A Basic Understanding of the What's and Why's in SCA Heraldry

by Inez Alfón

What is heraldry, or who IS that gentle?

Heraldry is both a science and an art form. Developing out of the emblems and insignia born upon shields and banners during battle, heraldry as a profession encompasses not only the devising, granting, and blazoning of arms (for more info on this, click here), but also the tracing of genealogies, and determining and ruling on questions of rank or protocol. (1) Mundanely, all of this is done. In the SCA, however, heraldry encompasses only developing of emblems and devices born upon shields, etc. our gentles may use, be it banners, clothing, or the shields previously mentioned and avoids ANY reference of a genealogical nature. This means that nothing that says, "these were my father's and mother's arms and now they are mine" can be registered. RfS [XI.3] forbids the appearance of marshalling (two or more armories split and put together as a new whole). *NOTE: Marshalling as a display of two people's devices, showing marriage or, perhaps "tagging and identifying" children is allowed, simply the registering of armory denoting such a relationship is not. The nature of heraldry, then, is first a system of personal devices appertaining to an individual. It is also an art. The proper delineation of coats of arms can achieve a high art form; the animals, objects and charges being highly stylised.(5) It is this stylised, bold, simple artform that we strive to recreate.

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