A History Of The Digital O&A From LoAR Cover Letters

I recently spent some time searching the archive of Laurel letters for early mentions of the Society’s digitized ordinary and armorial, and will share my notes here in case they are of interest to anyone else.

The first efforts to organize a coordinated armorial seem to have begun in 1971. Continue reading “A History Of The Digital O&A From LoAR Cover Letters”

An Early Roll of Arms of the Canton of Whyt Whey

In the period of 2003-2005, an armorial roll was assembled for members of the Canton of Whyt Whey by Doña Sancha de Flores.

The pages were preserved at archive.org (1, 2) and I thought they might be interesting as a snapshot of local participants from that time. Continue reading “An Early Roll of Arms of the Canton of Whyt Whey”

The Arms of The Viceroys and Vicereines of Østgarðr

As we approach the 50th anniversary of Østgarđr, and indeed of the East Kingdom — because in the beginning, Østgarđr was the East — we’ve been looking back over our history, and in keeping with that project I thought I would catalog the armorial devices of the viceroys and vicereines of Østgarđr since the earliest days. Continue reading “The Arms of The Viceroys and Vicereines of Østgarðr”

The Østgarðrian Ladies’ Favor

The Østgarðrian Ladies’ Favor is a former martial award of the Crown Province of Østgarđr. It has fallen out of use in recent decades.

The Bylaws describe it thusly:

Bestowed by the Vicereine (if any) upon the person who has most distinguished him/herself both on and off the list field. She may, if she chooses, confer with the other Ladies of Østgarðr. The Favor is worn for one year and may be rebestowed on the same person.

Mordred Mjothvitner reports that he received this award for two consecutive years during the 1990s, and that it was given during the Provincial Champions event by the vicereine and her attendants.

A Geographic History Of The East Kingdom

In AS XXIV (early 1990), Lord Richard the Poor assembled a collection of maps setting forth the growth and evolution of the SCA branches that make up the East Kingdom. Covering two decades, the maps provide a visual reference for the kingdom’s growth from a few isolated groups in New York and Boston to dozens of baronies, cantons, and shires covering the region.

Originally hand-drawn and typeset in the days of dot-matrix printers, the book had fallen out of circulation with only a single copy available online, on the Æthelmark history web site. With Lord Richard’s permission, I am making the original work available for download here (45 MB PDF) and have converted it to a more web-accessible form.

Heraldic Registrations of the Canton of Brokenbridge

Brokenbridge is Østgarđr’s youngest canton, corresponding to Brooklyn, or King’s County.

Canton of Brokenbridge

The canton’s name was submitted in March 2006, and accepted in September.

The name is believed to reference one of the canton’s most iconic landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge.

The documentation provides Old English sources for the two name elements:

Broken – from OE brocen “broken, broken up, uneven” (A.H. Smith, English Place-Name Elements A-IW) p. 52. Ex. Brokenborough (Brochenborge 1086), from Ekwall p. 68.

Bridge – from OE brycg “a bridge.” (see A.H. Smith above, p. 54). Ex. – Tonbridge (Tonebridge, 1086), Stalbridge (Staplebrig, 1086) from Ekwall, pp. 477 & 436.

(A similar branch name, the Bailiwick of Broken Bridges, was registered in August 1984 with the note that “Brokenbridge would be a more period form,” but was then released in December 1989 along with many other defunct branch names of the East.)

Vert semy of bees Or marked sable, on a pale argent in pale a coney rampant and a laurel wreath vert.

The canton’s arms were submitted in April 2006, and forwarded to the Society level in May, but then pended in September and not accepted until April of 2007. The pend was due to a confusion about the color of the bees’ wings: the submission form sent to Laurel blazoned them as “bees proper” but displayed bees with wings Or. (In the Society, bees proper have wings argent, body Or, with the abdomen marked with sable stripes.)

Curiously, the image that was uploaded to OSCAR didn’t match the version sent to Laurel — they both started from the same outline image, but the version on OSCAR had been colored differently, showing argent wings and four sable stripes rather than three. Because the image in OSCAR did depict bees proper, the issue was not flagged in commentary prior to reaching Laurel, at which point the September 2006 pend letter pointed out that the picture on the submission form they had received did not match the proposed blazon. The April 2007 LoAR modified the blazon to match the original submission image, “bees Or marked sable,” and accepted it for registration.

The arms are said to contain a rebus for another of the canton’s landmarks: the pale containing the coney can be read as “Coney Aisle,” or Coney Island. (I’ve also heard that the pairing of bees and rabbit provide a reference to “Bugs Bunny,” although I don’t know what connection that has to the canton.)

Heraldic Registrations of the Canton of Lions End

Lions End is Østgarđr’s easternmost branch, covering Nassau County.

Canton of Lions End

The canton’s name was submitted in July 1988, and accepted in October.

The note clarifies that the name does not contain an apostrophe:

Please note: Lions End is a place where lions go to meet. It is not what they sit upon when they sit down to eat. (I.e. it’s Lions plural not Lion’s possessive.) Lions was chosen during a naming binge to try to connect ourselves to our mundane geographic area, and is vaguely derived from Long Island (and various anagrams). The choice of the word End comes from our neighbors to the east An Dubhaigeainn (which translates to Abyss) and so we figured that before you get to the abyss you have to come to an end, and so “Lions End.”

