Arms and Badge for Lady Sofya Gianetta di Trieste

Or, a Florentine fleur-de-lys and on chief gules two mullets of eight points Or.

Lady Sofya came up with an initial design for her armory last year, but the submission paperwork was never finalized and she wanted to make a few tweaks.

Her persona resides in northern Italy and she’d previously selected the Florentine fleur-de-lys as her primary charge, as well as choosing red and gold as her personal colors. In the course of the design process she identified the eight-pointed star as a recurring theme in Italian heraldry and included that as well.


Or, a Florentine fleur-de-lys within an orle gules.

A second design which was developed during the consultation is being submitted as a personal badge. 

It’s very reminiscent of the arms of Florence, which are argent, a fleur-de-lys gules.


The fleur-de-lys charge used here comes from Gunnvôr silfrahárr’s “SVG Images for Heralds” collection, and is the distinctively-Florentine version with visible stamens between the petals. While at one time the SCA blazoned this charge a “fleur-de-lys Florencee,” that practice seems to have become less common, and these may wind up being registered as generic fleurs-de-lys, with the particular styling an artistic variation visible only in the emblazon.

[Update, Nov 2017: This armory was accepted for registration.]

Arms for Lady Magdelena Caminante

Per bend sinister purpure and vert, a bend sinister argent, overall an inverted triangle Or.

Lady Magdelena’s armory registration was returned for a redraw as the submitting herald had made the triangular charge “barely overall.” She liked the design, so we adjusted the proportions to address the issue by ensuring that all three corners of the triangle lie on the field rather than on the bend, and it is now being resubmitted.

My Name and Device

My SCA persona is of mixed post-Viking Irish and post-Roman Welsh descent, living in northern Wales one thousand years ago, so I tried to select a name and armory that felt appropriate for that context.


Per fess argent and vert, a bear passant gules.

The Irish and Welsh of 1017 did not have a concept of personal armorial designs, which arrived in the British Isles with the Normans fifty years later, but heraldry is such a pervasive element in the SCA that I was willing to be anachronistic about it.

However, I still wanted to use a very simple design that was reminiscent of the earliest period of heraldry — per-fess fields with a single central charge are found by the twelfth century.

I also wanted a design that was suggestive of Ireland and Wales — the Welsh flag is white and green with a red dragon, and bears are important symbols in early Celtic mythology.

And the red bear makes a good symbol for me — I am heavyset, bearded, and somewhat red of face.

The above emblazon uses a bear illustration by Graham Johnston from Fox-Davies’s heraldry book of 1909. The submitted image uses a much cuter bear inspired by the “bear cub” cant mentioned below.


Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin is a plausibly authentic Irish Gaelic name for the eleventh century. It’s pronounced something like Mah-(g)huw-ahñ Oh-ah Roo-ahñ, where the stress is on the underlined syllables and the parentheses indicate a softened guttural sound.

The word “Mathghamhain” is an old Gaelic word for bear cub, formed from the roots “matu” or “math” meaning bear, and “ghamhain” or “ghamhuin” meaning calf. In later usage this word shifted from meaning specifically a bear cub to referring to bears in general.

(A discussion of the importance of the bear in Celtic mythology and the derivation of the name Mathghamhain is provided by “Recherches sur l’origine de la propriété foncière et des noms de lieux habités en France”, Henri d’ Arbois de Jubainville, 1890, pp. 389-390, in French here, and translated to English here by Jeff McMahon.)

An old collection of Irish records known as the “Annals of the Four Masters” lists a dozen influential men named Mathghamhain in the years from the late 900s through the 1100s, including the older brother of Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig, aka Brian Boru, high king of Ireland.

Other period spellings of the name include Matgamain, Mathgamain, Mathghamain, Mathgamhain, Matghamhain, Matgamhain, Mathgamuin, and Mathgamhuin. (Much of this spelling diversity stems from the use of H as a marker for lenition — in Gaelic, a consonant followed by an H typically sounds quite different from that same consonant alone, generally being voiced more softly, or sometimes becoming totally silent. In early written Gaelic, lenition was originally indicated by putting a dot above the letter, so in the year 850 the name might have been written Maṫġaṁain, but later orthography switched to using an H after the letter instead. This transition happened unevenly in different times and places, with intermediate periods in which the lenition was implicit, or where the marker was applied only to certain consonants, or only when written in certain typefaces — and as old records were copied by later scribes, they would sometimes preserve the original spelling and other times would convert it to their contemporary usage, leaving an inconsistent mess.)

