Artistic Variation in Heraldic Art

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

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

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

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

What Does Morsulus Herald Do?

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

Who serves as Morsulus Herald?

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

His predecessors in the role were:

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

What is the job of the Morsulus Herald?

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

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

Where does the master database and code live?

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

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

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

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

How is the database updated for new LoARs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is the database accessed by others?

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

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

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

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

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

How are errors corrected?

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

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

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

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

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

What are some random factoids about the database?

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

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

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

Armory Conflict-Checking Resources

One of the seemingly-black arts of Society heraldic practice is checking new device and badge designs for conflicts against registered armory.

I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and still need to ask for help or get other heralds to double-check my work, so I thought it might be useful to post a few links to some of the resources I use to try and remind myself of how the process works.

The Rules

The rules for armory conflict are laid out in SENA section A5.

A succinct summary of those rules is provided in the SENA Submissions Checklist (which also includes a number of other useful guidelines for all types of submissions).

Visual Examples

Reading those rules can be a bit daunting for a newcomer.

A useful guide that includes numerous visible examples is Master Modar’s Basic Conflict Checking supplement to the Calontiri Herald’s Handbook.

Another presentation of the rules with good visual references is provided in Yehuda’s Armory 103 presentation and accompanying hour-long class video.

Using the Complex Search Form

Modern conflict checking is nearly always done using the armorial’s complex search form.

A good reference for using the complex search form is Marie de Blois’s Conflict Checking with the Complex Search Form. There’s an accompanying hour-long class video.

Use of the complex search form is also covered in Yehuda’s Armory 201 presentation and accompanying hour-long class video.

An Overview of the Heraldic Submission Process

People seeking to register a name or armory with the SCA’s College of Arms are often baffled by the length of time the process takes and the inscrutable jargon used to describe the various stages.

There have been numerous attempts to provide an overview of this process, to which I have now added my own contribution below.

Some of the terminology here reflects current usage in the East Kingdom; in other places the ILoI may be called an LoP, the LoD may be called an LoR or ILoAR, and the LoI may be called an ELoI or KLoI.

Likewise the timelines maybe slightly different in other kingdoms, as each kingdom’s commentary process is run on its own calendar. (And few kingdoms have the same backlog of submissions after Pennsic to cause slower processing in the fall months.)

This diagram is also available as a printable PDF.

Heraldic Tincture Hexcodes

Any set of colors can be used as heraldic tinctures if they can be interpreted easily and unambiguously.

Below are examples of color palettes I’ve used for pieces of armory. (Click for a larger image, or download a printable PDF with additional examples.)

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.

(Click for a larger image, or download a printable PDF.)

While the color-correction process usually goes smoothly, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • Warm golds (containing more red than green) can end up being rendered as orange or brown.
  • Warm browns can develop streaks or splotches of red.
  • Blues and purples can become ambiguous if either of them comes too close to the violet boundary.
  • Although not apparent on this chart, fine-line details like black outlines around an argent charge in a fieldless badge can disappear entirely.

Many thanks to Elena Wyth for the experimentation which allowed these OSCAR ranges to be estimated.

The Submission Escutcheon

A recent question on a society heraldry Facebook group about the dimensions of the escutcheon on the submission forms reminded me that I never posted the comparison outline I put together last year showing how it diverges from the geometric construction typically used to create this “heater shield” shape.

The most common technique for drawing a heraldic escutcheon, shown in red below, is to lay out a rectangle which is three times as wide as it is tall, then add a pair of quarter circles below it, enclosing the area where they overlap.

The escutcheon on the society’s submission forms, shown in black below, is slightly different; the curve starts lower and then pinches in more steeply.

I don’t know if there’s a concrete reason these curves are different; it may have been an accident, or an aesthetic judgement by the illustrator, or perhaps there’s some other explanation that’s been lost in the mists of time.

The difference is relatively small, but it’s enough to bite you if you use a computer to create field divisions or peripheral ordinaries or the like. Submissions which do not use the precise escutcheon shape from the form are likely to be rejected.