Some additional commentary was added at the kingdom level to support this name, which received a mixed review in the LoAR when approving it for registration:

Although the analogue with Land’s End made on the letter of intent is not really accurate, the name is acceptable.

The distinction is routinely overlooked. For example, when the canton registered its arms in 1990 the acceptance was listed under the name “Lion’s End,” and only corrected sixteen years later. (Indeed as of this writing, the canton’s web site uses the apostrophe in the site’s title and home page, although elsewhere it uses the registered version.)

Azure, a bicorporate lion within a laurel wreath Or. (Returned)

The canton’s initial selection of arms featured a bi-corporate lion, an unusual charge featuring a lion’s head with two bodies attached to it.

It was returned in May 1989 with the note:

Conflict with the arms of John of Northampton, Mayor of London in 1381–­83 (“Azure, a bicorporate lion guardant crowned Or.”). As Crescent has noted, this is a frequently depicted piece of armoury. Indeed, it is almost the “defining instance” for the bicorporate lion in most handbooks.

Although the rules have changed since, at the time the Society’s rules for armory conflict included checking against the arms issued by other jurisdictions, including medieval England.

Sable, a bicorporate lion and on a chief Or, three laurel wreaths sable. 

A revised version of the device was submitted a few months later, and approved in May of 1990 without comment.

The lion is an allusion to the mundane county of Nassau, which has as its armsazure, a lion rampant between seven billets Or,” which is derived from the arms of the European house of Nassau, “azure billetty, a lion rampant Or armed and langued gules.”

An attractive depiction of the arms is provided by canton’s heraldic banner.





Sable, a bicorporate lion and on a chief Or, three laurel wreaths vert. (Error)

Due to a scribal transcription error around that time, the arms listed in the Society’s armorial database differ from the registration in the tincture of the laurel wreaths, which were listed as vert instead of sable. [Edited May 23: the correction was rolled out in today’s database update and it is now listed correctly as three laurel wreaths sable.]

As a result, a number of illustrations of the branch’s arms which were taken from that blazon have been drawn incorrectly, including the version that’s currently shown on the canton’s home page, as well as the East Kingdom wiki and other places.

Following the discovery of this error, the O&A is currently being adjusted to match the original registration.

[Edited June 17: Local oral history holds that the wreaths were changed to green because of a ruling at the time that all laurel wreaths must be vert. However, the lack of commentary in the LoAR which accepted the arms with sable wreaths, and the contemporaneous registration of numerous wreaths of other tinctures, suggests that this is post-facto mythologizing — this really was due to a simple scribal error during data entry.]

A bicorporate lion atop a billet fesswise Or.

The canton submitted a populace badge in mid-2013, which was registered that November.

It features the same bicorporate lion as in the branch arms, standing on a billet (the heraldic term for a rectangle).

According to Yehuda ben Moshe, canton herald at the time, the initial intention was to register just a fieldless bicorporate lion Or, which members of the populace had already begun using as an informal populace badge. However, this was found to be too similar to another registration, the holder of which declined to grant permission to conflict, and so they looked for something simple that could be added to existing badges and settled on a billet, which is another design element present in the aforementioned arms of Nassau County.

For the curious, the territory of Lions End was previously home to the Canton of Mandan, sometimes spelled Madnan, which was formed in October 1980, had its name registered in January 1983, went defunct in May 1985, and had its name released in a December 1989 purge of defunct East Kingdom branches, according to Lord Richard the Poor’s “A Geographic History of the East Kingdom” and the Society’s armorial records. The name may have been an allusion to “Madnan’s Neck,” a seventeenth-century name for the Great Neck region, derived from “Menhaden-Ock,” its native Mattinecock name, itself a reference to the small Menhaden fish then plentiful in the region.

The Lost Cantons of Østgarðr

The Crown Province of Østgarðr currently contains four cantons:

  • Northpass (established as Viking’s Hall 1983/12, renamed 1984/12, name registered 1985/05, full status 1985/05),
  • Lions End (established 1988/02, name registered 1988/10, full status 1989/03),
  • Whyt Whey (established 1989/08, name registered 1990/01),
  • Brokenbridge (name registered 2006/09).

But over the course of its nearly fifty-year history, it turns out there have been nine other affiliated branches, eight of them founded in a two-year period from 1979 through 1981. Continue reading “The Lost Cantons of Østgarðr”

Heraldic Registrations of the Canton of Northpass

In the spirit of the recent writeup of Whyt Whey’s registrations, here is the registration of Northpass. My thanks again to the office of the Laurel Archivist for sharing these files.

Canton of Northpass

The canton’s name was submitted in January 1985, and registered without comment in May.

The supporting documentation reads:

Name refers to the fact that the early Dutch settlers in New York used to call this area the northern pass.

Vair, two bendlets and in bend sinister a laurel wreath between two tygers passant to sinister Or.

The canton’s arms were registered in January 1987.

