Court Report, Picnic in the Ruins

On the 29th of April, their excellencies Østgarðr held court at the Crown Province’s Picnic in the Ruins, under the colonnaded peristyle in the parklands of the Canton of Brokenbridge.

Suder Il Khan and Lada Il Khatun called for those who were attending their first, second, or third event to come forward, and presented them each with a gift of candles in the province’s livery colors, reminding those assembled that these gentles represent the future of our society, and the newcomers were heartily cheered by the populace.

A foreign visitor was welcomed into court, Lady Heloise from the Barony of Southron Gaard in the far-off Kingdom of Lochac. She presented a letter from her Baron and Baroness sending greetings to their excellencies, and requesting safe passage and hospitality for Lady Heloise as she traveled through our lands, promising to do likewise for any of Østgarðr that might journey unto their region. Il Khan bade her welcome and offered the assistance of the province in ensuring her stay here would be pleasant.

Their excellencies expressed their satisfaction with the day’s gathering and thanked those who had made it possible.

There being no other business before their excellencies, court was adjourned.

Traceable Art Update For April

I’ve continued adding charges to the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, drawing from both the Pennsic Traceable Art collection and from period sources, and it’s now up to over 800 pages of illustrations.

Of these, I’m particularly fond of this image of a tent from Guillim’s Display of Heraldry (1611).

There’s also a new External Resources page that lists charges which are found in the PTA or PicDic but do not have corresponding images in this collection, and a Contributing page with some preliminary notes about how to send in your own art for inclusion.

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.

Device for Christophe de Frisselle

Azure, a pale checky sable and argent.

Christophe was introduced to me through the East Kingdom’s “Ask a Herald” service. He already had a design in mind that was a good match for his 12th Century Sicilian Norman Crusader persona.

However, I soon discovered that, although visually distinct, it conflicted with the populace badge of the Shire of Caer Adamant, azure, a pale vert fimbriated Or, as the College of Arms does not consider fimbriation when calculating heraldic difference.

I contacted the shire’s herald, Don Simeon ben Iuçef de Alcaçar, and through him reached their seneschal, Baron Adolphus Benner, who consulted the local populace and officers and granted Christophe the necessary “permission to conflict” that would allow his arms to be registered.

[Update, Dec 2017: This device was accepted for registration.]

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.

These were generally short-lived, in part because of two changes in branch organization: firstly, the practice of new shires or cantons being initially granted only “incipient” status had not yet been made routine; nowadays a branch must demonstrate continued activity for a longer period of time before becoming recognized as a full branch; and secondly, most of these branches were associated with college campuses (which typically have transient populations) and the current practice of allowing a college branch to go dormant and be revived later was not as well established.

Most of the information below comes from “A Geographic History of the East Kingdom” by Lord Richard the Poor, supplemented by the records of the Laurel Archivist of the College of Arms.

  • Dark Canton (City College of New York, AS XIII-XV): formed 1979/01, name registered 1979/07, defunct in 12/1980; name released 1989/12.
  • College of King’s Heights (Columbia U, AS XIII-XV): formed 1979/01, name registered 1979/07, defunct in 12/1980; name released 1989/12.
  • Canton of the Iron Forest (Sloatsburg, NY AS XIV-XVII): formed 1979/11, name registered 1979/07; defunct in 1982/04; name released 1989/12. This region was subsequently organized as an independent branch under the name the Shire of Rusted Woodlands, name registered 1983/01.

All three of the above names were registered simultaneously and in bulk rather than via the usual process. The Laurel Archivist’s files contain only a letter from Baldwin Laurel, written in 1986, stating that “in July and October of 1979, Master Wilhelm registered the names of a considerable number of SCA branches,” and few other details are available.

  • St. Dunstan’s (New York University, AS XIV-XVI): formed 1980/03; name never registered; defunct 1981/05.
  • Canton of Blasted Heath (North Bergen, NJ, AS XIV-XVI): formed 1980/03; name never registered; separated from Ostgardr 1980/10; defunct 1981/05. Local oral history suggests that attempts to organize an independent branch here sputtered out, accounting for the fact that to this day this region remains part of the East Kingdom crown lands, not lying within the boundaries of either of its neighbors, Rusted Woodlands and Settmour Swamp.
  • Canton of Walking Dunes (Southhampton College, NY, AS XIV-XVI): formed 1980/03; name never registered; defunct 1981/05. The town of Southhampton is located within the current territory of Barony An Dubhaigeainn, which first registered its name as a shire in 1981/05.
  • Canton of Mandan (or Madnan) (Nassau County, NY, AS XV-XX): formed 1980/10; name registered 1983/01; defunct in 1985/05; name released 1989/12. (This is the territory of the current canton of Lions End, established in 1988.)
  • Canton of Black Ford (Fordham University, AS XV-XVIII): formed 1981/03; defunct in 1982/11; name registered 1983/01; name released 1989/12.

(The many names released in December 1989 were part of a wave of 37 defunct branches in the East Kingdom that had their names and armory released that month following a request by the Board to clear the backlog that had developed; see the the December LoAR for the list, and the accompanying cover letter for more details.)

One additional canton was formed subsequently to the 1979–81 wave:

  • Canton of Saint Pyr’s Well (Staten Island, NY, AS XX-XXV?): formed 1985/06; name and device registered 1985/10; formally recognized 1986/06; arms released 1991/12; name retained by Kingdom for possible future re-use.

The arms of Saint Pyr’s Well were Azure, a roofed well argent, between its posts a goblet Or, all within a laurel wreath argent.

Saint Pyr is a tragi-comic figure from Welsh history, a lax abbot who became so drunk one evening that he fell down a well and drowned.

 

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.

Heraldic Search Shortcuts

I’ve put together an integrated search page that allows you to easily run search queries against a number of different websites that contain useful heraldry information.

It was inspired by similar collections of search shortcuts posted by Morsulus Herald and Sofya la Rus, but I’ve added a bit of JavaScript to make the interface less repetitive. I’ve extended the list of search targets with some other useful sites including OSCAR, some of the onomastic reference books posted by Wenyeva atte grene, and some old armory books I have been using as sources for images for the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art.

I hope it may prove useful to others — if there are websites that seem of general interest that I have omitted please feel free to point them out and I’ll see if I can add them as well.

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.