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Name and Arms for Lady Angelica di Nova Lipa

Lady Angelica is an established member of the society, serving as the chatelaine of the Canton of Whyt Whey, but had never registered her name or arms, an oversight I was pleased to help correct.


Gules, eight fleurs de lys in annulo Or.

In our first round of consultation, Angelica identified red and gold as her preferred colors, and the Florentine fleur de lys as her desired primary charge, but pinning down the optimum arrangement required multiple iterations before this design emerged as the favorite.


Angelica di Nova Lipa is the name of a Northern Italian woman during the Renaissance whose family hails from the Slavic village of “New Linden” on the other side of the Adriatic Sea.

Angelica appears as a woman’s name in many parts of Europe during the late medieval period, including in northern Italy and adjacent areas of central Europe.

“Angelica” is a Florentine woman’s name dated to 1427. (In “A Listing of all Women’s Given Names from the Condado Section of the Florence Catasto of 1427” by Juliana de Luna.)

“Angelica” is a Roman woman’s name dated to 1527. (On p. 87 in “Sac de Rome,” by Jacques Bonaparte, 1830. Image)

“Angelica” is a Venetian woman’s name dated to 1615. (In “Names from Sixteenth Century Venice” by Juliana de Luna.)

“Angelica” is a Hungarian woman’s name dated to 1230/1356. (In “Nıi neveink az Árpád-korban” by Edina V. Jurkó, at University of Debrecen’s Department of Hungarian Linguistics.)

di <placename> is a rare but attested form for northern Italian names. (SENA Appendix A states “Locative bynames in the northern and central areas normally take the form da X, but de X and di X are rarely found.”)

Italian and South Slavic name elements may be used together for the period of 1100-1600, according to SENA Appendix C.

Nova Lipa is a village between Vinica and Črnomelj in the White Carniola region, adjacent to the historic Venetian province of Istria, now part of modern Slovenia. In the Slovene language, the name means “new linden” (like the tree) and is distinguished from Stara Lipa (“old linden”), another village centered one mile to the north. (There are also paired adjacent villages named Nova Lipa and Stara Lipa a hundred miles to the east, in modern Croatia.)

While we haven’t been able to find a period source that refers to the village by this exact name prior to 1600, we believe it has been continuously occupied for more than a thousand years, and has been known by this name for more than four hundred years, as shown below.

The area of the village has been inhabited for thousands of years, and was previously the location of a Roman-era settlement. (Archeological site identified in 2006; Image.)

The area of Nova Lipa and Stara Lipa are listed together in fourteenth and fifteenth-century German-language texts as Linten, Linden, Lindenn, Lynden, or Lindenn, with references such as “dacz der Linten”, 1334, and “czu der Lindenn,” 1463, both found under the heading “Nova Lipa, pri Vinici v Beli krajini” (or in English, “Nova Lipa, near Vinica in White Carniola”), in “Historična topografija Kranjske (do 1500)” by Miha Kosi, Matjaž Bizjak, Miha Seručnik, and Jurij Šilc, at the Milka Kosa Historical Institute. (Image)

The linkage of these historical listings to the modern location of Nova Lipa is justified by an accompanying note: “Lokalizacija glede na [Urb. Nemškega viteškega reda, f. 216] iz 1490, kjer gre očitno za Staro in Novo Lipo” (or in English, “located via page 216 of the ‘Estate Records of the Teutonic Knights of 1490,’ where it is clearly for Stara Lipa and Nova Lipa”), citing “Urbar Nemškega viteškega reda za posest v okolici Ljubljane, Metlike, Črnomlja in Velike Nedelje 1490,” Codex 164 at the Central Archive of the Teutonic Knights in Vienna, which provides a listing of properties owned by Teutonic Knights in the vicinity of Črnomelj.

