discount to apply. There are no Period instances of “Purpure, a bend gules”.)
The Bend may be Couped at no additional cost to make it a Baton. Batons and Batons Sinister were occasionally used as marks of bastardy in French heraldry.
Other Ordinaries Overall — Ordinaries overall, other than the “bend of difference” are rare. Add 2 points to the total weight of any design that uses an ordinary overall.
Charges Overlying Ordinaries — This was never done in Period. It has a weight of 10.
Different Tinctured Ordinaries — Ordinaries in the same charge group tend to share the same tincture. See Tinctures for more information.
Oddities — The chevron inverted, the pall (including the pallium, which is forbidden in SCA heraldry), the pall inverted, the “pale and chief” (also called a cross potent throughout), The cross potent reversed (like a cross throughout with the lower leg cut off), and the cross portate are very rarely found in Period heraldry. These are so unusual that any device with these ordinaries should have no other charges, and should use two common tinctures in the device. By preference these charges should not have a complex line of division, but it is just concievable that an unusual ordinary could have a complex line of division that is extremely common for the place and time where that ordinary is found. (For example Rietstapp has French device a cross potent throughout reversed engrailed.)
Bars Gemel — Bars Gemel are found in Anglo-Norman heraldry from the earliest times but must be considered Rare. The practice was Unheard Of for other Ordinaries.
Cotising — Cotised ordinaries are less common than ordinaries without cotising. Each set of cotises adds 1 point if they are added to a Fess, Chevron, Bend/Bend Sinister or Pale, and 2 points if they are added to a Cross, Pile, or Saltire. (Other ordinaries are never cotised.)
Fesses, Chevrons, Bends/Bends Sinister and Pales may have up to three layers of cotising, Saltires, Piles and Crosses may have up to two layers. Anything more is non-Period style and has weight of 10.
Complex Lines of Division — Use this column when either the ordinary or the cotises have a complex line of division.
- Fess, Chevron, or Bend, Bend Sinister cotised (4).
- Cross, Saltire, or Pall cotised (6).
- Fess, Chevron, or Bend, Bend Sinister doubly-cotised (8).
- Cross, Saltire, or Pall doubly-cotised (10).
- Any Other Ordinary Cotised (10).
- Different lines of division for ordinary and cotises (10).
Lines of Division for Cotising — Some lines of division are “discounted” when they are used for cotises, others have their costs increased. Costs are as follows:
Indented (0), Fleuretty/Flory (0), Engrailed (2), Wavy (4), Embattled (4), Potenty (4), Potenty Counter-Potent (4), Trefoilee (4), Any Other Line of Partition (10).
Peripheral charges seem to be more common in Anglo-Norman and Iberian heraldry than elsewhere. A bordure or chief, was a common symbol of cadency or differencing. Costs are as follows:
Label (0), Bordure (1), Chief (1), Canton/Quarter (4), Flaunches (4), Orle/Tressure (4), Base/Ford/Point (4), Mound/Mount/Trimount (4), Point Pointed (5), Double Tressure (5), Tressure Flory/Flory-Counter-Flory (6), Double Tressure Flory/Flory-Counter Flory (6), Bordure Compony Bendy/Bendy Sinister at corners (7), Gore (10), Gusset (10), Teirce/Side (10).
Labels — Labels are always placed overall and they are always marks of cadency. A label may be placed overall in chief (the default position) for no extra cost except for the cost of the tincture used for the label. Labels in gules, azure, or sable may be placed over a field of a non-identical tincture at no penalty. The usual color on color penalty applies for labels in other tinctures.
Bordures and Chiefs — These charges use the rules laid out elsewhere for tinctures and tertiary charges placed upon them.
Bordures and chiefs were commonly used as marks of difference. When used as such they occasionally broke the rule of tincture. A bordure or chief that is Gules, Azure, or Sable may be placed overall on a field of a non-identical tincture for a total cost 1 point (including the cost of the bordure or chief and tinctures). This charge may be given a complex line of division and may be charged at the normal cost. The “price break” doesn’t apply for bordures not placed overall, or charges that are in any other tincture.
Lines of Division for Bordures and Chiefs — Bordures and Chiefs follow the standard costs for lines of partitions and field divisions. However, See Chiefs Escartelle and Point En Point under Lines of Division.
Bordure Compony Bendy/Bendy Sinister at Corners — This peculiar charge is unique to English heraldry and composes the main design element of two families whose arms are “<Field>, A Bordure Compony Bendy/Bendy Sinister at Corners” (also blazoned as “Barry a chief paly charged with two corners bendy and bendy sinister, overall an escutcheon.”). It was a bit thicker than a normal bordure. Any device that uses this motif must consist of only this charge and a plain field which must be a different tincture from the tinctures of the bordure.
Cantons — Cantons were typically charged as cantons of pretense in period heraldry, though you occasionally find a charged escutcheon that does not imply claim to another device. A charged canton that is not a device in its own right would add 6 points of weight. (This practice is banned under the current SCA RfS.) Cantons always used a plain line of division and were never given a complex field partition if they were not cantons of pretense. These practices carry a weight of 10.
Fords and Bases — A base follows the line of division and field partition costs laid out elsewhere. Fords were always barry wavy azure and argent. The cost of the tinctures is included in the cost of the charge. A base with any other type of field treatment pays the full cost for the charge, tinctures, lines of division and field treatment. Bases and fords follow the rules for tertiary charges laid out under Tertiary Charges.
Mounts, Trimounts and Mounds — These charges never used a complex line of division There is a weight of 10 if this rule is broken. These charges may appear Vert on any field of a non identical tincture at an extra cost of only 2 exta points as long as there is a single primary charge standing on the mount. (The free tincture and color violation does not extend to the primary charge).
Orles, Tressures, and Double Tressures — These charges are never charged with tertiary charges. They may not have any complex line of division except for Flory or Flory-Counter-Flory. This practice was closely associated with the royal arms of Scotland and should be avoided in Scots heraldry. (The tressure and double tressure flory-counter-flory are banned by the SCA RfS.)