I haven’t found a geometric construction that precisely matches the submission form, but I’ve very carefully traced the outline from the form so that I can create heraldic clip art that matches it.

For the curious, the whitespace inside the escutcheon is a couple of hundredths of an inch over 5″ wide, and a couple of hundredths of an inch less than 6″ tall. After adding a two-point outline (2/72″) around the edge, the solid black outline is 5.06″ x 6.06″.

The diagram above is available as a PDF; you’re welcome to print it out and hold it up behind a copy of the submission form to confirm that the outlines match up precisely.

Folks who are creating digital submissions might be able to save some time by reusing the outline I’ve traced, either with the alignment tick marks (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG) or without them (SVG vector, 300 DPI PNG).

On Using Your Mundane Armory

A member of our province recently asked “What happens if a person with mundane arms joins the SCA? Can they use their mundane arms as SCA arms? And what happens if there’s a conflict with existing Society arms?”

The answer to the first question is found in the Administrative Handbook of the College of Arms, section III.B.7., “Armory Used by the Submitter Outside the Society,” which reads:

No armory will be registered to a submitter if it is identical to an insignia used by the submitter for purposes of identification outside of a Society context. This includes armory, trademarks, and other items registered with mundane authorities that serve to identify an individual or group. This restriction is intended to help preserve a distinction between a submitter’s identity within the Society and the submitter’s identity outside of the Society. Any change that causes a blazonable difference between mundane and Society armory is sufficient to allow registration by Laurel.

So, if you have arms in the mundane world, you must make at least one minor change to them in order to register them in the SCA.

On the other hand, we don’t normally conflict check against all registered armory everywhere in the world, as noted in section III.B.3., “Significant Personal and Corporate Armory from Outside the Society,” which specifies that:

Modern or historical armory belonging to individuals or corporate groups may be considered significant or recognizable enough to protect on a case-by-case basis. Armory is likely to be considered important enough to protect if the owner is associated with important administrative, social, political, or military events and the arms themselves are important or well-known.

So assuming you’re not the Queen of England or something equally prominent, if you kept quiet about it, you could plausibly sneak in your personal arms without anyone catching it. And the College seems loath to retract registrations after the fact, so even if people found out about it afterwards you might get away with it. But I’m not sure if anyone has ever tested this, and I’m not encouraging you to try it. 🙂

Examples of Individually Attested Pattern Registrations

The SCA’s current rulebook for heraldic submissions, The Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (or SENA), establishes a common set of requirements called the “Core Style,” based on armorial practices that were common across late-medieval Europe and on Anglo-Norman conventions in particular.

However, it also provides an escape hatch — you can register designs which do not meet the core style rules if you can show that all of their elements were part of established heraldic practice in some particular time and place. This mechanism is known as an “Individually Attested Pattern” (or IAP), and allows for registration of designs which are typical of German, or Italian, or Japanese, or other heraldic cultures but which would not be registrable under the Anglo-Norman-influenced core style rules.

The rules for IAPs are set forth in section A.4. of SENA, but meeting those requirements can be somewhat daunting for inexperienced pursuivants, so I thought it would be useful to dredge through recent Letters of Acceptances and Returns (or LoARs) to collect examples of successful IAP submissions to serve as a reference for heralds considering attempting one for the first time.

In addition to the successful IAPs, I also included a few which were “almost successful,” which is to say that they successfully documented one or more elements of a submission, but were returned because the proposed design included some additional features which were not fully documented.

There are also a few registrations from before the introduction of SENA in 2012, when a similar provision was allowed under the preceding Rules for Submission (RfS) known as a “documented exception for regional style.”

This survey covers just over ten years, from January 2007 through June 2017. (I only looked at LoARs from 2007 and later, as I wanted to find registrations for which the associated documentation could be viewed in OSCAR.) I endeavored to find all of the IAPs in this period, although I may have missed a few — let me know if you spot any stragglers that I overlooked!