Mathghamhain can be pronounced Mah-hoo-an, although the period pronunciation may have been closer to Mah-(g)huw-ahñ. In modern Gaelic it’s pronounced something like Mah-hoon, and it’s typically Anglicized as Mahon, although in some cases it may have been converted to Matthew.

Ua is the marker for a clan affiliation byname; originally meaning “grandson of,” it later shifted to mean “descendent of” some notable ancestor, or more generally “member of a lineage.” This usage of Ua began in the late 900s in Ireland; by the 1200s, it was more generally written O’. It’s pronounced somewhere between “Oh” and “Oo-ah” and “Wah.”

Ua Ruadháin was a family name in Ireland by the late 11th century, and was well established in western Ireland in the 12th and 13th century.

Spelling variations include Ua Ruadáin, Ua Ruadhán, and Ua Ruaidhín.

It is a genetive patronymic form of Ruadhán (“the red”, or “little red one”), which was in use as a first name centuries before that, including the 6th C. Saint Ruadhán and the 10th C. Bishop Ruadhan. (The personal name also appears as Ruadan and Ruadhan.)

There are a fair number of clergymen named Ua Ruadháin, including Aedh Ua Ruadhain (priest, north Ireland, –1105), Maol Ruanaidh Ua Ruadháin (bishop, Connacht, –1170), and Felix O’ Ruadhan (archbishop, Tuam, 1201–1235).

Ruadháin can be pronounced Roo-ahn, although the period pronunciation may have been closer to Roo-a(g)hañ or Roo-ain. Modern Gaelic pronunciations seem to include Roo-ahn, Roo-awn, and Roh-an. It’s typically Anglicized as Ruane or sometimes Rowan, although in some cases it may have been converted to Ryan.


Thus, loosely translated, the name Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin can be read as something like “bear cub of the little red one” or “bear, descendent of the red,” meaning that the device shown above acts as a rebus, or “canting arms,” which was a common practice in the medieval period, using a picture that suggests elements of the name either literally or via puns.

While the name would probably be Anglicized as Mahon O’Rowan, it’s not completely out of the question for it to have become Matthew Ryan — my given name and my mother’s Irish family name.


Name and device submitted at Pennsic Heralds’ Point in August 2016 and accepted on the January 2017 LoAR published that March.

The original blazon submitted described the central charge as a “bear cub,” as an attempted cant on the meaning of “Mathghamhain,” but this was declined on the grounds that SENA A2C1 forbids the registration of baby animals.

Due to a transcription error at Heralds’ Point, the byname was registered with one letter missing, which was corrected in an errata the following month.


The name and device were approved at the end of March, and I want to thank everyone who helped me as I worked through the process, including Alys Mackyntoich, who answered my EK “ask a herald” request early on in the process and helped me with Gaelic name elements; Seraphina Delfino, Rachael d’Amour, and Sigrith Vigdisardaater who checked my initial armory design in the Facebook SCA Heraldry Chat group and helped me figure out that turning the bear in my draft design would clear the only conflict; Frank Sloan and Brian Engler, who reviewed my Gaelic pronunciation; Gisela Vom Kreuzbach, who took my submission at Pennsic (as well as recruiting me to become a herald); Yehuda ben Moshe, who corrected a typo which I hadn’t noticed until much too late in the process; and the others whose names I’ve lost along the way — much appreciation to all.

Two Articles by Lothar von Katzenellenbogen

I am reposting two armory articles by Lothar von Katzenellenbogen (mka Thomas Barnes) which I think are interesting and useful: Authentic Heraldry Made Simple and A Critique and Ranking of Charges Found in the “Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry As Used in SCA”.

They were written in the 1990s and archived at the Academy of Saint Gabriel, but were only available in a plain-text format that wasn’t very readable — the versions I’ve posted have had modern web styling applied to them and will hopefully be easier to scan.

These are over two decades old, and somewhat out of date, and they’re very opinionated, but they also contain some useful information, and I feel there’s value in them if they’re considered in context rather than taken as an authoritative reference.

Device and Name for Zoya the Orphan

Purpure, three Arabian lamps argentPurpure, three Arabian lamps argent.

I worked with a local member of Østgarðr to refine their device design and document their preferred name for submission to the College of Heralds.