These frequencies hold for most styles of heraldry. Certain creatures are much more likely to be found in one posture than another. For example, greyhounds will usually be Courant. Frogs will always be Tergiant. Where the posture and the charge are linked, I have listed both the charge and the posture.
The heraldic bestiary is is surprisingly small. Only the most well known beasts were regularly used. Lions (and leopards) lead the list, followed by wolves, bears, boars, deer, bulls, horses, dogs, foxes, and various small animals.
Postures of Beasts — These costs only hold for animals which don’t have a different cost associated with a given posture. These cost are in addition to the cost of the beast itself.
Rampant (0), Passant (1), Courant (3), Sejant (6), Salient (6), Sejant Erect (6), Couchant (8), Sejant Affronty (8), Dormant (10), Statant Affronty (10).
- Antelope statant or rampant (4), in any other posture (10), Natural Antelope (10).
- Ape passant (4), sejant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Badger passant (6), , in any other posture (10).
- Bat displayed (6), in any other posture (10).
- Bear rampant or passant (1), in any other posture (10).
- Beaver passant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Bee volant in Arriere (6), in any other posture (10).
- Beetle tergiant (6),, in any other posture (10).
- Boar Passant (1), Rampant (3), in any other posture (10).
- Bull/Ox passant or rampant (1), in any other posture (10).
- Butterfly displayed (6), in any other posture (10).
- Calf passant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Camel passant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Cat statant/passant guardant (3), sejant/sejant erect (with or without head guardant) (4), herissony (7), in any other posture (10).
- Cow passant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Deer: Hind trippant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Deer: Stag trippant, rampant (1), salient (3), lodged (couchant) (6), within a park (6), in any other posture (10).
- Dog: Greyhound courant or rampant (1), salient (3), in any other posture (10).
- Dog: Mastiff/Alunt rampant or passant (2), salient (4), in any other posture (10).
- Dog: Talbot passant or rampant (1), salient (3), Sejant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Donkey passant (4), in any other posture (10).
- Elephant and castle statant (3), in any other posture (10).
- Fly tergiant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Frog/Toad tergiant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Goat rampant, salient (climbant) or statant (3), in any other posture (10).
- Grasshopper statant (6), , in any other posture (10).
- Horse rampant or passant (2), in any other posture (10).
- Leopard (Natural), passant, rampant, or salient (4).
- Lion (1).
- Lizard/Salamander tergiant (6), , in any other posture (10).
- Lnyx passant (4), in any other posture (10).
- Mole tergiant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Otter passant (4), in any other posture (10).
- Porcupine passant (4), in any other posture (10).
- Rabbit rampant, salient, couchant, or courant (3), rampant playing the bagpipes (8), three rampant in pall conjoined at the ears (8), in any other posture (10).
- Ram, rampant (2), in any other posture (10),
- Rat/Mouse tergiant (4), in any other posture (10).
- Sheep/Lamb passant (3), Paschal Lamb (4), Fleece (4), in any other posture (10).
- Snake ondoyant (4), Nowed (6), Involved (6), Engoulant in Annulo (6), Three conjoined in a triangular knot (8), in any other posture (10).
- Squirrel sejant erect/ notoyant (4),, in any other posture (10).
- Tortise tergiant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Tyger (3), Tyger in its vanity (8), in any other posture (10), Natural Tiger (10).
- Urchin passant (3), in any other posture (10).
- Weasel/Ermine passant (6), in any other posture (10).
- Wolf/Fox rampant or courant (1), stealing a goose passant or salient (8), in any other posture (10).
- Any Non-European Beast not on this list (10).
- Any Native European Beast not on this list (6).
Salient vs. Rampant vs. Sejant Erect — In Period the distinction was not always made between the postures salient and rampant. Also, sejant erect was the default position for a rampant animal when it was bearing two maintained charges, so there was no Period difference between rampant and sejant erect.
Dormant and Statant Affronty — I have found no evidence the the postures Dormant or Statant Affronty were used in Period Anglo-Norman heraldry.
Addorsed and Combattant — Beasts were very rarely Rampant Combattant (referred to as Respectant for non-carnivorious animals). Two beasts rampant combattant add 2 points of weight to to the device. The exception to this rule is in one 15th c. English armorial where it was not uncommon for devices that consisted of Per chevron two beasts combattant and another charge (different or identical) to exist. In this case, the wieght of combattant creatures can be reduced to 1 point.
Beasts addorsed are exceedingly rare. Any device using beasts rampant addorsed must add 3 points of weight to the device.
Maintained Charges — Beasts maintaining charges are Rare at best in Period heraldry. Any charge where a beast is maintaining a charge must add 1 point to the cost of the device. If the beast is holding two charges, add 3 points. If the charge is maintained in the creature’s mouth, add 1 more point. The cost of the maintained charge(s) must also be included in the cost of the device.
The exceptions to these rules are that creatures may be gorged of a collar or crown (and, optionally, chained) and/or crowned in the same tincture or a contrasting metal or tincture (with a base cost of 1) for no extra cost. Also, if a maintained charge is an integral part of the charge (like a knight’s sword and shield or a wild man’s club) then there is no extra cost.
Demi-Creatures — Demi-beasts occasionally appear in Period heraldry. A demi-beast adds 1 point to the weight of the device over the base cost of the beast in the posture that it is used.
Head Positions — The position of the head doesn’t seem to have been specifically blazoned in Period heraldry. Some beasts automatically come with the head posture in a certain way, for example, a lion passant will usually have its head guardant. If the head is guardant (unless the beast is a lion passant or the guardant posture is included in the cost of the charge) add 1 point to the cost of the device. If the head is regardant, add 2 points to the cost of the device.
Tail Positions — Tail positions other than the default occasionally appear in Period heraldry, but only for lions. Lions with tails Queue Forchee add 1 point to the cost of the device. Lions with tails Nowed or Coward add 2 points to the cost of the device. Lions Doubly Queued or with the tail Elevated and Sufflexed or Extended are Uneard Of and have a weight of 10.