All told, I found 30 successful IAPs, and I also included 5 “almost successful” returns, and 7 RfS Regional Style Exceptions (marked below with RfS).

They are grouped below by region and type of exception, and include links to the relevant entries in the LoAR and OSCAR. (The OSCAR links may require a login.)

Generally speaking, most of the examples from Europe cover violations of the rule of tincture, while those from outside of Europe cover charges or arrangements not known in Europe.

Update Aug 29 2017: I’ve added two more examples of pre-SENA RfS registrations with regional style exceptions, both discovered thanks to their use as examples in a useful piece in the Proceedings of the 2014 An Tir Kingdom Heraldic & Scribal Symposium by Richenda du Jardin entitled “Documenting an Individually Attested Pattern“. I’ve also added three more IAPs that I turned up by searching OSCAR rather than the LoARs.

Update Nov 12 2017: Added an example of the Hungarian “gules field with a vert base” pattern which wasn’t labeled an IAP but had sufficient supporting examples added during commentary to justify approval.

Update May 17, 2018: Added a low-contrast IAPs from 2014, as well as an unsuccessful attempt from 2015, both found in this 2016 listing of IAPs. People interested in creating an IAP for low-contrast European armory should check the Tincture IAP Database, a listing of over a hundred examples of period armory which violated the rule of tincture.


Fess embowed To BASe, Jaguar Fur

A fess embowed to base as well as the use of crescents and a field pattern visually similar to a semy of cartouches.

  • Ocelotl Moctezuma. Or semy of cartouches sable, a fess embowed to base argent fimbriated gules between four crescents one and three azure. (OSCAR 1OSCAR 2 , LoAR 2016/03)

English (Late)

Gyronny Gules And Sable

Use of gyronny gules and sable fields.

  • Þyri Tyrkisdottir. Gyronny gules and sable, a tree blasted and eradicated between three mullets of six points one and two argent. (OSCAR, LOAR 2017/01)

Gyronny gules and sable with charges.

  • Gilly Wede. Gyronny gules and sable, a gillyflower argent between eight bees in annulo Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/12)

Gyronny gules and sable.

  • James Yale. Gyronny sable and gules, a cross of Saint Julian Or.  (OSCAR, LoAR 2012/07)

Gyronny gules and sable with charges.

  • Jacquelle d’Artois. Gyronny gules and sable, two sea-horses respectant Or and a sunflower proper. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/09)

Gules Field with Sable Charge

Sable charges on gules fields.

  • Andreiko Eferiev. Gules, a cloud sable within a bordure Or. (Returned) (OSCAR, LoAR 2017/02)

Highly Complex, Quarternary Charges

A complexity count of twelve, and quarternary charges, in Tudor English armory.

  • Juliana de Luna. Sable, on a chevron Or between three gryphon’s heads erased argent a crescent between two escallops azure and on a chief argent three torteaux each charged with a fleur-de-lys Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2010/07, RfS)


Azure Field with Gules Bordure

Azure fields with a low contrast gules bordure and a high contrast primary charge.

  • Adrienne d’Evreus. Azure, a fleur-de-lys argent and a bordure gules. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/11)

Gules FIELD WITH Sable Label

Gules fields with a low contrast sable label and a high contrast double tressure.

  • Eve di Antonio di Rienzo Ruspoli. Gules, a fleur-de-lys within a double tressure Or, overall a label sable. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/09)

German (Late)

Gules Field With Sable Charges

Two sable charges on a gules field.

  • Robert Langeschwert. Gules, two bear’s paws couped addorsed sable. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/12)

Gules, on an ordinary sable, three charges metal.

  • Heinrich Schreiber. Gules, on a fess sable three mullets of six points argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/10)

Use of black charges on red on divided fields. (But not when paired with a dissimilar, high contrast charge on the other side of the field.)

