Making the Odds Ever Be in Your Favour: surviving the heraldic submissions process

You’ve gotten your Society name figured out. You know what you want for your heraldic device. You’re about ready to send in your heraldic submission – and then it hits! How do you make sure that you increase your chances for your submission getting registered and less like you’re trying to get your submission to survive the heraldic Hunger Games?

This blog post will help answer some of those burning questions, though I would like to point out that the process will still take about nine months, and yes, the waiting is difficult. That being said, by looking at your submission critically and by using these techniques before it goes to your submissions herald, it might make your wait a little easier.

I also want to use this post to humanize the heraldic volunteers that make this process happen. We process about 1200 names and devices a year (on average), and spend easily as much time doing heraldry in our free time as we do in our modern jobs, and as much as the trope of Picky Detail Herald seems to be a thing (and in the early days, not unfairly earned), we do want to people to register their names and devices and we want to make the process easier on you, the submitter.

I’m breaking this out by use for heraldic devices and by names – the techniques listed are similar, but not entirely the same, by virtue of the fact that the submissions process is a tiny bit different between the two.

The big over-arching rule: ASK A HERALD. Seriously, we’re here to help, and we want to make the submissions process easy for you. Come talk to us. It’s good. Really.

And the other? Well, if a change has to be made, please be responsive to emails from your consulting or submissions herald – it will help move that process along much faster than if the email languishes in your inbox.


1. Document your name from a good period source.

One of the biggest hangups I’ve seen when names are discussed are if the name comes from a period source. Your best bet when submitting a name is making sure that the name comes from a good non-photocopy source (that is, the College of Arms does not need you to further document the name and send in additional photocopies from your resources). This is not a time to use a source like a baby names website – a lot of the information on those sites is poorly researched (if it is researched at all) or flat-out wrong.

If your name isn’t period, but it uses an element of your modern names, you may use part of it, but that documentation (like state/provincial ID, etc.) must be attested by at least two heralds.

2. Make sure all parts of your name elements come from the same general time period and region.

Within SCA period, names were not a mish-mash of different cultures and time periods. For example, the name AEthelstan Yamaguchi the Traveller would not be able to be registered within an SCA context because each element of the name not only needs to be documented from a period source (as both names are from period sources), but it also needs to come from cultures that had contact with one another.

Within the SCA, we also limit those combinations to 300 years between elements that are not from the same culture, and for those within the same culture, there’s a bit more leeway (allowing for family traditional naming practices). So, if you’re tied to AEthelstan, consider looking for a name that better matches the culture that it’s originally from or one that had close contact with it.

Besides, as a voice from behind the curtain, we love extreme temporal/cultural compatibility when we see it on the submission form!

3. Conflict check your name at least three times.

We check for conflict to make sure that every name in the SCA is not exactly the same as anyone else. Yes, every registered name is unique, and it has to be, as that remains the record for which all further registrations of devices and alternate names go under in our filing system. A name like John Doe would be in conflict with the name Jeuan Dough – even though they look nothing alike, by sound they’re identical. There are a few other rules regarding conflict with names, but that’s one of the big ones.

I conflict check names three times – once when at the consultation table, once before I send in paperwork, and once again within a commentary session. That way, it is ensured that the name is open in our system.

If you’re not sure how to conflict check for names, definitely reach out to your friendly local herald, who will be glad to help you out.

4. Don’t select the Ticky-Boxes of Doom.

Okay, so let’s say that you don’t have immediate access to a herald immediately, and you want to fill out your name submission form to help the process move along.

These are the Ticky-Boxes of Doom.

You’ve got all of your information in, and you’re moving down to the middle section, with a lot of ticky-boxes.

While we love it when submitters help us out, especially when having their information filled in at the top, selection of the ticky-boxes can be confusing. My recommendation: don’t select them. For one, if we can’t divine what a submitter wants (for example, selecting the “I will not accept changes” and then filling out the “please change my name to be authentic” makes it hard for the College to go through with what you, the submitter, want. It is much easier to accept changes, though keep in mind that we will not make changes without your permission.

Additionally, the very last ticky-box on the Ticky-Boxes of Doom goes into details about if you’ve also submitted a heraldic device with your name. If your name has a problem with it (like what I’ve talked about above or it conflicts with someone else) but your device is fine and can be registered, the College will create what’s called a holding name, generally based on your modern first name or your submitted first name and your local group, provided there are no conflicts within our system. This holding name can be changed at any time to one of your preference, but must go through the registration process like all other names in the Society.

If you must select a Ticky-Box of Doom, I do make the suggestion that if it has to be changed, select the one about sound/meaning/spelling, etc., including desired gender (and yes, you can go with a non-binary option – I can’t guarantee that we’ll find a unisex name, but you can absolutely put that in). Alternatively, I would also suggest “please change my name to be more period” with a small range of time and a general location, like Norway or Byzantium.

5. Don’t make trendy or pop culture references.

Okay, okay, at the risk of being called Baroness Funkiller here, there’s a good reason for this. Obtrusive modernity. After all, as much as we are modern people playing a creative game, there are some things that can easily shake people out of that idea of the medieval world. Names like Captain Kyrke (which is a period name from a singular record!), Cookie Monster, or John Bon Jovey have too many modern contexts that would jolt fellow SCAdians out of a medieval mindset.

Additionally, while heralds are often seen as the nerds of the SCA, we are oftentimes just as caught up (or often on the bleeding edge) of pop culture references. Sure, some names have passed through, but again from behind the curtain – not without a lot of commentary going in either direction. If you want to make Pelican Sovereign’s life easier, opt for a period name that doesn’t refer to a popular character.