Odd tail postures for creatures other than lions are Unheard Of and have a weight of 10.
Proper Colors — Heraldic beasts usually appear in heraldic colors unless the beast must appear in its proper colors to identify it. The high cost of the Proper tincture reflects this rarity. If a mostly brown animal must appear in its natural colors the cost is for Proper instead of Brown. A beast that naturally occurs in a heraldic color may appear in that color for the standard cost.
Non-European Animals — With a few well-documented exceptions, animals from Asia and the Americas weren’t used in Period heraldry. Non-European animal except for the antelope, the camel, the elephant the tyger, and the ape are Unheard Of and automatically carry a weight of 10.
Other European Creatures — it is concievable that a very simple device using a European beast known in Period but not used in heraldry could have been used, especially in canting arms. Any European animal could have been used even if its use can’t be attested to in Period heraldry. Such beasts automatically carry a weight of 6 (including the cost of the proper tinctures if such tinctures are distinctive and are neccessary to identify the creature, such as the markings of a calico cat). However, they are best avoided if you want authentic style heraldry.
The heraldic aviary is even smaller than the heraldic zoo. Eagles (and hawks and falcons) are most frequently encountered, followed by martlets, crows, cocks, swans, herons, pelicans peacocks, and a few other European birds such as the magpie or hoopoe.
A bird with the word Proper in its description may appear in its proper colors for the listed cost.
- Bird close (1), any other posture (10).
- Bustard close (4), any other posture (10).
- Cock statant (3), any other posture (10).
- Cormorant close (4), any other posture (10).
- Crow/Chough/Raven close (2), rising (4), any other posture (10).
- Dove/Pigeon close (3), rising (5), any other posture (10).
- Duck/Merlot close (3), any other posture (10).
- Eagle Displayed (1), Doubled-Headed displayed (4), Aiglette displayed (4), Demi-Eagle displayed (6), Preying on an Infant (8), Preying on a Dragon/Wyvern (8), Triple-Headed (10), any other posture (10).
- Falcons close (2), close, hooded, belled, jessed (3), rising/rousant (4), trussing a goose/duck (6), any other posture (10).
- Heathcock/Moorcock close (3), any other posture (10).
- Heron/Crane close, in its vigilance (3), any other posture (10).
- Hoopoe close proper (4), any other posture (10).
- Kingfisher close proper (4), any other posture (10).
- Lapwing close (4), any other posture (10).
- Magpie close proper (4), any other posture (10).
- Martlet close (1), volant (4), any other posture (10).
- Ostrich statant (3), statant maintaining a horseshoe (6), any other posture (10).
- Owl close guardant (3), any other posture (10).
- Peacock in its pride proper or close (3), any other posture (10).
- Pelican vulning itself (4), in its piety (6), any other posture (10). (Restricted by SCA RfS.)
- Pheonix rising, enflamed (6), any other posture (10).
- Popinjay close (3), any other posture (10).
- Swan/Goose rousant or close (2), any other posture (10).
- Any bird Migrant (10).
- Any bird Niant (10).
- Any demi-bird which is not an eagle (10).
- Any Non-European Bird not on this list (10).
- Any Native European Bird not on this list (6).
Wings — If the bird is displayed, the wings are usually elevated. Any other posture of the wings is less common adds 1 point to the weight of the device. A rising bird always has its wings elevated and addorsed, any other posture adds 2 points to the weight of the device.
A bird statant close (other than an eagle, falcon, crane/heron, or ostrich) may have its wing extended for 4 points above the base cost of the charge.
Proper Colors — Heraldic Birds appear in heraldic colors unless they must appear in their proper colors to identify them. The cost of Proper reflects this rarity. A bird that naturally appears in a heraldic color may appear in that color at normal cost. Birds were not colored to reflect the plumage of Non-European birds. This carries a weight of 10.
Head Positions — Birds don’t seem to have used the same head postures as beasts. Any bird with its head in a Regardant posture (unless given as the defualt for that creature) is Unique. Add 3 to the weight of the device, A bird with it’s head in the Guardant posture is Uhheard Of. Add 10 points to the cost of the device.
Maintained Charges — Birds maintaining charges are Rare at best in Period heraldry.
Any charge where a bird is maintaining a charge in its beak or claws must add 1 point to the cost of the device. If the bird is holding two charges, add 3 points. The cost of the maintained charge(s) must also be included in the cost of the device.
The exception to this is that maintained charges that are integral to the charge (like the ostrich’s horseshoe) are included in the cost of the charge for free. Also, a charge may be crowned and/or gorged of a color and optionally chained.
Rare Birds — Birds not native to Europe, except for a few exceptions were not used in Period heraldry. It is possible that birds native to Europe that were not used in heraldry could have been used in heraldry, especially if they formed a cant. Such cases could be considered Unique, and such hypothetical inclusions carry a weight of 6 (including the weight of their proper colors if such tinctures are distinctive and neccessary to identify the bird, like those of a puffin). It is better practice to avoid undocumentable charges.
- Centaur passant (4), passant regardant, drawing a bow (5), any other posture (10).
- Cockatrice, erect (6), any other posture (10).
- Dragon passant (2), rampant (2), any other posture (10).
- Griffin rampant or passant (2), any other posture (10).
- Hydra passant (8), any other posture (10).
- Keythong (Male Griffin) rampant or passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Lion: Double-Headed, Rampant (8).
- Lion Bicorporate Guardant (bodies combattant or sejant) (8), any other posture (10).
- Lion Tricorporate (three bodies rampant conjoined in pall or passant in chief, salient and rampant conjoined at the head) (8), any other posture (10).
- Man-Tiger (6), any other posture (10).
- Mandrake (6), any other posture (10).
- Manticore (10).
- Mermaid erect (3), in her vanity (4), Melusine (6), any other posture (10).
- Merman/Triton erect (6), any other posture (10).