  • Karin Jacobsdotter. Per bend gules and Or, in bend sinister an anvil and a domestic cat sejant contourny sable. (Returned) (OSCAR, LoAR 2013/11)

Use of complex sable primary charges alone on a gules field.

  • Murienne l’aloiere. Gules, three furisons sable. (OSCAR, LoAR 2010/07, RfS)


Use of complex gules primary charges on sable fields, as well as bear’s heads couped.

  • Ellisif Styrbjarnardóttir. Sable, a bear’s head couped contourny gules. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/07)

Use of gules primary charges on sable fields. (But not when paired with a high-contrast peripheral ordinary.)

  • Susannah Scarlet. Sable, a chess rook gules and an orle argent. (Returned) (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/07)

Azure Field With Gules Charge

Charged gules ordinaries on azure fields, as well as the use of tertiary six-pointed mullets.

  • Miquel d’Orion. Azure, on a pale gules three mullets of six points Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/02)

Charged gules ordinaries on azure fields, as well as the use of tertiary six-pointed mullets and the existence of the shakefork.

  • Miquel d’Orion. Azure, on a shakefork gules, three mullets of six points Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/02)

Azure Field With Brown Charge

Use of a brown beast on an azure field.

  • Irmgard Hasenschlaf. Azure, a brown demi-hare proper. (OSCAR, LoAR 2009/01, RfS)

Argent Field With Or Charges

Metal ordinaries on metal fields, as well as the very German motif of a pile issuing from a corner of the field.

  • Ariana verch Gwenllian. Device change. Argent, a pile bendwise Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2013/12)

Gules and Sable Field with Counterchanging

Use of per pale fields using gules and sable with counterchanged charges (as well as the use of suns as charges in the same heraldic jurisdiction).

  • Madison Morai. Per pale gules and sable, a sun counterchanged. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/12)

Multiply-Divided azure and gules Field

Divided fields of more than four parts in combinations of gules and azure, both uncharged or charged with argent charges.

  • Eginolf von Basel. Per fess gules and bendy gules and azure, in chief an egg argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/02)

Low-contrast multiply-divided field, without a primary charge.

  • Eginolf von Basel. Bendy azure and gules, a wolf’s head contourny erased Or maintaining in its mouth an egg argent. (Returned) (OSCAR, LoAR 2013/07)

Primary Charge Overlaying a Chief

A primary charge overlying a chief.

  • Marek Casimir of Krakow. Checky sable and argent, a chief enarched Or and overall an eagle displayed gules. (OSCAR 1, OSCAR 2, LoAR 2013/06)


Azure Field With Sable Charge

The motif of a sable eagle displayed upon an azure field with high-contrast mullets and decrescents in chief.

  • Veoreos Miklos. Azure, an eagle sable and in chief a decrescent and a mullet of eight points argent. (OSCARLoAR 2017/06)

Use of a sable beast on an azure field, argent decrescents with Or suns, and sable animals transfixed by Or arrows.

  • Rakonczay Gergely. Azure, a boar statant sable transfixed by an arrow bendwise sinister Or and in chief a decrescent argent and a mullet of eight points Or. (OSCAR 1, OSCAR 2, LoAR 2008/01, RfS)

Azure Field With Vert Base and Sable Charges

Use of complex dark or sable charges on azure fields; for green trimounts, mounts, or bases with azure fields, some with dark or sable charges standing on them; for light-colored peripheral stars, often accompanying otherwise low-contrast designs; and for the use of all three design elements together.

  • Victor Ispan. Azure, a raven sable perched atop a trimount vert and in chief two mullets argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2007/03, RfS)


Use of a gules field with green mounts or trimounts.

  • Lada Monguligin, Gules, a sans-serif letter “M” inverted surmounted by a pallet couped argent issuant from a trimount vert. (Kingdom OSCAR, OSCAR, LoAR 2013/03)


Arabic Penbox

Evidence of the charges, tinctures, and overall design of this submission, with one exception: there is no evidence of fimbriation in Islamic heraldry.