The original submission emblazon shows a style of vair known as “vair in pale,” with successive rows of vair bells lining up vertically beneath one another, rather than being offset as is more common; however, the SCA considers the two styles to be heraldically equivalent, so this is merely an artistic vair-iation. (The canton typically uses a more traditional style of vair in its current heraldic displays.)

A few other details of Northpass’s history are provided by Lord Richard the Poor’s “A Geographic History of the East Kingdom”: the branch was first organized as “Viking’s Hall” and changed its name in December 1984, before achieving official status in August 1985.

Heraldic Registrations of the Canton of Whyt Whey

The canton’s registration of a new device and populace badge have been forwarded by Blue Tyger Herald from the East Kingdom to the Society’s College of Heralds, and I thought this would be a good moment to look back at the branch’s previous heraldic registrations.

(My thanks to Baroness Shauna of Carrick Point, Laurel Archivist, for retrieving these records from the depths of the Society’s storehouse.)

Canton of Whyt Whey

The canton took shape in the heart of the Crown Province of Østgarðr in the mid-to-late 1980s. (See the writeup on Cunan by Alexandre Lerot d’Avigné for a brief history.)

Riffing on the mis-reading of Østgarðr as “cheese farm” and the century-old nickname for the brightly-lit midtown portion of Broadway, the initial proposal was to name the canton “Grate Whyt Whey”, but the first word was dropped during the registration process as being too ahistorical.

The name registration submitted in June 1989 for the Canton of Whyt Whey provides the following supporting documentation:

The name is English. It derives from Ostgardr — “Cheese Farm” — in the Norse, as was explained by Daffyd z Goury, regarding alternate and mis-spellings. The use of descriptive nouns for places is well documented (ex. Whitehaven, and Dublin). The vagaries of medieval spelling equate Wei, Way, Whey as far as usage is concerned— this is shown in The Oxford English Dictionary, dating to the early 1300s. The uses were either for the juice pressed from curds or for roads.

O.K. alternate spellings of Whyt: White, Wyte.

O.K. alternate spellings of Whey: Wei, Way.

These are all possibilities, by what the O.E.D. indicates for period spellings.

When the East Kingdom forwarded the submission to Laurel in the Letter of Intent of October 1989, they described it thusly:

The name is a descriptive place name. Whyt is a spelling of white, cited by the OED from 1403. Whey is a spelling of way. the OED shows wei, whay, wey, way as period spellings of both of the nouns whey and way. It thus seems reasonable to use whey as a form of way. Reaney, DoBS, p.380 dervies the surname Whiteway from a place of that name. That place is  not significant enough too merit a conflict, and the name is probably acceptable under NR 1.d. the Descriptive Name Allowance.

The College of Arms was less amused by the punning, but accepted the registration in January 1990 with the comment:

After much discussion, we decided that this came under the “Rule of Toyota”. (Yes, this is a Canton in Manhattan…)

(The “Rule of Toyota” is shorthand for “we don’t think it’s a good idea, but if you want it we’ll let you have it” and references an advertising campaign of the 1970s that declared “You Asked for It, You Got It!”)

Argent semy of cockroaches sable, a pomme within a laurel wreath vert.

The initial design for the canton’s arms was submitted in 1991. As described in Cunan, “Some of the founding members were adamant about it having cockroaches, that most indomitable of local fauna, on it. Others were grossed out by the idea. The cockroach won.”

The green roundel in the center, known heraldically as a “pomme”, is a canting reference to the city’s nickname “the Big Apple.”

The College of Heralds found the semy of cockroaches unsettling and refused to register it:

This is being returned under RfS I.2., Offense. This general principle states that “no submission will be registered that is detrimental to the educational purposes or good name of the Society, or the enjoyment of its participants because of offense that may be caused, intentionally or unintentionally, by its use.” Given the universally negative reaction of the commentors to this semy charge, it is believed that a significant percentage of the populace of the SCA will find this device so offensive as to reduce their enjoyment of and participation in SCA activities.

A badge featuring a cockroach had been registered in 1981, although with some discomfort — it may be that the semy’s evocation of a field of scurrying roaches put this design over the top

Sable, a cockroach tergiant within a laurel wreath and on a chief embattled argent, a pomme.

Eight years later, the canton tried again, this time using a single cockroach instead of the semy.

In the intervening years, the College of Arms had accepted a registration of arms from Skallagormr Berserkr featuring a cockroach, noting that that a similar design appeared in Schrot’s Wappenbuch of 1581, blazoned a “beetle.”

Perhaps relying on that precedent, the canton submitted a new design, blazoning the central charge a “German beetle”.

The College of Heralds accepted the registration in August 1999, changing the blazon with the following note:

The primary charge was blazoned as a beetle; however, single cockroaches are now allowable charges. As their previous submission used cockroaches, we changed the blazon to match what we believe is their intent.

This device has remained in place since then, although it is rarely used; the only place I have seen it displayed is as part of a pennant with the arms of the Crown Province and each of the cantons which is flown in the Østgarðr encampment at Pennsic.

If the new arms are successfully registered this summer, this design will be maintained as the “ancient and honorable arms” of the canton in perpetuity.