- Opinicus rampant or passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Pantheon rampant or passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Panther incensed proper (6), any other posture (10).
- Pegasus rampant or passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Sagittary (lower body of a lion), passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Salamander enflamed (6), any other posture (10).
- Satyr (Hind legs of a goat) (6), drawing a bow (4), any other posture (10).
- Sea Dog erect (6), any other posture (10).
- Sea Dragon passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Sea Horse erect (6), any other posture (10).
- Sea Wolf passant (6), any other posture (10).
- Sphinx (10).
- Tyger (3), Tyger in its vanity (8), in any other posture (10), Natural Tiger (10).
- Unicorn rampant (2), passant (3), any other posture (10).
- Winged Bull passant (4).
- Winged Lion passant (4).
- Winged (with bat wings) Sea Dragon erect (8), any other posture (10).
- Wyvern segreant (2), displayed (3), any other posture (10).
- Any other Monster described in European Medieval Literature not on this list (6 or 8).
- Non-European Monsters (10).
- Invented Monsters (variable). (See Below).
Other Monsters — Other monsters can be found in the heraldry of other countries, as entries in medieval bestiaries, as supporters badges or crests in Anglo-Norman heraldry. These monsters could very well have been incorporated into contemporary arms, even though they weren’t. Such hypothetical inclusions have a weight of 6 if the beast is relatively straightforward and is identifiable when reduced to the size of a secondary charge (e.g. enfield, yale), and a weight of 8 if they are only suitable for use as a primary charge (hydra, silkie). Non-European monsters wouldn’t have been used in heraldry. They have a wieght of 10.
Made-Up Monsters — Many heraldic badges used creatures that seem to composed of parts of two or more creatures. Though there is no evidence that these made-up creatures were used as charges on arms, it is possible that an invented monster could have been used in the heraldry of the Period. Invented monsters always combine body parts from European mammals and birds, usually large carnivores (e.g. the head of a wolf, the body of a lion, and the claws of an eagle). Tails (when they are appropriate) are always the tail of a wolf or lion. Stylized dorsal fins like those found on the heraldic dolphin or sea wolf may also be used. Such invented beasts have a weight of 8.
Wings — Winged Beasts are almost Unheard Of in Period heraldry. A normal beast might have been made into a winged beast if it was not too rare. Adding Wings to a beast adds 4 points to the base cost of the beast. Beasts with bat wings or butterfly wings are Unheard Of and carry a wieght of 10.
“Sea”-Beasts — Beasts with the lower half replaced by a fish tail to make it a sea beast are seldom encountered in Period heraldry. A normal beast might have been made into a sea beast if it wasn’t too rare. Adding fish tail to a beast adds 4 points to the base cost of the beast (unless it is already listed). The posture of a sea-beast is assumed to be erect. Any other posture would be Unheard Of and would carry a weight of 10.
Period Sea-Dragons, Sea-Wolves, and Sea-Dogs were actually four-legged creatures with webbed feet and fins along the backs of the legs and along the spine.
Fish and Shellfish — Types of Fish and shellfish found in Medieval Heraldry are: Barbs huriant embowed (2), Crabs tergiant (6), Dolphins erect (2), niant (2), Escallops (2), Eels niant (6),
Fish niant (2), fish huriant (3), uriant (4), Lobster’s Claws (6), Lobsters tergiant (8), Luces/Pike niant (2), huriant (3), Prawns niant (8), Whelks palewise (4). Two fish huriant embowed can be addorsed at no extra cost.
Beast heads — Beast heads appear with some frequency in Period heraldry. The head of any beast, bird, fish or monster may be used on its own at a cost of 1 point over the cost of the beast in its most common posture.
The neck treatments Couped and Erased seem to appear with roughly the same frequency and may be used without further penalty.
Couped Close adds 1 extra point to the cost of the charge. In Scots heraldry couped close seems to have been more common than in other styles of heraldry, so beasts heads couped close in that style of heraldry aren’t penalized.
Stags heads, foxes masks, lions heads, and and other charges that require a frontal view for maximum identifiability may appear Affronty without penalty. Otherwise, heads affronty add 4 points to the cost of the device.
Orientation of Heads — Heads are Fesswise by default, unless the creature that the heads are taken from could logically be palewise (fish. snakes). Heads in any other orientation add 2 points to the cost of the device.
Leopard’s Faces Jessant de Lys — Leopard’s Faces Jessant de Lys (4), and Leopard’s Faces Reversed Jessant-de-Lys (4) are Unique in English heraldry and are Unheard Of outside of it. No other charge was ever jessant-de-lys (weight of 10).
Human Heads — Human heads are all Rare charges. Head of Infants (6) Men (3), Kings (3), Wild men/Savages (4), maidens (3) and queens (3) appear affronty. Women’s heads may be couped at the breast without penalty. Moor’s heads (2), Saracen’s heads (2) appear either couped or affronty or . In some heraldic texts human heads appear in a three quarters view. This should be treated as an artistic variation of affronty. A Unique variant of the human head found in Welsh heraldry is a Boy’s Head Couped affronty with a snake wreated around his neck (4).
The Turk’s Head is unique to Hungarian heraldry and isn’t found in Anglo-Norman heraldry (Cost of 10.).
Human heads appear not to have been Erased. This adds 10 points to the cost of the device.
Skulls — Human Skulls (4) appear affronty or in three quarters view, they are not found in English, Irish, or Scots heraldry. Animal Skulls are Unheard Of (weight of 10).
Simple Abstract Charges
- Annulet (1), Two Annulets linked (3).
- Billet (2), Delf (4).
- Cartouche (10).
- Crescent (1), Increscent (4), Decrescent (4), Crescent Reversed (4), Three Crescents Conjoined in Pall (8).
- Escallop (2).
- Escarbuncle (4).
- Gout (2).
- Lozenge/Fusil (1), Mascule (3), Rustre (10).
- Mullet of Five Points (1), Mullet of Six (2) or Eight Points (2), Mullet of Greater and Lesser Points (10), Mullet of Three, Four or Seven Points (10), Mullet of Nine or More Points (10), Compass Star/Rose (10).