  • Sajah bint Habushun ibn Ishandiyar al-Hajjaji. Vert, on a fess gules fimbriated between an Arabic penbox and a lozenge a chalice Or. (Returned.) (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/03)

Italian (Late)

Azure Field with Vert Trimount

Use of green trimounts on blue background.

  • Cristabell Rose Alwin. Azure, a bear rampant Or atop a trimount vert and in chief three roses Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2017/01)

Vert trimounts on azure fields, as well as trimounts issuant from bases.

  • Fortuné Stykewynd. Azure, a trimount vert issuant from a ford proper, in dexter chief an increscent argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/09)

Argent Field With Or Charge

A low contrast metal on metal central ordinary between low contrast secondary charges.

  • Giata Magdalena Alberti. Argent, a fess between three mullets of eight points and a fleur-de-lys Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/04)

Argent Primary with Or Tertiary

Low contrast tertiaries on ordinaries, as well as the use of purpure for the field.

  • Ile du Dragon Dormant, Baronnie de l’. Purpure, on a pale argent a pallet Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/06)

An Or tertiary on a complex argent primary charge.

  • Giata Magdalena Alberti. (Fieldless) On a mullet of eight points argent a fleur-de-lys Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/04)

Argent and Or Fields with Counterchanging

Complex single charges counterchanged on a low contrast divided two metal field.

  • Giata Magdalena Alberti. Per pale argent and Or, a fleur-de-lys counterchanged. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/04)

gules Fields With Sable Charges

Sable animate charges on gules fields, demi-animate charges and animate charges maintaining banners and/or swords.

  • Konrad Kauffman von Regensburg. Gules, a demi-fox sable maintaining a banner Or and a sword argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/10)

Vert FieldS With Sable Charges

A sable animate charge on a vert field, high contrast bordures in combination with low contrast primary charges and complex lines of division.

  • Biǫrn Eldiárnsson. Vert, a bear rampant sable within a bordure embattled argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2014/08)

MultiplY-DiviDED Fields And Ordinaries Of More Than Two Tinctures

Use of three tinctures in barry, bendy and paly fields, and the use of a three tincture compony, (and in the LoAR, low-contrast peripheral ordinaries).

  • Richenda du Jardin. Per pale bendy sinister azure, Or and argent and bendy Or, argent and azure, a bordure compony argent, azure and Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2011/01, LOAR 2011/06)

A Rock Cleft By A River

Use of swirling lines to represent a flowing stream, and use of a demi-annulet to represent a bridge.

  • Gilia Maddalena Sofia del Fortuna. Gules, a demi-annulet argent issuant from a rock issuant from base proper cleft palewise by a natural river flowing to base argent. (OSCAR, LOAR 2011/01, RfS)

A Charge Sustained By An Arm Embowed  Proper

Showing charges sustained by an arm embowed proper.

  • Giacomo Fornerigo. Or, a baker’s peel bendwise sinister sable charged with three loaves of bread Or sustained by an arm embowed issuant from sinister proper vested sable, a chief rayonny gules. (OSCAR, LOAR 2014/05, RfS)


Large Roundel Between Small Roundels

Use of a larger roundel between smaller roundels in annulo.

  • Hosokawa Gentarou Masahiro. Vert, a roundel between eight roundels in annulo Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/12)
  • Amano Zenjirou Nakatsune. Sable, in chief a roundel within six roundels in annulo and in base a barrulet argent. (OSCAR 1, OSCAR 2, LOAR) (Returned)

Three Tomoe

Use of three tomoe in annulo with no other charge on the field.

  • Samukawa Mantarou Yukimura. Argent, three tomoe in annulo azure. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/01)

Japanese Crane

Use of the Japanese crane.

  • Kameshima Zentarou Umakai. Argent, a Japanese crane displayed and in base a bar gemel azure. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/04)

Butterfly Volant

Unusual posture for a butterfly.