1. Use obscure but documentable charges in simple designs.

We know, you want to use swords, roses, arrows, needles, lions, or wolves in your heraldic device. They’re cool. Dare I say it – they’re badass. And unfortunately, they’re used a lot within SCA heraldry, because everyone else thinks they’re cool, which means that you could run into conflict issues.

And again, before you start calling me Baroness Funkiller again, I’d like to point out that there are some cool obscure charges out there that there are few instances of. And the best part? Because they’re so underutilized, the chances of them being returned due to conflict is pretty low. Examples of underutilized charges are sieves, furisons, cornices, merfolk, and pantheons.

The other thing is using simple arrangements and devices. How often have you heard this from the heralds’ table?

“I want [tincture] a [thing] [tincture].”
“I’m sorry, there appears to be a conflict with [insert name here]”
“Damn. Well . . . let’s add. . . .”

Azure, three four-lobed quadrate cornices two and one argent.

STOP. Seriously. Stop now.

Check “[tincture] [multiple] [things] [tincture]” first. Sometimes, a period design of a single type of item with a few multiples is clear. For example, “azure, three four-lobed quadrate cornices two and one argent” is, at least of this writing, clear. It is an incredibly simple design (two colours, one charge that is only used in fifteen registrations), and it falls within a known heraldic motif. (Though, seriously, if you want this, send me a message and we can get this on paperwork for you!)

In general, aim for simple – try to not put your entire SCA history or all your activity in your heraldic device. Plus, it’s just much easier to draw. (There’s even a concept of “ruler heraldry”, where the only tool you need to draw your device is a ruler. Super easy, super period, and while tricky to conflict check at times, is a great way to increase your chances of registration.

2. Draw and colour your forms as correctly as you can.

This is by far one of the most common ways for submitters’ items to get held up. Either an item was hand-drawn and a heraldic posture isn’t clear, or the colour is halfway between two colours (blurple is one of the best examples of this). This either leads to a decision where we have to pend for redraw, adding a few months to the submission cycle, or if the submission is really not clear or we can’t get a hold of the submitter, it could lead to the submission being outright rejected.

So, to review: the best colours to use for your submission, whether they be coloured electronically or with markers, are basic colours. Think back to the colours you used when learning your colours – those are the ones you want to use. Don’t use teal or orange (unless it’s actually an orange). When drawing, consider tracing your charges or using a computer to manipulate the charges so that they fit. Additionally, make sure that your charges fill the space appropriately, but also can be identified easily.

3. Conflict check your proposed device.

Like your name, I suggest conflict checking your device at least three times. Once when at the consultation table, once before I send in paperwork, and once again within a commentary session. That way, it is ensured that the device is open in our system.

Storytime! I submitted a badge, and was not as thorough in my conflict check as I normally am. It was discovered at the kingdom commenting level that it was too similar to another badge and definitely conflicted (oh no!). Now, thankfully, I was able to catch it early enough to withdraw and submit another badge (that I liked much better), but I learned a lesson to definitely be thorough in checking for conflict.

4. Lessen your use of Steps From Period Practice.

I’m sure you’re reading this and wondering what the hell a “step from period practice” or SFPP is. A SFPP is an item that is not documented to period, as a charge or anything else. Items like non-European heraldic items (sorry, Japanese personae), pawprints, or hexagons are all considered examples of SFPP. And yes, while I know and appreciate that Japanese heraldry is quite robust, the Society does use a traditionally Anglo-Norman blazoning system within our Core Rules, meaning that many of the charges within Japanese heraldry, while being perfectly period, cannot be described using the system that we use. It’s a bummer.

That being said, if you must have a charge that is an SFPP, make sure you only have one kind. Any more than that, and your submission will get sent back for more work. Per SENA, any more than two separate kinds of SFPP (like a valknut on a pawprint) is just not permitted.

5. Have all documenting paperwork ready to go.

So, let’s say you’re a baron or a countess, and you’ve read that you can have a coronet on your device (it’s true!), and you want to create a badge that has a coronet on it. You’re clear of conflict, you’ve made sure that you really like it, and you send it in . . . but you forgot to put when you were given the right to bear the coronet on your arms on your forms.

Or, let’s say you’ve been doing some heraldic research, and you found a new charge or a new Individually Attested Pattern (IAP), but you’ve misplaced your documentation.

In registering devices, we do have a certain burden of proof required for allowing new charges or colour combinations. We do need examples of use within pre-1600s Europe, and it’s even better if it was used in heraldic context. If you have found something cool, I can guarantee that we want to see it so that we can encourage others who might want an unusual device, and it makes their process for registering much easier because we can use that documentation.

It’s five simple rules (ten, if you count names and devices) to make your submissions process easier. Is it entirely fool-proof? Nope. Sometimes things happen. Like my example of just not catching the conflict on my proposed badge, mistakes happen. That being said, by looking at these tips, it is my hope that your submissions process goes a lot easier for you.

6 thoughts on “Making the Odds Ever Be in Your Favour: surviving the heraldic submissions process

  1. Best appreciation I can give for a good article is a proposed correction (sincerely).

    1200 a year would mean about 100 per LoAR (Letter of Acceptances and Returns), but checking the links on the 10 dated 2019, some push 200 and most exceed it.


  2. Pingback: Straight Outta SLC: Quick and Easy SCA Names Using FamilySearch | konstantia kaloethina

  3. Pingback: To Colour or Not to Colour: a treatise on digital heraldic submissions | konstantia kaloethina

Leave a Reply to Rachel Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.