- Roundel (1), Fountain (3).
- Triangle/Wedge (4).
- Roundels or other geometric charges with complex lines of division on the edge (10).
- Any Polygon of five or more sides (10)
Mullets — Mullets may be pierced without adding to the wieght of the design.
Plants and Leaves
- Vegetable, Gourd (4), Bean Pod (4), Garlic (4).
- Branches Slipped and Leaved (4), Palm Branch (4).
- Cinquefoil (1), Trefoil (2), Quatrefoil (4), Sextfoils (4), Octofoil (10).
- Crequier (8).
- Crown of Thorns (6).
- Faggots/Fascines/ Bundles of Sticks or Reeds (6).
- Fleur-de-Lys (1).
- Flower, Sunflower (Heliotrope) (4), Gillyflowers (4), Irises (4), Columbines (3), Carnations (4), Violets proper (4), Woodbine (4), Lily Slipped and Leaved (3), Teasels (4), Thistles (4), Other Flowers Slipped and Leaved (10), Trilliums (10).
- Fruit, Apple (4), Pear (4), Bunch of Grapes (4), Cherries/Bunches of Cherries (4), Pomegranate (4), Quince (4), Cloves (4) Grape Vine Fructed (6), Hop Vine Fructed (6) Natural Pineapples (10), Oranges (10).
- Grain, Garb (2), Stalk of Grain (4).
- Heraldic Rose (1), Heraldic Rose Slipped and Leaved (6), Garden Rose (10).
- Hurst (optionally a Stag or Wolf issuing from a Hurst) (8).
- Ivy Vine (10).
- Laurel Wreath (4).
- Leaf, Oak (3), Linden/Ash (3), Fig (4), Holly (3), Hazel (4), Laurel (4), Seeblatt/Water leaf (4), Shamrocks (10), Maple (10).
- Nesselblatts (10).
- Nut, Acorn (4), Hazel Nut (4).
- Pine Cone (4).
- Shamrocks (10).
- Stave (a bend or fess raguly couped) (4), Stock (stave with branches) (8).
- Stump (6), Stump growing branches (8).
- Teasels (4).
- Thistles (4).
- Tree, Decidiuous (various sorts include the Oak, Ash, Linden, and Maple) (3), Pine Tree (6), Palm Tree (10), Tree Eradicated (6), Tree Blasted and Eradicated (6), Willow Tree (6), Thorn Tree (6), Hurst (8), Fruit Tree Fructed (Apple, Pear, Pomegranate) (6).
- Wreath of Roses/Chaplet (4), Wreath of other flowers (10).
- Any Non-European Plant (10).
- Any Native European Plant Not Mentioned (6 or 4).
Shamrock — The Shamrock is not a Period charge. Use the Trefoil instead.
Thistles — The Thistle and the Teasel are Unique in Period heraldry. Their Use in Scottish heraldry should be avoided, since the Thistle was a badge of the Scottish Royalty from the 15th century on. (Weight of 10 in Scottish heraldry.)
Other Flowers and Leaves — Easily-identifiable European flowers not included in this list are very rare. It is possible that distinctive flowers, leaves, or plants native to Europe in the Middle Ages might have been used in heraldry, especially for cants. However, such hypothetical usage must be considered Unique, and any such charge carries a weight of 6. If the plant can be drawn as a simple flower or leaf which is immediately identifiable when reduced to the size of a secondary charge, it has a weight of 4, otherwise the flower or leaf has a weight of 6.
The Trillium is a New World plant. It was not known or used in Period heraldry.
Trees — Various breeds of decidiuous trees appear in heraldry. For the most part, they are Oaks, other breeds mentioned by name are extremely rare. Oak Trees Fructed are Unique in English heraldry and probably in other styles of heraldry as well. Pine trees are Unique. It is possible that other species of European trees with easily identifiable shapes could have been used in medieval heraldry especially if they canted on a surname. Such theoretical usage should be considered Unique at best and should be avoided. If it is necessary to include a hypothetical usage of a tree into a heraldic design, the tree has a weight of 6.
Branches — Branches slipped and leaved are Unique in all styles of heraldry. Usually these branches are oak branches fructed. Branches are very similar to staves ( a pale or bend couped raguly) which are a Rare charge in Anglo-Norman heraldry.
Fruits and Vegetables — Heraldic Fruits are the Apple, Pear, Pomegranate, Grapevine Fructed, Pinecone and Acorn. Heraldic vegetables are the gourd, the bean pod, and garlic. Other types of fruits and vegetables weren’t used, though easily identifiable fruits and vegetables common in Europe might have been used, especially for a cant. Like all other hypothetical usages, they carry a weight of 6 unless they are immediately identifiable when reduced to the size of a secondary charge. Then they have a wieght of 4. It is worth noting that the first usage of an Orange in English heraldry dates to the late 17th century. It is also worth noting that the orange carrot is an out of Period mutation. Don’t use orange charges if you want Period style heraldry.
Leaves — Maple leaves appear to have not been used in Period heraldry. In Europe, the Maple is far less common and the leaves of European Maples don’t turn bright red and yellow in the Fall. This might account for their lack of popularity.
The Nesselblat — This charge is Unique in German heraldry and is Unheard Of outside of it.
Hursts — A Unique charge found in Anglo-Norman heraldry is the stag or wolf issuant from a hurst. This is complete device all by itself.
In SCA heraldry these charges are ubiquitous. In Period heraldry, they are much less common, because most of them didn’t exist in Period.
- Clouds (with a human arm or human figure issuant from them) (6).
- Clouds (as an independent charge) (10). (But see Sunburst).
- Comets (6)
- Crescent (1), Increscent (3), Decrescent (3), Crescent Reversed (3), Three Crescents Conjoined in Pall (8).
- Estoilles (4).
- Goute (2).
- Gurge (6).
- Lightening bolts (6), Thunderbolts (10), Lightening Flashes (Shazams) (10).