  • Yoshimizu Kitsutarou Kimimichi. Sable, a butterfly volant fesswise, wings addorsed Or. (OSCAR, LoAR 2016/12)


Gules Field With Azure Border

Charged low-contrast bordures, as well as the use of lions and crescents.

  • Bridget Wynter. Gules, a lion Or and a bordure azure crescenty argent. (OSCAR, LoAR 2015/06)

Intellectual Property Rights In Branch Armory

An interesting point came up as part of the recent discussion of copyright and armorial registrations: what rights does the SCA as an institution have with regards to the images and designs used in devices and branches?

The question was triggered by an element of the Society’s rules found in section XII of the SCA’s “Corporate Policies” document, which is inexplicably difficult to locate online, but which can be found in a revision markup for changes made in 2013.

The names (group and award/order) and armory (devices and badges) registered by Laurel to the SCA or to branches are to be considered service marks of the SCA. This recognition is to formally recognize these marks and our use of them to the purpose the US Patent and Trademark Office terms “collective marks.”

(This clause appears to date from the first quarterly BOD meeting of 2005. The same phrasing also appears in the SCA’s Social Media Policy.)

Due to what seems to be a good-faith misunderstanding, some people seem to have misinterpreted this issue in a way that suggests that the SCA, Inc.’s central organization in Milpitas, sometimes referred to as the “Corporate Office,” owns the copyright to all armory registrations, e.g. to the artwork submitted via OSCAR for devices and badges, such that permission from that office would allow someone to use that artwork in a commercial venture, or conversely that permission from that office would be required before someone could commission an artisan to create a  work that incorporated their own personal arms.

In short, none of that appears to be correct.

It may seem surprising that the service mark and copyright for a particular image belong to two separate entities, but they come from separate areas of law.

A service mark is like a trademark, but for services as opposed to products. Categorizing the arms of the society and its branches as service marks provides the society with institutional power to object if someone else uses them in a way that would trade upon the society’s reputation.

On the other hand, copyright is a protection for the creator of a specific embodiment of an original creative endeavor. In the United States and other countries which are signatories to the Berne Convention, all eligible works are immediately covered by copyright without any registration requirement, so if you draw something, other people can not distribute or sell copies of it without your permission.

For example, if a for-profit company decided they were going to run a “Middle Kingdom Renaissance Fair” and printed up advertisements with the Middle Kingdom’s arms, the SCA corporate office could file a legal action against them on service-mark grounds, even if there was no copyright infringement because that company had drawn their own illustration of the dragon featured in the Middle’s arms.

On the other hand, if the SCA corporate office grants a private leather-working business a license to sell belts imprinted with the arms of all of the kingdoms, that only covers the service-mark claims, and means the business has permission to create and reproduce their own illustrations of those designs — it does not mean the business can simply copy the branch arms out of OSCAR or from the kingdom websites without seeking permission to do so from whomever originally illustrated each of those images.

The service-mark claim limits third parties from using branch arms, but it doesn’t create a restriction on SCA branches themselves using those designs (including those of other branches) or commissioning works from artisans, because as stated in the Social Media Policy:

4.c.ii. Kingdoms, principalities, regions, baronies, cantons, shires, etc. are all part of SCA, Inc. are entitled to use SCA trademarks and service marks without limit.

The service-mark claim does not appear to interfere with common situations in which individuals incorporate branch badges into their heraldic banners and similar displays, both because the branches typically have specifically granted permission to their populace to do so, and because those individuals are not at risk of passing off a product or service as an official SCA offering.

And as one would expect, none of this applies to individual armory, as noted in the Social Media Policy: Nothing here is meant to limit the use of individual badges or arms, which of course, belong to the individual member.

As with the last post, all of the above should be read with the knowledge that I am not a lawyer, and none of this should be taken as legal guidance — I’m just attempting to describe a somewhat-obscure issue as best I understand it.

If I’ve misinterpreted something, please let me know, and if there’s a clearer description of this topic posted somewhere else, I’d love to hear about it!