A notable characteristic of armorial depiction is that any illustration of a given design is considered to be heraldically equivalent. For example, any illustration of “Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale Or” is said to represent the English Sovereign, no matter in what style the lions are drawn, as long as they accurately reflect that blazon.
Konstantia Kaloethina has assembled a nice demonstration of this principle in her “Heraldic Mythbusting” blog post containing nine different illustrations of “a seraph proper” by six different artists.
Two seraphs proper; the first by myself using an illustration by Vinycomb, the second by Konstantia Kaloethina. (Shared with permission.)
In addition to these illustrations, the post provides some period examples of “artistic license,” explains some boundaries on when it’s taken too far, and discusses the Society’s heraldic registration policies — it’s definitely worth a read.
Bahja had a name picked out and a lovely first draft of his device designed, but it needed a bit of adjustment to be registrable by the College of Arms.
Or, on a saltire between four rings purpure gemmed gules a pomegranate slipped and leaved Or seeded gules.
Although the original arrangement Bahja had sketched was problematic, we were able to retain all of the charges and the overall color scheme, while shifting them into a new layout which was free of conflicts.
Bahja is a Arabic masculine ism (given name) and al-Azraq is an Arabic masculine laqab (descriptive byname).
Catelin wanted a name and device that reflected her family’s Scottish heritage, and had already picked a basic direction, so it didn’t take much additional effort to help her select something that was both unique and registrable.
Azure, a stag courant to dexter base between two roses argent.
Catelin had been interested in a “bucking” stag, but as that isn’t a recognized heraldic posture, we went looking for alternatives which would produce a similar visual effect.
While “courant to dexter base” is an unusual arrangement, it has been registered twice, most recently in January 2016.
This friendly video by Mistress Morgan Donner of An Tir with Baroness Alianora Greymoor provides a useful introduction to folks in the SCA who’re interested in registering some armory but don’t know were to start.
Someone recently asked if there was an listing of which charges had been used most or least often in the Society’s armory. It turns out that this isn’t an easy question to answer using the standard Morsulus armorial interface, but since I’ve imported that data into a SQL database I was able to put together a query that generates such a listing.
The data below is current as of the LoAR dated January 2018, which was posted in March. It includes over fifty thousand total registered armory items, including those which have since been released.
Some other important caveats result from the way this listing was constructed:
It includes all of the armorial description categories, so in addition to charges, the listing also shows the frequency of field tinctures, divisions, treatments, and arrangements.
This listing is based on the categories as coded in the armorial database, so it doesn’t distinguish between individual charge types that are grouped under a common heading; in other words, lions, panthers, domestic cats and their cousins are all grouped together under “cat.”
Some individual charges are grouped under one category but are considered to also conflict with charges that appear under other categories; in other cases, a single category includes multiple types of charges which don’t conflict with each other.
One of the seemingly-black arts of Society heraldic practice is checking new device and badge designs for conflicts against registered armory.
I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and still need to ask for help or get other heralds to double-check my work, so I thought it might be useful to post a few links to some of the resources I use to try and remind myself of how the process works.
The only one of these that’s special is the set of colors used for OSCAR’s color correction; when submitting images, it make things easier if colors are close enough to these that they’re not transformed incorrectly.
When armory images are uploaded to OSCAR, color-corrected thumbnails are generated which convert each area of color to one of the nine standard tinctures shown in dashed circles below. Solid outlines delimit the range of colors that are converted to each of those targets.
While the language of blazon used to describe armory is filled with hundreds of specialized terms which need to be memorized individually, at its core there’s a set of basic terms that describe a matrix of related ordinaries (simple geometric charges defined by their relationship to the field), divisions (lines splitting the field or a charge into two tinctures), arrangements (placements of charges in a group), and orientations (alignments of charges in a particular direction).
In addition to 45 pages of traceable art, Torric inn Björn’s 1992 collection of Heraldic Templates also contains a ten-page glossary which contains many of the specialized terms used in society blazons, as well as defining the default position of many charges.
It has fallen out of circulation and was not been available online until now. Lord Torric has recently granted permission for this material to be re-published, for which he has my sincere thanks.