- Moons in their Plenitude (8)
- Mullet of Five Points, Six or Eight Points (1), Mullet of Six Points Voided Interlaced/Star of David (6), Mullet of Greater and Lesser Points (10), Mullet of Three, Four or Seven Points (10), Mullet of Nine or More Points (10), Compass Star/Rose (10)
- Rainbows (6)
- Sunburst (3)
- Suns (3), Suns Eclipsed (10), Demi-Suns (10), Roundel with a complex line of division (10).
Mullets — In Period heraldic symbolism, these were spur rowels, not stars. They were Rarely pierced through the center to make them more obviously spur rowels. Mullets may be pierced at no extra cost.
Mullets of less than five or more than eight points don’t appear in Period heraldry. If you want a four pointed or three pointed star use the Caltrop instead. Mullets of seven points don’t appear in Anglo-Norman heraldry.
Suns — These charges are Rare in Anglo-Norman heraldry. A sun is always drawn with alternating wavy and straight lines of equal length, the face is optional. Demi-suns and suns eclipsed are not Period. The roundel with an engrailed or indented line of division is a escapee from 20th century kindergarten art. It is not medieval.
Crescents — Crescents are Unusual in Anglo-Norman heraldry. Decresents, Increscents and Crescents reversed are Rare. Combining an increscent, a crescent (or a roundel) and a decrescent to form the phases of the moon is an SCA invention. Conjoining three crescents in pall is a Unique heraldic practice.
Compass Stars, Compass Roses, and Mullets of Greater and Lesser Points — Not Period. If you want to spoil an otherwise Period-looking device, put one of these charges on it.
Comets — These charges aren’t found in Period heraldry, but since they are a charge that was known in Period I have given them a weight of 6.
Sunbursts — These charges are Unique to English heraldry and Unheard Of elsewhere.
Rainbows — These charges are Unique to German heraldry, but they might exist elsewhere.
Lightening Bolts — These charges are Unique to German heraldry, but they might exist elsewhere.
Thunderbolts — Don’t seem to have been used in Period, though they are a Classical motif.
Lightening Flashes (aka “Shazams”) — Invented along with the comic book. Avoid them. Justly banned in SCA heraldry.
Clouds — In Period, clouds were represented by the line of division Nebuly if they were a peripheral charge. If they were a free-standing charge, they are drawn as a snaky squiggle that is nebuly at each turn. They aren’t drawn like pieces of popcorn the way that modern clouds are. A heraldic cloud looks like like nothing so much as a piece of the ribbon candy you get around Christmas. Occasionally, you will find an arm or the bust of a saint issuant from a cloud. When clouds appeared as an independent charge they were always drawn as a sunburst. Clouds are always argent by default.
Goutes — These charges are rarer as individual charges than as semes, hence the cost difference.
Gurges — The gurge was always used as primary charge. It can either be drawn as a spiral or as a series of concentric rings like an archery target.
Weapons, Armor, and Military Tools
Armor — Armored Arm Embowed (optionally maintaining a sword or seax) (3), Armored Leg embowed (4), Cuirass (6), Gauntlets (adorsed or clenched) (4), Helmet (3), Morion (3), Chamfrons (armor for horse’s head) (6), Other Armor (10), Mail shirts (10)
Guns and Gunpowder — Grenade/Fireball (4), Handcannon (6), Pistol (6), Cannon (6),
Hand Weapons — Axe (1), Lance (2) with pennon (4), Mace (4), Seax (4), Spear (3), Spear Head (3), Sword/Knife (2), Warhammer (4), Broken Lance (4), Odd or Broken-bladed Sword (10), Odd or broken weapon (10), Double-bitted Axe (10).
Missile Weapons — Arrow (2), Bow (3),Crossbow (4), Pheon (3)
Other Charges — Banner (with two tinctures and a single tertiary charge) (6), Caltrop (6), Pavilion/Tent (4), Knight Statant Armed (6), Mounted and Armed (6), Clarion (lance rest) (4). Hunting Horn (with or without strings (3)
Shields — Escutcheon (3), Target Shield (4), Shields other than Escutcheons or Targets (10).
Siege Weapons — Scaling Ladder (4), Battering Ram (4), Catapult (6)
Gunpowder Weapons — Pistols are found only in one example from the late 16th c. Handcannons are found in a unique example from a 15th c. roll of arms. Grenades/ Fireballs appear in a Unique example from a late 14th c. armorial. Cannons are very rarely found in arms from the 16th century. These charges should be avoided if you wish to recreate the armory of earlier Periods.
Warhammers are graceful things that look like a pointed hammer on the end of a long pole. They are Unique in Period heraldry. The SCA “cinder block on a stick” is not an accurate representation of any type of hammer used in Period.
Armor is the armor of the Gothic Period or later. Period heraldry did not uses spangenhelms, Greek or Roman helmets or similar earlier Period armor styles. The tilting helm seems to be the most common style of helm was slightly more common, though bascinets and close helms are also specifically mentioned, as are barred helms. Many charge with helmets on them
Swords and Daggers were interchangable. They are always represented simple, straight-bladed weapons. Medieval heraldry didn’t distinguish between types of swords or knives and never used any odd form of weapon. Weapons such as the Flamberge, Cinqueda, Rapier, Scimitar, or Claymore wouldn’t have been used in Period heraldry.
Broken weapons except for broken lances were not used in heraldry.
Axes — Medieval heraldry always used the single-bladed battle axe wih a small spike on the back or the bearded, single-bladed carpenter’s adze. The double bladed axe, the cousin of the SCA “cinder block on a stick” was never used in Period heraldry.
Banners — Were typically charged with a single, simple, common charge when they were used as charges. The cost of the banner includes a single tertiary charge and two common tinctures to make a total of less than 5 points. Arms on a banner were always allusive arms, but never were claims of pretense.
It is concievable that any Period artifact that was readily identifiable could have been used in heraldry, especially if it could be used to form a cant on a surname. However, most artifacts weren’t used in heraldry unless there was a specific reason for them to be used.