“Zoya” is a female baptismal name found in Paul Goldschmidt’s “Dictionary of Period Russian Names” as “Zoia”, attested to 1356 in “Levin, Eve. Calendar of Saints—12th-15th Century Novgorod” p. 20. In the original Cyrillic, this name would have been spelled Зоя (three letters, Ze-O-Ya), the last letter of which may be transliterated as Ia, Ja, or Ya. (Confirmed in personal communication with Paul Goldschmidt, who reports “Zoia, Zoja, or Zoya are all the exact same name.”)

The construction “given-name descriptive-byname” is found as a period construction for Russian names in the same “Dictionary of Period Russian Names,” which states “there are numerous cases of simply adding a common adjective onto a given name,” and gives “the Unkissed”, “the Unpredictable”, and “the Long-Nosed” as examples.

“The Orphan” is a descriptive byname rendered in English under the Lingua Anglica Allowance.

Youth Combat Badges

Registered heraldic devices and badges are subject to a fair amount of artistic variation and differing interpretations, but when you get to un-registered badges, things can get really out of hand.

The youth combat marshalate is a case in point, with at least five different badges in circulation, none of which have been registered.

The first two of these seem to be in widespread use, while the others only show up in solitary cases, presumably invented on the spot because someone couldn’t find an officially-registered badge.


Sable, two swords in saltire and in chief a label dovetailed Or.

Sable, two swords in saltire and in chief a label dovetailed Or.

The first uses the standard crossed-sword badge of the Knight Marshalate, adding a label in chief, which in English armory was a standard way of differencing the first heir’s device from his father’s. This is the version shown on the cover of the SCA’s current Youth Combat Handbook as well as on the Middle Kingdom’s YC DEM page.


Sable, two swords in saltire Or, and in chief a roundel per pale Or and argent bearing two roundels counterchanged.

Sable, two swords in saltire Or, and in chief a roundel per pale Or and argent bearing two roundels counterchanged.

The second is similar, except instead of the label in chief it bears a small version of the Youth Minister’s badge, with purple replaced by gold. This version appears on the websites of the East Kingdom Earl Marshal and the Earl Marshal of Æthelmearc.


Sable, two boffers in saltire Or.

Sable, two boffers in saltire Or.

A third resembles the crossed-swords badge, but replaces the swords with “boffers”, the padded rattan weapons used in youth combat. This version is found in the East Kingdom graphics library.


Per pale purpure and argent, two swords in saltire Or between two roundels counterchanged.
.

Per pale purpure and argent, two swords in saltire Or between two roundels counterchanged.

A fourth superimposes the golden crossed swords on the Youth Minister’s purple and white badge. This version is found on the list of Officers of the Barony of One Thousand Eyes (SE Idaho).


Per pale purpure and argent, two swords in saltire and in chief two roundels counterchanged.

Per pale purpure and argent, two swords in saltire and in chief two roundels counterchanged.

The fifth also uses the Youth Minister’s badge as a base, but counterchanges the swords and moves the roundels to be in chief. This version is found on the list of Officers of the Barony of the Angels (Los Angeles CA).

[Update, April 2019:] This badge was actually registered in 2002 by Bridget Lucia Mackenzie of Caid, and then offered for transfer to the Society in 2003, but the transfer was declined in February 2004 on the grounds that the Society Marshal did not wish to define a Society-wide badge for youth combat; it remains registered to Bridget Lucia Mackenzie.


In addition to these, there are probably others floating around out there that I haven’t encountered yet.

The first of these is my favorite, as it’s easy to read as “heirs to rattan combat.” I’m less fond of including the youth ministry’s emblem, as the youth combat program comes under the authority of the marshalate and is not part of the youth ministry. And while the boffers shown in the East Kingdom’s version are cute, I worry that at a distance a viewer would be hard pressed to know that they were foam weapons as opposed to another style of sword.

I’d love to see that first version registered or otherwise more formally standardized so that there was less ambiguity here, but in practice it seems this is not likely to cause any real confusion.

Tilting At “Arabian” Lamps

The image of Aladdin’s lamp is so well established that the appearance of actual oil lamps of the medieval Levant might come as a surprise: they are made of clay, and shaped more like a gravy boat than a teapot.

Arab-Norman Lamp, 11th century, Salerno
Arab-Norman Lamp, 11th century, Salerno

I stumbled over this while helping an Østgarðrian prepare an armory registration featuring an Arabian lamp and wandered down a fascinating rabbit hole of web research.

(SCA heralds with OSCAR commenting privileges may enjoy reading the repeated efforts of Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme to guide people towards using the archeologically-attested form of the lamp here, here, here, here, and here — occasionally overheated, but still an interesting example of the “historical education” tendency within the SCA.)