These listings of Linden are recorded in German, the language of the ruling Habsburg family and other elites, but local farmers in the fourteenth century would have spoken a Slavic language, a predecessor of modern Slovene, in which the village name would have been “Lipa.” For example “de Lipa” appears as a locative byname for numerous Czech men in 1310–1404. (Including “Heinrecus de Lipa 1383-1386” p. 43, and “Wenceslaus pernář de Lipa 1404” p.171 in “Registrik jmen osobnich”, a registry of personal names, by Wacslaw Wladiwoj Tomek, 1875; Image, Image.)

Although all of the residences in the area were originally considered to be a single village, some of the homes eventually formed a separate cluster on the southern side of the valley as residents shifted buildings to the hillsides to preserve open land for farming. (A sociological survey of patterns of town organization in the local area states that “Vas Nova Lipa (Bela krajina) je zato, da bi se ohranila rodovitna zemlja v bližnjem podolju, pomaknjena na višji, močno vrtačast svet, kjer hiše stojijo med vrtačami ali tik ob njih.” or in English, “New Lipa village (White Carniola), in order to maintain fertile soil in a nearby valley, moved higher, to an area of karst depressions where houses stand between sinkholes or adjacent to them.” In “Morfologija Vaških Naselij v Sloveniji” by Vladimir Drozg, 1995; Image.)

This southern group of buildings was soon recognized as a distinct place known as “Nova Lipa,” growing large enough by the 1600s to justify construction of its own church, the “Nova Lipa Church of the Holy Spirit.” (“Nova Lipa Cerkev sv. Duha,” dated to the 17th century by the Slovenian Cultural Ministry; Image.)

Although we do not have an exact date for the church’s construction, the village would have existed for a number of years prior to the building of the church, as churches were only erected in established population centers. Dr. Miha Kosi, a Slovenian historian with expertise in medieval geography of the region, believes the village was formed prior to 1600, during the Renaissance period: “When the village was divided, i.e. Nova Lipa was established, I don’t know, but obviously only after the middle ages, but before 17th c. (the building of the church of Holy Spirit).” (Personal communication, June 2017; Image.)

Name and Device for Alaxandair Mórda mac Matha

Alax is is my son, and wanted a name that reflected his mother’s Scottish ancestry, and a device suggestive of his primary interest in the society: youth combat.


Sable, an escutcheon within an orle Or.

Black and yellow are the colors of the martial offices, and after trying dozens of different designs he settled on these nested shield shapes.


Alaxandair is a Gaelic form of Alexander, first recorded as the name of a Scottish king born at the end of the 11th century (Alaxandair mac Mael Choluim), as well as two 13th century successors (Alaxandair mac Uilliam and Alaxandair mac Alaxandair), and then appearing more widely in records in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Pronounced “AH-lek-SAHN-dare.” Later variants include Alasdar, Alasdair, Alustar, and Alasdrann. The name comes from the Greek Ἀλέξανδρος (Aléxandros), which loosely translates to “defender of the people.”

Medieval Gaelic names could include both a descriptive and a patronymic byname. “Descriptive bynames were sometimes used in both Gaelic Scotland and Ireland. These bynames were usually adjectives describing concrete rather than fanciful characteristics… In Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, when descriptive adjective bynames were used they were often combined with simple patronymic bynames.” (Krossa)

Mórda is Gaelic for “great,” “exalted,” or “lofty.” Our original plan was to submit this as the related “Mórail,” which is modern Gaelic for “great,” “magnificent,” or “majestic,” but we were unable to document this to period, and a consulting herald at Pennsic helped us find Mórda instead.

mac is the standard Gaelic patronymic marker, meaning “son of.”

Matha is a Gaelic form of Matthew, his father’s given name. It appears in the Irish annals in 1258, and then repeatedly in the 1300s. (Mari) Pronounced “MA-tha” or perhaps “MA-ha.”

Thus, one can read Alaxandair Mórda mac Matha as “Alexander the Great, son of Matthew.” In addition to the obvious reference to Alexander the Great, the name is intended to allude to his size, as he’s exceptionally tall for his age.


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

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.

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.