Any artifact that was known in Period and which is immediately identifiable when reduced to the size of a heraldic charge may be used in Period-style heraldry. If the artifact is oddly shaped or relies on complex internal detailing to make it identifiable (e.g. trebuchet, loom, whip) it is only suitable as a primary charge and has a cost of 8. If the charge is slightly simpler in shape but is still complex in shape (e.g. rebec, lantern) so that it isn’t suitable as a tertiary charge, it has a weight of 6. If the charge is extremely simple and symmetrical in design so that it instantly identifiable (e.g. tankard, mortar and pestle) then it has a wieght of 4.
Architectural Charges — Tower/Castle (2). Gate (4), Portcullis (4), Arch (4), Column (4), Bridge/Bridge throughout (6), Windmill (4), Mill Sail (4), Church (6), Church Door (6), Dove Cote (6) Church Spire (6) and Well (6).
Nautical Charges — Lymphad (3), Galley (3), Ship (3), and Anchor (3), Longship (3, 10 outside of Scotland), Hulk (3, 10 outside of England), Astrolabe (8), Sail (6).
Musical Instruments — Hunting Horn (with or without strings) (2), Church Bell (4), Trumpet (either straight or serpentine) (6), Harp (4), Pipe (presumably including recorder) (4), Bagpipe (6), Shepherd’s (Pan) Pipes (6), Hautboy (6), Jews Harp (8).
Wood and Metalworking Tools — Since heraldry reflected a bias towards the activities and preoccupations of the noble class, craft tools are underrepresented in Period heraldry.
Charges used are the Hammer (4) (which is a charge with a graceful handle and a slightly crescent shaped head, not a sledge maul or “cinder block on a stick”), Mallet (4), Pickaxe (4), Tongs (4), Saw (4), Plumb bob (4), Carpenter’s Square (6), Divider/Compass (6), Nail/Passion Nails (4), Crampon (4), Staple (4), Angle (6), Grosing Irons (4) and Gear (8) (probably a representation of a mill wheel). The Anvil (6) is a Unique charge, but it looks different from the type of anvil used today. A Period anvil looked like a loaf of bread or else it had a horn on each end.
Textile Tools — Woolpack (3), Cushion (3), Wool Card (4), Flax Comb (4), Shuttle (4), Teasel (4), Hank of Cotton/Yarn (4), Bobbin/Quill of Yarn (4), Embroiderer’s Broach (6), Tenterhooks (4), Distaff (4).
Building, Agricultural Tools and Miscellaneous Tools — Wheel/Millwheel/Catherine’s Wheel (3), Millrind (3), Key (3), Key Doubly Warded (4), Scythe (6), Mason’s Trowel (4), Rake (4) Dung Fork (4), Spade (4), Spade Head (4), Millstone (4), Harrow (6), Three Triangular Harrows conjoined in Pall (8), Plowshare (6), Padlock (4), Fishtrap (6), Basket (4), Beehive (4), Winnowing Fan (4), Pruning Hook (6), Thatcher’s Hook (6), Fish Float (6), Pilgrim’s Stave and Burden (6), Bellows (palewise or palewise inverted) (4).
Cooking and Food Storage Tools — Water Bouget (2), Barrels (3), Cups (either covered or uncovered) (3), Salt Cellars distilling streams of salt (6), Forks (of two, three or five tines) (4), Spoons (4), Pitchers (4), Plates (indistinguishable from a roundel argent or Or except for internal detailing) (6), Bowls (6), Buckets (4), Bottles (4), Tubs (4), Coppers (4), Gridirons (4), Trivets (4), Cauldrons (4), Sugarloaves (4).
Toys and Games — Dice (4), Backgammon boards (8), Tops (4), Nine-Men’s Morris boards (8), Chessrooks/Zules (3).
Hunting Equipment and Horse Furniture — Hunting Horn (with or without strings) (2), Horse Barnacles (Open or Closed) (3). Stirrup (3), Hawk’s Bell (3), Saddle (8), Hawk’s Lure (3), Fetterlock (3), Bridle Bit (4), and Horseshoe (3).
Scholarly Charges — Scholars were rare in Medieval times and many of them never assumed arms. When they did assume arms, it was probably because they had joined the ranks of the clergy or the courtiers, so they tended to use the symbolism of the Court or Church.
A Physician might use a Fleam (4) on his arms. A scholar with a taste for pedantry would likely include a Unique charge such as Greek Letters (6), Latin Letters (4), an Astrolabe (8), an Armillary Sphere (very Late Period) (8), an Alembic (5) or a charge from classical mythology. Books (4) as a charge in personal arms are Unheard Of though they appear Rarely in the arms of ecclesiastical institutions or colleges. Spectacles (6) are a Unique and Late Period charge, though they were known for several centuries before that. However, medieval spectacles looked very different from the modern varieties. Scrolls (6), Oil Lamps (6), and Quills (16) appear to have not been used in Period.
Jewelry, and Clothing — Maunche (with or without a hand at the end) (3), Round Buckle (2), Lozenge-Shaped Buckle (3), Square Buckle (4), Shoe (6), Patten (6), Hood (6), Phyrgian Cap (6), Hat (6), Bohemian Cap (6), Doge’s Cap (6), Hat Band (6), Belt/Garter in annulo (6) Bishop’s Mitre (4), Cap of Maintenance (restricted in usage in the SCA) (6), Crown (ditto) (2), Sceptre (4), Orb (4), Finger Ring (4), Palmer’s Scrip/Pouch (4), Hose (single-leg variety, not joined) (4), Glove (identical to hands except for tassels) (2), Pomander (6), and Spectacles (6).
Flames — Grenade/Fireball (4), Lantern (6), Flintstone (6), Furison/Ferris (4), Torch (staff raguly enflamed at one end) (6), Flames (6), Any Charge issuant from flames (+2), Any Charge enflamed (+4). “On a flame” is Non-Period Style (10).
Miscellaneous Animal Parts — Stag’s Antlers (3), Stag’s Massacre (4, 3 in Scots heraldry), Lion’s Jamb (Couped or Erased, Palewise or Fesswise ) (2), Lion’s Jamb Palewise Inverted (Couped or Erased) (3), Lion’s Jambe Issuant from Dexter or Sinister Couped at the Shoulder (6), in any other posture (10), Eagle’s Jamb (Couped or Erased a la Quise) (3), Wing (either individual or two conjoined) (4) Plume (3), Lion’s Tail (6) Lion’s Tail Doubly Queued (6), Ermine Spot/Tail (4), and Bear’s Jamb (Fesswise or Palewise) (3). Paw Prints (10), Dragon’s Eyes (10), Dragon’s Claws (10), and Dragon’s Tails (10) are unique to SCA heraldry. Other Animal Body Parts (10).
Human Body Parts — Hands Appaume (Dexter or Sinister) (2), Hearts (3), Shin Bones (6), Eyes (6), Breasts (6), Arms Embowed (armored, vested or bare) (3), Legs Embowed (armored, vested, or bare) (4), Cubit Arms (dexter or sinister) (3), Two Hands Conjoined in Faith (6), Thee arms or three legs (armored, or bare) embowed conjoined in pall (8).
Human Figures — Angel (4), Cherub (6), Seraph (6), Knight in Armor maintaining sword, axe, or pole-arm (with or without dragon beneath his feet) (6), Knight armed and mounted courant (with or without dragon beneath his feet) (6), Naked Child (6), Hanged Man (clothed or naked) (8), Man (6), Virgin Mary and Christ (statant or enthroned) maintaining the Christ Child proper (6), Wildman statant affronty club over shoulder (6), Demi-Wildman statant affrony club over shoulder (6).
Religious Charges — Crucifix (8), Head of John the Baptist couped close on a serving plate proper (8), On a veil expanded Christ’s head couped close affrony proper (8), Virgin Mary (Statant or Enthroned) maintaining the Christ Child (6), Demi-host issuant from a Chalice proper (6), Pilgrim’s Scrip and Burden (4), Pallium (6) (used only in ecclesiastical heraldry in Period and banned by the SCA RfS), Bishop’s Mitre (4), Crozier (4) (used only in ecclesiastical in Period), Crozier head (6), (ditto), Paschal Lamb (6).
Crosses and Saltires — There are far too many Period cross variants to treat in this article. In general, Anglo-Norman heraldry had more types of cross variants than other styles of heraldry. The Cross Throughout is standard. The Cross Moline (2), Cross Crosslet (optionally Fitchy at foot) (2), Cross Bottony (2), Cross Paty (optionally Fitchy at foot) (3), Cross Patonce (3), Cross Fleuretty/Flory (4), Cross Couped (6), and Tau Cross (6), are most common.
Saltorels may be Couped (2) or Flory (6).
Two SCA favorites, the Crux Ansata (the ankh) (10) and the Celtic Cross (10) appear to be modern inventions and are Unheard Of in Period heraldry. Likewise Crosses Nowed (10) and Crosses Quadrate (10) seem to be modern inventions.
Non-European and Pre-Heraldic Charges — Things like Thor’s hammers, Tai Chis (a roundel per fess embowed counter-embowed), Zils, Gripping Beasts, Bat-Winged Monsters, Non-European Animals not specifically documented as being used in Period heraldry, and all other charges that are based on pre-heraldic (pre-13th century) or non-European designs are not-Period and have a weight of 10.
Either people didn’t know about them during the heraldic period or they weren’t used in heraldry because they didn’t fit the traditional patterns of heraldic design.
• • •
Examples of The System In Use
I have randomly chosen two devices from the SCA Armorial and two arms from an Armorial of Period English Arms to test my rankings and demonstrate the system. All arms are assumed to be Anglo-Norman by default.
Argent, six chessrooks in orle sable with a mullet sable for difference.
Argent and sable each have a value of 1, Mullets of five points have a value of 1, Chessrooks have a value of 4. The Arrangement in Orle has a value of 2. The addition of the cadency mark adds 1. The total cost is 10.
The device is likely to be very rare in Period heraldry, but is still plausible. Were the mullet, which is a cadency mark, to be eliminated, the total value would be 8 and the device would be well within the realm of good heraldic style.
Argent, ermined azure a bend azure and overall a sword sable.
Argent Sable, and Azure each have a weight of 1. Ermined has a weight of 3 points plus the cost of tinctures. Bends have a cost of 1. Swords have a cost of 3. Non-Ordinary Charges overall are Non-Period and have a weight of 10. The total cost is 20.
Were the sword to lie on the field with the bend overall, the cost would be 10. In that case, the device would just barely be plausible as Period heraldry.
Argent, on a fusil azure, a wolf’s head erased argent, langued gules, and in chief two decrescents azure.
Argent and Azure have a cost of 1. Gules has no cost since it is used only for an artistic detail. Wolves have a minimum cost of 1 so Wolves’ heads cost 2 points. There is no extra cost to erased the wolf’s head. Fusils and Lozenges have a cost of 1. Decrescents cost 4 points. Putting a tertiary charge throughout on a any charge except for a roundel carries a weight of 10. The device has a cost of 19 and is not likely as medieval-style heraldry.
If the decrescents were converted to standard crescents (2) and if the wolf’s head was changed to azure and placed in base to form a standard charge group (secondary charge group 2 and 1 of two different charges around non-ordinary primary, 3 points) then the total cost would be 10 and the device would just be plausible as medieval heraldry.
Gules, a chevron between thee boars heads couped close within a bordure engrailed argent.
Gules and argent have a weight of 1 each. The lowest cost for boars is 1, so boars’ heads have a minimum weight of 2. Since the heads are couped close, the price goes up by 1 point. A chevron can be bought for 1 point. A bordure has a cost of 1 and there is no extra cost for a bordure engrailed. The final total is 7. The device is slightly complex but is certainly Period style.